update: I’m jealous of my employee and it’s impacting how I treat her

Remember the letter-writer who was jealous of her attractive employee and realized it was affecting the way she treated her? Here’s the update.

Thank you for publishing my letter and for your kind response. I would also like to extend my thanks to all the people who responded kindly and gave me encouragement.

I was fired two weeks ago. A client went to my boss with concerns about my interactions with my team member. At my dismissal meeting, my boss told me since it was similar to the complaint from my team member, he spoke with other people on my team. He said half of them thought the same thing as my team member (that I was jealous) and the other half just thought she was bad at her job. Meanwhile, my team member consulted with a lawyer who spoke to my boss’s boss and the legal department. My boss expressed his disappointment in me for lying to him and exploiting our working relationship.

This experience has made me realize I need help. I broke the lease on my apartment and moved back in with my parents for support. My parents and family have been wonderful. I am about to start outpatient rehab for alcohol and marijuana use because I realized I was using these things as a crutch to mask my insecurities. I’m attending individual therapy every other day to deal with my past eating disorder, body image issues, and anxiety and going to two different support groups as recommended by my therapist.

In the comments to my post, some people couldn’t believe my team member went to my boss about my jealousy and there were comments along the lines of “who does that” or “she seems full of herself to think so.” Her complaint was not off-base. I was jealous and I did mistreat her. Her complaint was the truth. She is not full of herself, she complained about something which was really happening to her. I accept responsibility for my actions and understand why I was fired. I caused harm to someone else for no fault of her own, burned all my bridges with the company, lost my friends and ruined my reputation in the industry to point where I will never work in it again. I have only myself to blame. I am ashamed of myself, no one has any idea of how much so. I don’t want to be that person any more. For now I am focusing on my well-being, if things go well I plan to start night classes at the community college later on. One step at a time though. I want and need to get better first.

Thank you for everything Alison. I wish you, your husband and the cats well.

And here’s an update to the update from a few weeks later:

I know I already sent in my update. I just wanted to say thank you again. I have been doing my therapy and outpatient rehab for three weeks now and I am feeling better than I have in years. I know I have a long road ahead of me and I am not claiming I am cured or everything is okay now but I am feeling good and it is a relief to have everything out in the open.

This is the hardest thing I have ever done and I am just starting, I still have months of rehab and every other day therapy ahead of me. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I read your answer and the supportive comments and I feel better. I showed my original letter to one of my therapists and he commended my self awareness as well as your response.

I have not had any alcohol, marijuana or anxiety medication in three weeks. My doctor may eventually put me back on medication for anxiety but for now I understand what my therapist and the rehab says about allowing myself to feel everything so I can work out my feelings and learning coping strategies. I won’t be drinking or using again though. I can never go back to that.

I have good days and bad ones but writing in to you was probably the best thing I ever did. Thank you again for not making me feel worthless and for giving such a compassionate response. I still read your blog every day and look forward to seeing my update in a future post.

All the best to you. I feel hopeful for the first time in years and it is all thanks to you and your readers.

{ 296 comments… read them below }

    1. Analysis Paralysis*

      +1! I applaud you for taking ownership of your actions and creating/following a plan to get the help you need. You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished thus far! You may face tough times and challenges as you travel this new path; you CAN do it! It’s great that you have a support system in place to help you through the rough patches — and you also have an internet community here at AAM rooting for you. Please do keep us informed. GO YOU!!

    2. Claire Underwood*

      Wishing you peace and continued improvement, OP. You are showing a lot of courage and self-awareness that many people would be unable to do. It will serve you well in the future, I’m sure. Best of luck.

    3. (another) b*

      This update makes me so sad, and yet I have only the best wishes for the OP. It’s so unfortunate that things turned out this way but I am glad the OP is turning her(?) life around. I find it strange that the team member got a lawyer – how is this a legal situation? Maybe I’m missing something. I have had bosses that just didn’t like me (could have been “jealousy” who knows) and that’s just part of life. Unless there is more to the story.
      OP, don’t be discouraged and I hope you are able to still find work in your industry. Keep working on yourself – it’s a great thing that you can see your flaws and are trying to improve. And don’t beat yourself up over not liking someone – it’s too bad they were your subordinate, but how you felt about her is sometimes a normal reaction in real life. It happens. Chin up!

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        If a *client* complained to the boss about the OP’s treatment of the coworker, there is certainly more to the story.

        1. (another) b*

          Good point. It must have been a more complicated matter. Either way, the situation came to an end and OP can use the experience to help her grow.

      2. moose tracks*

        Not a lawyer, but the OP’s treatment of the employee could be seen as gender discrimination/harassment. If it was so bad that other coworkers were noticing, they may have even recommended the targeted employee keep a record of their interactions before going to HR. I had an experience somewhat similar. My ex-director and I had personality clashes and it got to a point where others were noticing how short and rude he was to me and reaching out in sympathy. It escalated when I put in my two week notice- he yelled at me at meetings, would make condescending remarks, etc. Barely 3 days into my notice, he demanded I leave. When I went to HR about it, their solution was a compromise: I would get paid to the end of my notice, but I no longer needed to come in. I think it would make anyone nervous to bring a complaint about their manager, especially when it is something like “hey, I’m getting treated differently by Manager and it seems like they might be jealous of me?” In order to have a compelling case, they probably felt the need to do their due diligence and get those receipts.

      3. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I’m sure there are details here we aren’t privy to so I won’t hypothesize specifically on what happened here, but I am aware some very interesting legal discussion around a theory of employment discrimination related to appearance (generally tying back to gender or age as protected classes). I’m not sure what case law is out there, if any, and who knows what happened here, but it’s a possibility. No one wants to be a test case!

    4. Kix*

      This was one of the most courageous things I have read recently. Thank you, OP, for providing and I look forward to hearing more as you progress on your journey.

  1. Laura (Needs a New Name)*

    Strength and good wishes to you, LW. You are doing a good, hard thing.

  2. Stop That Goat*

    It sounds like you are taking responsibility for your actions and are working towards a better mental space. It’s unfortunate that it got as far as it did before a breaking point but now you can work towards rebuilding yourself. Keep it up!

    Coming from someone else who made a shameful work mistake over 10 years ago, it sounds like you’re on the right path to move on from this. It doesn’t need to define you.

    1. Sydney*

      Best to you OP. I know that you will be OK. I hope your story encourages others with similar issues to get help – today.

  3. Temperance*

    LW, I wish you the best in your continued recovery. We’re all rooting for you! I’m not sure if you’re a Captain Awkward reader, but please know that I am happily on Team You.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Just chiming in to add to the chorus! We are Team You all the way.

      Congrats on taking these steps for yourself.

    2. K.G., Ph.D.*

      Another Team You member here, sending Jedi hugs!

      LW, you are displaying more grace, self-awareness, and vulnerability than I could possibly ever manage if I were in the same situation. I know you will go far once you get back on your feet. I am sad for your former employee, and sad for you, but very glad that you are getting the help you need to move forward.

  4. LBK*

    Oof. I never would’ve guessed this was so deep based on the original letter, but it sounds like there’s way more to this than work problems. Good luck on this journey, OP – it sounds like you’re already seeing big improvements and I hope this path continues for you and you end up happier than you ever could’ve imagined.

    1. FlibbertyG*

      agree, having read the original letter I didn’t think it had gone so far and thought being fired was an unlikely outcome, but i guess it just goes to show you that you never have the whole picture.

  5. Jen*

    “allowing myself to feel everything so I can work out my feelings and learning coping strategies.”

    This is so important and so much easier said than done. I think you are very very brave for realizing you need help and for taking the steps to get that help. I’ve been in therapy for 2 years now for anxiety and depression and it’s been a really long process to have the confidence of my feelings and feel them. It sounds basic but it’s not. It’s hard.

    This is all hard, isn’t it? Figuring out how to get through the hard in a healthy way is enormous. I wish you the best of luck in your process.

    1. (another) b*

      It’s a lifelong process sometimes. I’m 31 and I’ve been working on it since a teenager! Just keep going is all you can do.

  6. Cassandra*

    LW, I am rooting for you. You can recover from this, and I hope and believe you will. Strength and good fortune to you.

    I’ve had to own up to mistreating people too. It’s easy to be in denial about that, and hard to face it honestly. You’ve done that, and that’s worthy of respect.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    Standing ovation.

    OP, I admire your courage and your raw honesty about your setting. I mean I really admire it.
    I’d work with you any day.
    Life is strange, OP. We let go of something that we think is important and we find something even bigger and better. We find parts of ourselves that we actually LIKE. This is where you are going.
    Give a shout in 6 months/1 year/whatever interval feels right and let us know how you are doing.

    1. Anon Lawyer*

      +100 to this. I wish this OP all the best in her recovery and in her future career and work, whatever that might be.

  8. Anon For This*

    I feel so sorry for the OP. While the mistreatment of her employee was wrong, it was also based on a real mental health issue, one that the OP clearly needed help for. I also can’t help but think that the organization and OP’s boss also shares some culpability in this situation. I don’t understand why the OP was not involved in the hiring process for a person who was going to be reporting to her. And I also don’t understand why the OP fired after what appears to be a decade long tenure at the organization, and only two conversations. I would have thought that the second conversation would have been a shape up or ship out conversation, versus being fired. So while I’d like to commend the OP on taking responsibility, I also don’t believe that the responsibility is exclusively hers.

    1. Observer*


      Firstly, how is it even remotely appropriate for someone to refuse to hire someone because she is “too pretty”? Beyond that, this could so easily be considered sex based discrimination, which happens to be illegal, which means that the company can’t allow her to make that decision anyway, no matter what you think about the ethics.

      Secondly, once the OP *LIED* to her boss, and took advantage of their relationship, she forfeited any right to a second chance. Had she admitted to the problem, her boss might have given her the “shape up or ship out speech”, depending on how bad things were. But, once she lied about it, that chance is gone.

      Also, considering that client saw enough to caused them to go to the boss, the abuse must have been pretty pervasive and severe. Putting other people at risk, or allowing them to be abused is never a reasonable accommodation to someone’s disability – not legally nor morally.

      The OP is not a monster. But she did do something totally untenable and her boss really didn’t have too many choices here.

      1. paul*

        Yep. This is one of those where you can have sympathy for a person while recognizing that they have to go (there’s a lot of that going around the last month or three on this site aren’t there).

        Allowing one person to harm another is not an appropriate accommodation–for anything. Phobias, eating disorders, domestic abuse, etc.

        1. Indoor Cat*

          “Allowing one person to harm another is not an appropriate accommodation–for anything.”

          ^^^thank you

          This sums up very succinctly something I was trying to put into words when reading many letters here. As a person with a disability and a chronic mental / physical illness (which I now have well under control) I understand the knee-jerk reaction against ableism. After all, ablism is very pervasive, and most accommodations are easier to provide than an employer might think.

          But in any kind of treatment, it is well known that if a person “harms oneself or others,” that is a next-level problem, and it means the treatment isn’t working. Often it is a sign that a person may want to move from outpatient to inpatient care.

          Or, even in the case of physical illness–if a person is diagnosed with, say, epilepsy or cataplexy, or their poor eyesight crosses the threshold of ‘legally blind’ due to a degenerative illness, in my state at least, they must immediately hand over their driver’s license. It is not their fault, and they are not being “punished” for having a seizure disorder or going blind. It is simply necessary to protect other people on the road. There is no accommodation that can be made that allows that person to drive, even though driving is a freedom people greatly value. Trust me, it sucks, I’ve been there. I get it. But I also 100% understand that my freedom to drive doesn’t trump others’ right to not be put in danger should I have a seizure behind the wheel.

          I can’t let my disorder put others in danger, and neither can bird-phobia guy, or abuse-victim-woman, or this manager who struggles with addiction and eating disorders.

