there’s a civil war in my office and I don’t want to take sides

A reader writes:

I am writing to you as a last resort because my workplace has spiraled beyond dysfunctional and I don’t know what else to do.

I recently started my first full-time job. One of my coworkers, Marley, was assigned to be my mentor and train me on how to navigate the company software, which is very complex, and help me with my projects. Now, from what I understand, Marley does not get along well with our manager, Andi. There is some bad history there from before I started working there, but even I can tell from the snarky tones and general impoliteness that Marley uses to address Andi.

Recently, a new policy was introduced which would change the way we handle our workflow and the priority level of certain projects. Marley took personal offense to this, and some of our coworkers encouraged her to complain to Andi to “stick it to her” and “show her who’s boss.” I missed a day of work because a family member went to the hospital, but when I came back, I learned that Marley had essentially threatened to quit.

I was very shocked and worried, because there were many things I hadn’t been trained on and wouldn’t be able to complete without a mentor. The office environment also became very tense and toxic around this time. For whatever reason, even though Andi sent out an email saying that Marley would be leaving the company, a bunch of people are saying that Andi isn’t really going to fire her or that she “doesn’t have the guts.” Marley also keeps talking to me and working with me as though she has the upper hand and nothing is wrong. She seems really sure that once this is over, there’s going to be some kind of repercussion for Andi. Marley has been here for almost two weeks and there isn’t any official word on when she’s going to be gone.

Half of the office is really involved in the drama; they’re the ones actively taking sides and being really vocal about whether Marley is going to stay or not. The other half of the office is just keeping their heads down and not saying anything; that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks but it’s getting to me and I don’t know why management isn’t doing anything about this. I tried going to my HR rep, but so far the only response is that “the issue is being handled.” I just want to cry because it’s so obviously not and I feel like the office is three steps away from a mutiny.

I come into work feeling like it’s a battlefield. The politics are way over my head and I spend half of my day paralyzed with anxiety. I’m scared to ask questions when I need help because I don’t want to get entangled in one of Marley’s tirades, but there is also a sort of unofficial shaming if anyone looks like they’re taking the manager’s side. I just sit in my seat for 10 minutes planning out how to ask my question and then escape. I can’t eat lunch in the office anymore because I’m scared that Marley will try to talk to me about this. Because I’m the newest employee, everyone seems to think I’m neutral or won’t say anything and keep using me as a sounding board to have these types of conversations with. I’ve been looking for a new job but I’m scared because this is my first full-time job and I haven’t been here for a full year yet.

I just want to be able to do my work without feeling like I’m about to get drafted into a civil war.

Oh my goodness, none of this is your problem. None of it.

Some random pieces of information, and then some advice:

* I don’t know what’s gone on between Marley and Andi, but I can tell you that someone who thinks it’s okay to routinely use “snarky tones and general impoliteness” with her boss is someone with no idea how to handle workplace conflicts and isn’t someone you want to be aligned with. From what you’ve written, Marley is a serious problem, regardless of what Andi’s shortcomings might be.

* Coworkers encouraging Marley to “show Andi who’s boss” are overlooking the highly pertinent detail that Andi is the boss. Marley’s belief that she’ll cause some kind of repercussion for Andi is probably delusional. (Without knowing all the details, I can’t say for sure — but it’s pretty likely that Marley is being naive, which would make sense given what else we’ve seen from her.)

* If Andi has already sent out an email saying that Marley is leaving, Marley is probably leaving and either resigned or has already been told to leave. That could change, of course. If Andi is a weak manager — and it sounds like she is — Marley could try to rescind her resignation and Andi could allow it. That would be a huge mistake on Andi’s side, but there are plenty of bad managers out there.

* If Marley does leave, you will be assigned someone else to train you. If Andi doesn’t realize she needs to do that, you can ask for it to happen. But people leave jobs in the middle of training new staff members all the time, and life goes on. You will be fine.

* You say that when HR told you the issue was being handled, it was obviously not true … but you don’t actually know that. It’s certainly not being handled as swiftly as it should be — they should have shut this all down two weeks ago, if not longer — but that doesn’t mean they’re not handling it at all. Some companies move slowly on this kind of thing, but they do move; it just may take longer than you want it to (and longer than it should).

Okay, now some advice for you:

Most importantly, stop feeling like you have to be involved in this in any way. You don’t have to have any feelings about this other than irritation that it’s impacting your work environment. You don’t have to listen to people’s tirades, and you don’t need to stop asking work questions. If anyone talks to you about what’s going on, these are your new mantras:
* “It’s important to me to stay out of this. Sorry! But I did want to ask you about (work topic X).”
* “I’m way too new to understand any of this, and that’s probably for the best. But can I ask you about (work topic X)?”
* “I’m committed to staying neutral on this one. I’m just too new. So I’m going to bow out of this conversation!”
* “I don’t feel right hearing this, since I’m so new. Can we talk about something else?”

Second, consider talking to Andi and letting her know that the situation is making the environment untenable. She may not have any idea how much Marley is talking about this, and hearing that might give her some additional urgency in acting. I assume you’re worried that if you talk to Andi, you’ll be penalized by coworkers for taking sides, but Andi is your boss. The situation is impacting your ability to get your work done, and she needs to know that. When you talk to her, you can also mention that you’re worried you’ll face repercussions among your coworkers for speaking with her because (a) it’s important for her to know that you (and probably others) feel like that and (b) she needs to know about it in order to ensure it doesn’t actually happen. Now, if she’s a weak manager, she may not be too skillful at (b) — but this is still a reasonable conversation for you to have, and if your coworkers hear about it and don’t like it, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? You’re already miserable there. It makes sense to do the thing that might make things a bit better.

Third, give this a month to play out. A month from now, this may have reached some kind of resolution and things may feel quite different in your office. Of course, it’s also possible that that won’t happen, but right now you’re smack in the middle of it, and it doesn’t make sense to draw any conclusions until you’ve given it some time to play out.

{ 195 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark*

    I’d also add that it would be an incredibly bad idea to give anybody the impression you’re on Marley’s side or give her a sympathetic ear, because she is radioactive waste at this point.

    But whoooof. What a goat rope. Marley needed to be fired without ceremony two weeks ago.

    1. Snark*

      And, to clarify, I mean that if it comes down to your coworkers thinking you’re on Andi’s side in the civil war, so be it, because all of these people are toxic and being associated with them is going to rub off on you in potentially career-affecting ways.

    2. M-C*

      +1 You say it’s almost 2 weeks since Andi announced Marley’s leaving – you might be out of this mess any day now :-). But in a conflict between the boss and a co-worker, you should usually bet on the boss to win. I’ve seen it go the other way, but it’s the exception.

      And really, you can probably figure out any software, no matter how badly written, easier than navigating your way out of this pit of flames. Dear OP, do your best to deflect any conversations/rants/tirades about this.. Keep your ears open, there might be useful information coming out of something you overhear in the lunch room, but that’s very different from being personally subjected to a rant.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, look around and see if you can find a helpline number or a customer support number you can use if your coworker does leave.

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      Unless there was a detail I missed, I am feeling so sympathetic to Andi at this point–it must really suck to be a boss that people dislike so much, and what these ppl are doing is just so grossly unprofessional and distasteful. I hope she can get out of this unscathed.

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, when you’ve got people openly defying and disrespecting you, it’s got to be so rough. Andi, wherever you are, may the glass of wine/beer/whatever you enjoy this evening have exactly the effect you want it to.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, this is going to be important as well. I think OP may be feeling paralyzed (by politeness, being caught unaware, being trapped at her desk?) when Marley or others engage in a tirade or use OP as a sounding board.

      So it’s also going to be important to get comfortable with the mantras and with physically walking away from people who are trying to rope OP in. Cheerful smile and graciousness is the tone, OP. You don’t have to be rude, but you also don’t have to remain “trapped” in place while others run roughshod over the boundary you’ve drawn (this will be harder with Marley, but it should be a little easier with other coworkers).

      I also sometimes like to imagine there’s an invisible forcefield around me, and all the crap people are projecting just hits the forcefield and slides off. I think you should do the same when it comes to the internal politicking. Right now it sounds like they’ve gotten in your head, and the situation is causing really deep agita/angst (which is totally reasonable! I would be stressed out, too!). Depersonalizing a little bit and taking an emotional step back will help. I also find really detaching from work when I go home can help, too (e.g., go to yoga or on a hike or a cultural/social event, don’t talk work when hanging out with friends, etc.).

