anonymously emailing my terrible boss’s new job, do job offers have to be in writing, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I send an anonymous email to my terrible manager’s new job?

I have a situation where I feel really compelled to send an email to an organization to warn them about a new employee they have taken on. However for various reasons, maybe the strongest of which being my own cowardice, I want to do it anonymously.

The situation is that I used to work for a charity (which I am actually returning to next week). The employee I have referred to above used to be my manager. She was toxic and demoralized staff completely; the only saving grace was that she was only in our service two days a week so we coped as best we could. However, in the space of a year and a half, she forced three employees out, forced another to take a demotion (and affected her mental health), and she also had a detrimental effect to my own mental health. She was eventually moved to another service within the charity and after wreaking even greater havoc there (it was a bigger service with more staff) she was let go from the organization.

I have now found out that this person has taken up a new post as a manager with, ironically enough, a mental health charity. I have no doubt that the charity I worked for did not give a true picture of what went on with this person, as they are notorious for hushing things up and it would probably make them look bad that they let it go on for so long (she was a manager in total for our charity for five years).

However, I really feel strongly that this person should not be allowed to work for any mental health charity when she was responsible for negatively affecting the mental health of so many people. I feel that her new employers should at least be made aware of this. Obviously I am also angered that she behaved in the way she did and still went on to land another managerial position. Do you think there is any point in sending such an email?

I totally understand the impulse; it’s frustrating to feel like you’re just stuck standing on the sidelines watching a terrible manager move on to a position where she’ll spread further toxicity. But no, I wouldn’t do it. They’re not likely to rescind her job offer over an anonymous note, and it’s likely to just seem weird and uncomfortable to whoever receives it. Best case scenario, it might prompt them to watch her more closely for a while — but most employers really aren’t likely to take that kind of anonymous note seriously (after all, it could be from someone with a personal ax to grind against her, or from someone who didn’t like being appropriately held accountable by her when she was their boss, or so forth).

Even if your note weren’t anonymous, they’re not likely to take serious action based on a note from a stranger. They’re likely to ask her about it, and she’s fairly likely to explain it away by claiming that you were a toxic employee. I would love to tell you that there’s a way for you to get them information in a way they’ll listen to, but unless you actually know someone at her new company, you’re just not in a good position to intervene. I’m sorry!

2. Do job offers have to be in writing and signed by the candidate?

I’m in the fortunate position of getting a new job and may possibly be fielding two job offers. My understanding is that even if an informal verbal offer (without details on salary) has been made and accepted, nothing is final until a written offer with the details of the employment such as salary has been made and signed by the candidate. Is this correct? I’m new to this experience and would much appreciate your advice.

Not exactly! There’s no requirement that a job offer be in writing or signed by the candidate. Job offers can be made and accepted over the phone if both parties are comfortable with that. It’s smart to put it in writing anyway so that there’s a record of the agreement, and you can ask for a summary of the details in writing if you’re not offered one, but there’s nothing special about signing it that would make it more official. (And be aware that most job offers in the U.S. aren’t contracts.)

There’s not a complete or final offer until you’ve agreed to a salary, of course. But once salary has been discussed, if you say something like “I’d like to accept!” then that’s going to be taken as your acceptance. (Some employers will still require you to return signed paperwork to make it official, but not all will.)

3. Decorating contest drama

I’m writing about some recent drama regarding a contest my office did for the holidays. I am the marketing person who does all of the internal events/morale activities, etc. We decided to have a holiday decorating contest where folks decorated their cubes. First place wins $25 and second wins $15.

I made the rules from a blog I saw online, but had other people as judges since I wanted to participate. Everyone knew I was participating. Winners were announced to the company, and I ended up winning second place.

One of the women in my office who did not win is now very upset that I participated in the contest since I “made the rules.” She’s calling it a “conflict of interest” and sending me nasty emails, and even copying in the president! I thought she was joking since this is a friendly competition in AN OFFICE with adults (and also because it’s a prize of $15……), but she seems legitimately angry. Should I give her the $15 I won? Should I ask the president to tell her to relax? I mean … really??

Well … your coworker’s reaction sounds bizarrely disproportionate, but it’s true that it doesn’t look great for the person who came up with the contest rules to then win the contest. Marketing people and others in similar positions are often excluded from contests for that reason.

It might make sense to donate the prize to a (non-controversial) charity and say something to your coworker like, “I’m so sorry it came across as a conflict! I’d intentionally recused myself from judging so that I could enter, but I’ll recuse myself from future contests if I’m part of planning them.” I don’t see any reason to give her the money, though, unless she was the third place winner.

4. Telling an employee that I’m not promoting him

I am in a very tough position. I have decided to not fill a position for a team leader rather than hire the sole internal candidate for the role. My reason for not hiring this person is because I need someone who will mentor the new members of the team, and my concern that he would not be the best person to do this was confirmed during the interview. He was very arrogant, and focused on how he was (in his own mind) better than anyone else on the team and how he was the person who everyone went to because of his technical expertise. He said nothing about the team, nor had any suggestions for where he could be an effective team leader. In fact, he needed to be prompted to remember the name of the newest member of the team, despite the fact that he sits right next to her and has worked with her for the last four months. (This is only a team of five people by the way!)

Also, I have five separate teams that I posted this position for. The other four team leaders are chosen, so when the announcement is made, there will inevitably be questions about why one role was closed without filling the position.

I do not think he will take this news well and may act out once I tell him. What is the best way to deliver this difficult news and lessen the negative fallout? I want to be honest but I am concerned at his reaction on hearing my decision. He is skilled at his current role, just not the role he applied for.

Meet with him in-person before you announce the news to everyone else, and say that you’ve decided not to offer him the team leader position and wanted to give him some information about why and the opportunity to ask questions if he’d like. Then be straightforward with him. Explain that you’re looking for someone who will mentor new team members and focus on making the team more effective, and that those didn’t come across as priorities for him in his interview. If it’s true, tell him that you’d be glad to consider him for a promotion in the future if he demonstrates improvement in those skills.

If he reacts badly, tell him that you understand that it’s disappointing news. You could even offer to let him take the rest of the day off if it’s practical to offer that. But after that, you should hold him to normal, professional standards of behavior — and if he’s disruptive or toxic, you’d need to address that the same way you would any other problem. (Meaning, in this case, that you’d need to shut it down and have a serious conversation with him about expectations for his behavior, even in the face of disappointing or frustrating news.)

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Using petitions to try to get a job

I’m in my mid-20s in a conservative industry. Twice now, I have seen links on Facebook to petitions that puzzle me thoroughly. Basically, the petitions are someone begging their nearest and dearest for signatures because they think it will be impressive to their dream employer. It’s so bizarre it’s hard to explain. In the first one I saw, a younger acquaintance was asking for signatures in hopes of convincing a very swanky outdoor clothing company to give him a cushy PR internship. The second came from a friend of that acquaintance asking a prominent fashion media company to (1) produce content focused on particular topics, (2) create a job as a step towards this shift in content, and (3) hire her for said job (qualifications included a link to her Instagram). To me, this seems like a great way to get blacklisted, but I’m wondering if I’m just out of the loop? Is this acceptable in creative industries?

I didn’t give my acquaintance a heads-up that I thought his petition might backfire, but I wonder if I should have. Should I say something if this comes up again?

Sensible hiring managers are not going to be swayed by this, no. That said, occasionally a gimmick like this actually works and someone gets hired — which then often gets covered with articles in the media, which encourages other people to think gimmicks are a good idea and they should find one too (or just repeat the same one that worked once).

This of course ignores the fact that this approach turns off far more employers than it attracts, and — maybe most importantly — it screens for hiring managers who respond to flash and gimmicks over actual merit, who tend not to be awesome once you’re working for them (unless your work is also all flash and no merit, in which case maybe it’s a perfect match, who knows).

Whether or not to point this out to your acquaintance depends on how close you are and how open the person generally is to hearing different opinions. My hunch, though, is that there’s pretty substantial overlap between “people who think this is a good idea” and “people who will think you’re out of touch if you tell them it isn’t.”

{ 306 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonAndOn*

    5. That sounds silly what they’re doing. Those petitions are for causes, not for trying to get a job. Alison is right that it’s gimmicky.

    “I got 100 signatures on this petition and it means I should get this job job!” No it does not.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      It comes from the delusion that everyone’s opinion is equal. Nope. The hiring managers opinion is the only one that counts.
      It’s not Facebook. The number of “likes” is not going to get you anything.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think there was a viral story about someone being offered an internship after doing something like this as a gimmick (kind of like how admissions offices received a ton of “video essays” after Legally Blonde). But of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work a second time, especially if a bunch of random people are recruiting a bunch of other random people to sign it in some copy-cat effort.

        1. idi01*

          I actually think Gimmicks are a good way to get a job.
          But only if you are the first to do such a gimmick.
          If you are the 245th person to get signatures on to have a company hire you, that would just impress me that you are not original.

          1. MK*

            I doubt they are a good way to get a job. They very occasionally work, but if you happen upon a hiring manager who appreciates gimmicks.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            How many people do you know who actually got jobs from a gimmick?

            I know exactly one. And the gimmick only got him in the door.

            1. Candi*

              I can count five who were actually employed, that I know of.

              From all of the gimmick stories I’ve read.

              Since 2010.

              And four of them moved on within two years. The fifth had visa issues

              1. Jesca*

                See that is thing, though. Media attention. How would the media find out? Why would the company be OK with the media finding out. Sadly, I think these are just publicity stunts in one way or another and do not in fact actually land real people real jobs.

                1. Karen D*

                  Yeah, this would maybe get coverage because it’s a “man bites dog” situation – so far out of the norm. These are not trend stories, they are “random whacky thing that happened,” just like the answer to homelessness is not to have every homeless person make a Youtube of themselves reading Shakespearean soliloquies so they get a scholarship to Julliard.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I personally know 2 people who won large sums of money playing the lottery. But I’m not going to assign half my investment portfolio on lottery tickets and plan an early retirement. Karen D said it best: stunts like this are so far out of the norm they get media attention. Enjoy the story, be a little envious of someone’s success, but don’t bank on the same thing working for you. Or anyone.

              2. limenotapple*

                Yeah, but there is no way to know how many people have automatically taken themselves out of consideration for gimmicks. I’d guess that number is a lot higher, based on how many rejections I have sent out for this very reason.

          3. Snark*

            Why do you think gimmicks are a good way to get a job? Why would you hire someone who used a gimmick, rather than impressing you with their knowledge, skills, and background?

          4. STG*

            I was offered a game testing position when I was 18 for challenging and beating the manager at a gaming contest.

            It was a horrible fit.