        2. Forrest*

          “Allowing one person to harm another is not an appropriate accommodation”

          I don’t think any of the people you’re referring to ever asked to have their issues accommodated by being allowed to hurt someone.

          Blowing up stuff like this out of proportion or deliberately making something seem like it’s not doesn’t add to a helpful or useful conservation. It shows that you don’t have an understanding of what an accommodation is and that is not helpful to the Letter Writers.

          1. Annonymouse*

            The LW isn’t asking for that but some previously mentioned workplaces and some commenters have done the whole:

            “Have a disability, can’t fire, discipline them or anything else cause lawsuit/ accomodation.”

            Which isn’t reasonable if it really impacts another persons work or has nothing to do with the job.
            (The workplace letting one employee have up to 18 weeks a year off and cancelling the other employees approved leave repeatedly/not hiring a temp and the one enforcing how people line up for the bus/what they can and can’t wear because one employee has OCD spring to mind.)

            Rather we want commenters and those workplaces to reframe their thinking of what a reasonable accommodation is.

            We can still empathise with those with this disability/phobia/condition but at the same time point out that the way their situation is being handled needs to be changed because it’s causing someone else to suffer.

            1. Forrest*

              Asking for an accommodation to help manage a health issue is covered by the law. But no one is asking to be allowed to harm people as their accommodation. It’s frankly ridiculous to suggest that they are.

              Are some of these people being kept on despite harming someone? Yes. But that is not the same thing at all as “oh, my accommodation is I can harm people because of xyz.”

              Again, stop suggesting that being able to harm someone is something these individuals asked for. You can go on about “well, we can still empathize” all you want but this portrayal of these situations is not at all empathetic and is frankly inflammatory.

              As someone with a mental illnesses, I’m down right insulted that you think not being fired for harming someone is an accommodation and they now have free range to harm other people because “accommodation!”

              1. paul*

                Except all of those people *did* in fact harm others, and from what we know in at least one case absolutely *nothing* was done to prevent a recurrence. Regardless of if that’s what they asked for, that’s what happened. That isnt an appropriate course of action for the company to undertake.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yes, the thing that stood out to me was that the breaking point was not a report from a coworker but a report from a client. That feels to me one step beyond in terms of implied obviousness (and, frankly, business impact).

        I’m glad to hear that the LW is getting the help they need.

      3. Mb13*

        Yes exactly. Mental illness can negatively effect anyone. However, it doesn’t mean that people are no longer held responsible for their actions. The letter writer acted in atrocious discriminatory behavior that harmed other people. I hope the op gets better and wish her the best

      4. Pommette*


        The way the OP treated her employee is completely unacceptable. The fact that the abuse is a result of serious mental illness doesn’t make it less egregious. It should be taken seriously. Someone who abused their power like that should not remain in a position of power.

        The OP recognizes this, and is brave to do so. That kind of recognition and self-awareness is pretty much necessary for someone with mental illness to begin getting better. I respect him/her and wish him/her well, as do, it seems, pretty much all of the commenters on this site.

        Good luck, OP!

    2. Sylvia*

      I have a lot of sympathy for the OP, too, but I’m not seeing how anyone else is responsible for her treating this woman badly.

      FWIW, OP, I am mentally ill and it has caused some bad behavior on my part. There’s a hard balance to find between accepting responsibility, which I feel you’re doing, and beating yourself up, which I’m concerned you could do, too. It’s hard, but you’re not alone, if it’s any help.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        Yep. I have some mental health problems. Sometimes I am a shit, and sometimes that is because of my mental health problems so I can’t really “help it” in the moment — my brain is going off the rails (sometimes I’m just a shit because everyone is a shit once in a while :P). But I’m still responsible for my actions and they still have consequences. Sometimes those consequences suck, but you just gotta keep moving and get whatever help you need to do better.

        I feel bad for OP that the consequences for this one were quite so gnarly, but that’s a thing that happens. OP is making the best of it by getting the help they need, and that’s awesome — all you can really do in situations like this is learn from it and move forward.

        1. Pommette*


          A big part of navigating life with mental illness has been learning to recuse myself when I know that my brain won’t let me take on responsibilities that I would, in healthier times, be able to handle. It’s hard to do, and it requires a constant re-evaluation of my state and of my capacities. Sometimes I fail in this task; sometimes this failure hurts others. When that happens, I am responsible for my errors and for their consequences. I am also a good person who is struggling with something difficult. Those two things can be true at the same time!

          You can’t start to deal with mental illness without appreciating how the decisions you make while ill affect your own and others’ wellbeing. It sounds as if the OP does have such an appreciation. That’s a good, and encouraging, thing!

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        There is a difference between blame and responsibility. Sometimes you can’t blame someone for how they are, but they’re still responsible for what they’ve done to others.

    3. The OG Anonsie*

      Yeah, I’m also surprised that they would dismiss her rather than say she would be if there wasn’t immediate improvement. Not because the offense was minimal, because it’s not, but because I have just known sssooooooo many managers that are cranky with their employees that I’m surprised something like that would get someone canned instantly.

      Then again, I’m unsure of exactly how she was treating this employee. Since some team members were taking it to mean the employee just wasn’t very good at her job, it sounded to me like she was just generally dismissive and maybe easily annoyed with her. I assume it couldn’t have been more egregiously hostile because I doubt people would justify that as caused by performance– but the LW doesn’t say, so perhaps her treatment of this employee was much worse than I thought.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        Since legal got involved and it all played out so swiftly, it’s possible that there was an objective paper trail like emails or performance assessments reflecting OP’s feelings about this employee.

      2. Observer*

        This was behavior that a CLIENT noticed and was bothered by, so it’s not just some minor crankiness, for one thing. For another, she LIED to her supervisor. That’s a good way to torch a relationship.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          I’m not arguing that it’s not so bad, just that… I feel like most companies tolerate that type of behavior in general, and even ones that don’t usually don’t take it as a fireable offense. Especially not right away.

          I’m actually glad that they handled it this way because it is something that should be a deal breaker for a manager in my opinion, but it usually isn’t, so I’m still surprised.

      3. Annonymouse*

        Part of the problem though was OP was undermining them to others and making them look incompetent.

        I’m guessing the half that didn’t think that worked more closely with her and could see she wasn’t.

        Also if she was clearly treating her differently and bad mouthing her to a client…. Yikes.

        Regardless of the past, OP I’m glad your in a place now that is better for you and that’s giving you the time and opportunity to heal and grow.

        I’m just sorry things had to go this far before you got the help you needed.

        Wishing you all the best and a happy future.

      4. Pwyll*

        Obviously without knowing all the details, I can imagine that 1) contact by a lawyer, 2) complaint by a client and 3) lying to the supervisor all on the same issue pushed this into firing territory.

      5. Lilo*

        Especially when it comes to legal issues, it just isn’t an excuse. Something I learned as a law clerk (and I would bet every judge teachers her law clerk this) is the phrase: While the court is sympathetic to defendant’s personal circumstances, these circumstances do not create a legal defense.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      Wooosh, this is kind of like yesterday’s letter about the fraudulent fraud…at some point, you have to stop expecting other people to carry the weight of your personal problems. It doesn’t matter if there’s something about your brain and body that puts you at a disadvantage. You have to deal with it as best you can and proactively reach out for positive help if you can’t cover all those bases independently. No one else is going to solve your problems for you, so you have to do it, even if it seems unfair.

      We’re getting to a point where we’re overly identifying with people who aren’t normative and forgetting that the people on the receiving end of harm are actual human beings too. People who are normative should absolutely have empathy and should be helpful when they can, but it’s not their lifelong obligation to withstand injury and abuse inflicted by coworkers that they did not choose.

      1. Sylvia*

        I didn’t get into the “fraudulent fraud” letter’s comments, but I agree with you on this. As a mentally ill person, I’ve received a lot of support and compassion. That’s fantastic. That should also be extended to people who are normative (or who we assume are normative). Their needs are just as worthwhile.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I’m not happy to admit this, but I’ve had to adopt a “fool me twice, shame on me” attitude when it comes to stuff like this. I’m lucky/unlucky enough to be a fairly normative person in a family AND social circle of people with rampant addiction and mental health diagnoses. I refuse to let people trample over my life, emotions, and body as a way of evening the score over the luck of my birth/mental chemistry. At what juncture do the abuses inflicted upon people like me cycle back around to make us the victims in these scenarios? And at what juncture do I have social permission to stop opening up to people who remind me of past “abusers”? Eventually I need to be allowed to put myself first, even if I’m not disabled or mentally ill.

          1. AMG*

            Standing up and clapping wildly!!!

            This is everything about some of the recent posts I fully agree with but was unable to articulate.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think this is part of the reason for some of the divisions we see here. You’re coming from a very specific set of experiences that have informed your thinking, but not everyone is. And for people who aren’t coming from that background, I think this approach can sometimes feel overly harsh and out of sync with what they know of the world from their own experiences. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you — of course it’s not — but I think it gets into weird territory if someone with your outlook on this stuff is insisting to people without those experiences that Way X is right and Way Y is self-evidently wrong.

            1. paul*

              What grates on me–and this is coming from someone that’s been assaulted and has had mental health issues–is that a lot of times it seems like empathy towards one person comes at the expense of empathy for the other people in the equation.

                1. paul*

                  and–this might be long–

                  Workplace managers are managing *work*. They aren’t, or shouldn’t be, managing employees lives outside of work. I expect managers to make a place reasonably safe, efficient, reasonable, etc. I care about the work environment they provide.

                  I expect them to make reasonable accommodations for issues, but that can’t come at the expense of putting other employees at risk or giving a pass on injurious behavior towards other employees.

                  At a minimum, as an employee, I want a reasonably safe working environment, where I’m not subject harassment, physical harm, etc. If a coworker’s behavior violates that, it needs to be controlled–a safety plan, reprimands, termination, etc depending on severity and circumstances.

                  I don’t want workplaces to let a person make a workplace demonstrably less safe for me, because of another employee’s personal problems. If the end result is that other person being fired because they make everyone else less safe, then as empathetic as I can be for them, everyone else matters too and has a right to feel like they matter–not to mention to be free from harm inflicted by coworkers! It’d be nice if the workplace can afford to offer severance or placement services for the terminated party, since they’re not always fully culpable, but that’s going to be secondary for me.

            2. Temperance*

              This is such a kind comment. I am in a similar life situation to Stella aah and because of that, I draw hard boundaries and support consequences for mentally ill folks who harm others. It isn’t always the popular position.

              1. Meddling Little Belgian*

                I have professional contact with mentally ill people. There are very few people who are mentally ill to the point where they are not culpable for their actions and/or do not recognize the difference between right and wrong or between what is true and what is a lie. That being said there are plenty of people who are not mentally ill and they also have a skewed definition of what is fair, ethical, moral, normal, etc… In short, we humans are very good at behaving badly or having bad judgement, mentally ill or otherwise.

          3. Lilo*

            I am the same. I had a friend in college with a diagnosed illness, but at some point I realized that, illness or not, our relationship had become abusive. I don’t want to get into specifics, but some of the things she did (suicide threats, disrupting relationships with others, screaming at people who took her to the hospital when she threatened suicide) were straight out of the abusive textbook. I got grief from other people in the group when I decided to cut contact but ultimately it was the right decision. Mental illness or not, disrupting my life and education is not okay.

            1. Lilo*

              I will add that my SIL went through something similar. Yea her husband had PTSD, but no, that did not mean she was a bad person for leaving him when he abused her. It took her longer to leave him because the message of accommodation and “not his fault” was so ingrained in her. But all the “not his fault” in the world doesn’t make the bruises go away.

