I overheard my boss say that I’m not going to work out at this job

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job for less than a year, but so has my boss. In fact, we both started at the same time, having been hired by the same VP. Until now, I thought we had a good working relationship and that my boss was as open and honest with my team as she wanted us to be with her. I had never been reprimanded or given any negative feedback about my performance. Although, there had been one miscommunication which caused her to freak out, for which she later sincerely apologized.

So imagine my shock when my boss had her weekly one-on-one with her boss–the VP who hired us both–and unloaded about my whole team, including me. The walls are super thin, and any conversation at the level of a clear and audible phone call can be heard by all the cubes outside. And when it’s an excited conversation, it carries all the way to the other end of the office.

I’m right by her door, and I heard everything. There were complaints about little things that I wasn’t aware of, things that I wasn’t aware were getting to my boss, and criticisms of my judgement that had never been communicated to me. After 30 minutes of complaining about my team in general and me in particular, I clearly heard the VP say on the speaker phone that I “wasn’t going to work out” at this job.

I was floored. I had never been given a performance review, written up, or reprimanded, even during the time my boss freaked out panicking about a deadline.

It gets worse. Later that evening, while I was wrapping up a project, I said hi to the C-level executive to whom our VP reports as she walked into my boss’s office. I then heard my boss make the same complaints about me to the C-level exec. My boss had never communicated these issues to me, yet was now complaining about me two rungs up the org chart.

Three days later, two of my four-person team were let go. The remaining two of us were called in for reassurance, although later my boss asked me during our one-on-one whether I thought my teammate was a flight risk.

I’m at a loss as to what to do now. I haven’t mentioned what I overheard and two weeks later, I’m afraid the window to do that has closed. I have zero trust in my managers, and I feel like it’s a race to jump ship before I’m fired. How do I continue to perform while I constantly second-guess my managers?

Talk to your boss.

I could speculate on the possibilities here — including that your manager was letting off steam about your whole team but was most concerned about the two people she fired and she doesn’t intend to fire anyone else — but it would just be speculation, and you need something more concrete than that.

And you can’t un-hear what you heard, so I’d just lay it all out for her and let her know what you overheard.

You could say it this way: “I feel very awkward about bringing this up, but in the interest of transparency, I feel like I need to say that I overheard some of your conversation with Jane a couple of weeks ago about your concerns about the team in general and about my work in particular. I know that wasn’t meant for me to hear, but the wall are so thin that I did, and now I can’t un-hear it. I hadn’t realized that you had concerns about my work, but now that I know, I’d really like your feedback on what I should be doing differently so that I can work on it.”

Depending on her response, you could also add, “Is your sense that these issues are resolvable?

A big caveat: If your manager is indeed planning to fire you, it’s possible that this conversation could nudge her to do it more quickly than she otherwise would have (since now it’s out on the table). So you’d want to balance that possibility against your desire to know what’s going on and to have an open conversation about it.

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. Leatherwings*

    This must be a terrible feeling, OP. I’m so sorry. I hope you talk to her and lay it all out, because I doubt you’ll be sleeping soundly until you do. In my opinion, it’s better to know if you’re in an insecure position than hope you aren’t and keep it all to yourself.

    1. AMG*

      And mention BOTH conversations, not just the first one. Also, how does the VP’s and C-level exec’s opinions of you now factor? Even if you job is not in jeopardy, she has now given you a poor reputation. She doesn’t seem likely to go back and say, ‘I was wrong. Jane is actually doing a great job’. You need to consider that for the long term.

      1. Green Tea Pot*

        AMG, you nailed it.

        The only thing to do is speak to the supervisor, find out how to improve, and do it. But discretely start applying elsewhere.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Seconded. Since you haven’t been there long and this manager is not to be trusted, I’d fall back on the references you used to get this job.

  2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    Wow. Your boss is awful. A huge part of his/her job is to give you feedback so that you have a chance to improve. It is most certainly NOT good management to sit on his/her issues with your performance and air them only to others.

    1. Hearing Unimpaired*

      Yeah, I was floored by management style as well as what I was hearing about myself.

      Also, thank you for the shout-out to my favorite Doctor of New Who.

      1. sfffs*

        My boss (CEO of the company) operates exactly like this. She’ll complain about you to everyone but you. One of my coworkers quit recently and she vented all of the things from the past THREE YEARS she had been storing up grudges for. Suffice to say, toxic.

      1. pope suburban*

        Yeah, I had that thought too. I got a whiff of “throw her under the bus” from this. She may think that she can save her own job by sacrificing someone under her. Which is terrible, sure, but terrible has never stopped desperate or arrogant people before. Given that they are both new, and don’t seem to have a close relationship, this might look like a pretty easy way for the manager to save her job.

    2. KS*

      Agreed, as a manager I feel that no one with performance issues should EVER be particularly surprised that they’re being fired. I think everyone should have had plenty of feedback and opportunities to improve and should essentially know exactly what’s coming to them and why, if it comes to termination.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Well, “no one” is an unrealistic goal. ;) There are a certain number of dense people out there, who will have been given multiple warnings and opportunities to improve, who will still be shocked they were actually fired, and not understand why. So it’s not always the manager’s fault if they are shocked.

        I’ve known a couple. And when I tried to tentatively say “You shouldn’t really be surprised right, because didn’t you tell me your boss said you needed to improve X, Y, and Z?” and that is answered with a “Yeah, but” excuse for why they didn’t improve and why the boss is evil for firing them anyway. So then I bite my tongue and make “Mmmm” noises at them.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, one person I know who was floored by it had told me they were on a PIP and for what – and I promise you I could see it (we all could) and it wasn’t improving.

          But if they are shocked by it, you should be able to look and go “HOW did they manage to convince themselves that WASN’T coming?” and it should not require you being delusional to frame it that way.

        2. The Supreme Troll*

          “I punched my boss in the mouth and now I’m being fired! I didn’t know I couldn’t do this! Why wasn’t I warned about not being allowed to do this”.

        3. The Supreme Troll*

          Really, not every single error/mistake/violation can be given a “heads-up” verbal warning or written PIP. Some things are rightfully so egregious that an immediate firing is warranted. Obviously, I’m not saying that this has happened in OP’s instance.

  3. Rat Racer*

    OP that is just so awful. It must feel like you’ve gotten the wind knocked out of you. Your boss is a toad – Any feedback I share with my boss about my team is feedback I’ve already shared with them previously. Also? As a manager, your boss is responsible all the teams that report to her – where’s her responsibility in this? My totally uninformed guess: I think your boss may be under-performing and failing to meet her own goals and has just thrown you under the bus. Sending her lots of steely glares from over the internets.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I think your boss may be under-performing and failing to meet her own goals and has just thrown you under the bus.

      This. If she’s in the VP’s office bitching about everyone on her team, something’s wrong with her leadership. Everyone on your team should not be dead weight. If they are, you either didn’t do your due diligence during the hiring process, don’t give your team useful feedback to help motivate them to reach their goals, don’t set reasonable goals to begin with, or all of the above.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        Well, the manager didn’t hire them… the VP did.