          5. The Supreme Troll*

            For exactly all that you said, and also (as I’m sure others have noted before me) if that “gimmick” is indeed an actual skill that the hiring manager and company is looking for and highly values

      2. Engineer Girl*

        This, BTW, has echoes of the interns that signed a petition to change the dress code. Work policies are not made via popularity contests. Nor is it majority rule.

      3. Ramona Flowers*

        Also, people who create content know their audience and this approach basically says: “I’m insulting you because I think I know better than you.” When they probably don’t.

        For example, I used to work on a website that covered music. We once received a hilariously insulting email about how terrible it was that we didn’t cover heavy metal. I like metal but, guess what, that wasn’t what our audience wanted and we actually knew that.

        The person who sent it is probably out yheee now creating petitions.

      4. Mookie*

        Yep. It’s actually a little insulting to a hiring manager to suggest that the general public, including an applicant’s nearest and dearest (and their mutual social media followers), can sway a hiring decision. Treat employers like they’re experts in what they do. There are easier means of showing off marketing and social media savvy than something like this, but those means involve substance, as well, not just mindless one-click polling, re-tweeting, favoriting, and crowdsourcing a completely vacuous petition from a peanut gallery.

        1. Lance*

          And that’s just the thing: it is, for all intents and purposes, a peanut gallery. People signing just because they can, people signing because they maybe want to try and help, people signing out of mere curiosity… how many of those signatures actually have that much faith in, or indeed knowledge of, the would-be employee’s actual hireable skills for the position?

        2. Big Fat Meanie*

          To me it just sounds like “Come on, hire me! My friends think I should get the job! Look at all the people who think I should get the job!”

          Also, people need to stop treating jobs like Klondike bars. You don’t earn them by doing silly tricks to show how much you want one. A job is a role in a company that, in some way, helps that company expand and succeed, so you need to prove you’d succeed in that job. A petition proves nothing, as very few people signing it will be familiar with your professional skills or aptitude.

        3. OP5*

          OP5 here! You and Ramona Flowers are onto something. For the 1st petition for the outdoor clothing company, it was not 100% clear whether the petition was part of his original application or his response to not getting an interview/the job.

      5. Former Hoosier*

        This reminds me of one time I had assigned a paper to my college students. A student did not receive a good grade and he asked me if he could choose a different professor (in an entirely different college and specialization) to grade the paper.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          I’m not entirely surprised. A close cousin to this student is the one who says, “but I worked so haaaaard on it…!”

          Really? Based on what I see, I have my doubts. Unfortunately for you, I’m grading on results, not [your self-reported] effort.

        2. Thursday Next*

          I once had a (college) student complain about my grading on the semester-end evaluation, saying that I was way off base because all his friends told him he was a good writer.

          The name of the course was Logic and Rhetoric.

          1. bean*

            Thursday Next – Sounds like his friends were either good at being fake-polite, or at pretending to have read his writing. Maybe there should have been a writing course included in the Core… ;)

    2. CJ Record*

      I mean, maaaaaybe I can turn my head and squint, if the job is for a social media activism internship. Being able to generate enough hype to actually get a respectable* amount of people to actually sign a petition distributed through one or more channels? That’s a skill set some employers do look for. Still want a resume with other skills, though.

      * NB: I wouldn’t open the resume for less than a thousand signatures. For a “prominent fashion media company,” start adding zeros.

      1. Mookie*

        Would it not appear that the applicant thinks on-line petitions are frivolous and/or a dubious means of productive collective action if this were to attract a great deal of signatories? Because nothing spells This Is Not Social Justice than this specific situation. (Of course, there are notable examples of disadvantaged people attracting a lot of internet-based goodwill such that they, incidentally, get a job offer, and that’s awesome, but that’s not what this is and it looks a little tone-deaf for the LW’s acquaintance to not distinguish or care about the difference.)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Eh, if it’s social media, just getting many peoples’ attention and then enticing them to act is a big part of the job, so for a social media outreach job, this is almost like a cutesy demonstration of your skills. However, it definitely does not replace resume achievements like “increased Twitter following twentyfold, increased follower engagement tenfold” or whatever achievements someone in that position might use.

          The thing is, even if 1,000 customers signed a petition, that doesn’t mean that those customers will buy more if the person is hired, or abandon the brand if she isn’t. They likely have no idea what would be beneficial to the brand’s public relations, and the hiring manager should at best treat it as a demonstration of the applicant’s social media skills, as CJ Record said.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            See, I would want evidence that you’d done it twice, in different circumstances. Because just once feels like you might have already gotten your goes-viral turn, and it will never happen again.

          2. Mookie*

            Right, but I’m referring to what CJ Record wrote regarding a position involving activism, like in a non-profit.

      2. babblemouth*

        I have actual hired interns for social media activism internships – and this would completely turn me off.

    3. LKW*

      Reminds me of the “If I get likes, my mom will let me get a puppy” facebook posts. I would not be swayed nor would I get a puppy.

      1. Big Fat Meanie*

        I have to wonder how much of those are actually true. People will make up all sorts of bullshirt clickbait to drive traffic to their page for ad revenue.

      2. AKchic*

        I hate that garbage. “If I get 10,000 likes my wife will let me keep my moustache” was the last one I saw. Seeing the moustache, I could understand why the supposed wife wanted it gone.

    4. Naomi*

      The second person sounds to me like she might actually have a cause in mind, depending on the specifics of the change in content she wants to see. She could be petitioning the company to feature models of diverse races and body types, for example, or to promote social justice topics. BUT… even if that is the case, she’s shooting her cause in the foot. Any arguments in favor of point #1 (changes to the company’s content) will be undermined by the selfish motives of point #3 (you should hire me to implement those changes!).

    5. Connie-Lynne*

      Oh dear. I used to work for, and while we did internally appreciate the comedic and frivolous petitions as much as some of those for causes, I don’t think our marketing team would suggest this approach to getting a job anywhere except MMAYYBE itself!

      (Disclaimer: I don’t work there any more so obviously do not speak for the organization).

  2. AnonAndOn*

    1. This woman sounds awful, but there is nothing you can do in this situation. They’ll take an anonymous note from a stranger with a grain of salt. It’s best to let it go. She’ll likely show her true colors and get herself in trouble on her own there.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. I worked with someone who ended up being not mentally well. Her behavior prior to her firing was outlandish, outrageous, and abusive. She’s now directing a nonprofit related to mental health. No anonymous note would have prevented her hiring. But what was easily findable were news stories about other periods of time in which she’d had mental health “episodes” and engaged in truly alarming behavior.

      Which is all to say that things tend to out, over time, OP#1. I think this is a time when it’s best to sit back and let the person’s behavior speak for itself, even if doing so feels incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately, I suspect sending a note would be a lot less cathartic in reality than it seems in fantasy.

        1. JM60*

          “Mental health problem” is a very big umbrella, and sometimes being an asshole can be a symptom of one of more things under that umbrella. To take an extreme example, psychopathy, which exists on a continuum, tends to result in people being assholes from time to time.

          1. JamieS*

            I agree mental health problems is a big umbrella. IMO it’s far too big of an umbrella. However being an asshole is possibly a symptom of a mental health issue but I don’t think it’s a mental health issue by itself.

            1. Mookie*

              However being an asshole is possibly a symptom of a mental health issue but I don’t think it’s a mental health issue by itself.

              Being an asshole is a symptom / sign of being human. There’s no reason to approach assholedom as a disease or disorder when there are simpler explanations that a successful manager has the credentials and experience to actually tackle.

              1. LKW*

                There is a book titled “Assholes: A theory” and it outlines the specific behaviors that distinguish people who are assholes from people who behave like assholes every so often. Per the author, for the true asshole the rules apply to everyone else but the asshole. Cutting in line, cheating on taxes, interrupting everyone, etc. I don’t recall there being much discussion at all of mental issues, just the mental gymnastics needed to view the world as such.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            FYI, that’s not actually a legitimate term any more, at least not on this side of the pond.

            1. JM60*

              The latest version of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM V), which is sometimes called the “Bible of mental health” in America, defines “psychopathy” under antisocial personality disorders. But even if they decided down the road to reject that particular word and instead use another word and/or break it up into different disorders, my general point still stands.

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                Thanks for “explaining” the DSM to me. Last I checked a) it calls the diagnosis ASPD, as does b) the ICD where actual diagnoses come from. And they’re already developing a new system (dimensional rather than categorical) but that really wasn’t the point.

        2. Myrin*

          It’s pretty clear that PCBH didn’t say that – the person seems to have been an arsehole and in addition to that had mental health problems which exacerbated her arseholishness (which is a thing that does indeed happen; before medication and therapy, my depressed, anxious, traumatised sister exhibited some extremely volatile behaviour in a way that wasn’t her at all and which was directly caused by her illnesses and has basically stopped completely since she started therapy. Sometimes people seem to forget or want to ignore that mental illnesses can indeed negatively alter a person’s behaviour and it’s okay to speak about it).
          The point is derailing either way, though.

          1. Mookie*

            Sometimes people seem to forget or want to ignore that mental illnesses can indeed negatively alter a person’s behaviour and it’s okay to speak about it

            The objections are to generalizing through inductive reasoning and armchair-diagnosing a stranger in a way that is not helpful for, is indeed irrelevant to, anyone seeking advice about work-related issues. The LW did not mention this particular person’s mental health at all, likely because she had no insight into it, so the speculation is, again, both stigmatizing and non-constructive in this particular blog.

            1. Myrin*

              That wasn’t the Princess’s point at all, though. She spoke about a situation she experienced which was at its core analogous to the OP’s in that she had a coworker who was a destructive force at her workplace – the mental health thing only came up because it was a factor in PCBH’s story, a factor which, as far as I can see, she didn’t relate to OP’s situation in any way, so I’m not seeing where you get “speculation” from.

              1. Jesca*

                You, I agree with Myrin. This is totally derailing and completely misinterpreted from PC was saying. For some reason this keeps coming up, as I think people forgot that a lot of people are actually victims of those with untreated mental illness. I think for that fact alone, it should be dropped. While I am all for mental health reform, I also can recognize the damage some mental illness can cause to others. Real damage. Some of it is due to mental illness and some of it is really just because they are awful people to begin with. Drop it and move on. It is too volatile of a topic, and if you cannot even hear the word “mental illness” without flipping into some rage that someone had the nerve to bring up someone else’s episode, then draw yourself back and ask yourself if you are over reacting. It has been happening too much lately, honestly.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I did not speculate, armchair diagnose, or stigmatize, Mookie. I certainly didn’t suggest OP’s old boss was mentally ill. I’m sorry if that’s what you took from my comment.

              1. Mookie*

                To be clear, I am responding to the thread and inhabitants of that thread below your comment, PCBH, where I noticed commenters began actually insinuating a mental health problem where just being an asshole is a more likely explanation.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Oh, apologies, Mookie! I probably should have taken a beat before responding with tetchy responses. I apologize for taking umbrage in a non-constructive way.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks, Myron. This is exactly what I meant.