              1. Stellaaaaa*

                I’ve posted before about my Marine ex. Oh, the PTSD wasn’t his fault. Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases, not his fault! Mental illness isn’t his fault! So when he started beating up on me I was pressured to stay with him because none of his problems were his fault. The people who were pressuring me are people who like to talk a big talk about feminism too (ever notice how women always get thrown under the bus when intersectional trade-offs come up?) but suddenly it was on me for not being open-minded enough, to say nothing of me being in a pretty textbook example of domestic abuse. Of course, now the guy’s in jail for beating up the woman he dated after me. But not his fault. My fault!

                1. Emmie*

                  Gosh. That probably added to a DV victim’s own perception that the abuse was her fault. In case you needed to hear this: it wasn’t your fault. It also wasn’t / isn’t your responsibility to fix. I’m glad he’s in jail. He got what he deserved.

                2. paul*

                  I almost hate to admit it, but I’ve advised an acquaintance to divorce his wife (this was a while ago and he did). It wasn’t as extreme as your case–she wasn’t violent at least. But she was bipolar and not med compliant and was emotionally abusive during manic phases and absolutely no help at all with anything during depressive phases; it was either yelling at him and the kid or staying shut up in her room all day and she refused to get treatment for years.

                  At some point, you gotta look after you–and in this case the kid, since they damn sure don’t need to be caught up in that.

                3. Lissa*

                  “ever notice how women always get thrown under the bus when intersectional trade-offs come up?)” YUP. This is why I’ve stopped participating in many spaces online that I used to like a lot.

                  I think that reactions to a lot of these letters are very very personal. I know they can be for me, too. We put ourselves into the shoes of one person or the other person depending on our own experiences, and we might do it differently even the wording was different. I know that for me, I tend to instinctively take the side of whoever is getting a repetitive drubbing in the comments, or to at least find myself more sympathetic than I might otherwise be.

                  I feel like the really tense arguments between posters happen in part because the person who identifies with Side A reads different things into it than a poster who identifies with Side B – someone called one of these letters a Rorschach test and I think that’s exactly right. So people on both sides will end up feeling like other people are being terrible but it’s just that they are seeing completely different things.

                4. Temperance*

                  @paul: coming from someone who could have been the kid in that situation, THANK YOU.

              2. Pommette*

                The focus our culture places on fault/responsibility makes this kind of situation particularly hard to deal with. It doesn’t matter that the PTSD is not his fault. He deserves access to help for his illness; she deserves access to help for the abuse she has suffered, and she deserves to be safe from abuse.

                Eating disorders are incredibly tough mental illnesses to deal with. It’s not OP’s fault that she was unable to manage her employee. But the employee still deserves to be treated fairly by her manager.

          4. MW*

            Something makes me feel deeply uncomfortable about the line of reasoning you’re advocating. I sympathize with your position where your trust and good nature have been abused and, from the sounds of your subsequent replies, you’ve suffered very badly. Absolutely, I think you are right to put a higher emphasis on your own needs in your life.

            I worry that you’re limiting who you can be sympathetic with. In the case of this letter, I agree, the OP wronged a woman very badly, and that victim deserves our sympathy. Does that mean we can’t show sympathy to the OP? In this and other similar cases, does doing right by one party necessarily mean doing wrong by another? It keeps being framed that way because at least the two other examples that spring to mind involved someone saying “Fire the person who wronged me or I’m leaving”. I’m personally bigger on mercy than justice, though, and in all scenarios I’d prefer a solution that does best by everyone (not always possible!)

            In this case I absolutely think that the OP’s victim deserves a lot of sympathy and some manner of restitution. That doesn’t stop me from feeling sympathetic to the OP and wishing there were some way that this ended short of her being fired and run out of town.

            1. Lilo*

              I am not saying I don’t sympathize with OP and I am glad she is getting help, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the employer did the right thing by firing her. Accommodation ends at harm to other people. There are some people who are so mentally ill that they literally can’t control themselves, but there have been a couple letters where people have harmed coworkers and some commenters even seek to blame the injured party or.minimize the harm based on the perpetrator’s conditions. As someone who has seen a loved one be terribly abused, it triggers the exact stuff my SIL had said to her to excuse her spouse’s behavior . The message should be clear: abuse is not tolerated.

      2. paul*

        Yes. So much this.

        It’s something I see a *lot* with … I’m just going to call them warm & fuzzies based people out in the community. They’re the same type that are absolutely flabbergasted that we’d kick a person out of a shelter (back when I worked in one). It’s like, yes we would; they were threatening other clients and staff and *those clients and staff matter too*. It’s the weirdest damn thing to see in action.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. It’s a deep and irrational terror of anything like conflict – and the easiest way to squelch a conflict is to force the people who are already behaving decently to ‘make nice’. Confronting and dealing with a bad actor is very hard.

          I think of such “warm & fuzzies” as free-range codependents. They’re mostly OK until someone who is disruptive and a problem floats into their zone, and then suddenly they latch on to, effectively, protect them in order to maintain the illusion of a status quo.

      3. BTownGirl*

        I agree. I once had a close friend with a lot of insecurities who let her jealousy go way, way out of control. She said awful things about people who had done nothing to her (myself included) and caused a lot of people pain. She even spread a rumor about another friend’s CHILD because she was jealous that the friend bought a new house. I’m glad the OP got help, but behavior like this is so toxic and destructive that I kind of can’t with the “you’re so, so wonderful for addressing your problems” sentiment. She caused another person real harm and that’s getting lost a bit here.

        1. N*

          Well, to be fair, I think it’s more of a “you’re wonderful for addressing your problems AND taking responsibility for the fallout.” I agree that OP’s behavior was toxic…but so does OP. That’s what makes it pretty commendable.

      4. Been There, Done That*

        As an HR person told me years ago, “having an accommodation doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk.”

        1. Been There, Done That*

          This was part of some advice HR person gave me re an accommodated person I worked with, she wasn’t calling ME the jerk!

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I have very deep sympathy for the OP, but I disagree entirely. It’s not inappropriate for OP’s boss to have hired this employee, and it’s not ok to refuse to hire someone because they are too pretty/fashionable and trigger a mental health issue for you.

      I suspect OP was fired for numerous reasons, including: (1) She engaged in discriminatory treatment of her employee that was severe enough for the employee to hire a lawyer and have a meeting with the legal department; (2) She lied to her boss in order to align the powers that be against the mistreated employee (and to essentially gaslight that employee by proxy); and (3) She mistreated her employee for non-merits based reasons in a manner so obvious and persistent that half her team believed the employee was being mistreated for the same reason the employee thought she was being mistreated (and the other half thought the employee incompetent, which OP mentioned was a concern). The mistreatment was severe, ongoing, and apparently pervasive/open.

      In light of the additional information we received in the update, I probably would have also fired OP. By the time it came up the second time, the company was not in a position to grant OP leniency. They were trying to cover their butts on the legal side, and for good reason. I think the moment to intervene would have been the first time OP’s manager called her in about the complaint, but at this point, it’s too far gone.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        Agreed. And based on the OP’s updates she is in agreement as well and is a far better place as a result.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        and it’s not ok to refuse to hire someone because they are too pretty/fashionable and trigger a mental health issue for you.

        Yes, thank you. If it’s true that the LW would have blocked this hire because they didn’t feel that they could work with someone attractive, then permitting them to influence hiring so as to prevent the hiring of pretty and fashionable women wouldn’t resolve the issue–it would compound it.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s not really true. It may be a social norm for people to be more likely to hire people who are attractive and put together, but it’s also common for certain fields to discriminate against people who they think are overly concerned with their appearance in favor of people who may not be as conventionally/majoritarian-norm “pretty” or put together. And there’s a good number of cases in which gender discrimination was more likely to be deemed non-offensive to Title VII if a woman is conventionally attractive, versus not-as-attractive.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. And it would have been absolutely unhelpful for the OP, as well.

          OP, you’ve shown remarkable courage, and you may have setbacks, but you are so clearly going to be in a better place soon.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes. I can’t believe I left that out. The client noticing says to me that it was much, much worse than we realized when the first letter came in.

      3. MommyMD*

        I think it went on too long. Boss should have done some serious investigating when the new employee lodged the complaint.

        1. DArcy*

          Per the original letter, that’s exactly when and why the OP lied to the boss about it. The boss *did* investigate the allegations, but the OP was able to exploit her “decade long relationship” to convince the boss that the new employee’s complaint was baseless.

        2. Mb13*

          I mean the boss did investigate. The Op just chose to further throw her employee under the buss by laying and saying there wasn’t a problem. Really the op messed up so much and probably ended up hurting the employee a lot. It’s a good thing the op is trying to get better

    6. CM*

      I think this surprising update goes to show that we all fill in quite a few details about these letters based on our own perceptions of the situation. From just reading the original letter, I’d agree that it would seem shocking that the OP was fired. From the details given here — including that a client noticed and complained about this — it makes a lot of sense.

    7. Sally Sue*

      I’m someone who has managed to stay gainfully employed while struggling with multiple eating disorders, severe depression, and anxiety. I have never once had a client or coworker complain about my behavior. Being mentally ill is NOT an excuse for bad behavior. Just because you are ill, whether it be depression or cancer, you do not have the right to be a terrible human being.

      I’m not saying that OP is a terrible human being, far from it. I believe that OP is incredibly brave because often seeking treatment can be the hardest step (aka admit you have a problem). Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom (aka get fired) in order to get that wake up call you need in order to get help. I commend OP taking her firing and turn it into an opportunity to get better as opposed to dig her hole deeper.

      Good luck OP!

  9. Thinking Outside the Boss*

    Thank you for the update. Your update was very uplifting and I’m glad to see that you’re getting the help you need. Congratulations on your recovery so far and just keep moving in a positive direction!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Me too. Your introspection and self-reflection are amazing, OP. And you are most definitely not worthless. It’s clear that you’ve been in a lot of pain and I’m really glad you’re getting help and support to work through things. I wish you all the best with your recovery.

    2. gladfe*

      One time my dad said something that’s really stuck with me. Paraphrased, it was basically this: “A period of intense introspection always comes at a great cost. The cost is usually worth it, but don’t forget you’re choosing to pay it. That’s what makes it so admirable.”
      Good luck, OP, and congratulations on all the hard work you’ve already done!

      1. neverjaunty*

        aka, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

    3. Blue Anne*

      Me too. OP, you’re working through a ton of really hard things, and I couldn’t be more impressed by your attitude. I wish you all the best. I have total confidence that you will have improved your life tremendously at the end of this.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Very much agreed. This sounds like it was truly awful for everyone involved. OP’s response shows a lot of self awareness, responsibility, and grace. I’m glad OP is getting the support she needs, and I’m sorry that it took this experience to get there. But I have a lot of hope for her, and I’m wishing her the best as she rebuilds her world.

    5. Gandalf the Nude*

      Introspection sounds great and can be great, but it’s really, really not enough on its own. Knowing what’s wrong, even knowing what needs to change to fix it, is not the same as doing the work. That part is really effing hard, especially when you’re in the middle of an episode (or season, as it were). It sounds like OP’s doing that now, which is great, but you’ll notice introspection wasn’t enough to save her job.

      I don’t say this as a knock on OP or anyone else, but as a “hey, me too. I also struggle with that process.”

  10. Jessesgirl72*

    I am so sorry this came to a head in such a dramatic way, OP, but I’m glad it has led to you seeking more effective help. The good thing about rock bottom is that the only way left is up. Your honesty and willing to take responsibility is a good sign that you can recover from this. Good luck in your continued sobriety, health, and future!

  11. Tea*

    Oh, anon. You’ve got a long, hard road in front of you but you have been so brave in facing your mistakes and your recovery head on. I wish strength, peace, and love.

  12. Collie*

    This is so incredibly impressive. I don’t know that I’d have the strength to respond as you have, OP. Well done, congratulations, and we’re pulling for you!

