how can I deal with a hostile, unreasonable boss until I can leave?

A reader writes:

I am an executive assistant. I have always worked as an admin, but this is my first time working as an EA. I was promoted at the same time as my boss, as both his predecessor and mine had retired. I have been at this job for just over a year.

My boss and I were both off over the holidays. A colleague, one of his reports, was killed by a drunk driver during this time. My boss returned to work before I did and, from what I was told, he was not aware of the death. He was upset that the employee had not been showing up for work and proceeded to call her home, where her parents also lived. He left an angry, profanity laden voicemail where he called her several names. This was after her funeral. Her parents were understandably livid.

Since I was off, I don’t know why he wasn’t told once he got back or what happened. Yet my boss blames me for not letting him know and for “allowing him to make a fool of himself.” Neither he nor his boss nor HR care that I was off when this happened. I was given a reprimand, a formal write-up was placed in my file, and as a penalty I only received half of my intended bonus.

My boss was out of the country and we were both off work. There are no company cell phones and we don’t use our personal devices for work calls or emails. I wasn’t even aware of her death until my boss called me at home (while I was still on my time off) and told me to come in for a meeting. I found out about her death at my own disciplinary meeting. I got in more trouble over what happened than my boss, who was not penalized.

I am looking for another job, but in the meantime I would appreciate any tips that you may have about dealing with a hostile work situation. I feel hate every time I see or have to talk to my boss. I am not trying to change anyone’s mind because it’s obvious that no one wants to listen to my side of it, and none of my colleagues will talk about it because they are afraid of reprisals from our boss. I just want to know what I can do to deal with things until I can find a new job.

There’s so much wrong here with this situation, and with your boss. He left a profanity-laden voicemail for someone who didn’t show up for work and called her names? It never occurred to him that maybe something was wrong, like that she might have been ill or injured? And hell, even if she were just AWOL and he somehow knew that for sure, that still wouldn’t be okay for him to do.

(Also, your colleague’s poor parents. How awful.)

And then taking it out on you that he didn’t know about this even though you were on vacation and not working? It’s absurd.

As for how to deal with this until you’re able to leave …

If there’s a silver lining to working with someone this unreasonable, it’s that you don’t need to second-guess yourself on whether you might have somehow caused this. You didn’t. It’s clear that your boss is a jerk, and it’s clear that you were treated unfairly.

That means that this isn’t personal. It’s about them, not you. Try not to let their opinions of you or their treatment of you get to you, because their opinions are inherently suspect. People who have proved that they have the moral and logical reasoning of a pumpkin shouldn’t get to have power over how you feel, and sometimes keeping that in the forefront of your mind can make a situation like this a lot more bearable.

The other thing you might try is seeing if you can find some satisfaction in being scrupulously professional when interacting with your boss until you’re able to leave. You are better than him, and there can a certain vindication in demonstrating that.

I’m sorry about your colleague, and all the rest of it.

{ 358 comments… read them below }

    1. Leatherwings*

      I think AAM has asked that we don’t comment on worst boss of the year nominees anymore – it just gets to be too much and winds up on every single post (including both the standalone posts today).

    2. Minister of Snark*

      Sadly, I have no trouble believing this. A former coworker of mine was an EA to an inflamed hemorrhoid of a human being. While her predecessor left extensive, cross-referenced notes on the tasks her boss expected of her, one item that she neglected to mention that was she was expected to order flowers for Boss’s wife and mother for Mother’s Day. He didn’t mention anything about it. It wasn’t written anywhere. So EA is spending the Sunday at home with her family, enjoying Mother’s Day, when Boss calls and rages at her for not sending his wife and mother flowers for Mother’s Day. He did not accept, “I didn’t know that task was expected of me. PS this doesn’t seem like a reasonable expectation.” as a reason for her not doing it. And tried to have her fired over it.

      Fortunately, HR questioned why Boss was expecting EA to perform what were clearly personal tasks on company time. And the complaint against her got dropped. It didn’t stop Boss from acting like an unreasonable jerk for the remaining months before she found another job.

      Some people just do not understand the concept of personal accountability. And not behaving like an inflamed hemorrhoid.

  1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    This is bonkers on a level we’ve not seen since the airport pickup story, but it probably surpasses that.

    1. INFJ*

      I also thought of the airport pickup story. In both cases, the boss blamed a direct report for his own bad behavior, and somehow managed to formally/officially punish the LW for it.

      The most distressing part if it had been me would have been finding out that my coworker died IN the disciplinary meeting. How awful.

      OP, I don’t have much advice to give, just condolences. Even my usual go-to advice in this situation of, “keep your head down/be professional as possible until you find another job” doesn’t seem to be very useful here because these people are obviously not reasonable and could potentially find fault again where there is none.

    2. regina phalange*

      I too thought of the airport pickup story. One of my coworkers recently died in a car accident and the entire company came together to mourn the loss and celebrate his life. That’s how it should happen, not someone getting WRITTEN UP for literal nonsense.

      1. Holly*

        I was an EA in a previous job and one of our coworkers passed away. I was asked to send out a letter to the teams this person had worked with and I did that. Later I learned that I accidentally did not include the very team the person worked on, so his direct coworkers did not get the heart felt message from management. I felt terrible. It was an honest mistake (I was new). I was just asked to resend and it was never mentioned again. I literally DID forget to tell people that a coworker had died and I was not reprimanded for it at all.

      2. Jessica*

        I had a colleague on another team that fell under the overall umbrella of our division. He left the job to work in Portland, still kept in touch with former teammates via Linkedin and Facebook, the usual. A couple years later, his wife was tragically killed in a car accident. My company sent him a big floral arrangement and a card that everyone signed.

        That’s how it should work too.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is almost worse, though, because at least in the airport story the grandboss and grandboss’ EA were sane people who came to the rescue. Here it seems the entire asylum is stocked with lunatics.

  2. Katie*

    The year is young, and we already have a candidate for worst boss.

    I’m really sorry, OP. For you and the poor family of the deceased coworker.

  3. Sharon*

    Alison, that’s insulting to pumpkins. :-)

    Back to being serious, I’m outraged on the letter writer’s behalf. Even the HR team didn’t see the logic in defending her from the crazy boss? What a crappy company all around.

      1. Chriama*

        Did the crappy airport boss and the spicy food HR lady end up at the same company? I’m wondering if OP might have more luck trying to talk to someone else in HR. Although I get that at this point it might be easier to just keep her head down and get out as quickly as she can.

        1. chillgamesh*

          Right? Maybe these bad apples in HR keep getting fired, and then we get a new letter from whoever has to work with them at the next company : )

      2. Working Mom*

        I cannot imagine being in a situation where you are being reprimanded for not communicating something YOU DIDN’T KNOW. I just cannot get past that. Well, there are a lot of things I cannot get past with this one. But the absurdity of all the discplinary meeting. When OP was surprised to learn of the colleagues passing, did NO ONE pause for a second and think “wait a minute, how can we blame this individual for not notifying someone else of something he/she did not even know about?” I mean really?

        OP, I’m so sorry for the loss of your colleague and for your terrible boss, and company. I wish you a quick exit and on to better things!

        1. AMG*

          I hear you loud and clear, OP. Aside from the deceased coworker thing, I am getting this daily. My boss asks for A. My team produces A. He is upset with us for not producing B. Not knowing about B is no excuse in his mind. The list (I am documenting) is pages long. I am lucky that his boss is upset with him.

          I have become clear on the fact that people who are making mistakes and have fragile egos will always blame someone or something else. Your HR department is just straight-up ignorant. As my own boss descends into his own death spiral of implosion, he is grasping at the nearest branches to try and save himself, which is currently me. To try and attempt to be viewed as the good guy, he is character assasinating me to all of my peers and his peers while telling them that he is the only person trying to help me (I’m not accepting the gaslighting and have started recording every conversation we have without his knowledge. It’s legal in my state).

          And since this isn’t my first time with an asshat for a boss, I know that people like this always reveal their true nature in time. Unfortunately, you and I both need to find new jobs before then, but you will hear about the Karmic fallout later and it will be vindicating. In the meantime, Alison is right. Conduct yourself with professional character and dignity, kiss a little ass while you are there to play up to King Baby’s delicate sense of self, and get the Hell out. It’s just a moment in time.

          1. Nea*

            I am lucky that his boss is upset with him

            Which makes me think – OP’s boss is a lunatic and OP’s HR branch has the strength of used tissues, but what does grandboss think about this? Is there, perhaps, one sane person in power who is working there?

          2. Chaordic One*

            I used to regularly get in trouble because I would say to my boss, that after we produce A, we’re going to have to produce B. It really wasn’t my psychic ability, it was just common sense and being able to anticipate the next step. My boss didn’t appreciate it.

            Such is working life.

        2. Liz2*

          Not quite as serious, but there was the time my boss got me worked up on a Sunday to schedule the golf fitting I’d been nudging him regularly for week about- and then after I made all the calls and got him in last minute, got upset with me because he didn’t know he was supposed to take his clubs to the fitting for his clubs.

          1. Engineering Manager*

            If I were the OP, I’d go back to my boss and/or HR and ask how I should have handled this differently and see them try to come up with an answer that makes any sense. “You should have anticipated that something like this would have happened while you were on vacation, contacted the office daily to see if anything happened, then informed your boss as soon as you knew.”

            1. AMG*

              They’ll just get defensive because it’s not like they can really admit, ‘oh, wait. I get it. I’m an idiot.’

            2. JoAnna*

              Sounds like the time my awful boss chewed me out because I got stranded in a different town due to a snowstorm and had to call in to work. He told me I should’ve known better to travel out of town during the winter. It was Thanksgiving weekend, by the way.

        3. Observer*

          Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of bosses that expect people to have supernatural powers and act based on information that they have no way to know about.

        4. Maggie*

          I was reprimanded for not being physically in two completely different places at the same time. I was told that, because I hadn’t achieved the impossible, I was not a problem solver and next time I have to be in two places at the same time to “work it out”.

      3. JGray*

        Yeah- my thought is that HR was misinformed about what actually happened because as someone who works in HR we would never agree to discipline an employee who wasn’t even in the office and therefore had no knowledge of what had occurred. I also wasn’t clear on whether HR is in the disciplinary meeting or not. HR shouldn’t have been it would have been up to the supervisor but I thought maybe they might have been. It might be a good idea to go to HR and ask some questions about what happened. Any good HR person is going to know that there is a good possibility that something else is going on but don’t have anything concrete to go on. It won’t change what happened but at least HR can now know what type of supervisor this person it.

        1. Zombii*

          I don’t think HR had anything to do with this. It sounds like one of those companies that doesn’t involve HR in the disciplinary process, except to file documentation of it (and yes, that’s a poor use of HR).

      4. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

        In defense of those who are competent in my chosen profession, this sounds like a smaller company where HR is probably just someone they promoted up from being an Admin or the Office Manager. In so many of these cases, it’s employees that may be good workers and reliable that get moved into the role but have no idea of what it really is or should be. Also in smaller companies if they report directly to the owners, they really have no power. In this case, their own job could have been in jeopardy if they had told the boss no. In larger companies where there are more layers, this is easier to navigate. Though even at the highest levels I’ve seen HR talent let go because they were challenging the C-levels too much and not caving in to what they wanted.

        I would recommend the LW provide a formal statement to the disciplinary action for her file sent via email and cc’d to her personal account. It should lay out what happened and how she could not have notified the boss about an event she did not know about. It can also request the reprimand be removed and her bonus restored. They won’t do it, but they would need to disclose the statement in a UI hearing if that event ever comes up. Or if she has to file a wrongful termination suit.

        The key is to also send it to yourself (bcc) and even a friend (also bcc). I am showing a little paranoia but I’ve been supporting a friend who’s ex keeps trying to hack her email. It’s amazing what lengths people will go to and this boss doesn’t sound rational.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          That’s what I was thinking, too! For all we know, “HR” at the LW’s company might be a former office manager with a degree in something not-remotely-HR-related and very little experience in actual HR, who was given a “great opportunity to wear many hats!” And situations like LW’s are the fallout – because HR either has no idea how to actually function as an HR person/department, has absolutely no power other than what Boss grants, or both.

          This is one reason why small and/or family-owned companies can be so dysfunctional: on the one hand, there are opportunities for newbies and career switchers to get experience in teapot making or whatever, but on the other hand, they are fertile soil for Dunning Kruger. Someone with no training or background in teapot making, and no mentorship or on the job training, can bumble around leaving a trail of destruction (or just ill will) in their wake.