            As someone with a mental illness who tries to be exceedingly sensitive about not stigmatizing mental health,, I’m well aware of RF’s concern and found it derailing, nitpicking, and patronizing.

        3. Banana stand*

          No one said it was? Why do y’all always go off on these well meaning tangents. It’s exhausting reading these comments nowadays.

      1. Mookie*

        She’s now directing a nonprofit related to mental health.

        In your case, the person may not be fit to do so, but in general that’s not reason enough to consider them unsuitable. Nonprofits are often staffed with people who’ve needed their specific services in the past. It’s sometimes how they’ve become acquainted with the organization in the first place.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Whether a person with mental health challenges can direct a mental health nonprofit has nothing to do with the point of my comment, which was that OP should not send a note.

        2. TassieTiger*

          A thought just hit me— the Princesses’ sentence about her old boss now having a new job with a mental health organization, well this sentence was the first sentence of a new paragraph. And, it was also the first sentence of a second paragraph “this situation breaks my heart” in the update on ‘my boss’s wife blabbed’ letter that people were getting different vibes from. Could it be that people fill in their own experience, feelings and point of view in that line break—as the beginning of a new paragraph is so powerful?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Yep. I work for a mental health charity. OP, I’m sure this isn’t true for all such charities but my employer is pretty hot on practising as it preaches and l have yet to encounter a toxic or bullying manager here – it’s not something that would just be left to continue.

      Please take good care of yourself, as it sounds like this was a horrible experience.

    3. Steve*

      I always wonder what the other persons side is. The “terrible” person kept her job for years. She got hired by someone who most likely interviewed and vetted her. Maybe the letter wtiter isseeing the worst, because of some bad experience. Who knows, but i think the best advice is to drop it, even if she could get her point across to people who woild believe her. Its not anynkf her business anyway.

      1. Triplestep*

        Terrible people get to keep their jobs when they are part of a protected class, and vetting is useless when companies will only confirm dates. My horrible (seriously narcissistic, not just “vain”) boss was eventually fired after I left the company, but not before HIS boss bad-mouthed him at industry events. (Enough so that it got back to me.) Ex-boss was still able to find a very high-level job in our industry. It would be inexplicable in a world where people actually vet.

        1. Colette*

          I believe your first sentence should say “terrible people get to keep their jobs when they have terrible or incompetent managers”. Being in a protected class does not mean you can’t be fired for reason su connected to your membership in the class.

          1. Myrin*

            Also, because it needs to be said everytime this comes up: everyone is in a protected class. The protected class is “gender” or “race” (and not “woman” or “asian”, for example), so as long as you have those, you’re in the clear.

            1. Anonymous Poster*

              You’re right! You should run some organizations’ HR departments, because this distinction can often be lost on some places.

              It’s sad because it fuels a perception that white people, or men, cannot report discriminatory practices and are somehow ‘not protected’, because in practice in some places this appears true because of the phrasing of “you are not part of a protected class, but your neighbor is”.

          2. mikey*

            There are many companies who are wary about firing people in protected classes for any reason at all, even when there’s plenty of evidence of poor job performance and it’s clearly above board. There are a few people in my organization that are pretty much on permanent PIPs, but they will never actually be fired because they fall into a protected category (mostly age, in this case).

              1. Pollygrammer*

                I think it’s frequently a “once bitten twice shy” situation. Sued once, overly cautious ’till the end of time.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I’d associate this far more with managers who hate to fire people, and managers who believe the key to getting rid of people is to get someone else to hire them.

          4. Anonymous Poster*

            In one past job, unfortunately, this was a thing that happened. It was a symptom of a very poorly run organization, though.

            There was one individual who was chronically late, could not perform their basic job functions, and threatened to sue anytime their manager attempted to coach them. HR in that organization refused to allow any disciplinary action to take place because:
            – The individual was, in their words, part of a ‘protected class’
            – The individual helped bring the organization’s stats more in line with what some federal contracts look for during the awarding process, giving the organization a ‘competitive edge’

            Obviously, everyone here knows this is not what was supposed to happen, but it does happen. I thank my lucky stars I am no longer a part of that organization.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Wow. Sounds very much like the company my husband works for, although they leave it at “part of a protected class.” People get away with so much slacking, poor attitudes, sleeping on the job, etc. because they’re a protected class. Just because they’re a protected class doesn’t mean they should be held to a much different standard. Drives my husband nuts.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            You’re right. Unfortunately, some organizations do not view things that way, which is what causes a lot of unnecessary friction. It annoys me to no end! It allows the thought that “white people aren’t part of a protected class and are therefore discriminated against because they have no protections” to take root. And in some organizations, that thought might even be true, which is even more awful.

            I’m so grateful to be part of a diverse organization that also understands that we’re all part of protected classes, and treats people, well, like people.

      2. Queen Anon*

        It’s possible they bring money to the company, or business. There’s an attorney at a firm where I once worked who’s basically a monster, has chased away every assistant she’s ever had, and is even the stated reason why many other attorneys in the community wnit join that firm. She brings in a buttload of money. I’ve lost count of the number of people she’s outlasted.

        1. K.*

          I have a lot of lawyer friends who have similar stories about rainmakers at their firms. I’ve also known people who are great at managing upward so people above them don’t realize how toxic they are, at least for a while.

          1. Sharon*

            I’ve also encountered those managing-upward wizards and they kind of blow my mind. Their toxicity is so blatantly apparent to everyone around, except for the people above them in the chain of command. It shouldn’t work that way and yet somehow it does.

            1. Bea*

              I attribute it to having executives who like to forget the human factor of the lower rungs so far below them. Being out of touch makes it easier to let the tyrants in between do whatever they want.

        2. LKW*

          Oh attorneys are a class unto themselves. Comparing attorneys to anyone else is like comparing apples to lug nuts. Attorneys are paid to be argumentative. To fight to be right all the damn time. They are also never taught to be managers. They earn seniority with time and, as you’ve said, the money they bring in. There is a book (I’m referencing the library today) called “The Slam and Scream” which is specifically written for admins in the legal world about how to effectively fight back against awful attorneys. I worked in legal for 5 years, luckily not in a firm. Would never consider a firm job. At least not in NYC.

            1. LKW*

              The admin. The guidance is aggressive behavior is met with aggressive behavior. But it has to be targeted. It can’t be hysterical screaming, more of a “Slam door to get attorneys attention. Loudly and firmly outline behavior that must stop and clarify acceptable behavior.”

                1. Queen Anon*

                  It certainly would for anyone working for the attorney I mentioned! (A disproportionate number of her assistants actually quit without notice, though.)

          1. Temperance*

            FWIW, I think large and medium-sized firms are probably better in that respect than working for solos.

      3. Candi*

        Steve, please, please read the archives.

        I recommend starting with the Worst Bosses 2017 voting post. Drunk Boss and Vicious Voicemail Boss kept their jobs!

        1. Iris Eyes*

          And if you want a real doozy the pipe bomb/poop boss. The court documents are some of the more interesting reading I’ve done in the last year.

      4. Jam Today*

        Terrible people keep their jobs when they reach a cohort in an organization where firing them would cause churn with investors or donors (like, senior management and above — people with checkbooks get very squirrelly when someone with a fancy title is dismissed, and it makes them do thinks like ask for audits or withhold money until explanations are given, which may include how long that employee was allowed to get away with awful behavior and why.)

      5. The Supreme Troll*

        Steve, but we are also expected to take the LW at his or her words, and take what they are saying in good faith.

      6. Observer*

        There are a lot of ways that a really bad hire can get made. Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas just did a post on how we put too much emphasis on the interview – some of these people interview REALLY well. And, the OP points out the their former employer would almost certainly not have given a full and honest account of her time. That’s a common issues, and really messes with even a good process. And some people are just really bad at vetting and judging people.

        As to how people keep their jobs? Have you been paying attention to the news? Have you noticed how many companies claimed that “we had NO idea” when the evidence was right in their faces? Or maybe just read this blog – the issue of managerial inaction comes up a LOT. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, you definitely don’t need to sign the offer to prove acceptance. If the offer does not include terms (salary, leave, benefits, etc.), then it’s not an offer in the legal-contracts sense. It’s instead an “offer to treat” (i.e., an offer to negotiate the terms).

    An employer doesn’t have to make the offer in writing, but folks will often provide you with an offer letter—especially if you need it for, say, proof of income in your outside life. You can accept over the phone, but I think it’s helpful to follow up any phone conversations with an email that memorializes your acceptance and the terms under which you accepted. (E.g., “As we discussed by phone, I’m [thrilled/excited/whatnot] to accept your offer as Chief Teapot Inspector at Chocolate Teapots ‘R’ Us. My understanding is that [terms, written in a clear but not aggressive way]. Etc., Sincerely, OP”

    Oral agreements can still be binding. But having a written record, even if it’s only you taking simultaneous notes of your conversations, can be helpful if something goes sideways later on.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Or if you change manager and want some record that you negotiated that extra week off or those two remote working days or etc.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        In Europe, but one job I had sent me an email with an overview of the offer “The monthly salary is EUR XXXX gross, plus 25 days holiday, luncheon vouchers and pension etc” followed by a written contract for me sign, with the salary and benefits confirmed in an appendix.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Also in Europe, and my employment contract is a standard one – I have extra stuff I negotiated which was confirmed in writing with the hiring manager before I accepted the offer.

        2. MK*

          In most European country all employees have contacts; they can be oral, but there is usually a document (in my country there is a basic employment contract form that even very casual businesses fill out and sign).

        3. Bagpuss*

          In the UK there is a legal requirement for an employer to provide a written statement showing the main terms of your employment. It doesn’t have to be signed by the employee and can be provided up yo 2 months after the job starts, but it is pretty common for it to be in the form of a contract, and provided when / before you start.

          I’ve always had a letter with an offer, which will usually set out what the job is, what the salary is, and the start date, and then had a contract once I’ve formally accepted the offer.

          That’s what we do with our new employees, too – offer letter, then contract sent out prior to start date. The contract is a standard one which is then amended to fit the individual employee. It includes details of salary, normal working hours, entitlements to annual leave and sick leave, and notice periods. And for more senior staff, the non-compete restrictions.

          More detailed terms are in the employee handbook.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            I’ve always had to sign the contract before starting – it’s standard practice, and it’s when the deal is closed.

            1. Mary*

              When I’ve started permanent or fixed-term jobs or worked in HR, you’ve needed to sign the offer letter before starting but not the contract. I think that’s more usual?

    2. OP#2*

      Thank you Alison for answering my question and commenters for chiming in. I received a verbal offer but no confirmation of salary yet, and I’m being asked to give notice to my boss. This is for an internal job, but the convention of getting salary confirmed and agreed upon should apply before it’s considered a complete offer and before I should give notice, right? I’d be grateful for any further advice.