  13. k*

    This is wonderful to hear. I admire how self-aware you are. It can be very hard to be honest with yourself about your issues which so often hinders overcoming them. It sounds like you are facing things head on and have the right attitude, I’m very happy for you.

  14. Observer*

    I feel sad for you that it came to this. But, your self awareness, and understanding of the harm you caused, will help you with your recovery. Lots of luck. It’s a long and hard journey, but very well worth it.

  15. Gen*

    Oh OP I’m so sorry it got so far but I’m so happy for you that you’re getting the help you need, you’re very brave to take the steps you have. Wishing you all the best in your recovery

  16. Noah*

    I hope OP is being too hard on herself. It seems quite possible she could still recover in her industry in a non-management position. I hope so, or that she finds something else she likes!!

    1. Desi*

      +1!! I really hope so too. The OP realizes the mistakes and is making improvements and is accepting a ton of culpability. As long as theforward progression continues, I hope the OP hasn’t blackballed him or herself from the industry. Either way, I wish the OP happiness and success going forward

  17. Banana Sandwich*

    Great job OP! I wish all people were as self reflective as you are! You give me hope for the future of humanity!

  18. fposte*

    It sounds like you had a lot going on, OP. I’m really glad that this event caused you to address the underlying big stuff and that you’re doing better now. That takes courage.

  19. Emi.*

    Wow. I’m deeply impressed by you, and I wish you all the best! Thank you for the update, and speedy/complete recovery! <3

  20. kate*

    OP, i felt a real connection with your first letter, and have thought about it often since it ran. I have struggled with similar body image/dysmorphia/jealousy/ED issues in the past in my personal life that only by sheer luck didn’t quite make it into the workplace with me. you seem like such a fundamentally good person to be able to recognize this in yourself and want to fix it. i wish you so much joy and peace and love in your future… and I really believe you will have it. i still have to struggle with my issues, but my bad days are so much fewer and farther between now, and i know a happy life awaits you too.

  21. Katniss*

    From one sober person to the other, congrats on your sobriety and your willingness and action in helping yourself, OP. I wish you all the best!

  22. Elle*

    OP, I’m glad you’re feeling better and are getting help. Good luck in the future.

  23. Wendy Darling*

    Dude, LW, high five. What you’re doing is hard and also commendable. Your level of introspection here is really impressive and if you keep being this thoughtful and dedicated to your own growth you will totally make it work.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Agreed. Being willing to say “I don’t want to be that person anymore”? Seriously that’s a hard step that many people never make. I work in A&D and I see people year after year who are not able/willing to say enough is enough. Your hard work will pay off. Very best to you. You can do eeet!!

  24. Elisabeth*

    It sounds like things will be hard in the short-term, but in the long-term, this was the best possible outcome – both for you and the employee you mistreated. I’m so glad you wrote into AAM and we are all rooting for you to recover and thrive!!

  25. MassMatt*

    Wow, what a follow up. I’ve rarely seen anyone own up and take responsibility for their actions so completely. Taking a hard look at yourself and not liking the person you are is difficult and painful, committing to change is even harder. It sounds like you are on the right path, I wish you luck.

  26. siobhan*

    OP, I’m sorry it came to this, but you have an impressive level of self-awareness and responsibility that was evident even in your initial letter. It was obvious that you knew your behavior wasn’t okay, but the help you needed to act according to your true values was outside the scope of any advice blog. I’m glad writing in helped you, and that you’re getting the professional help you need, and I wish you nothing but success in your recovery and a fresh start in your career and life.

  27. Jules the Third*

    Hey, OP: good luck. You can come out of this, though yeah, it will be hard and may take a while. It sounds like you have a really good ‘Team You’, and I’m glad for that. Take care of yourself.

    1. Leah*

      Agreed! This is inspiring and both the OP and Alison should be proud of their leadership – it’s very impressive and hopefully the work bring the OP peace and happiness in time

  28. ElizaG*

    Good luck with your recovery, OP. I know it must hurt right now but I hope things will get better for you. I think you are a good person who made some mistakes but can rise well above them now that you’re getting the support and treatment you need.

    I have too have anxiety that has pushed me to do things I regret. When you have severe anxiety you feel a deep, intense, primal fear, and people who are acting out of fear often don’t do the best thing. Learning how to deal with anxiety in a healthy way opened so many doors in my life and allowed me to be my best self. I am sure it will be the same for you, OP!

  29. Justme*

    Best of luck to you, OP. I hope your continued recovery goes well and that you land on your feet.

  30. JenM*

    One thing that sticks out to me- it doesn’t seem like the OP actually changed her behaviour after writing to Alison but continued bullying her colleague? So while I truly wish the OP the best in her recovery I’m glad her colleague was vindicated.

    1. Leah*

      It sounds to me like she was really trying and continues to own up to her behaviour and has completely rearranged her life to make changes. I’ve been harassed for my appearance at work and I’d personally be thrilled at even half the introspection from my bullies

    2. paul*

      It sounds like it came to a head pretty quickly…and i have to suspect that if it was bad enough a *client* complained, that it was so egregious that it may not have been salvageable (FWIW I didn’t expect it was that bad in the original letter, but new information).

      1. Chriama*

        I was also surprised that it was bad enough that a client complained. I didn’t want to pile on the OP because she knows she was wrong. But yeah, it seems like this was a bit of a train wreck in slow motion. The OP could see it happening but couldn’t stop herself.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Having this story from the “wrongdoer’s” perspective in this case is really valuable, I think — the OP was wrong, because she was sick, but she was still wrong. She faced consequences for her workplace behavior, and that led her to treatment. It basically feels like good outcomes all the way around, and I think that’s good to think about in a lot of the situations that come up here. Being fired isn’t the end of the person’s story — maybe it’s just the beginning!

          1. Chriama*

            I sure hope it’s the start of an awesome beginning for her. She’s acknowledged her wrongdoing and sounds like she’s trying hard and I respect that.

            1. Sylvia*

              Me, too. I came down on the OP hard in the original post (treating people badly for their bodies: not okay), but these updates are amazing.

              If OP’s this self-aware, responsible, and compassionate during a period of terrible mental health and all kinds of other stressors, she’s on her way to being awesome once she’s out of it.

      2. Anon for This*

        Me too. I frankly am finding it hard to even imagine what kind of behavior a client would notice and that colleagues would clearly identify as jealousy. I can’t wrap my head around it.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Whoops, didn’t mean to be Anon; that was leftover from the last time I used this computer to post a sensitive question on the open thread. :)

        2. BTownGirl*

          Same here and I feel so, so badly for the report who had to deal with that on a daily basis at work.

      3. Clever Name*

        My thoughts exactly. I too was surprised LW got fired, but agree that it would have to be really egregious for a client to not only notice but to feel strongly enough to complain to LW’s employer.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I suspect the letter was run after some time had passed. And probably by the time it came out, there wasn’t a lot of time between publication and when OP was fired. But to have a client complain is really really bad. It indicates that the level of mistreatment was public and not at all hidden. So I’m sorry that it got that bad, but I’m also glad that OP’s former report is in (hopefully) a safer position, now.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Sorry, I also meant to say: I have a feeling it was super super bad, and that even if OP moderated her behavior, it sounds like that just brought it to “terrible” instead of “abhorrent.” It sounds like her perception was really skewed (which she noted in her original letter), and that could also mean that she didn’t realize that even a big change was not enough of a change to make up for how terribly she treated her report.

    4. Episkey*

      I thought the same thing. I would be curious to know the timeline. I have to admit I’m also super curious as to what specifically the LW was doing to the employee for a client to notice.

    5. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I’m thinking that the OP probably had a pretty deep hole to dig herself out of, and as paul said earlier, this may have come to a head very quickly once a client was involved and the coworker lawyered up.

  31. Ol' Crow*

    OP – while what you did was not ok, which you obviously know, I have tremendous respect and admiration for your ability to be self-aware, but also courageous enough to take some serious action. Sadly, too many people would be in deep denial and would find someone, anyone to blame. You are showing true character here, and I think you have much to be proud of. I wish you the best of luck.

  32. JulieBulie*

    Good luck, OP. I am so glad that you were able to identify and confront your problem. I have known a few managers who treated attractive employees poorly, and they made up transparent excuses for it and got away with it. You are not like that, and I hope your self-awareness is richly rewarded.

  33. Junior Dev*

    I’m proud of you for fully taking responsibility for the way you treated your ex-employee, and not trying to write off the impact you had on her. I wish you luck in your recovery.

  34. Anonymous Educator*

    OP, you sound as if you’re on the right track. This must have been very difficult for you, so good on you for doing what you’re doing.

  35. neeko*

    Good luck on your recovery. Getting sober was the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. Wishing you success and happiness in it.

    1. neeko*

      Also wanted to add that I was also fired from a job due to consequences of my addiction to alcohol. It was also what kickstarted my road to recovery. I didn’t think I was ever going to find work at all ever again. I’m happy to report that I’m employed and happier in my current job than I’ve ever been. Things will work out for you.

  36. Susan the BA*

    Congratulations on beginning your journey, OP! Keep being kind to yourself and others.

    1. Temperance*

      I feel like, unlike other letters where a person was harmed by another, at least LW’s employee received a resolution. I’m not sure the apology is the healtiest thing for the LW right now, at this stage in her recovery.

      1. LizB*

        I think that’s a later step in a 12-step program, if the LW is doing one of those, and it’s a later step for a reason.

      2. Gov Worker*

        What about the health of her victim? Just seems like the decent thing to do, you hurt or mistreat someone, you apologize. It seems to me that the OP would want to apologize if they truly regret their actions and not just getting fired. A simple I’m sorry. I can’t believe some of you have a problem with a simple apology.

        AAM posters sometimes skews too far in support of those who have acted badly, in my opinion.

        1. AnonHRDir*

          It is a monumentally bad idea for LW to attempt to contact the report, if only because this is a harassment issue in which the victim hired a freaking attorney. The report was harassed and mistreated by the LW to the point that a client and half of their team blatantly recognized it, and, again, the REPORT HIRED AN ATTORNEY. Moreover, the direct report is likely still dealing with the fall-out from LW’s actions, especially since LW says half their team thought the report sucked at her job. I can only imagine what the report deals with STILL.

          No apology. No contact. Harassed people with lawyers should be left alone by the harasser. More than that, I’d be surprised if LW wasn’t specifically warned about not communicating with the direct when s/he was fired, especially since LW says s/he was blackballed from the industry.

          (By the by, if I was the report and LW contacted me after all this to say a simple “I’m sorry”? I’d be calling my attorney again and looking at a restraining order. Seriously.)

    2. AMG*

      One is definitely called for later, to the employee and the boss to whom OP lied. Emphasis on later; get better first.

      1. Anna*

        Yep. Right now the OP’s focus needs to be on herself and getting well. The rest can come later.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Maybe the former employee made it clear that they wanted no further contact after the OP was fired.
      Sometimes what’s done can be apologized for (example: Rep. John Lewis granted forgiveness when a former believer in segregation came to him and apologized) and sometimes … it can’t.

      Even if one cannot apologize for past misdeeds, one can still pay it forward / show one’s changed beliefs through one’s new behaviors.

  37. Bobbin Ufgood*

    OP – hang in there! You have an outstanding level of introspection and self-awareness. So many people have done worse then you and still can’t/won’t own up to this. You are appropriately upset about what you did, but you should be proud of yourself for how well you are currently handling it!

  38. Heffalump*

    I don’t know you, OP, but I have tremendous respect and admiration for you.

    I wonder if it’s worthwhile to email your former boss to say sorry and that you are seeking support. Not to get rehired, but it may help you feel better knowing you acknowledged hurting the professional relationship you had with him.

  39. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    I wish you all the best, OP!

