my coworker is cc’ing his mother on work correspondence

A reader writes:

During a recent disagreement between my coworker and me, my coworker cc’d his mother on some emails going back and forth between me, him, and our board of directors.

In my last email to all of them, I asked why his mother was being cc’ed, and asked whether she was a consultant for our company. (I know she is not; I was making a point.) He replied, “I’ll cc my mom on any thing I like.”

Of course, he could copy and forward the emails to anyone, as could any of us. We don’t have any of those confidential or business-only type clarifications in the email signatures (the way schools and larger companies do); we are a very small business. This went back and forth between us a few times, and I sent this to the board:

“I would like the BoD to officially note Bob’s behavior in cc’ing his mother in these emails, and his response below saying, ‘I’ll include my mother in whatever I choose! You need not worry about my correspondence with my mother! Don’t mention her again.’

My question to you all: Is it permissible for company business-related emails to be shared with people who are not employees, agents, owners, or otherwise involved in these matters? In my experience, it goes against any general business practice to have a person who is not involved in the business in any way — not an employee, company agent, etc. — privy to business correspondence. I find that unethical at the most, and questionable in the least and would like my concerns noted and answered by the BoD. “

The board sent a reply more addressing the nature of confidentially and made allusion to this year’s political climate. This employee proceeded to send one or two more snarky emails where he said maybe I felt I could give them all legal advice because maybe I stayed in a “Holiday Inn Express” and that we could now all assume from here on out that he would be sharing all his emails with his mother and whomever he wanted.

I resisted any snarky comments myself about him emailing his mommy, but I am wondering if I should further pursue it. I’m disappointed that the board didn’t correct him. This is not the first problem we’ve had with him. The board seems weary with all the back and forth, as am I, yet I am loath to let him have the last word, particularly when it is inaccurate (I realize nothing is confidential, I am stressing professionalism) and then his rude dismissal of me.

I don’t want to negatively effect my relationship with the board.

I assume the cc’ing of his mother is a misguided intimidation technique — as in, he’s letting me/us know he’s keeping a record of the correspondence. Which makes no sense when you consider that our own emails are record enough if we needed them for any reason.

Background: I am the manager in training, set to take over and be his boss when my boss retires early next year. This employee and my boss have worked there for 10 years. My boss hired him, he refused to be managed by her (she’s a gentle, non-confrontational person) and sort of finagled himself into being a lateral equal to her, with previous board. The current board seems to recognize his issues, and seemed happy that I brought to the table a willingness to confront his troublesome behaviors and work ethics. It has recently been told to this employee that I’m going to be his boss starting in January, and he’s been difficult since, but I have absolutely called him on some bad behaviors and work ethics.

Your coworker sounds like a frickin’ disaster.

But you’re not currently this guy’s boss and you’ve noted your objections to the board, so for now you need to let this go.

However, the whole situation changes in January when you become his boss. At that point, you can make it very clear to him that he’s not to cc anyone outside the company unless there’s a clear business reason for doing so, and that cc’ing family members on work-related correspondence is prohibited. If he pushes back, you can say, “That’s not a negotiable policy. Are you able to abide by it?” If he’s not, you’ve got a serious case of insubordination on your hands and should fire him.

Frankly, it sounds like you’re going to have a serious case of insubordination on your hands anyway, even if he backs off on the email thing, so I’d go into this assuming you’re likely to have to fire him at some point anyway unless he seriously turns his behavior around.

All this means that you need to get very, very clear on what authority you’ll have when you take over in January. You’re not going to be able to manage him without the authority to let him go if you need to, so you need to make sure that the board or whoever else is above you is going to back you up if it comes to that. It they won’t, I’d seriously reconsider taking the promotion, because having someone work for you who doesn’t respect you, insults you (to the board!!), and openly asserts his right to do anything he wants (again, to the board!!) is going to torpedo your ability to be effective.

And really, this sounds like a huge mess, and I’m not just talking about your coworker. Somehow your company has created a culture where an employee is allowed to flagrantly violate basic standards of professionalism (cc’ing his mom — what the actual F?) and respect (sending insulting emails to you in full view of the board). Now, maybe the board forwarded all of this to your coworker’s boss and said “obviously you need deal with this ASAP,” which you wouldn’t necessarily know about (although the thing they said about “this year’s political climate” is mystifying). But given everything else you describe, it sounds like this guy has been allowed to get away with bad behavior in the past … and people don’t usually escalate to this kind of incident right off the bat, so I suspect this has been going on for some time.

So at a minimum, there are some huge management problems, which you’ll be inheriting when you replace your boss next month.

But I also wonder if you’ve been a bit influenced by the culture there too, because you’re talking about getting in the last word and your own email to the board was a little snippy and defensive and, frankly, added to the drama.

I’d recommend treating the time period between now and when you take over next month as a reset — an opportunity to step back from all this drama, think about how things should run, think about what you want your dynamic with the board to be, and think about what actions you’ll need to take to make that happen, so that you don’t step into that new position mired in the past dysfunction, of which there appears to be plenty.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 502 comments… read them below }

  1. Leatherwings*

    What in the name of god is going on in this workplace? The entire place is a disaster. The coworker is obviously unspeakably awful, but I can’t help but think that it’s also rather inappropriate for someone to go straight to the board of directors over this anyways. As a manager in training, it might have made more sense for OP to go to the current manager and express concern. It seems weird that this would be an issue the board would get involved in at all.

    1. Boo*

      Yeah I don’t think this is the kind of thing the Board will want to know about. They’re not supposed to get involved in operational issues. This is for the manager to deal with and sharing it with the board doesn’t make anyone look good I’m sorry to say.

    2. Jenbug*

      I don’t think the OP *went* to the BoD, they were on the email chain and the OP pointed out what he’d done. They were already aware of/involved in the email chain.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Right, but hitting reply all to the *board of directors* to call out the odd behavior was maybe not the best course of action.

        1. OhNo*

          True – if nothing else, it seems to have given this guy an audience while he made jokes at the OP’s expense. In the future, they might be served better by trying a private call out first, before excalating the issue to the powers that be.

          But to be fair, if I saw this from one of my coworkers, I wouldn’t even think twice about doing a reply all to ask, “Did you just copy your mother on this email?”, just because I would need to check if I’d gone nuts and started imagining things.

          1. Solidus Pilcrow*

            “given this guy an audience while he made jokes at the OP’s expense”

            I wonder if that work out to be a good thing? He makes an ass out of himself in front of the BOD and everyone, gives credence to the OP’s claims. Sort of hoist by his own petard.

            Then again, that could easily backfire, so it wouldn’t be my first choice of strategy. I agree a quiet word in private should be the first step before escalating.

              1. Solidus Pilcrow*

                :) Thanks!

                I liked the symmetry. My name is Solidus Pilcrow and my gravatar is…. a solidus and a pilcrow. I always thought a pilcrow would make a nifty cattle brand. “Come on down to the Pilcrow ranch!”

          2. Djuna*

            I do’t think the LW’s strategy here was great, but she deserves props for not replying with something like:
            “Did you really just cc your mom?
            Are you six?”
            There is a reason I have run far away from any job involving managing people.

        2. Bonky*

          And she seems surprised that the board didn’t administer a corrective. OP, that’s not your board’s job. They’re there for oversight, strategy and keeping the organisation on an even keel, not to sort out managerial issues. They are sending you a message by not acting: it’s not their role to act to discipline this guy. It’s his manager’s job.

          The professional thing to do here (and the thing that will make you look best in your board’s eyes) is to consider the matter closed, at least as far as they are concerned. You’ve said your piece, they’ve acknowledged that you have. If he continues sending them snarky mails about you, that reflects on him, not you. It will mean that you have further ammunition when you have been through a documentation process (and probably a PIP) so you can take some final managerial action when you are in a position to next year – which *will* be the right time to invoke the board.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            He’s making this very easy for OP to get rid of him once she takes over. I mean, who in their right mind does this to someone you know is about to become your boss?!

        3. Allison*

          I almost wonder if he got defensive and hostile because he was called out in front of the whole board, and was embarrassed, so he was trying to save face. Seems like a common reaction to embarrassment.

          1. Lola*

            I don’t think it’s a common reaction to embarrassment in the professional arena to insult your future boss.

            1. BPT*

              I think being defensive and hostile in response to being called out is very common in people who lack maturity, which also usually coincides with lacking professionalism. Most people don’t go so far as to insult their boss, you’re right, but in the subset of immature people we’re talking about, apparently it’s this guy’s MO.

              I also wonder if him trying to start problems with OP is another attempt to wiggle out of having a boss (like he’s done with the current one where he apparently just made so much trouble that he was able to finagle not being managed by an appropriate boss).

        4. MK*

          And using the word “unethical” to describe someone’s behavior cannot be seen as anything other than inflamatory.

        5. Liane*

          I think that was what Alison meant by “your own email to the board was a little snippy and defensive and, frankly, added to the drama.” So I don’t think we need to discuss this bit to death.

        6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yes. The coworker is obviously a disaster, but I don’t have much confidence in the OP’s management of the situation either. I love Alison’s recommendation to use this month as a reset and approach her management role with more calm and intention.

            1. Drew*

              Lest this be overlooked, kudos for accepting that with good grace. It can be hard to hear “You need to up your game” in front of thousands of people.

    3. TootsNYC*

      ” I can’t help but think that it’s also rather inappropriate for someone to go straight to the board of directors over this anyways.”

      Yeah, I’m actually a little surprised Alison didn’t address this.

      As a BoD member, I wouldn’t be that happy w/ the OP’s email either. It’s just all so much drama.
      Especially given this from the OP: “The board seems weary with all the back and forth, as am I, yet I am loath to let him have the last word, ”

      I’d expect the OP to go to whoever *is* this guy’s boss, or to take the issue of “can I rap him on the knuckles for this” to whoever is going to make the OP his boss, and discuss in a face-to-face.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Totally agree with all of this. I am really surprised that the OP saw fit to call out the behavior to the BoD at all. The Board isn’t there to directly manage all of the employees. That’s what the manager is there for (and where it sounds like the OP will be in just a few weeks).

        Overall, it sounds like there is a lot of drama happening in this workplace that would be unacceptable in most workplaces, including appealing to the Board to correct a colleague’s behavior. I think Alison is right about the OP perhaps being influenced by the culture there in the way she is viewing and reacting to this situation.

    4. k*

      From the way OP describes the company, it sounds like the coworker doesn’t really have a current manager that OP could talk to. “I am the manager in training, set to take over and be his boss when my boss retires early next year….My boss hired him, he refused to be managed by her…. and sort of finagled himself into being a lateral equal to her”

      It’s described as a small company, if OPs boss isn’t in charge or coworker, maybe the BoD is the only higher up there is.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        I’ve worked in a small charity like this, where there were 2 development workers who lined in to the Secretary of the Board – it was one of those evolving, new charities, where they had started with 1 development worker, then added more staff as the 1st devt worker put in bids for work, with the plan of growing to get a CEO later. I can totally see how this happens in charities and start-ups all over the place.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        The manager was described as gently handling him–this guy needs more firm handling. And she probably won’t want to bother, since she’s on her way out anyway. But I agree that OP needs to make sure her own higher-ups will back her when she takes over.

        I think this guy needs to be put on the disciplinary track ASAP.

  2. Rusty Shackelford*

    Yeah, he sounds like a nut, and you sound like you’re poking the drama llama with a stick and need to stop. Manage him when it’s your job to manage him. (And in the meanwhile, understand that when you email the board *and* him, you don’t look like you’re trying to clear up some misconceptions about confidentiality; you look like you’re trying to stir up trouble.)

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      That was my impression as well. It’s generally best to allow the crazy people to out themselves rather than play the crazy game with them.

      1. namelesscommentater*

        Especially when you’ll be their manager in the imminent future. You don’t want the BoD questioning your ability to manage him while keeping your cool.

        Or, to give any legitimacy to potential “personal vendetta” claims if performance doesn’t improve and you have to manage him out.

        1. Doodle*

          This is so true. I was trying to figure out what I was most concerned about, and this is exactly it. You’ll burn your future credibility if you continue to snipe back and forth now.

    2. N.J.*

      But the Board has been on the descrubed email chain from the beginning. The fact that the OP is pointing out this disrespect to the Board is warranted in this case in that the Board is part of this communication stream and did not step in to give a directive or opinion. I agree with Alison that the OP was stirring trouble up with the tone and specific content of her email and risks tarnishing her own professionalism. However, asking the Board to handle this issue per we is not the wrong call.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But the Board has been on the descrubed email chain from the beginning.

        You’re right, I missed that part. Doesn’t really make it much better, though. It simply makes me wonder why the OP didn’t stop with “Did you CC your mother?” Because if the board didn’t react to that, they’re not likely to react to further prodding. It was noted. Carry on.

        1. N.J.*

          Good point. The way the OP responded is problematic. It’s a shame the Board is so…reticent to act, for lack of a better word.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I mean, it’s really not the Board’s job to control this kind of conduct.

            The dude is totally out of control, but it’s inappropriate for the Board (1) to even be receiving these emails, and (2) to insert itself into the chain of command when theoretically Big Boss (who’s now quasi-lateral boss to this chucklehead) is supposed to have authority over Whiny McCrazyton. I’ve been on boards that have received emails like this, and all it emphasizes is that the E.D./CEO has lost control of the clownhouse.

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          Unless the Board didn’t know it was his mother? Lots of people don’t share surnames with their adult kids, for one reason or another.

    3. Amy G. Golly*

      I think the most telling part is the mention of “the last word”. OP, I so understand that impulse: the moral highground is just so unfulfilling when it feels like a jerk is getting his way! But even if this jerk is getting the last word in one WTF argument (I mean his mother. Mom. MOMMY.), you have to look beyond that; especially as a manager-in-training! There is no benefit to be gained in arguing with someone so wholly unreasonable. Take Alison’s advice, and start planning for what you’ll do when you take over as his boss.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Rusty, if I had been drinking water, I would have spit-taked at “drama llama” (and why are you poking it, OP???). Thank you for introducing this magical piece of language wizardry into my life.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        I’ve come across drama llama – I love it – I think it means someone who feeds on drama rather than someone who creates it. Someone who creates it is a drama queen (m or f). It’s used a lot int he justnomil sub on Reddit – people talk about feeding their llamas.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ooo, thank you for the usage notes, Hornswoggler! I wouldn’t want to misuse such a fantastic phrase.

    1. Bonky*

      My reaction too. I can’t figure this out: I think he’s trying to be passive-aggressive (or just downright aggressive), but I have zero idea how he thinks cc-ing Mummy might help him achieve that end – it just makes him look unhinged. But the whole workplace sounds unhinged. Board intervention at this sort of level? All this drama!