      1. Lilo*

        It depends. If HR needs to do a final confirmation, waiting isn’t a bad idea, depending on circumstances. But I know that, for instance, for a government job my job was conditional on passing a background check that, due to some backup in another agency, wasn’t actually compete until I had worked there for six months. For some jobs, you may never get what you are looking for. And even with a signed offer letter, they could rescind the offer.

        It sounds like you might want a 100% guarantee before giving notice, which there isn’t really any way of getting. But if you need to wait for things like final approval from some office or manager or final benefit details, that is not unreasonable.

        1. Texan at Heart*

          I agree. My feeling is that your offer is not yet complete. What if they offer a salary much lower than you’re able/willing to go? You’d want to know that before you decide the position really is the right fit for you.

          I’d be a little wary of the fact that they’re asking you to give notice without salary and would just ask. Maybe something like: I’m excited about the chance to move into llama grooming. I realized we haven’t yet discussed salary and benefits. What does the package look like for this position?

          Good luck!

        2. Willis*

          Yes, definitely agree on a salary before officially accepting and/or giving notification. Otherwise who knows what you’re agreeing to!

        3. the gold digger*

          Yep. Because it’s entirely possible that they tell you the job pays $Xk when you interview and then, when they give you the offer, it actually pays $Xk-$10k.

          And they will deny they ever said “$Xk.” And then they will say that “$Xk includes the value of your benefits!” And then they will say, “But we had to keep the salary here on par with what your counterpart in Australia is getting.”

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Definitely confirm the salary before you give notice.

        You might give notice and then they low ball you (might not happen but is a possibility). Tell them as politely as possible that you’re not able to give notice until you’ve discussed the salary and agreed to that.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It’s not convention, it’s common sense! They’re basically asking you to hand over your credit card before you are told the cost! You can’t agree to the terms if you don’t know what they are, and you both have the right to decline if you don’t find the terms mutually agreeable. Normally you should also get the specifics of the benefits, as differences in insurance and vacation alone could change the value of your total compensation by as much as tens of thousands of dollars, but those at least should be the same throughout the company.

      4. CAA*

        This is for an internal move to a new job within the same company, and you’ve been instructed to tell your boss about it. This is not the same as “giving notice” because you are not actually resigning from this company. In this situation you don’t give two weeks notice and then move to the new job. You negotiate how much time it will take to make the transition, and both your current and new bosses are part of that discussion.

        So yes, you need to follow instructions and tell your boss that you want to transfer to a new job within the company. It may or may not work out, but you don’t get to keep it a secret from your current boss until after you’ve settled on a salary for the new role.

        1. Extra anon*


          I’m in the midst of this right now – I interviewed for an internal transfer and have been told that they want to make me an offer but due to annoying bureaucracy and people who have to sign off on things being out for the holidays it will be at least a week before they can make me an official offer with a salary.

          My boss is out this week and with the holidays and whatnot I may end up not telling him until I have the official offer, but if the circumstances required it I absolutely would. Internal transfers are different, in part because for the kind of transfer I’m doing (to a department I already work with a lot, where the salary band and other terms are known in advance, and where it’s a promotion) I think it’s not really done to apply and then decline an offer. Plus I told my current manager that I was applying so he’d have a heads up so telling him I got the job isn’t that big a deal.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I disagree—I think it’s important to have the salary settled before negotiating the transition with your boss.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            Yep. If it falls through, you’re still working with the same boss but the relationship is not going to be the same. They’ll know you’re at least willing to consider leaving, and that tends to harm camaraderie and trust except with the very best of managers.

          2. CAA*

            I guess this varies among workplaces, but every place I’ve ever worked, you simply cannot keep it a secret that you’re looking for other jobs within the company and then present a fait accompli to your manager once you have one. Typically there are either written policies requiring that you notify your manager before applying to an internal opening or there’s some kind of less formal process where managers or HR just talk to each other. And actually, when I’ve been approached by people from other departments wanting to join my group, my first question has always been “have you talked this over with your manager?”

            In any case, OP should understand that since it’s an internal move, and she doesn’t tell her manager, it’s entirely possible that she will find out from someone else. There’s no obligation for HR or the new manager or some executive showing an org chart in a meeting to keep this confidential.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              I moved jobs by internal transfer a couple years ago. I applied without telling my manager, so imagine my surprise when she asked to meet with me in order to ask me why I wanted to leave our department.
              Internal transfers definitely do not follow the same rules as looking for an external job.

      5. Reba*

        Since they’re asking you to give notice, it seems like the new department/bosses believe you’ve already accepted the new position. Have you?

        Your issue is not things being done verbally per se, it’s the lack of clarity.

        I think you can say, “Before I accept the position and we move forward (including telling Current Boss), I need to know about the salary.” It is more than reasonable to want to know!

        Good luck!

      6. Amy*

        I think it would be reasonable to say “I need to discuss salary and benefits before I can accept this offer”. Them giving an offer is not the same thing as you accepting it. And obviously you won’t give notice until you’ve accepted the new offer–I’d be suspicious of anyone who expects you to do so, as they’re basically telling you that you should act against your own needs and security just because it would be convenient for them.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, your coworker is reacting in a really bizarre and disproportionate way. But it’s true that the optics are not great when the contest organizer / rule-maker competes in the contes.

    That said, going forward, appoint a “Commissioner” whose job is to interpret the contest rules and judge entries. Make sure you’re not the Commissioner. And include a provision in the rules re: dispute resolution, including that the Commissioner is the final authority on interpretation of the rules. I know that sounds silly/overkill, but I’ve found it prevents future office-contest fights.

    1. Aurion*

      In smaller workplaces, I wouldn’t even begrudge the organizer for participating if it was made clear that she wouldn’t be judging (and it sounds like the OP made this clear). At small shops, you don’t usually have the staff to have voluntary planning committees for this sort of thing, it’s just dumped on one person’s plate. It’s one thing if this kind of planning is on a voluntary basis and you know going in that you can’t participate, but it sucks for OP to have this dumped on her plate as part of her job duties andbe automatically excluded because she did the planning.

      Nastygrams over $15 is incredibly petty and I’d be asking the coworker’s boss to intervene.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        If you want to take part it’s best to have someone else plan it from the start. I think this morale building lark means you organise or you participate – not both.

        1. JamieS*

          It it’s considered part of OP’s job, which isn’t totally clear in the letter, she may not have a choice on not organizing it. Regardless unless the rules are obviously biased in OP’s favor I don’t think organizing it should really be a factor so long as they’re not also judging it. The one caveat to that is if the judges are people OP manages or otherwise has authority over.

          Actually even if the rules were clearly biased for OP that’s still not a hill I’d die on considering the award prize but I know for some people it’s the principle more than anything. As it stands, if I were OP and the co-worker has previously shown to be rational I’d be a bit concerned about how hard up my coworker is that she’s making such a fuss over $15.

    2. idi01*

      OP3 should have participated, but declined on the spot when she was awarded second place.

      Perhaps she could spend the $15 on cookies for the office?

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        That’s what we did at Hallowe’en – the prize for best costume was a box of chocs. I won – and declined as I was part of social committee who organised it. So they chose someone else…. who declined for same reasons… after the third social committee member was chosen we said “we’ll stand over here…” :)

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          *BUT* no-one in the office would have minded if we had accepted! I just had a knee-jerk “I can’t take this” reaction as we hadn’t actually considered that scenario :)

          So yeah, she’s really, really over-reacting.

      2. g*

        Yes this is the best strategy. Presumably the OP wanted to participate for the fun of it, not the chance of winning.

        Although given what actually happened I would have just responded to the nasty email just saying “The rules were from here [link], and I wasn’t involved in judging them”.

      3. CAA*

        Agree! At my last job, our CEO was really into Halloween to the point of having tons of decorations all over the office and a potluck lunch with a costume contest voted on by employees. He liked elaborate costumes and sometimes he won the contest, but he would never accept the gift card that was the prize.

      4. True Story*

        This is exactly what the partners do at my office. We have all sorts of in-house competitions throughout the year (all voluntary!) and the partners love to take part. During our “soup”erbowl competition, one of the partners regularly wins but declines the prize. That way he still has bragging rights, but doesn’t take the gift card from one of the employees.

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          At our Christmas party last Friday, they had gifts ranging from big screen TVs to giftcards. Everyone was going to get a gift. When your name was drawn, you went and picked your gift from the tables. The second person drawn was a manager, who took the 52″ TV. The 5th or 6th person picked was a director who took the big KitchenAid stand mixer. The rest of the managers, directors and VPs took the gift cards. I’ve not heard any talk about how those two took the really big prizes, but I certainly noted it. (Of course, if you told me that two of the “management team” took good prizes, I would have guessed those two. So I didn’t really learn anything.)

          1. Former Employee*

            Ugh! You could put their pictures next to the definition of “tacky”.

            Unless your company is totally different from most others, a manager normally makes more than the highest paid person who reports to them while a director would probably make multiples of what the average employee earns. I think that the really senior people (above manager) shouldn’t even be included in the drawing. I am on the fence when it comes to managers because sometimes a person doesn’t get that big a bump when they go from a senior position, such as team leader, to being manager, plus the fact that they tend to have very little power.

    3. VioletEMT*

      People do get sour grapes even if there is an impartial judge.

      Several years ago I got the idea to do a team t-shirt contest. Team members anonymously submit designs for a team T-shirt, the team votes on their favorite design, and we all order T-shirts with the winning design. The winner gets a free shirt. Voting is conducted via a SharePoint survey so you have to log in with your enterprise account, to prevent duplicate voting.

      The first year, we only had two design submissions. I had an idea, so I threw one in as well. My design wound up winning by an overwhelming margin. It wasn’t even close.

      Some people gave me a bunch of crap about it. Even though they had access to view the vote totals. Even though they knew I couldn’t have gamed it. I couldn’t tell if it was good natured or not. I was really embarrassed and wound up paying for my own shirt instead of taking the free one.

      Now I just run the contest. It’s not worth the hassle.

      But OP3, your coworker is really overreacting.

    4. Roscoe*

      I think it depends on the company. Some companies people just get put on committees and plan things that way. I don’t think that should mean that they can’t win the prize. If someone put together a bake off, and everyone voted the organizer the winner, would that be problematic too? I think for a $15 prize, co-worker is being ridiculous. If the rules were clearly stated before, and everyone had accesss to them, and it was a different group voting, I don’t even know how fraud or whatever could really happen.

    5. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      How odd of the goofy coworker. I’ve just learned that some people suck the joy out of everything. Your strategy would still probably not satisfy a person who’s ready to go off the rails for a silly office contest and $15 prize. They’d probably start yelling ‘Collusion!’.