      OP, this sucks. I am so sorry you’ve been stuck dealing with a situation that you really shouldn’t have to. Give it another month, and if it’s still a total sh*tshow, I’m pretty sure the AAM commentariat would support you leaving (not that you need our permission). In the meantime, deep breaths, quality non-work time, forcefield, and adherence to your work mantras. I’m wishing you peace and strength!

      1. Merci Dee*

        You always have great advice, Princess. I especially like the idea of a force field to keep the garbage at bay. I’m going to totally steal that idea for the next few weeks, when we’re implementing a new system at work.

        “May the schwartz be with you!” Just watched Spaceballs, so it seems like the better force field option.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thanks so much—I’m glad it may be helpful! I also sometimes like to imagine people as monkeys/apes at the zoo flinging crap, but sometimes that’s a liiiiiiiittle too colorful to be a helpful coping technique for others ;) I do like Snark’s radioactive waste, though. A little less disgusting but still effective.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I like to imagine a lovely waterfall around me, washing whatever they’re flinging down and away.

          Every so often, if I’m really annoyed about it, I like to imagine the waterfall far enough out from me that it’s cascading over them. :P That’s probably not as great a coping mechanism as washing the stuff away or bouncing it off tho.

      2. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

        Chiming in just to second Princess B.C.H.’s force field advice. It sounds corny, it IS corny, and it actually legit does work.

    5. Maswaki*

      @ Snark,
      Radio active waste??? You had me laughing out loud. Oh how I enjoy the AAM community folks like you expand my vocabulary.

  2. Nervous Accountant*

    Ohhh dear Marley sounds toxic. Anyone who’s so disrespectful to their manager/boss that they are usually snarky and impolite (or to anyone really!) is very toxic. And I can’t believe the coworkers are telling her to “stick it to her!” and “show her who’;s boss”.. what the actual what?

    You’re new, so think it’s easy for you to bow out of all of this drama. But oh gosh, good luck! I’d love to hear an update on this.

    1. Snark*

      “And I can’t believe the coworkers are telling her to “stick it to her!” and “show her who’;s boss”.. what the actual what?”

      It’s the Che Guevara coworker. She can’t just have a beef with the boss, she needs to start a revolution.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        The “start a revolution” phrase put me on the following tangent.
        Recently I read a letter to Dear somebody on Arcamax Advice that said commercials that show children destroying a classroom while the teacher dreams of vacation or where children destroy a living room and the mom quickly cleans with this great product are a terrible influence on children. I really think grown-@$$ people watch The Office and Superstore (the latter I love, btw) and think that’s what work is like.
        Some people really think they are the stars of their own show. Well, you are. But I don’t have to tune in, much less be an extra.

        1. Amber T*

          “Some people really think they are the stars of their own show. Well, you are. But I don’t have to tune in, much less be an extra.”

          What great advice! Not just for the work place but life in general. I mean, you can’t just cut out a toxic coworker out of your life, it just takes more work to actively not be an extra.

          1. Snark*

            Maybe it’s TV, maybe it’s just that our culture tends to magnify and nurture tendencies towards narcissism, but you nailed the phenomenon – I’ve got several people in my life who act like they think they’re the main character in a wacky, Mindy Project kind of sitcom, and ugh.

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              It does have such draw. Or rather the narcissist does. You can’t look away. You want to be part of it. I remind myself not to be the moth flying into the light. At best it’s a bulb and you’ll just get a headache beating your head against it. At worst, it’s a flame and you’ll become part of its fuel.

            2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

              If I were the main character of anything, it’d be “No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!” (long title, I know; blame the Japanese).

              Personally (ideally) I’d look for another job and blow that box factory – but I know just how hard it is to find a position. I’ve been applying to 5-10 jobs a week for 2 years plus and nada. Nothing. One trial shift, one in-person interview, and three phone calls that ended with them writing me off when it turns out that I don’t have a car… So just bailing could possibly be worse if there’s no lifeboat waiting. Just ask the guys on the Titanic. :/

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Ha!! My mom used to teach kindergarten and is SO OFFENDED by that commercial. I explained to her that it is over-the-top on purpose but she didn’t want to hear it. But at least she didn’t write any letters about it – she’s too busy being embarrassing on Facebook.

        2. KR*

          I so agree! Some people are so determined to make drama and be in the middle of it all the time! OP, stick to the scripts Alison gave you. Good ones are also, “I feel like I am too new to have an opinion about this.”, “I don’t have all of the information and context you do so I’d prefer to stay out of this issue. Now, can you show me how to run this report for Claudia?”, “I’m not trying to get involved in this, I just need to get these TPS reports turned in on time.”, and “This sounds like something you’re really worked up about. Maybe you should go see Andi or HR about this. I don’t think I’m the right person to talk to.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            OP, I don’t know how applicable this is but I have used: “I am new. They are watching me and evaluating me. I WANT this job. While I am very sorry that people are upset, I have to keep my head down and focus on my work. I don’t want to lose my job.”

            I have found this works VERY well.

        3. The Strand*

          Well, Superstore is in part as funny as it is for its um, heightened realism. Except for the Kyle the Cloud 9 guy stuff (I hope).

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            I hope so too. Of course, that only happened because he was using marijuana :)

      2. The Southern Gothic*

        If Marley is truly the “Che Guevara” of the office, the others may be actually egging her on in an attempt to “give her enough rope”. Marley sounds like a huge PITA as a day to day co-worker and sometimes this is how a group will deal with someone this overwhelmingly toxic.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          So the other CW are actually supporting Andi, but know that Andi cannot just fire someone (which after reading here, I’ve learned is not uncommon) so they’re giving her enough rope for herself so their long term goal is to get rid of Marley and support Andi? *gasp* PLOT TWIST!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Egg Marley on and she will be out the door sooner! “Here let me start your car for you!”

        2. Natalie*

          Eh, I would find that to be unprofessional and possibly toxic behavior in and of itself.

          1. Emi.*

            Yeah, that would be pretty low-down, and anyway it’s clearly ruining people’s lives in the meantime.

            1. Natalie*

              “He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

                1. Dara*


                  At the beginning of Baldur’s Gate, they include Friedrich Nietsche’s name with the quote.

      3. OlympiasEpiriot*

        With all due respect to the “start a revolution” point, I don’t think Che Guevara is a good allusion for this one. This is more like someone who’s looking to start a coup and she sounds like she’s trying more for the tactics of Luis Altamirano Talavera (Chile). Because it is coming from inside the organization and someone within the company structure, I’d think of it more like a coup as opposed to a revolt of the masses which would be more of a revolution.

        Splitting hairs perhaps, but, that’s the kind of history nerd I am. ;-)

        1. CarolynM*

          You are my kind of history nerd! I wish you could have seen the grin on my face as I read your post! :)

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Marley sounds more like an anti-authority type than a Che Guevara type (or she’s just deeply unprofessional—I’m an anti-authority type, and I would not pull the shit she’s pulling). She’s not looking to liberate anyone or change the power structure; she just wants to blow up Andi’s world… and possibly supplant her, although I hope not. That sounds more Game of Thrones, Keystone Kops edition, than revolutionary.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Kinda makes you wonder what she will do when she no longer has Aldi to hate on.

    2. Lora*

      Bet you a dollar that the people saying, “yeah! stick it to her!” also dislike Marley behind her back and want her fired with prejudice sooner rather than later, and that’s why they are egging her on. Mean Girls/Heathers. OP, avoid these terrible people like the plague.

      Agree that Andi is weak here. Should have canned Marley publicly and made a big O-ren Ishii style spectacle of it, made an example of her for all the rest. I feel bad for Andi because wrangling all these mean girls into something resembling a modicum of professionalism is going to be a thankless task. Nobody really notices when you drag, kicking and screaming, a department from craptastic to reasonably competent; the kudos always go to the people who take a department from reasonably competent to awesome. Which is a shame, because the latter is much easier.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I had that same thought about the backstabbing. Yeah, go ahead. Tell her who’s the boss, and then feel all the color drain from your face when she tells you who the boss actually is, and provides an example of what a boss can do to her employee. {eye roll}

      2. sstabeler*

        it has occurred to me that if there’s been bad history between Andi and Marley before, then it’s possible that any action taken against Marley would receive greater scrutiny than usual- hence, if she makes a big show of firing Marley, it would end up looking like revenge for the earlier bad history, and end up with Marley back, and Andi canned. It’d also explain the co-workers cheering Marley on- they would be those who thought Marley was in the right before, and think that the change in workflows was actually Andi trying to get revenge on Marley for the earlier bad history.