        I would guess that the boss actually has a conflict with the VP and wants to make them look bad- like, “look at how poorly YOUR picks are doing!!”. She might want to clear out everyone and replace them with her own people, which would also explain why she went to the next in command – she wants to get back at the VP for some reason, so she’s taking it above their head.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          That’s also a possibility, but it’s also possible that OP’s boss was hired to come in and right the ship so to speak, but due to her poor managerial skills, couldn’t do so, so now she’s throwing the team under the bus.

          Regardless of who hired these people, the point still stands – in order to have a functioning team, you need to set clear goals, communicate those goals to your team, discuss any issues that arise from not meeting said goals when you see them happening (not weeks, months, or even years later), and work to replace those who aren’t pulling their weight. From OP’s letter, there’s no indication either the VP or OP’s boss did any of those things; therefore, I’m questioning everybody’s leadership skills right now and encouraging OP to get her resume in order – you need to start looking.

      2. Marisol*

        Yup, I had the same thought, about the boss throwing OP under the buss. While we don’t have enough info to draw a firm conclusion, it’s the only logical conclusion I can think of.

        OP how is your relationship with the boss’s boss? Is there any way you can demonstrate your accomplishments to that person directly? Any chance they are smart enough to see through your boss’s weasel-ly maneuvers?

        Also, how much insight do you have about the direction the company is going in? Were the firings of your 2 team mates in any way justified–for example, are you downsizing? How much insight do you have into your own skills and accomplishments? I think I know what criticisms my boss would have of me, even without him telling me, because I know my strengths and weaknesses. It seems like reviewing this information might help you draw a conclusion about your next steps–for example, if you know your boss’s criticisms of your performance were totally out of whack, that suggests that she might be incompetent or trying to sabotage you. If, on the other hand, she has some valid points, then you’ll want to start improving your performance and having frank conversations with your boss about how you can avoid being let go.

    2. Fiennes*

      This was my first instinct as well. Complaining to higher-ups about team members without ever communicating/working with that team is a sign of a bad manager — and I’d bet it’s that person’s lack of skill that’s really showing up on the bottom line.

    3. M-C*

      I agree, most likely boss is just failing at her own job and tossing her team to the wolves as a distraction tactic.

      I’m not sure if I was the OP I’d have any talk with her at all. Because talking implies, you know, honesty.. And good intentions to make things better. What I ‘d do is consider that the talk has occured, even if weirdly, and think over the information the OP overheard. Is anything true in there, can anything be improved? Take to heart what the complaints are, and think about what you thought didn’t matter has just been used against you. Can you swiftly and visibly improve all that? Not so much for her as for everyone else.

      Be sure you document anything that is not true. Just be sure you document everything. Keep copies of emails (including personal backups). Follow up oral instructions with confirmation emails. Stop covering up for the boss when she messes up, forgets something, gives wrong instructions etc. Be sure not to do her job for her, or clean up after her as good employees often do. She’s just been allowed to get rid of half her team, but she may well be scrutinized herself, and you may outlive her if the team’s performance doesn’t improve significantly with new blood. Also take advantage of the chaos that inevitably follows losing half the team to establish or strenghten relationships outside the team. Play innocent as you ask for help or clarification directly on whatever projects may be floundering due to her bad management. Especially if you find any that outside people don’t realize are in trouble. Don’t despair, the fact that she’s being given a second chance could mean higher management is not bad, and that there’s a better chance to get rid of her eventually.

      But of course also look for another job. The rule about staying a full year is not cast in concrete, and she might toss you out before then anyway. You can’t be too careful.

    1. Adam V*


      I googled it with some trepidation – didn’t know if it was some NSFW term I’d never heard of!

          1. Julia*

            Not a word in German, either. While ver- is a common prefix, neither head nor pen nor their combination is anything I have ever heard in German, and I’m a native speaker.

    2. CollegeAdmin*

      The best I’ve come up with is an attempt to type “open,” an autocorrect to “overhead,” and then mistakenly deleting the “o” (instead of the rest of the word “overhead”) and continuing to type “open.”

      But IDK, it might be a stretch on my part.

      1. Doodle*

        Ha. But the speculation that there was a mystery word in the letter was so much fun! I’m imagining you occasionally throwing in a made up word and watching us all get super excited about it…

    3. Jaguar*

      My guesses were “openhanded” or some German-ished sticklebrick that I don’t understand. It’s bugging me as well.

        1. Jaguar*

          Well, I don’t speak German, but my understanding is that in the language, you can combine multiple words directly to make new words with compound meaning. So, if you were fired and angry about it, you could make a word like “firedanger.” Sticklebrick is just an analogy often used to describe that aspect of the German language.

          1. Myrin*

            It most typically and intuitively happens only with two (or more) nouns, so “firedanger” wouldn’t really work (or at least seem weird), but the gist of the thing is as you say.

          2. Adam V*

            > if you were fired and angry about it, you could make a word like “firedanger.”

            Totally read that as “fire-danger”, as in “he’s so angry he could spontaneously combust, everyone be careful”.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah, when I came back and read Myrin’s response, I thought to myself, “Fire danger? What?”

          3. Kas*

            I parse that as fire-danger, which is a fine example of the concept, even if it is not what you mean :)

            1. bluesboy*

              Words like this can be tricky for foreigners. I remember someone asking me “What does ‘scarf’ mean? Ok, now what does ‘ace’ mean?” I explained both.

              “Ok, that’s clear. But why is there an Al Pacino film called ‘scarf-ace’?”

              The same guy also had a problem with ‘now-here’ for ‘nowhere’.

    4. Venus Supreme*

      Ah, my question (down below) has been answered! I thought it was a phrase in another language I didn’t know, haha.

        1. Hearing Unimpaired*

          There have been many enjoyable things to have come out of this question, and this typo has easily been one of the top two, haha!

  4. Adam V*

    I’m really surprised your boss would say that you “weren’t going to work out”, and then two other people were let go immediately afterwards. Is there no possibility that she meant one of them instead?

    Unless she was basically saying to the other people “I have to fire A and B, that’s definite, but as soon as I’ve replaced them with new hires, I’ll let OP go too. I just can’t drop my entire team down to one person in one fell swoop.”

    1. Edith*

      Or perhaps by that time the letting go of the other two was already established behind the scenes and in the works, and therefore didn’t require mention. OP ‘not working out’ may be phase 2.

      OP, I am so sorry you’re going through this. Polish that resume tout de suite.

      1. Teclatrans*

        I just read all of the speculation over a typo possibly being German, so my brain insisted that this comment was suggesting OP somehow make the resume Polish? I…I get it now. Brains are tricksy.

