my boss advertised my job without telling me

A reader writes:

I started working part-time in communications for a small nonprofit startup (25 employees) six months ago. My boss, who is a very smart, talented woman in her late 20’s, started the nonprofit with her boyfriend and a couple of friends a few years ago, and it has been extremely successful. But she doesn’t have much experience managing employees who aren’t her personal friends. I was the second hire in her department after another college friend, and I’m significantly older than most of the other 20-somethings in the office (who tend to go off to grad school or medical school after working there for a year.)

The organization underwent a major transition this spring, and she’s largely been absent since I was hired — in meetings, working somewhere else in the office, doing something more important than supervising or helping me. Her desk is less than six feet away from mine, but I’ve resorted to sending her daily update emails with questions and reports. At the same time, she doesn’t trust me to write things and checks and rewrites all my work–down to individual Facebook posts for our web page–because I either “don’t have the right tone” or I make copy-editing errors. The poor communication and lack of trust make it hard for me to get work done. It’s all strange because my last three bosses all loved my writing, and I’ve worked as a professional writer for decades. I’ve gone from being a star to an incompetent in six months.

My title has been “acting communications manager.” Recently, a friend of me sent me a listing for a “communications manager” job, saying “Isn’t this your job?” It was! I emailed my boss the listing saying “We need to talk about this.” We had a professional development session coming up, and she said she was looking for someone who could replace her, and that person wasn’t me. That’s fine — but she doesn’t seem to understand that I spent my whole weekend terrified that I was about to get fired. I stayed quiet; she didn’t seem to understand the effect it had on me at all, and I didn’t know how to start explaining.

She’s trying to find another role for me in the organization (under a different supervisor), but I’m feeling angry and betrayed. Did she think I wouldn’t find out? I get along well with everyone else in the office, but I feel like I can’t trust the organization as a whole. I’ve started looking for another job, but my contract goes for another month and a half. What should I do? What should I say?

She sounds like she’s just an inexperienced manager who doesn’t know what she’s doing … which is another way of saying she’s a bad manager.

It’s not just her mishandling of this; it’s her incompetence in managing you more broadly. For example, if you “don’t have the right tone” for things you’re supposed to write, she should be giving you actionable feedback and coaching you on that, not just settling on redoing all your work as if that’s an acceptable solution. And if things reached the point where she had decided you weren’t the right fit for the job, she should have talked to you about that, not left you to figure it out when you saw your own damn job listed.

It’s most likely her inexperience that’s making her a bad manager. It sounds like she started the organization soon after college, which means it was probably her first time managing people (which rarely goes smoothly, even when the new manager has a boss to coach her, which she doesn’t have) and that she hadn’t had much time in the work world to watch and learn from other managers. And she’s been managing only friends up until now, which isn’t exactly the sign of a super professionalized manager.

So, if you step back and look at it, this isn’t terribly surprising. It’s a start-up organization run by someone without much experience, and she is indeed operating like someone without much experience. That rarely works out well for the people being managed in that situation.

And because she’s running this organization, it’s very unlikely that moving to another job there would be a great choice because the whole organization is going to be mismanaged. Since your contract there ends shortly anyway, I wouldn’t worry about addressing this with her; just focus on finding a job that isn’t there.

(All that said, “acting communications manager” does imply the role wasn’t a permanent one, so maybe there’s something there that explains some of how she handled this?)

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. Kowalski! Options!*

    Oh man…I had a similar situation, once (which I’ve written about on AAM before). The boss in question wasn’t a friend, and it was working for a media conglomerate (union shop), but the only thing that kept me from suing the company for wrongful dismissal was that I made it to HR before I made it to my lawyer’s office. This sounds like a good opportunity to bow out gracefully, then run like the wind in the opposite direction.

    1. AMG*

      I feel your pain. My boss is a new manager (despite what his resume says) and finagled his way into a job he can’t handle. He alternates between breathing down our necks or radio silence. He doesn’t know how to provide actionable items and will contradict himself frequently, often in the same sentence. I’m getting out of this situation, and I suggest you look for something else. The learning curve on these types of things is longer than I care to spend on him.

      1. Biff*

        I had a similar boss (in my first real job, no less) and he never got better. It was AWFUL. I hope you do get out soon.

    2. designbot*

      Seriously. I took a job in a situation like this once and it did not go well. They advertised a job that someone already held on a contract/forced freelance basis in their organization, who was hoping to become a fulltime employee. Then they brought me in there, made him show me the ropes, and let him go. Nothing about that went well, and I’ve vowed to stay away from any organization that operates like that in the future. They are weirdly doing you a favor by showing you their true colors here. Go, and don’t look back.

      1. Charisma*

        I once took a freelance contract with a company that turned out to do this REGULARLY. It turns out that the company itself didn’t really want this to happen but their “creative director” was a total A-hole with no management or people skills. It was a small company, the CEO was aloof, and no one else in the company had the authority to overrule this guy (other than the creative director and CEO the company had really good people working for it). I knew within the first week of my contract (before they officially let go of the person I learned I was replacing and of which he didn’t have the nerve to tell them that he was letting them go) I realized that I would in no way even want to continue on beyond our original contract time. He was one of those people with new car fever, he always LOVED the newest hire, but as soon as he drove you off the lot he was looking for someone else. I was right too, it only took him 4 months before my “stellar” work turned into “why aren’t you following protocols.” He hired “help” for me, even though I had everything covered. After I left I would see, without fail, every six months the job re-posted. I tried warning prospective designers about the gig on glassdoor but glassdoor rejected it. Since then I’ve met three other designers who’ve worked there and had THE SAME EXPERIENCE (both before and after me). The reviews on glassdoor for this company are all positive, which is irritating. Live and learn. wash. rinse. repeat.