      OP’s got some workplace culture issues to deal with, that she’s contributing to. Drama’s never, ever helpful. Not only was OP’s mail a weirdly snippy email to the board in the first place; this whole situation is just *such* an inappropriately low-level thing to be bringing to your board at all. For OP or the colleague. If her insubordinate colleague is insisting on being so rude about her to the board (my eyes are rolling in my head so fast at the moment you could use them to power something), the very best, most professional thing she can do is to leave him to it now she’s drawn their attention to the continued behaviour and let them draw a judgment based on that, not get involved herself.

      And I would make expectations crystal-clear, start a PIP and organise some pretty intense documentation the moment positions change next year. I can’t see this guy staying in his job for long.

      1. Allison*

        I assumed he just wanted mommy to know what was going on. Maybe he’s been going home upset, complaining about work, and either his mom didn’t believe it was so bad or she told him to CC her because she wanted to see for herself how bad things were.

        1. JMegan*

          Right, but even then the normal* reaction would be to forward the email chain to his mother, not include her in it. Forwarding is a way of saying “see, Mom? Everybody is being mean to me!” – whereas including her in the CC is a blatant “I’m telling my mom on you!” The coworker was not just including his mom in the drama, he also wanted everybody to know that’s what he was doing.

          *I’m using the broadest possible sense of the word “normal” here, because nothing about this is normal as far as anything I have experienced.

        2. RVA Cat*

          Yes, but he has been there for 10 years so he is a grown-*** man…. I mean this would have been inappropriate if he was copying his SO but at least he’d look like an adult with poor judgement.

        3. SystemsLady*

          If that’s the case you’d think he would’ve BCC’d or forwarded to her…which I hesitate to say, because that is still wildly inappropriate.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat indeed. OMGWTFBBQ is happening in this workplace?

  3. SophieChotek*

    No real comment except…wow…
    I can’t imagine (in a normal sense) cc’ing my mother in on my work email! Especially if she does not work for the same company — and even then, only if somehow concerned her. (But honestly, if my mother worked for the same company, I would hope she worked in a different division and with different managers.)

    1. Leatherwings*

      So odd! I also wonder what was going on in this email chain that he’d want to share. Was it heated? Controversial? I have so many questions.

      1. L.W.EB*

        Background- small company with 3 emplyees working on site for a BoD of owners that live elswhere.
        RE: The original email
        Several months back “Bob” got into a verbal dispute with an owner that escalated to the point of the police being called. I witnessed this and hold Bob responsible for losing his temper. This owner was preparing to be on site again, Bob became agitated and complained to me that he was thinking about filing a hostile workplace suit. I told him he was way out of line. He told me that I don’t have his back and I’m not supportive of him and then tensions between he and I escalated from there. He was so angry and agitated that I asked for a meeting with a member of the board, myself and him. In that meeting it was told him that I would be taking over and be his boss in January and he has been mostly unpleasant since.

        1. Catalin*

          Okay, rule of thumb: if the cops have to be called because of events in the workplace, you need to seriously reconsider the involved party’s/parties’ employment.

          1. Collarbone High*

            Right?! I’m not understanding how the guy wasn’t fired after “a verbal dispute with an owner that escalated to the point of the police being called.”

            1. SophieChotek*

              I agree. The owner needs to take charge. Makes me worried about OP having authority in the future if the owner doesn’t do something in such a situation! (The boss would have had to be way out of line, and I think the OP would have said something if that were the case?)

            2. Djuna*

              Yep, and also if this owner is also on the BoD, how much more ammunition could they possibly need to fire this dude?
              Is the guy’s mom a lawyer?

        2. OhNo*


          Please prepare yourself to fire this guy when you take over as his manager. Based on this additional info, I think we can safely say it’s a “when” and not an “if” you need to let this guy go.

          1. JMegan*

            Yes, and I would plan to do it on Day 1. Don’t listen to anybody telling you to give him another chance or whatever – it sounds like he has had all the chances he needs and more.

            I would spend the time between now and January getting your ducks in a row for the firing – whatever authority you need, forms to be signed in triplicate, IT access removed, security badge cancelled, etc. And if you can’t get that for whatever reason, it TPTB won’t “let” you fire him, then you have a pretty big decision to make about whether or not you can continue working under those conditions. Good luck, and please send an update when you have one!

          2. Chalupa Batman*

            And OP, be ready for the “fact” that the firing will be So Unfair and All Your Fault, whether you had any power in it or not. Since you already “don’t have his back,” he’s likely to claim that you were out to get him (which, frankly, you kinda should be-not on a personal level, but he is not an effective member of your team if all of this is happening). Be very clear about your expectations from the beginning as his boss, because unless he can make a complete turnaround, he’s gotta go, and I agree with Alison’s advice downthread that if you don’t have the authority to do so, you need to be looking for another job.

            My prediction: Firing him will be a nightmare. He’ll throw everything you do wrong and some things you didn’t in your face, accuse you of being sabotaging him, threaten lawsuits, etc. Stay calm, keep going, and he’ll hang himself. OP, you didn’t handle this situation perfectly (I’m sure it’s hard to in this environment), but you have to be above reproach in the future. No snark, no plotting, just firm, solid management. The more rational you are, the more crazy he looks, and the easier it is to oust him. And if he responds by acting like a reasonable person, that’s just as good. But if he doesn’t, your demeanor will be criticized, so make it as hard as possible for any reasonable person to think you’re contributing to the dysfunction. This sounds like one of the few brands of bad behavior that tends to escalate when you refuse to feed it. Be ready for it to get worse before you can make it better.

          3. Salamander*

            And also please take steps to look out for your own personal safety when you fire him. When the cops get involved, this is beyond garden-variety jerkiness and takes it to a whole other level. This guy sounds like he has serious problems. Please be careful.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Owners AND a Board of Directors? And this….employee got unruly, insubordinate, and probably threatening with an owner and he still works there? The dysfunction is strong here, and you probably won’t be able to change it as it comes from the top down and I’ll bet that there are so many people “in charge” that no one is willing to step up and take actual responsibility for changing things. Your best hope is that they’re so uninvolved that they let you have whatever authority you claim, although you might have to insist. It sounds like they are all very averse to conflict and/or confrontation, to let someone get away with that.

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, this is nuts. I’m not one to say that owners need to have their rears kissed, but how do you not fire the guy who gets in such a big fight with the owner that police are called? I’m certainly not going to keep paying a salary to someone who threatened me!

            The fact that Bob isn’t gone already is Exhibit A of dysfunction at this place. Add in Bob ccing his mom, the board not stamping out the mommy ccing, letting OP and Bob go at it in a mass email, Manager’s absence, and apparently letting OP kinda sorta start managing Bob in advance of actual promotion, and this is a freaking alphabet soup of evidence that this place is a nightmare.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Yup. OP, you have my sympathies because once you fire him (and you’ll need to), this is going to get even uglier.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The most important question for you right now: Do you have the backing of the board to deal with Bob with full authority, including firing him, once you take over next month? Have you spoken with them explicitly about that? If they’ve told you yes, do you believe them, or will they backtrack once it’s time for you to actually take action?

          If you won’t have full authority, I would put your energy into finding another job. Otherwise you’re working in a cesspool of dysfunction … and while you might think you’re willing to put up with that, it can have a real impact on you professionally, in ways that make it hard to get better jobs in the future and to thrive in healthier workplaces. You don’t want a place like this to become your normal.

          If the board isn’t giving you full authority, you need to get out. (And honestly, even if they are, I might question what staying long-term at this place will do for you professionally. A three-person company with a board that’s heavily involved like this usually isn’t ideal.)

          1. Natalie*

            “Otherwise you’re working in a cesspool of dysfunction … You don’t want a place like this to become your normal.”

            Seriously, this is so important and overlooked frequently, IMO. LW, it’s really easy to tell yourself that you’re just being an anthropologist and not letting it affect you, but that’s BS in my experience. We aren’t perfectly discrete units that can wall ourselves off from our environment. You are being affected in some way, and the shit-ton of energy you might be using to counter that could be better spent elsewhere.

            It can take years to get over this kind of place, and that can have permanent ripple effects on your career.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Ideal world answer, just my opinion though, the board would have this guy fired before OP starts the new position.

            A story of a board: They hired a new manager and still had employees in place. It was decided that if the employees did not follow or at least make sincere endeavors to follow the instructions of the new boss, the board would take responsibility for firing them. Because of [reasons} employees were not held accountable the way they should have been and that was NOT the new manager’s fault. The board decided to shoulder the responsibility.
            It can happen where boards step up to the plate. (Sorry, had to be vague.)

            1. Lola*

              +1000. Although it does put the BoD’s nonchalant reaction to cc:ing Mommy Dearest into perspective. It’s hard to top a violent dispute with the owner of your company. P.S. If I were the mom getting cc:ed on my kid’s work correspondence, I would have kindly told him to cut it out and act like a grownup.

            2. AnonAnalyst*

              Especially when said dispute was with THE OWNER OF THE COMPANY.

              I’ll be honest – if I witnessed an argument between the owner of my company and a coworker escalate to the point that the police were called and that coworker was not fired (and also was thinking of doubling down and filing a hostile workplace lawsuit) I would probably already be looking for another job. No matter what the argument was about, that is nuts. NOPE.

          1. L.W. EB*

            We live in a very small geographically isolated area. Not many competent people to choose from. (I may have already answered this I’m trying to scroll through all the replies and the replies to the replies so please forgive me if I repeat myself.) Retiring Mgr is a gentle, non confrontational so long. Extremely honest and ethical in certain areas like handling the finances. Bob has certain competent qualities and was able to be very much of the boys club of past board members. They’ve been here 10 years. Their predecessors robbed the place and took all kinds of advantage, so having people that were at least basically honest was important. The new board seems committed to making changes plus the business has grown to a point where you can just can’t run it like a crazy mom and pop thing anymore. I could tell you more stories about Bob. Bob through a table at Retiring Mgr early on and no consequences. When Bob and I raise our voices at each other retiring manager just shuts down she’s frightened. I am not I grew up in a brawling Irish family and stuff like that doesn’t frighten me personally, other than its not professional. Caught Bob getting high on the job last summer. Had a frank discussion with a BoD then, and while negotiating the terms of my employment and let them know I was not interested in taking the job unless they were going to handle him and make the necessary changes. I told them that whoever takes the job whether it’s me or somebody else they’re going to have these problems with him. Nobody would tolerate him the way Retiring Mgr has.

            I have never worked at a place where someone was not fired on the spot for the things that he is done. but this place… where we live, crazy stuff sometimes people get by with it because of the unique circumstances of our location.

            1. L.W. EB*

              Please forgive the typos and the misspellings in the above reply. I was speaking into my phone and then I didn’t proofread.

        5. LadyCop*

          Someone should clue Bob into what hostile work environment actually means…unless of course his original argument with the owner involved some sort of sexual harassment…

                1. Julia*

                  Or for having your boss on site. Well, unless your boss is like my former boss – she was a Walking hostile workplace.

        6. BethRA*

          Wait – how is it that “Bob” still has a job, if he got into a verbal dispute with the owner that resulted in the police being called?

        7. the_scientist*

          Jeebus, OP. This is a soviet parade full of red flags AND an audience full of spectators yelling “don’t go into the haunted house!”. Are you SURE you want this job?

          Also, I have SO MANY questions about all of this:

          1). What exactly does cc’ing his mother accomplish?
          2). What does staying in a Holiday Inn Express have to do with being qualified in any way to give legal advice?!
          3). What does the current political climate have to do with any of this?!?!?!?!

          1. JMegan*

            I believe there’s a commercial that goes something like “I’m not a lawyer (doctor, etc), but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night!” So Bob apparently thinks he’s a comedian, in addition to what we know about him being a jackass.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Thank you. We cut our cable something like four years ago, and had a DVR for ten years before that, so any reference to a TV commercial always has me utterly mystified; as I haven’t seen one in fourteen years.

          2. Collarbone High*

            There was a series of TV commercials about 15 years ago where a bystander would offer to step in as, say, a brain surgeon and someone would ask, “Are you a surgeon?” and the answer would be “No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” The idea being that you were obviously smart if you chose that hotel. In addition to Bob’s many other flaws, his pop culture references are woefully out of date.

          3. SystemsLady*

            I wonder if the disagreement was political in nature, or if they were somehow incorrectly thinking that would imply they’re concerned about workplace violence if he’s fired (without saying it directly, for whatever reason).

        8. RVA Cat*

          WOW. Not only fired, but I’m thinking restraining order barring him from the premises – which should have happened when the police got involved.

          Stay safe and get him out of there. I don’t want to see your organization on the news…. :(

        9. Sketchee*

          It’s easy to see this guy as the sole problem. The owners and previous boss have given him their stamp of approval.

          As mentioned in the AAM, clarifying your duties and ability as a manager is the way to go. Once you’re his manager, lay out an improvement plan that lays out expectations and how his role will be required to change going forward.

          If not, your best bet would be to exit from this whole situation yourself

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Right? If something was so outrageous that I *did* want to share it with my relative who had zero connection to my work, I would probably forward it. Not CC. That’s crazy. If I wanted to make some kind of “I’m watching you” point in correspondence with an adversarial coworker, I’d CC my boss and everyone on up the chain.

      (Not that I would actually do any of those, but in my mind, that is the type of crazy that actually makes some sense. Cc’ing your mom not so much.)

    3. Jadelyn*

      My mother occasionally forwards me emails from her company – but that’s because I work in HR, her company is AWFUL from an HR standpoint, and she’s frequently asked for my input/feedback/suggestions on how to handle some of their more bizarre or out-of-compliance activities. It’s never been as a cc or even bcc on her replies, she waits til the chain is done and forwards it to me with her comments or questions. So like…I can maybe see sharing something with a family member if that family member has expertise on the thing being discussed, but not the way this guy did.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For everyone saying that they or family members forward emails to each other: The company can see forwards if they ever decide to look. A safer way to do it, if you must share, is to copy/paste the email into your personal email and send it that way. (I’m not condoning this, but if you’re going to do it, that’s safer way to do it.)

        1. Mustache Cat*

          Wait, they can? Do you mind expanding on this? Does this apply if they own the email server, or if they have a gmail company account like most small businesses?

          Also, can they see what you write on the forwards, or just the fact that you are forwarding?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            They can see everything that happens on their server — the fact that it was forwarded and what you wrote. (That doesn’t mean that they’ll bother to look, of course; most won’t. But some do. And even the ones that normally won’t might go looking if there’s a specific reason — and that reason could be a coworker, rather than you, and you could get get caught up by that. Or if there’s a court case, they may see everything, even stuff they ordinarily wouldn’t have gone looking for.)

            You raise a good question about whether that’s still true if they run their company email through Gmail — I have no idea how that works.

            1. Mike*

              Our work uses Gmail and I’m the one who set it up. I’m going to assume everyone means Google Apps for ____ (now called G Suite) and not individual addresses.

              tl;dr version: Assume yes they can.