  3. Hiring Mgr*

    So many questions on this one… Sorry you are having to deal with this on your first job OP. One thing I’m wondering is given apparent bad blood, why is Andi having Marley mentor new hires?

    1. High Score!*

      Marley may have skills or knowledge that Andi and others don’t? She maybe hoping to get OP trained before kicking Marley to the curb.

      1. designbot*

        That’s what I’m thinking, in part because if Marley has certain special skills that’s the sort of thing that tends to breed to “show (my boss) who’s boss!” type attitude. Something’s given Marley the impression that she’s the *real* authority around there, and that would fit.

    2. SignalLost*

      I assumed it was an issue of titles and duties. If OP is a junior marketing developer on the brand team which is managed by Andi, say, and Marley is the senior marketing developer, it doesn’t make sense to have OP mentored by the graphic designer or the communications manager.

    3. M-C*

      She’s probably maneuvered to be the only one that understands that crappy software (we can assume it’s crappy if it needs a guru to explain it..). But good for them to get rid of her! Allowing that situation to develop is a recipe for disaster.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Won’t that be an interesting twist if after Andi is gone, the big, complicated process is streamlined and everyone can do. Not only that, but everyone can do more and interesting things with it.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Yeah, I would bet a fair amount of money on exactly that scenario. I can’t help but wonder how much of OP’s perception of the complexity of the software comes from Marley herself – ie, the person with the giant monkey on her back and the vested interest in making everything seem complicated so that she seems indispensable.

          OP, this is not to say that I don’t believe you about the software being complex! Just that I really think everything about your work life will be easier once Marley is gone, including the software and associated processes. Hopefully this will happen soon, if it hasn’t already by the time this is published.

          1. sstabeler*

            or, slightly more charitably, Marley doesn’t herself know the best way to work with the software, but since nobody knows any better…

        2. TootsNYC*

          I wouldn’t take that bet, Matilda Jeffries.

          That happened here. The guy who oversaw one process (and did a lot of the hands-on work as well) worked a ton of hours and complained a lot about how hard it all was.

          He left, we got someone new, and not only was there no complaining, but stuff was done in ONE THIRD of the time.

          1. NW Mossy*

            I’ve seen that happen too. I once took over a process from a retiring employee, and within 3 months had re-written all of her patchy documentation and streamlined steps that took her weeks down to 30 minutes.

            Sometimes, people get very ingrained in The Way I Do Things and it’s hard for them to recognize that someone else might have a different perspective that helps them tackle the problem in a new way. They’re not bad people for doing so, but just missing the thought that their experience isn’t necessarily universal.

          2. hbc*

            Yep, that was our Che Guevara employee too. Turns out that whining about your workload, taking credit for other people’s work, and riling up your coworkers over imagined slights eats up a lot of time you could be using to actually do your job.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Agreed with Toots. It could be that part of Marley’s Revenge is to describe the software in such a manner that it feels Not User Friendly at all.

            The person before me had such a b!tch of a time with our program. OMG. Entering the most basic pieces of information for the file was a staggering if not impossible task. Each file contains at minimum SIX errors and it’s the same six. Many files contain more errors that that. The previous person either had a major “screw you attitude” on OR was totally overwhelmed by the program and did not bother asking for help FOR DECADES.

        3. Gadfly*

          There also is the matter of pain. I’ve seen a lot of times where something is a pain to change so the company doesn’t do it until they have no other choice (dealing with a problem employee being treated as the lesser of two evils.) And then, when backed into a corner, it magically is possible to fix the things they wouldn’t fix before

        4. Sara without an H*

          +1000. I’ve spent most of my career in academic libraries, in a speciality that tends to attract detail-oriented people. The problem is, many of them come to LOVE detail so much that they add complexity where it isn’t needed.

          It’s also an environment in which it’s often difficult to fire people, so Marley-types sometimes hang around for years. Amazing improvements in through-put usually happen once they’re gone.

          1. PlainJane*

            Another academic librarian here, and I’ve seen the exact same thing happen in more than one organization. I’ve also seen people create complexity, because they don’t really understand how the process/software works or they’re on a power trip and like to create lots of road blocks so they can control the process. Get them out, and work starts flowing through the pipeline at record speed.

      1. Natalie*

        Yeah, I have to agree. It sounds like she’s kind of lost control of her workforce, since multiple employees seem to have it out for her?

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, it sounds like there’s a Marley faction. Losing Marley may help some, but factions sometimes look to fill the vacuum. Be ready to faction-bust, Andi.

          1. Snark*

            Sometimes, though, it’s just the one charismatic person with a chip on their shoulder kind of whipping the office up, and after they go, everybody just kind of blinks and quietly goes back to normal.

            Hope so, at least.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I’ve seen it both ways. But I think Andi needs to be a little more alert than she’s been in general; it sounds like Marley got things up to quite a froth before her departure.

      2. Jamrock Newfie*

        Gosh, takes me back to Junior High!
        As a newbie the advice to give it time and try ride the storm without taking sides makes sense; if it does not resolve itself fairly quickly there is a problem and she is called Andi; Marley, in this case, would just be a symptom of weak leadership

      3. Sans*

        Andi not being decisive or proactive is one reason I might disagree with the advice to go to her. It sounds like she may not do a thing that would actually help the OP, even if she meant to. I would rather lay low, and give it a few weeks to play out.

    4. HisGirlFriday*

      At my office, we have a director who is in basically open conflict with our CEO, and yet that director is in charge of training a new hire because the new hire is (a) replacing part of the director’s job when the director leaves later this year and (b) the CEO doesn’t know how to do the director’s job (nor does anyone else here), so we have no choice (other than outsourcing the training, which the CEO doesn’t want to do.)

      And yes, in case you’re curious, it’s every bit as terrible and awkward as it sounds!

      1. Sam*

        I feel your pain – that sounds like my office right now. On the plus side, some of the terribleness has waned now that our director is officially gone, but it’s still super awkward and the people who have to take over her (extremely complicated, detail-heavy, labor-intensive) work without any sort of training are livid that this wasn’t handled better. It’s quite the cautionary tale about not cross-training your employees…

    5. Artemesia*

      I once consulted in a company where the boss of the group didn’t know her technical ax and was essentially being held hostage by the person who had developed and managed the technology. This was in the early days of computers in offices and office software development and he had developed the system for managing the data base of an office that processed huge numbers of clients records. He had everyone else bamboozled and was infuriated that HE had not been made director of the division.

      I sense here that Andi may be this manager feeling that Marley has information that is critical and thus is afraid to manage her. The solution is to fire Marley obviously. And that was the solution in my case as well; I made sure that the director got the training she needed on the technology and that the office was cross trained and then suggested he be let go when he continued to be undermining. I hope Andi and HR figure this out and get it done for the Op’s sake — but in the meantime, Alison’s scripts are golden as usual.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh boy, this reminds me of the time I was hired to do x job. The person doing it was toxic beyond belief. I was supposed to learn the job and work under her. She must have known she was on her way out. I have never been so sick going to work in the morning. I lived in fear of my cohorts telling me what a great job I did, that would set her off big time. After she threatened to have me killed for the umpteenth time, I told the boss, “I can’t do this. I am done here.” That is when he let fly with the fact that he could not fire her until he found someone who could do what she did.

        I just have to say, it’s really a bad plan to make the Toxic One be in charge of training the New Hire.

    6. paul*

      That was my thought…holy crap.

      It sounds like a mess. Is Andi just a really weak manager? Did they do something that upset everyone? Is Marley just a master manipulator? Just all my what…

      1. Jessica*

        My popcorn analysis speculates that both Marley and Andi were up for the manager slot, and Andi got it.

  4. Bibliovore*

    Oh I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. Alison is so right. This isn’t your problem.
    All interaction with Marley should be professional.
    Ask your questions. When Marley veers off topic, state- that isn’t something I can discuss, now what can you tell me about this teapot variable issue that I have been having?

    Don’t take sides, don’t listen to gossip. When you find your mind focusing on the issue, remember “not my circus, not my monkeys”
    Try not to worry about who will be training you in the future. Someone will.
    It is also possible to ask for a meeting with Andi. Write down how this situation is affecting your productivity. Perhaps your training can be reassigned.