    3. Bridget*

      I’m Currently experiencing something similar. I was hired for marketing and social media but our girl in repairs department left suddenly, and now they want to remove me from my position and put me in repairs. I have no experience in repairs I did not apply for the repairs job. Let’s say I do not want the job in repairs. I explain this to the owners who are in experienced at managing others in some of the worst ways you can Imagen. They call it cross training. What they’re doing is pushing me out of my job and now they’ve hired someone part time to do my job well I still continue to do my job in marketing and repairs at the same time. They wonder why I can’t ever get anything done while doing 2 jobs at once. Let’s just say I am at my wits end and I am trying to find something new.

  2. LBK*

    This is weird. Did you get hired into the role with the title “acting communications manager”? That seems really unusual to make a temporary hire into a management role. Is she current the communications manager? I’m very confused how she can say she’s replacing herself if you’re the one acting in the role right now and presumably not doing her job…since she’s doing it. Is she adding a layer of hierarchy between herself and you, and she’s been having you cover tasks that she’ll end up having the communications manager do? What does your role become at that point?

    This whole thing sounds like a cluster. I’d just chalk it up to another clueless misstep by someone who doesn’t seem to give much consideration that management is a job that requires effort and skill; it’s not an inconvenience that you have to deal with once you decide you need help getting work done. I’d be looking for the door, because it doesn’t sound like any part of her “management” is giving you what you need to succeed; this latest gaffe would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    1. The OG Anonsie*

      Yeah I’m unclear on the same things as your first paragraph. That said, if she’s on a temporary contract with such a title and it’s ending in a month and a half, it makes sense that the job would be posted around now, so if I were the LW I don’t know if I would be in a panic on seeing it. Just annoyed that we didn’t talk about what would happen to me sooner, though it sounds like they already had such a talk scheduled?

      1. LBK*

        Hmm, I do see that the OP says she’s been doing this role part-time…so I guess it is possible that it was really just meant as someone who could keep daily operations on track until her boss could hire a permanent person to take over her role. I’m still not really clear on where the manager is going if she’s “replacing herself”.

        Even if there may have been a plan here, it sounds like that plan wasn’t clearly communicated to the OP when/before she was hired, since she’s obviously been blindsided by this whole situation.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          I interpreted the comment about “replacing herself” as the manager used to act as both director/CEO and communications manager, and now she has found the need to create a comm manager position to take on those duties. Seems that the organization is growing, so what used to be feasible for the manager to take on has grown into another position.

      2. Anna*

        Right, but even when I was on temporary contract and was telling people I was the interim [title], my manager still sat down with me toward the end of my contract to explain that they were going in a different direction with the role. I’m not sure the “acting” excuses the manager’s lack of consideration.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          At the end of the contract, sure. But if they have decided to hire someone permanently for the role that’s not the OP, 6 weeks out isn’t the end, but it’s past time they need to start looking for her replacement!

          I’m not saying they shouldn’t have told her before she saw it, but I also think the OP’s shock about this part time short term contract coming to an end shows that she’s as new to contracting as her boss is to managing.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            In fact, if I was 6 weeks out from the end of a part time contract, and was continually having the boss redo my work, I’d have assumed the contract wasn’t going to be renewed!

            1. Jesmlet*

              This. The situation sucks since OP seems to have thought the temp contract was going to turn into perm and the manager does seem inept, but from all other indications, I would’ve assumed that the boss didn’t think I was a good fit and it wasn’t going to work out anyways. This shouldn’t really be such a huge shock unless OP just didn’t understand how contracts work or was misled during hiring… but communication and general management could’ve been better for sure.

              1. The OG Anonsie*

                Oh yeah. But I mean past that, I wouldn’t even want to be brought on permanently after all this.

            2. Anna*

              I don’t think the boss “had to” redo her work. And if she was redoing it, why wasn’t she communicating what she needed to the OP? Or why didn’t she tell her it wasn’t working out and bring in someone whose work she wouldn’t have to redo?

              I said toward the end, not at the end. It was about a month out from the end of my contract, so I still can’t get on board with not telling the OP about the listing first.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m really curious if there were any other indications that OP should expect to stay. Because otherwise I agree with you Jessesgirl72. But I can also imagine a universe in which OP may have been told they intended to keep her on (or that the contract was because they’re reorganizing), which might be why there’s confusion and hurt, now.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          But that’s what I mean– it sounds like they had that meeting scheduled already for shortly after the job was posted, unless I’m misreading it. And the manager already had plans to find a place for the LW somewhere else in the company, which is what she was going to review in that meeting. So if I’m the LW in this situation, I don’t see that posting and freak out that I’m about to get fired, know what I mean?

          I mean the manager’s not doing a great job overall, but I’m guessing that’s why she’s hiring someone to handle the comms side instead of her, so at the very least she must be somewhat aware that this situation isn’t working out well for her management. I would be sick of working here for a lot of reasons by the end of this contract, but I’d ride out these last six weeks instead of trying to bail immediately.

          1. Anna*

            I think a good manager would have let the OP know before the posting to avoid this exact situation. It was crummy the OP heard it from a third party and not the person she reports to and the only way to avoid that is to have had the discussion BEFORE posting. Timing is everything and the manager handled this badly.