  4. Liz2*

    Head down, do immense self care. I got into a bad place as an EA as well (though not quite as shocking or immediate as yours) and was job searching the instant my probation period ended. As a lifelong migraine sufferer I had gotten them down to mild quarterly affairs and they escalated to monthly all day long throwing up affairs from the stress. It was a matter of who let who go first- and they let me go the day before New Years Eve.

    Take care of yourself first. It wasn’t the best for my resume tenure track and I certainly can’t use them as a reference, but you know you’ll get out and into a much better place.

    1. AVP*

      Yes, I was just coming here to say this! I was in a similar situation at one point and finding an activity that let me vent and take my head out of the day-to-day frustrations was crucial. (I took up running but there are lots of non-athletic options out there. Anything to keep from going over and over each scene in your head all night.)

      1. Manders*

        Meditating and using visualization techniques to help calm down after work helped me when I was in a rough spot and I needed to clear my head before job hunting. My boss wasn’t nearly as bad as this letter writer’s, but it still helped to have an “I’m evicting this jerk from my head” ritual.

        I also think that if OP is close to her coworkers, there’s no shame in talking about this situation with them. But it sounds like this company has such a strong culture of fear that her coworkers might be too afraid to even listen.

      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        My go to while in a terrible situation (though nowhere near as terrible as the OP’s) was a rowing machine. Everytime I pulled back on that chain I envisioned yanking on various soft/squishy bits of my then jerk of a boss. It was very therapuetic.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      My suggestion is to disengage from your boss and your job as much as possible. Don’t let them get to you — ignore any feedback and take on a “don’t care” attitude. Don’t do anything more than the basics needed to do your job. Show up on time, and leave exactly on time. Don’t take any work home. Do take as much vacation/PTO as you can. When you get a new job, don’t bother with two weeks notice. They have shown that they don’t respect professional norms, so two weeks notice would only give them time to beat you up some more.

      1. Zombii*

        Seconded. All of this. You’re basically on your way out already, don’t give them any more consideration than they deserve.

        Re: Two weeks notice. Mostly agreeing with this. LW isn’t going to get a good reference, and is taking serious psychological damage, so I can’t see why a notice period would be beneficial to LW in any way. Also I doubt her manager would stop himself from harassing her even more during her notice period, which is a perfect reason to cut that notice short, if she does decide to give the standard notice, to adhere to professional norms. (Basically, LW could offer two weeks notice, knowing she will probably get fired on the spot; if that doesn’t happen, LW is advised and encouraged to decide not to come back from lunch the day this manager does anything egregious (protip: this manager’s “normal” behavior is egregious).)

      2. Freya UK*

        Thirded. Stay in your peace bubble – you’re physically present but mentally and emotionally checked-out and manifesting your lovely future.

    3. TootsNYC*

      and get some exercise. Something cheerful and tough physical activity, like a Zumba class (music! movement! other people in a positive mood!)

    4. Erin*

      Agreed–be very, very good to yourself and get the heck out of there. It took me about a year to recover after leaving a job with an abusive and horrible boss…many lessons learned, but wow, wow, wow, what a way to learn! There was no way to fix the issue or the relationship with any of my coworkers, all of whom had known me for far longer than that ridiculous and horrible human being. Best part? I am on a completely different trajectory in my career, and I enjoy what I am doing. Hang in there.

  5. Naomi*

    What jumps out at me is that HR and OP’s grandboss aren’t listening to reason, either. The problem here is bigger than OP’s boss–it sounds like the whole company may be toxic.

    1. Serafina*

      This. There’s no “if” about it, I think: the whole company IS toxic, at least in the power structure and disciplinary system.

    2. Raine*

      It’s the position, partly. Executive Assistants (in my experience) are far more than staff — they are kind of advisers on all things timely (a breaking news story a boss should be aware of when making a speech on a related topic), kind of supposed to calm the boss and make him look supersmart for a meeting with a client, and kind of to protect the boss from himself/herself. This example is obviously way beyond the pale. But I have a feeling this is why everyone is going along with it.

      1. MK*

        I can understand holding the EA responsible for staying on top of company news and informing their boss, when they are on the job, and/if they are expected to stay connected while on vacation. But even then, this reaction is over the top.

    3. Ama*

      Honestly, what it sound like to me is that HR and OP’s grandboss (assuming grandboss wasn’t also on leave at the time), probably are the people who actually *should* have taken care of notifying boss and so they are also blaming it on OP. I’ve been through a couple of instances where coworkers were suddenly unavailable to work and also unable to communicate directly with the office and the notification has always come from either my HR rep (at a large company) or a C-level executive (at a much smaller company where HR was handled by a third party).

      1. k*

        Yep, sounds like OP is the scapegoat for their terrible management of the situation. They’re probably afraid of potential legal issues, bad press, etc. that could arise from boss leaving that horrible message for the grieving parents, and need someone to take the fall.

        Good for you OP, for recognizing that you need to leave this situation. Keep your head down and best of luck on the job search.

        1. Honeybee*

          The thing is, that doesn’t even make sense to a logical person, because if the story did ever get out this is only going to make them look worse and not better. They compounded the problem by reprimanding and docking the pay of someone who wasn’t even involved.

          1. Zombii*

            Right? I’m imagining seeing a news story (or hell, even a FaceBook post) about EvilCorp’s Chief Executive A$shole leaving a disparaging message on an employee’s home answering machine after the employee’s funeral, and that message then being discovered by the deceased employee’s parents, and all the CEA has to say about it is “Yes, I called the dead woman a ****. And a ****. And I criticized her work ethic and performance. But! But. It makes sense in context. My admin hadn’t told me she was dead. So we’ve taken action to ensure this will never happen again, by disciplining the admin.”

            It appears everyone in this company has drank too much of the poison, and it is now impacting their ability to see things as a rational person would.

  6. Murphy*

    I don’t understand how they can possibly reprimand you for this. That makes no sense! I’m sorry this is happening to you, OP. Hang in there. I hope you find something else soon.

      1. AMG*

        I prefer to insult turnips for this exact reason. Nobody has less of a moral compass than a turnip. No persponality either.

          1. Gadfly*

            Compromise? Have you ever accidentally forgotten a cabbage in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge before leaving on vacation? It makes a really appropriately nasty slime to fit this…

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Me too! I love it and I’m using it now. Done.

      you, sire, “have the moral and logical reasoning of a pumpkin”!

  7. Serafina*

    Gah. I think I’ve worked for that exact boss. Don’t have much advice except to keep your head down, document interactions with EVERYBODY, and focus hard on the job search. Your instinct is correct that you won’t change anybody’s mind – Boss did something despicable and refuses to own it, so you are his scapegoat, and his colleagues either can’t or won’t step in to check his behavior.

    1. AMG*

      It’s demoralizing how many bosses are like this. There’s no ‘I think I know that person’ because of the sheer volume. Who ARE these people??

      1. Zombii*

        It’s disgusting how often people without even the most basic interpersonal skills and no sense of integrity are consistently promoted—and defended—because “it doesn’t matter if he’s an assh#le, he’s good at business.”

        No. If they cannot leave a meeting without everyone thinking they are an assh#le, and secretly fantasizing about them being hit by a bus on the way out the building, they are not good at business. Everyone needs to stop promoting these people. Please?

        1. Julia*


          And sometimes, they’re not even good at what they’re doing. They just get promoted out of someone else’s way, which is really infuriating if you think about it.

        2. babblemouth*

          + 1 million. I am regularly appalled by the way society seems to allow, enable, and even admire bullies, because “they get it done”. No. It doesn’t count as “getting it done” if hurting people on the way is a regular part of the work ethic (or lack thereof).

        1. MashaKasha*

          Should’ve read the several good explanations below before posting. Ah, office politics. Got to love it.

      2. Serafina*

        They’re stereotypical psycho/sociopaths – they’re perfectly capable of acting charming and reasonable when it’s worth their while. With clients/customers/vendors – or basically anybody who has something they want – they can be agreeable and calm. With subordinates or anyone who lacks power over them, they’re vicious and ugly, abusive, even flat-out sadistic . But their “charming” or “business savvy” persona generates money for the company, so even colleagues and superiors who see behind the masks won’t put them in check, and the victims of their treatment pay the price.

        1. Candi*

          As we’ve seen on this site, they also cost the company money. Those who have other options, or develop them, jump ship, leaving the company with the mediocore and poor workers who won’t or can’t do the job the best ways it can be done, bringing in the maximum amount of revenue.

          Heck, this very story, the EA’s jumping ship. The company will likely churn and burn a new EA every 8-14 months, if patterns others have observed are applicable. That will affect the quality of the performance of the position’s duties.

          A good EA, you don’t even know they’re there because everything gets done so well (although they still should get a thank you every couple of weeks or more). A bad EA, or a good EA in a crappy position, everyone knows it. And it will affect perception.

  8. TJ*

    Wait a minute……written up & only given half your bonus!?!?! I would be consulting an attorney. Maybe it’s not worth going after the rest of your bonus but what about references and what these psychos will say in reference to future employment reference.

    1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

      Seconding the advice to talk to an employment lawyer. Not that I necessarily think you should file suit or anything, but you definitely want to keep your metaphorical butt covered by as many layers as possible with a company as toxic as that one sounds.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      Yeah, that’s what got me. If there was an agreement in place regarding how her bonus is earned or calculated, I’d think there’s a good chance they’re violating it by cutting the bonus because of this. Not that folks this unreasonable are likely to care, but if the bonus is not unsubstantial, I’d consider having a lawyer look at it. Only as a nuclear option, of course.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I was wondering what a lawyer could do, but I hadn’t thought of a structured bonus agreement that they violated as a possibility.

      2. Jeanne*

        A lot of bonuses say something like “based on performance” which leaves them a lot of wiggle room. But I still might consult the attorney. Even one of those strongly worded attorney letters might help here.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Many bonuses are discretionary, which gives the boss a lot of latitude. Even bonuses that are calculated with a specified formula often can be gamed by messing with any discretionary inputs.

    3. Aphrodite*

      I agree. I rarely recommend an attorney but this is beyond description horrible and you need to be sure your rear is protected. Given what Boss, GrandBoss and HR are doing, I doubt they will take your resignation with anything resembling understanding.

      1. BRR*

        In what way? While the boss is an awful person, there’s really no indication that anything illegal happened.

        1. AMG*

          That’s my initial thought, unless the boss only does this with certain groups of people (women, veterans, etc.) If it’s only the OP then I’m not sure if that strengthens the case or not. But I’m not sure what would be illegal if it isn’t expressly written in a contract.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What would you want the attorney to do? I’m not saying the boss, et al., aren’t in the wrong—they are, and their treatment of OP (and former colleague’s family) is despicable and abhorrent. But I’m not seeing an obvious legal hook here.

      1. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

        Still in law school BUT…

        If a whole boatload of assumptions are met, there’s a sliver of a possibility that OP’s company breached a contract or that OP is owed restitution. Maybe possibly probably not but maybe.

      2. C in the Hood*

        The only thing I can think of is if the parents press any kind of harassment charges against the company & the company decides to throw OP under the bus…

      3. Zombii*

        Serious question. Can the LW consult an attorney if they believe the company might defame them during their job search, or do they need to wait until it happens before doing that?

        1. Izzy*

          You can always consult one. Some offer free or reasonably priced short consultation appointments. You can find out what your options are, even if it does not make sense to take legal action right now. Information is power.

          In some situations, a letter from an attorney can do wonders, too. Sometimes just knowing you have a lawyer. Not necessarily this one, just saying.

          1. Candi*

            Yeah, these ‘why would you talk to an attorney?’ comments always bug me.

            Talking to an attorney does not mean, “Sue for all the things!”

            It means, “I know what my options are, and what course, if any, might be most viable.”

            It never, ever hurts to be fully –fully– informed.

    5. Ask your local union rep*

      I’d definitely consider talking to your union rep, or joining a union if you can. AFAIK, they can act on things that happen before you join. This is exactly the sort of situation that unions can mediate, especially if you have a strong union. It’s also not quite as nuclear (or expensive) an option as calling a lawyer. Honestly, though, I don’t think you have much to lose here: your boss & HR already hit the nuclear option as far as employee relations go.

      1. Not Having This*

        I’d stay the hell away from American unions. I’m a Teamster, and they’d not really do anything in this situation. As long as they’re getting to skim off of our paychecks, they don’t really care at all what actually happens to us. Even if they do care, they’re so neutered that there isn’t a whole lot they can do.

        1. Candi*

          It depends on the union. And sometimes even the local chapter.

          Our county transit workers’ union is pretty good -not spectacular, but maintain a fair balance between employer and workers and try for a win/win/win situation in as many situations as possible. (Third win being passengers.) They’re doing a nice job; no transit strike in twenty years.