              Long version:
              There are many ways to setup email with Google. Our first iteration had all incoming and outgoing email going through one of our servers where we made a copy of the email and who it was from and to (including BCC).
              Since then Google added Vault as an add-on service for legal retention and issue management. Our company has a Google Apps for Education account so vault is actually enabled by default. In it I can search, see who sent it and to whom (including BCC), and some other information. This solution doesn’t require our own server and is wholly contained in the Google service.

              tl;dr v2: Always assume your email is being monitored.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                This. They can archive a lot. Government offices are required to do this, at least in my state. They can even “lock it” so it cannot be altered.

                So if someone emails their “poopsie” for dinner and…, then that could be archived somewhere out there.

                Not saying to be paranoid, I think it is good to realize that what you say might be read years from now.

            2. JohnJ*

              Google provides admin tools/capabilities for hosted corporate email. So does MS with Office365. With O365, there’s a full suite of optional capabilities including encryption, DLP, legal hold, etc. (I’m a Security Manager for my company & use O365’s DLP & encryption capabilities).

            3. Sketchee*

              The same should be noted for work printers. Many companies can pull up anything you’ve printed from your computer or a particular printer. As with email they generally wouldn’t care. Still something to be aware of

            4. Silver*

              I was once advised to not email anything from your work email that you don’t want read out in public. This could mean senate hearings if you work in the public service, a court case involving the company you work for, or even a newspaper article I’m sure everyone knows about the UK journalists hacking email accounts by now.

              It takes a while to get use to but you can train yourself to not use work email for private correspondence.

          2. Anoooooooon*

            I am a litigator who works in employment law – you should assume that your employer can see whatever you can see in your email, plus more. They can see what you write, who you write to, who write to you, who you cc, who you bcc, sometimes they can see your drafts… They might not be looking all the time, because it is incredibly time consuming and usually boring, but I can’t even tell you the stuff I’ve read in people’s email after someone files a court case. As soon as someone sues, I’m basically reading all your email, and calendar appointments, and address book entries, and everything.

            1. Marisol*

              can’t they also see what websites you go to and how long you were there? So even if you went to a site that wasn’t inappropriate for work, if you were goofing around for hours, that could count against you.

              I personally never assume any sort of privacy in the workplace and never do anything I wouldn’t be ok with someone else seeing, whether it’s the receptionist or the CEO.

              1. Shelby Drink the Juice*

                Where I work, if a complaint is made against you IT will definitely look at your internet history. They can see if you’re active on a page. People have been fired for excessive internet and clocking that as time worked. Mischarging time I think always results in termination.

            2. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I do document review, and we are sometimes given even deleted emails and drafts for review. Just because it’s deleted doesn’t mean it’s not archived. Anything you do with a work email should be assumed to be visible to your employer.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                As far as I can tell, removing it from the archive is a separate deletion. So while it may be gone from the one computer it might still be in the archive somewhere.

          3. Shazza*

            There was a facebook meme a while back: “Dance as if no one is watching; email as if it will be read out in court someday.” I live by this!

          4. Tony*

            If you have an email server, your actions can be stored.

            I would recommend to not even copy paste but just print it on paper. This may be monitored but you can just say that you needed it on paper.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Many years ago, we had an email program that let anyone see if an email they sent had been forwarded to someone else (internally). That cured me of ever forwarding anything without having a completely above-board reason for doing so.

        3. rubyrose*

          I work for a company that proactively tells us that we cannot forward emails to a personal account (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.). Even if it is our own personal account. I got targeted one time when I was forwarding something that needed to be printed (remote worker, IT had not been able to get company laptop to print to my home computer).

        4. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          At Old Job HR would get an email anytime an employee forwarded a “Company All” email to an external email address. My co-worker found this our because she would occasionally forward inter-office events to him, usually with a note about how our workplace had such fun events and it was a shame he worked for a crappy employer who never did anything nice for the employees. HR told her that they were glad she was appreciative of the events, but wanted to give her a heads up that they could see her personal messages about how horrible her husband’s company was and it was starting to get weird.

            1. Marisol*

              Maybe she was getting a bit inappropriate and they wanted to protect her before she said something really bad and had to be disciplined?

            2. Not So NewReader*

              They probably thought that would motivate her to stop. Going outside with company emails can be a big deal. This may have been her friendly warning before the brick wall dropped.

      2. af adsaf d*

        Ive forwarded things to my parents from my work email before – mainly flight or hotel information so they know where the heck I am (travel for work often, closest family) but occasionally an article or general interest stuff. I work in an iconic building so we sometimes get interesting emails about things happening there. Nothing actually work related.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Same. And we also get emails about new restaurants opening in my building that I send to my mom, too. But cc’ing her on actual work stuff? Nah – my company would lose their minds.

    4. Newish Reader*

      My mother and I used to work for the same company, but in different areas with different supervisors. I would never have considered including her on an email that didn’t directly relate to her job.

  4. ZSD*

    What KatieKate said.
    1) Holiday Inn Express? What? Is there some association between Holiday Inn and lawyers? Or was this comment as completely off-the-wall as it seems to me?
    2) The board’s comment about “this year’s political climate” was initially mystifying to me as well. What, in this climate, we all need the support of our mothers more than ever? But now I’m thinking that just *maybe*, the crazy co-worker happens to be a member of a group that’s been targeted during and after the election, so the board thinks this isn’t the right time to discipline him for something when he’s already having to deal with a lot of open discrimination. That’s my best guess. I mean, even that doesn’t actually make sense, but…

    1. Lucy*

      OK, I was going to ask about the Holiday Inn Express comment, too- I could not follow that one at all.

      Is the OP meant to feel intimidated by the person CC’ing their mother?

      1. What on Earth*

        There was a commercial for Holiday Inn Express where the premise was that you would get such a good night’s sleep there you could do anything!

      2. Allison*

        There’s an ad campaign where someone’s about to do something, like, I dunno, surgery is something, and someone’s like “wait are you [person who’s properly qualified to do this]?” and he’s like “no, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.”

        It’s a stupid ad campaign.

      3. Zip Silver*

        I think OP hit the nail on the head in the letter with us though. He’s keeping a record of their emails on nonwork computer. Makes sense in some contexts.

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Holiday Inn Express has commercials where people think they can suddenly do things because they were smart and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before

    3. NJ Anon*

      There used to be a Holiday Inn Express commercial where the main character was about to act in some capacity (doctor, lawyer, etc.) and when asked if he was one, the reply always was “No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.” I guess getting a good night’s rest qualifies you to do anything, like brain surgery. (sarc)

    4. Bend & Snap*

      It’s an ad campaign where ordinary people do extraordinary (outlandish) things. And then when someone asks if they’re a professional whatever they say no, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    5. Thornus67*

      There are a series of commercials put out by Holiday Inn Express where someone is having trouble, another person offers a solution, the first person asks “Are you a [profession that deals with said problem],” and the second person responds with “No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

    6. Decimus*

      The holiday inn express thing relates to a series of ads the chain ran where they’d have someone basically saying “I’m not a doctor/lawyer/nuclear physicist but I did stay in a holiday inn express last night.” Basically coworker is saying the OP isn’t a lawyer and, therefore, has no right comment on legalities.

    7. ThatGirl*

      The Holiday Inn Express thing is a (bad) joke – there was a series of commercials several years ago where people became supernaturally intelligent after staying at a HIE.

    8. Important Moi*

      Holiday inn express is based on a commercial seen in the US. The joke is staying at a Holiday inn express makes you an expert on any subject.

    9. Gandalf the Nude*

      I’m glad everyone clarified the Holiday Inn Express thing because where I grew up that comment would imply OP was a sex worker or sleeping with the board. Our HIE was known for that kind of thing.

      1. H.C.*

        Ditto for the clarification, though my assumption with HIE was that the OP was flown in for a temporary or consulting gig (and thus, is put up there for the time being), will make a whole lot of “changes” and leave before the chaos ensues.

    10. Why yes, I did stay at the Holiday Inn Express*

      I bet the board’s comment about the political climate has more to do with the inquiries into email usage, the leaks of campaign emails, etc. and the fact that a lot of people treat email as some sort of private, confidential thing when it is far from that. I’m assuming the board’s message was more like “Be careful about keeping confidential emails confidential. But also assume if you send an email saying ‘Fergus is a doofus and should never be trusted to manage a bundle of sticks let alone a department of 25 direct reports’ that it will get back to Fergus somehow. So take heed and govern yourselves accordingly.”

      1. ZSD*

        Ahhhh…That makes a lot of sense. I mean, it makes a lot of sense that you say they might be *thinking* that.

    11. Artemesia*

      And see I assumed there was the hint that contentious behavior has political roots and that the current climate has empowered asshattery hence this guys ridiculous behavior.

      I find it hilarious that a grown ass man thinks ‘telling his Mommy’ is a threat unless his Mommy owns the company.

      I agree with Alison that unless you have hire fire authority over this guy you might be better off not taking this promotion or taking it and immediately looking for a new position. This organization is so badly managed that it is probably not retrievable by one new manager.

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        I was wondering if Mommy is an employment lawyer or works for the department of labor or something like that? ‘Cause that’s the only thing that makes sense to me given the OP’s update above.

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          That’s what I was thinking. The only way this is slightly less batshit is if the employee’s mother is a lawyer and he’s trying to build a hostile work environment case or similar (despite the fact that that isn’t how any of that works).

          But if you are seriously, SERIOUSLY cc’ing your mommy, as a grown man, because wahh wahh I don’t like my job – I… I just can’t with that.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        And see I assumed there was the hint that contentious behavior has political roots and that the current climate has empowered asshattery hence this guys ridiculous behavior.

        This was where my mind went, too, but the comment above yours about email leaks makes a lot of sense.

    12. Paige*

      I’m actually a tiny bit concerned that the OP might be missing a critical here. I sure hope the mother isn’t someone like the Founder or someone else high ranking or even political in the community who Board members work with and believe is perfectly reasonable to be cc’d and looped in on such correspondence.

      1. Liane*

        Not hardly. The OP stated explicitly that she knew Mommy wasn’t a consultant, so I am pretty sure she knows Mommy wasn’t a Power That Be or VIP. And do you really think someone that immature wouldn’t mention if she was?
        “And when I do CC her again you are going to be So Sorry because MY Mommy is Professor Emeritus of Employment Law at Summa Cum Laude U., The Founder’s trophy wife, our biggest donor for the past 30 years, the head of the Secret Service–AND the elf in charge of Santa’s Naughty-Nice database! So there!!”

  5. NJ Anon*

    I know it’s hard OP but you need to step back and be the professional. I once got into and email disagreement with someone who just wouldn’t let it go (he wasn’t cc’ing mother though.) and I just stopped responding. It made him look bad, not me. Don’t stoop to his level. As AAM says, be ready to deal with it in January and make sure everyone has your back. And document!

    Lastly, regardless of the size of your organization, you should still put the “confidentiality” clause in your email. In this case, size doesn’t matter!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think you need that thing in your email (in fact, I think most people find it annoying), but they should certainly have a policy about confidentiality. And the OP won’t need an organization-wide policy to just tell him he needs to cut it out, once she’s his boss.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        “And the OP won’t need an organization-wide policy to just tell him he needs to cut it out, once she’s his boss.”

        I envy this approach. At my job, I have to draft an agency-wide policy every time one of the old timers (in job years, not age) wants to do whatever s/he wants even if it violates state/federal law and/or the agenda of the elected officials who run things.

        Then whenever I do, my boss gets overwhelmed and forgets to approve whatever policy I drafted. Then the cycle repeats itself a few weeks later, and I have to draft another policy for something new.

        1. KG, Ph.D.*

          That’s horrifying. Does your boss have the (misguided) notion that someone can’t be fired for behavior that isn’t expressly forbidden by company policy, even if said behavior is illegal?

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            There’s a reluctance overall to fire, which is mostly borne out of unsubstantiated fear. Having things in writing somehow gives the illusion of a solution, yet the things that already are in writing never seem to be used in any disciplinary measure anyway.

            It’s so ridiculous. There’s no policy against me bringing my cat to work, but I’m sure if I did, I’d get a visit from HR.

      2. Gandalf the Nude*

        I hate the things. When I’m trying to print an email for documentation, they create such a waste.

        1. Natalie*

          At my first professional job ever, I started collecting scrap paper so we could print drafts and such on the other side. I’m pretty sure 90% of it was pages and pages of those disclaimers.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I did the same – except for me it was 90% looooong email chains with insanely long signatures (and now I’m remembering a trustee whose signature was in lilac comic sans…..)

          2. Drew*

            I was so glad when my office got a duplexing printer. Before that, I would take old printouts and the scrap pages from long disclaimers and such, chop ’em in half, and use them for scratch paper. I still have quite a stack of those sheets and don’t need more.

            Some people in my organization really object to printing on both sides of the page, so if I’m doing something for them, I turn off duplexing on their copies. But I’d much rather save the paper (especially when I’m taking notes on several projects home with me – half the paper is half the weight).

          3. Julia*

            Tell that to my colleague who has no idea how to print on both sides of paper or only highlighted sections and always prints out loads of papers, only to loudly crumple the ones she didn’t need and throw them in the trash…

        2. bridget*

          It makes total sense in some professions – super necessary for my law firm. But last week I got an email from the manager at my gym with a confidentiality AND privilege notice. Someone needs to tell them there is no such thing as a gym privilege…

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Oh then you wouldn’t believe the email signatures some of my coworkers have . It’s a whole page in itself!

          1. Shelby Drink the Juice*

            I really don’t understand huge fancy pants email signatures on internal routine emails. Like seriously? Especially the ones with the company logo. No crap you work here, so do I!

    2. Thornus67*

      Confidentiality notices in e-mail signatures are likely unenforceable, but there’s no harm in adding them so many businesses (and almost every lawyer) do.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I always roll my eyes a bit when I get an e-mail that could be reduced to “k” and then has an entire paragraph of confidentially attached to it.

      2. paul*

        Yep. If I find random information because of someone else’s error I don’t think you get to tell me I can’t use it.

      3. Joseph*

        IANAL, but confidentiality typically comes from an actual documented agreement (e.g., contract). You can’t create that just by unilaterally claiming it, the other person needs to actively agree. Just receiving an email does not establish a contract, therefore the recipient isn’t bound by any of the terms (delete immediately, do not forward, etc).
        Also, practically speaking, anybody who received the email by accident and plans to use the information for nefarious purposes isn’t going to blink an eye at your little one-sentence disclaimer.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I’ve always wondered about that! I can see it being enforceable within a company or organization (although it seems to me that it’d be just as effective, and smarter, to simply make it a policy and educate about that policy rather than slapping it every single email), but externally? If someone sends me an email with a paragraph of “the recipient has no right to share this email’s contents blah blah blah” it’s always struck me as… well, um, no, I didn’t agree to that, and I don’t really see why I’d be bound by it. It’s like if you tell me something, and then end the conversation with “…and you’re not allowed to tell anyone!” Not really effective!