      For future reference for the LW, here’s how we used to do contests in my team. Everyone participated, including the managers/organizers, and were allowed in the voting. If a manager won, the prize would go to the first place employee. We would basically participate for bragging rights (I liked to remind my co-managers that I swept the various contests for 4 years). Usually we did SharePoint survey voting and if the employees ever figured out that the managers never won, nobody said so.

    6. Linds*

      Also, depending on how the contest was administered, the complainer would have known well in advance that OP was participating in the contest. If people are assembling their decorations throughout the week, let’s say, then it would be safe to assume complainer would have seen the decorations in the cubicle of OP. (obv depending on size of the office). So if this employee is only complaining after the judging has taken place, i call this a case of sour grapes. If they were genuinely concerned the competition was going to be unfair because OP was participating and came up with the game, then they potentially had time to say something in advance

    7. AKchic*

      Were it me, I would discuss it with the president since s/he has already been unfortunately looped in. Decide on a charity to donate that $15 to if the president isn’t going to shut this co-worker down. If s/he won’t shut the co-worker down, I’d email everyone saying “it has come to my attention that someone has felt that it was unfair of me to participate in the decorating contest since I am the one who implemented the game. I had relinquished judging to others so I could participate. I did not anticipate winning any prizes. Since there have been unpleasant emails escalated up the chain, I am donating my winnings to [charity] with [president]’s blessing to be fair.”

      Then email the sore loser directly. “Since you have made it plain you feel I did not deserve the $15 prize money, I discussed the situation with [president] and we decided I should donate it to [charity]. I was unaware that $15 would cause so much fuss when I did not participate to win. If you have any further issues with this matter, please discuss it directly with HR.”

      Next year, maybe don’t have any cash prizes. And outline in the rules that anyone can participate as long as they aren’t judging the event. It sounds like someone was an extremely sore loser.

  5. Ann Furthermore*

    OP 1, it’s so tempting to do this, especially when you feel that this person has no business being in their new role, but Alison is right. No matter how well-intentioned your impulse is, it will likely not accomplish anything, and may backfire and end up reflecting poorly on you.

    Try to have faith that karma will even everything up in the end. I once had an absolutely awful manager who rained misery into my life for about 6 wretched months, and he was aided by his chief conniving minion, who got herself a promotion in part by bad-mouthing me. I was lucky enough to find a position in another department, and was able to bail before he was able to come up with a reason to fire me.

    He eventually left, and took his lackey with him. About 6 months later, I heard through the grapevine that the 2 of them were very unhappy with their jobs, because the person they reported to treated people so badly – doing many of the same things they had done to my staff, other co-workers, and me. It was immensely satisfying.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      They got to experience how they’d treated others and were unhappy? Wow they sure had some unpleasant days for them. I wonder if it dawned on them how others felt to be treated poorly by them.

    2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Also know that the opportunity to provide feedback might actually arise organically…

      I worked for a horribly toxic manager (the whole dept was completely dysfunctional and toxic). I was having panic attacks within a year of working for them. I quite just before the year mark with nothing lined up because the toll on mental health was too great. Sidenote: I actually found the exact same role for almost double the salary at a well respected firm before my notice period was even over (so that did help give me some sort of sense of cosmic justice in the short term). I still wanted to go scorched earth. I wanted to alert my replacement (fantasized about leaving little warning notes in the work station). I wanted to make complaints to the regulatory bodies that govern our industry (they didn’t break any rules outright, but they were so chaotic and disorganized that an investigation would be a huge imposition). I wanted to leave scathing reviews on every board possible.

      Thankfully I didn’t do any of this – because I just would have looked unhinged.

      However… About a year after leaving I was contacted by an external recruiter that I work with regularly in my current role. He had a candidate who had been offered a role in my previous dept, but had heard some not-so-great things about the company. He asked if I would be willing to speak to him about my experience there. And boy was I willing! Since some time had passed I was really able to provide objective, but honest feedback about the dept’s/manager’s shortcomings.

      I have friends who still work at the firm (different depts) and no one new has joined that dept, so apparently the candidate declined the offer. Also, this recruiter is a heavy hitter within our niche of the industry, and apparently (unbeknowst to me) word had already spread about this dept/manager.

      My advice: be the bigger person. Don’t send an anonymous note. As said above – it’s unlikely to accomplish anything and has the possibility of backfiring. However – do know that an appropriate opportunity to share your experience with this person may arise. Or – they might receive their just desserts in ways that you are unaware of.

  6. HannahS*

    OP 3, it does sound like your coworker is majorly overreacting, and I 100% don’t think you should give her your prize! Unfortunately, though, I think it’s an optics thing on your participation if you’ve designed the competition. It’s like if Peggy-Sue, the head of the prom committee, is declared the prom queen*. The truth is, Peggy-Sue put in a whole lot of work and may well deserve it, but it makes things look like she designed the competition specifically so that she would win, or persuaded the judges in the committee to vote for her. It’s not fair, and it would STILL be completely bananas for Betty-Ann to come after her demanding the crown due to a conflict of interest.

    Would it be possible to have someone else run it next year? You’ve done the legwork this time, so I assume they’d basically just need to re-send the email with the guidelines and dates, and then you maybe you could participate more freely. Or maybe participate in the decorating, but not allow your entry to be part of the competition?

    *For the record, someone on the prom committee DID win my prom. No one cared. I’m pretty sure all the people who really cared about prom were on the committee.

    1. Ragazzoverde*

      OP #3, I actually don’t really get why it would be a problem for you to win, especially as you weren’t judging. Why on earth would someone rig up a contest like this just to win $15? Your co-worker is incredibly childish and petty.

      1. Snowglobe*

        Well, for one thing, although OP wasn’t a judge, it sounds like they selected the judges, which doesn’t look good. I agree the co-worker is being petty to make such a stink, but I don’t think OP should have competed in the contest. Presumably they could still have decorated their cube just for fun, even if they weren’t a participant, and that’s probably the best way to have handled it.

      2. Antilles*

        If the co-worker put forth a lot of effort/pride into their entry, she might feel like she got screwed out of a fair shake because the person who came up with the rules also won. It’s not about the $15 value, it’s about feeling like there was some shady unfairness going on.
        There’s a reason that every single public promotion includes the line “Employees of Company and their relatives are not eligible for this prize”. Even if the promotion is something as simple as a free sandwich, that line will *still* be included because customers will get really pissed off if they feel like your promotion is rigged.

        1. Ragazzoverde*

          I mean fair enough if she put in a lot of effort and then didn’t win, but she’s presumably an adult, at most she should be annoyed for a couple of minutes and then move on surely? I would have very little respect for someone who felt it was appropriate to react like that to such a trivial thing, it would make me question their judgement.

        2. hbc*

          Yeah, but if the rules are pretty basic like “Don’t spend more than $10” and “Only generic, non-overtly-religious items,” you don’t get all whiny because the person who came up with a generic rule did the best. Now, if the rules included that extra points were awarded for freshly-sheared wool/fur and OP just happens to raise alpacas, then the coworker has a case.

          I think the only sketchy thing is the judge selecting–the rules have nothing to do with it.

  7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No. 3 Your best option is to publicly announce that you donated the prize money to a charity. If that doesn’t calm your co-worker and if she continues to press the issue then she looks petty, very, very petty. To paraphrase: the smaller the prize, the more vicious the battle.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I think she could just order a case of coffee for the office and call it a day. This woman is being unreasonable. I wouldn’t even mention it again.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Somehow I think that would cause more drama with this particular coworker; it shouldn’t, but it probably would. After all, OP picked HER preferred charity, why didn’t anyone else have a say in it, etc.

  8. Sami*

    OP#1– I can empathize with you. I think many people, myself included, have at one time or another wanted to write such an email. It’s better that you wrote to Alison – follow her advice.
    For you— consider what I did. I actually wrote a letter. On paper with a big sharpie and just dumped all my feelings out on there. Then I threw it in a drawer for awhile (where no one would find it), reread it a few times then ripped it up and tossed it in the trash.

  9. Wintermute*

    OP #1– There’s just no way you can say this without it sounding like sour grapes. Also, I’d like to point out that “harming others’ mental health” presumably by being a cause of stress and anxiety is NOT the same as being unable to help with a mental health charity, in fact they’re totally unrelated, except perhaps by a certain dark irony. The fact they manage people poorly and this causes them stress, anxiety and disruption of their work/life balance doesn’t mean anything in terms of how they provide services.

    OP #3– The executives being complained to about this stuff probably think she’s completely out of line, but you’re unlikely to ever hear that. But this doesn’t exactly speak well of your professional judgement either. There’s a reason radio contests always say that “Employees, friends, relatives, and in-law relations of the employees, vendors, advertising partners and business partners of WXYZ are not eligible to enter” they cast a very wide exclusion net because they want to avoid any possible appearance of impropriety.

    Now, it’s 15 bucks, no reasonable person is going to have a serious issue here, but I like Captain’s suggestion of a brief response saying you donated to charity and expect the matter to be closed. But take heart, you’ll come off looking very professional and this woman looks like a loon so majestic she belongs in a Canadian wildlife painting.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      “The fact they manage people poorly and this causes them stress, anxiety and disruption of their work/life balance doesn’t mean anything in terms of how they provide services.”

      I can only speak for my own employer, and I know this isn’t true everywhere, but yes this absolutely does mean something in terms of how we provide services. If you’re losing employees or volunteers due to a bad manager, and getting bad Glassdoor reviews or being taken to tribunals, how much credibility do you think you can expect to have when, say, campaigning to government? The media will find out. People on social media will find out. And that will affect your ability to tender for local services. It will make corporate companies reluctant to make you their chosen charity.

      Furthermore, if you have a bad reputation your service users will hear about it and will not want to engage with you. And if you claim to be open to hiring people who have mental health problems themselves and then obviously treat them badly, you’re going to look bad. This stuff gets out and it does matter.

      And finally, you can’t retain employees in this field if you treat them badly which is why some organisations have very high turnover and sick leave due to burnout and stress. That most definitely affects their ability to provide services.

      1. Gen*

        +1 this sort of work is pretty rough on employees even when they have amazing managers. Bad managers like this can get passed around because orgs don’t want to admit how bad they let the situation get but employees tend to here about them eventually. I’ve seen it get bad enough that half a dozen people hand in their notice the same day a particular manager joins the org. That can have a huge impact on services :(

      2. Wintermute*

        I should clarify– Bad managers absolutely DO harm the organization, and thus its mission, that’s indisputable. What I meant was I disagree with the inference that because this person was bad for the individual mental health of some co-workers, they will be bad for the mental health of clients of the organization. The implication seemed to be that being the cause of mental health issues for someone in an employment context impeaches their ability to provide mental health services or advocacy and that is what I took exception to.