          Over in Aussie, a friend of mine works for a large chain (being purposely vague here), and everything she’s told me about her union is fantastic.

          When going through the archives, I’ve come across a few comments of the ‘the local union guys are great, national people… are not’ type.

          And I know both our local (western half of the state) longshoremen and teachers’ unions are absolute donkey rumps when it comes to helping anyone below a certain level. Nasty rumors abound; the facts aren’t very good themselves.

          It’s very region and union dependant.

    6. Barney Barnaby*

      I would also recommend consulting the employee handbook, which might include an appeals process for the HR disciplinary hearing.

      This whole thing is beyond bizarre. It’s not unusual for one person to go off the rails, but for multiple people in different departments… it’s a severe issue with company culture, HR only heard his side of the story (and the OP was understandably too rattled to present her side correctly), or someone is protecting him.

      In fact, if she later files a claim (assuming she has one – that’s a different issue), she may be required to have pursued an internal review process first.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      This, a million times over. There’s a great Captain Awkward post on this same vein about how to keep your head down and get out. I would also say, while it’s great that you are looking for a new job, it might be reasonable in this case to spend the next six months (?) building up your savings, and even if you don’t have something lined up, just leave anyway. Your health and quality of life matter.

      1. Snork Maiden*

        If you happen to remember the title or keyword of this CA piece, I’d dearly love to read it (I’ve tried a number of keywords in Google but can’t find one that I think is the piece you’re talking about.) If not, no worries, I’m sure I will find it (or someone will send it to me, ha!)

  9. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, I’m asking that we avoid all the “worst boss of the year” discussion this year (until the actual voting) because last year it took over so many posts. Thanks!

    1. ArtK*

      Early days yet, early days. I’m sure that there are some out there who will read this story and really up their game.

  10. Tally don't dilly-dally*

    Whoa, that’s next level unreasonable! I’m sorry you are dealing with this. I hope you find a new job soon.

  11. Leatherwings*

    OP, I hope you are able to really separate your work and home lives. The less you have to think about your butthead boss, the better. There’s nothing you can do to make this personal be reasonable, which sucks so much. I hope you find something else soon!

  12. OP*

    Thank you for answering my letter Alison. I’m at work now but I’ll keep up with the replies as much as I can, and read the rest after work. Have a good day Alison and everyone!

    1. Michelle P.*

      Your boss sounds like a complete a$$h0le. So sorry you are having to deal with someone that unreasonable! Take Alison’s advice, brush up your interviewing skills and get out as fast as possible!

      Good luck!!

    2. On a boat*

      I’m so sorry this is happening to you OP! Alison is right in everything she said. Also, before you go, see if there’s a colleague who knows your work well enough that they’d be willing to be a reference for you in the future. I can’t see this boss ever saying something nice about you.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Also, now is the time to reach out to your former boss in some way if you haven’t. Since presumably that reference, although not for an EA position, will be safer than this one.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        Agree 100%. Don’t count on your current boss for a recommendation in the future. But you should reach out to your old boss to 1) ask if they would provide a reference, 2) network to see if they know of any jobs they could point you towards.

    3. The Supreme Troll*

      I am truly sorry that you’re going through this crap. Just like TJ and Anna the Accounting Grad mentioned above, definitely consult an employment attorney, just to see if you may have any legal options, and, at the very least, to protect yourself from any unwarranted repercussions.

      OP, you can hold your head high and know that it is not at all about you, but about the scumbag that happens to be your boss.

    4. DuckDuckMøøse*

      Get out, ASAP. Take all your personal items home now, so if they decide to fire you to cover up their ineptness, you don’t have to suffer a perp walk with a box, or have them paw through your things to be sent along later.

      In the meantime, try to associate your duties with other people, not your boss. If he has you coordinate a meeting, you are there to make things easier for the other attendees. If working on something for a customer, you are there for the customer, not your ass/boss or grandboss. Do right by the other people, and at least you will have the moral high ground. Good luck!

    5. Anna Pigeon*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this OP!

      The only thing I would add is that you should write up your side of the situation so you have contemporaneous documentation. Ideally you’d put a memo in your HR file, but that may not be possible.

    6. MWKate*

      I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. Remember to take care of yourself. Working in that kind of environment every day and having to deal with all those negative emotions takes a huge toll. I hope you can limit what you take home with you and what, mentally, you’re able to just leave at the office. (This has always been a struggle for me).

      In the meantime – I would document everything. Make sure to retain a copy of anything they’ve given you, the reprimand, information on the consequences, etc. Someone else suggested asking how you should deal with these kind of situations in the future. It doesn’t sound like you could go to your boss with this, but maybe an email to HR.

      I can’t imagine what they would say. It would be interesting to see how they tried though. Good luck on getting out of there ASAP.

      As a sidenote – what in the world did they say to the poor woman’s parents when they called about Boss’s (inexcusable and horribly unprofessional) actions?

    7. TheAssistant*

      Good luck to you! You have all of my sympathies. I was once an EA and my boss called me during a hurricane to see if I could fly him into our town (he was away on work travel). He refused to listen to reason for about 45 minutes even though the hurricane was literally hitting while we were on the phone. He also fired my replacement like lightning when I left, for reasons unknown to me.

      Weirdly I still considered him a great boss and kept in touch for a while, because I was just able to laugh it off and he did allow me to “talk back” in a professional way most of the time.

      EAs have a rough go of it.

  13. Whats In A Name*

    OP, I am so so sorry you have to deal with any of this. The issue isn’t only with your boss, but with the entire company it would appear.

    As you continue your search I would just keep your head down and do your work. Don’t let this question your integrity or ability to excel as an EA. I am sure you know that what happened was beyond unreasonable.

    I wish you luck in a speedy job search!

  14. TMA*

    Whoa. This all sorts of messed up. So much sympathy to go around, but none of it for your boss.

    I loved Alison’s note about the silver lining. It does wonders (for your confidence, sanity, general well-being) to change your mindset from, “What did I do wrong?” to “It’s him, not me.” This works for both personal and professional relationships.

    Best wishes in the job search. I hope your next opportunity is wonderful and comes about quickly!

    1. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

      I have a mantra I developed when working for a string of terrible bosses.

      “Their crappy behavior is a reflection of them, not me.”

  15. Temperance*

    This is just so, so sad to me.

    Some people are bullies and jerks. Some people, when they know they are acting like an unreasonable bully or jerk, like your boss, will do whatever they can to deflect blame rather than admit to being an odious human being. You know that it’s not your fault that he left a vulgar message for the parents of your deceased coworker to find. You certainly wouldn’t have called her parents.

    It’s disgusting to me that they would have taken money from you as punishment for not telling your boss that your colleague died when you didn’t have the information. Best of luck in your job search, and have fun writing that scathing Glassdoor review after you leave.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      The fact that the company HR and grandboss backed up the boss in his ridiculousness made me want OP to link to this post on Glassdoor. If it were just the jackass boss, it would be one thing; but he had backup for that behavior!

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Yes please do write a scathing glassdoor review. People need to know what they are walking into and decide if it is worth it for them.

    3. Michelle*

      What I don’t understand is why he had to call and leave a nasty message! Why not just a simple please call ASAP and then you don’t make an a$$h0le of yourself.

      1. Temperance*

        Because he is an a$$hole, that’s why. A normal person would just call. This monster is not normal.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And interesting that, as Alison says,it didn’t occur to him that she was maybe in the hospital or lying dead in her home, undiscovered (becuase that happens).

  16. EA*

    I was in a really crappy situation about a year and a half ago (I found AAM around that time randomly googling “how to deal with a micromanager/How to screen for a good job) my job was a bait and switch, and the department was so dysfunctional and didn’t care at all that my boss straight up lied to me about what the job entailed. I left after 7 months.

    It helped me to research how to do better next time. They lied, but I thought I could have done better researching and vetting the company. I read about good questions to ask and how to screen for a better situation (mostly on here). I also spent a lot of time on glassdoor looking for companies.

    I am an EA in a large east coast city that is not NYC. The EA market is pretty strong here, especially if you have experience and want to stay in the field (not using it as a jumping off point). I’m not sure your area, but you will be fine, and eventually get out.

  17. Not a Real Giraffe*

    Half of OP’s bonus being taken away is what jumped out to me the most (it’s bonus season here). Let’s say for the sake of argument, that this was OP’s fault (I don’t think that it is). How is one incident over the course of an entire year worth taking away HALF of someone’s bonus?! How is that reasonable even if OP were at fault here? I mean, I know, we aren’t talking about a boss who is reasonable here, obviously. But ugh, OP! I feel so hard for you.

    1. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

      By the same logic that says, “an employee hasn’t been into work recently, so I’m going to leave a voicemail calling them names.”

    2. Jenny Next*

      Call me cynical, but I wonder if the outrage against her was feigned, and if cutting the bonus in half was the main objective.

      1. Honeybee*

        This was my thought as well. The boss kills two birds with one stone: he gets to blame someone else for his terrible behavior and he gets to cut her bonus.

  18. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    This is so unbelievably awful. I am filled with rage on your behalf, OP, and on behalf of your colleague’s parents. I bet the company somehow blamed you when issuing a non-pology to the parents as well. Job search, be professional and rise above, and day dream about over-the-top quitting scenarios you’d never *actually* go through with to relieve stress.

    Good luck OP. I hope we get an update from you in a few months that you have found a new job with a boss that treats his EAs with respect

    1. Artemesia*

      If the colleague had been goofing off at the beach for a week, the phone message would have been entirely out of line. That HR focused on ‘he didn’t know’ rather than ‘he leaves vicious hostile phone messages to subordinates’ is telling.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        Oh agreed. She needs to get far away from someone who thinks this would have been acceptable behavior in different circumstances. That it’s only death that makes it no ok is appalling

    2. Renna*

      The good news is that even if they do blame poor OP for this, the BOSS is still the total jerk who used profanity and called names. The OP didn’t hold a gun to the boss’ head telling him “Now say this on the voicemail. Now this. Now this, or I’ll shoot!”

      There’s no excuse for the way the message was left and I highly doubt the parents think it’s the fault of the executive assistant. Even if the coworker simply hadn’t shown up for a few days, the message was still abusive. Full stop.

      Maybe the OP should send a card or flowers to coworker’s parents with a heartfelt note. Not apologizing for anything, but “So and So was a coworker of mine and I was so distraught to hear what happened. Thinking of you.” With her name. Even if this rotten boss threw her under the bus, normally bad bosses aren’t like “Evangelina didn’t tell me! Blargle!”. He likely said it was his executive assistant not passing the info on in his stupid non-apology. Parents won’t know that she is the EA and it might be nice for them to get SOMETHING from this workplace that isn’t absolutely disgusting, you know?

      No obligation, just a thought. I’m not sure who I feel worse for in this story, OP or the parents who had to have their dead child abused.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I was thinking the same thing – that if she felt so inclined, reaching out with condolences might be nice. But it also might seem disingenuous after what happened

  19. Myrin*

    Alison, what would be good wording for OP at a job interview when asked why she wants to leave her current position?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If she’d been there a couple of years, she could just stick to the reasons she’s interested in the new job / wouldn’t need a real “reason” beyond that. But since it’s only been a year, she might need to go with something like “in an EA role, fit between boss and EA is really important, and I’ve found I work better with managers who are more ___.”

      1. NW Mossy*

        I’m so tempted to fill in that blank with something like “in touch with reality” or “aware that berating the deceased is unproductive.”

        1. KG, Ph.D.*

          Even stronger: “aware that name-calling of your subordinates is unproductive and abusive, and doubly so when the intended recipient is deceased.”

      2. Liz T*

        Doesn’t that come off either as a euphemism for some kind of drama*, or like the OP is super picky and might leave after a year if she doesn’t like her boss?

        *an unnamed drama, so one that could be OP’s fault for all they know

        1. Another Lawyer*

          I think there’s a lot that could be filled in there without raising eyebrows, basically any trait OP would like in a boss. E.g. collaborative, communicative, etc.

          1. Eleanora*

            That would still raise a few concerns for me – it would be difficult to do this without sounding negative about your previous boss (as warranted as that is in this instance), and like there may be some drama there.

            I struggle to think of words that would fill the blank and not raise eyebrows, if they’re about the boss/EA fit specifically.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        “managers who are actually humans and not a million drunken wasps in a human suit.”

        1. Emergency Kittens, stat!*


          (sorry, couldn’t resist the Captain Awkward reference)

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            When trying to answer the question of “Why are you looking to leave your current job?” I try to get onto the topic of why I should be working for them as soon as possible, so that the interviewer doesn’t start picking holes in why things at my current job are not totally ideal.