          It’s like the similar footers that say something like “if you are not the intended recipient of this email, you must delete it and wash it out of your brain.” Or…. howabout you actually email the thing to the right person next time, rather than expecting me to clean up after your goof? (This comes up for me a fair amount because I have a gmail that is my very common first and last name combo, and I get misaimed emails constantly.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I handle confidential information from time to time.

            One day I got a looong document with a lot of personal information and at the end a confidentiality statement.

            I laughed right out loud. That statement did nothing to prevent me from reading the information. I had to read the info to figure out it was not for me. Since it was lengthy and it did not make a lot of sense, I read MOST of it before I concluded it was not mine. At the very end I read “confidential”, too little and too late. Fortunately, it did not make a lot of sense to me so their secret, whatever it was, is pretty safe with me.

      4. Gaara*

        It’s funny that lawyers always add them, because legally, they are meaningless — and all lawyers know it. But everyone else does it, so hey, why don’t we, too!

            1. ancolie*

              I think he means that there’s no Official Restriction (via government or organization/association) that prohibits anyone from using Esq. as a title even if they aren’t a lawyer.

              A contrasting example would be realtor. A lot of people use it as a generic term or synonym for real estate agent, but it’s actually a registered trademark for the National Association of Realtors. They absolutely can and will go after non-member real estate agents who use the title.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Oh, that’s interesting. Esquire is totally restricted in California, but through case/admin law (you’re not allowed to use it unless you’re licensed to practice in the state, and if you do, you can be hit with a UPL sanction/suit).

        1. Thornus67*

          Yep. Partially convention, and partially doing anything and everything to cover their behinds to try and limit any potential trouble they might get into with their Bar(s). It probably started as a misapplication/misunderstanding of the rules regarding inadvertent disclosure to the other side in a case and the professional duties the other side owes (typically notify of the disclosure but still have the full right to use the disclosure in the proceedings).

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          Image is a huge part of being a client-facing attorney, so maybe it’s because clients expect them.

        3. bridget*

          The common language that instructs any recipients to which the email was misdirected to destroy the email isn’t *totally* pointless. If you accidentally waive attorney-client privilege by misdirecting an email, it’s helpful to show you took some reasonable measures to cure the waiver ASAP, and an email signature is one of those reasonable measures. Not a cure-all, but better than nothing.

          1. bridget*

            Also, it’s really useful when reviewing documents during litigation – I have to withhold/redact all emails from discovery that are privileged, and it’s a LOT easier to identify those privileged materials when lawyers include email signatures indicating that they are indeed a lawyer. Otherwise I might not know that when Fergus emails Percival to ask what to do about X issue, he is seeking legal advice from corporate counsel (because Percival doesn’t have an email signature indicating that he is a lawyer and his correspondence may be privileged). Subject lines and email headers saying “Attorney-Client Privileged” are also helpful – it doesn’t mean that the sender is always *correct* that the document is privileged, but it helps flag it as potentially privileged for reviewers down the line.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          My impression was that it was in there in case someone accidentally waived attorney/client privilege during discovery, or to head off concerns that someone thinks a lawyer talking to them means that that lawyer is now their lawyer.

          But it’s annoying when lawyers have overlong confidentiality disclaimers, and it’s 1000x more annoying when everyone under the sun has them. Make your people sign NDAs and move on.

    3. L.W.EB*

      I spoke to a member of the BoD recently and I was assured of their support. It was expressed to me that they all felt that Bob was acting ridiculous and childish. I believe I was hired to deal with him. I believe I may have jumped the gun and become a little overzealous and I do need to wait until my position is official. I am so glad that I didn’t pursue the email any further especially after reading all of these points of view.

      1. Gaara*

        Keep in mind that it isn’t your job to persuade him to behave appropriately. It’s his job, and it’s your job to tell him that, and then ultimately to let him go if he refuses.

      2. Sara M*

        You do need to have the explicit conversation with the board and make sure you say clearly, “Will you support me if I decide he must be fired?”

      3. Lora*

        Fire him ASAP and expect that he will attempt to get unemployment (you have more than enough email documentation to fight that if you want, but you may not want the hassle), try to file a lawsuit (you have more than enough documentation to respond to a letter from a lawyer with an example of what he was fired for), throw hissyfits, cry, shout, threaten people with violence, and may need to have the cops called AGAIN. When you fire him, have a witness and hopefully a security person of some sort with you, although this may not be possible. Keep it short and to the point: “Bob, your services are no longer required. You are being fired and today is your last day. Stone Cold Steve Austin will help you collect your things and walk you out.”

        He’s done enough that you don’t even need a PIP. Any of the things you describe are worthy of being terminated on the spot. In fact, I would have done it publicly in front of the rest of the company, to make an example for anyone else who thought they could act like a fool. MOST of the time, yes, you do these things privately, but there are cases where you want to make an example and this is one of those if I ever saw it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wouldn’t–that will freak out everybody else, who will then think, “Gee, if I screw up, is OP going to make a big production out of firing me?” It’s just not necessary.

          1. Karanda Baywood*

            There are only 3 employees. Also, I would hazard a guess that everyone else is sick of the guy too.

      4. TootsNYC*

        But also remember that YOU don’t want to look ridiculous and childish (and “tattling” to the board isn’t that much different than tattling to mom).

        1. Jenbug*

          Doesn’t Allison always say that adults cannot ‘tattle’ in a workplace situation?

          Besides, the board was on the initial email chain where this all occurred so the LW didn’t tell them about anything they weren’t already aware of.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It honestly depends on what you’re sharing with the Board. In theory the Board has a fiduciary duty to the company that individual employees do not have. If an employee is threatening the organization’s well-being, then informing the Board of what’s going on is not tattling.

          And it’s actually really different to communicate a problem to your Board (even if the problem doesn’t rise to that level) than to communicate a problem to an out-of-state individual with no connection or relationship to the company, other than the fact that she’s a parent of a current employee. They’re not equivalent or analogous scenarios.

      5. designbot*

        Also it sounds like there’s probably plenty more substantial stuff going on with him–make sure you pick the right battle. CCing his mom isn’t the hill you want to die on.

        1. LW EB*

          Indeed. I wish I had documented something this summer, but i was even less in a position than I am now.

          1. Observer*

            You really think you won’t have plenty of other stuff to document?

            The reality is that someone who is going to react this way to being told not to CC his mother is going to react ridiculously to pretty much any management, unless he realizes that his job is on the line. So, you will surely have more than enough to go on, when the time comes. Unless, of course, a miracle happens, and he shapes up.

  6. LisaLee*

    I’d read this more as this dude is making fun of you to his mom than some sort of intimidation technique. He’s just a jerk with no boundaries and when you become his boss you should try to move him out the door.

    1. Mephyle*

      Do or not do. There is no try. (In this case, “do” is probably indicated.) (Not putting this quote here to be funny, but because it fits.)

  7. Important Moi*

    I read this and laughed at the absurdity or it all. Then I focused on the culture of this place that allows people to feel comfortable to engage in this the first place. Alison’s advice is spot on. Good luck.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      I think this is something that’s easier to see from the outside than the inside. Hopefully the letter writer can take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

    2. LW EB*

      It’s the smallness of the staff and the isolation of the location that has contributed. Retiring Manager is timid but honest and so ethical. Bob has issues but can be effective in some areas of his job, and smoozy with the old BoD. The small, isolated town and very limited personnel pool. The people that worked here prior to Bob and Retiring Mgr stole money, didn’t take care of things, etc.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        As I’ve noted on other threads around here, you can hire someone who is effective at (“some areas of?” sheesh, this guy is worse than I thought) the job AND isn’t a flaming douchebag. But in order to do that, Bob needs to go.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        A lot of that goes on in small rural towns. And on….and on… Hopefully you and the board can break this and start a new culture of transparency. You’re almost there. I hope the board meets regularly and I hope you are included in those regular meetings.

      3. NutellaNutterson*

        You’ve mentioned the retiring manager as “so ethical” a lot. I know you’re thinking about thier ethics as part of the change in the company after the theft, etc. But you’re really losing sight of the big-picture of what it means to be an ethical manager, employee, and heck, human being. It is not ethical to allow someone to stay in the workplace while repeatedly (!) be violent at work. There’s not an algebraic formula for ethics where throwing a table (again, !!!) is cancelled out by not stealing.

        You’ve normalized a LOT of this behavior, and I hope you get to have a break soon because it’s got to be exhausting.

        1. LW EB*

          Excellent point and thanks for the break sentiment. I don’t mean to normalize, but it does seem like that. In most states and regions of the USA this would never be permitted, I have lived many other places, I know. If you’ve never lived in a place that is so small, and so isolated, it is hard to imagine what it is like here. In so many jobs here, it is truly finding people who are the lesser of two evils. If you have someone who is basically honest, who shows up to work at all, and mostly on time and sober… that’s what we have to deal with here. It’s like LaLa Land, Mañana-ville.

  8. paul*

    The *only* work things my parents ever see from me are occasional forwards when I get approval for vacation (hey y’all, got approval, do you want to plan a family get together type of thing). Yikes.

    I think I’d be very cautious with this company/agency though, it sounds like it puts the Dis in dysfunction. On your end, *let go* of the need to have the last word, it’s incredibly destructive.

  9. What on Earth*

    Wait, what???

    Cc’ing your mom at work is…strange.

    Also, the times I’ve felt the need to cc my own personal email for documentation purposes (at one particularly dysfunctional workplace where documentation often went “missing”) I used bcc or forwarding, to avoid blantantly showing everyone what I was doing. Cc’ing mom seems extra aggressive – or passive aggressive – in that light!

    1. Joseph*

      CC’ing yourself is a completely different scenario because there are actually legitimate reasons to do so even at non-dysfunctional workplaces: Maybe you don’t have your work email on your phone (good for you!), maybe the company’s remote-access to email is awkward to use (sadly common), maybe it’s just something sufficiently critical that you want the warm-and-fuzzy feeling of seeing it pop up in your personal mail and knowing that Outlook didn’t fail to send.
      However, I literally cannot imagine a single scenario justifying CC’ing your family on a *work-related* email unless they actually work there. None.

    2. kb*

      I was also confused by the lack of BCC! It seems odd to me that a grown person wants to involve their mother in work things at all, but even if you did I feel like most people would be aware that the optics are bad and at least try to be covert. Unless Mom is a Titan of industry who could intimidate… I just don’t see why you’d want people to know you were including her

    3. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah, it’s totally crazypants. I mean, the whole thing is, but the cc’ing openly is like… what, you want me to know that you’re telling on me to mommy? How could anyone not see that that looks completely childish and goofball?

      Once in a blue moon I do forward things to external personal contacts, but only things that I know for a fact my boss wouldn’t care about. But not bcc and definitely not cc! (Like when I get a travel booking notice for work travel and send it to my husband so he’ll have a copy of the flight info, or one time when a coworker suddenly passed away and I forwarded the notice to a former colleague who had been close to him–in any of those cases, I would have no problem telling my boss about it outright; I just don’t because he’s made it clear that he trusts me to use my judgment. I’m comfortable saying that even if IT went over my external forwards with a fine-tooth comb, they wouldn’t see anything that would be considered a concern.)

      1. Mreasy*

        Do you think he meant to bcc, to complain about it later, then had to pretend like he did the public cc on purpose?

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          No, I think he meant to be a flaming douchebag.

          He likely has told his mother how unfair his workplace is being to him, she got all, “I won’t let them do that to my baby,” they’re convinced they are right and everyone else is the one with the problem, he offered to show her the next thing where they were being mean to him, and…here we are.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I did not jump to passive-aggressive behavior here, my first thought was “stupid”. Who is foolish enough to actually let everyone know they forward their emails to their mommy? I wondered if he even understood that everyone could see what he did, does he understand how email works?

      It really has no bearing because his reply to OP was just waaay out there.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I once saw a case in which a woman was suing a former employer and cc’d her mother on bizarre and threatening emails she sent to opposing counsel.

  10. NoMoreMrFixit*

    Start drafting a communications policy that outlines confidentiality requirements as well as potential actions if the policy isn’t upheld. Maybe create another policy regarding appropriate email usage such as business use only.
    Document everything. You’re headed into a minefield with a crazy person who isn’t going to respect your authority regardless. Having defined and board-approved rules in place gives you solid ground to stand on.

    Lastly, don’t feed the trolls. Do not let this guy drag into these pointless bouts. Nobody wins and you get dragged down to his level. That hurts your credibility in the long run. This will be difficult given his lack of professionalism but you will benefit in the long run.

    Good luck. You’re going to need the board’s full support to deal with this guy.

    1. Student*

      This doesn’t need a policy. This needs somebody to put their foot down with one badly-behaving colleague. Policy is for organizational-level changes, and for guidance to people who already want to act in the company’s best interests, but don’t know how to do that. Management by setting clear expectations and consequences for violating them is for problems with specific individuals and issues with people who opt to follow their personal interests far over the company’s interests in official job actions.

    2. Jessie*

      Yeah, you don’t need to create policies. It is fully okay to simply tell someone what you expect of them, and then implement consequences, including firing, if they refuse to comply. Going through the hassle of creating written policies to address basic professionalism/email usage and confidentiality is not a great use of a manager’s time (unless the business touches on HIPAA or other issues that are legally protected information in some way, of course – then they need actual policies. Otherwise, no need.).

  11. LCL*

    ‘I am loath to let him have the last word…’
    Yeah this is a personal irritation. Understandable, he sounds like a total jerk. People like him thrive on winding up others. You will never get the last word because people like that won’t stop, ever. I think I can say this to you because I have that same urge and have given in to it in the past-having to have the last word only escalates things. Just bide your time until you have the power to do something about it, which will be soon.

    1. Decimus*

      I think the way to look at it, if it helps the OP, is that you aren’t letting him have the last word. Because you are about to become his boss, you won. As of January, he will have to do what you say or be fired. And if he can’t be fired for insubordination, then that’s a company culture issue.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes! The thing about being the boss is that you inherently have the last word, without ever even needing to speak it. If you’re using your authority properly, you won’t even need to get angry with people — because you know that you have the tools to deal with jerks like this without even raising your heart rate, if need be.

    2. fposte*

      If it helps, draw on the old Usenet flame war axiom–the winner is the one who gets in the second to last word.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I love this and am going to start saying it.

        It reminds me of one of my mother’s policies. When I was little, she would never accept “But he started it!” as an excuse, because she said that getting back at someone was even worse. It meant that I had an opportunity to end the conflict, but instead I escalated it.

    3. BPT*

      I totally get the impulse too. BUT, having the “last word” in an argument is never really as satisfying as you think it will be. The fantasy is to say something that’s just SO right, that’s backed up by fact, that nobody can dispute, and then the person in the wrong hangs their head in shame and acquiesces while those around you cheer about how right you are with pats on the back and high-fives all around.

      The reality is usually two-fold:
      1. The person in the wrong will never actually admit it. Facts won’t convince them. 10 years of debate prep won’t be enough to make them change their mind. And they’ll usually just say something else just as asinine which you’ll then have to refute AGAIN.
      2. People watching are just cringing that you keep engaging them when ignoring something is an option. Even if people know you’re right, most professional people try to steer clear of drama, no matter who started it or who is in the right. (Obviously exceptions for harassment, etc).