    I had a similar situation with a toxic report whose co-workers were rallying around her and painting me as the evil micro-manageing manager. I went to HR and there were many, many issues with the toxic report that couldn’t and wouldn’t ever be discussed with my other reports. Try to believe HR when they say it is being handled…sometimes these things feel like forever.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      “Not my circus, not my monkeys” if my favorite phrase that I’ve picked up from AAM (within the comments section).

      I suspect I might be somewhat similar to the OP – in that I tend to internalize issues that come up or feel somehow responsible for things that intellectually I know are not my fault/responsibility. Whenever I find myself getting stressed about a work situation I try to take a moment to analyze – is this my responsibility or is it worth being upset/stressed about? If not I repeat to myself “not my circus, not my monekys” (and I might also try to visualize the people who are causing this stress in a little vest/cap, or if it’s really bad as the winged monkeys from the Wizard of Oz). It always makes me smile and lighten up a bit.

    2. TootsNYC*

      yeah, OP, it’s not on you to fix this.
      Partly because it’s never on a grownup to “fix” other people’s bad behavior. If you’re a parent, teacher, or mentor–maybe. But only then.

      And also because, you’re the newbie.

  5. CeeCee*

    I don’t understand why Marley would be put in charge of mentoring a new, impressionable employee. Did Andi give her that?

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      M-C has a great theory on this above! She’s probably maneuvered to be the only one that understands that crappy software (we can assume it’s crappy if it needs a guru to explain it..).

      1. Else*

        At my previous position, there was a terrible, no good, very bad accounting software that had been home-grown and developed over decades, that would only talk to one type of system. Only a few people could make it work, and they all complained about it constantly. The company went for a new one out of the box with external support that would work on all of our systems and let some of the more mundane tasks be dispersed to other people – were the people who worked with it happy? No, they were furious! With maybe two exceptions who embraced the new beast and were happy to make it work, the rest of the department had all kinds of angry, self-protective issues with it. I think it was a mix of my-skills-are-unneeded, way-we-do-things, and angry-admins-are-considered-capable-of-my-job thoughts.

        1. Else*

          They felt that their sense of self-importance was threatened, I think, and had all been very possessive of knowledge about the old system in order to make their positions more secure.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I remember the resentment when a software went out of favor and new, shiny software took its place. I’d built up quite a bit of expertise. And boom–I lost it.

            However, by embracing the change, and by being determined to get the same level of “Toots can answer ANY question” expertise, what I got was something SO much more.

            I developed the ability to transition from one software to another. I’ve used it countless times. It’s far more valuable than simply being the whiz at one software.

            1. Else*

              Truth! Best of all, other people often come to recognize this as valuable, and that ability itself is much more marketable than single-system expertise.

    2. Chinook*

      Ooo…ooo…ooo…I know that answer. Marley has probably convinced TPTB that she is an awesome employee who keeps the company afloat. Or at least that is what my version of OP’s Marley was. She was horribly toxic but very good at the “kiss up and push down” aspect of company politics. She was also a lifelong employee with complex processes that needed to be updated. It wasn’t until she was caught (multiple times) actively sabotaging the Office Manager and myself (the receptionist) that she was given the option to retire ASAP. But, every single admin. assistant in the previous decade had given to her to mentor in some way.

      As for my personal Marley (the Wolf), she says OP’s Marley needs to be kicked out of the pack and left to fend for herself. Any smart creature needs to recognize the leader of the pack once it has been established. And that OP’s Marley is giving all Marley’s a bad name.

  6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    LW: just a quick, “good on you!” for writing to Alison, for not getting involved. I understand from your letter that you are young and new to the work world. I know at your age I would have gotten all caught up in this crap. I’m sorry it’s affecting you, but you are doing really well. Keep to the path. Do your job and start looking. Just knowing there are other places to go will give you some relief.

    1. erin*

      +100000. I also would have gotten myself caught up in this as a newbie to the working world. You have the right instincts to know when you need to ask for help.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Screw just young and newbie – I have a relative (retired now) who ALWAYS seemed to get caught up in whatever office politics were happening around her, even if she was only in the place on a short-term contract. The poor woman had had one fairly long-term job, but aside from that seemed to be always job-hopping, contract-hopping, long stints of unemployment – and apparently part of it was never managing to keep out of whatever fray was happening in the moment. Navigating office politics (and office warfare) is an important lesson to learn.

  7. Duck Duck Møøse*

    I think the mantras are so great – I’m getting ready to change offices. Due to recent restructuring, I think a lot of the people there are struggling with the changes. I was wondering how avoid the “Well, we used to do it this way but now…” type of discussions, and I think a couple of these mantras can be adapted to really help while I’m learning the ropes :) “I’m too new to understand any of this, and…” …I need to know how to do it NOW, not how you always did it in the past. ;) Please don’t give me ancient history, my brain can’t handle that much information!

    1. Snark*

      Oh god, I hate it when someone feels compelled to give you the entire history of a process.

      1. Duck Duck Møøse*

        Yeah, I expect it’s going to be bad, since it’s an area of my agency I haven’t worked in before, so there will be a LOT of new things I need to learn. It’s separating the wheat from the chaff that’s goign to be hard, since I won’t immediately know what is historical and what is current operational ;) Plus, I’ve worked here 30+ years, so I have 30+ years of stuff I need to forget, to make room for the new stuff! :D

      2. Natalie*

        I often want the “Wrap It Up” box from Chappelle’s Show. I wonder if there’s an app for that…

      3. LBK*

        Ha, I’m totally guilty of this, mostly because I streamlined a lot of the gross old processes and I like patting myself on the back when I explain to people how much easier the process is now thanks to me and my awesome brain. But at least I know I’m doing it – self-awareness counts for something, right?

        1. Chinook*

          I do this to, the patting on the back of how I have improved processes. I have had to teach myself to not go into the history of a process unless someone starts complaining to me about the state of records from before a change was made. At that point, they unwittingly opened themselves to a history lesson that is needed to explain why things are not in as a good shape before a certain point in time.

        2. Jessica*

          I too am a history-explainer. To make a short story long, the company spent way too much time not investing in tools and process, and now we’re evolving old dinosaurs into up-to-date tools. This is like multi-phase road construction, and requires doing the equivalent of building an exit ramp only to tear it down later. So a lot of our current processes are totally stupid, but only because we’re in the middle of construction, not because we don’t know the process sucks. Explaining at least some of the history helps get people over the stupidity of it and keeps them focused on doing the work, not spending energy on the process.

          As one of the resident dinosaur experts, I get tapped a lot for meetings about evolving these tools and processes (where people actually ask for the history on purpose, so they know what the tool needs to do). There’s at least one other person who knows them as well as I do, but said person tends to vocalize a lot of cynicism and negativity about changes, and trends toward learned helplessness. This person does not get tapped for these discussions. I made a conscious decision a few years back that a) learned helplessness doesn’t make you look good in the eyes of others, and b) nothing is all that difficult to learn once you dig in to it, so now when new stuff comes around, I say, “Okay, let’s see how this goes,” not “Oh man, my life is gonna be so hard, everything is terrible.” Being the One Who Knows is pointless if you paint yourself into a corner by refusing to adapt.

        3. TootsNYC*

          here’s the thing:

          What you have is the ability to streamlines processes.

          That applies no matter what process you’re working within. So yes, tout that!

          And there’s some value to being able to say, “In the old days, we did this, but our new procedure preserves X while adding Y.”

      4. Soon to be former fed*

        Yeah, you ask what time it is and they tell you how to build a clock before telling you the time. AARGH! I usually ask for the Readers Digest version when dealing with these types.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, I find that there are two groups that do this. The first are people who understand things in context, so it helps them to know the whole history… which is why they give it to you, thinking it’s helpful (when it may not be). The second group uses it as a stonewalling technique to derail conversations and drive you nuts so they can keep doing whatever process/approach they’re doing, even if that process is outdated, fully dysfunctional, or outright stupid.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          There’s another reason to know history: when the new people come in and say “we’re going to do X, it’s so much simpler”, and you have to explain to them that we have tried X, really, and here are all the reasons why X is not a good idea in this situation that is much more complicated than they realize.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, there’s many good reasons to know history! And there are good reasons/circumstances in which to recount history or share it with others.

            But when I get frustrated hearing about the history of a process, it’s usually for one of the two reasons I mentioned. :) I’m sure there are many other valid and frustrating scenarios!

      6. Clever Name*

        Uh oh. I tend to do this because people constantly complain that our processes are nonsensical, and I’m the type of person who likes to know the “why” (it helps me learn), so I’ll explain the background that goes into why we do things a certain way. Maybe I should stop and just say, “that’s the way we roll”? My explanation is usually like a sentence, though.