    2. Jaguar*

      Yeah, it’s really strange. The actions don’t seem match the facts. Assuming the other two were let go for performance, why would the boss complain about presuambly the second highest performer in the office of four? If the decision was about OP’s performance, why did OP’s boss also complain to the C-level, let alone immediately? That makes it sound like the OP’s boss is maunevering for something probably not good. However, if the OP really is underperforming relative to her peers and the other two were let go for some other reason (fraud, theft, moonlighting, were paid too much, etc.), the company may have a need to keep the OP, which gives her a lot of leverage and buys her time to bring her performance up, assuming that’s really at issue.

      There’s no easy way to draw a coherent narrative out of the mess information in the letter.

    3. Zip Silver*

      I have a colleague who let his entire department go within the same week. If I recall correctly, the technical term for doing that is dumbass. If you’re going to let an entire team go, then doing it in phases is the way to go.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        Pre-layoff, he blamed his team for his department’s failure. Post-layoff, he blamed the fact that he didn’t have a team.

        Sounds like a brilliant plan to me!

      2. Drew*

        I can see reasons for doing it – the team is colluding with a competitor to undercut your projects, or they’re running a Duck Club using the futon in your office – but absent gross misconduct, yeah, “dumbass” is the way to go.

    4. nicolefromqueens*

      If she cleans house all at once, what’s her next excuse when things continue to not work out?

      OP, I think she’s throwing you under the bus.

  5. Anon 12*

    Follow the advice and bring this up. You can easily note that although it’s been a couple of weeks, I was both embarrassed and flummoxed about how to bring this up productively so I sat on it. In hindsight, wish I had not so I’m bringing it up now.

  6. Venus Supreme*

    Silly question here: What does “verheadpen” mean?

    Also, OP, the window to talk with her hasn’t closed. I think you can revisit this, considering how much it has affected you. The best thing to do is address this head-on with your boss to at least ease your thoughts. Your boss is an ass and clearly doesn’t know how to handle conflict. You have every right as an employee and a person to make your workplace free of any unnecessary stress.

    1. Artemesia*

      Do this and then ALSO do it with the VP. You don’t have much to lose with someone maneuvering to let you go. You overheard the comments to the VP and can say that.

  7. Hearing Unimpaired*

    Thank you, Alison, and all of you for your advice. It did feel like I’d gotten the wind knocked out of me. And I’m dreading bringing this up.

    P.S. “Verheadpen” is supposed to be “open”. But it’s also now my new band name.

      1. Paige Turner*

        I agree! OP, when you band takes off, I will make a bunch of patches for your merch table :) Til then, good luck and keep us posted.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      I had something like this happen to me, with some differences- I’d been verbally reprimanded once, and the following conversation I took as “Let me know if you need any help” was their indirect way of putting me on a PIP. One day, I found a note near the computer in the office that said my name and an unfamiliar term. Part of my job was to do work in the office alone, so it’s not like I wouldn’t see it. I looked at my employee folder (also fully accessible as part of my job), and I had several written write-ups in there- one of them was the verbal reprimand, and the rest I had not been spoken to about. I was fired shortly after, and was absolutely crushed. If they’d flat-out told me their complaints, I would have been able to modify my performance. It probably would have only delayed the inevitable, since I was terrible at one unadvertised portion of the job (cold calling), but it would have been nice to know.

      1. Rena*

        Oh no, I would not be okay with having cold calling sprung on me. *shudder* I tried selling insurance for a short time after college which involved sitting in a cold dark office with nothing but a phone, a list of businesses, and a terrible script to try and gather information. I came out of that experience with a phone phobia.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I had a phone phobia for a long time, and the sudden cold-calling on that job did NOT help! What actually helped was getting a job where I occasionally had to call vendors with very specific questions (“Hi, this is Name from Company, and I’m looking for a quote on Item with Specifications”) and had a very patient manager who would walk through more complicated calls before I made them- probably helped that he had his own social awkwardness and got where I was coming from. :) Now the phone is a lot less scary…but I still couldn’t do cold calls.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        That’s infuriating, did you make copies or bring up the write ups when they fired you? Usually those have to e signed by the employee

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I was too young to know any better, but yeah, the fact that they never had me sign any write-ups was very unprofessional.

  8. Jeanne*

    I think Alison is probably right although it doesn’t sound like a fun conversation. Before you do it, make sure you have sent/taken to your home anything you might need like copies of emails that are relevant or any HR type paperwork. They’ll mail your mug to you but not any papers.

    Overall, this sounds like a terrible environment. It’s your choice in the end. Do you want to try to preserve your job or go job hunting? Or try both? Good luck.

    1. Adam V*

      Honestly, I’d probably start job-hunting either way. Even if OP’s boss keeps her around for now, she’s proven to be unwilling or unable to have the tough conversation with OP about her perception about OP’s work.

      1. SansaStark*

        I agree. I’ve actually had a very similar conversation like this with my boss who assured me things were okay as long as we continued to work on my “failings” over the next 3 months….and then they fired me 2 weeks later. I realize this is my dirty lens, but I’d start working on getting out of there pronto and it wouldn’t hurt to keep a file of any feedback in case you have to fight for Unemployment.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Same. Like I said above, there is something seriously wrong with OP’s boss’s leadership skills and I don’t think boss has the self-awareness to change that anytime soon.

  9. Sarasaurus*

    This reminds me of how I left my former (terrible) job. My boss forwarded me an email chain that included information pertinent to me. However, when I scrolled down, there was an email from her to the CEO saying something like “I decided to keep Sarasaurus on until Big Project wraps up, but not much longer after that.” I had no idea that she was unhappy with my performance up until then. The conversation that followed was sooo incredibly awkward, but also brought to light a lot of issues about her terrible management style and the toxic workplace in general. We ended up working out a mutual parting of ways, and I stayed on for a few months until I found a new position. I do know that she got in pretty hot water over sending me that email chain, and I was apologized to profusely from HR for the inappropriate way she handled the situation.

    Anyway, all this to say that this might be a blessing in disguise. Whether or not your boss’s complaints are legitimate, the way she communicated (or rather, didn’t communicate) them was inappropriate.

    1. The Strand*

      How did you broach this with HR? Sounds like there might be a script here for the OP?

      I am glad it worked out for the best for you, and frankly, that your boss got what she deserved.

    2. Clewgarnet*

      I had a similar situation – I was forwarded an email chain that, when I scrolled down, included my manager asking about putting me on a PIP. This was the first I’d heard about any performance issues.

      However, when my union rep got involved and escalated it to my manager’s manager, it ended with my manager getting reorganised out of the business and me getting a hefty promotion. (Not out of any fear of retaliation – just that I am actually pretty damn good at my job.)

  10. Interviewer*

    It must be awful, but you’ve discovered that your boss is terrible at having an actual honest conversation with you. She has given you great feedback, instead of actionable feedback. Her freakout over a possible mistake proved that she can’t handle a tough situation – she went into panic mode instead of trying to resolve the issue. She apologized later because she knew her reaction was the wrong one. But I promise you, that’s a good example of her mental reaction to giving you any constructive criticism. She’s too worried about how you will react, and doesn’t want to have that confrontation – and she’s sacrificing your professional development in your career and in that company. Repeat to yourself as often as you need to: she is not a good boss.