      4. Meg Murry*

        If she is applying back for a general admin position instead of an EA, it would also be valid to say that she gave the EA role a shot but that right now she’d rather go back to a more general admin role working for/with multiple individuals or departments instead of exclusively for one individual.

      5. Barney Barnaby*

        I once heard someone describe an EA role as “kind of like a marriage,” in that the EA works very, very closely with the executive. That will give her some leeway when she interviews, especially if she talks about how the role transitioned from working with one boss to another boss. “Things were beautiful when I worked for Stacy, but it’s just not the right fit with Kevin.” Her interviewers won’t hold that against her.

      6. Candi*

        “More flexible” might work; some people don’t work well with really rigid people or in such environments.

        “With more moral fortitude then slug slime and more compassion then a slaver ant” is a bad idea, however.

  20. Kimberly R*

    I hope you can find something new ASAP! Hopefully you can minimize your interactions with your boss as much as possible (I know you’re his EA but emailing instead of popping your head into his office, using interoffice IMs if you have that option, etc.) I would document what happened while you have it fresh in your mind in case you do have to quit-maybe you can use it to try to file for unemployment? I don’t know if this would be enough to get it but it can’t hurt to try. Good luck!

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      You’d hope being blamed for this ridiculous scenario would qualify as “any reasonable person would quit in these conditions” but I am sure it needs to be more than that

      1. SignalLost*

        Mmm, I would think that if the retaliatory crap continues, particularly in a state where UI is a bit more permissive, it might come to constructive resignation or whatever the term is for leaving because the job is not tolerable by any reasonable person. Not saying OP should go that route, but I’d be leery that these people would try to force me to quit and knowing there’s a UI out can do a world of good for your mental health in that situation. And for that scenario, OP would want to document thoroughly.

  21. Tex*

    If it’s a really hostile work environment, depending in which state you live in and your job prospects, you could resign and ask for unemployment. But I really echo what has been said above, talk to an unemployment lawyer because if you have enough ammunition, maybe you can negotiate 3-6 months of salary plus your half of the bonus as a severance.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is not what “hostile work environment” means int he legal sense, though.

      1. yo yo yo*

        For unemployment eligibility, I believe that the standard (in some states) is that the working conditions would cause any reasonable person to quit. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

        1. Kyrielle*

          In some states – but that’s “constructive discharge”. A “hostile work environment” goes a bit beyond just getting EO, but is also based on being hostile due to a protected class.

          This one can probably meet the bar for constructive discharge, if OP is even in a state that needs that. It’s not a hostile work environment in the legal sense, as far as I can see. (In the colloquial sense, it surely is. Office Of Angry Bees.)

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          “Hostile work environment” almost always has to have a nexus with a protected-class identity (i.e., the hostility is on the basis of your age, real or perceived identity, sex/gender, race/national origin/ethnicity, etc.).

          But agreed with Kyrielle that, depending on the state, this could be constructive discharge. Or at the very least, and again depending on the state, it could serve as a basis for contesting a UI denial.

  22. Kate the Purple*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re being mistreated like this at work. I completely agree with Alison’s advice, but in addition to that I would suggest that you also make sure to schedule in some more “self-care” time than usual to help you cope with your current work situation until you can find a new job. Whether that involves venting to a friend, going out and being social, or just sitting at home meditating or reading, I think it’s really important for you to make a concerted effort to take care of yourself as you continue to deal with this horrible workplace.

    1. On Fire*

      Even though OP may not have been close to the deceased colleague, there will likely be an element of grief besides the shock/anger/stress of the job situation. OP, do what you need to do, to keep your head in a good place.

      Hugs to you. This is a horrible situation, and in no way is it your fault.

      I once was trying to notify a boss about someone’s death in a partner company. Didn’t want to leave a message that “Fergus at Teapots, Inc., died,” so I left a message that I needed to speak to boss ASAP about “an employee death at Teapots.” Instead of calling me back, boss called Teapots and asked to speak to Fergus. Upon being told Fergus was not available, boss persisted, “When will he be in?” and finally, “Well, I was told that someone had passed away, so I was trying to get in touch with Fergus.” So the Teapots receptionist, dealing with her own grief and shock (close-knit company) had to reply, “It was Fergus who passed away.”

      Obviously, in hindsight, I should have left full details in the voice mail, but if he had bothered to return my call, it would have saved that receptionist the additional pain.

  23. Aunt Margie at Work*

    You have stepped through the looking glass. Everything in your work world is wrong. Honestly, pretend you are an anthropologist studying an alien species. Keep yourself professionally distant; interact within those parameters. Review your research notes and honestly, laugh about it.
    a) The Pumpkin people do not take responsibility for their own actions. CYA as much as possible.
    b) Pumpkin people are insecure and attack when they feel disrespected. Remember that the definition of disrespect is ultimately their interpretation and can (and will) be changed at random.
    c) Pumpkin people have no empathy. Not even for other pumpkins. They close ranks so that the loudest pumpkin doesn’t turn on them.
    d) Pumpkin people are not everywhere. Jerks are everywhere, but pumpkin people, like pumpkins, need a special environment. Be aware of pumpkin centric offices, but don’t blame yourself if you end up in one. It’s not your fault. Pumpkins look like flowers for a week or two before turning into pumpkins.
    e) This too shall pass.
    f) I had way too much fun putting this together.

      1. Aunt Margie at Work*

        Please send a resume, cover letter, three references and your favorite recipe for a savory pumpkin appetizer!

          1. Aunt Margie at Work*

            I am a fan already. Sounds delicious. Pasta, pumpkins and sage? You will definitely be called in for an interview. Which will be rescheduled. Leave the pasta at the front desk, though. Thanks!

    1. LJL*

      Awesome list. When I was in a crazy environment, upon the advice of my BFF I pretended to be Margaret Mead doing anthropological research about an interesting yet alien culture. It helped a lot, more than you’d expect.

  24. Rachael*

    OP, one question that is not being asked is “who was supposed to tell me about it so that I can inform my boss?”

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, it’s probably too late to ask that, but I’d be tempted to drop HR a line and ask how that was supposed to work “so I’ll know better next time.” Or I’d call HR every morning and ask if anybody died so you can pass that information on.

      (Not really.)

    2. Veruca*

      I agree. What if you pursued the “Please let me know how you’d like it handled differently next time” option? In writing?

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I’d be tempted to call every person on the team the next time the OP takes vacation. “Hi, just checking that you were OK and nothing happened to you.” Then sending the boss and HR a list of all the names with a checkmark indicating they they are all well. And then clocking in those hours as work.

        1. AMG*

          You’re being sarcastic but I worked somewhere that boss required his admin to walk the floor and verify everyone was there. We would all joke about how we had to hurry up and get whatever from the break room before she started ‘bed check’. Blah.

        2. Gen*

          I’d also move all his phones to a locked box whenever he was out of my line of sight. “Remember sir it’s my job to stop you making a fool of yourself, you can have your phone back after your nap and juice box”.

          I say this jokingly by I know someone who (in the 80s) would disconnect her boss’ phone cable after a liquid lunch because he couldn’t be trusted to make calls on his own.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If this is the case, then OP would be wise to duct tape his mouth to protect him from his own stupid words.

    3. AMG*

      Obviously, you should be checking your crystal ball every morning. Or if you are my pumpkin boss, ‘It’s not my responsibility to tell you how to do your job. If I had to do everything for you, I wouldn’t need you.’

  25. yo yo yo*

    Are you sure that HR got the full story? I’m just curious as to what was said and if you were able to clear up what ACTUALLY happened. It sounds like the boss knew HR (or his boss) would have his a**, so he re-framed the scenario and went to HR first to make up a story that put him in a good light.

    1. H.C.*

      and if OP is female, the possibility of sexual discrimination, considering that she got penalized (write-up & halved bonus) and he didn’t – especially considering he’s the more (only) culpable party for upsetting the parents.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        At least with what we’ve been told so far, this wouldn’t qualify as sex discrimination. Generally speaking, the “comparable class” of workers you compare this to is other similarly situated coworkers. Your boss is not a “similarly situated” coworker in most cases.

    2. Spoonie*

      Especially since OP didn’t even know about the coworker’s death until she was in the disciplinary meeting (which is a truly awful way to find out). Unless she was calling in and using resources that it didn’t sound to me were standard practice for the company while on PTO (!!!), how was she to know? The onus of the situation is not on the OP. This whole situation is quite infuriating.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I’m guessing the boss is such a bully that HR will do whatever he says because they want to escape his wrath.

    4. kb*

      I’m hoping HR is misinformed because it would blow my mind to think there are multiple people who heard this story and thought the blame somehow falls on OP’s shoulders. This whole situation is bananas!
      Also, this is one of many reasons never to leave aggressively angry voicemails, work-related or otherwise.

    5. Chaordic One*

      It’s disturbingly typical for someone in a supervisory position to blame the underling and throw them under the bus when she or he screws up. It’s not fair, but it happens. It sucks.

  26. BadPlanning*

    Coping ideas for the office as budget and environment allows:

    -Nice lunches or snacks for yourself
    -Walks at breaktime
    -Work on hobby at lunch or breaktime
    -Make a mental “Bingo card” of stupid/bad things about the office. Check them off with glee.

    1. INFJ*

      Or read a book! I love reading, but never used to read on my breaks at work. When I went through a bad/toxic stretch at my last job, I started doing that, and it was SO NICE to be able to get lost in a book and not think about the craziness around me. It did wonders for my sanity.

  27. Rusty Shackelford*

    I guess the silver lining is, since your boss and your HR are both so awful that neither will probably give you a good reference, you don’t have to worry about giving them two weeks notice when you do find another job.

  28. Meg Murry*

    Ugh, OP, I’m so sorry.

    Before you were promoted, was this jerk also your boss? Or did you report to someone else (a head admin, department head, one of the people that retired, etc)? While you are looking for a new position, you may want to try to find someone to serve as a reference that you used to work with before you became an EA – preferably someone with supervisory power over your work then, if possible. It probably won’t be quite as critical right now in this job search (although it could help) -but it will be most important if you wind up moving on again in the future, because you aren’t going to get a good reference from jerkboss, so you’ll need someone else from this company.

    Although, I seriously don’t understand how you were supposed to have prevented this if you didn’t know yourself. It would be one thing if you had heard it from the newspaper or through a friend and didn’t try to contact the boss -but you can’t prevent him from making a fool of himself because of information you didn’t know. And I’m pretty sure “be omniscient” isn’t in any EAs job description, no matter what the boss might think.

  29. stk*

    Oh, OP. That’s awful. I am so sorry.

    I’d definitely be looking for another position. However I’d be worried about references, in your position: do you have plenty of other solid people to put potential employers in contact with? I’d also suggest this is a time for calling in what Captain Awkward calls Team You, if you can. Friends and family can often help just by giving you a place to vent, if nothing else. Distraction and fun things as incentive to get through the days is good too. Even better is if any of them have a job they can point you to.

    Also, the other good thing you get from being Scrupulously Professional in response to something like this is that you then get to use that as an example in interviews. “Tell us about a difficult situation you dealt with” is a pretty frequent sort of question, and “[x] was difficult but I maintained my professionalism until I was able to exit the situation” is one of the better potential answers to that.

  30. Delta Delta*

    The reference to a pumpkin immediately made me think of that line from “Roses Are Free” by Ween that goes “… throw the pumpkin at the tree, unless you think that pumpkin holds your destiny…” I am not suggesting you throw your boss at a tree (as much as you may want to). But, I think you can make it a metaphor for getting the heck out of there unless you think your continued employment there and/or boss are the keys to your destiny/overall happiness. I suspect not.

    Also, if you’re not familiar with the song, it’s worth a listen. It’s catchy.

  31. Parenthetically*

    Great Googly Moogly, I have no words. This is just the most incredible breach of decent human behavior, to say nothing of workplace norms.

  32. Jessie the First (or second)*

    If I were in this situation I’d likely end up being fired because I don’t think I could let this go. I’d be back up in HR to ask them things like “As you know, when I am on vacation, I must call in daily to get updates on employee deaths and other tragedies so that I can learn of them before my boss does; but I am wondering – should I call you directly, or would you prefer I call around the local police stations and hospitals for death reports?” and “I am going to the bathroom for a few minutes. I’d hate for my boss to learn something that upsets him and causes him to lash out unreasonably while I am in there – who should I contact while I’m in the bathroom to get critical updates?”

    1. BethRA*

      “and how should I report this on my timecards, so the company doesn’t run afoul of FLSA?”

      OP, I am so sorry you have to deal with these people, and I hope you find a new position quickly.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I respect your thinking, and we should be friends.