        1. So Many Projects*

          What if it’s presented as an offer that they can decline?
          Something like, “There’s a history behind the version you’re working with now that may be useful to you. I can give you the two-minute version if you like-?”

          And then keep it to two minutes. I’ve found that people listen for that time limit that’s given, and are very impressed when its adhered to.

    2. Antilles*

      The only note I’d give is that if part of your job involves explaining results to others (especially more senior personnel), it can often be helpful to know the history of what how things used to be done so you can compare it to what they’re used to. They might not know all the ins-and-outs of the new structure, but if you can describe it relative to the old one, you can get a lot more buy-in.
      “So as you see here, Chocolate Teapots need to be 14.3% thicker than Vanilla to meet safety requirements…if you’re familiar with the old TeapotPlus software, this is a similar calculation, but including a few more details, like tea acidity.”

      1. Gadfly*

        Well, and if it is like Old Job, often there ate procedures still being used based on system requirements two or three versions back, so it can help a little there (*eyeroll*–I know it isn’t reasonable, but when has that stopped anything?)

  8. AnonEMoose*

    OP, I’m so sorry. This kind of thing is so distressing and difficult to navigate, especially when you’re new and don’t have a lot of experience yet. Try, as best you can, to just focus on work and getting the training you need. When Marley tries to go on a rant, maybe try to redirect her with a work question.

    I really like the “I’m too new to really understand any of this. Can I ask you about…?” Or “I’m not sure I’m quite clear on this part of the software. Could you walk me through it?” Having some phrases like that memorized and ready can really help when you otherwise would have no idea what to say.

    Depending on what Marley is like, some other phrases you could use would be things like “That sounds like a difficult situation. Can I ask you about…?” Or “Sounds complicated. I’m looking for the information on the Fergus files…could you remind me again of where that’s stored?” Basically, keep it brief, try to avoid anything that sounds like you’re taking size, and redirect to a work issue as soon as possible.

    And do ask for a meeting with Andi so you can explain how this is affecting your productivity. But stick to that…you don’t want to be perceived as seeking information about the conflict, or taking sides. You’re just expressing a concern about making sure you understand the work and can complete your tasks.

    Being new can actually be an advantage in this situation, though…just keep telling everyone who tries to talk to you about it and solicit an opinion, rant, or whatever something along the lines of “I’m so new, I don’t really understand any of this. I’m just trying to get my head wrapped around my work. Speaking of which, what do you know about [insert work-related question here]?”

  9. k.k*

    I would encourage you to seek out any available resources for the software that you can. While it isn’t right, there may be times when Marley is too caught up in this drama to help you out. There are likely some training and instruction documents for the software somewhere, either from the software’s creator or from your company.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yeah, see if there’s some help on Google.

      of course, knowing how the software works won’t necessarily tell you how your company folds it into their workflow. But it’s a start, and it’ll make you feel less linked to Marley.

  10. Grits McGee*

    OP, I’ve found that slightly raising my eyebrows and saying, “Ohhh, I don’t really know anything about that,” to be very effective in discouraging people trying to engage in forced spleen-venting.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Yes!! This works for not-so-new employees too. “Oh I really don’t know anything about that” or when they try sucking you into gossip “sorry I’m just thinking if there’s a faster way to run my TPS reports. It’s been on my mind for days and all I can think about!”

      They’ll get frustrated after a while and stop bothering with trying to rope you into gossip.

  11. kms1025*

    This is such a miserable situation. Cliques in general suck, but in workplaces they can be so toxic. Allison gave you great advice. Keep your head down, politely stay out of these conversations, talk to your boss, and know that this will pass. It didn’t turn into such a crap show overnight and it’s likely going to take some patience in turning it back around into a calm, productive workplace. All offices are NOT like this, but I’ll bet most people have experienced this nonsense to some degree or another in their work life. Treat this as a learning experience, a class on how NOT to handle workplace conflicts and maneuver carefully until it gets fixed.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also know this–you don’t have to be perfect.

      One single exchange w/ a coworker is not going to define you forever. Each individual conversation doesn’t actually have the weight that your anxiety is giving it.

  12. Amber Rose*

    Do feel free to interrupt tirades as well. If you ask Marley a question, and the response is “ugh, Andi sucks blah blah” feel free to stop her mid-sentence and say, “Sorry I need to stop you there, I just really need an answer to X.”

    Right now, you’re new and uncertain and anxious and my guess is you’re looking at all this advice like “I can’t say/do that!” But you can. A little abruptness from you is not even going to be noticeable to people this caught up in riding the drama llama all over the office. And really, the only person who could do anything about it is Andi, who does not sound likely to care much.

    This is not your problem to fix. Focus on keeping out of it by any means.

    1. motherofdragons*

      Yes. Whatever permission you need to interrupt Marley, you’ve got it. You do not have to listen to her tirades. If she gets offended and chilly towards you, maybe that’s a good thing as she’s stop treating you as her personal sounding board!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And she may not get too chilly because if she stops training you, OP, she might be out the door. It’s a gamble granted but it’s also a possibility.

  13. not so super-visor*

    I totally chuckled out loud at the “show her who’s boss” part. This happened to me a couple of times when I was a squeaky brand-new supervisor. Power plays happen in offices, but they don’t usually end well for the person who’s lower on the org chart. Usually, the supervisor/manager will tell them who is the boss (like Alison said.)

    1. Antilles*

      I had the same reaction. In fact, this is such horrifically awful advice that LW should immediately put these co-workers on a mental “do not trust advice” list because they’re clearly not thinking of Marley’s best interests.
      Telling a junior person to pull a power play is basically the work equivalent of an Internet Tough Guy suggesting that *you* punch somebody in the face or break their window or etc – you know, the kind of frontier vengeance that sounds great and entertaining when someone else is doing it and dealing with the long-term repercussions.

    2. TootsNYC*

      yeah, that sort of happened to me once, the first time I was a manager.

      and what happened is that the snottiness and pushback from the person I’d hired was visible to the person two steps above me. Who called me into her office and said, “You are the boss here. You have every right to assert this, and I think that you should.”

      And for a long time after, when I was hiring people, I’d say, “I’m not a micro-manage-y boss, particularly. I like for people to feel confident in their expertise, and I like to follow the recommendations of people who work for me. But I *am* the boss, and the worst thing you can do when you work for me is to create a situation in which I feel like I have to -say- that.”

      I’ve gotten more confident, and I don’t frame it that way any more.

      1. not so super-visor*

        I think my favorite example was when I made a work-flow change, and a direct report waited until I went to lunch and then went into my director’s office to complain. He told her that I was her boss and to do it my way or she wouldn’t be working there much longer. When she continued to argue, he told her to get the *expletive* out of his office since he hadn’t invited her in in the first place. Normally, I don’t approve of swearing at employees, but when the tale was related to me, I felt pretty good about it.

    3. Artemesia*

      When I became a department director the only person who pushed back on my authority was a long time mother hen type secretary. We had a lot of part time consultants who worked occasionally in the department and over time everybody in town seemed to have keys to the place. We had a rash of thefts and so I had everything re-keyed; the people who worked there full time received keys with strong admonitions about security and our thefts; the secretary was instructed to give out no keys to part time workers as they did not need after hours access as some full time workers did. She immediately gave out keys to some of her favorites who were very invested in the prestige of having carte blanche including a key to the office. I fired her; she was astonished and told me, ‘you can’t do that, I’ve been here longer than you, I’ll show you.’ She was gone immediately. Mistakes deserve PIPs or mentoring or training and patience; insubordination deserves firing.

      Andi is making a big mistake if she allows herself to be held hostage by Marley and her bosses are making a big mistake if they don’t back her up.

      1. LBK*

        That’s pretty hilarious. I always wonder if people like that ever break out of the delusion of their grandeur or if to this day she still believes she was wronged by you.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Of all the things she could have said she picked one of the top things to say to get herself fired.
        The whole group was probably glad to see her gone. No one wants to work with someone who thinks there is a different set of rules for them.

      3. The Supreme Troll*

        Artemesia, I’m going to assume that the “mother hen” type secretary was older than you, so I’m assuming that she thought that her physical age, in addition to her working at the company longer than you had, were reasons that allowed her to thumb her nose at you and your instructions.

        They obviously weren’t – and you did absolutely the right thing in terminating her! Age, years at company, liked by fellow coworkers, etc…are never valid reasons to actively disrespect & ignore your boss and your boss’s directives.