    I also wish self-compassion. You admirably own up to your actions and behavior but I hope that you also can spare some gentleness for yourself and that your medical team works with you on that.
    Just based on what you’ve written, you are not the worst villain in the world and someone who deserves eternal punishment. You treated a coworker unfairly but it’s not even on the top 10 list of bad behavior this site has seen.

    Your current treatment almost sounds excessive to an outsider like me. You do sound like you have excellent support and care, so there are obviously nuances we as readers miss.

    I wish you peace with yourself and a balanced life!

    1. Observer*

      Your current treatment almost sounds excessive to an outsider like me. You do sound like you have excellent support and care, so there are obviously nuances we as readers miss.


      The OP is clearly under good care. And she’s dealing with multiple serious issues – substance abuse – with multiple substances, unresolved ED, severe body image issues, and the guilt over her behavior that needs to not go away but not paralyze her. (That last one is a lot tougher than people often realize.) Yeah, she needs heavy duty treatment.

  40. Venus Supreme*

    Lots and lots of hugs, OP. Sending you well wishes/good vibes/prayers/healing energy/kitties/whatever else you need.

    1. Venus Supreme*

      Also, OP, thank you for sharing your story and being so raw and honest. I’ve been dealing with my own personal issues and reading your update gave me the guts to pick up the phone and make an appointment so I can get the help I need.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Good for you! Good mental health care can make an eeeenormouse and positive difference! Best wishes as you work towards being in a better place.

        I am almost always* happy to help de-stigmatize / de-mystify the process of getting mental health care. (*Except at times when self-disclosure does not seem appropriate and/or I just plain do not want to spend my energy that way–either because I have another priority or because I’m just tired and need quiet, personal time.)

  41. Dani X*

    I am rooting for you OP! Sounds like you are dealing with your problems. It will be a slow and hard road but I have confidence that you will make it. You posted that you lost your friends, but maybe not. Depending on your actions if you admit what you did, say you realize it was wrong and won’t do it again they could forgive you and welcome you back. Only you know if that is realistic or if just cutting ties and moving on is best for you. But don’t discount the fact that people you really know could be rooting for you too.

  42. Chriama*

    Wow. I admire your introspective ability. I’m sorry you were fired but I’m glad it gave you the push you needed to get help for yourself.

  43. Sadsack*

    This is the first time an AAM post has brought me to tears. Good luck to you in your recovery. You sound like you are well on your way there.

  44. Jaguar*

    I admire you, OP. It’s uncommon for people to be able to examine themselves truthfully and honesty in the way you’ve been able to. That takes real courage to do and I find it a very attractive quality in a person.

    If you don’t mind answering, do you know for sure that you’ve completely destroyed your future in the industry you worked in? While honest self-examination and taking righteous action on the basis of that is something we should all strive for, there are still some pitfalls with that and one of them is a martyr complex. It sounds like you might be exploring a new career and if that’s what you really want to do, then more power to you. But it also sounds like you might feel like giving up on your previous career is a cross you need to bear, and if that’s the case, it might be worth reconsidering that. In any case, since you’re seeing a therapist, if this makes sense to you, you should consider bringing it up with them.

    1. Rebecca*

      I believe in second chances, especially for those who admit mistakes, take steps to resolve issues, and move forward in a positive manner. The OP is doing all of these things, and I hope the OP can regain employment at some point.

    2. fposte*

      I had a similar thought, and you put it very well. I hope that when the OP is more solid in her sobriety and therapy work she’ll find that her industry isn’t as closed to her as she’d feared.

    3. Daffodil*

      What you’re saying is true, but I could also see the OP choosing to make a fresh start in a different field for her own reasons. Especially if school is a good environment for her, going (back?) to college could be a good mental break. At any rate, she’s got time and support to figure it out, and I’m confident she’ll come to a good choice for her.

      1. Jaguar*

        Oh, sure. I didn’t want to discourage the OP from making a clean start if they think that’s what’s best for them. I just wanted to caution the OP against the risk of giving up on something they actually want if it’s not necessary.

  45. FlyingFergus*

    OP, I’m sorry (and a little surprised) that this is how the problem was resolved, but at the same time, I’m not sorry because this resolution got you the help you need. Very few people can admit to bad behavior; even fewer will try to stop it. I’m glad you’re moving in a better and happier direction now.

  46. CatCat*

    Wow, best wishes for you OP! Your depth of self-reflection, acceptance of the consequence of your behavior, and willingness to address the causes of that behavior are amazing. Your willingness to be open with yourself about your challenges and confront them (rather than minimize or excuse) shows a strength of character that will help you get through this hard time. You’re already on the path to a brighter future!

  47. Dee*

    Good luck, OP. You’re doing really difficult but necessary work, and it takes a lot of courage and strength.

    1. AMG*

      Agreed! I’m glad it worked out okay for your employee and I’m hopeful for you and what the future holds for you!

  48. Chriama*

    Also, shout out to the boss who heard about an employee being mistreated and fired the manager instead of tolerating workplace bullying. I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t take action after the employee’s first complaint (even investigating at that point with other employees) but I understand that OP was a known quantity with a good track record and the employee was new and presented her responses in a way that kind of inspires dismissal/contempt (rather than saying your boss is jealous of you, focus on the behaviour and how she treats you differently from others. I think the word “jealous” is problematic when you’re a young woman trying to be taken seriously. It plays too easily into the “women are emotional, girls are catty, blah blah blah” stereotype). Again, I don’t think it was right for him to dismiss her concerns originally, but I understand why he did it and I’m glad he made it right eventually.

    1. Daffodil*

      Yeah, this is a far better outcome for everyone involved than this kind of issue usually gets. It sounds like the company, the OP’s family, and the OP’s professional support crew are all providing the best possible circumstances to stop the harm and help the OP get somewhere healthier. I wish everyone dealing with addiction and/or mental health stuff had that kind of environment.

    2. Temperance*

      I have to say, I’m pretty bummed because, on the other cases, there are lifelong consequences for the victims.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        That’s part of what I was trying to communicate in my earlier comment that the former subordinate might have made it clear that they wanted no further contact after OP was fired from their then-mutual workplace.

        My hope for the subordinate’s future well-being is based on the fact that they self-advocated successfully. (I certainly don’t mean to say, “Oh, well, abuse is no problem if the abused person practices self-defense.” Abuse is still a problem even if the intended victim shuts it down immediately or even before it starts.) I mean that despite being in a very lousy situation the abuse recipient was able to communicate that this was NOT acceptable, to puncture the OP’s fog of lies, and to set in motion the events that ended the abusive situation. She stood up for justice. For this she deserves credit.

    3. Anon for this 17.7*

      This was covered repeatedly in the original post’s comments, but we have no idea how the employee presented the issue to the BigBoss. The OP may have been paraphrasing when she said “employee mentioned to him that I seemed jealous of her”, maybe the employee explained all that was happening and BigBoss [correctly and accurately] understood is was a jealousy problem.

      I’ve read every single comment from these letters and it appears some people don’t seem to understand how incredibly harsh and vile OP must have been to this girl; for other employees and A CLIENT (?!) to notice what was happening, it had to have been BAD. And I know OP has admitted to that and I am not trying to pile anything on the OP, I am beyond impressed with her self awareness and bravery, believe me, but people still don’t seem to be able to comprehend just how bad it was. I have my own ideas – just badmouthing an associate to a client is a horrible practice, but I’ve seen jealousy override rational thinking before and i’ve known people who literally could not keep their contempt for someone inside, even if it was going to hurt the person doing the badmouthing in the long run. If the OP is it meeting it was horrible, and others were noticing it, and the OP feels as horribly as she does for doing it, it was obviously very unprofessional and downright horrible. Some people on the site seem to think that she was just making snide remarks or commenting under her breath; it clearly was beyond that and bad enough to lead to her dismissal after a 10- year career at this company. This wasn’t a case of OP making backhanded compliments- this was OP trying to ruin the reputation of one of her reports and being overtly cruel and obviously harsh in front of coworkers. A CLIENT noticed it!!!

      I just needed to get this out of my system because I have read so many comments about how things must’ve escalated really quickly after she wrote the first letter, etc. but it sounds like it was pretty unbelievably horrible before the letter was written and I have a feeling most people have no concept of how horrible it could’ve been. I’ve been on the receiving end of this and I went from starting a position (after being recruited from a great director position job I was in for 12 years), being confident and happy, hardworking and a “star” employee and within a year (after starting the new job) thinking I was a loser who had no skills and had zero to offer who was a crappy employee (despite busting my ass and working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life) being berated and put down and repeatedly told I was an “effing idiot” (except the f-word was used) and being called stupid, clueless, pathetic, slow, being told “SHUT UP! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!! as I was answering a question asked by the person who then screamed the “shut ups” as soon as I began speaking…. I started to think that I was going crazy and that my 12 years of climbing to the top and doing so well at my former job were all a farce and that I had fooled the people at my old job and I never should have gotten as far asI did, that I was worth absolutely nothing. I had zero confidence left and I thought of myself as the stupid idiot that I was told I was on a daily basis for an entire year. I still don’t understand why I stayed, honestly it was like I was a battered dog that kept going back for more and trying to impress the person who kept knocking me down. After I left there, I couldn’t work for two years, it did so much damage to me mentally, emotionally, financially, psychologically, I am just now starting to get the Energy and motivation to start looking for a job but I honestly feel like I have some kind of PTSD because the thought of going back to any kind of office scares the living crap out of me and I think I would rather be broke and living under a bridge then torturing myself daily like I was doing with that job.

      Omg – I’m so sorry- I realize I turn this into everything about me but this letter really brought my horrible situation to my thoughts again and I don’t know how the employee feels, I went from a very confident well spoken knowledgeable person who had a very special skill set and was very good at what I did to an absolute mess of a person with no confidence who thought I sucked at everything I attempted and that I was an absolute pathetic loser that didn’t deserve to be inhabiting this earth. It was a true Hell.

  49. abax*

    Oh, OP. What you did was bad, and it’s going to have repercussions for a long time. BUT: you’ve owned up to it. And you not only want to be better, you have given up everything you had to work towards becoming better. I have so much respect for that. Stay the course, and be kind to yourself.

  50. Anon druggie*

    OP, I am very proud of you. You are walking a well-worn path here and you are doing a great job. Stay consistent and keep doing all of the things you need to do, even when you don’t feel like it.
    Remember that you are human, and many of us have done far worse things for no reason at all. This is going to pass, you will get another job, and things are going to keep improving for you as long as you stay on the path.
    You have my love and prayers.

  51. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

    It sounds like you are starting off your road to sobriety/recovery well and have some great support which I think is really critical to staying healthy. Know that many who’ve taken the journey before you have had a moment like yours and its great that you are accepting of your own responsibility in the situation as that is something that I (and others I know) have struggled with in the beginning. Keep up the good work and I hope this the start to a life filled happiness and joy.

  52. Aphrodite*

    Something I made up for myself, OP, is something you might want also: Courage is the art of embracing consequences.

    You have embraced them and I salute you for your courage. It’s not easy to do. If you feel like it, would you come back in six months or a year and let us know how you are doing?

    1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

      I really like that line, Aphrodite.

      OP, I wish you the best on your journey, and your update is very encouraging for others who feel they are behind the 8 ball. Thank you for sharing the good and the bad and being open to the feedback.

  53. Mananana*

    Let me add my voice to the chorus of well-wishers. I congratulate you on taking your recovery and sobriety seriously, and hope that you extend mercy and grace to yourself during this time. Go #TeamYou!