            1. copy run start*

              I agree. There’s no way to guarantee a current employee won’t know their job is posted — even if posted “anonymously” via various job boards it is still easy to determine who the employer is oftentimes if enough detail is included. (And I personally would need a lot of detail about the position to apply to an anonymous posting.) Typically if someone is not doing well in a position they’re looking around already. That’s what kind of shocks me about this letter; if I were the OP I would’ve already been worried about being let go with how the boss has been managing them.

  3. AMPG*

    Don’t feel too bad about it, OP – I also had a lousy experience with a startup non-profit a couple of years ago. The CEO was more competent at managing people than your boss, but her direct report (who managed me) really wasn’t good at it, and she thought she was a great manager, which made things a lot worse. I had the similar experience of going from being a terrific communicator (my previous jobs had actually been in the field of public diplomacy) to being corrected on my wording in *internal* emails. I was grateful to be let go after a couple of months. The other employee who started a week after I did is no longer with the organization, either – he lasted about 18 months.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, exactly this.

      OP, one of my first jobs in my current line was for a woman I really admired who had started her own nonprofit and who had been a partner when I was at a different organization (like, I sat on their advisory board). I went from thinking she walked on water to feeling awful all the time. She was a really terrible manager, but the way it manifested was in (1) not giving anyone feedback or supervision; (2) micromanaging and redoing all of our work without telling us why or when; (3) agreeing to a course of action and then unilaterally doing something completely different without explanation and after having wasted hours of our time (I don’t mind hierarchy—if you want to do it, do it, but don’t make me spend 2 days talking about it with you when my opinion really doesn’t matter); and (4) taking away our work responsibilities without explanation until we (staff) felt so broken/demoralized that we’d finally push her to explain what was happening, only to have her say things like “oh, you said you were stressed so I took you off of the grant you wrote and project managed these past 9 months,” and more. I thought I was the only one who felt totally incompetent, only to learn later that she did this with other staff who I thought were superstars (they were—she’s just a terrible manager despite being an otherwise wonderful human).

      Which is all to say that, if I were in your shoes, I would actively start job searching. This is someone with no management experience who doesn’t seem invested/interested in managing and also doesn’t sound like they’re ever going to start investing in that part of their workload (until someone pushes them to do it). And her poor management is not your fault and has nothing to do with you; it’s really about her being so inexperienced that she doesn’t even realize she’s inexperienced.

      Posting the job was kind of a shitty thing to do. But it’s a really great chance to reassess and maybe pivot. I’m really sorry that you’re going through this, though. It took me months to get over my bad boss, but I got over it and have a great relationship with her and my old organization. This may be a good excuse to dig out.

      1. copy run start*

        I had a manager who hit almost all those notes, except #3 — I was never consulted on anything! But I always kind of thought she was trying to do the best parts of the employee job and supervisor job. Since she was a manager, the least pleasant pieces of the employee job could be delegated, and she could pick up all the fun, easy or interesting projects, plus sign herself up to attend every semi-relevant conference or meeting possible to fill the day so she was never around if you needed a manager. She did approve timesheets and dealt with performance reviews, but she’d lock herself away for weeks on end to “find the time” and you’d get maybe 1 – 2 generic sentences in each category when they were finally revealed.

  4. Parcae*

    I don’t think OP’s boss is running the organization. She’s one of the founding employees, yes, but the ED/CEO/whatever is probably the boyfriend or one of the other friends. That offers a glimmer of hope that OP could be successful in another department… but only a glimmer. This type of dysfunction is often systemic. I agree that OP should look for another job. This organization doesn’t seem to be a good fit.

    1. Antilles*

      I don’t think it provides any glimmer of hope. The root cause of the issues is that OP’s boss has (a) limited experience working under someone, (b) no experience managing someone, and (c) nobody more senior to help teach her about personnel management. The boyfriend and other friends are almost certainly in the same stage of their career, with similar experience levels. So swapping departments seems likely to just exchange one inexperienced manager for another.

      1. Parcae*

        The other available managers are almost definitely just as inexperienced. But it doesn’t follow that OP’s experience with them would be just as bad. Who knows… new manager might really like OP’s writing style! On the other hand, if OP really prioritizes a professional working environment with good structure and management… eh. Move on.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Right, lack of experience doesn’t always = lack of ability. But if clear structure and experienced management is what OP needs to be happy at work, then I’d suggest avoiding small start ups and non-profits. Not saying you can’t get lucky and find a great manager and organization to work at, but the odds are against you.

  5. Purest Green*

    This sounds like a really frustrating situation, OP, and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. I have a question/observation, and maybe they’re way off base but hopefully worth considering.

    You mention the organization went through a transition. Is that when your boss began giving you the tone feedback Or was it always something she brought up? It’s possible the organization is trying to re-brand itself or update its language, and because your boss is obviously not that great at bossing, she hasn’t explained that to you. Alternatively, you mention the age difference and the fact that this is a startup, so I’m wondering if boss wants a tone that’s “modern,” “edgy,” or whatever. I’m thinking it’s possible her comments aren’t totally unfounded, but she sucks at telling you want she / the organization needs.

    1. Anonymoose*

      But if they’re rebranding, wouldn’t the ACTING comm manager know this already? Wouldn’t they have created guidelines, etc?

      Boss Lady just sucks. She may get better with time, but she also may just be one of those people who are better at ideas, and not in implementation/management.

      1. Purest Green*

        Considering the boss isn’t giving any guidance, maybe that’s not something the acting communications manager was ever told. Who knows. (There’s irony here that a communications boss isn’t communicating, but aaaaanyway….)