      Also: “I’m going to need to expense this police scanner, should I put it under ‘office supplies’ or ‘technology’?”

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        Gotta be technology. Office supply would mean that anyone in the office could use it and clearly she’s going to have to carry the scanner with her at all times!

    3. Tee*

      I am right with you there. I would have just walked out as soon as they said it was my fault and wouldn’t listen to my side.

      I don’t feel the need to be professional with people who are the opposite.

      Obviously, money is an issue, but sometimes tightening your belt is better than staying in a situation like this.

      1. Old Admin*

        “I would have just walked out as soon as they said it was my fault and wouldn’t listen to my side.”

        I once was ordered by a project manager to perform a security audit on a website built by my company *already running at a customer’s location*. Wisely, I took along a witness for request and audit.
        The website turned out to be full of security holes. The customer noticed our activity, and reported my IP address for hacking to my company!

        Said project manager immediately turned on me and lashed out, strategically forgetting his initial order.
        I got up and walked out of the disciplinary meeting to the CEO, and handed him my and my witness’s printed and signed statements. And my resignation.
        The shocked CEO asked me not to leave yet, and did some followup and investigation.

        A week later, I received a public apology at the general company meeting from the CEO. The project manager disappeared soon after.
        Happiness ensued.

        OP, I know you can’t have this success story. But maybe you can keep your soul intact – if you can afford it, I must sadly add.

  33. Lynne879*

    I don’t really have any advice other than to leave a scathing review of this company on Glassdoor once you do eventually leave, saying verbatim what you said in your AAM letter.

    The company is toxic and your boss is a despicable human being. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, OP :(

  34. LKW*

    I agree that this is all sorts of unreasonable. I wouldn’t be inclined to bring this to HR if HR signed off on halving the bonus for this incident. What I’m getting out of this is that yelling and calling people names is considered acceptable behavior at this work place but only unless the person is dead. If the person is dead, then it’s wrong.

    Until you leave…
    1. Remember that you hold the moral position here. Anyone trying to defend the behavior of this company would be lying or amoral.
    2. Remember you are leaving. You are getting out of this hell.
    3. Stay quiet. Do the basics of your job. Do not go above and beyond. Do not try to prove your worth. Do not try to win over your asshole boss.

    Also second talking with an employment lawyer – you likely have an ally with the parents. If they found out that this asses bad behavior towards their child resulted in YOU being punished, I bet they would be livid since you had NO control over the situation.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      EXCELLENT thought! OP, if you do get a lawyer, try to slip them the parents’ contact info…

    2. BTW*

      I personally would not bother a grieving family with my employment woes. And as the grieving family if a lawyer were to contact me it would just push me further over the edge with my outrage at said company. It’d be one of those, “Leave us alone already” kind of things.

      1. Sadsack*

        Exactly. There’s no need to involve the family. The fact is OP was out of the office, same as her boss. Besides, the boss should not have cursed and acted the way he did on anyone’s voicemail, regardless of OP’s actions. OP is basically being punished for her boss’s actions. If he hadn’t acted like a jerk in the first place, OP would probably not be punished at all.

      2. Temperance*

        I lost a relative to a drunk driver. It’s a very painful way to lose someone, because it’s incredibly senseless (and the culprit often walks away unharmed, with minimal punishment). These people have suffered enough. Be like Frozen and let it go.

    3. The Strand*

      Certainly the parents don’t have to be involved, but I would indeed let the lawyer know that you were punished for the bosses’ disgusting treatment of their daughter.

  35. Will's mom*

    I agree with everything that others have posted 100% Do go and contact an attorney.

    As a parent of an adult child who died unexpectedly, I am most angry and upset about the horrible, profane laced voice mails. When you lose a child, no matter what their age, you have a huge bleeding, gaping hole in you heart. The worst thing anyone told me was that everything happens for a reason. Words cannot express how painful it was to hear that. Based on that pain, I cannot begin to wrap my head around how agonizing it was for those parents to hear those heinous voice mails. My thoughts and prayers to out to the parents of the deceased as well as the OP.

    Hang in there OP. Things can only get better.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      The thing is, it would have been ridiculously, absurdly, outrageously inappropriate even if the missing employee had decided to stay home and play video games. The boss should not leave obscenity-laden voice mails for any reason what so ever.

      That he did so on the voice mail of a grieving family makes it exponentially worse, of course, but even without that…jeez, what an abusive, immature jerk.

      And then he takes it out on the EA. That moves him beyond jerkdom and right into Horrible Excuse for a Human Being Land.

  36. Matt*

    This is ridiculous. Imo, pulling this garbage and docking you half your bonus over this is more than sufficient grounds for leaving without giving notice.

  37. ArtK*

    Now *this* is truly throwing someone under the bus. Boss, and likely GrandBoss and HR screwed up big time and OP is a convenient scapegoat (not to mix metaphors or anything.)

    OP, you’ve gotten great advice. Take care of yourself.

  38. Noah*

    Separate from LW’s question, I can see boss swearing in a vm after leaving messages for several days trying to reach Employee. For example, on the fifth straight day of leaving a message: “Dude, I’ve left you a message every day this week, and you haven’t called me back. What the F.” I’m not saying you SHOULD do that, but I’m saying I can understand it. OP, however, gives the impression he did this from the beginning, and that it is much worse than I describe it.

    But, if it went down in the more reasonable way, it is somewhat strange that nobody called the employer back (or just did so on their own) to let them know about the death. I get that the family is going through the grieving process, but somebody should have taken on that responsibility. In fact, even if somebody HAD already called the employer, when you start getting messages, the right thing to do is call back. (And please don’t call me an insensitive jerk for saying this. I’m not saying Parents are bad people or should be shamed for this; just that they and their family could have handled this better, too. I’ve been through this experience and we made the calls. It wasn’t terribly pleasant, but we also understood it was the right thing to do. And, again, none of this justifies it if boss just went off on the vm.)

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Really? If someone didn’t call in for 5 days I would assume something god awful had befallen them. Of couse we’d also get security involved but that’s a whole other thing.

      The family may very well have called though – the boss was out of the country and maybe didn’t get the message? Maybe they didn’t know who to call?

      1. Justme*

        After three consecutive days of absence and no contact, I will assume that someone is dead or hospitalized. If I were to call them or their family, I wouldn’t use profanity in the calls or voicemail.

    2. Jubilance*

      The family might not have had any way of contacting the employer. I work for a huge company, at HQ with 10,000 other people. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, my family would have no way of contacting my boss cause I don’t keep my boss’s number in my phone – if I need to take a day off I log into my work laptop and send an email. Plus with the grief of a sudden death & needing to make arrangements, the employee’s work is probably the last thing on the family’s mind.

      1. NP*

        But surely there’s a general phone number for the company, right? Have someone (a friend, designated relative, even the police) call and tell whoever answers that you don’t know who she reports to, but Jane Smith has passed away and her employer should know. Any receptionist/switchboard operator should be able to get that message to HR to figure out how to contact Jane’s boss.

        But it is also very strange to me that the boss didn’t initiate a welfare check after the employee didn’t show up for several days. I’m pretty sure I’d get a call or text on my personal cell phone before the end of the first day and a welfare check from the police the next day if there was no response. Somewhere in there they would probably call my emergency contact as well.

        1. Leatherwings*

          It’s possible they did call the company and word hadn’t gotten to boss yet (who had just returned from abroad, it sounds like). We have no way of knowing they didn’t try, and speculating as to whether a grieving family should’ve done more to alert their relative’s boss that she wouldn’t be at work any longer strikes me as grossly unfair.

          1. NP*

            Yes, obviously the family was in mourning. I would not expect a parent or sibling to call the employer the day this happened. But it sounds like it had been several days between the accident and the nasty voicemail if it was after the funeral and she had been absent for multiple days. Even funerals that are supposed to be held within 24 hours for religious purposes often aren’t for practical reasons. On the list of “who do we need to tell that Jane died before they read it in the papers/would be worried not to hear from her/should know so they can attend the funeral,” nobody thought to add her employer? Again, I’m not saying her parents should be calling people on this list. A family friend or more distant relative, someone in their faith community, or even the funeral home should be making those calls.

            It’s possible someone did make this call, but then it’s clearly the company’s fault for the breakdown in communication and not OP’s. If OP’s boss was able to call her while she’s still on vacation to tell her to come in for a meeting, surely someone could get this urgent/important information to the boss (via voicemail, email, text, post-it note, carrier pigeon, etc.) before he leaves a nastygram voicemail. Failing that, the biggest problem is still that the boss leapt straight to “this person is dodging work” without considering “maybe something bad happened.”

            1. Leatherwings*

              You’re still engaging in a lot of speculation about what did or didn’t happen without any evidence to back that up. It’s so unnecessary it kind of makes me sick. This family just lost someone and we’re hearing about it third hand. There’s absolutely no need for you or anyone else to get into what the family should have done (particulary because, again, we don’t know what they did or didn’t do).

              Failing that, the biggest problem is still that the boss leapt straight to “this person is dodging work” without considering “maybe something bad happened.”

              No, the biggest problem is that boss leapt to this conclusion, not failing anything.

        2. Observer*

          You just answered your own question- obviously this is not about what the family did or didn’t do.

          1. NP*

            I was responding to Jubilance saying that maybe they wouldn’t have a way to contact the employer. A 10,000 person company that she describes would have a way to be contacted by members of the public and sufficient internal reporting structure to get such an urgent message to the right person.

            1. Zombii*

              The call center I worked at didn’t. Calls to the phone number listed for them go to a different call center that handles calls for all locations (most calls are to check application status, whether they’re hiring, etc). The call center that takes calls for the call center has no way to contact anyone, or pass on messages or anything. It’s a terrible system, but terrible systems like this do exist.

        3. Erin*

          Shouldn’t the boss get written up for making the company look bad? When you’re calling on behalf of the company looking for an employee you are a representative of the company, no matter who you speak with and he made the company look like a god awful place to work and to do business with.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Welfare check? Not this boss, he does not have it in him. It would never occur to him that something could be wrong.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I agree it’s weird that NOTHING got to the company after 5 days. I can see in the first two or three days, you might be so overwhelmed that your family member’s job just didn’t register.

          But after that, I’d think you’d be at least calling the switchboard and asking to speak with human resources, or just leaving a message w/ anyone you could think of.

          Though, maybe Dad thought Mom had done it, etc.
          Or it hadn’t trickled down to the boss yet (it was the holidays–maybe lots of people were out. Colleagues who might have enquired might have assumed the employee was on vacation.)

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      I disagree that it’s reasonable for the boss to be swearing on a voicemail in a threatening/angry way (If the boss and employee regularly swear in conversation with each other casually, then that’s different). As Alison has talked about before, managers have power, which means they don’t have to turn to yelling or cursing to solve problems. Instead of swearing, the boss can say “If I don’t hear from you in x time period, I am going to assume that you are resigning, and you will no longer be an employee of Teapots United”, or “If I don’t hear from you, I will speak to HR about formal disciplinary proceedings”, or whatever is appropriate.

      Also, here’s a tip: The best way to avoid being called an insensitive jerk is, in fact, to not be one. I’m sure the next time one of their relatives dies unexpectedly, those parents will be much better prepared to “handle it better”, as you put it.

    4. Former Retail Manager*

      I was wondering if perhaps the employee had listed 2 phone numbers, a cell and a landline that is not utilized frequently, and only the cell number made it to the boss which would leave boss calling the cell repeatedly and maybe only getting the landline number after speaking with HR or something like that. I personally still have a landline but the only number that everyone has for daily use is my cell. The landline is only listed in “official records” and not my boss’ employee contact list. Regardless, still not excusable and the whole situation is beyond dysfunctional. And to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the family called and left a message that never made its way to the appropriate person. I’ve known a couple of people that had this happen with loved ones over the years. Word was left and never passed on.

    5. Leatherwings*

      I don’t think we have any standing to say that the parents should’ve handled this better. We have no idea who they tried to contact or anything. It’s possible boss had a VM sitting there he hadn’t checked yet. We do not have all the facts to make that assessment and it’s really unfair to the OP and to the family to speculate that anyone other than boss was in the wrong here.

      And I really have a hard time believing any decent person would swear in a VM to an employee who hasn’t called in 5 days. I’ve had employees no call no show before and I was frustrated once I found out that’s what happened and they were fine, but my primary concern was making sure nothing had happened.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely this. I’ve appreciated all your thoughtful comments on this subthread, Leatherwings.

    6. Temperance*

      I had a serious health issue last year. I called my boss from the ER, emailed my other boss (because it was like 10 p.m. at this point), and then was incommunicado for 5 days because I was in the ICU on a breathing tube. My husband kept my boss informed, but HR tried to reach me over that time and couldn’t. They didn’t leave a single nastygram.