        Someone can be a brilliant therapist and still cause their receptionist immense stress, someone can be a darned good advocate or fundraiser but also problematic with co-workers.

        1. OP #1*

          Well what I really was referring to is that she will likely affect the mental health of her staff; which is surely something that a mental health Charity would be seriously hoping to avoid.

          However, this particular manager did also cause quite a few problems with service users at our charity (which is not a mental health charity) through mismanagement of the service and direct behaviour towards them.

    2. AKchic*

      For behavioral health providers, they have to be able to practice what they preach. They have to be able to model right living to their clients/customers/patients (however their specific agency labels the people they serve). If they can’t model that behavior, they can’t teach it, and they certainly can’t expect the population they serve to live it.

      So yes, people working in behavioral/mental health settings shouldn’t be walking hot messes. Or if they are, they need to be able to lock it down and not let it affect the people around them. The manager OP 1 talks about sounds like someone who causes drama everywhere. That ish will be discussed by clients. Clients love to talk about drama. But, that is only if the manager and the new staff are in a client-serving department. This could be an administrative role, I haven’t read any follow-up comments to know one way or the other. I’m merely going based on my own experiences working in a behavioral health setting for nearly a decade.

  10. Snow and sleet*

    OP #3: The woman in your office went outrageously overboard over a minor contest, and to involve the president in that drama? I would keep a close eye on her and make sure she isn’t stirring up trouble elsewhere as well.

    1. JulieBulie*

      I don’t know if the griping coworker was on the president’s radar before, but she is now. And probably not in a good way.

      Might be a good idea for OP to ask the president if anything needs to be done. NOT to validate the disgruntled coworker’s hurt feelings, but to address the perceived “conflict of interest” in case others are worried about it. In other words, use Alison’s script but say it to the whole group, not just the coworker (who shouldn’t be given the special attention she seems to crave).

      I am a little curious if the coworker was the third place winner. If she wasn’t, then this might not be so much sour grapes about losing, as a personal grudge/BEC indicator against OP. So yeah, keep an eye on her.

  11. Ion*

    I really feel for the first LW because I was in a similar situation at my last job. It was retail, and the awful manager only showed her colors after getting promoted to store manager when the old one retired. Over the next year she proceeded to chase off some of the best and most experienced employees, promoted a nice but way out of their depth new hire (over several much better candidates) so she could mold them into her puppet, repeatedly violated the ADA and employment law, left us critically understaffed because she only wanted to hire people she ‘clicked with’ (ie people who would never question or challenge her), and ignored major problems in favor of her bizarre pet projects.

    Thankfully she never actually targeted me because I wasn’t looking for a career there and my job was very hard to fill. It was insane. She took a job in a different town after her spouse caught her having an affair. I’m ashamed to say I never considered contacting her new employer because we were so glad she left.

    1. Linds*

      haha did we have the same manager?! I had a very similar experience, but I gave her pushback and so i was targeted. She also had untreated mental health issues that she essentially used as an excuse for her poor behaviour. All of her management (me incl.) left at the same time, she took a while to replace us all, and I recently heard through the grapevine that it just happened AGAIN! all of her management left again in the middle of the christmas season…hopefully upper management finally gets this is a pattern *eyeroll*

      1. Ion*

        Ha, I hope not! I was working at a retail pet chain. She never targeted me. I wasn’t sure why other than my not wanting to make a career there and that it was hard to keep my position filled. I don’t think she had a mental illness, more like something on the narcissist or sociopath spectrum. I did get to see her target others, and it freaked me out because she was very affable and it would catch you off guard. I got fed up with how many good people got screwed over or chased off, and how bad the workload got because of the staffing issues. It was a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to find my current field, and I love it. I wasn’t there for the affair bit, but I had a karmic appreciation of it!

        I hope you’re in a better spot now!

  12. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW1: I feel your pain on the realest level, but I have to agree with Alison. I once worked for a human rights charity that didn’t give a flying fig about the human rights of its employees. I started when our team was created, left after a year and within six months after that our office was disbanded completely as most of the team took my lead and left, and they struggled to hire and keep anyone who could actually do the job to the required standard (or who even wanted to – morale was l o w).

    What I’m trying to say is, I completely understand that burning need for justice within, but let the universe handle it for you – because it will.

  13. Rich*

    OP #2, a job offer, like any other agreement, doesn’t need to be in writing. And as long as everyone agrees, it’s A-OK. But when there’s disagreement or ambiguity, having a written record can be a lifesaver. And it can have an effect down the line, too (e.g. We agreed that we’d calculate mileage using my home office as my workplace, not the Hoboken office that’s 40 miles alway). That doesn’t mean an employer can’t change terms on you — they can, and an offer generally isn’t the same as an employment contract. But when changes happen, it can be a very useful part of your ongoing negotiation.

    It’s ideal to highlight exactly what changes employer is making rather than allowing them to bury it as business-as-usual. I have used terms in offer letters in exactly that sort of situation (employer established new policy which would affect me significantly, tried to pass it off as no big deal) years into a job. Being able to say “We agreed to X, as documented here, and you’re now saying the job is Y” has been a very successful part of negotiations for me. Without the “as documented here”, I’d have been out of luck.

  14. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW3: Perhaps you shouldn’t really have participated, but I’m still laughing at this woman getting angry over $15 – especially after Googling the exchange rate (£11.21) [insert crying with laughter emoji here]. She has more problems than not winning this contest, if I were you I’d just be ignoring her and shaking my head.

        1. JulieBulie*

          This was going to be HER year! HER chance to be the cubicle-decorating champion! A long year of plans, dreams, and hopes all shot to hell.

          Her family at home had prepared a surprise victory celebration… now they will have to throw that cake into the woods and stomp on it with their heavy winter shoes.

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      I don’t get why people keep saying that’s such an insignificant amount of money!

      It’s almost 2 hours pay at minimum wage . . . over an hours pay at my office job (and $25 is our holiday gift). I mean $15 is a fast food dinner or a pizza for my boyfriend and me.

      Would I throw a fit over that amount of money? Or any amount I didn’t win? No. But it’s not like the prize was a dollar store trophy.

      1. LKW*

        I suppose because for most people this is not a make or break your budget amount of money. This will likely not impact her overall wealth or alleviate any financial stresses. It’s the difference between winning a $10 lottery versus a $100 lottery versus a $1000 lottery.

        1. Aurora Leigh*

          I don’t know . . . a lot of people, even people with office jobs, are living paycheck to paycheck and barely getting by.

          At this time last year, $15 would have made a big difference in my budget.

          Still doesn’t mean throwing a fit is in any way okay. . . and I know that often people who make a deal over money are often the folks who are doing just fine financially.

          Just wanted to point out that it is in fact money lol

      2. Roscoe*

        Well, yes. But presumably, if they have cubicles, its not a minimum wage job. Like yeah, if I found $15 in my coat, I’d be happy. But if I lost $15 it wouldn’t really bother me.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Me too!

          I still consider it a petty sum to write a letter to the company president about, but I also consider it two cafeteria lunches. If I lose that much money, I can still afford two lunches, but I’ll also think, “damn, that was two lunches!”

          But it is one thing to lose $15, and another thing to simply not win it. It almost sounds as though this coworker felt that the prize was rightfully hers, and OP schemed to deny her of it, thus OP took it away from her.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      No, I don’t think it’s about the money at all. It’s about the perceived unfairness. People get a lot more bent out of shape about fairness than they do about money sometimes.

  15. idi01*

    OP1. Go ahead and send an anonymous message to the HR department of the Mental Health Charity. But keep it extremely short. Perhaps tell the HR to check with the colleagues and staff of this manager in her previous jobs/organizations. If this person is truly toxic, do you want others to suffer? Plus it may help psychologically.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t know that this is going to be helpful psychologically. That’s more likely to come from within.

      Also, the schadenfraude may not be as glorious as you expect. My toxic ex-boss – who bullied me out of a job I had once loved – was eventually fired because a lot of people were watching and waiting for him to do something provable and he did. An email went round saying he had been fired and was not to be used for any freelance work. A former colleague forwarded it to me. We all cheered. For about five minutes. Because he had kids and a mortgage. He deserved to be fired but it was hard to feel happy about it for long.

      There are no happy endings in these situations. The best thing to do is try to move on.

    2. LKW*

      Sometimes people fail upward and all you can do is watch. A former boss of mine was (and is) awful. She is a terrible manager and a liar. She has questionable ethics and doesn’t understand the difference between motivating people and instilling fear into them. She has been fired time and time again, but she just goes to the next place, mostly because people are afraid to say anything that could construed as slanderous. The industry is big enough and her experience deep enough that she has desired skills but she’s now getting locked out of prime jobs because the big players know her shenanigans. Sometimes karma isn’t instant.

  16. Mookie*

    He was very arrogant, and focused on how he was (in his own mind) better than anyone else on the team and how he was the person who everyone went to because of his technical expertise. He said nothing about the team, nor had any suggestions for where he could be an effective team leader. In fact, he needed to be prompted to remember the name of the newest member of the team, despite the fact that he sits right next to her and has worked with her for the last four months. (This is only a team of five people by the way!)

    He doesn’t know his colleagues, but he does know he’s better than all of them. He knows he deserves this role, but can’t explain how he’d improve it (nor does he appear to understand what the duties entail).

    LW4, have you mentioned any of this behavior when you’re debriefing him on your evaluations? Has he ever acknowledged this self-absorbed tunnel vision that prevents him from collaborating (and respecting) his co-workers? If so, I’d remind him of that and explain that, in future, promotions to positions that rely on additional, non-technical skills depend on exhibiting leadership and cooperation as a team member first. There is no point in advancing if you’re uninterested in monitoring and mentoring team members and improving the team’s overall performance. He could already be doing this, as a more senior team member, but has judged it a waste of time. So you’ve judged his candidacy a waste of time.

    1. RVA Cat*

      ^^^^ This is a textbook case of why soft skills are important. Sometimes more so even than the technical skills, because those are easier to teach.

  17. Mookie*

    LW1, I understand the desire to spare other people and other organizations future grief by helping them to ward off people who have abused you and your colleagues in the past. It’s tempting to try to achieve justice in these situations, but your job is not to manage this person’s professional life nor help outside agencies in their screening process or training of new hires. Trust either that they either will discover this person’s flaws or that they won’t, and then move on. Assholes are not a rare commodity, and most will always find work somewhere. They’re allowed to move on and behave (or not) like a Typhoid Mary of Destruction wherever they roam.

    You’re absolutely entitled to provide feedback or a negative reference when solicited to do so, but directly contacting an employer without prompting will not make your warning appear particularly credible, but weird and unnerving. It might very well put off certain employers, but not for the reasons you may think; a person targeted with such unusual attention may be deemed too much of a liability, not for any professional reasons but personal ones. And it’s the professional behavior you’re objecting to. It’s hard and I understand you’re angry, but don’t do this.