        Even if it’s not a rebranding issue, the tone still might legitimately not be the right one for the company and the boss just sucks at giving direction about that.

  6. Just Another Techie*

    I had a similar situation too once upon a time. It was my second job out of college (my first job having been a one-year research fellowship abroad at a foreign university). The CEO was younger than I was. No one knew what they were doing, and I left within a year because I had older, more experienced friends who told me exactly what Alison just told LW. It’s ten years later now, and the startup I used to work for is doing great. The CEO realized his hair was on fire and did some serious professional development work on himself and found some mentors to coach him. They now have 80 employees (they were at 8 employees when I worked there) and are doing well for themselves. I’m happy for them, but also have no regrets about getting out during the growing pains phase.

  7. Hannah*

    I mean it basically sounds the LW is a PT contractor in this role, but meanwhile they are hiring a permanent employee for the role, and they are not considering the LW. Clearly the LW is a professional writer and has been successful in the past, so it’s not necessarily a reflection on her capabilities, but her fit. If her writing isn’t the tone that the boss is looking for, it’s not surprising that the boss is looking for someone else. I don’t blame the LW at all for feeling upset and betrayed, since it’s hard not to take this personally. But it seems the boss is well within her rights to hire whoever she wants. If the contractor isn’t fitting in, she doesn’t have to offer the contractor the job before looking for new candidates.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, I think it depends a lot on how it was presented to LW. If it was offered as a short term contract with the potential to be offered a permanent position if it worked out, then I can understand why the manager posted the job, though it would have been kinder to tell LW that they weren’t considering her for the permanent position before posting it.

      I do think LW’s actions in forwarding the listing to her boss saying “we need to discuss this” were a little aggressive though.

  8. Karanda Baywood*

    I don’t understand the issue of your contract going on for another 6 weeks. It will certainly take that long so you can be pro-active now and start searching. The weeks will pass and you’ll have made a good start at finding a new position.

    Best of luck!

    1. Antilles*

      Yep, start searching now. I’d almost take this as a blessing in disguise. It sucks to find out this way, but it’s an explicit and clear signal that they won’t be renewing your contract, so you can get a jump on finding a new job to have something lined up shortly after this one ends. Better than thinking you’re all fine then suddenly finding out six weeks from now that nope, we’re going elsewhere.

  9. annnnon*

    On the writing front, a person with decades of writing experience — even GOOD experience! — may not be able to replicate the tone that a nonprofit full of 20-somethings is after on Facebook. If there’s a specific vibe they want to put forward, and you are consistently not able to adapt to it, I can see how an inexperienced manager would find fault in that. (A more mature boss would see the issue for what it is, but it seems like she’s not there yet)

    1. Venus Supreme*

      Sounds like the boss wants the writing to be more “on fleek,” or whatever the youths are saying these days.

      1. Anonnn*

        There’s a vast difference between slang and tone. But regardless, if this writer can’t capture it, then yeah, I can see why the boss is frustrated (even if they aren’t showing that frustration well).

    2. Casuan*

      …a person with decades of writing experience — even GOOD experience! — may not be able to replicate the tone that a nonprofit full of 20-somethings is after on Facebook.

      This is a good point & it goes the opposite way, too: the 20-something might not be able to replicate the tone of… ummm… not 20-somethings.
      Knowing one’s target group & audience is the key here. As already said, OP’s boss should be helping the OP [or whomever is in this job] to reach this goal & to respond accordingly if the OP can not do this.

      I suspect that as a founder of this non-profit, Manager is especially proprietary of the messages from her group. Hopefully she can learn how to train & delegate for others to do this to her satisfaction; it can be difficult to entrust one’s vision to another although if she wants to expand her non-profit this will become more of a necessity.

      1. Jesmlet*

        It’s a contract position. If OP’s boss knew this wouldn’t be the right fit soon after hiring, there’s really no reason to devote any time improving OP. Not saying that assessment is right or wrong but if they didn’t intend on keeping her, why waste the effort?

    3. Bess*

      Yeah, and “professional writer” can refer to a very, very wide variety of job experiences and skill sets that may not overlap, or may not transfer from one context to another.

    4. Trillian*

      An experienced writer can emulate models and adjust their style accordingly. Given decent direction. It’s the usual problem with expressive fields (writing, design, etc) — it takes experience before people know how to describe what they want, other by complaining that that isn’t it. One of the skills a freelancer learns is how to train their clients. Bosses are more difficult to train.

    5. RVA Cat*

      This really jumped out at me – “I’ve gone from being a star to an incompetent in six months.”

      No, OP, you haven’t. This is just the wrong job for your talents. Letting it define you is like saying we should judge Michael Jordan whole athletic career by his horrible attempt to play baseball.

  10. NW Mossy*

    This is one of those scenarios that falls under that old saying about not attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

    OP, I doubt very much that your boss did this to hurt you. Instead, as Alison says, your boss is most likely aggressively clueless about how her actions are perceived and isn’t taking the time to explain her thought process to create clarity. It makes her a bad manager, but not necessarily a bad actor who’s actively trying to make you suffer. While it may not change the situation, I find in my life that viewing the errors of others at work as benignly intended is often a more accurate picture and also has the side benefit of making it easier for me to process my own negative feelings about their behavior.

      1. Construction Safety*

        Oh, yeah. Adding it to some other AAMisms: willfully ignorant; particularly difficult type of naive; clue by four.