      That’s not to say that nothing should be done, OP. But it’s already been handled (as much as it’s going to be, anyway) by the Board. And they’ve decided to handle it in the future (apparently) by making you his boss. So continuing to drag out a “last word” will just seem like overkill.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The other thing is that not responding is really really satisfying because it leaves the agitator twisting in the wind. I mean, if you didn’t already look like an unhinged lunatic with no professional boundaries, how much worse does it look when you start one-way emailing someone who just won’t respond? This is the “I’m not touching youuuuuu” of email power moves.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. When someone wants a fight, the worst thing you can do to them is not give them one.

    1. L.W. EB*

      A BoD that changes and lives in other parts of the USA. The company is in a small town and geographically isolated.

  12. Bend & Snap*


    Alison gave great advice, and at the same time, I’d be tracking all his BS.

    *BS happens*
    *OP is promoted in January*
    *OP sets clear expectations of behavior*
    *OP records when and how he acts inappropriately, warns him, then PIP*
    *He CCs Mommy again or throws another temper tantrum of some sort*

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You are very generous.

      I’d fire him right away.

      But with the way these things go, OP, he probably knows he’s toast anyway, so he may quit on your first day. Be prepared for anything.

      1. Gadfly*

        Yeah–maybe see if IT can do some backups in case he wipes all his records or otherwise sabotages things on his way out the door…

  13. LC*

    I’m surprised it doesn’t violate company policy to share company information with non-employees. That seems like seems like the most cut-and-dry offense here, and one that would be easier to enforce without seeming dramatic.

    1. The IT Manager*

      But it’s so out of norms and unexpected that there may not be a policy. And the organization probably doesn’t have huge confidentiality concern with day to day information because if there was there would be official policy.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, I think I would refuse to write that policy, because I hate handbooks that are 2 pages of useful stuff and 50 pages of “We had this happen one time.” You don’t need a policy that says not to practice your tuba during downtime, or that you need to get permission before painting Starry Night directly on your wall, or not to include your mom on work emails unless it’s about the company picnic. You just need to correct the person and keep an eye on them for other signs of complete cluelessness about workplace norms.

    2. MillersSpring*

      Lots of companies have new hires sign a non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement along with any other first day paperwork.

      Even without an official agreement, this seems like basic business sense: you don’t share internal details with non-employees. Period, full stop.

  14. Leatherwings*

    Also, where was the current manager in all this? Assuming she was included in the email chain, she should’ve intervened when she saw the mother CCed. And if she missed that, she certainly should’ve intervened as soon as she saw the (pretty snarky) “is your mother a consultant” thing. I’m just completely baffled. If anything like this would’ve happened in front of the board of directors at any workplace I’ve ever been at, there would’ve been serious consequences for both parties before the board even had time to open the email.

    1. k*

      OP said that coworker basically refused to recognize the current manager as his superior, and wiggled his way into her lateral equal. It sounds like coworker has been running around with no real supervision, and is pissed that soon he’s going to have a real manager.

      1. LW EB*

        That’s pretty much it. Retiring Mgr hates confrontation and is scared of Bob when he huffs & puffs.

  15. Scorpio*

    Has anyone stopped to think about this poor guy’s mom? Getting all these crazy emails that don’t relate to her at all?

    1. What on Earth*

      Hahaha, I didn’t think of her. But the image of my mom getting all my work emails has literally made me laugh out loud! Fortunately, I didn’t wake either of the two sleeping babies!!!

      1. MsMaryMary*

        My mom once emailed something to my work account while I was on vacation, and she was mystified by my out of office response. “Why did you send me an email saying that you’re out of the office until the 6th? I know that, you’re here with me.”

    2. katamia*

      Maybe he’s doing it because she wants him to (helicopter parenting). Or because he’s told her Something’s Rotten in the State of OP’s Workplace and she wants him to have a safe place off-site to document whatever offenses he believes people have committed against him.

    3. Not Karen*

      Unless she’s one of those moms who would say, “Poor son, look how you’re being treated at work!” or “I’m so proud of you – I can see how hard you’re working.” That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I read the title – that he’s doing it for pity, not for documentation or intimidation (which doesn’t even make sense… why would you be intimidated by your coworker’s mom…).

      1. OhNo*

        Seriously. Is his mom a lawyer, elected official, or someone with an inordinate amount of pull in OP’s industry? If not, I can’t imagine him doing it for intimidation.

        If it’s any consolation, OP, I have a feeling the board members were probably thinking the same thing as you about emailing his mommy. I can’t imagine any situation where I would see that someone had copied their mother on a work email and think anything other than, “I didn’t realize we had a toddler working for us.”

        1. Harriet*

          It reminds me of a hilarious experience I had while babysitting a couple of years ago. I told the four-year-old that she wasn’t allowed to watch a Barbie show because her mom had said it wasn’t allowed. She got mad and said she was going to tell on me to mom. I told her “Okay, but mom was the one who said you couldn’t watch the show, so I think she’s going to agree with me.” The four-year-old replied “No, YOURS mom!” (Her family and mine are close friends, so she does know my mom.) I was laughing so hard I could barely speak, but we called my mom up to inform her that the four-year-old wanted to tell on me for not letting her watch the Barbie show. My mom very patiently explained that I wasn’t allowed to watch a Barbie show when I was four, so she was going to have to side with my decision in this case. It was hilarious and adorable behavior in a preschooler. It’s not in a grown adult!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          OP says McCrazyton’s mother lives in another state and works in education.

      2. Scorpio*

        But then he could just FW them. He seems to think there is some benefit to other employees knowing that his mom is getting the emails. Strange all around.

        1. Emma*

          Eh, I’ve known a couple people who seem oddly averse to forwarding things. In at least one case, the guy’s a huge jerk who’ll hold private, personal conversations loudly in public, specifically to use social pressure and embarrassment to silence the person/people he’s talking to and get his way, and I would not be at all surprised if he thinks CCing random people is the email equivalent of that. He seems to think it makes him a great truth-teller and transparency advocate, too.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      Maybe she is an innocent victim, maybe she raised him to be like this.

      The part I find strange is what does this guy expect will happen. CCing your mother? This isn’t K-12 school, this is your job. Someone’s parent has no influence unless they’re on the board, a manager, etc.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      Yes! And I’m wondering how the OP recognized the email address.
      HotMamma(at) or InURBusinessMom(at)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I have known adult, fully-functioning women whose email addresses were JaxonsMommy at and things like that.

        1. BPT*

          I don’t have any close friends that do that at the moment, but I would love to be able to have a policy that I will not Facebook friend or email anyone who’s name on that particular site is JaxonsMommy or KateandBrad Smith or TrayandCole’sMom.

        2. Liane*

          I know several couples through church–of assorted adult ages–who have emails like SoloFamily @ or LeiaHan @
          They are all great folks but I do roll my eyes whenever I notice the addresses–but for all I know those may just be for emails that apply to everyone, like school/church and everyone has one of their own for their stuff.

          I bet they roll their eyes at the one I have in the church directory, too, which is a reference to a favorite Christian fantasy series.
          (Nope I don’t use that on resumes and so on.)

    6. periwinkle*

      My first response was like katamia’s – this is a young employee with a helicopter mom who is used to having her fight his battles. Or maybe he’s just a jerk. I’m voting for jerk.

      Who knows, maybe Mom thrives on drama and is poking the drama – “Oh, sweetie, they sound so awful! Copy me on your emails and I’ll tell you just how horrible they’re acting toward you!”

      OP, stop engaging on this level with your future employee (and likely ex-employee). He’s being very unprofessional. Respond with a high degree of professionalism. Don’t engage with the snark and don’t encourage the chaos. The BOD might be delighted to back you up in ditching this person if they know you’ll act in the best interest of the organization.

      1. Murphy*

        “this is a young employee with a helicopter mom who is used to having her fight his battles. Or maybe he’s just a jerk. I’m voting for jerk.”

        Can’t it be both?

      2. Jenbug*

        given that he’s been with the company for 10 years, I don’t think we can go with the “young employee” explanation

    7. TheBeetsMotel*

      A big part of me wants the mom to show up at OP’s place of work and drag the employee out by his ear, smacking his butt as she does so.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was thinking along similar lines. “Junior, I told you not to send me any more of those stupid work emails. Now LOOK at what you have done. You have ticked off your new boss-to-be. Brilliant, Junior. Just brilliant.

    8. designbot*

      I guess I’ve been assuming that she is just like him and relishes the drama of it all and her position as advisor.

  16. NW Mossy*

    I’m dying to know what Bob’s mom thinks of these cc’s. My own mom would roll her eyes so hard she’d be able to see her brain, and then give my a well-deserved “what the hell is wrong with you?!”

    1. KimberlyR*

      I bet Bob’s mom thinks, “Oh my poor baby! This mean lady is out to get you and she is about to be your boss! The horrors!” Because I feel like mom would’ve halted the email train long before now if she ever had any intention of staying out of it or allowing Bob to handle things himself like a big boy. Bob’s boundary crossing had to come from somewhere…

    2. Persephone*

      It would certainly be interesting to see her replies (presumably to him only) if she does respond. Your organization sounds like it’s too small for a dedicated IT person but if it had one . . .

  17. Jamie*

    I think cc’ing one’s mommy on business stuff is the opposite of intimidating. I’ll admit I’ve certainly given my kids advice about work place situations when they’ve come to me with problems, but if I ever got a cc from one of them I’d feel I failed somewhere in the whole teaching normal behavior thing.

    I would not have been able to keep a straight face if I got an email cc’ed like that.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yes. I talk to my mom about workplace stuff sometimes. I think I’ve even read her an occasional snarky email, but never would that land in her actual inbox.

    2. OhNo*

      If you (or anyone) is teaching your kids to copy you on work emails, at least teach them to use BCC. Otherwise you end up with weird situations like this!

    3. AD*

      Agreed with Jamie.
      And frankly, I think the OP needs to resign herself to the fact that this employee should be fired. Even with the support of the board and strong managerial skills once she assumes that role in January, I cannot see any way that the situation can be saved. This employee is beyond help at this point. Document, document, document.

    4. The Rat-Catcher*

      It has never, ever occurred to me to CC my mom on work emails. I interpret that as my parents having done something right.

    5. Aurion*

      I stopped letting my parents have a say about my job, my medical health, etc. when I was 18. I can’t imagine a grown adult looping their parents in on the comings and goings of work.

      Doubly so when parents don’t always give the best job advice…

    6. LBK*

      Right? I actually interned at the company my mom worked at for a summer and even then it would’ve never occurred to me to CC her on an email. In fact I did as much as possible to distance myself from being “the kid whose mom works here” because it’s so infantilizing. Why would you intentionally bring that perception on yourself!?

    7. Paige*

      Unless she founded the business or something. That’s all I’ve got for why the Board wouldn’t object and he felt free to get even snarkier when OP pointed it out to the board.

    8. Turtle Candle*

      Yeah, I mean, I am trying to imagine in what universe “I’m going to tell my mom on you!” is an intimidation tactic past the age of maybe ten.

    9. Drew*

      I talk to my mom about my weird workplace all the time, but because I’m a grownass adult, I do it the grownass adult way: either on the phone or over margaritas at Sunday lunch. I certainly don’t wave in my coworkers’ faces that my mom thinks they’re a bunch of nutbars.

  18. KimberlyR*

    Sounds like the OP absolutely needs clarification on her powers come January. The board may have seen this guy as a problem child and decided to hire a manager to manage away his problems, but not to actually institute disciplinary actions or firings, as if a new manager is a magical being that makes people instantly start behaving well. I could be off base and OP will be given the power to put on PIPs, institute disciplinary hearings (paperwork, etc.), and firings if necessary, but I don’t get that vibe from this letter. If OP isn’t given the full scope of her managerial powers, she will always have a problem with this employee, as he clearly doesn’t have respect for authority or workplace norms.

    Also, OP, I also like to have the last word, especially when I’m right. But some people will stoop to ridiculously low childish levels to have the last word and you CANNOT follow them down there. At some point, you have to stop engaging and investigate a different avenue.

    1. Artemesia*

      I had a dog like this. Whenever chastised she would always get one low ‘woof’ in when I stopped and if I said something else sternly — another low ‘woof.’ Had to have the last word.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Oh my god I’ve had a dog like that too. Our dogs were trained not to bark much – they were allowed to “alert bark” if someone came to the door, but as soon as one of the humans acknowledged it they were supposed to stop barking. Only…one of them was a little shit, so you’d say “Okay, I got it, thank you” and she’d kind of mumble-bark like “brrf”. So you’d say “That’s enough.” and she’d give another quiet “brrf”. “Shh.” “brrf.” “Stop that.” “brrf.” You could just go on like this indefinitely as far as we could tell – nobody ever reached her giving-up point, anyway.

          1. SebbyGrrl*


            Golddigger I was catching up on your blog over the weekend and I saw the post about Laverne and Inside Water.

            I howled – our two JRTs insist on Upstairs Water.

            And our girl – Xena (Puppy Warrior Princess of EVERYTHING!) does this last word growl bark thing too.

            She will also do a little alert bark, just to get her brother barking and then she walks away. He falls for it every time. When we correct him we get a very distinct “Well, Xena said…” face.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          Haha, that cracks me up (so long as the dog is actually trained, anyway). Some dogs just insist on doing a tiny quiet “hurrumph” bark even if they do what you ask promptly.

        2. Mookie*

          I had a cat that would hold week-long grudges. Just when you thought you had him beat, out of nowhere he’d give you a very petulant, flat “mrowr” and a tail-flick. If you’d respond or try to talk to someone else or have a phone call, he’d spend hours contradicting your every sound and movement, mrowring to whatever you said — even if he was eating — and flopping in front of you and pawing if you tried to pass him by. He wanted you to stay in the room and prostrate yourself before him, and anything less than that required a lot of chastising.

      2. Lovemyjob...truly!*

        I like to have the last word. My 11 year old does as well. Parenting a child like me has been a lesson in patience (and I think I might owe my mom an apology for the years from 10 – 19). I’ve learned to bite my tongue because I’m the mom. I know I’m right. I know have authority on my side. Every word she feels she has to say after I’ve had my say is just going to dig her a bigger hole.
        OP, you need to find out to what extent your authority will go once you become his manager and learn to bite your tongue. If you know you have the authority to put him on a PIP or straight out fire him, then you don’t need to tell him you’re right. Let him think he’s having the last word. It’s just going to hurt him more in the long run.

      3. Loose Seal*

        This made me laugh. My dog doesn’t have to get in the last woof but if he doesn’t want to do what he’s asked to, he averts his eyes. It’s like a kid closing their eyes and thinking others can’t see them. I will actually walk around my dog and put the hand signal right before his eyes and he will try to further turn his face around before he gives up and goes the (not very onerous) thing. One day, I swear his head will circle all the way around like in The Exorcist (or is it Poltergeist? I get them mixed up).