    I would make an exit strategy, quickly. It’s possible you could repair things at the office, but you would never be able to trust any feedback or evaluation of your work. She’s managed to poison others’ opinions of you as well. I think you’d always be waiting for that other shoe to drop.

    Good luck.

    1. Hearing Unimpaired*

      Thank you, Interviewer. In a way, I kind of got invaluable information on the intangibles.

      But let me ask you this: is making it to a year (still a ways off) more important than removing myself from a potentially harmful situation in what feels like would be Phase 2?

      1. Jaguar*

        Everything’s potentially more harmful. I would be concerned about how difficult it will be for you if you are laid off and have to find work versus how difficult it would be to find work now and quit before you’re fired. You can always explain to future employers about an less-than-a-year job that the company was experiencing downsizing (a borderline lie). It’s not great to have a short stay at an employer, but it’s also not great to work in a place that’s causing you anxiety or to be unemployed, and you need to weigh those outcomes appropriately. In my opinion, if for no other reason than you are siezing control of your own situation, it makes the mose sense to begin looking for work, even if you talk things through with your superiors and decide to stay.

        1. Drew*

          I think that rather than resorting to the borderline lie of “downsizing,” OP can go with the relative truth of “my boss and I were hired at basically the same time – she didn’t interview me at all – and it turned out we were a poor fit, so I decided to move on.”

          1. Jaguar*

            I’d rather hear “downsizing” or “they were laying a lot of people off” or “they made it clear I wouldn’t have a job there much longer” or whatever than “poor fit.” Poor fit screams euphamism to me, and I would want to know what the applicant was skirting around.

          2. Artemesia*

            Two of the four people in her department have been laid off — downsizing is a less problematic of talking about the search than ‘I can’t get along with my manager.’ Who wants to hire someone who ‘can’t get along with their manager.’ (no matter how bad the manager is — If all I know about you is you can’t get along — it is going to color my perceptions and give me pause.’)

          3. Chriama*

            Or even, 2 of my department of 4 was recently let go and I had concerns about the long term viability of my job. I’d stay away from anything that sounds like personality conflict with your boss if you have other valid excuses, otherwise it always leaves room for the interview to wonder if you were really the problem.

          4. Kyrielle*

            I wouldn’t say that. It could be taken wrong. I wouldn’t say “downsizing” either, I would say something about, “Two people in my department of four were let go.” (If need be, there’s always adding “and I wasn’t entirely sure it would stop there” but honestly? I would leave that off. Just the vision of halving the headcount of a department, is ALSO not a great one, and doesn’t leave questions open about OP’s role.)

            …let them take it as ‘downsizing’ or ‘the workload became hellish’ or ‘wow what is her manager on’ – there’s a lot of subtext there, accurate and maybe not, and none of it bad for the OP.

      2. BRR*

        I think in a lot of cases one short stint might be easier to explain than a firing. Remember you don’t have to accept any offer that comes your way. You might get an offer for a job that you would have applied to a year from now.

      3. MsCHX*

        I also think that people can be over-cautious about looking like a job hopper.

        See what’s out there in your field. You wouldn’t want to miss a great opportunity trying to just make it to 1 year of employment. If there’s nothing currently you sit tight and keep looking.

        1. the_scientist*

          I agree with this, and I also think it really depends on your field. We have a real rising star VP at my company who considers it a negative if people have stayed in the same role beyond two years…..unless they can clearly articulate that they are still learning new skills and taking on increasing responsibilities during that time. In OP’s situation I would 100% be job-hunting like my life depended on it, because it’s better to leave a job on your own volition than to have to explain a firing.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think people really do need to worry about looking like a job hopper — but I don’t think staying for a year will prevent that. A bunch of one-year stays IS job-hoppery. So there’s nothing magical about getting to one year, although somehow people seem to have internalized that idea.

          1. Golden Lioness*

            I think is good to clarify the “job hoping” label may not apply if you have a few free-lance projects or short terms contractor’s job, right?

      4. Christian Troy*

        IMO, I’m not saying you shouldn’t worry about it but given that your boss laid off two people and already complained about you, I would be more focused on scheduling interviews for other positions.

      5. TL -*

        Well, if a short stint is going to hurt you, you probably just won’t get called in for interviews; if there’s companies that don’t care, they’ll call you in anyways. (And unless you have a really unusual name or small field, I don’t think a company is going to remember you if you apply now and 6 months down the road, especially if you’re still at the same company then.)

        So – my advice would be to apply anyways because it most likely won’t hurt and could help.

      6. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

        The real test of how much a short stint hurts your prospects or not is if you get offers for another job, so there is really no harm in applying and seeing what comes your way. You can easily explain this during interviews as mass layoffs or bad culture fit. Honestly, I don’t think you can save this job, but you might be able to save your relationship with the VP who hired you through a candid conversation with them when you hand in your notice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I basically agree — but it’s important to know that whatever job you go to next, you need to be prepared to stay there for a good solid amount of time (ideally at least three years). So it’s important to pick really carefully, or otherwise you can end up looking job-hoppery.

          (I guess I have one other quibble too — I don’t want to encourage the OP to think she can easily explain leaving this job as a layoff or culture fit. If her employer doesn’t agree to describe it as a layoff, that will likely come out during reference checks and could torpedo her chances. And if someone says they left because of culture fit, a good interviewer is going to ask for more details.)

          1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

            Good points. I think I meant more like “restructuring” vs “layoff”. This is all assuming she puts in her notice before being fired, but I was thinking its easy enough to say something in an interview along the lines of “half the department was let go and it looks like the new manager is wanting to go in another direction” sort of thing.

          2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            I think the OP could imply a layoff by remaining strictly factual, without explicitly using that word.

            “Two people in my 4-person team were recently let go unexpectedly. It was a great shock to all of us because we have never been given any poor performance evaluations from management. I strongly suspect that the remaining 2 of us might be next.”

            There is apparently no formal history of unsatisfactory performance for any of the department and I would hope that the company wouldn’t suddenly manufacture a false history of PIPs if questioned. The way the OP describes the situation actually does sound like the company is thinking of eliminating the department, and that would also explain why the manager is quietly backstabbing her employees.

          3. Artemesia*

            She isn’t saying SHE is being laid off but that layoffs are occurring and so she is being proactive.

    2. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      ^^^ THIS
      I’d get my ducks in a row immediately (clean up my laptop, bring home copies of any important papers, reviews, client contacts, clear my browser caches — basically, get ready for that shoe to drop), and I’d start job hunting with urgency. Do your current job the best you can (considering half your team is gone), don’t burn any remaining bridgets, and GTFO.

      You have a bad boss. It’s time to go. And it’s always better to go under your own steam.