    1. anonderella*

      “I find in my life that viewing the errors of others at work as benignly intended is often a more accurate picture and also has the side benefit of making it easier for me to process my own negative feelings about their behavior.”

      I sort of agree with this, but I feel like it only works that simply when the person who has offended you is lower down the reporting chain. It’s harder to take such a benign and accepting stance toward a boss’ perspective of “Woops, but at least I didn’t mean to!” when that person has the authority to judge your performance and mete out rewards and punishments.
      My reasoning is : people who are inexperienced at their jobs should exercise extra caution with the responsibility they can wield over other people; this goes for everyone, including managers. Just because you’ve been promoted to, or created for yourself, a role in which you manage others, it doesn’t mean the many nuanced people skills necessary for that job have become reflexive for you yet.

      1. NW Mossy*

        I agree that bosses do have a heightened level of responsibility, but at the same time, they’re people too. They aren’t perfect any more than the rest of us. I didn’t suddenly become immune to making them when I became a boss, and even now that I’ve got some years under my belt with it, the possibility for error never disappears entirely.

        Basically, I want to give other people the same benefit of the doubt as a harmed person that I would want them to extend to me if I was the one doing the harming. In very rare situations that position might turn back to bite me, but at least so far, it’s been working. I’d even go as far as to say that it actually makes me a better boss because it allows me to walk my talk on being constructive rather than punitive after an error.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t mean to unnecessarily add to the comments, but just wanted to say that this is a really excellent lens (and is likely what’s happening) for OP to reframe and detach a little bit emotionally.

      1. yasmara*

        Yes – and be prepared that her contract will *not* be renewed in the next month and a half. Start job hunting ASAP. I think I’d categorize this under “fit issues” and hopefully the next employer and manager will be a better fit. This is definitely bad/inexperienced management, but it’s better to be realistic & not blind-sided in June.

  11. CP*

    Change a few details and this person could have been me at my last position. OP: you probably know this, but you need to leave.

    I’m almost reluctant to provide advice because it does sound like you have great experience, but one way you could spin this for future employers would be to say that you built your ability to help internal stakeholders understand how to create a brand voice. It’s not untrue – the two trickiest parts of marketing (in my experience) are:

    – the fact that everyone thinks they can do it, and
    – getting people to turn what’s in their head into a credible outward-facing statement.

    And it sounds like you’ve been getting a *lot* of practice with that.

    In the meantime, as hard as it may be, you may want to try to check out emotionally a little bit. Do what’s required for the contract, but spend a good chunk of each day looking – and thinking about what a good place for you might look like. (It’s probably not this one.)

  12. HR Manager*

    OP sounds super defensive and passive aggressive to me. E.g: “she’s largely been absent since I was hired…doing something more important than supervising or helping me”. “Her desk is less than six feet away from mine, but I’ve resorted to sending her daily update emails with questions and reports”.

    Of course it’s shitty to see your temp job listed again knowing you won’t be hired on a more permanent role but OP maybe you’re also not super professional? You’re accusing your manager of doings things that are baffling to you but did you also ever ask for feedback when you were told that your writing wasn’t up to her standards? Like, what could you do to get it ‘better’ (whatever that means to her) or does she prefer you to email her your daily questions and updates? I’m not saying she’s a star manager, but I AM saying that if this is your attitude with your manager, I can see why there is no trust in this relationship.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think wanting to actually be able to see or speak to your manager is an unreasonable expectation, especially since it doesn’t sound like the OP has coworkers who she can lean on for guidance in her manager’s absence. I also think it’s on a manager to be more specific when giving feedback – it’s not the employee’s responsibility to extract it. None of this sounded passive aggressive to me at all, just giving background on her relationship with her manager, which was clearly important in how Alison answered the question.

    2. ytk*

      I agree. Again, the manager may not be that great at her job, but the OP doesn’t seem to be speaking up that well either.
      The whole job posting part reads poorly communicated from both sides:
      – I emailed my boss the listing saying “We need to talk about this.” … I stayed quiet; she didn’t seem to understand the effect it had on me at all, and I didn’t know how to start explaining.”
      – Did she think I wouldn’t find out?
      Like the OP had expectations but wouldn’t/couldn’t verbalize them, and the manager being clueless at why the OP may be feeling a particular way.

      Overall, I think the best option would be to move on, but like HR Manager here says I think there is some onus on the OP to ‘manage up’ and advocate for themselves a bit more as well.

      1. LBK*

        – I emailed my boss the listing saying “We need to talk about this.” … I stayed quiet; she didn’t seem to understand the effect it had on me at all, and I didn’t know how to start explaining.”

        Well, wait, you skipped over the part where they had a meeting and discussed, and the manager didn’t seem to grasp what the issue was. It’s not like she sent that email and then they didn’t actually talk about it. And “Did she think I wouldn’t find out?” is a perfectly normal reaction when someone does something that affects you without telling you about it.

        Overall, I think the best option would be to move on, but like HR Manager here says I think there is some onus on the OP to ‘manage up’ and advocate for themselves a bit more as well.

        I think managing up is something you get unfortunately forced into when your manager isn’t giving you what you need, not something you should be expected to do in the normal course of business.

        1. Jesmlet*

          It’s not the boss’ responsibility to be a mind reader. You want someone to know how you feel? Then tell them. Obviously there’s a lot the boss did wrong, but it sounds like OP was not performing up to standards and also struggled with communication herself. If a report had substandard performance and was emailing updates and questions to me every day because I was away doing something more important, I’d probably check out too until the contract ran out.