    As Alison says, this is not worth the risk to your professional reputation, either, if this former manager makes a connection between you and an anonymous letter. Even if your peers agree with you about the substance of your complaint, this is a faux pas that won’t reflect well on you, irrespective of the motive.

    1. Mookie*

      Also, you say you’re returning to the place where you and your former manager worked. Was this a one-off, or were they generally poor at attracting quality management? Do you know why she wasn’t pushed out earlier? Were senior managers unwilling to discipline her? I’d take these convictions you express (which are conscientious and benevolent) and use them for your own present benefit by making sure your current workplace is productive and less chaotic than it was during the period you mentioned. Note what has changed, and be cautious moving forward.

  18. MommyMD*

    Don’t send the anonymous email. It won’t help, it borders on being obsessively bitter, and you won’t feel better. Let her new employee figure her out and you go on with your own job and life and try and forget about it. Also, even with a proxy, real IP addresses can often be found out. Don’t do it.

  19. Texan at Heart*

    OP1- I wonder if it would help to think about not writing that email as being a way to forgive, be the bigger person, and truly hope that ex-manager has learned the error of their ways and is improving. It may be too soon for that, but maybe if you frame it that way for yourself- you are actively allowing her to be better and modeling the healthy behavior you wish she’d shown- you won’t feel so powerless. And I’d definitely write that detailed letter and not send it. I might also write (and not send) one directly to her.

    1. Agent Diane*

      I was going to say something similar. We’ve seen on this site that sometimes a person with terrible behaviour comes to both realise that, and realise their only way to break out of the corner they’ve worked their way into is by starting at a new company/town/country. Maybe that’s happening here…

  20. MuseumChick*

    #3, your co-worker sounds weird and toxic. I slightly disagree with Alison here, I don’t think you owe this person any kind of explanation or a promise that you won’t participate in the future. This is such low-stakes that while, yes, technically the designer of a competition shouldn’t participate it’s bizarre for anyone to have such a strong reaction. Personally, I would let her keep digging that hole.

    I would say “Co-worker, this was intended as a fun, friendly competition. I understand being frustrated at not winning but I am going ask that you stop bringing it up.”

    1. Lynne*

      Yeah…the coworker is having such a ridiculous reaction (especially in light of the *very* minimal set of rules OP3 describes below), I wouldn’t want to give her any level of validation.

      I’m not sure I’d tell her to stop, though. If I wanted to be kind to her, I would. But she’s only hurting herself here, as long as everyone is aware of the fact you weren’t involved in the judging. I would be tempted to let her keep making a fool of herself and digging herself a deeper hole. While observing aloud in a puzzled, slightly hurt tone that *I* wasn’t a judge, and I just got some very basic rules off a blog, so I don’t understand why she’s so upset…why does she want to exclude me from the decorating contest? I don’t get it.

      I suspect this coworker is prone to stirring up stupid drama like this, so I would feel no compunction about helping her dig her hole. I doubt her presence is a net positive in your organization…so let that fact be more visible.

      (YMMV of course, and you’ll know what’s a good tack to take in your organization. The above approach will work much better if you’ve been there a while and have a reasonable amount of political capital. More than she does. Although with her behaviour I doubt she has much.)

      (I don’t stir up drama for the sake of it. But she started this, and it’s such a stupid issue to have with someone that I really wouldn’t want to preemptively smooth it over. Let it be visible to management in all its ridiculous glory.)

  21. babblemouth*

    4: Can you also discreetly look into why no one else applied for the position? This guy sounds like a jerk, could he possibly have made the others feel that they could not ever stand a chance against him? I find it pretty suspicious that only one person applied – every time a team leader position has been advertised in places I’ve worked at, a few members of the team tried for it.

  22. OP#3*

    Hi there! I’m OP #3. Thanks for all of your responses! I want to clarify that there were only three rules and they were don’t hang things from the ceiling or use glitter (general fire code and cleanliness stuff) and that we each had to take decorations down by the end of the year. Those were just rules i found suggested in a blog online that had done this in their office. That’s part of why this reaction is such a mystery!

    1. Drama Llama*

      I don’t think you should give her the prize money, even if she did come third place. Her outrage over $15 is bizarre and shouldn’t be rewarded. The main issue isn’t whether you should have participated or not – it’s that she’s harassing you over a silly game and is now wasting the president’s time by involving him in her ludicrous crusade. It seems sensible to respond with a brief email with Alison’s suggestion, since she has now snowballed this into a big argument. After that, don’t engage. If she continues to rage over this, go to HR/boss.

      1. Lynca*

        I am now more baffled by the co-worker’s response. These are extremely reasonable and in no way hamper the playing field.

    2. LKW*

      OK – with that clarification, your co-worker officially is off her rocker. I now want to get as petty as possible. I want to find out the foods that she hates the most and buy that for the office. Hates white chocolate – big ol box of white chocolate truffles. Hates cilantro, guac and chips in the break room.

      I am not nice.

    3. Don't Blame Me*

      If there’s one takeaway I have from reading AAM, it’s that there are a lot of people out there who have ZERO CHILL about office competitions/raffles, no matter how “small” the prize. It’s entirely possible your coworkers would have made a fuss about the contest no matter what, but she latched onto you because she felt you being involved in designing it gave her complaints some weight.

      How you handle this really depends on whether it’s important for you to have a good relationship with this woman or not. Is she likely to keep this up for a long time and is it going to affect your ability to work with her? Do most people in the office think she’s being ridiculous or does she have some supporters? Is there some type of office party fund or food fund or something that you could donate the $15 to and then send an email saying that from now on anyone who organizes a contest is prohibited from participating?

      I agree that your coworker is being a bit ridiculous but it’s probably better in the long run if you just suck it up, donate the prize money towards future office celebrations or something, and announce that this situation will never happen again.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I would say go ahead and participate, just recuse yourself from the prize judging. Isn’t the fun the decorating anyway?

    4. MuseumChick*

      This just makes me double down on my opinion that you should not give in to this drama queen. Lynne posted this up thread: “While observing aloud in a puzzled, slightly hurt tone that *I* wasn’t a judge, and I just got some very basic rules off a blog, so I don’t understand why she’s so upset…why does she want to exclude me from the decorating contest? I don’t get it.”

      The if she keeps bringing it up ask her to stop and if she doesn’t speak with your manager.

    5. Jen*

      I think if you cared enough to enter the contest that it’s a little disingenuous to be confused about your coworker caring – isn’t that literally why you designed it? If it’s about engage,ent etc why couldn’t you participate while excluding yourself from the competition aspect?

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Caring enough to enter a contest = thinking it would be fun. That’s not comparable to caring so much that one goes on a rampage of nasty emails and complaints to the top of the hierarchy about not winning. So no, it is not “disingenuous” to be “confused” about the coworker’s response.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Jessie the First, I agree. Caring =” I’m going to make something really awesome for this contest I hope I win!” Caring does not equal “I didn’t win? Let me send multiple emails enumerating every single minor thing that was toooootaly unfair to the *president of the company*”

      2. JustaTech*

        The last time we had a cube decorating contest at work I felt obligated to enter as a member of the social committee, even though I’m terrible at decorating and I really, really didn’t want to win the prize. I guess the difference is that our contest was judged by the whole office, not by a group of judges, so there’s less possibility of “collusion”.

        Pro tip: if you want people to participate in things like cube decorating, have more than one prize, and make sure more than 2 people want the first prize.

  23. Drama Llama*

    Letter 1: As HR, I occasionally have the same fantasy from the other side. I’ve dealt with some truly bizarre people who inflict all sorts of toxic personality and conflict in the workplace before they move their tornado elsewhere. A recent example is an ex employee who accepted our job offer while she continued to job search for something better. While she was employed we consistently had cash missing whenever she worked, only at the branch where she worked. (Our employment laws make it virtually impossible to dismiss staff and we didn’t have concrete evidence at that point). Fortunately she found another job quickly and quit without adequate notice, lying about her grandfather being sick, then didn’t bother to return any company property. So when I discovered her new employer was in our same building, and I vaguely know one of the managers, I admit I fantasized about giving them a heads up.

    But I never actually do this. While the thought of getting her fired at her new job admittedly gives me some amusement, I feel uncomfortable appointing myself as The Person Who Dishes Out Karma. That’s not my place, no matter how much they deserve the bad karma. So in these situations I give myself five minutes to fantasize, then think about what I learn from the experience, and do my best to forget.

    Plus, any trouble she brings to her new employer is unfortunately their cost to bear – a recruitment mistake they could have avoided with a quick reference check.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      Given what she did, if I did know one of the managers at the new company, I would speak of the truth that I knew, verbally with that person only when I had a chance. I’d keep it factual though, and certainly wouldn’t embellish anything.

  24. Narise*

    OP#1. The only time i’ve heard of this having any impact is if you personally know someone in a position of authority at the other company. The two instances that I know about the individuals knew someone at the new company and reached out and shared their knowledge of the recent higher or in one case the person being interviewed. The recent higher was not immediately terminated but they were watched very closely and ended up not surviving their 90 day probationary period. Not because of the conversation but because of their behavior within the 90 days. The person was still interviewed but did not make it to the next round of interviews. Even if the company wants to act on your note they have to be very cautious basing decisions on an anonymous note. They have to be able to justify the actions that they take whether it’s termination or demotion or anything else. Best case you plant a seed of doubt within their mind worse case they show it to former manager and with her history she starts trying to find out who sent it.

  25. Alice*

    Question for OP1 – I wonder why you’re returning to the charity that let this terrible manager continue in leadership roles for so long. Yes, this particular terrible manager is gone now, but it doesn’t sound like the upper management really value a good workplace culture.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      You make good points here. OP#1 should not let her guard all the way down in regards to how the upper management is running this charity related to the quality of some of the people it employs and how consequences are provided for bad behavior; she should still be somewhat cautious and take those previous experiences into account.

  26. WeevilWobble*

    I don’t understand how LW 3 shouldn’t have particpated. She got the rules online. If I bring Monopoly to a party am I barred from playing?

    She did nothing wrong. The co-worker is being absurd.

    1. Roscoe*

      Apparently yes. People are that petty. I really wonder where the line for this stuff is.

      Like if I organized Superbowl Squares for the office, and I won, would that be looking like I cheated (even though there is literally no way to do that)?

    2. Genny*

      Yeah, I don’t see the point in barring the organizers from participating. I get it if there’s a lot on the line (an all expense paid trip to the Superbowl, $1,000 Visa giftcard, an extra week of PTO, etc.), but not for something with such minimal stakes that’s meant to build morale and improve team cohesion. Otherwise, OP would never (or rarely) get to participate in the team-building/morale improvement since it’s her job to organize them.