      My husband didn’t think to call them back because, well, he was dealing as best he could with a wife in critical condition in the ICU with a very sudden illness. They were nothing but kind when I was well enough to talk to them, and they thankfully kept calling to try and get in touch.

    7. Observer*

      Seriously? Firstly, the OP was clear that this was not a matter of one “WTF” after several days of not hearing. She specifically mentions that the call was “profanity laced” and that he called the employee “several names”. That’s utterly and completely out of line.

      Oh, and if someone doesn’t show up to work for several days, you don’t leave a profanity laced message. You leave a decent message – and then do a welfare check.

      As for not calling back – when did they have a chance to “call back”? Even in your hypothetical universe, the boss’ reaction is way out of line. AND there is nothing to indicate that the family didn’t contact work or wouldn’t have called back on a VM, had it been left in a halfway reasonable fashion.

      Lastly, just because you would be fine calling back a boss who hadn’t bothered to find out that an employee had been killed, that doesn’t make their response “strange”. In fact, it’s not “strange” at all. I don’t even think that it was “the right thing to do” to call back. Not that I think it’s WRONG. But, it is NOT a reasonable expectation to expect people who are dealing with this to call back a boss / employer that is that lackadaisical. Sorry, there is simply no excuse for the boss calling the family at all, to be honest.

      1. Zombii*

        I assumed the boss called a number the employee had listed as a contact number for herself that happened to be a landline to the house. If he intentionally called her parents/emergency contact to berate her to a third party, that makes the situation so much worse—and now that I’m thinking, that doesn’t seem unlikely.


    8. Undine*

      Oh, there is so much to do when someone dies unexpectedly. Yes, you do try to contact everyone, but at the same time, things slip through the cracks. It also depends on the how old/functional the parents are — for example, if the employee was living there because the parents are frail and elderly, then they may not be able to be on top of this. You don’t always have the correct contact info. Maybe they did call and leave a message and it didn’t register with the boss or didn’t get directed correctly. It may be more important to keep calling the coroner’s office to get the body released (And I quote — “No we haven’t gotten to it, it was a busy weekend.”) I mean, anyone can drop the ball when there are so many in the air.

      1. Gadfly*

        And calling work is one of those jobs that everyone can assume someone else did while taking care of things. So it falls through the cracks that much more easily. “Jane was making calls, I think she handled that. Jeff was calling on insurance info and such, I think he spoke to someone.” Etc.

    9. Michelle*

      I feel like you are seriously making assumptions about what the family did or didn’t do. We don’t have any information on that, and for all we know they had left a message with the boss, or the OP, and it wasn’t received because the boss and OP were on vacation.

      But what we DO know is that the boss “left an angry, profanity laden voicemail where he called her several names.” I can’t imagine any scenario where that is justifiable, at all. It’s not ok to curse and hurl names at somebody just because they didn’t show up to work and you can’t reach them, even if they have no good reason for doing so. It wouldn’t be ok even if the missing employee’s outgoing voicemail message said, “Hey, my boss is out of town, so I’ve decided to play hooky and spend the week at the beach. I’ve left my phone at home so that no one from work can call me, ha ha! If you need me, leave a message and I’ll get back to you when I feel like it.” You might *want* to swear at such a person, but the reasonable and professional thing would still be to fire them without calling names.

      More than that, I completely don’t understand responding to an employee’s completely unexplained disappearance with anger rather than concern. Wouldn’t most normal people WORRY that something bad had happened? If I were the hypothetical employee you couldn’t reach because I was sick or injured and for whatever reason couldn’t contact work, and you left me a message asking WTF, I would be very upset that my boss thinks so little of me as to assume the worst, and cares so little as to not even consider that something awful may have happened to me.

  39. Jubilance*

    Wow OP, this is utterly craptastic, I’m so sorry for you.

    Given that your boss called the employee & left that message that the family heard, I wonder if the company is facing legal or some type of other pushback from the family, and they are using you as a scapegoat. Like a “look, we held someone responsible!” type thing even though you clearly aren’t the person responsible, your horrible boss is. Also, is there any way that HR & your boss have a relationship out of work and thus they may be covering for him?

    No matter what I hope you can get as much self-care as possible until you get out of this awful job. Keep in mind that sometimes the best self-care is getting out of a bad situation without another job lined up, if you can afford it. Your mental health is important.

  40. Katie the Fed*

    That’s just awful.

    If you have a policy of treating people with respect, you don’t generally find yourself in this kind of situation that the boss did. Why on earth would he behave in such a way?

    OP – can you ask HR for a transfer to a different supervisor? You can say that you feel you had no reasonable way to prevent what happened and since you’re being blamed for it, you don’t know how to keep working for him? You can point to a strong performance record and ask if there might be another option.

    I can’t believe your company doesn’t have a procedure in place for when someone no-shows.

    This is all just beyond the pale. I’m so sorry, OP.

  41. wealhtheow*

    Oh my goodness, OP, what a horrible experience! I don’t understand in what kind of weird mirror universe this débacle could possibly be considered YOUR fault.

    I’m at the tail end of leaving a job that I loved for a long time but it got toxic when I started reporting to my current boss, and a thing that has helped me (at least a little bit) is to keep telling myself that I have given this company X years of my life, I have done the best I could for them, and I don’t owe them more than that. And that I’m not their mother.

    There may be other people you work with who aren’t gigantic mega-jerks, but your boss, your grandboss, and whoever in HR went along with that disciplinary meeting are Next-Level Dickbags. How much of your job can you do without talking to any of them?

  42. Kaitlyn*

    Alison, how would the LW go about letting her replacement know that the boss and the company are both dumpster fires?

      1. Kindling*

        She could leave a scathing Glassdoor review after leaving, though, to generally warn people.

        Usually I’d be wary about doing it because employers can figure out you wrote it and it could harm your reference, but I doubt her reference is going to be all that good given the situation.

        1. Kindling*

          (Oops – to be clear I mean they could figure out you wrote it if you include identifying details, like the details of this whole mess.)

  43. Alice's_tree*

    OP, I’d be fighting this tooth and nail. If you’re planning to leave anyway, the worst that happens is you end up on unemployment for a while. Best case scenario, the company pulls their respective heads from their backsides and realizes your boss was completely in the wrong and scapegoating you.

    You cannot be expected to inform your boss of something you have no way of knowing. Unless you are salaried AND there was a clear expectation that you were to stay up-to-date on email on your personal device during your vacation, they were asking you to put in time on your designated time off. If you follow the thought process to its logical conclusion, the company is undoubtedly saying they expect you to violate company policies (and/or labor laws) by putting in work on your vacation in order to have possibly known this and communicated it to your boss. They cannot penalize you for something they cannot rightly ask you to do.

    Is it also possible that your boss left HR and the higher-ups with the impression that you knew or were supposed to know? They may be going along with this under a misapprehension, and you’d be doing them a favor to set them straight.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Given that OP has mentioned that there’s nobody there willing to challenge boss, I don’t think it’s fair to advise her to fight this tooth and nail. Getting fired and relying on unemployment is hardly ideal. It sounds like she’s made the assessment that that won’t result in anything positive, even though it should. These arguments only go so far as the person willing to listen to them in a fair way. Sounds like that person doesn’t exist at OPs workplace.

      1. The Strand*

        I still think it’s a good idea to confirm whether HR really knows what happened. It would not surprise me at all to find out the following:

        1) Boss claimed that OP returned from holidays earlier than he did (and thus knew of the death) or
        2) Boss claimed that OP and the deceased were friends (and thus, she knew of the death) and that
        3) Boss claimed that OP deliberately lied to him (through omission or otherwise) about the death.

        If they are punishing her because boss lied to them, there are plenty of good HR people who would be horrified to find out they were lied to.

      2. Alice's_tree*

        Leatherwings, relying on unemployment is hardly ideal – true. But neither is staying in that environment while trying to find something, and whether OP gets fired or leaves, it doesn’t sound like they’re likely to give a glowing reference under the circumstances. To me, I’d take a shot at fixing the situation.

        Also, OP doesn’t mention a reason for thinking no one is willing to listen, other than that the write-up occurred. Are they really unwilling to listen, or are they sold on whatever story the manager concocted? The only way to know is to push back.

    1. Zombii*

      Why? These sorts of people don’t get embarrassed. They don’t apologize for their mistakes. They have no sense of personal responsibility, no empathy. He probably just hung up on the parents, and started screaming about his incompetent admin.

      1. Serafina*

        Ugh. Just so. I’d bet good money that Boss’s immediate reaction was outrage – “What?! You mean OP failed to inform me that deceased colleague was dead?! How DARE she?! Look what she made me do! Dammit, that idiot OP! This is all her fault! I want her reprimanded!”

  44. whichsister*

    My boss is a jerk (although not to this level). I get “held accountable” for crazy stuff that the only way I could do or know is if I was psychic, which was not a job requirement. So my follow up question for this post (is this another worst boss of the year candidate?) is when you are an interview and they ask why you are looking for a new job. What is the polite way to say my boss is a controling ego maniac and the whole office sucks all the fun out of being dysfunctional?

    1. Atrocious Pink*

      If you can calmly deliver a facts-only version of an incident as egregious as OP’s (or even in the same ballpark), nothing else should be necessary. No need to say anything that could be construed as subjective or a value judgment. The plain facts are as damning as it gets, and they’re way too weird to be made up.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        This. I’ve (almost) always told the truth about why I was leaving the horrible places I’ve worked, but made sure not to editorialize while doing it. It’s a little trickier now that I’m doing internal moves within the same company, but if you’re leaving for good, you can be honest just as long as you don’t sink into negativity.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I don’t want to hear a facts-only version of this, as the hiring manager.

        I just want to hear that you think it’s time to move on, you’d like something different, you want to expand somehow.

        I don’t want our conversation to get derailed into talking about this horrible situation in your past.

        You don’t either.

        You want to talk about your future and your skills. When you walk out the door and my team say, “hey, how was that candidate?” you want me to say, “She was bright and organized, she’s done XYZ software and LMNO procedures. I think she might be a little weak in terms of experience, and she’s moving on awfully fast from her current job, but she seemed smart and capable.”

        You don’t want me to say, “Oh, she has the most horrible boss!”

    2. Temperance*

      By saying exactly none of that and giving them some BS about wanting new challenges or a new industry. Whether it’s fair or not, it’ll make you look bad if you are talking badly about someone else.

    3. TootsNYC*

      You are never, ever, leaving your old job. You are always looking for new challenges, opportunities for advancement, greater earning power, more stable company.

      All of those things imply that you aren’t earning enough, can’t get promoted, etc.

      But you never make it person, and you don’t bring up the negative.

  45. The Bimmer Guy*

    I could believe your boss acted this way—there’s always one irrational jerk—but I’d like to know which silly HR administrator agreed with him disciplining you this way. If your company isn’t too dysfunctional and you can get HR on your side (the lady with the airport boss managed to do so, after all), I would push back…while still looking for another job.


  46. Isabelle*

    OP, I hope you find a new job soon. And when you do, please email the CEO and the board a detailed explanation of what happened and the way the boss, grandboss and HR behaved, request a good reference and the missing half of your bonus. If this doesn’t get you results, get a lawyer.

    Your boss sounds like the kind of person who can’t take responsibility for their actions and needs a scapegoat to blame for their bad choices. “allowing him to make a fool of himself” sounds like something every toxic person I’ve ever met would say.
    Your grandboss was probably fed a very different version of the story from what actually happened, but he/she should have had a meeting with you to double-check the facts.
    Your HR department is grossly incompetent and opening the company to legal liability.

    The parents are probably too deep in grief right now, but if I was in their shoes I would be tempted to blast the company on social media and upload a recording of the voice message.

  47. Sadsack*

    Would it be OK for OP to explain this incident as her reason for leaving her current job? I’d accept it as a good reason if I were interviewing her, but I am curious what Alison and others here recommend her saying.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it falls under the “keep drama out of your job interview” rule and she’s better off finding a broader reason to explain why she’s leaving.

    2. TootsNYC*

      If only because it sucks up all the oxygen in the room.
      You don’t have time or energy left to talk about what positives you can contribute. It’s a major distraction at a time when you really don’t want it.

      Save it for the third week at the new job.

  48. Merida May*

    Oh my gosh, OP, this is horrible on so many levels. I cannot imagine how upset you must be, and deservedly so – to say this situation has been mishandled is an understatement. I’ve been an admin, and being at odds with the person you’re supporting can be quite soul crushing even when it’s just a personality conflict. Add in the fact that they made you a scapegoat for their embarrassing (holy cannoli so embarrassing) lack of judgement? And took away part of your bonus to punish you? Yeah, I’d have a really hard time walking into work to manage that person’s schedule, too.