      Good luck!!!

    3. LawCat*

      I totally agree with this!!

      I had a former supervisor that behaved very much like OP’s boss here toward former co-worker and it did not end well. To top it off, that supervisor was so confrontation averse, she had some else do the actual firing. That supervisor’s reputation tanked big time with the other staff (and the supervisor had to do a lot of reassurances as other staff point-blank started asking if they were going to be fired; I’m not sure that supervisor has ever truly recovered team trust). It ended up all working out for the person who was fired who moved on to much bigger and better things!!

  11. Anon for this*

    I agree talk to your boss. If for no other reason you will know where you stand, and you know how aggressively you need to look for another job. And in dysfunctional work places many times the supervisor/boss believes they have given the employee warnings but the employee didn’t hear them that way. So it might be the case that if you overheard your boss correctly that she thought she had given you the appropriate warnings. Or it could be a case of you overheard something about someone else instead.

  12. Adam V*

    Another horrible idea – boss knows how thin the walls are, and she intentionally had the conversation with VP on speaker phone (and in person with C-level exec) as a “motivational tool” to try to get OP to improve.

    1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      Ugh!!! That’s awful. But, not inconceivable. My boss’s walls are paper thin, and he damn well knows it. Sometimes I think he says “private” stuff on purpose when he knows people will overhear it.

      1. Marisol*

        Years ago I was in a temp-to-perm position with an abusive boss who would insinuate that I would be fired by closing his door, which was normally kept open, and having an obvious conversation with the recruiter. He actually wanted to keep me and raised the salary offer by 2ok, a huge leap, just to get me to stay. So that was just a way to intimidate me.

        So yeah, this kind of thing is not unheard of.

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      Adam V, you could be right. The boss could have had concerns about the OP’s performance and how she is leading her team (whether these concerns are imagined or actual). But the boss is taking a very passive-aggressive route on purpose (knowing the OP can hear her grievances, while, of course, not actually telling the OP her grievances).

  13. animaniactoo*

    OP, would it be possible to speak privately to the VP? If your boss isn’t addressing her concerns about you with you, it’s likely she isn’t doing that with anyone else either and it’s an essential part of her job. Likely VP thinks that the feedback they’ve gotten is after boss has gone that route and not seen improvement. But if you can ask for confidentiality about it and mention that your boss has never discussed any of the concerns with you, VP might come back to the conversation with your boss to say “Talk to me about what you’ve tried to get OP past these issues” and be on the lookout for that with other employees as well.

    I could be wrong here, but it sounds like you think that at least some of your boss’ concerns are valid. If that’s so, I would be clear that you can understand why some of the things mentioned are an issue and you’d like the opportunity to work on them, and would have before now if you’d been aware they were an issue. You’re not trying to claim there are no issues, simply make known that there is another factor here that also can be a problem.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      And make it clear, to either your boss or your VP, that you’re a pro, that you’re always looking to improve, and that you’re willing to listen to feedback like a pro!

  14. Gaara*

    I wonder if your boss is in hot water and trying to dodge the consequences by throwing your team under the bus.

    1. MMDD*

      That’s what I was thinking. Or as someone said above, boss deliberately had those conversations where they know OP would hear. Whatever the case, this is not someone you want to work for.

  15. BRR*

    This is awful. I’m really sorry. I think you should follow Alison’s advice and start job hunting. I think it’s easy to speculate over what’s going on but in a situation like this it’s best for you to focus on what you need to do.

  16. MaddieB*

    Why not just sincerely approach manager asking for her feedback on any areas you need to improve on and keep the fact you overheard the conversation out of it?

    1. Hearing Unimpaired*

      I’ve tried that and gotten reassurance. What worries me is that HER boss now has a less than stellar impression of me, and there’s been a significant change in her attitude towards me.

      1. RS*

        I was in a similar situation in a job with a terrible boss. I didn’t overhear a conversation about my performance, but I’d noticed a shift in her demeanor towards me about five or six months into the job – a weird combination of nitpicking (e.g. telling me that I nodded too much in meetings when other people were speaking – something I’d never heard before and have never heard again) and being curt and unable to make eye contact during casual interactions, and frequently cancelling our one-on-one check-ins.

        During a check-in that I’d specially scheduled with her, I asked if everything was all right between us, or if there were any problems I should be aware of. She assured me that everything was fine, no problems. I was foolish to take that reassurance, because less than a month later I was summoned to HR and let go because I wasn’t “a good cultural fit.” My terrible boss had taken the day off; her boss was present for the termination meeting.

        Assume the worst. Don’t worry what your bosses higher ups think, don’t expect to get a straight answer from anyone (especially your boss). My own experience leads me to agree with those who suggest you should make moves to get out of there ASAP.

        1. SignalLost*

          Yup, same. My first professional job was a bit like you describe – it was very obvious my manager didn’t like me any more after about 6 months in the role. We had a meeting about the only complaint I ever received and she assured me my customer service was fine, with nothing to improve. I was fired a week later, by her, for “customer service issues”.

          No matter what happens if you have the conversation with your manager, OP (and I think you should), get started on getting out. You can always describe your reason for leaving as something like “the company is restructuring via layoff” or the vague “the company is really reactive, which I don’t see changing, and I would prefer a role that has a mix of proactive and reactive elements to it.” Allison has other wording all over the site for getting out of a job early without looking like a job-hopper; you may want to look around a bit.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is pretty normal, when a person speaks negatively about a third party, that relationship with the third party will tank. Ever wonder why some people are awkward to be around? It MIGHT be because they are berating you behind your back. This is a handy thing to know. It’s not easy to run people down in one breath and carry on a good relationship with them in the next breath.

  17. Whats In A Name*

    Oh, OP, I am so sorry. Follow Alison’s advice and talk with her.

    In addition to her script you can add some version of “this issue has been bothering me and while this isn’t easy for me to bring up……”

    And while it might speed up a firing, it will also clear the air, give your boss a chance to save face and will give you a better idea of where you stand with the organization. If she truly does think you have areas for improvement this can open the door for a plan to get the resources you need to improve or change your behavior patterns. At a minimum it will keep you from being blindsided a month down the road with a firing and give you time to get your resume in order and start looking.

    Again, I just want to say I am so sorry.

    1. Hearing Unimpaired*

      Thank you, What’s in a Name. I really appreciate the sympathy. I guess it really is a unique situation for transparency. Let’s hope I can find a way to talk about this at our next one-on-one.

  18. Joseph*

    The remaining two of us were called in for reassurance, although later my boss asked me during our one-on-one whether I thought my teammate was a flight risk.
    In combination with what you heard earlier, I’d worry that the query about the teammate might be confirmation that your boss is planning to fire you at some point, but is worried that if he does it *now*, your teammate will (voluntarily) flee afterwards, so he’d suddenly have zero employees.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      But I think this also seems a little weird if OP and teammate are equals. The more comments I read and the more I re-read the letter the more I think this manager is grasping at straws and acting irrationally all over the place.