    4. Anonymous 40*

      And if you’re in an organization that will let an employee undermine their manager, you probably don’t want to be there anyway. I had that experience once. Started a new job as a manager with clear instructions to turn around an underperforming team. The longtime senior employee on the team resisted everything I told him to do, from minor workflow changes to standards of professional behavior. I got very little support from my manager because he’d already decided the guy was a “rain maker” rather than a major source of trouble. In less than two months the company had a sudden cash flow problem and I was laid off with almost no severance. That was a deeply dysfunctional culture.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        I’m sorry that you had to experience that, Anonymous 40. Your boss really didn’t seem that he had his heart into it 100% into improving things. I find it very difficult to tolerate superiors who want you to make changes/improvements in your leadership role, but then not give you the authority to fire deadweight or stonewall you when you need to make the tough/unpopular (but necessary) actions.

  14. Quilter*

    My guess is Marley feels that she has power and that the company needs her because she is the only one who knows the particular piece of software. (If I had to guess, Marley has also probably purposely made it that way over time either by refusing to cross train or by refusing to document anything.) It may be that she’s been hanging her hat on the idea that she’s irreplaceable. That also may be why OP is so nervous about Marley departing, having bought into the idea that there isn’t anyone else to teach her and that, if Marley leaves, she’s going to be tasked with a job that she’s unprepared for.

    Good news for OP is that it may be a bumpy transition if Marley departs, but in spite of Marley’s beliefs, the company will manage to find a way to go on and the bumpy transition is usually totally worth the removal of the poisonous employee.

    1. KR*

      If this is the case, can OP gently suggest if it comes up having the company who makes and administers the software come do a training session for employees? Many are willing to do this or stream one on video/conference call software. Some might even let you film the class so you can be the new expert!

  15. Fabulous*

    Although it might not be ideal, can you ask Marley for clarification on Andi’s email? Since she’s got such a loose mouth with regard to Andi, maybe she’ll actually tell you if and/or when she’s really leaving. It’s also possible they are only having her stay until you’re fully trained, which could be why she’s still around 2 weeks later.

      1. Emi.*

        I second this. Don’t wade into this mess! If you ask Marley about it, she’ll either think you’re challenging her or think you’re sympathizing with her.

        1. Snark*

          And it looks bad to Andi – who, delusional coworkers to the contrary, IS the boss, and who you should be approaching regarding controversy surrounding a toxic coworker in the first place.

  16. Widgeon*

    Be Switzerland. Head down, do your work, be positive and pleasant to everyone (even if they don’t really deserve it), and let this one sort itself out.

    1. paul*

      and arm yourself to the teeth (an under looked part of Swiss neutrality). In this case that means being professional, seeking out training information on the software (since I wouldn’t trust Marley to do it well), generally trying to be a model employee. Arm yourself with professionalism (as corny as that sounds).

      It sure sounds like a CF, hope it resolves well…

      1. Observer*

        Not just the software, but the process. That’s really the secret to learning many apparently complex software packages – if you understand the process, it becomes MUCH easier to figure out what the software is doing and why, and how to get things done.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        They also have held a whole lot of people’s money hostage (effectively) in their banks, I’m not sure how that would happen with an employee…

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I like this theme and want to add because your question made me think. What would a new employee have that makes her valuable and worth protecting like Switzerland? Not institutional knowledge, but maybe the clean slate is valuable. And if she can survive this battle, once the “war” is won and the department restructured, someone who has been proven to be professional is going to be really valuable. The company won’t have to do a clean sweep and hire all new people.

  17. Decimus*

    I’d think it would be safe to go to Andi and say something like “In light of the email about Marley’s departure, I’m concerned about how this is going to affect my training. Who will be assigned as my mentor? And in light of the full circumstances, may I suggest I be reassigned to the new person sooner?”

  18. anon24*

    OP this sucks. I am a young worker and have also worked in places with a lot of drama like this. On the surface try very hard to remain cool, calm, and distance yourself from all of this. On the inside, instead of being stressed, try to be entertained. In one super dramatic workplace when I couldn’t avoid hearing about the drama I would gleefully laugh (inside my head) about how childish adults can be. You can let this situation ruin your peace of mind or you can try to laugh and learn all these ways of how NOT to act in the workplace. Instead of dragging you down, let it build you up as a great learning experience. Good luck!

    1. Artemesia*

      Great advice. I once watched two PhDs in organizational leadership specialties almost come to blows, shrieking at each other about the organization of the department and who had this or that authority. Stupid all the way around but deliciously ironic.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha. I once had a group of about six professors almost come to blows at the front desk because they were vehemently arguing about whether the “secretaries” could use their first names or had to call them ‘doctor’. It is still one of my best “academia be crazy” stories.

  19. Nolan*

    Yikes. I feel like this will go one of two ways, either the company will deal with it and there will be an exodus of toxic employees before the dust ultimately settles and life moves on, OR they won’t handle it, this will become the new normal in the office, and all the neutral employees will jump ship.

    Even though you’re new OP, you are still allowed to be neutral, and indeed are also allowed to have boundaries. Ask Marley your questions. If she starts on another tirade, just cut it off. “That sounds frustrating, but I need to focus on x right now, so (ask question again)” should help to shut her down. If she starts holding info hostage, tell Andi, get a new mentor, preferably from the neutral employee pool. Be pleasant, but definitely don’t socialize with any of the instigators, and if they try to drag you into the drama, just excuse yourself. You’re *really* busy learning all this new stuff and don’t have time to chat, sorry! Just be polite but firm about not getting involved.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      “That sounds frustrating,”
      +10000. This. Not, “that sucks.” or “That’s terrible.” or “I know how you feel.” Nothing that implies empathy and support. Just a polite acknowledgement that she spoke.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “If she starts on another tirade, just cut it off. “That sounds frustrating, but I need to focus on x right now, so (ask question again)” should help to shut her down.”

      One tactic can be to sound sort of sympathetic about the EMOTIONAL aspect of it all.
      “That sounds stressful for you.” And the immediately redirect. “But I really want to just get that info quickly.”

      THEN: couch it as though she’s helping you: “It helps me to remember the processes if I can keep my focus tight.”

  20. CoveredInBees*

    OP, since AAM has responded thoroughly to your question, I just want to extend my sympathies. This is a rough situation to be thrown into, especially in your first full-time job. Keeping as far from the fighting as possible is best for both your mental health and your reputation. If someone starts ranting at you, be as non-committal as possible. “Oh, I dunno. I’m letting them work in out on their own. Have you seen ‘Girls Trip’/pictures of my cat/ the good stapler?”

  21. sunshyne84*

    Also, if things don’t improve and you do end up leaving I wouldn’t worry about that too much either. Leaving before a year could raise eyebrows, but it’s more of a problem when it becomes a pattern. This isn’t an environment I would “wait it out” in.

  22. Lady Phoenix*

    When it comes to the Civil War, just pull out the popcorn and treat this like Big Brother/Kardaseans/[Insert your guilty pleasure Reality Tv Show full of drama]. Watch the drama happening around you, but don’t get involved. Instead, just laugh and all the drama starters and their silliness.

    When your mentor starts going on a tirade, cut her off and tell her to focus on the mentoring. In the meantime, google/youtube/lynda on some free time so that you don’t have to lean on her so much.

    You can talk to Andi about what to do during the transition between Marley’s departure so that you can get a new mentor and hopefully silence aome of the rowdiness going on.

    If all else fails, and the drama gets too much, you can always abandon ship while the ride hasn’t started.

  23. Havarti*

    Somewhat jokingly: Who signs your time-sheet? That’s where your loyalty lies. ;)
    Good luck and let us know how it works out!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I have actually used a similar thing, “I have to go with the person who signs my paycheck, if I want to keep getting paychecks.”

  24. BBBizAnalyst*

    Marley sounds immature. I’ve had a coworker like her except the company let him go. Everything was a battle. It just got draining to be around.

    The team dynamic got so much better without him. Hopefully, she’s on some sort of PIP to get her and the other team members encouraging this behavior out of there.

  25. NW Mossy*

    OP, one other thing to keep in mind – you have a certain element of protection in blithely following office norms as a new-to-the-workforce greenhorn. Talking to your boss about work stuff is normal. Being pleasant to everyone in the office is normal. Being focused on your own work and being blandly unwelcoming of gossip/trash talk is normal. Own that normal behavior and speak of it as if it’s the total non-event that it really is.