        1. the_scientist*

          HA! My dog does this too and it’s the funniest thing. He takes a while to warm up to strangers and when he first met my partner, we’d take him for walks and partner would ask him to sit at every street crossing (routine; when I’m walking the dog he does it without being asked). First time partner did it, the dog turned his head all the way in the opposite direction and completely refused to acknowledge the command. It was so teenager-y it was almost adorable.

        2. plain_jane*

          Oh, good lord. I had an employee who did that – look away when they weren’t going to follow through on what I requested. I never realized until just now when I had a flashback on reading your comment.

      4. Alton*

        I had a cat like that. I started mimicking back his meows, and sometimes after a few rounds back and forth, he’d start to sound dejected and stop.

        And if I ever accidentally stepped on his tail, he’d follow me around meowing until he was satisfied that I’d apologized enough and done enough to make up for it.

  19. MC*

    Not having a policy and allowing this kind of behavior strikes me as a huge legal gap that you need to close as soon as possible. If your company is sued for any reason, your lawyers will review relevant emails and may institute a legal hold to retain all copies of emails. Having these loose emails out and about strikes me as a potential problem during legal discovery especially if opposing counsel gets their hands on copies where it says “I’ll copy my Mommy on anything I want nyah!” which indicates that you don’t have a policy and that you’re not in control of your correspondence.

    I would seriously consider discussing with your compliance team (assuming there is one).

    1. Jessie*

      I’m not clear on how this is a problem for legal. Emails are stored/copied on the server (company server or cloud), so there aren’t really any “loose emails out and about.” We’d get copies of everything. If there were gaps, or indications that we didn’t get everything, we’d go back and forth with opposing counsel to track it down. IT people collect it all and send it over. Sometimes we’d need to hire a computer forensics person to recover stuff. That part happens so routinely it isn’t a Big Red Flag. And there’s no legal requirement for a written policy about, well, most things, but certainly not for correspondence (outside of a few industries of course).

      Basically, this isn’t likely any kind of legal issue so no need to invoke legal. It’s a management issue, and management can handle it without bothering with a handbook or a written policy.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Honestly, no one should need a policy stating that it is inappropriate to send company emails to non-employees or agents of the organization. And one definitely need not adopt a policy barring employees from sending company emails to their mothers.

      This is a situation that’s so outside of professional norms that OP should just fire McCrazyton. I also generally advise against writing policies in reaction to a specific incident or person. If there’s a good reason/justification for the need for a policy, then go ahead, but don’t try to close the barn doors after the cows are already out.

  20. The Strand*

    Clearly this guy misunderstood. You’re supposed to *forward* mail to your parents, best friend, and other enablers!

    Seriously, I hope you are able to confirm your authority thoroughly before taking the promotion. This guy’s a nightmare. My experience with two insubordinate reports early in my career is that they if they fundamentally disrespect you, rather than are misunderstanding their job, it doesn’t get better. You can only document and keep moving their behavior up the chain until you are able to fire them.

    1. Artemesia*

      Exactly If you can’t fire this guy you can’t manage him. I would be clarifying that this week with your manager.

  21. Anion*

    My husband occasionally BCCs me on company emails, either as a heads-up (Here’s what’s going on with the Christmas party) or for me to proofread, or, yeah, sometimes as a “Can you believe this nonsense?” But I’m his wife, not his mom, and he doesn’t do it openly as some kind of nyah-nyah-I’m-telling-on-you, it’s more so I’ll be up-to-date when he gets home and wants to discuss it.

    Is his mother a government employee/appointee of some kind, and that’s why the comments about the “current political climate?” (I’m half-kidding, of course, but it’s such an odd thing to say, too.) In this current political climate, it’s important for people to feel free to CC their moms when they’re arguing with their future boss?

    He sounds like a real piece of work.

    1. fposte*

      He probably shouldn’t be bcc:ing people outside the company to show them his company does stupid stuff, though. That’s asking for trouble.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, you should get him to stop doing that. The company retains at least a log and probably a copy of everything sent. It could come back to bite him if he’s badmouthing people behind their. Everyone gripes to their partner about work. But you shouldn’t leave a written log of it.

        1. CM*

          Agreed, I think the only time it’s appropriate to forward work emails on to your spouse is if it’s something that affects your family, like an announcement that your health insurance plan will be changing or your office location is moving. Otherwise just go home and vent. (And it’s basically never appropriate to forward work emails to other people in your personal life.)

          1. Loose Seal*

            Yup, we do this. Health insurance stuff, tax stuff, 401k, save the dates for free flu shots at the company, info for retirement parties or baby showers that invite spouses, etc. There are plenty of things in the company’s email that could be reasonably shared with a spouse. For all the other things, either come home and tell an edited version or, if it’s too crucial to the story to get it right word-for-word, bring home your work laptop and let the spouse read it from there. (Assuming, of course, that you’re not violating confidentiality or HIPAA or FERPA, etc.)

        2. Anion*

          Yeah, that’s not a worry where he works at the moment, at all; trust me, they do not keep any such log, and if somehow they managed to figure out how to keep it they’d never be able to figure out how to access it. When we move back to the US, though, it’s something to keep in mind.

          To clarify, though, he’s not sending me any emails badmouthing anyone, or with any truly confidential company info or conversations. He just once in a while forwards an email convo between himself and someone else, with no comment, for us to discuss later. (Or, again, for me to proofread, since the company figures why pay when it can have me do it for free, so that’s with permission from the directors.)

      2. Lovemyjob...truly!*

        Agreed. My husband and I share our respective work days with each other but I have never bcc:ed him on an email – no matter how crazy it was. It’s too risky. I will forward any non-confidential emails (Christmas party, employee discounts, etc) that are meant for us to get our families involved in with a “Are you interested?” subject line, but all of those emails are clearly identified by my company as okay to share.

        I was once bcc:ed on a snarky email one team member wrote to another team member and it made me feel weird. I never got involved in their drama and, to my knowledge, it never went further than that but it was weird and unpleasant.

        1. CM*

          That happened to me once. I hit “reply all” and wrote, “Please don’t include me in this email thread, thanks!” Nobody ever said a word to me about it and I pretended like it didn’t happen. I imagine the BCCer was unhappy.

      3. Aurion*

        Yeah, I think this is asking for trouble. You shouldn’t forward, cc, bcc, or otherwise send email to people you don’t normally send email to within the scope of your professional duties. I realize a lot of people use their work email for their extracurriculars (volunteering or some such), but I like a very hard divide between my work and private lives.

    2. James*

      The only time I can see copying my spouse would be if we were discussing logistics. Folks in my office travel a lot (I’m at 10 out of the past 12 months on the road…), and things like caring for pets/plants come up. I wouldn’t consider copying her to say “Can you believe this nonsense?”–it’s too unprofessional. Venting/bouncing ideas around is one thing, but a paper trail is a whole other issue. While others have discussed emails being used in trials as a hypothetical, for me it’s a reality; it’s happened a few times (not me specifically, but the company’s email archives were called as evidence and included mine).

      1. Anion*

        I didn’t say he sends me emails that actually say “Can you believe this nonsense?” He doesn’t.

        1. Artemesia*

          Yeah THOSE are the ones you show him on your own laptop or he shows you on his. I worked in a nutso place that occasionally provided irresistible petitions and emails for amusement — but never a paper trail when I shared them with my spouse.

  22. Robert Bobby*

    Why is this “disagreement” being worked out through back and forth emails with the BOD cc’d? The situation reads almost like two siblings arguing and then coming to mom and dad with he saids and she saids. Nothing about this situation makes any sense whatsoever. A coworker copying his mom on some emails is just one of many problems at this organization.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      This is what I want to know!

      I can envision a scenario where a mailing list is on the CC: for an innocuous email and a side discussion ensues, but the mailing list doesn’t get removed. (There’s a folder in my inbox for one specific person notorious for this). But the subsequent “I would just like the Board to note how unprofessional my colleague is” message does nobody credit. And what does “the current political climate” have to do with anything? Unless these two were on opposite sides of the election and actively campaigning in the office, I can’t imagine where that should be factored into anything.

      Alison is right – LW needs to take a giant step back, a big deep breath, and decide that getting the last word is a lot less important than getting the actual work done.

  23. MsCHX*

    Speechless. And that doesn’t happen often.

    High road OP – take it. Work as collaboratively as possible and as soon as you are officially named manager, it’s time for a sit down with clear and concise expectations. And from there, document, document, document. Do not let this drag on. Be prepared, as AAM says, to issue a PIP and be prepared to terminate. Which I can only assume is where you’re heading with this guy.

  24. Observer*

    Your co0worker is a jerk and total idiot. But, you need to grow up, as well. I know that’s harsh, but seriously, your response to the situation is quite childish.

    A few general rules that will be quite useful to you, especially when dealing with idiots like this one:

    Skip the snark. Completely. Say what you need to say directly, clearly, respectfully and calmly. “It is inappropriate to cc family members on internal communications” is fine. And, it makes the point far more clearly than your response.

    Don’t be petty, and try to keep the personal stuff out of it. Worrying about the last word is just silly. And it wastes time and energy while clouding the real issues.

    Act within your authority. Right now, you don’t have much, so back off. Once you are promoted, find out what you are enabled to do and what not. Stick with that.

    Leave the Board out of anything that’s in your authority, and be respectful and clear with the Board on anything that you need to loop them in on. If your place is at all functional, you don’t need to cc the boss on all of your correspondence with an insubordinate or idiotic and childish subordinate. And you don’t need to ask their permission to tell him to knock it off. (Of course, if you do need their permission, Allison is right. Think carefully before you take the job, and start looking for a new job.)

    1. CM*

      Yes. A number of comments have suggested taking the “high road” — these are concrete steps along the high road. You will have so much more credibility if you take Observer’s advice. Otherwise, your coworker can turn around and accuse you of stirring up just as much drama.

  25. BeeGee*

    OMG, do you work with my former coworker? He used to have Skype conversations with his mother at work, and once his direct manager corrected his work on something, and an hour later he came back to her, holding out his cell phone, and said, “My mom would like to talk to you about the corrections you gave me.” To her credit, his manager said, “Does your mother work here?” and when he said, “No,” she said, “Well, then I don’t have any reason to talk to your mother.”

    He was a disaster in many, many, MANY other ways. Calling his mom to have her talk about work criticism wasn’t even in the top 10 crazy things he did.

    1. KimberlyR*

      This confuses me, completely and without reservation. The guy literally called his mother to whine and then the mother WANTED TO TALK TO THE MANAGER?!?! This just does not compute with me.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Well, if he thought it was appropriate at 40, clearly he got there with some participation from Mom in that delusion, but still….WOW.

    2. Moonsaults*

      I have heard way too many stories over the years about meddlesome mothers and spouses, yet it never doesn’t shock me when I hear another one >_<

      1. Artemesia*

        I have had a meddlesome wife come to talk to me about my progressive discipline of her husband and how I needed to handle him differently, sensitive soul that he was. He was the major problem in a dysfunctional unit for which I was doing some internal consulting/trouble shooting at the request of the director of the division. Once I established that he was the major problem and failed to change that, I fired him. Having his wife lobby on his behalf did not help.

    3. Katie-Pie*

      Ever seen How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying?

      “I’m going out for a smoke!”
      “He’s going to call his mother.”

    4. BeeGee*

      We all shared desks at that place – the first shift would come in and work, and then the second shift would come in and work. He measured exactly half of his workspace and then proceeded to plaster it with the weirdest stuff I’ve ever seen, like the sticker they put on televisions that tell you the size of the screen and that it’s 1080 HD. He had a “Nickelodeon” magazine cover from 2000 with a teenage actress on it who had a show on the network. And then just lots of random other stuff. It made his deskmate nuts, but when it was brought up, this guy got mad because he had expressly measured so it was only half of the space. At Christmas time, he brought in a family photo album, propped it up on the desk and would flip the page every day to display new pictures. Once he inexplicably brought in a single child-sized dress up high heel and displayed it on the desk for a month.

      1. not really a lurker anymore*

        Ok, my desk has an odd collection of kid shit on it. Mainly because my kids are 7 and 8 and will hand off a toy to me when we’re out and about. It ends up forgotten in my purse until I’m digging around for something at work. Then it gets pulled out and I go “WTF?” This is why I have plastic dinosaurs hiding in my plants at work.

        1. BeeGee*

          This guy didn’t have kids though. I have Funko Pop toys on my desk, I have no problem with toys. But this was a child-size plastic dress-up sparkly high heel shoe. Just one of them. Obviously on display, not just tossed on his desk because a kid snuck it into his bag.

            1. BeeGee*

              The day he was let go I was genuinely concerned he was going to come back into the building and shoot us. He was unhinged.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      LMAO! What?! “My mom would like to talk to you about the corrections you gave me”?! I’m dying here at work.

  26. Nanc*

    In my dream world Mom would hit Reply All and say Sonny, stop with the workplace drama, I don’t want to hear about it and you need to take the issue up with your boss. Call your grandmother–she hasn’t heard from you in months!

  27. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    WHAT a BABY.
    Of course he cc’s Mommy, when he’s such a baby.
    I’m with Bend and Snap: do not engage, rather just collect. Then fire his ass.
    I would expect a huge angry whine on Reddit, then, and maybe even threat of a lawsuit. Let him. Let him go to all that trouble, only to find that the rest of us recognize what a baby he is.

  28. Lovemyjob...truly!*

    Did anyone else read the title and assume the LW and the co-worker were teenagers? I assumed as much because that seemed the only plausible reason. To know that this concerns adults is….wow. OP – let go of the need to have the last word, follow the wonderful advice, and either look for a way to get rid of this guy or for a new job for yourself.

  29. LadyCop*

    I’m 100% confused what “the political climate” has to do with expecting an employee to handle email correspondence like an adult… and seriously? He needs mommy to help him with work disagreements? And/or work in general? How do people like this have jobs?!?!?

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, that seemed weird to me as well. The only thing I can thing of is an allusion to Clinton’s emails, which could theoretically cause some heightened sensitivity about email confidentiality?

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        I hadn’t thought of that – my train of thought was suggesting racial differences between LW and Co-Worker that would make the board hesitant to step in because of a weird idea about Political Correctness.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          If there are racial issues it will be necessary to consult a lawyer, or at least do some reading on how one can fire someone of a different race without getting in trouble. At that point one might have to endure a few months while this guy fails the PIP.

          1. Natalie*

            LW indicates upthread it’s a company of 3 employees, so it’s not subject to Title VII. It’s possible they are covered by a state law, but unlikely given the very small size of the employer.

            And really, the only thing one needs to do to fire someone of a different race and not get into trouble is ensure the firing isn’t racially motivated and document that.