    I don’t know how you normally interact with your boss, but would it be feasible to communicate more through e-mail/instant messenger rather than face to face? When it became apparent my boss and I were clashing (again, not anywhere near what you’re dealing with) I switched to asking the bulk of the logistical questions I needed over our instant message system or via e-mail when he was in another building. Ultimately, it was easier for me to maintain a professional demeanor when I had a moment to think about my words, and when he asked about the switch I just said that I wanted to have his requests in front of me when I was making the adjustments to his calendar/setting up a conference room booking/etc. so I didn’t forget. When he needed printouts in the beginning of the day I made it appoint to tackle that first when I got in and left it waiting for him when he arrived. When you do have to speak with him keep it short and task focused. In my current job I get a good amount of callers who are upset, and I try to ignore what essentially amounts to angry rambling and focus on their questions. If he tries to bait you do your best to push past it. It’s not fair that you have to deal with this, but I understand needing to hunker down and just ride things out until you can get situated in another position.

    With all that said, how are things now? Is it back to business as usual from his side? Or is he still seem to have anger towards you?

    1. Leatherwings*

      Seconding emailing/IMing a lot. I’ve also done this with a crappy boss and it helped because I didn’t have to look him in the face or treat him nicely in my tone. It just reduced the overall effort I had to make to be professional.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        This way, even if his (or your!!) initial reaction to seeing an email/IM from the other is **anger and rage**, the other person will likely never see that part – just the (hopefully) professional and composed response.

  49. Collarbone High*

    You know those snakes that unhinge their jaw to swallow a sheep or something? That’s what I looked like while reading this letter.

    OP, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you finding a much better job.

    1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

      OP, may all your next positions be 1,000 times better. You certainly deserve it.

      Collarbone High,
      Thanks for the great mental image of a mouth open wide like, um, the side of a military ship when it lets out the amphibious vehicles.

    2. Jo*

      Lol… at first I read this as ‘snakes that unhinge their jaw to swallow a jeep or something’

      That would be one very stretchy snake!

  50. Jeanne*

    Advice for coping? Find a therapists as soon as you can. You need someone you can vent to who will also give you more coping advice. I found one when I was in a bad job situation and it really helped. Start with EAP if you need to. That’s how I got my referral. Or just schedule a couple get-to-know-you appts around town then pick one. I would also consult an attorney. It can make you feel better to know you explored all your options. Try nela (dot) org to find one.

  51. Sled dog mama*

    OP, I’m normally a non-confrontational person so I understand the impulse to just cope until you can get out.
    Please stand up to this guy he sounds like a real bully.

  52. Observer*

    Please don’t insult pumpkins. :(

    OP, this is just ridiculous. Did you at least add something to your write up to state your side of the story. Perhaps one day it will be useful – if not to you then to someone else who finally decides to actually look at this guy’s behavior.

  53. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’ve been there OP and I feel your pain. I realized early on that nobody would help me (including HR who sympathized but ultimately wouldn’t go “against” their CEO). So what I did – document everything and hope that you’ll never need it for anything. Try to work in writing (through email) as much as possible, or at least send a “follow up to confirm” email after conversations where appropriate – and where important. Be hyper-professional in all your dealings with the boss. Keep your head down and work. Most importantly, get yourself into a job hunting routine. What worked for me was going through particular websites before work and flagging what I found interesting, and then after work I’d read in more detail and apply if I thought it was a good fit – don’t take just anything because you want to leave, make sure it’s a good fit for you. Repeat as necessary.

    Your boss is being 1000% unreasonable here, but I’m maybe in the minority in being unsurprised that HR isn’t helping you. The thing to do is acknowledge and accept right now that your boss is unreasonable, and then get yourself out of there. If you stop expecting reasonable responses, it makes the crazy less jarring. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this!

    1. Candi*

      Most of the people here either have effective HR (at least at the higher levels) or are effective HR -and would have told the boss where they could take their temper tantrum.

      Professionally, of course.

      With you on the ‘expect crazy, relieves the stress’ thing. And not jumping for the first carrot. It might be full of poison.

  54. Night Cheese*

    Reading this, my own internal screaming was only slightly drowned out by the Twilight Zone music also going through my head.

    1. Lissa*

      Same here! Every so often a letter just really hits my buttons, and this one was it. Being blamed for something you had nothing to do with is clearly one of my hot buttons, because this sort of thing gets to me on a visceral level even more than a lot of other more “obvious” stuff.” It just makes my inner 5 year old jump up and down scream “but…but that’s not fair!” forever.

      1. Canadian Natasha*

        Well we’d hope the evil pumpkin boss isn’t also lurking in people’s showers. Although apparently if he was, he’d jump out yelling profanity about how the homeowner should have known he’d be there and it’s their fault he had to break in through the window to hide in their shower with murderous intentions.

        What a guy!

  55. Catabodua*

    First up – pack up your personal items asap in as unobtrusive way as you can. And more importantly – get any personal items you need off your work computer. That way if they escalate again and walk you out you aren’t worrying about leaving anything you care about.

    Second – if you have the ability to add your own comments to your personnel file do so. Write up your version of events and ask that it be placed in your file and/or with your disciplinary action paperwork.

    As for the rest – I also worked for a hostile and unreasonable boss who would have done something exactly like this and really the only thing to do is get away as fast as possible. Be professional in your dealings with him, put your head down and work, and as hard as it may be, don’t gossip about him. He’ll just use it against you further when it gets back to him (and it will).

    1. Wrench Turner*

      This is good practice all around. It’s a good idea to have the absolute barest minimum personal stuff on/around work spaces/computers/etc. Make it as easy as possible to just up and walk as you can. Not to say don’t do good work, don’t devote emotion to your job, but it’s still ultimately just another job.

  56. Mimmy*

    My jaw DROPPED when I got to the part about the boss angrily calling the colleague’s parents, name-calling and all. Even under more routine circumstances, that wouldn’t be appropriate.

    I agree with everyone to “keep your head down” and just do your job to best of your ability. Given that HR and the grand boss don’t seem to be of any help, I would definitely be looking for a new job.

    My condolences for the loss of your coworker.

  57. The Kurgen*

    This story is truly outrageous. I am in disbelief over such workplace dysfunction.
    OP: I have no solution but I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this mess. I hope you’ll soon be free of it all and on to better things.

  58. Employment Lawyer*

    In some states (check yours!) you can put a protest note in the file, to dispute the discipline, so future employers will see it.

    In some states (check yours) you can also get a copy of your employee file.

    And in some states, this would be an insufficient ground to withhold a bonus if you had already earned it, leading to a wage violation.

    You wouldn’t be out of line to run this up the legal chain a bit. I would make a call to a lawyer.

      1. Zombii*

        Yeah, I don’t get that part. There is no worldwide data base of employee files for future employers to access where you can be vindicated by telling your side. And if someone at EvilBees, Inc. did review those files before giving a detailed reference, I imagine mentioning a write-up and then saying that the employee protested the write-up wouldn’t actually be in the employee’s benefit.

        Employee files could be used in court, I guess, but someone would have to take someone to court for that to be relevant.

        1. Gadfly*

          It might make them less likely to mention the write up at all knowing it was disputed and with as bad as the situation looks given the whole story–That is all I can think of

        2. The Strand*

          She could have the bad luck of her current company being absorbed by a future company she works for, and then suddenly having her future job in jeopardy. It has come up in this column before.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Would that be helpful in a dispute over unemployment benefits? If the employee can insist that the company has these records?

        The biggest advantage I can see to this is that the OP may feel better, stronger. She may feel less like she just passively let them do this to her. She might feel that at least she has made the effort to defend herself.

  59. Anon for this*

    Not sure if other readers here will consider this ethical but I know someone who was in a similar position to you and she took a “poke the beast” approach. She wanted to get fired so that she could get unemployment but she did not want it to be for cause. She worked with her jerk boss for long enough that she knew just what made him tick. She had learned to walk on egg shells around him. She basically took a few days to think of all the coping skills she had used to manage him and just stopped doing all of them so he would erupt and blow up unreasonably all of the time. Her goal was either he would get fired or he would fire her. I can’t remember which ultimately happened but I knew it worked.

    1. moodygirl86*

      I don’t blame your friend! I’ve been in that position too and I considered exactly the same thing – luckily it was a temp contract anyway so I just gritted my teeth and waited 3 months.

      OP, I’m so sorry about your colleague’s passing. It must be hard enough taking that in, without being blamed for not telling the boss when you didn’t know about it. (WTF?) But unreasonable people like him never let annoying little things like facts get in the way of a good scapegoating. Even if you had been aware of her death, that doesn’t excuse leaving that filth on VM. Her poor family, having to listen to that!

      Like Alison says, you’re better than him. I’m glad to see from your letter that you seem aware of that already. Let us know when you get a better job (and you will get one)! Good luck.

  60. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I am so sorry this has happened to you. If I knew the name of the company I would be sure to boycott it.
    When my husband passed his boss was plenty busy wrapping things up for my husband’s period of employment. I bet this guy forgot to do a wrap up. Hmmm. The parents may lawyer up yet.

    Stay if you can, but if you feel your health slipping away from you just leave. This company does not deserve a good person like you. And no job is worth losing your health over.
    Pumpkin boss will get back what he has dished out. Don’t worry about it, even if it takes time. He is dishing out hurts that people do not forget ever. When he needs something doors will slam shut and lock right in his face. I have seen it too many times.

    I hope you understand that you have done nothing wrong here. And I hope you know that you deserve better than this.
    Let us know how you are doing.

    1. Zombii*

      Lawyer up for what?

      Yes, this was handled about as poorly as humanly possible, but that’s not actually illegal (unless I’m missing something).

      1. Observer*

        Well, there are certain obligations – and I’d be willing to bet that this boss doesn’t care about those.

        Things like returning any property that belonged to the deceased and a last paycheck. There may be other items as well.

  61. specialist*

    I think the best person to post on glassdoor would be the parents. Imagine what that would look like. They could even put in the text of those obscene messages.
    Of course, I may be inhabited by evil bees.
    OP, plan your exit. You’ve had so many good suggestions here. I would also suggest sending a nice note of condolence to the coworker’s parents. I know how much those notes meant to me.

    1. Temperance*

      Personally, in their shoes, I would say screw Glassdoor and go to the local media, playing the hateful messages for a bored local reporter. Destroy the company. Then again, I’m hella petty.

  62. Wrench Turner*

    In situations like this I have asked previous bosses “Did I list PSYCHIC as a job skill when I applied?” Which usually elicits a “No…” and some reason brought to their complaint.

    I now say “usually” because my most recent boss actually replied with “Well I expect you to be.”

    The only useful advice I can give is “take notes” about things like this, names, dates, everything you know. Keep a work diary on personal time and personal stationary. It may come in handy later. Hopefully not in a courtroom. Good freakin’ luck.

    1. Gadfly*

      I was told at my last job it was a requirement. I thought they were joking, but turned out not entirely. Part of how we were expected to assist was to at least allow our selves to be thrown under the bus–the best threw themselves there…

    2. Candi*

      I would be so, so tempted to put a toy crystal ball out on my desk in plain sight after a comment like that.

      But then, I’m a lot snarkier then I was twenty years ago.

  63. JeanLouiseFinch*

    I can’t help but wonder whether the LW took the position as an executive admin relying on the promise of a bonus at a certain rate. I would advise her to get an attorney and to request a copy of her “write up” along with any other relevant documentation, once she has another position lined up. In the meantime, she should keep any documentation that she has in a safe place to bring to the attorney. To me, it sounds like this company reduced her bonus on a totally pretextual basis which could be seen as a breach of contract. One thing this company will want is to avoid terrible publicity over this. Depending on the facts, if I was the attorney handling this, I might mention that I would be sure to: (1) request a jury; (2) ask the bereaved parents to testify about the contents of the message; and, (3) maybe call the local press, who love to report stuff like this. The idea that the company’s cravenness and perfidy would be “outed” in a courtroom and possibly in the press would probably make them settle before a complaint was even filed. It’s not nice, I know, but this company really deserves it.

    1. Resident Martian*

      +10. I know I’m not universal in this, but in those poor parents’ position, I would dearly love to take out some anger on that boss if I’d found out that he escaped the consequences of his terrible behavior by bullying and punishing a direct report who had nothing to do with it.