          And what is the issue really? That she was a crappy manager, that they don’t want her on permanently, or that they didn’t tell her until her friend sent her the posting? If you’re going to let someone go after their contract runs out, do you usually tell them 6 weeks ahead of time?

          1. TL -*

            But it doesn’t sound like the OP is actually getting the constructive feedback. I’ve worked in a place where everything you do is wrong, but it’s not explained why things are wrong or what the expectations are for the project in the first, second, third, or last place anyways. Especially if there’s just frustration when you don’t do a project to their standards, but when you ask for the standards your questions are ignored or dismissed. Even if you frame your question as, “Last time, there was some confusion about the output on my part. I just want to make sure we’re really clear this time.”

            I don’t know where the OP falls along this spectrum, but judging by the manager’s inexperience and mostly-friends hiring, I’m guessing the problem lies more with the unspoken, never-clarified expectations than with the OP’s ability to ask for clarification.

            1. LBK*

              Agreed – and it doesn’t sound like the OP’s manager is present often enough for her to nail her down and have these kinds of detailed conversations about what exactly needs to be improved. If she’s resorting to sending emails in order to keep up to date with her, it seems unfair to say it’s her fault for not somehow inserting herself into her manager’s apparently packed schedule in order to have her manager do one of the basic jobs of management (providing feedback).

              1. TL -*

                Yup. My current (wonderful) managers will both try to catch me in person and if it’s a busy week, we email/text but if there’s any confusion or if it’s something that seems like it wasn’t done correctly due to bad communication last time, they always find time to call me if they can’t be there in person. And they’re never frustrated if I ask for clarification.

          2. anonderella*

            I think there can be an unfortunate gap between how you’re feeling and how much of that you want your boss to know/understand; for example, I (in my real life) am frustrated by my boss because she doesn’t give me near the support I need to do my job (she’s acknowledged this, too, to no change). Since I know there’s nothing I can do to change the things that are making me frustrated with her (90% attitude/disrespect related; been going on for 1 1/2 years, and all were experienced by my predecessors), the only thing left for her to know is that I’m frustrated with her. But I know adding those feelings into her mix of the situation isn’t going to help anything; not even for her to see me as a person that she hurts.

            I can relate with the OP not knowing any more words to explain why this situation was confusing/stressful – especially when backed up with the vague criticism OP got from her manager. It’s like:
            OP: “Manager, you’ve done XYZ that was confusing/stressful because of ABC…”
            Manager : “Yes.”
            OP : “….”

          3. LBK*

            Barring urgent issues, what’s more important for a manager than managing? Fine, maybe you have a busy day or week when you can’t stay in touch, but being available to answer questions and provide feedback for your employees is a basic responsibility that the manager is abdicating.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Uh… seriously? You think the most urgent thing I do all day is handhold other employees? Especially when major changes are happening, there are a lot more things on my plate. If she was a permanent employee I think I’d view this differently, but this looks like it was always an 8-9 month contract so maybe professional development was never actually on the table and OP was just a temporary placeholder. OP also never said the boss doesn’t respond to those emails, just that she isn’t there to answer questions in person. Granted, nothing I do involves communication-related work so it may be different, but a certain level of autonomy is to be expected after the initial training period and there’s no need for anyone to be in touch with me every day.

              1. NW Mossy*

                All managers have a lot on their plate, and a lot of it’s important – that’s a given. But LBK’s got a point that steering directs towards success is a huge part of managing, and something that managers shouldn’t abdicate responsibility for.

                That doesn’t mean that a manager does all the heavy lifting of that herself or that the manager need make a huge time commitment – it can be as simple as “Hey, Juniper, you can go to Amaranth with day-to-day questions when I’m not around.” What’s not OK, though, is leaving someone to languish without resources and then being disappointed that the person isn’t succeeding.

              2. LBK*

                Where did we make the jump to handholding? And it doesn’t sound like there ever was an initial training period.

                I don’t expect you to be available every second of the day, but every manager I’ve had has made it clear to me that no matter what they’re doing, if I need them for something they will find a way to make time for me. Now, that obviously comes with the caveat of using my judgment on whether I need them for something, but in the OP’s case it’s limiting her ability to do her job, so I think that qualifies.

          4. Anna*

            The OP’s boss hasn’t been around enough for the her to read the OP’s mind, much less be able to receive any questions the OP might have.

            If your job is communicating the message of your organization and you aren’t in close contact with the person in charge, you are not doing your job correctly. This is coming from someone whose job it is to communicate the message of the organization I work for. I cannot just send stuff out without getting feedback from my boss and sometimes her boss. I am in communication with my boss every. Single. Day. Especially if it’s a big message. Blog posts and other minutiae not so much, but that came from about a year of getting her feedback and input.

            1. LBK*

              Right – especially since it seems like the manager has decided to insert herself pretty deep into editing these posts, but then can’t be bothered to spend the time coaching the OP so that her writing can be more up to standards in the future. I think that’s more or less the definition of micromanaging: doing your employees’ work yourself rather than giving higher level direction to help them do the work the way you want on their own.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think OP is giving us their inner narrative, which may be really different from how they would have described this to someone else (or even to their manager—and for good reason!). So while I agree that it sounds like an unhealthy communication dynamic, it also sounds EXTREMELY likely that that dynamic has a lot to do with OP’s boss being completely unavailable (except to redo everything OP does).

        But yes, generally, we shouldn’t assume that people understand how we feel unless it’s glaringly obvious (which may be how OP feels about this situation) or if we don’t tell them.