  54. Michelle*

    Alison, this may be somewhat off-topic since it’s related to the concept of “updates” rather than this specific post, so I hope it’s ok to ask here. I think everyone on this site loves to get updates from past letter writers, and frequently people mention hoping that a particular OP will reply to the comments on their letter. Have you ever considered encouraging OPs to include a searchable tag (something like #op) in their comments so that people can find them easily? Often the letters where people are most interested in hearing from the OP have LOTS of comments, and that would make their replies easier to find. Plus, it might cut down on commenters asking the OP the same questions over and over.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yes please! I’ve often wished that people used “LW” instead of “OP” because those letters aren’t often used in a word, so it’s easily searchable.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve avoided giving letter writers any direction on that kind of thing, because I worry that for LWs who aren’t comment-section-people normally (which is a lot of them, because it’s most people), I’ll be making it sound more complicated than it actually is, and I don’t want to raise the (perceived) barrier to entry.

      I may very well be overthinking this, but that’s been my thinking.

      1. Marcy Marketer*

        Maybe in cases where an OP comments, you could leave a note at the top of the comment section with their handle or moniker?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s a good thought! I haven’t done it because too often I won’t have time to do it quickly or at all (days when I’m really busy with other stuff) and doing it inconsistently would kill me.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Potential thought – when you e-mail them to let them know their letter is being published, ask them to choose a name for the comments if they participate, which you can do then?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I feel like I’m shooting down all suggestions here (which I guess I am), but I don’t want to make the process more complicated/time-consuming than it already is. Right now I often don’t let people know until the day before that their letter is being published, and this would require more lead time/checking back. My schedule is overfull as it is, so I want to streamline as much as I can!

              Basically, until some mythical day where I’m doing this full-time and not doing other work, we have to live with compromises, I think.

              1. Elizabeth H.*

                I agree with this completely – I don’t think it needs to be any more formalized than it is – it works great and I do feel like there’s minimal confusion on who an op is by people who are actively participating in comments.

              2. Lizzy*

                Sounds like you need to hire an assistant. *puts name in box* ;)
                (don’t get me wrong – I think you do a great job, and I 100% get where you’re coming from. I just know I read your blog daily and think it would be pretty awesome to work with you lol)

      2. Robin Sparkles*

        Could you have a standard closing when you email them to say something like “if you choose to comment on your post – although not required – please consider using “LW” or “OP” as your name so readers can easily search for your updates or responses.” that way it’s not something you have to do outside of your existing process to email letter writers when their post goes live.

      3. Michelle*

        That makes sense. I wouldn’t want to make it feel so complicated that people don’t comment. Would it hurt anything if it was sort of a casual, grassroots kind of thing, where no one is *telling* other people to do it, but maybe any potential or future OPs who happen to see this comment just kind of do it, and maybe it catches on (or maybe it doesn’t)? Like, I don’t currently have any questions to ask you, but if I did in the future, and I went ahead and added a search tag to my own posts, would that be ok? Or would you prefer that people actively don’t do that?

  55. beanie beans*

    I am so impressed by the people who send updates here. Maybe the disappointing ones are weeded out, but I’m just continuously humbled by people’s maturity, thoughtfulness, and willingness to learn from their mistakes.

  56. Electric Hedgehog*

    OP, I commend you for owning your mistakes and working to better yourself after this issue blew up in your face.
    However, I also want to point out that if the abuse (and that’s what it is) that you heaped on your employee caused her to go over your head and also engage a lawyer, caused a client to complain about you, and harmed her reputation with her coworkers unjustly… damn, I have no idea what you were doing to cause those reactions but it must have just been egregious. I hope that you take the opportunity to at some point in the not-too-distant future to apologize to your ex-boss and to your former employee and beg their forgiveness (and understanding, if you feel ok with sharing some of your insecurities that helped cause this). Personally, I find that sharing my insecurities helps me overcome them, but I know it’s not for everyone.
    Best of luck to you in your efforts to kick your addictions and build your confidence in yourself. It’s not easy at all, what you’re doing.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      I don’t know. In this case, I think sharing personal insecurities to the employee might come off as justification for OP’s actions. If the employee knew the OP was jealous, and that seems likely, she probably already has a vague idea of what prompted it. No one wants to receive an apology with a tacked on “Sorry, but X caused me to do Y”.

      But I do think a sincere apology would go a long way.

    2. neeko*

      The begging for forgiveness is unnecessary and would actually be a jerk move, IMO. The former employee doesn’t need to be pressured to forgive the OP.

    3. Rainy, PI*

      I do not think that begging forgiveness and understanding is a good way to go here–I’ve been bullied in the workplace by women in ways that made it pretty clear it was appearance-based and due to some kind of personal issue (in my case, anyway, it has manifested a lot like the ways that teenage girls behave toward other teenage girls who are identified as “the pretty girl”, and it’s downright disturbing to endure that as a grown-ass woman in her 30s or 40s), and the last thing I wanted to hear about was my bully’s personal trauma that was forcing them to make my work life much harder than it needed to be. I’m actually currently dealing with this *not* in the workplace, and it’s tiresome and is probably going to end in me cutting off an entire group of friends when I finally get sick enough of it.

      I am really happy that the OP has identified some strategies for improving her interactions with others and her relationship with her body, and I am sorry that it happened under these circumstances, but her victim doesn’t need to hear it.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Hear, hear. I’ve experienced bullying from a coworker who lost a promotion they wanted badly, because they were unable to achieve all the qualifications. It was made harder because Boss not only supported the bully but regarded them as a mistreated victim.

      2. CatCatCatCatCat (Cat5)*

        Also, hear hear. Having been bullied by 2 (professional engineers) women aged 48 and 50, it does feel like high school and it is petty. For me I moved on but lost several friends to the situation as those friends were conflict averse, and could not believe that their friends would ever be bullies. I hope for you too that moving on will be a healthy way to manage it. I sometimes wish I could get other people to see the behaviours, but I am sure it will happen in time. Best of luck to you in the situation.

        1. Rainy, PI*

          Thanks! I’m alarmed that this seems to happen as often as it does. WTF, man.

          It’s always particularly weird because I was a serious ugly duckling (or maybe donkey foal–all knees and teeth) when I *was* in high school, so suddenly being hit with these behaviours as a woman in her 30s felt really odd and it took me a while to identify the dynamic.

    4. Temperance*

      I’m going to strongly disagree. My abuser is mentally ill, and nothing felt worse than her abuse getting excused because of her illness. I’m trying very hard not to get into specifics, so I can support LW. Her employee probably doesn’t want to hear anything. She can apologize to her former boss though.

      1. BTownGirl*

        Agreed. I’ll also add that sometimes people like this use talking with whoever they’ve hurt to play the woe is me card or solely to try and repair their reputation.

  57. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Wow. Just reading your original letter and update back to back, there is a new note of self-honesty and dignity in your update that’s obvious – even on a screen, where all nuance goes to die. I can’t say I’m enormously surprised at how things worked out, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how constructively and courageously you’re responding to it.

  58. Emily*

    Thanks for the update, LW. Best wishes for the future. Take care of yourself!

    BTW, I find that regular exercise really makes me feel better, and it could be beneficial (if you’re not already doing it).

  59. Stellaaaaa*

    Good for you. Perhaps you can view this as a fresh start. Head into your next job with a different attitude and make an awesome first impression. You probably couldn’t have rehabbed your reputation at your old job anyway.

  60. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP, thank you. You may be right that you don’t have an easy road ahead, but it will be made easier by your honesty and courage. It’s impressive and awe-inspiring. Your updates brought tears to my eyes. I wish you so much success on your journey. Thank you for updating us.

  61. pandq*

    I am very impressed by this OP and her self-awareness.

    Also, since she talked about how helpful Alison’s answer and the comments were,
    it makes me think that this is one of the positives to anonymous letters and comments (especially where the community is as smart as y’all are.) There are so many negatives
    to the anonymity of the net, it is great there is a place where it is helpful and positive.

  62. animaniactoo*

    OP, I’m super impressed by you, and I’d just like to leave you with a thought – we all backslide. You can spend your time beating yourself up over it, or you can grimace and get moving forward again. You’ve hit the plotz, but you’re moving forward again, and the grace with which you’re acknowledging it and working on it are wonderful things. Rooting for you.

  63. PlainJane*

    I’m joining the positive pile-on (hugfest? cheering section?) to say I’m rooting for you, and I so respect your self-awareness and honesty. I also want to give a shout-out to Alison and the commentariat here. I keep coming back to this site (though I don’t comment a lot), because the community is so thoughtful and kind. As this letter shows, that kindness makes a real difference for real people. Here’s a person who felt supported and found hope in comments from strangers on the Internet. That’s a rare and beautiful thing. Y’all rock.

  64. Malibu Stacey*

    I remember this letter and being put off by a lot of the comments thinking it was wrong of the employee to say the LW was jealous of her. It’s like women can’t win; we have to be a certain-level of hotness to be able to be a victim of harassment, but any self-awareness about that level of hotness makes us conceited.

    1. Is it Friday Yet?*

      I was very put off by the original letter as well. Normally I agree with Allison’s advice, but it really bothered me that her response was for the OP to try to compliment her employee daily. I think the OP should have come clean to her boss.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Alison, you’re absolutely right here; I don’t remember that you ever said that. Hypothetically, if somebody gave the OP advice to indeed do this, I think it would appear very artificial & phony to the OP’s employee, if these compliments started to appear suddenly. The OP’s employee would not be able to believe that they were authentic, given the many, many instances of contradictory behavior.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        NO! She said she should give her positive feedback, treat her the same as her peers and give her equal opportunities for projects and the like.

        I read it as her highlighting things that were positive about her work the way she would anyone else on the team and recognizing her strengths in areas that matter on the job while OP worked on the appearance issues.

        1. Is it Friday Yet?*

          Respectfully, I still disagree with that advice. It makes the OP’s employee look nuts for complaining because then all of a sudden the OP has made a 180. This is one of the most frustrating things about dealing with someone who has mental health issues.

      2. MommyMD*

        I think this issue went way beyond the scope of an advice columnist to be fair to Allison. There are both legal and psychiatric issues. I was shocked by the original letter and I’m pretty hardcore.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      Women who perceive themselves in a certain way will often assume that conventionally beautiful women are socially rewarded in ways that aren’t true across the board. There’s this idea that beautiful women always get what they want, so some avenger (usually another woman) will take it upon herself to be the FIRST PERSON to balance the scales and treat that woman badly. Except there have always been men and women who have treated her badly because of her looks. For all the envy projected at beautiful women, I don’t see those women actually getting much out of it. They really only get the things that men are already willing to offer them. My observation is that they’re protected more than they’re privileged.

      I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole, but there’s this weird quirk of contemporary feminism where certain branches of the discourse are directed by women who don’t think they’re attractive (they might be, they might not be, but the point is how they view themselves). They’ll talk about the “beauty privilege” provided to beautiful women, and when those actual beautiful women try to talk about their own lives and experiences, they’re shouted down.

      tl;dr – I’m not surprised that this corner of the progressive internet has fallen victim to the overall negative dips in online-based progressive discourse. There are a lot of people who feel like they know more about the lives of certain types of women than those women do. It’s women doing this to each other.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        I had a college roommate who was exceptionally beautiful, and while it absolutely smoothed her path in some ways, it also did cause her major problems in other ways. Jealousy from other women was only one part of it, too; some men treated her very badly (sometimes violently so, even) because “you think you’re too good for me, huh?” And people of both/all genders assumed that beautiful = sexually promiscuous. Or that if she got good grades it was because she was sleeping with the TA. Or if she was stalked and harassed, they’d sarcastically go “boo hoo, it must be so hard to be pretty!” I think even if she had been unequivocally targeted by another woman because of jealousy, she never would have said anything–if people thought that her prettiness meant that she couldn’t even complain about stalkers, can you imagine how much mockery “my boss is mistreating me because she’s jealous?” would have incurred?