      1. Joseph*

        Oh, I agree, it’s a weird request to ask about someone’s peer. And kind of a fruitless one, honestly. Most people won’t know anything useful (“uh teammate hasn’t said anything”) and even those who do know their colleagues are quietly looking around likely wouldn’t say so.

        1. Chaordic One*

          It’s sad that an incompetent manager will throw the whole team under the bus and get away with it. I’d like to think that if there is such a thing as karma, she’ll get own date with the karma bus in the near future, but I’m skeptical about that.

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      OP, have you found out whether your boss ever asked your teammate whether *you* were a flight risk?

      1. Hearing Unimpaired*

        My coworker (at the same level as me) confined in me (he also can’t unheard what I heard) that that question was never asked of him.

  19. Anonymous.*

    I agree with animaniactoo and I’m surprised this is the first time this suggestion has come up. (FWIW, my background is in HR, 15 years, with about 10 years managing people). Your boss has shown that she is not effective at delivering critical or honest feedback. She has gone to both the VP and C-level executive to shred your work yet none of this feedback has made it back to you. My gut says that if/when you broach this topic, she’s going to panic and try to cover for herself rather than step up, take responsibility and be honest about it.

    If you have a competent HR team, I’d recommend you go to them. If not, I’d strongly urge that if you have any relationship with the VP to reach out to them and share what you’ve experienced from a position of confusion rather than accusation. I’d explain that you’re coming to them for guidance because you now feel uncomfortable approaching your boss about this given the circumstances. Be humble, honest and open about it. From my perspective as a senior manager, I would not be on board with firing someone who I thought had been getting critical feedback but not improving and then finding out their manager had never delivered such feedback. I’d be prone to firing the ineffective VP though, to be honest.

    Beyond that, I’m so sorry for what you’ve experienced. It’s utterly shameful.

    1. Hearing Unimpaired*

      Thank you so much. Really appreciate the condolences and the advice. I was always under the impression that communicate within before escalating. I feel like I wasn’t given that courtesy.

      Given your expertise, may I please ask your thoughts about leaving before hitting your year?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I know this isn’t directed to me, but I want to say again that this idea of “hitting your year” is off-base. There’s nothing magical about getting to one year. If the idea is to avoid a pattern that looks like job hopping, a stay of one year won’t do that. You’d need at least two years, and in many contexts three. So don’t get hung up on the idea of hanging in until it’s been a year; that’s not the right mark to aim for.

          1. Anonymous.*

            I agree with Alison that there’s not a whole lot magical on hitting 12 months (versus 11 or 13). What I would urge you to do though, is address this before walking away otherwise, you’ll always wonder and you won’t have closure.

            As per communicating within prior to escalation, you’re correct but from my perspective, you’re right – that opportunity was somewhat taken away given the circumstances. I’d propose explaining if/when you approach HR or the VP that you’d generally address this with your direct manager firt but given the circumstances, that doesn’t feel like the natural first step. Again, humbly and not accusatory, just asking for guidance and feedback.

      2. myswtghst*

        It usually is a good idea to communicate within if you can, but in this circumstance it certainly does seem to be questionable whether or not it will do any real good. It might be worth asking in your next one-on-one for feedback, and being clear you want to find opportunities to improve (maybe even in the guise of “it’s a new year, so it’s a good time to re-examine how I’m doing” type of way), but it’s up to you if you think letting your boss know you overheard those conversations will lead to a productive conversation, or to accusations / defensiveness.

        I like Anonymous.’s suggestion of approaching this with the VP from a place of confusion, and wanting to improve, rather than accusing your manager of anything, and would suggest taking a similar approach if you do bring it up with your boss. Genuinely saying “I was confused by what I overheard, because all of the feedback I’ve received directly seems counter to what was said, As a result, I want to make sure I understand what I can do to improve, and I was hoping you might be able to help with that.” (or something along those lines) will hopefully open up a more helpful conversation than the ones you’ve been having so far.

        Best of luck to you in figuring this out and hopefully finding a better opportunity for your next job!

  20. PK*

    Talk to your boss but I’d go ahead and get my resume updated first just in case the conversation goes south quick. Tough situation and I would have had so much anxiety the last couple weeks waiting for something to happen. Yikes! Good luck!

    1. Chaordic One*

      Yes, and maybe check out a couple of temp agencies if it seems like you aren’t getting interviews for permanent full-time employment.

  21. Kms1025*

    I would be looking for a job…right away, without hesitation. Your boss has proven herself to be untrustworthy at best and a complete jerk at worst. To not review her concerns with you and coach, monitor, manage expectations and then throw you under the bus with not one, but two higher level managers is a complete tool move. Kick the dust of your shoes and run away from this place. There are better jobs out there and better managers to work with.

  22. AnotherHRPro*

    You do need to talk to your boss if you want to keep your job. If you are not comfortable acknowledging that you overheard these two (!) conversations then you still need to push your boss to have an open and honest performance conversation with you. Please note, I think you should go for full transparency as AAM advised, but I also realize you may not be willing to do that. The fact that half of the department has been let go is a very good opening for this conversation. I would acknowledge any performance issues you have had and tell your manager that you are very interested in improving. This will signal that you are open to honest feedback. Then, accept any and all feedback you receive and schedule follow up meetings to discuss progress.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      OP is picking between two discomforts.
      Which is greater?
      Discomfort A: Not knowing if she will be fired.
      Discomfort B: Asking the boss about her negative comments on OP’s work.

      Right now, B is in the lead. The most pressing discomfort seems to be asking the boss about what she said. So it could be that OP is hoping for something to change this story or OP sees something that gives her hope. Or OP is trying to out run the situation by applying for other jobs and finding one before she gets fired.

      OP, is this boss doing anything to help you grow as a professional or as an employee at your company? Has she expressed interest in getting you training or showing you added responsibilities? My point here is that surrounding context can help fill in some gaps. I have had bosses say stuff, but they would send me for training or give me additional responsibilities. These bosses worried me LESS, that boss who did the opposite.

      Not much has been said about what you overheard, but can you make a list and start working on those things? (This question assumes that you want to stay at Current Job as long as you can.) Take this with a grain of salt, but maybe you can just start correcting some of those things and that would change the picture. Let’s say she wants the staple in the right hand corner not the left corner. So you switch what you are doing. She mentions the staple in the right corner and you just smile and say, “If that makes it easier for you, then it’s no problem.” Which totally avoids the overheard conversations and starts to wear down the problems. I hate doing stuff this way, but you might be able to get some pressure off the situation.

  23. Christine*

    If the boss is failing to give feedback, should have done at a minimum a 90 day and 6 month discussion with her employees to give feedback, full discussion of job duties, etc. I’m wondering since OP and the manager was hired within the same time frame that skills that needed to be passed along wasn’t done.