  13. michelenyc*

    This happened to me once. I found it on the day of our office Christmas Party. I wasn’t happy in the position anyway so it was fine with me but not being upfront that it was working out is what was upsetting. It was so nice to be able to tell them when they laid me off; Oh I already have another job.

  14. Noah*

    OP’s contract expires in a month and a half. Given that they apparently haven’t discussed making her permanent, it would be weird if employer WEREN’T looking for a replacement.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Yes, this is what I think too.

      It’s going to take them at least that long to find her replacement- even if it’s another contractor.

      1. Anna*

        I think it’s a little abnormal to post the job before you discuss it with the person though. And to find out from a third party is…a bad look. It’s been handled poorly.

        1. Jesmlet*

          There’s a lot of downside for an employer telling a contract worker they’re going to be replaced in 6 weeks. Same for if an employee tells their employer they’re looking for a new job. In a perfect world, there would be total transparency, but you have to protect your own interests first.

          1. Jennifer Needs a Thneed*

            The company did this in a public job posting. That’s pretty transparent. They just didn’t notify the OP personally. (And at only 25 people, who is “they”? Did the OP’s manager put in that posting herself? Or did she give it to an HR person who might have assumed that the OP knew?)

            But also, everyone’s been focussing on “tone” and they missed the 2nd half of that line. The OP says her boss edits her work “because I either “don’t have the right tone” or I make copy-editing errors”. Copy-editing errors? That’s not something an experienced professional writer should be doing, certainly not more than once. Or was the manager wrong?

              1. yasmara*

                Me too. If you are Acting Communications Director, I would expect zero copy-editing errors.

                I have to say with contract employees, I would probably not be talking with them about not re-hiring them until closer to their contract end point. I know it sucks, but it’s the reality of hiring practices with my employer.

                Maybe there was a mismatch in expectations all along between OP and the boss? I don’t want to minimize that the boss sounds like she is inexperienced and not very good at managing, but I’ve worked remotely from my bosses for the past 10 years – as long as we have frequent email/phone conversations, it’s been totally fine. I am out of the loop on the day-to-day office gossip/networking, which is the biggest drawback.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Yeah same, it doesn’t seem like OP is disputing the copy-editing errors either. This really shouldn’t be such a huge surprise to OP.

  15. Tone Schmone*

    I was dealing with a similar situation at my work regarding tone. I found it really demoralizing as well, especially as he started needing to see my tweets before I sent them out. So, I tried a little experiment to see whether or not his “tone” criticism had any merit. For my next social media post, I found old copy that my boss had edited, used, and approved as “best practices.” I changed out some factual information while preserving the tone and submitted it back to him. He still made massive edits and criticized it. I repeated this experiment about a dozen times with proven copy. You know what I learned? It had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the work. It had everything to do with his perception of me and his insecurities around being “the cool company.” I’m now looking for new work with newfound confidence. It’s not about my work. It’s about his own insecurities and his inability to manage things properly.

    1. Willow*

      I had a boss like this. We actually spent a full hour one day arguing over whether that should be a semicolon or a comma. I would make the changes he wanted, he would review and make more changes, and after another couple of rounds of this, the final version would be nearly identical to the original version. And then he said I wasn’t productive enough and it took me too long to get documents out the door.

    2. TL -*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some of that going on – this is my brainchild and if I don’t write it, it’s just not going to get written correctly. Especially if the nonprofit has a style that’s very driven by her style and viewpoint; I think she might be inherently biased against anything that doesn’t come from her or someone like her. So rather than coaching the OP towards the correct tone, she just got more and more frustrated that it was “wrong” and assumed that the OP couldn’t get the right tone because the OP was different.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      My manager started out with this approach too; over time, we had some VERY frank conversations about everything…

      From: look at my notes – first you said this. The next time you said that. And now you’re going back to THIS. What’s up? Which one do you want to be the standard?

      To is it really worth the company’s time for you to go through this copy, make a note that I should use “since” instead of “while” and then send it back to me for me to make the change? Plus, you told me not to repeat a ton and I used “since” in the previous paragraph – what’s up?

      And luckily – even though she was a new manager and there were growing pains – she’s generally a reasonable person and 2 years in, we’re doing really well (though there’s still a few items she still holds VERY close and I rarely get to touch at all).

      1. EddieSherbert*

        So even though her thing was always “tone,” I was able to provide some really solid examples where it wasn’t tone she was hounding me for, and show that she was being very inconsistent, which was confusing me.

        To be fair, this also included style things as well (“make links bold!… why did you bold those links?”) which are really easy to show inconsistencies with (I could pull up posts she wrote and say “look at this”).

  16. N*

    I was in a similar situation with a manager about a year ago, OP–I found out through the notes to a meeting at which I was not present that my manager and the CEO had decided to cut a major project that I had been working on for nearly a year. When I brought it up with the manager, she was initially pretty nonchalant about it and I felt really weird about it all.

    You should probably be actively job searching, as everyone above says. In my case, I sat down with my manager and expressed my concern about finding out secondhand that a major piece of my work was going away without any word coming to me first. I framed it more like this: “I care really deeply about doing a good job here, and when I found out secondhand that my work was being changed so drastically it made me very worried. I know that there was no harm meant on your part, but can you see why it would have been cause for concern for me?” It ended up working out well enough and we developed a better method for communication going forward–if you are inclined, OP, you could try a similar method.