        2. LBK*

          As I’ve reflected on it more, I wonder if it was just a general note about tensions running high with the election putting everyone in a more heightened emotional state (I know it certainly has for me).

      2. Loose Seal*

        That’s what I thought. My husband’s current workplace (for only 8 more days, yay!) was surprised to learn that emails can be requested as part of the Freedom of Information Act after a rather condemning article in the largest newspaper in the region — a potential readership of about one-third of the state’s population — had the chance to read that the interim chancellor thought his predecessors were useless at their job (they were, hence the need for a new interim) and that he thought the faculty were stupid idiots for not keeping up with the requirements for accreditation (again, true), None of the employees in husband’s department had known that a newspaper could get access to their emails. They were absolutely shocked and gobsmacked* by this.

        When I first started working in child services, someone told me not to write anything that you would feel embarrassed having it read out loud in court because in that line of work, it was a legitimate concern. It’s been one of the most useful piece of advice I’ve ever been given and I still follow it for both personal and work emails as well as other documentation such as case notes or written correspondence about a neighbor’s unsightly lawn ornaments.

        *Off-topic: When I wrote “gobsmacked,” my iPad tried to autocorrect it to “go Snowden.” Is “going Snowden” an actual euphemism for whistleblowing now?

        1. Loose Seal*

          (Alison, why did my post end up in moderation? If I did something that’s frowned upon, I apologize. But I’d love to know what it was so I don’t make the same mistake again. Thanks)

        2. AnonAnalyst*

          I actually think that not writing anything in email you would feel embarrassed hearing read in court is a good guideline for work emails. My father gave me similar advice when I started working, but it was more because he occasionally was the lucky one who had gotten to sift through fired employees’ emails and found a lot of things he didn’t really want to see (and that those employees probably wouldn’t want their former employer to know about).

          At my past company, several employees ended up having their emails retrieved and reviewed as part of a defense of a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a fired executive. These were employees that weren’t in public-facing roles or in roles where a Freedom of Information Act request was likely, but they ended up having months of their emails reviewed for this lawsuit. So it really is a good idea to try to limit your work email account to work only, or at the very least to things you wouldn’t be upset to have other people see.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I always remember a couple of those early viral email scandals – people forwarding things from colleagues that went global (Claire Swire/Bradley Chait, some guy who got rejected by a woman and threw a fit) and it was a really good reminder that once the email has been sent, I had no control over who sees it.

            And then there are the ridiculous email chains, where things like “Of course Fergus won’t be suitable because his work is so terrible”, are way down the chain, and the conversation turns, and someone adds Fergus in and he is a bright spark and starts at the beginning….

    2. Shazbot*

      I very much hope Mommy at least has her head on straight and takes Coworker to task for this behavior. Privately, at least, although the popcorn-munching onlooker in me hopes it’s in a scathing email slapdown.

    3. NW Mossy*

      Maybe the implication is that they’ll all be out of a job as a result of the change in administration. That’s the only possible way that statement makes any sense.

  30. Christine*

    Is the coworker’s mother a lawyer? Does she work for a competitor? Is he setting up an e-mail for a future lawsuit? Is this a new behavior since it was announced that you would be his future boss? He’s using the e-mail thread/ cc’ing as a form of intimidation? To be honest, one of the board members should do a reply all, informing him that the cc’ing isn’t acceptable and they do not want to see it again.

    OP — you have a weird bird. Many times you will see a problem employee routed through different managers because no one wants to deal with terminating them, etc. His current manager is unwilling to handle the situation. They are basically passing the buck to the new person because they are too sorry to manage as they should.

  31. Adam*

    *Stares in disbelief*

    AAM has blessed me with numerous stories where I am thankful I don’t work there. But if I were to compile a list this one might make the top 5.

  32. Catabodua*

    I feel the need to add an additional What in the actual F? comment as well.

    Spend the next month figuring out how fast you can fire him once you are his boss. If you have an HR or company policy that requires a performance plan have him on it the first day you are his boss.

  33. LBK*

    Whoa. Yeah, you need to get some really explicit clarification on what kind of authority you’ll have over him starting in January. If the answer is that it will not be in your power to fire him, I would reject the promotion and then bail out of this company ASAP. It may not be salvageable either way because the whole culture here sounds nuts, but at least if you’re a manager with authority you can try to make your department a haven of sanity.

    1. L.W. EB*

      I already had that conversation, and transforming the business into “a haven of sanity” is my goal. :-)

  34. AnotherAlison*

    I’m kind of curious how the OP came to know that the CC’d person was the coworker’s mom. Even if it was, you wouldn’t know it was his MOM instead of an aunt, grandma, sister, or his alt ego address he created to screw with you unless you asked him.

    1. a different Vicki*

      The whole thing is so weird already that my guess is that at some point OP looked at the “to” list and asked “who’s” and this guy told her “oh, that’s my Mom.”

      This still doesn’t rule out the possibility that it’s his alter ego for some weird reason, but that would remain even if OP had been introduced to the coworker’s mother by her full name: knowing that someone’s real name is Sherlock Holmes doesn’t prove that he’s the person with the gmail address s.holmes.genius.

    2. L.W. EB*

      In the body of the email, with the sent, subject, time and date, it was “Bob’s Mom” janedoe@whatever.

      Also Bob is early-mid 50s. Someone asked earkier.

  35. Master Bean Counter*

    This guy is operating in a whole other world of dysfunction. Eventually he’ll have to be brought back to this world. But for now, polite & professional is the way to go. OP make yourself a rule with this guy. Take at least an hour between reading his emails and responding. This gives you time to think and a chance to present yourself as the rational one.
    The time to bring him back to this world will be after you are officially his boss. Make a list now of the things he needs to change and how you want him to change them. Use this list as a guideline for your first official talk with him. Chances are he’s going to drag you into his world. The list will help you keep the conversation in this world.

  36. Moonsaults*

    He wants a witness for some reason that none of us could ever imagine since we only have this polarized story. I don’t know. It sounds like a complete trainwreck going on here. I also have to wonder how you know it’s his mother in the first place though?

    I’d just wait to pick my battles with this guy, he’s going to give you a lot of trouble but until you’re in a position to demand he listen to you, you’re only colleagues and don’t have a lot going for you, I think that could also be why the board is just like “Meeeeeh” right now.

    1. CM*

      But what kind of witness is his mom, anyway? In what scenario can she step in and make things better for the coworker? Even if there’s a lawsuit involved, it’s not like they would call his mom up to the stand to provide evidence. This is such a weird thing because it seems like a hostile move but I don’t see any way the coworker could actually use this to his benefit.

      1. Moonsaults*

        I can only stretch to think that perhaps he’s worried that he’ll lose access to his company email at some point and will need the transcripts? I don’t know how else it would be intimidating to CC anyone on an email chain. But I’m also not a person who notices who anyone else CC’s, so I’m confused in so many ways regarding all of this story!

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Maybe he’s just that irrational, but wouldn’t it be just as easy to BCC or even CC the emails to a personal account of your own?

          This feels very much like a child wanting his parent to resolve an issue.

    2. designbot*

      But if a witness is what he’s looking for, he can just forward on the whole chain afterwards. No reason to alert people to the fact that you’re sharing.

    3. Artemesia*

      Some people play their lives in their head to an audience. This guy’s audience is Mommy. I had an ex husband (brief early marriage) who years later still without any response on my part would send me long letters about himself clearly trying to impress me with his life and his coolness – it reminded me why I left. Some people only feel real to themselves when they are performing to this audience. 7 years in when I was remarried and had a child and a fairly high octane professional career and had never once responded to him, I was still getting occasional letters designed to make me gaze in awe.

  37. Anon21*

    The board seems weary with all the back and forth

    You don’t say?

    But seriously, don’t let Bob drag you down into even the vicinity of his level. He’s acting ridiculous, but you’re handling this like a personal conflict, which is leading the board to respond with “Why can’t you kids just get along?” That’s not the position you want to put yourself in, especially when you’re about to take over as manager.

    Be professional, even when Bob is grossly violating professional norms. That will offer you the best chance to have the board support you when you inevitably have to fire this guy.

    1. Happy Cynic*

      Exactly this. Responding in kind only makes the Board – in OP’s words – weary of all the back and forth.

      Remove that back and forth, OP!

  38. Nolan*

    Good tip for dealing with snarky, trollish emails: when something truly infuriating lands in your inbox, walk away. Take 5, 10 minutes to do literally anything else and calm down a bit. Then maybe start a reply. If any part of your reply is stabby, delete it. If you’re still fuming when you’re done composing, delete the whole reply. Does the message actually NEED a reply? If something there does need to be addressed, then only address that, pretend the trollish remarks aren’t even there. If there’s nothing in the snark that actually needs a response, don’t send one at all, just let it die. Remember, the troll is trying to get a rise out of you, the best way to troll them back is by letting them sit, refreshing their inbox, looking for an indignant reply that’ll never come.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I needed to read this today. Yes, I know this already, but sometimes I have a hard time resisting the temptation to let the snark fly when people are working my last nerve. I’m keeping this as a note to myself on my computer.

    2. Robbenmel*

      “If there’s nothing in the snark that actually needs a response, don’t send one at all, just let it die.”
      This! I have used this effectively with a difficult person in a previous job. She was senior to me but not in my direct line of supervision (we both reported to the CEO.) She liked to make accusatory-sounding statements via email, as in: “That teapot label was sloppy!” or “I did not like that last batch of chocolate!” If there was no direct question or direction in the email, I simply ignored it, and most of the time, that was the end of it.

      1. Nolan*

        Yeah I do ticket support for my company’s clients and use this regularly to keep snarky tickets with our worst behaved clients from escalating. I work from home, so I also have the added luxury of being able to yell at the computer when they get real stupid and it won’t disrupt anyone else’s work. It reduces my cooldown time significantly lol

      2. Mookie*

        “If there’s nothing in the snark that actually needs a response, don’t send one at all, just let it die.”

        Yep. Let the tantrum-happy snarkers drive themselves mad in the cool, calming void of your utter silence on all but relevant, work-based matters requiring an answer or a correction. Unsolicited and irrelevant opinions, like tantrums, need to be treated for what they are: spam you’re not being paid to read or care about. So long as he refrains from trying to bully or intimidate you, your co-worker, or the board, let him spin his e-mail wheels until you’re in a position to fire him.

    3. Joan Callamezzo*

      Yes, this. I like to save it to Drafts and let it marinate for at least a few hours–and preferably a full day–before I come back to re-read once I’ve calmed down.

  39. Crazy Canuck*

    Wow. I inherited a problem employee when I took over as a manager in my current job, and this letter just let me know how good I had it. It only took two conversations, one stating outright that her job was in jeopardy if she didn’t change her behavior, and she straightened right up. I’m sorry the letter writer is not in that position.

    Alison is absolutely correct that if you don’t have the authority to fire someone, you can’t manage them. Make damn sure you will have firing authority before you take the job, and if you can’t get it, get a different job. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

      1. Merida May*

        It’s probably not accurate at all but I am also imagining his mother having an email address like ‘mommabear51’.

    1. the_scientist*

      I just……can’t imagine getting that email, as a boss. There’s no way I could keep a straight face around this employee ever again, if I didn’t die laughing over that line in the first place.

      1. Merida May*

        Seriously! It’s not even a bcc, co-worker wants his mom to know what’s up and doesn’t care who knows it!

  40. Jess*

    He said you think you’re a lawyer because you stayed at a holiday inn before? Is this a burn I don’t understand? It makes no sense at all. This guy sounds nuts.

    1. Jess*

      Aaaaah, I just read the explanation above. What a stupid burn.

      I’m agog that OP was like, “Why are you cc-ing your mother on work emails?” and he came back with, “DON’T TALK ABOUT MY MOTHER?” Uh, you were the one who introduced her to the conversation, dude.

      This guy is off his rocker. As soon as you’re his boss, lay down the law.

    2. Merida May*

      I think that comeback is just confusing enough that he can use the lag time to escape out a side door and hop in to the getaway car his mom is driving.

  41. vanBOOM*


    Your coworker is an insane jackass, and I am sorry that his behavior has been allowed to go unchecked by others for so long. I look forward to you firing him.

  42. H.C.*

    Since it looks more like a when – not if – you’ll fire him, I would also give the legal team / consult a heads up about this situation, if they are not already aware (and gather as much documentation as possible of his egregious behavior). Given his flagrant mention of a hostile work environment lawsuit on his soon-to-be-ex boss, it’s not a far stretch for him to attempt a wrongful termination one too.

  43. MH*

    I kind of hope the OP’s coworker doesn’t lose his job. If he’s ccing his mother, my fear is his next option will be to open a little roadside hotel….

    Seriously, we all ask our parents for work advice. We all do it. If my I cc’ed my parents on anything like this, they’d laugh at me and tell me to handle my own stuff.

    1. MsCHX*

      Haha. Nope. I don’t think I’ve ever asked my parents for work advice as an adult. Now that’s part just due to industry differences – they are blue collar and I am a white collar office worker – but nope. And definitely not what this OP is doing never, ever in life.

    2. James*

      Once I asked him his advice on a project as a professional, but he was one of four people in three different companies I spoke with–contacts come in all forms, and I won’t refuse to use one just because we’re related.

      Outside of that, I cannot imagine going to my parents for professional advice. I know they know I have a job, and my dad can make a good guess as to what my responsibilities are, but that’s all. It’s MY job, and MY responsibility. Copying them on emails would be so far outside the bounds of professionalism (again, with the exception of when it would be done regardless of our relationship) that my father might actually disown me for doing so. It’s been that way since my first job–it’s my career, it’s my responsibility. It’s not that my parents aren’t interested, it’s just that they raised me to be an adult.

      Besides, there’s a huge gulf between asking parents for advice and cc’ing them openly on emails to the BOD!

      1. Mreasy*

        I have totally asked my mom for work advice, as she’s a really accomplished banking executive. But I have obviously never copied her on a work email because that is not a thing that people do EVER.

        1. James*

          I can definitely see that–if you’re in the same field, sure, ask for advice! That counts as a mentorship roll in my book. As I said, contacts can come from anywhere, and there’s no reason to exclude someone just because they’re kin.

        2. Liane*

          I would ask my late mother-in-law for work advice. (Very wise woman who held a fairly high-ranking job in a Federal agency.) But I sure wasn’t going to CC her, or ask her to talk to my own boss. I don’t want to imagine the polite, calm chewing-out I would have deserved and gotten…

      2. Artemesia*

        I think it is great that family who have your back and are discreet can be asked to give advice or be a sounding board. None of my kids do work that I can understand although one of them does some work in my field — but most of her work is now in something I have no expertise with. BUT I have worked in a variety of complex organizations and know quite a bit about how they work both from an academic/theory perspective and from the experience of managing both up and down. So I have been able to be of assistance on some of the issues they face and at least can be a sounding board when they are thinking something through.

        My husband is a lawyer and has often been called upon for advice on their contracts and such. And my kids also know all sorts of things I don’t. I ask them for advise on things they can help me with; I’d never buy any camera or technology or software without their input for example.