    You don’t have to hide it, tiptoe around it, or otherwise act as if behaving normally is somehow shameful or wrong. It isn’t. If someone tries to call you out for normal behavior (not that likely, really), you can act warmly bemused about the “correction” – think channeling the energy of a floofy dog cocking its head to one side in confusion here as you make some non-committal “huh” noises. Basically, you hear them, but you have no idea what they’re talking about. And honestly, listening to them try to articulate why their toxic behavior should be accepted and replicated by you can be its own form of amusement.

  26. OlympiasEpiriot*

    No additional advice, just best wishes for dealing with this. Keep nose to the grindstone and your chin up. Good luck!

  27. Niccola M.*

    Would it be possible to ask Andi for a “sandbox” version of the software that you could use to explore the software on your own without making changes to the system, or for dummy files to play around in, or whatever would be applicable? I don’t know if it would be possible or practicable to learn the software by trial and error, but it could mean a lot less time you’d need with Marley.

  28. Essie*

    I know there’s less than no chance this person is actually named Marley, but in my head LW is sitting at her desk humming “Three Little Birds” to stay calm. Sending you vibes of peace, LW!

  29. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    This is such a tough situation. My only advice would be to try to stay as neutral as possible with everyone you work with. This sounds like a dysfunction flood – tough to know where it started and what the true source is. Right now, Marley appears to be the source. After she leaves, you may find it originated somewhere else. Sometimes people like to create drama and know how to push buttons and then just sit back and watch the show.

  30. Mike B.*

    Not seeing any talk above about how bizarre it was for Andi to send that email when the details had clearly not yet been ironed out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe, but maybe not. There’s a lot here we don’t know. It could be that Marley is indeed leaving in X amount of time and the message was exactly correct. It’s also possible that things have changed since then, in which case Andi is really erring in not being more communicative.

      1. Mike B.*

        It’s possible, yes, but Marley doesn’t seem to be acting like she’ll be leaving, other employees are pretty sure she’ll be staying, and (unless OP left this out) there was no mention of a timetable or a contingency plan, or whether they were at least trying to claim the split was amicable. It was at the very least premature to say anything about it, as it caused a lot of confusion.

        The worst case would be that Andi decided to fire Marley and sent the email before the wheels were in motion, not realizing that she would need approval from on high and the cooperation of HR. Not something I’d ordinarily suspect, but it doesn’t seem unlikely in this workplace. Having to work with both of them after an unsuccessful public firing attempt? Ouch.

        1. Kate*

          It still really hard to tell what’s going on with this office with the information we have though. Since the other coworkers are apparently egging Marley on by telling her to “show [Andi] who’s boss” when Andi is quite literally the boss, I’m not sure I’d trust their response to this situation either. My completely 100% speculation is that Andi was trying to be kind in letting Marley transition out instead of being flat out fired, and Marley and coworkers are in denial because they are under this delusion that they have the upper hand on Andi. It seemed like to me from the letter that Andi’s email was only sent out a couple weeks ago, so the wheels could be in motion with approval from all the higher ups, and OP just hasn’t seen the resolution yet.

        2. Observer*

          Given what the OP describes, though, what’s being said doesn’t mean much. The fact that the co-workers don’t think she’s leaving is a lot less significant, as they are also people who think that showing her manager “who’s boss” is a sensible approach to take.

    2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      The details may have been ironed out and Marley and the others don’t want to believe it. I worked in a company where a co-worker denied that she was leaving until the date in question. She had accepted a position with another company but hated our manager so much that she would contradict everything the manager said even if meant outright lying. She was a huge jerk and honestly very few people missed her once she was gone.

      1. Mike B.*

        I would not be surprised if that happened in this workplace. Sympathy seems to be with Marley here, though.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        but hated our manager so much that she would contradict everything the manager said even if meant outright lying

        Oh wow. This is so bizarre and made me cringe. (And laugh, but only because it was weird.) Even if you hate your boss, it’s not worth losing your integrity.

  31. Channel Z*

    After one week of training in a new job, my trainer gave her one month notice so it was a scramble to get me trained. We didn’t get through all of it, but I was able to finish the rest on my own when she left. It may work out better for you to work with someone else or to work through some on your own

  32. Marisol*

    OP, don’t overestimate your coworkers’ loyalty to Marley–I think you’re taking their professed loyalty to Marley too much at face value. Obviously, it’s far better to stay out of office politics and Allison has given great advice. But if it becomes unavoidable to align yourself politically with Andi, I doubt it will have the repercussions you seem to fear. Ask yourself this: would any of your coworkers trade their paychecks for their alliance to Marley? Of course they wouldn’t. We all have bills to pay and at the end of the day, job stability trumps most other concerns in people’s lives. I suspect that these people are using a dramatic situation for entertainment and to vent a little spleen, but at the end of the day, once Marley is gone, the office will forget about her. You won’t lose much political capital by siding with your boss–doing so is generally a wise move, politically–and I don’t think you would gain much, if anything, by appeasing the Marley-ites because their alliance is not based on real conviction.

  33. Yetanother Jennifer*

    I had someone who was teaching me the ins and outs of custom software leave too soon. For me it wasn’t drama, but instead that she only had so much time she could give and I work so few hours a week on this project that at 6 months on the calendar I had about a month of actual hours on the project. By the time I knew what I needed to ask, she was gone.

    The best spin on this situation is to assume that Andi has asked Marley to stay on a little longer to teach you specific things about the software but she has neglected to tell you that. And I think for your own peace of mind, that’s a good assumption to make. I recommend seeing how far google can get you. Come to think of it, try Yahoo; my new mentor says it gives better results for tech searches. If you can, pretend that Marley is already gone and see if you can find the answer online. Look for blogs, contractors, books, whatever resources you can find. Then see where the gaps and customizations are and target your questions there. Ask Marley how she learned the software, what resources does she use. Ask about the history of the installation. Also look at your notes and see if there’s anything you’ve been told that you just sort of nodded at and assumed you’d get clarification down the road. Are there things that only happen periodically that you haven’t done yet? Ask those questions now. Pretend Marley has one more week to pass all this along. If she’s still there after a week, assume she’s been asked to stay longer but that she’s still on her way out. Hopefully it will turn out to be true.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “If you can, pretend that Marley is already gone and see if you can find the answer online.”

      Definitely! Absolutely.
      This is one of the most powerful learning tools–to try to figure it out yourself. (And then to check that w/ your trainer/teacher, of course.) You will learn more powerfully, and you’ll build your confidence in yourself.

      Of course you may get it wrong, or incomplete, at the beginning. But don’t underestimate your ability to find your answers yourself. It’s great training for a side-effect skill: The ability to teach yourself a software.

      1. Artemesia*

        And you will dazzle your bosses if you really dig in and bone up on the software as much as possible so you quickly get up to speed. And if you do move on because this doesn’t get fixed, you will have a great story of your resourcefulness when faced with a challenge in the workplace. You need to dial up your sense of humor and your vision of yourself as superwoman and frame these days in terms of your resourcefulness and wonderfulness rather than anxiety over the conflict.

  34. This Daydreamer*

    My instinct would be to reach out to the others who are staying out of the whole mess. “Hey, I’m just about out of x, do you know where I can get more?” “Wow that takeout looks delicious! Where did you get it?” If you can start up an acquaintance with one or more of them, they could give you more insight into the way the office works long term. It would definitely be nice to know if the office war started recently or if there’s always major drama going on.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree–reach out to those folks. But I wouldn’t reach out to them w/ the eye to getting more “intel” (gossip?) on the office politics, etc.

      Just reach out to them so you are interacting with people who are ignoring the drama. It’ll be so calming!

      1. This Daydreamer*

        I didn’t mean getting the latest gossip, just what the place is normally like. I think the LW needs a little perspective on the drama. Hopefully the message she gets is “Oh, don’t worry. Next month you’ll be complaining about the weather with the rest of us.” And it would definitely be nice getting away from the drama, even if for just a little while.

  35. AthenaC*

    Can I just say that I appreciate it when LW’s tell us that, for example, “This is my first full-time job” or “This is my second office job”? It’s great because it invites more explanation and discussion of norms than one might give otherwise.

    So, thank you, LW!

  36. Former Employee*

    As the OP said, she is new and doesn’t know the history. I would hate to think that the reason Marley is acting this way is due to the fact that Andi was made manager because she [Andi] is someone’s relative, BFF or whatever while Marley is the one who keeps the department going day to day. After a certain amount of time, Marley just couldn’t take it any longer and started acting flagrantly disrespectful to a manager she had quietly disrespected all along.