    2. The Strand*

      I agree 100%. After talking to a lawyer, I would double-check that HR really knows how this played out. If they did, and they’re treating her this way – then absolutely, they deserve to be in the hot seat and threatened with revealing of their bad behavior.

      And yeah, it’s not nice, but what’s really not nice is cursing out your murdered employee in a voice mail, then – when the devastated parents complain – disciplining someone else who had nothing to do with it.

      If the HR people were not lied to, and willingly punished you for something this isn’t your fault, OP, this company deserves to rot. If nothing else, OP, tell all your friends and ask them to tell all their friends.

  64. ArtsNerd*

    OP, I am SO sorry you have to deal with this. We are all pulling for you!

    Lots of good advice above. I want to reiterate and expand, with credit to my professional member of Team Me for most:
    •Your health is more important. So if the stress starts affecting your health (been there!), walk away if you can swing it at all.
    •Therapy, counseling, coaching…. set up Team You if you don’t already have one, and include a professional member of Team You (again, if you can swing it.)
    •Slow your breathing down. Way down. Use your search engine of choice to locate “anxiety breathing gif” and breath along to it.
    •WRITE THINGS DOWN. This is something my therapist instructed me to do after a breakup. I felt a bit insulted that she would tell me something so obvious, but to be honest? I wouldn’t have. Taking an actual pen to physical paper was a miracle in terms of letting go of thoughts and imagined conversations that had been bouncing around my head for days.

    These are general things she’s told me for anxiety/depression but in my mind it’s always a good checklist:
    •Get outside.
    •Sleep an appropriate amount.
    •Eat healthily and an appropriate amount (don’t skip meals, don’t binge eat.)
    •Do something physically active.
    •Do something social.
    •Do something you have mastery over (outside of work.)
    •Do something you enjoy.


  65. SuperB*

    I’m an EA too and I feel for you, but allow me to give you a little hope: most bosses do not suck that bad, and you will find yourself one of them. It took me more than a year of passionately looking until I found a position at a company where I am very respected and not micromanaged, and you will too. Prior to this I endured years of a boss that, while she never did anything as awful as yours, her existence brought me down as she sucked my soul and gave me work PTSD. She was verbally abusive, rude and condescending. She was convinced I didn’t work 8 hour days even though I was putting more than 50 hours of work per week between answering emails on my hour long commute (and the one back), and logging in to wrap things up after putting my kids to bed at night. I did nothing but work to keep my heavy workflow under control.
    My advice: get a neat resume and cover letter together, apply to any EA jobs you see out there, and wait for your phone to ring. It will. Good admins are very hard to find, and there are plenty of jobs out there for us. You won’t need to use this guy or anyone in your company as a reference if you don’t want. Good luck and please give us an update!

  66. j-nonymous*

    Are you on decent terms with your predecessor? Maybe you could call him or her and find out how they dealt with your current boss. I understand both of you were promoted into your current positions, but I’d bet that your predecessor had to deal with your boss while he was reporting directly to his predecessor. (And your boss’s terrible behavior probably didn’t begin suddenly with his promotion either.)

    Anyway, maybe your predecessor has nothing to offer in terms of how to deal with this guy, but maybe they can offer some candid (and needed) validation that this isn’t your fault. Sometimes just realizing the person you’re dealing with is an asshole and there’s nothing you can do about it is liberating – because you’re not responsible for reforming them, or trying to figure out how to change yourself into something that will make that person stop being an asshole. They’re just an asshole.

  67. First-Time Commenter*

    I haven’t had a chance to read the comments yet but I am sure they are full of good advice, like usual. When I’ve been in your shoes, I’ve found it helpful to plan fun things to look forward to on weeknights, working out on my lunch break, and thinking about how much they are having to pay me because I’m not willing to walk until I have another job. That last one may feel vindictive but it did me a lot of good. Each minute I stuck it out was another minute they were required to pay me, even if they no longer wanted me around.

    Sending you a virtual hug! These are the situations that make us stronger. And I believe karma will catch up to your boss.

  68. Narise*

    Contact her parents and get that voicemail. Post it on YouTube and anywhere else you can think of with his name and company name listed.

    1. Erin*

      I’m surprised the parents didn’t do this. This could really damage a business. Especially if this business were located in a small community, -!: did business with the public.

  69. Emergency Kittens, stat!*

    Have you considered talking to a union? If you’re not a member, it’s possible that they could help you even if you joined now. They really are quite good at these kinds of situations because bullies who are happy to steamroller one person can be a lot more reluctant when faced with an entire large organisationa dnt eh possibilty of legla consequences and publicity.

    It’s a risk but at this point you don’t have much left to lose, because I can’t see any way for you to recover from this level of mistreatment from everyone.

    If you can, I would definitely pull back from working any extra hours or doing anything above the necessary. Also, cut down (or cut off) out-of-hours contacts. Being able to turn your phone off and get away from the workplace bullies can be a lifesaver in this sort of stressful situation. It might even be worth changing your phone and not giving the new phone’s number to anyone at your old job, so that if you have to get away, you can take a day off and get away *completely*.

  70. Anne (with an "e")*

    So, let me get this straight, OP.
    1. You are not psychic. Thus, you did not tell your boss something you did not know and had no reason to investigate.
    2. You are somehow responsible for the vile message your boss left. Your boss claims that your actions (or perceived inaction) can and do control the way he communicates.
    3. Seriously, if I were you, OP, I would feel like I had stepped into an alternate universe because your company is stark raving mad for disciplining you for either one of those things.

  71. justcourt*

    Is this the kind of thing it would be okay to mention at an exit interview (assuming it’s done with HR not the boss)? Or is it too likely to burn a bridge?

  72. e271828*

    It seems to me that a company’s HR department should be the ones considered responsible for knowing an employee has died. That’s who I’d contact to shut off the paychecks, if someone in our family died. It would be easier than figuring out who their boss or coworkers or whoever were. Maybe have to send them a death certificate or a copy of the obituary, I don’t know.

    Other toxic circumstances aside, perhaps that’s why HR is so unhelpful to OP. They screwed up.

  73. Collingswood*

    OMG. This is giving me flashbacks to this awful personal injury lawyer I worked for before going to law school. He did all sorts of weird power-trippy things, was generally awful, like not adding me to the insurance plan when I got through probation and when I asked to be added to it, since it was one of my benefits, asking if I had AIDS or something. He also had insane rules, like, not allowing me to ask calllers how to spell their names. (When I inevitably got a name wrong would yell at me to get my hearing checked.) He eventually let me go–wish I could say I quit–after screaming and swearing at me for “letting” someone hang up when they had been on hold for 20+ min and had to get back to their job at the mall. This after I followed his really strict phone answering protocol, taking him a note to tell him who was calling (he ignored that), checking in with them every 2 minutes, and finally getting their cell info so he could call them back. When they hung up he started screaming and swearing at me from his office and eventually came to the front desk to do the same. I told him I couldn’t make people stay on the phone and since he hadn’t told me he really needed to talk to them, I didn’t have any reason to try to keep them to stay on the line. His response: “well, sometimes I don’t know who I need to talk to.” I noted that if he didn’t know who he needed to talk to, there was no way I could know and ended up leaving for the day. Was let go shortly after.

    My advice for dealing with an wholly unreasonable boss:

    1. Don’t think you can please them or prevent them from getting angry. Just do your job and be professional. You can’t control their erratic behavior/reactions, so free yourself from worrying about that.

    2. If you can, find a reference from your place of work that can say good things about your work because I wouldn’t trust your boss to.

    3. As Alison recommended, come up with a drama-free explanation that has truth to it, if you have to explain your leaving after a short time. I my case, I was planning to explain that he had found a person who was interested in the job long-term (true) that he really liked and decided to let me go since I was only available until law school (not entirely true, he let me go after finding out I got into a better law school than him.). Never got to use the explanation. though, because when the law firm I interviewed with next asked why I left, the office manager jumped in and told them how he used to work near my ex boss and that he was horrible to his employees and they were all miserable and scared. I just waited for the next question.

    4. And lastly, like people mentioned, take time for yourself. Exercise, find non-work related things to talk about, and generally try to find ways to keep yourself sane while searching. I spent far too much of my free time complaining about him.

    1. JessaB*

      I swear if you hadn’t said personal injury law, I worked for the same guy you did. But mine was in securities and contracts and was partnered with a CPA.

    2. mf*

      OP, I hope you will take this to heart: “Don’t think you can please them or prevent them from getting angry. Just do your job and be professional. You can’t control their erratic behavior/reactions, so free yourself from worrying about that.”

      When dealing with abusive people, it’s tempting to think you can prevent them from being angry/acting in an abusive way if only you do and say the rights. But that’s just not true–there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop your boss from being abusive. All you can do is try to conduct yourself in a professional manner so that when you quit, you can hold your head high and be proud of how you dealt with an impossible situation.

  74. Fish Microwaver*

    OP, I’m so sorry this happened to you. It is truly horrible and unjust and my blood boils on your behalf. Your boss, company and HR are asshats the highest order. I hope you can stay strong and find a much better situation soon. (((Hugs)))

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Someone (not me) microwaved fish in the office the other day and got offended when someone asked them not to. :D

  75. Andrea*

    OP, your boss is a loon. May your job search be fruitful, and your soon-to-be-ex-boss get what he deserves.

  76. Al who is that Al*

    I would give them 2 weeks notice and go. People always say stuff like you should find another job but stay in your old one first – not in these circumstances – just walk. They can do nothing to you and you can find a job by walking into the nearest restaurant or bar that will be far more enjoyable. You do not have to put up with this in any way shape or form and it’s time asshat bosses like this learnt that. In 5 years time nothing that you have done in walking away from this will matter to anybody you go to work for.
    I did it. Had a totally toxic job and was told I needed 3 months notice to quit so I quit that day, no job in place, nothing. Had all these people going “how can you ?” – It’s easy, just walk away from all the bullsh*t, free yourself. And yes, I have 2 kids, a wife and a HUGE mortgage – so what ? Some jobs destroy you, you can choose the money or you.
    Anyway I found a couple of good contract jobs, and some bad ones, treated the bad ones the same way as the bad one I had been in and told them to treat me properly or I would walk. One didn’t so I left after 2 1/2 weeks and they couldn’t believe it “”Why can’t we treat you badly and you will still stay ?” seemed to be their attitude.
    After 18 months of this I’m in a better job, more money for only working 4 days a week ( 2 from home) and it’s great.

    Power to the Workers ! :-)

  77. Kristine*

    The minute anyone starts swearing and calling people names, that’s it – the conversation is over, and this person is wrong. It doesn’t matter what else they are “right” about (and he doesn’t sound like he’s right about anything here) – it was his own choice and his own fault to act like an unhinged lunatic. End of story!
    I would consult an attorney and challenge both the write-up and the reduced bonus. You’re looking for another job anyway. Good God, your colleague’s parents are probably too exhausted and sad to make a stink as well, but the company is making you look bad to deflect from this guy’s disastrous behavior. He’s going to drag down the company if they keep covering for him. Give two weeks notice and get out of there.

  78. Kevin*

    Sometimes people use visualization to help with this, like imagining you’re in a bubble and nothing your boss says actually gets to you. I also find it helpful to visualize the person at the age that they are acting. So if someone is acting like they’re 8 years old I’ll picture the 8 year old version of them is talking to me instead of the grown up. It can also be helpful to journal about all of the reactions you have to someone like this as they come up, or talk them over with a confidant. Intense physical exercise can help people discharge negative emotional reactions to difficult people as well. There are more spiritual practices available as well, like practices for forgiving others or for having compassion for them.

  79. Marisol*

    I’m career EA, and most of my bosses have been unreasonable, difficult jerks, including one high-profile guy who’s actually somewhat famous in the business world here in the U.S. for being…difficult doesn’t even begin to describe it…and yet I really can’t imagine any of them taking this stance on an issue. There has always been at least some semblance of rationality to their demands. Hope you get out of there soon, OP.

  80. Candi*

    Hi! I left my housekeeping job years ago after they hired a maintenance/housekeeping manager who was revving up to be like this. (Took a 30 cent pay cut to move to another job.) I got out before he got really bad.

    You can’t fix ’em. They have poison in their minds and want to infect everyone with it.

    This guy got so nasty that people left in droves. One guy apparently put fish in jerk’s car the July after I left. (Don’t do this.) The ex-coworker telling me this said he threw a tantrum for an hour. And that was without the blatant favortism towards the young, pretty girls.

    You can’t fix them. You can only get out.

    Karma will bite them. Between Jerk and the mall manager’s antics, the allegations piled up and the owner company wound up having to pay out a bundle. (Mall manager’s antics with mall security would make for a serious derail.)

    You take care of you and just get out.

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