        These kind of beauty standards are harmful for everyone.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            Exactly. There’s more institutionalized/acknowledged discrimination against women who are, say, overweight or who are very far afield of socially accepted hotness, but just look at how commenters were talking about this woman when all they knew about her was that she was pretty. She was being sabotaged at work because of her looks so where’s the privilege in that?

            OP has admitted hard things about herself, made harder because she’s having to diverge from the social permission to do exactly what she did.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I think deep down it’s still better to be pretty/thin/etc. I have been made uncomfortable before bc of teasing about being thin or pretty and joking remarks by women who were overweight. But it’s worth it. When I was in grad school I was constantly feeling like I was just treated seriously and stuff not because of my intellectual ability but bc I was nice to look at and thin and pretty so I was pleasant to have around and didn’t have to overcome anything or prove my value with my academic quality. This is really my own insecurities but as unpleasant as feeling like that is, it’s just not very unpleasant in comparison to what it’d be like NOT to look at this. As someone who had experienced it I have a hard time really believing and valuing when people complain about thin/pretty teasing/discrimination etc. I know everyone had a different experience though and I acknowledge I care a ton about how I look and I guess not everyone does.

          1. Jaguar*

            Yeah, it’s pretty dishonest to argue that being attractive isn’t advantageous. You can deliberately make yourself look worse and few people do that.

              1. Ann O.*

                I’ve read a lot of beauty studies, and I think it’s more ambiguous than you’re presenting it. How a person is considered beautiful matters–too sexy and it becomes threatening and often a disadvantage (and sexiness can simply be one’s body). Also, a lot of beauty advantages do come with the built in disadvantage of people wanting something from you. Think of the FOX ladies. Sure, being conventionally attractive was an advantage for them in that no one was getting hired who couldn’t be made to be conventionally attractive. But they were terribly harassed! It had a big downside!

                But it’s also not a binary thing where acknowledging that there can be downsides to being conventionally beautiful–particularly at the individual level–means that there aren’t downsides to not being conventionally beautiful. It doesn’t even mean that the downsides of being not conventionally beautiful aren’t more than the downsides of being conventionally beautiful. It simply acknowledges that individual experiences aren’t in the aggregate and sometimes being the undeserving target of other people’s jealousy or entitlement really sucks. And women should be able to talk about that.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  My personal feeling is that it’s a lot more binary than not binary. Just imo. The disadvantages of being attractive (there are a few) are very different from the disadvantages of being unattractive and in my opinion pale in comparison. (I also think that sexual harassment should be considered differently from disadvantages of attractiveness bc it doesn’t really track with attractiveness specifically)

          2. Stellaaaaa*

            I’m not saying that it’s not more beneficial to be attractive than unattractive. I’m saying that when “unattractive” women look at attractive women and imagine that beautiful women never get treated badly, they’re wrong. And that they need to stop preventing women from telling the truth about their own lives even if it conflicts with assumptions about how the beautiful half lives. This whole post is about how a woman was targeted for harassment and sabotage just because she was attractive. There’s no way to spin that as beauty privilege.

            1. Sunshine*

              That’s kind of a straw man Stellaaaa. It’s a thing I thought when I was 14 but I don’t think many adult women are clueless enough to imagine that all beautiful women’s lives are flawless.

      2. all aboard the anon train*

        Seconding this so hard. I’ve experienced it and seen other women affected by it. It’s either an assumption of women being socially rewarded or a need to find something troubling in their lives to justify their attractiveness.

        I have a problem with a lot of mainstream feminism because there’s this gross idea that women who are attractive or stereotypically feminine can’t be true feminists. Or this idea that a woman who wears makeup or a dress is shallow and stupid. I know a lot of those stereotypes are borne out of insecurity, but it’s frustrating.

        What bothered me a lot in the first post was reading comments from people suggesting that OP get to know the employee and find out about her life because the employee might have flaws or a sad past. I see this advice a lot online – things that say, “if you’re jealous of the attractive girl in your class or workplace, just remember she might be struggling in her personal life!” or “I thought Alice was so shallow because she wore makeup and nice clothes, but then I found out she dealt with some hard stuff in her past”, as if these things are justification for jealousy.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I hate that advice too. I got over hating my “nemesis” (the girl who looked enough like me that we were compared a lot, but she was more approachably cute than me and had a more forgiving personality that attracted more people – good and bad ones – to her) when I realized that she wasn’t actually taking anything away from me. I didn’t want to date the exact guy she was dating, I didn’t want her exact job, I didn’t want to have to overlook the actions of the iffy people in her enviably large friend group. I was jealous of the way everyone seemed to love her and how people gave her a platform to talk and be cute when I had things I wanted to talk about. But did I want to be her? Did I want to talk about the things she was talking about? No. I was lonely and I wanted to be the sort of person who drew other people to her, but without having to change the core parts of my character. Turns out that’s not possible for everyone.

        2. Panda Bandit*

          In your last paragraph, I don’t see how that was a justification for jealousy? Getting to know the employee better is so the OP could see her as fully human or find common ground to connect with her.

          1. Ann O.*

            There was a lot of framing getting to know the employee better as being a way to find out ways her life sucked, as though the only route to getting rid of the jealousy was to find out that the employee was suffering in some way.

          2. all aboard the anon train*

            I was referring to the comments suggesting getting to know the employee as a way to get to know her flaws. There were more than a few “get to know her, she might have issues in her life you’re not aware of!” comments.

            It’s the idea that sometimes attractive people have awful things going on in their lives, so being attractive is karma for their life sucking and makes someone feel better about their jealousy. As in, someone feels less jealous when they learn that a pretty woman grew up poor or had an abusive partner/parent, as if that bad situation justifies their whatever aspect someone is jealous of.

        3. Sunshine*

          ‘There’s this gross idea that a woman can’t be attractive and be a feminist…’

          Uh, maybe on meninist and Red Pill forums. I know tons of beautiful feminists.

          1. Chinook*

            “Uh, maybe on meninist and Red Pill forums. I know tons of beautiful feminists.”

            I don’t hang out in those type of forums (or most forums), but there is definitely a bias in general when I hear feminists talk in the media against women who look or act like a female stereotype. I also saw these first hand at university (back in the 90’s) Want to be a stay-at-home mom, wear make-up, wear a dress, do anything “girly”? Well, then you are absolutely a conservative who has not been enlightened to the way women actually can be.

            The irony is that those transition to female often try to recreate these exact same traits and are often publicly praised for embracing their feminine side (that is, when they are not being degraded for transitioning. They are ones who cannot win). The message I then see is that it is okay to be traditionally feminine as long as it is a choice and I am not born that way.

            1. Sunshine*

              Not something I’ve really come across, apart from some feminists who seemed to see shaving as evil. The problem with the media is that a) they want drama b) they don’t like feminism.

              As a result they’ll skip interviewing Valenti or Josie Long and go straight to TERFs like Greer or people like Julie Burchill, who like to say bisexual women are gender betrayers for sleeping with men.

            2. DArcy*

              I’ve never seen the sort of feminist who criticizes traditional gender roles display anything but rabidly aggressive hatred towards trans women. Their standard argument is that trying to be conventionally feminine “proves” that trans women are really men imitating their own misogynistic stereotypes about women.

          2. Rainy, PI*

            I had a super awkward conversation (that got a bit shouty) with a woman once who said that women who are conventionally attractive or “too femme” can’t “really be feminists”.

            As a feminist who’s reasonably attractive and unreasonably femme, I sort of take issue with that. Every time I hear it. And I’ve heard it more often from other women than I have from men.

            1. Sunshine*

              I’m also very femme and also take issue with it. I don’t frequent those forums. My point is that feminists have been demonised as hideous harpies who hate and are jealous of their prettier sisters since forever. (See anti- suffrage posters). Nine times out of ten it’s an anti feminist straw man.

              I’m not saying that Radfems and TERFs don’t exist. Just that they are not the majority of feminism.

      3. Sunshine*

        I think it goes both ways. I’ve seen people treat my (very beautiful) sister in law as though she must be stupid and/or mean due to her looks.

        But as someone who has been thin and overweight, people *do* treat you better if you are thin. It mostly manifests as a subtle lack of courtesy. People treat you less seriously and much less politely. I only really noticed it once I started to *lose* weight and it began to change.

  65. House of Cats*

    I am amazed by your degree of candor and insight. I have a feeling that in the end, you will create a life for yourself that is 1,000 times better than what you had before, because you will be truly happy with yourself. Nothing else counts for much if you don’t have that. Best of luck!

  66. INFJ*

    Thank goodness I read this while in a private room in the office after taking a call: oh, the water works!

    I definitely got the warm and fuzzies from the part about her giving the letter and Alison’s response to the therapist.

    I have nothing novel to add. OP: stay strong, keep it up, and most importantly: even though you were hurtful towards someone else, you did the right thing by admitting you were wrong and seeking all the help you need. You should be proud of yourself for that!

  67. Dorothy Mantooth*

    No, YOU’RE crying.
    Seriously, that made me feel a lot of feelings myself. Proud of you, OP, for taking the steps needed to get yourself to a safer, healthier, and happier place.

  68. ACA*

    Aw, OP, much love to you. This is a hard but good thing you’re doing, and I wish you the best of luck.

  69. Former Retail Manager*

    Glad to hear of the positive progress and I hope it continues for you. And many kudos for your own self-awareness and willingness to own your mistake…..I have no doubt that it couldn’t have been remotely easy. Wishing you continued improvement and I hope the future holds great things for you!

  70. Elizabeth West*

    I’m so glad to hear you’re doing better, OP! Good luck in the future and good vibes! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  71. Emmie*

    Congratulations, OP, on taking probably the hardest steps of your life. It takes a very brave person to do so much self-reflection, and to confront issues impacting their life. I’ve seen someone close to me tackle alcoholism. The first steps are impressive. Every day that you move towards a better life is impressive too. The very best of luck to you. May the strength you need always be there. This internet stranger is rooting for you.

  72. Michele*

    OP! I am in complete admiration of your courage to take on the huge challenge of facing your demons and doing something so concrete about it. You said that you’ve burned your bridges in your field of work, but I really think that, with such a genuine attitude about acknowledging your past mistakes, you’re likely to impress future employers. I’m far more inclined to want to work with someone who’s able to own up to their mistakes and learn from them than with someone “flawless”. Thank you for sharing your experience. I wish you all the best.

  73. Jenn*

    Just adding my voice here – OP, the way you are taking charge of this and dealing with it speaks very highly of you and makes me very hopeful for your future! I wish you every success.

  74. Melba_Toast*

    I got a bit choked up reading this update. I’m so glad that the OP has the courage to get the help that she needs (and as someone who is going through this now, I can definitely say that it’s easier said than done). If she is showing this much insight and responsibility at this stage, I believe she will go very far in life.

  75. Aim*

    Hello OP and updater :) I wanted you to know if you come here for support as well, that you have it! As far as ruining your reputation in an industry…maybe it was time you got a fresh start to get passionate again. I was at a seminar recently for women and the lady said your right forearm is what you enjoy doing….what you LOVE. your left forearm is what you are good at. If you cross the arms together…. Your wrists is where you should be making your money. If that is try of your industry just dig deeper and keep your focus. There are all kinds of positions out there. You could counsel other women, you could take care of kids, work in a restaurant …and with your families support regain some confidence. The world is yours! Good luck with everything and God bless. Xoxo

  76. Panda Bandit*

    Best wishes to you, OP. It may seem very far away from where you’re at now but the good days will gradually increase.