    It could be that the department is not doing well, not the employees faults but because they were not given clear direction and guidelines at the very beginning. Easy for the manager to blame the team versus herself. I wouldn’t be surprised that is what’s taking place.

    I would tell your manager what you heard, your perception of the conversation, and ask for feedback . That you realize after overhearing the conversation that you are not meeting her expectations, and inquire about where you need to improve.

  24. W*

    LW, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    I had a boss once that used to communicate at the end of each day with his partner in Spanish with the door open. He would trash his workers (me and my team) and generally divulge company secrets. He knew I didn’t speak Spanish (true) but he had never asked me if I understood it (I do, thank you high school Spanish classes) I used his conversations as a way to know what was really going on, to magically handle problems that he had never mentioned before someone was called out on it and to figure out when it was time to jump ship. It was awful, and it made me incredibly anxious. Hang in there, and use the information as best you can to protect yourself and those on your team.

    1. Hearing Unimpaired*

      Haha, I’ve been using the door between us to do exactly that since, magically solve some problems and listen for my name. However, it’s also put me on high alert, which is unsustainable.

      You ultimately jumped ship?

      1. Chaordic One*

        You are right about it being unsustainable. It’s also very stressful and exhausting and it puts you on the road to burnout.


    I went through a similar scenario, where I was walking within hearing distance (twice) one colleague saying to others “Is (insert my name) going to have a job after (major work conference)”? I approached my boss about the comment the next day and he didn’t answer or deny anything. I was laid off two years later. To give you piece of mind, get your resume in order and start looking. Also start putting aside a few extra dollars every payday.

  26. Mae*

    Your boss is an ass. Go to HR with proof that you have had a good working relationship and that none of this crap was brought to your attention, much less a PERFORMANCE REVIEW.

  27. Former Usher*

    My sympathies to the OP. I’ve experiences something similar twice before. Once I was asked for help with a project and given a printout of a long email chain explaining what was needed. Included in the email chain was an exchange between our director and a customer that was (ahem) not complimentary towards me. This was despite being told that I was prioritizing correctly and to “keep doing what you’ve been doing.”

    The other time was at a different job when I discovered a draft org chart that suggesting cutting my position. This was with no feedback from my “manager,” who couldn’t even be bothered to do my performance evaluations.

    Your manager is terrible. Regardless of how this plays out, start your search for a better job and a better manager. Good luck!

  28. Maximus Minimus*

    Something similar is going on with me — wondering if this is common in the workplace, where managers are just not good at giving clear feedback or setting expectations? I’ve always received very good to excellent performance reviews, but then, with a new manager late last year, was told that “there are complaints about your work.” And yet when I tried to elicit what the complaints were or what I needed to do to correct things going forward, I couldn’t get any clarity. I’ve been told in another context that all my questions were viewed as “pushing back” and unacceptable. So now what? Should I just expect to be fired any day? I’m currently looking for another job but so far, no luck.

      1. NW Mossy*

        And can I just say that this site is invaluable for finding examples of what clear feedback and expectations sound like?

        My company put me through a manager training series when I was first promoted into the role, and it was heavy on theory but not very helpful on the practical side of how to articulate performance comments, whether they’re positive or negative. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that this is what a lot of managers get at first – vague guidelines and trial-and-error on the job until they either figure it out on their own, get entrenched in bad methods, or realize they have to find external sources like AAM to learn from. I’m glad that I found door #3 early enough to avoid completing torpedoing myself and my team!

    1. Soupspoon McGee*

      This happened to me–after years of stellar reviews, a new boss came in and found fault with me doing things that were fundamentally part of my job. She put me on a PIP for over a year, and every time I thought I had satisfied it, new and more bizarre things popped up. Instead of offering me a 12-month contract, they offered 3, which was what they did when someone was being replaced. I left before they could fire me.

      This may not be your experience, but I don’t think it bodes well. Keep looking. Network–reach out to colleagues who know your good work. Be open to taking a job in a different field.

  29. Imaginary Number*

    I wouldn’t be as quick to tell my manager that I overheard the conversation. I while back I did that and the manager in question got pissed off at me for eavesdropping. Same situation: my office was next door, the walls were thin, and I could clearly hear every word of what was being said about me. It was something along the lines of her suggesting to a coworker that I had been dishonest about how lake I worked on something and whether or not it was actually done when I said it was done. I made the mistake of bringing it up because she was questioning my integrity and she got very upset. Her opinion was that it didn’t matter how thin the walls were and whether or not I could hear the conversation clearly without trying to: if it was apparent I was hearing something not intended for my ears I should have put in headphones or left my office.

    She wasn’t a reasonable person, but she’s probably not the only person to hold that opinion.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s an unreasonable boss though and not a typical reaction. It’s a possibility but a slim one, and I wouldn’t want the OP to decide what she does based on one weird reaction.

      1. M-C*

        Oh but in this case I agree with Imaginary Number. Never have I ever seen anyone come across information by accident and not get blamed for it. It’s not a matter of hacking into their email using their dog’s name as password or putting your ear to the wall. If someone lets slip something embarrassing they meant putting o keep to themselves, the embarrassment directly splashes over to -you- being guilty of knowing that. On top of whatever else.

  30. Rose*

    This blows.

    If I were you, I’d call some recruiters and temp agencies to make sure you have a solid financial backup (even if it isn’t something you’d really like to do, at least you’ll have that thing in hand to feel ok). Once you have a modicum, honestly, I’d walk in to the c-level exec and ask if they have 5 minutes. Tell them you (and really EVERYONE) heard her conversation and it is super awkward now. Tell him/her you were hired at the same time, you’ve never had any written or spoken reprimands, you’ve met your performance goals of xyz, and that your manager is not managing. Write everything down first so that you’re prepared and also that he/she sees you have documentation (print out a couple emails where your manager says you did well on a project, etc).
    DONT make it argumentative like “you guys are wrong because…” or “this is a hr nightmare because…”or threaten. Just state the facts and be like, “so what do you think I should do?”
    If they come back and say, yup, you’re fired, then say “so what is your proposal for severance.” Honestly, if they say no, no matter if they are super apologetic or attack you, just leave. Find an employment lawyer to state what happened and give you advice on what to do next (hopefully help you write a letter asking for severance). I’m 99% they didn’t do anything illegal, but they’re not going to want the hassle of a lawyer. Also make sure you get unemployment from them.

    My gut feeling is that your manager is CYA and there might be a way to either get her fired or for you to get a hefty severance package. Or the company is going under and the manager knows and she’s trying to get into the lifeboat and throwing you over.

    Think of it as an advantage! You can talk to lawyer (you can post to /legaladvice on reddit even), look around for new jobs (maybe you’ll get a sweet offer right away and not have to worry about any of this and even get the lovely present of quitting without notice* and telling them why), make a battle plan. I wish you all the luck and am so sorry you’re going through this.

    *of course I’d normally say always give 2 weeks notice but they haven’t had a modicum of professionalism with the LW and she can argue that they were making plans to fire her without notice, plus could she ever count on them for a reference anyway?