  17. Chaordic One*

    In the past when I’ve problems with young inexperienced supervisors it was usually because they were reluctant to ask for help from their immediate supervisors above them to address problems in our department. I suppose they were afraid that asking for help would make them look weak or ineffective or something.

    In this situation where the supervisor is a company founder who shouldn’t have to ask for approval from above, it is just really disappointing.

  18. Audiophile*

    OP, I’m a bit surprised you didn’t see this coming, because it sounds like you and your manager haven’t been seeing eye to eye. I’ve worked with people who constantly corrected my work, without providing context or details about why. And it definitely made me doubt my skills. I’m sorry your manager didn’t have the guts to tell you she wanted to move in a different direction, that’s a crappy thing to do to someone.

    I’ve interviewed for jobs where it came out the current employee didn’t know they were on the way out. It was awkward for me, I can only imagine what it ended up being like for the employee. I was glad not to get offered those jobs.

    I’ve also been the new employee who was forced to “break it” to the current employee that their job was finished, usually this was taken care of by my showing up and announcing I was there to be trained, that was even more awkward. This meant I wasn’t really trained, because the other person was understandably hurt and usually took it out on me. In ALL of these cases, the onus is on the employer to tell the employee it’s not working out and they’re moving in a different direction.

  19. Channel Z*

    Hi OP, I completely understand feeling angry and betrayed. It sounds like your anger has been building for a while in the background at the way she has been handling your work, or not handling it, as it were. This event has probably brought all the anger out to the surface. It is OK to be angry. Also remember that your previous employers have regarded your work highly, and that still is true. Don’t give her opinion more weight than the others, and there are other employers out there who will value you.

  20. DevAssist*

    The “We need to talk about this.” strikes me as inappropriate. Not because OP wanted to discuss it, but I would never be so blunt with my boss.

    I sympathize with OP, but it sounds like they don’t like the “twenty-something” culture. I’d encourage them to set age and generational differences aside as much as they can and focus directly on the work issues.

    1. AD*

      Bringing up the age difference is needless in this context, and the OP’s letter didn’t make it sound like there is a generational gap or resentment.
      Alison was the one who pointed out that younger, less experienced managers often lack the tools to coach or give good feedback to employees. It feels a bit harsh to throw this in OP’s face, when she wasn’t the one who brought it up (and yes, the “we need to talk about this” was way more blunt than it needed to be).

  21. Employment Lawyer*

    It’s all strange because my last three bosses all loved my writing, and I’ve worked as a professional writer for decades. I’ve gone from being a star to an incompetent in six months.
    Sounds like it’s time to move on.

    You think your writing is good. Your boss disagrees.
    You think you’re trustworthy and reliable. Your boss does not.
    Your boss thinks you make “copy-editing errors” (do you?) and you think you are a “professional writer.”

    Now, obviously you think this is all her fault. Perhaps you’re right. But even if it is, you’re going to have to leave.

    AAM, I disagree with your advice. This OP seems to be on a time-limited contract, and the boss is obviously quite dissatisfied with her. This is the rare occasion which doesn’t require a ton of input; sensible managing would simply be to find a replacement.

    1. Jill*

      Employment Lawyer, I’m going to disagree with you a bit on your ocmment that “sensible manageing would simply be to find a replacement”.

      Sensible management is first making yourself more available for face-to-face feedback. Sensible management is also about being direct about the extent to which expectations aren’t being met. Sensible management is providing your employee a fair chance to improve (such as with professional development, more training, or, through NOT redoing their work without giving feedback.

      And an honorable manager would give a limited term employee a heads up that they will not be retained when their contract is up. Yes, the contract ends with no further obligation on either party. But contracted employees still deserve to know where they stand.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        I agree fully with this.

        I cannot shake a feeling that OP’s manager has some kind of subconscious biases against the OP. I think it is an age issue, unfortunately. And it is preventing the OP’s boss from being open-minded regarding nuances of experience that the OP brings.

      2. Kaitlyn*

        Sensible management is providing your employee a fair chance to improve (such as with professional development, more training, or, through NOT redoing their work without giving feedback.

        But the LW isn’t an employee. A short-term contract has very different parameters than a full-time permanent role. I would expect that the writing be perfect every time; that the LW see the tonal/rewrite issues and follow up with her manager (and recognize also that it seems that the LW’s inability to capture tone is actually leading to more work for her manager, putting more pressure on that person); ad to understand that, if there have been ongoing fit and quality control issues, that the organization may not want to sink any training or PD into the LW). LW, you may have received feedback that your work is stellar in other contexts, but based on what you’ve written, it wasn’t stellar here. Why would you be surprised that your role would be posted when the contract ends?

  22. No more nonesense*

    I’ve both worked for and been the first time manager and I have a lot of sympathy for people in both positions now. It can be overwhelming, especially in a startup where systems and procedures are not established and there are so many things that all have to progress at one time. Small missteps can have an out-of-proportion impact. It’s really stressful. If you don’t have experience and training, or at least a good mentor, you’re doomed.

    I’m not justifying your boss’s behavior because that was a poor way to handle that, but hopefully this will inspire your sympathy and help you survive the next month or so.

  23. jim*

    I saw my job online a few times. They were adding new people, that’s all it was. Eventually a new guy became the manager and he started writing me up. I settled all the issues in the writ but he was still un-pleased. So when he went for the 90-day disciplinary to termination, I went for a job search. I got a new job and stapled my resignation letter to his 90-day d2t and put it in his mailbox. He’s still posting my job more than a year later. Must have burned through a few people since then. Poor guy, he must be so frustrated. ;)

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