    Since unqualified people are often promoted because of who they know rather than what they know, it would not surprise me if that were the case here. Perhaps the email Andi sent out was a way to assert her authority as manager. However, if Marley doesn’t leave and no one more senior forces Marley out, that is likely a sign that Andi is in over her head and the status quo will be maintained to keep the department running.

    1. Observer*

      Nothing indicates any of this. And in any case, it doesn’t matter. Andi sounds like a poor manager, but Marley’s behavior is a series of firing offenses regardless. Trying to show your manager “who’s boss” is just wildly out of line.

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        Exactly. If Andi is clearly doing illegal things, and threatening any of her subordinates with punishment if they go to Andi’s superiors, then Marley, the OP, and any of Andi’s other employees have every right to document these things and present them to Andi’s boss or to HR. Obviously, OP hasn’t written this in her letter, but I’m just giving an example.

        However, since it looks like Marley just has a personal dislike of Andi, Marley can try to by applying for positions such as Andi’s at other companies; she can “show who’s boss” there. Trying to attempt a mutiny at your job will never work, and the top bosses of the company, if rational & reasonable, will be able to see through those shenanigans.

  37. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    You sound like a smart person who has integrity and standards. This is a rough situation and you’re doing really well. Here’s hoping HR is right and it’ll be over soon. Above all, please take care of yourself in your free time. Make sure you’re eating right and having fun. It can be easier said than done, but a toxic workplace can affect other aspects of your life, and you don’t deserve that.

    Do you have anyone you can talk about your workplace with? It’s so helpful to have someone you can tell all the awful details, and hopefully laugh about them. My friends and I would share stories and swear we’d write a book one day about all the nonsense that went on in our workplaces. (We haven’t, but it was a fun way to look at our respective situations at the time.)

    Another thing you can do is have a neutral, non-work subject ready to go. For example, if you like gardening and someone starts talking about how awful a person/the workplace is, you can say, “Oh that sounds awful and do you know what? I just have to rant about how much I hate slugs. They ate my hostas! I tried everything and nothing works. But they aren’t eating my cucumbers, so that’s a good thing. Speaking of cucumbers, I’ve grown this new variety…” (I can talk for a long time about my garden and in very excruciating detail, too!) It doesn’t matter what the subject is, as long as it’s non-work related and guaranteed to either bore the person or divert their attention from gossip.

    Good luck, hope this all ends soon and that you have a better place to work!

  38. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

    I have worked with many toxic folk and they always end up fired or leave with their hissing threats of lawsuits and reprisals behind them . . to never be heard from again. The business survives and we manage. I am currently working with one who daily makes the rounds of “so what’s going on” which really means she is digging for new dirt to add to her bonfire of job/boss hate. When she does hear me utter anything that may remotely resemble dissatisfaction with any facet of the day, she lights up and says “you need to tell that to [other boss] or [other remotely affected party]. I finally told her flat out I am on to her and not going to do her dirty work. She feeds off the drama she has created in her head in which she is the victor of personal workplace injustice season X episode XX. What she has not succeeded in doing is rallying a significant portion of the workforce to her cause as we’ve all become weary of it and just act nicely to her face and make fun of her behind her back (sad but true – she has worn us all out). Presumably, when she does leave, no doubt in a blaze of glory, she will be replaced. I just stay true to the fact that my company treats me well, I have few complaints, and my I would damn sure hate to try to find another one as suitable. Ce la vie.

  39. cncx*

    had a weak manager/toxic politics situation at my first job and i had a coworker who handled it masterfully (sadly i did not, because i was the weak manager’s target and it was my first job and well, i’m smarter now)

    i started complaining about the situation and my coworker cut me off with something along the lines of “I am here to do a job and i get paid to do this job not complain about boss. when you complain about boss it takes time away from me doing my job and it brings my morale down. i hate her as much as you do but i need to keep my mood up and focus on my job.” Harsh, but it turned it around to something I could feel personally responsible for (e.g. making our work enviroment better in my own way) rather than playing the victim (because i was the manager’s target).

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      Well, I think your co-worker didn’t need to be that blunt about it, but I get what she was saying. I wish that your weak manager would have somehow gotten set straight. But I’m hoping things turned out much better for you later.

  40. Letter Writer*

    Thank you to everyone for the thoughtful responses!

    I’m a little embarrassed by how emotional I was when I sent in my question but reading over Allison and everyone’s advice has helped me ground myself a bit.

    I did decide to try and look up any processes for the software, but they’re all pretty outdated or overly-complicated. I think one of the earliest ones hasn’t been updated since 2008. A coworker told me they were supposed to be rewritten last year but only two or three of them actually got done. I found one folder that was supposed to explain the five-step process for marking certain types of worksheets as complete, and the instructions were more than seven pages long! A lot of the instructions would also say things like “make two copies of X when complete to give to Sam” or “always check with George before handing in Y” when Sam and George no longer worked there.

    I’ve just started making my own notes in my spare time; they’re not perfect, but since I started writing down the solution to problems as they’ve come up, I’ve been able to cut down on the number of times I’ve needed Marley’s help.

    I’ll also take your advice on staying out the drama and try using some of the mantras to ward off the negativity!

  41. CarolynM*

    Story time!

    When I started in my current position, a coworker with my position in another branch office (we’ll call him Otis) was assigned to train me because, once trained, we would be working together on a few ongoing projects. Very temperamental and critical of my boss*, my boss’ boss and the company itself and very inconsistent – he would tell me something one day and then the opposite the next. (* My boss was promoted from working in the same branch as Otis to the manager of a new branch that was opening and Otis felt that he would have been a better choice … ignoring the fact that he had none of the necessary qualifications or experience.) Also, according to Otis, he was the busiest person in the company, the only one who really knew how to do our job, and the only one with any integrity.

    I got to know the people in the other branches who have my same position and learned to ask them for information and clarification and things got much easier for me, but I still had to deal with Otis on certain projects and he loved to complain about everything. I would just “hmmmmm” and “oh?” and let him rant – he was so in love with his own voice that he probably never noticed I didn’t engage. I was friendly and would make small talk if he was talking about vacation plans or telling me about a hobby, but back to hmmmm and oh the minute he started complaining.

    One day, he sends an e-mail screed to upper management making some serious accusations about my boss – he crossed every line imaginable and the tone was vicious (and the accusations were untrue and about things that he was not involved in enough to even understand.) I was cc’d on the e-mail … you ever get CC’d on something so cringe-worthy that YOU want to crawl under a rock? It was truly over the top and I figured he would be frog-marched out within the hour. I mean, jaw hanging open when reading it – printed out to 6 single spaced printed pages of invective!

    But nothing seemed to happen! My boss was a consummate professional – you could see from the clenched jaw and hard eyes that he was NOT amused. I quietly put together the information that would show up Otis’ complaints for the BS they were, my boss said “thank you.” and that was the ONLY thing he said to me regarding the situation. I was actually starting to resent that no one seemed to be dealing with him – he continued with the same complaining but became really smug on top of it. And I think the world of my boss as a manager and a human being – it was pissing me off to hear this jerk talk about him like that!

    A little more than a month later, just when I thought that nothing would ever happen, he was fired! My boss’ boss (who I love to death – I am blessed with a great boss, grand-boss and great-grandboss) called me and asked if I could temporarily absorb Otis’ responsibilities. I readily agreed (I would walk into fire if he asked nicely enough and told me he believed in me! LOL) even though I was worried I would be overwhelmed because Otis was soooooooo busy. Yeah … he was about half as busy as I was the whole time! LOL I absorbed his responsibilities and even though years have passed and my job responsibilities have changed several times since I started, my company has never hired a new person for his position, it is still covered by the person who is in my original role!

    After getting off the phone with my grand-boss, I wandered into my boss’ office and he just grinned at me – I confessed that I thought that after so long, nothing was going to happen to Otis. He laughed and told me that the very night the e-mail screed was sent that he met with all TPTB and HR and the decision to fire Otis was made that night, but they moved slowly to make sure it was handled neatly and the impact would be minimal.

    The wheels of justice move slowly, but they turn! Hang in there OP – keep your head down, your ears open and your mouth shut (minus the excellent scripts Alison suggested! Say those! :) ) and you will come out the other side of this!

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I know this is an old comment, but I just read this post and want to thank you for sharing this story! Your boss is an inspiration. The description of the email made me cringe so much, I can only imagine how bad it was for you.

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