    1. fposte*

      I like your style, but unfortunately /r/legaladvice is highly unlikely to see any case here (unless the OP is in Montana, which has a key different law), and that’s a sub uninclined to mince words about such things. It’s perfectly legal to fire somebody without warning them. It’s perfectly legal to trash talk them to the CEO even if it wasn’t their fault. There are situations where it doesn’t hurt to ask for severance, but there’s no additional leverage here that would get it for the OP.

      1. Rose*

        Yes, definitely… I was thinking more that they could guide her more on how to find an affordable attorney and what to ask for. Also the company might try to fire her with cause/deny unemployment so it might be nice to have a resource.
        I think a situation like this can really disempower someone so the most important thing is not to act rashly/emotionally and to build a little team of support and resources.

        1. fposte*

          Honestly, I think the chance of her getting back enough money even to cover the attorney is pretty small; I wouldn’t recommend it.

  31. TeflonMom*

    Personally, I wouldn’t bother with talking to the manager. I’d start finding my exit route.

    I had a bad manager who decided, after being told that she had to reduce the size/expense on her team, that I would be the one she fired. She ended up being fired herself but it wasn’t a happy ending for me. Bad managers flourish under bad managers. If your boss’ boss was any good they’d question/challenge her rant against her team.

    My guess is that her manager came to her with performance issues, and her defense was to through her entire team under the bus. If the VP was any good she’d have asked her several questions and would not accept an extended blame game.

  32. cncx*

    I would go to HR, not because HR can fix the situation (the old “HR works for management” trope) but because this is such incredibly poor management that any decent HR team will try to create a situation where when and if you are let go, HR will probably argue strongly for placating you enough to not sue or otherwise make noise, to protect the reputation of the company. In my jurisdiction (not the US though) this is enough to sue over and get some nice severance, and a decent HR team here would offer the severance, doctored employment dates and nice reference up front in hopes the wronged employee would go away quietly. This is of course with the caveat that hopefully HR isn’t as stupid as the manager.

    I agree with most of the other posters here- i think this is a throw under the bus situation and that probably the manager is worried that if you go, the “flight risk” colleague will also leave. This is why i wonder if the manager is reasonable enough to even talk to at this point.

    Really toxic. It was really crappy that you had to hear that OP and i am sorry. My bad manager who never gave me any feedback keeps getting fired from jobs, which admittedly does tickle my schadenfreude. Hopefully a little karmic retribution is in the cards for your manager too. I hope so.

  33. CM*

    I would not talk to the manager, because I don’t understand what this would accomplish. I think the manager is likely to become defensive, and is very unlikely to do anything that will benefit the OP in response to a conversation. Talking to the VP as suggested above might work, more in the vein of, “I’m concerned and not sure how to handle this, especially since I was just assured that I should not be worried about my coworkers being laid off” than “Please fix this.” Looking for a new job definitely sounds like a good idea too. Almost a year isn’t that different from a year.

  34. Dilberta*

    Couldn’t the OP just talk to the boss about her general job assessment overall because of the two people getting let go, and not specifically about the (very awkward) phone over-hear? (Sorry, that sentence was a mess…)
    Here’s what I mean:

    OP: Boss, I just wanted to check in with you to see if you are happy with my work since two people just got fired and I want to do well (except obviously worded better).

    I think after so long, and firings thrown in there, bringing up the phone call might be really weird.

  35. Jill*

    OP, don’t be afraid to speak to the VP that your boss was talking to, as well. I was “fired” for “problems with your performance” only a week after getting a glowing, all-positive performance review and a substantial raise. I went to my supervisor’s boss and expressed confusion and showed a copy of my glowing performance review and asked point blank why I’d be let go without even being told what I was doing wrong or given a chance to improve. Turns out I called their bluff and the firing was rescinded. I knew they wanted me out – still don’t know why – but it at least bought me some time to job search and leave on my terms rather than leave as a fired employee. I wonder if the VP isn’t aware that you’ve never been given a review or feedback on anything….

  36. StillLostinThisWorld*

    I am going to say something here that I have never even told my family because even now I’m ashamed for being naive, for being so emotional that I quit without having another job in place and for not telling them why I put in my notice. 10 years ago I quit a prestigious law firm because my feelings were badly hurt. I was in my mid 20’s and it was my first job as a paralegal. I am a black female. The attorney that hired me went out of town, was not very computer literate and could not work his blackberry so he gave me access his emails and each morning and afternoon I would read them to him on a daily basis then fax the important ones to his hotel. One of the emails was a long chain of them. I was reading him the response and he told me to just move to the next one which got me curious and scrolled down, saw my name and freaked out. In it he said that he needed me to be included in the next meeting with the bank because this bank was big on diversity and this was precisely why he hired me. Everything suddenly made sense. So many things clicked at that moment. Why I was often ignored. Why I was hardly ever included in meetings…..just random ones. Why I was given menial tasks when I could do so much more. OP….no matter what your manager says, things will never be the same. Look for another job and leave as soon as possible.

    1. sensual shirtwaist*

      That’s awful. I’m really sorry you had to go through that. I hope you have subsequently found a place that values your talents

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      It is truly sad and pathetic that in 2017 racism in the workplace still exists. Shameful. I certainly hope that you have found a much better job now. Best of luck.

  37. Venus Supreme*

    I’ve been thinking about this letter a lot. OP/Hearing Unimpaired, from what you’ve shared with us I truly believe this boss is unintentionally creating a toxic work environment for you by blatantly avoiding giving you performance-related feedback. That is unfair. And in one comment you wrote that you now actively listen to her conversations through the door. This is no way to work, and it’s not fair for you, that for 40hrs of the week, you anticipate overhearing your higher-up talk about you.

    After thinking about this letter more, I think regardless of the outcome of your conversation with your boss, I think you should look for another job. This isn’t worth staying for a 1-year anniversary or anything. I’m so glad I didn’t wait for my 1-year anniversary at ToxicJob, and NewJob is healthy enough I can see myself staying here for a while. I don’t think your boss will change her behavior after you confront her, and I don’t see her staying true to whatever word she says to your face.

    Please update us when you are able!! I’m keeping you in my thoughts, and I’m sending you good vibes!

  38. Over it*

    I have been working for this company for almost 5 years. A good friend of mine helped get me hired. He is now my boss. And over the last couple of years they have hired younger guys who are really doing good. And unfortunately I haven’t been doing as well as I could. Not for lack of effort just a lot of situations out of my control. So I just had my review and on paper it was okay. And I received a little raised. But at one point he said, we were thinking about firing you but that’s just crazy talk. Who says that?! He already knows I worry enough about the job, doing my best and getting fired. It’s come to a point where I wake up in the morning worrying about this job and I go to bed worrying about this job. Sometimes he’ll call me past work hours or on the weekend about work. I think the job is gone to his head and I think it’s time that I start seeking other employment. Any feedback? Thank you

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