  77. Mb13*

    This seems like a happy ending. The bad boss not only got their well well deserved comeuppance but also realized their mistake and working on getting better. I hope the employee will flurish in the job with out bad boss there, and that the lw gets better

  78. BTownGirl*

    So, full disclosure, I was once on the receiving end of this kind of behavior (one of the most unnerving experiences of my life) and this letter has really struck a cord with me. I think the OP needs to look into the fact that she knew her behavior was majorly problematic, she didn’t address it, her persecution of her report escalated to the point that a client got involved…but she wasn’t motivated to do anything about it until there were terrible consequences for her. I hope I’m not violating any commenting rules, because I’m certainly not trying to be overly harsh or presume to know how the OP felt, but I get the sense that there’s a lot more to the story. I’m going to assume that a lot has been left out for anonymity’s sake, but I do hope the OP is being 10000% honest with herself in the interest of getting better.

    1. DArcy*

      I agree with you. Going back and reading the original letter and the comment feedback, what strikes me is that being sympathetic towards the letter writer because she acknowledged she was being unfair seemed to completely streamroller over telling her she had a professional obligation to set the record straight, pronto.

    2. Observer*

      It sounds like what happened here is what is often called “Bottoming out” or “hitting rock bottom”. It seems to be a combination of suddenly a lot of the excuses you’ve been making are MUCH harder to fool yourself with, you have to answer to YOURSELF at least as much as to the rest of the world and the kind of knock on the head that makes you first see stars and then gives you the ability to look at things from a fresh perspective. Loss of the job helps in that there is more time – no excuse of “I’m too busy” and – and less to lose by focusing on recovery. (Someone could genuinely believe that if they take too much time for the treatment they need, they will lose their job. Well, now that’s a non-issue.) And, yes, these terrible consequences surely also added motivation.

      But, it’s clear that the OP did have some motivation, even in the first letter, just not enough and also not enough clarity to her own behavior.

      1. BTownGirl*

        That makes sense. I think this is a situation where, since I’ve been on the other side of a situation like this, I’m not going to be able to be objective and should just shut my trap haha!

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Definitely share your perspective because it’s important for people to get as much information as possible. I tend to come down on the side of letter writers as much as possible because they’re reaching out for help (and if I were in their shoes, I’d want people to be nice to me while I figure out my situation). This can mean forgetting the other people who are hurt because we’re not hearing from them. I appreciate you sharing your story and am sorry you were treated that way. No one deserves to be targetted like that and it must have been a very painful experience. I hope you’re doing well now and are happy and fulfilled!

          1. BTownGirl*

            Very true, but I didn’t want to be a jerk about it! It was definitely rough, but luckily it wasn’t at work and once things settled down I felt better relatively quickly. In any event, happy Friday and thank you so much for your kind words!! :)

        2. Observer*

          I actually think that your perspective is really valuable here. It really is important for people to realize and remember that as much as we may have sympathy for a perpetrator that is in pain and trying to do better, this kind of behavior leaves scars that don’t “just go away”.

          1. BTownGirl*

            That’s so nice of you to say – thank you :). It’s a tough spot to be in because you can’t do anything proactively to try and diffuse the situation, like saying “It seems like we’re not relating to each other very well, want to sit down and talk about how we can work on that?” and being on the defensive constantly gets pretty exhausting. On the positive side, I was incredibly grateful for the people who stepped up for me when I really needed it, so there was a bright spot to the whole ordeal!

      2. AMPG*

        I think you’re 100% right about this. When you’re in trouble, sometimes the only thing keeping you afloat is the ability to tell yourself that it’s somehow not that bad. I think we saw a fair amount of that in the original letter – the OP knew there was a problem and wanted to change, but clearly couldn’t admit to herself how bad it was. It took serious consequences for her to look at things honestly for the first time.

        OP, I’m glad you’re getting the help you need. You deserve praise for doing some hard work, and I wish you all the best.

      3. DArcy*

        I find myself uncomfortably wondering if there’s a chance she could have been helped to turn things around before hitting that rock bottom point if there had been some a little more willingness to balance being sympathetic with being firm about, “You are dishonestly undermining your employee to both your boss and her fellow employees. Whether or not you are able to confront your feelings about her right now, you need to start by setting the record straight and making things right, now.”

        I feel like people were giving her too much credit for being contrite without any reparative action; indeed, some people seemed to be arguing that she wasn’t really doing anything wrong because “pretty people aren’t a protected minority” and/or “pretty people are privileged”.

        1. Observer*

          Firstly, Alison was pretty clear that she was right got writing – that she really did need to change her behavior. And, most of the commenteriate seemed to echo that as well. True, there was some discussion as to whether there was a LEGAL problem, but that’s never the whole story.

          1. The Supreme Troll*

            Yes to this. I understand what DArcy is saying, but I never saw anything explicitly stated or implied that the OP’s employee might not have a leg to stand on here because her situation doesn’t fall into a specific protected class. Even without the employee consulting an attorney, or having a client complain to OP’s superiors, the OP’s superiors could very well have made the decision for the firing based on what they saw with their own eyes, that they would not want to be in the shoes of the OP’s employee, and what they were witnessing was a lack of human decency.

            That being said, OP has made very earnest, sincere attempts to correct a major wrong that she made. She has clearly recognized this and is looking for ways to make amends for this. OP deserves a lot of credit and support for the efforts she has made, and does not deserve to be bashed any further

    3. Thatgirlwiththeglasses*

      I think that’s whats the intensive therapy and drug rehabilitation is all about. When people are in the midst of an uncontrolled mental illness/disorder (eating disorder) or possible substance abuse issues (anti-anxiety meds, marihuana, alcohol) then yeah….a person can have a warped sense of how bad things actually are, and have no idea how to get help. It seems like things were likely much worse than what was disclosed here.

      That certainly doesn’t mean her behavior is excusable or that she should not have been fired. I’m saying, I don’t think she is/was unmotivated or lazy. It comes off to me that she really didn’t have a proper assessment of her situation and didn’t have the necessary coping skills.

  79. DanaScully*

    I’m very glad you’re in a better place, OP. Wishing you the best of luck for the future!

  80. David D*

    OP, I’m proud of you, and I don’t even know you. It takes a brave and strong person to speak so candidly and honestly of themselves.

  81. SarahKay*

    OP, I’m sorry things got so bad for you, but I’m so impressed by the way you’re now facing up to everything you’ve done and working through it. I hope the therapy goes well, and all good wishes for your future.

  82. Mb13*

    On one hand yes it’s really awful what she did and that she would have continued if she wasn’t caught. But it is also a very human reaction. And it takes a person with unbelievable will power not only identify a problem (which is honestly is the easy part) and actually chose to fix a problem. And the op didn’t even have the self discipline to stop herself from being discriminatory, it’s seems nigh impossible for her to have made change just because she identified the problem.

  83. AMPG*

    Are comments closed or in moderation? I would understand if so, given the subject matter, but it would be nice to have a pinned comment about it.

  84. Ty*

    What an update. There must be onions in the room over here… Well done, OP. Keep going!

  85. Casuan*

    OP, I think you’re quite formidable with how you’ve approached your undesired traits & difficulties. Your courage & openness are truly inspirational & I think you can totally get your life to the life you want & deserve.
    When you need further encouragement, please don’t limit your reading to Alison’s reply & the comments. Read your letters as well because they show growth & the many accomplishments you’ve had to date. Thank you so much for sharing with the AAM community.

    You’re in my thoughts & I wish you success in all of your endeavours!!
    Please update us &or post in the weekend threads. I think many of us want the best for you & will be glad to help you stay motivated if that would help you & you so desire.

  86. Thatgirlwiththeglasses*

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like substance abuse issues may have been in play as well. OP doesn’t mention how frequently she used, but a combination of anti-anxiety meds, marijuana, and alcohol sound like they can exacerbate all sorts of inappropriate behavior even outside of the times one is using. Meds like klonipin for example, are no joke, you shouldn’t even drive a car on those, let alone work well at a computer. Now try to avoid those medications in order to work effectively, but with heightened anxiety… Yeesh.

    I know it’s not the focus of your letter, your behavior and actions is, but I wouldn’t gloss over how drug cocktails and substance abuse can lead to all sorts of bizarre acting out, even when not under the influence.

    Also, don’t automatically assume your blacklisted from your industry forever. People have a lot of respect for those who put time and effort into rehabilitation. Best of luck to you!!

  87. This Is All I'll Ever Need To Say*

    OP: Thank you.

    Your posts were extremely therapeutic for me to read because I have been where your employee was, except that the environment was toxic, the job market was tight, I was older and single, mildly disabled, and savagely, deliberately overloaded with work (like the young woman with the misogynistic male clerk whose mama worked in management – are there any articles here about Constructive Dismissal?), and my management aligned with the bully.

    My own experience through a three decade career convinced me that bullying supervisors are more abundant than we like to admit. The power imbalance and lack of accountability for relational abuse must attract bullies into middle and upper management. (See Hare & Babiak, “Snakes in Suits”; see also George K. Simon, “In Sheep’s Clothing” and “Character Disturbance”.)

    God’s truth: I gave up a department headship because my managers/HR actively disliked for me to protect or help my staff, but were eager to help me harm them, arbitrarily *and* illegally; in the second stage of my career, I was encouraged to enter management again, but was sickened by the training, at which a middle manager I *thought* I knew proudly proclaimed that “real” managers had to have fresh EEO complaints and Union grievances filed against them routinely – intimating that no such complaints ever had merit. YES, there are organizations, even industries, whose management regards EEO complaints and Union grievances as merit badges.

    I am sorry, OP, that you were fired, because you have a conscience and so many managerial bullies do not; it could have been effective, I think, for them to demote you and put you on a PIP with coaching to change; they might have turned you into a leading antibullying advocate within the organization. But that didn’t happen, and perhaps it’s for the best – you seem at peace with your new job and the support system you have now, and you’re healing your soul. That’s the most important thing for you going forward.

    However, seeing that your employee was actually believed and protected when she went over your head astonishes me. I’m glad there’s at least one functional workplace in this country (at least two, actually, since I’ve also discovered Kfox’s postings about her high-school (and subsequent) bullying of RockStar, who is actually being *protected* by her colleagues and managers also. Incredible). I’m also extremely glad that you have looked within – genuinely – and taken steps to change what you found there.

    Your story gives me hope. I retired to escape the abuse, after multiple attempts to find nontoxic employers (reading about the medical-record-fraud whistleblower has convinced me that my biggest mistake was choosing to work in a healthcare-related field; I’ve seen bosses like hers, and they seem to flourish there). CBT isn’t on the menu for me; Issendai’s Sick Systems describe perfectly where I was, and how it operated, and I’m not interested in denying that reality. I’m working through treatment for Complex PTSD, hoping I’ll be able to live on my retirement income, and thinking about what I can do to independently support myself if I ever have to re-enter the Rabid-Rat Race.

    And yes, oh my yes did I contemplate suicide. Regularly. Through decades. Fortunately, I have always had furbabies whom I could never abandon that way, and I also have a hard hot core of defiance which insisted that if I went that route it would only mean that the illegitimates got what they wanted, not what they deserved. It was quite obvious to me that EEO and grievance processes were “sucker traps” for employees – even before I heard what that manager said in training – which meant that direct justice wasn’t going to happen. For me, justice was defined as surviving to retire, which would mean that my erstwhile tormentors could no longer touch me, while I enjoyed a well earned and permanent sabbatical.

    And so I do. But reading your account, and many of the comments to Kfox and the young lady with the misogynistic office-mate, gives me a hope that finally we, as a culture, are seeing past and through our reflexive urge to insist that there are always two sides to these situations (which allows us to remain comfortably inert in the face of horrendous injustice); that we may finally be realizing that at work, at school, at home, abuse – whether it’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious bigotry, spousal abuse, or Queen Bee aggression – must be addressed and dragged into the light. Because make no mistake: this is all, purely and simply, abuse. Our culture seems to have been founded in it, and if we don’t fight free of it, it will destroy us.

    Bless you, OP, bless your honesty and courage. May you thrive.

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