        It’s nice to have people in your corner.

  44. Lady Phoenix*

    You need to find out if the company will have your back on managerial actions. If they don’t get out of there ASAP.

    This dude needs to be fired pronto, and if the company won’t let you do that, then it is obvious that you’re not really a “manager” as you are “the person that barks out orders to the peons”. If the guy finds out you’re the latter, than he is going to make your life as terrible as possible until you either:
    1. Quit
    2. Get fired
    3. Call the police and demand a restraining order

  45. James*

    The whole situation is screwed up enough that I’d put my resume out there. Not only is the employee being disrespectful, but the BOD is tolerating it to a disturbing degree. Snarking off in emails to the BOD should NEVER be permitted.

    If you don’t want to leave, I would start drafting an email policy that all your directs will be required to read and sign. Obviously there is a serious problem here, and it needs to be addressed up-front. Include tone, confidentiality, and possibly subject lines (I’ve worked with teams that had specific requirements for how to fill in the subject lines of emails, and it was incredibly useful). Don’t think of this as only a way to head off this problem; look for other problems you can solve as well.

    Secondly, I’d start working on a personal policy for how to handle drama. If you stoop to the level of responding to insults you will lose the respect of your directs (and, if they are copied on it, your superiors). This will undermine your capacity to manage them. You need to have a personal system in place for how to address emails. As you will be in a position of authority, my recommendation would be to ignore the snark and tone of the email until the last paragraph, which reads something like “Finally, disrespect will not be tolerated. Much of your email was highly unprofessional in tone and content, and such behavior has no place in the workplace. I have notified HR of this issue, and will notify them of any further disrespectful and unprofessional behavior.” Copy HR if you have an HR department (if not, figure out who to copy). Above all, make this about maintaining standards of professionalism, NOT a personal attack. (And if you don’t have someone to report this to, and don’t have the authority to fire him, RUN. Run fast, run far. You’re being set up to take the fall for this guy.)

    If this was the guy’s first time, I’d be more willing to say “If this continues I will contact HR.” People test new leaders, and there’s a learning period when someone new takes over–maybe they were more casual with a previous manager, or maybe they think you’ll be more casual, and they just misjudge. But this guy clearly has established a pattern of disrespectful behavior that does not warrant such considerations.

  46. NW Mossy*

    OP, one thing to consider when you’re actually managing Bob – this is the sort of conversation that would be much better to have in a one-on-one rather than over email. Delivering feedback, particularly of the negative variety, is just too easy to mishandle when you can’t bring tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language into the mix. It’s especially true when you’re just starting to manage someone and don’t have a strong manager/direct relationship yet.

  47. Kelly*

    I feel like I really need to know what the original disagreement was about … since the BoD was involved and because of their comment about the current political climate.

  48. animaniactoo*

    Not for nothing, if I was on that board and wanted OP to be this guy’s boss come January and in particular was happy that they were addressing his behavior, I’d be backing them the hell up.

    This may not be a matter for the board, but since the board is witnessing it – somebody should be replying at least to say “While we do not normally deal with employee behavior, please note that it is unprofessional and does not reflect well on the company to cc people who are not directly and professionally involved with the correspondence.”

    They may be advising his current “boss” but OP is his soon-to-be-boss, and from an authority standpoint there is nothing more valuable than making it known that you agree with/support the (soon-to-be) authority of the person in the position.

    When the whole place is that dysfunctional, the Board is going to have to step outside their normal “hands-off” day-to-day management/operations on occasion to help steer it back on course.

    That said OP – they didn’t do it here. Possibly, in part, because of your e-mail to them which elevated the level of drama vs simply replying to your co-worker “Unless she is acting in some professional capacity here, I believe it to be unprofessional to include her in this conversation. On that basis, I would appreciate it if you stop including her going forward.” If he’s still obnoxious and unprofessional after that, then be like Elsa (you know the song! you know it’s in your head now!) and wait until you’re in charge of the guy to address his behavior more firmly. As his boss.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I mean, this guy talked back to the board after they made a general point about confidentiality and told them that everyone should assume he’d be cc’ing his mom on everything! And the board didn’t say “You’ll be having a meeting with HR/your boss later today?” That, to me, is as much WTF as his cc’ing his mom in the first place!

      1. katamia*

        Yeah, the board’s response was weirdly wishy-washy IMO. I could understand them not wanting to get involved at all. I could understand them taking a more forceful stand like what you described. But this half-stance that they took is just ineffective and weird.

  49. Troutwaxer*

    Something you should also consider for the future is that your whole situation is a gross violation of professional standards: I’m guessing that someone cc-ing his mother is the tip of the iceberg, and I’m also guessing that you do your part around the office to make things unprofessional – you’re just “not as bad” as your co-worker. When you become manager and (hopefully) fire the this loser, you’ll need hire someone new and part of that hiring will be to make sure they come from a sane office culture and maybe even treat their suggestions on “how to be professional” as gospel for awhile. You certainly can’t evolve your treatment of the new hire out of how you treat your current co-worker. Also, you may want to give some thought about the culture you want to create and maybe make an employees handbook that embodies the rules of that new culture. Then you’ll have to live it.

    1. L.W. EB*

      Harsh. Honestly, I try. To always be professional. It’s just such a dysfunctional place. I needed the reality check of all these points, not only Troutwaxer, but others. I see potential here, and I want to raise the standards to professional levels.

  50. VX34*

    Short list for Worst of 2016. Because holy crap, I am not sure bad behavior/boundary violations/breach of professional norms can get much worse than that, short of criminal charges being involved.

  51. Liane*

    And this is yet another reason why Helicopter Parenting is an Excessively, Extremely, Large-Economy-Size Mega-Bad Idea.
    The Heli-parents teach their little My-Preciouses that whining to Mommy-copter & Heli-daddy is the best way to solve their problems, including unpleasant consequences they brought on themselves. And those of us who mastered Adulting have to deal with them.

    1. Searching*

      And to think this guy is in his 50s – shows you “helicopter parenting” is not a recent phenomenon.

  52. designbot*

    It’s too late for this now, but in the future if someone is including people on correspondence that you don’t think it appropriate (and you have authority over the person in question), simply remove them from the email chain when you reply. You’ll have a hard time stopping them from doing it in the first place, but you certainly don’t have to include his mother in your replies.
    Overall I think this also demonstrates an approach of showing that you will be doing things your way, without making a big deal out of it.

  53. Happy Cynic*

    OP, this person and maybe the whole work culture sounds crazy, but if this were me, I’d want to focus on what needs fixing first: your responses to this person, and your reputation with the board.

    Your authority won’t carry much weight, even after a promotion, if you’ve shown yourself to be on your colleague’s level. Worst case, they narrowly side with you, but feel like they’ve chosen the slight better of two children who both need babysitting.

    I had a team lead like this once. Another co-worker, a brogrammer, would gaslight her, and she’d respond immediately with a wall of text, which would goad him to respond with a wall of text, to which she’d respond, ad nauseam. No one took a step back to breathe.

    You need a response from the board about Fergus’s email usage? The appropriate response from them is two seconds of raised eyebrows (“OH boy, THAT guy, jeez”), and then getting back to Real Work, while they entrust the handling of Fergus to the manager – soon to be you.

    Get on the right page with them, OP, and do it right now – or they won’t support you when you need to fire Fergus a few months from now.

      1. Sad Optimist*

        Don’t engage with Fergus’ crap any more. Everyone already knows he’s a dick, you don’t need to present the evidence. And don’t drag the Board into this sort of thing, it’s not their remit. Be scrupulously professional and mature at all times, especially in communication with your colleagues and the Board. If Fergus continues this nonsense, don’t get dragged down with him – ignore as much as you can reasonably at present (it’s not your job yet to manage him, so let his manager deal for now). Never send an emotionally-charged email response – if you feel angry or frustrated, wait to reply until you’ve had a chance to calm down and process. Find other ways to vent about your frustrations so they don’t leak out at work (journalling/therapy/ drinks with friends/whatever works). Find something you are working on that you enjoy and are good at, and demonstrate your capabilities to the fullest. Put your efforts into being the best (Job Title) you possibly can.

        And then plan and prepare your approach to managing Fergus once that is your job. And ensure you have the necessary backup and authority to fire him.

  54. Alton*


    I don’t know if I even see this as being primarily about *showing* a non-employee business correspondence. Generally, I think you need to use good judgement and be careful, but I wouldn’t always find it extremely egregious for someone to show a non-confidential e-mail to a family member in private, depending on the context.

    But CCing his mother? On stuff she has nothing to do with? What the hell? I can’t even imagine what he hopes to accomplish with that.

    If I tried that with my mom, she’d give me an earful. She’s retired–she doesn’t want to deal with work, especially someone else’s.

  55. cobweb collector*

    Where I work, CCing someone outside the company on any sensitive emails would get a stern talking to by HR, and repeated offenses would get you fired. It doesn’t matter if there’s a policy on it, it’s wrong to leak internal communications, and it’s incredibly unprofessional.

    He is certainly in the wrong, but you didn’t handle it well. You escalated the war of words in full view of others. As the old adage goes – compliment in public, criticize in private. If you had concerns with his behavior, you could talk to him, his boss, or the BoD. But don’t call him out in public. Especially since you know he’s resistant to authority and likes to be provocative, calling him out in public will just make him defensive.

    Secondly, it doesn’t matter who the person is, so take mother out of the equation. This would be just as wrong if it was a friend, neighbor, pastor, spouse, or roommate. The focus should be on outside person, not mother.

    Oh – and if you ever get an email from his mother, just delete it on sight. Don’t even open it.

    Lastly, I’m expecting an update in January that starts with “well, I fired him…”

    1. animaniactoo*

      I’m the kind of mom who would have replied all “While you have the literal ability to cc me, it is not professional to do so and I do not appreciate being included in this way.”

      After I’d already private told him to stop. And that he should apologize to his company/co-workers, because it was unprofessional.

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Given the fact that he’s still not a mature adult, I’m guessing something along the lines of “Oh, Boo-boo, Mommy’s here. I’ll make you Powdered Donut Pancake Surprise for dinner. Do you want your Beary jammies or your Yoda jammies?”

  56. SeptemberGrrl*

    You work at a crazy place with crazy people. You can’t fix crazy. I suggest devising an exit plan.

  57. LW EB*

    I have read thru so many and I thought to address things that have come up a few times.
    Background: This company has 3 employees, Bob, The Retiring Manager and me. The BoD all live in various parts of the USA, so this company is on site management and over-seeing. The BoD changes every few years. The company is located in a small town in a geographically isolated region. That has contributed to Bob’s getting away with bad behavior. Retiring Manager is somewhat intimidated and threatened by Bob, when she complained to the previous BoD’s she was met with that “boy’s will be boy’s” type of nonsense. The current BoD is trying to get the train on the tracks and running well.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      That sounds… challenging. Are they hiring a third person when Retiring Manager goes? I also really want an update when you take over as manager, though I don’t envy you the job one bit.

    2. Observer*

      Will they back you to the hilt?

      Will they treat insubordination as the problem that it is? Do they understand that, no matter what, unless there is an issue of safety, legality of the basic welfare of the org, “I’ll do as I see fit” in any form is unacceptable? And will they let you go as far as firing him in a reasonable time-frame, if necessary?

  58. Franzia Spritzer*

    I too agree with Alison, and so many suggestions here to stop poking the bees nest until you’re his manager, and in the mean time start documenting procedures, and building a communication policy to enact when you step into the role so that you have “protections” going forward.

    If you have the fortitude to push on for the sake of enforcing professional standards, I wish you the best of luck. Is the mission of the org enough to keep you going through what will surly be an ongoing power struggle with your coworker/soon to be employee? Will the emotional labor of working with this guy have the financial or professional pay off to make it worth the fight?

  59. Fafaflunkie*

    I don’t know for this was mentioned previously in this thread (sorry, got in to this conversation late) but do you as his new boss have the ability to monitor who he BCCs? The last thing you need is to have him BCC anyone on these threads and get away with it. Once you set the rules, you watch what or who he emails from his address. Lock out access for his work email address to any other computer than his assigned work computer. He would have to be rather clever to hide his tracks if you keep him from accessing that email address from anywhere other than his assigned work machine (complete with a logger to track his ^C/^V and save to a text file and saving to an external thumb drive), and you have a record of everything he does.

  60. KimberlyR*

    Parents and workplace related! This happened this afternoon. Coworker and I had left for the day but coworker called to tell me this. We do a certain kind of staffing and one of our staffers, who is a professional and a very nice guy, hadn’t completed a certain certification he needed, so he was looking into the particular class he needed. His family member, who I think is his mom, had faxed something for him earlier and called to see if we got it, which seems ok to me. Well, after my coworker told employee that he had not completed the correct certification, HIS MOM called my coworker and was blatantly rude to her! “Are you the secretary? Because I know you’re not a (professional) like son and I, so I KNOW you don’t know what you’re talking about! The class son took was the correct class and I will send you the definition to prove it, since you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about!” I was flabbergasted! And I know employee/her son from a previous job and he is so nice and professional that I can only imagine he would be horrified to hear of this! I’m not even sure why his mom knows any of this, except maybe he asked her advice about which certification it was, then maybe called her after to tell her it wasn’t the correct one??? I don’t know. So weird. I advised coworker to politely let him know that we cannot discuss employee matters with non-employees but I don’t think she will do it.

  61. L.W. EB*

    Please know I am grateful for all of this input, from Allison’s reply to the last comment. I needed the reality check. I will update.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Good luck. I missed some of your updates until this morning. It sounds like your hands are going to be very full.

  62. Christine*

    Can IT black anything coming and going to his mother’s email address? Can it look like it went out on his end? She can change it, but it might slow it down. His reaction would be interesting. If ugly enough he could be terminated on the spot, should have been already.

    He could be emailing docs, financials to her the company may not be aware of. IT needs to review is activity.

  63. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Whut? Not only can I not believe he was cc’ing his mother, but after you called him on it he still thought it was fine? I just … can’t even. So, I used to work at a place where someone was caught forwarding emails from her boss (who was the CEO) to friends of hers and making disparaging remarks against the CEO. Work emails are not private. All of these emails were being saved separately by IT. The only personal emails I ever send through my work email read along the lines of “how about lunch next week?” I never send (never WOULD send) any correspondence from anyone I work with for any reason. To me, even if it’s just an email that’s not technically confidential, it’s all privileged information and … I signed a confidentiality agreement. I fully agree with Alison’s advice on this. Make sure you have the authority to fully manage him, and don’t let him get away with this nonsense!

  64. Nic M*

    I completely baffled by this guy. I could understand a minor making this kind of rookie mistake–you know, a 16 or 17 year old. I’m cringing over the fact that he cc’d his mom in on his work stuff. It’s so very inappropriate and most unprofessional.

    I’m hoping the OP will update us. I’m sitting over hear with popcorn waiting….

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