  27. Mimmy*

    #2 – I’m confused: I thought it’s been recommended here to have a written offer in hand before giving notice to your current employer. Is that the exception to “it doesn’t have to be a written offer”?

    1. CM*

      From the employer’s POV, in general, once the candidate says “I accept,” the offer is accepted. I think it’s on the candidate to say “I’ll need to have a written offer before I officially accept and give notice to my employer.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Although not every employer will want to give you a written offer, depending on the type of job. It could certainly cost you a retail or service job to insist on it, as hiring managers may not even have their own offices. However, in those cases, I would recommend the applicant try to get an email address or cell number and email or text some kind of confirmation of their understanding, such as “I accept the offer for the position of Teapot Stocker at $15 per hour, including two weeks of vacation leave rather than one based on my experience, as we discussed.”

    2. Ainomiaka*

      I think it’s a difference between good idea and the law. There’s no law requiring a written offer. People here have already shared stories of why it’s a good plan.

    3. Someone else*

      Best practice is to have a written offer in hand, but the question was about whether saying verbally “I accept” counts as accepting, and it does. It’s (in most cases) better to respond to a verbal offer that you’d like a written one stipulating the terms and then agreeing to that, but if they say “We’re offering you the job” and you say “I accept”, that’s still a real offer and acceptance.

  28. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP#1, I am easily picturing myself in your shoes, and, yes, the temptation for me too is very strong to go ahead and send the note. And I actually would send it. I disagree with Alison on this part, because you have nothing to lose by sending the note, and you wouldn’t be wasting too much of your time doing so. Possibly planting the seeds of doubt (so to speak) in the eyes of your former manager’s new employer is worth taking a shot.

    But where I do agree with Alison’s advice and seconded by most of the other commenters is that you should not put too much hope in that your note will have any negative effect on your old manager. I know that you are wishing that karma catches up to her, but you have to realize (through all of the excellent points that Alison has mentioned) that this will most likely not work unless you are already known and respected by a “decision-maker” involved in the hiring process (or who would be your old manager’s new manager). Try your best not to keep dwelling on your old awful boss, and do your best to forget about her.

  29. Erin*

    #3 – Oh my gosh, I completely sympathize. I had a very similar situation happen to me years ago. Basically, I was in charge of a failing farmers market and I held various contests at our special events in attempt to get attendance up. I entered a chili competition I’d arranged – honestly because barely anyone entered and it was going to look sad and pathetic – and I ended up (legitimately) winning. A woman sent my boss a very long, very angry email about it. Fortunately my boss had my back.

    But, in retrospect, that woman was right and I shouldn’t have entered my own contest. My intentions were good, but the perception of what happened just wasn’t right.

    I’d won a trophy, by the way, not money, which I ended up throwing out because I couldn’t stop thinking about that woman every time I looked at it.

    I really like Alison’s idea of donating that $15 to charity and the exact script she suggested. Yes this woman is drumming up drama for no reason, but unfortunately I think you have to bite the bullet on this one. Good luck!

  30. Coalea*

    OP #3, why not use the money to buy treats for the office? That way, everyone will have an opportunity to enjoy your winnings.

  31. Roscoe*

    #1 Definitely don’t do this. Anonymous notes like this never work. And they are frankly cowardly. If you are going to be willing to derail someone’s career, at least own up to it.

    #4 I think telling him you aren’t promoting him the way Alison described is good. But my question was have you ever had any of these conversations before? Because frankly, if he is good at his job, has been there a long time, and was the only applicant, it does seem like quite the slap in the face to not promote him if he thought his work output and everything was fine before, and you’ve never brought these concerns to him.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      Mostly I am agreeing with you on what you’re saying to OP#1, in that she probably should be honest about who she is. But I don’t really see this as a vicious vendetta. I think the OP just wants to see justice done. I do think that yes, there are personal feelings involved, but the OP really has nothing to lose if she just sticks to the facts that she has observed in writing her note and doesn’t try to exaggerate or lie about anything.

      For OP#4, I hope the employee has the good sense to not see it as a personal attack on him, but to be open minded and try to improve on the constructive criticism that he’s getting. And I hope that the OP for #4 also gives her employee another chance at a leadership role if she observes him improving and doesn’t totally close the door on him.

    2. only acting normal*

      Re #4
      Reward for doing a good job for a long time should be a good pay rate for that job, not promotion to a *different* job that they show zero (hell, negative!) aptitude for.

    3. SallytooShort*

      But those complaints may not be relevant to his current position. But definitely are to the one he wants.

    4. Snark*

      He’s an arrogant ass who hasn’t even learned a new team member’s name. What about that makes you think he’d be a good mentor or team lead? Handing promotions to people who haven’t demonstrated soft skills because they’ve been around a while is how awful managers are born. If he can’t do those things, he has no business being a team lead. If he’s agood individual contributor with tenure and seniority, then maybe he merits a raise or a bonus – though he’s underperforming significantly in at least one way we know if – but nobody is entitled to promotion.

    5. BF50*

      re #4
      Are you advocating the LW promote him to a job they know he will be bad at? Just because he is good at his current job, does not mean he will be good at any job.

      To promote him despite that would be a disservice to him because it would be setting him up to fail. It would also hurt the company and the rest of the team.

      If the LW wants to reward him for good work, it should be with good pay, recognition, and coaching on how to improve so he will be better positioned for a promotion the next time the opportunity comes along.

      1. Roscoe*

        No. I never said she should do that. But if she had these issues with him, yet his is getting good reviews, I think that is a conversation that should have been had previously, and not sprung on him now.

    1. Genny*

      The only thing I can figure out that would make them even remotely useful would be if you were getting people already in the industry and/or big-name people to sign them. But in either case, that’s what letters of recommendation and asking people to talk to their network on your behalf are for.

      1. OP5*

        OP5 here. On the 1st petition, the first signatories were his grandparents. So definitely no big name industry folks in this situation.

  32. rosiebyanyothername*

    #5 is the type of trash you’d see on Buzzfeed or other clickbaity Facebook posts. I’m still a newbie in the workforce, but even I know that will look really weird to 99% of hiring managers out there.

  33. Sara*

    #3 – There’s a woman in my office that whenever she wins the football pool, she buys pizza for the department. Maybe you could do something similar like a tray of cookies?

  34. Dust Bunny*

    1: Be honest about your motivations here. You said you were upset that she got another managerial position. Make sure this isn’t sour grapes.

    4: Yeah, that doesn’t look good. I know you wanted to participate, but it never looks good for the organizer of an event to win, and organizing one basically so you could enter was kind of childish.

    1. Snark*

      She stated above that the three rules she proposed were no glitter, no hanging stuff from the cieling, and no music. That’s reasonable guidelines, not stacking the deck, and I see no reason to believe she organized the event strictly to win – she wasn’t even a judge.

    2. Delphine*

      organizing one basically so you could enter was kind of childish

      What? People tend to organize events because they think those events would be fun–so it’s not surprising that she organized an event she thought would be fun and then wanted to participate. And it’s certainly not childish.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I’ve organized little things like this for work and it would never occur to me to participate, for exactly the reasons here. On the one occasion I did, I made it clear I was participating to be a team player and wasn’t eligible for judging. If there are prizes involved, it’s just not a good idea to enter yourself in an event you set up.

    4. Marthooh*

      The phrase “sour grapes” implies that LW is now belittling something she wanted for herself but didn’t get. I don’t see how that applies here.

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Calling the LW childish is over the top. You’re inventing this idea that she organized it so that she could enter and then calling her childish because of your invented idea. She’s a marketing person and she says she is responsible for all the internal events. It’s her job to organize things. So she organized one. (She doesn’t even say she came up with it – she says “we decided” to do a cube decorating). Do we have to name-call over this?

      Anyway, yes, it is a lesson learned for the LW that in any contest at her company, no matter how small, no matter how small the prize, and no matter how un-involved she is in judging, no matter how bland and un-customized the rules, as an organizer she should not enter. But that doesn’t make her childish.

  35. voyager1*

    LW4: It sounds like you have a good employee when it comes to skills in the job, but terrible people skills. How much is this team lead actually managing? If it is more about being a technical resource or the go to guy for how to do something, I say promote him and give him a chance. But also enforce that he needs to work on people/soft skills.

    If he fails or you see a teamwork problem you can always demote him back down.

    1. Observer*

      Well, the OP says that mentoring is an explicit part of the job. And the kind of person who doesn’t even know the name of the person who has been sitting near him for 4 months is not likely to be a good mentor.

    2. Snark*

      But it was very clearly NOT about being a technical resource or the go to guy. It was about mentoring and team coordination.

      And if he’s got terrible people skills, he has no business being the technical resource, either.

  36. seashell*

    #2… I signed an offer letter with a start date and salary but I can’t say anything to my current employer until the background check clears and I get the employment contract. It’s very frustrating, especially with the holidays coming up and people out of the office! Would you email your boss or wait until after the holidays?

  37. luna505*

    This is for #1 in regards to the anonymous note. I just want to raise the point that everyone deserves a chance to start over without judgement or being haunted by the past. I myself was once the “toxic” employee who was nasty to co-workers, manipulative and dramatic and was eventually (and rightfully) fired. What no one knew was I was struggling with a dependency on adderall and severe depression. I took some time off, got help and was able to reflect on how I treated my old team. I still feel horrible about it 10 years later and because of it, I manage people through the lens of empathy, I listen and ensure integrity is number one in my business. What I am saying is, you never know if this woman learned something from her experience with your company that shifted her behavior. Even if she didn’t, I think she deserves the chance to have a clean slate, a choice about her reputation at a new job and what she wants to create going forward.

    1. Snark*

      “I just want to raise the point that everyone deserves a chance to start over without judgement or being haunted by the past”

      This is a nice sentiment, but one earns a chance to start over – it’s not automatic. There’s no statute of limitations on the natural consequences of treating people badly. If you reach out to those wronged and offer meaningful contrition and apology, do intensive personal work to rectify what’s driving you to be toxic, and otherwise demonstrate a lasting commitment to change – as you did! – then you have earned the chance to start over. But that chance doesn’t accrue with time.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. If the manager in the post does reform herself in the new situation, great! But the past doesn’t get wiped clean, and the people she affected are still affected. In a criminal situation, contrition and repayment efforts lighten the sentence but don’t undo the verdict or expunge the record.

    2. Genny*

      I agree. It’s possible her old job was a bad fit for her (bad culture fit, not the right skills, not enough mentoring from her boss, etc.) and neither she nor the charity were willing to take steps to rectify that. That’s not okay to or an excuse to behave so badly, but it could be that this new role is a perfect fit for her and the toxic behavior she engaged in at her old job won’t happen at there. It’s okay if you never want to work with her again, but I don’t think you need alert the new job to anything.

  38. Snark*

    #4: Honestly, if his soft skills are so weak he doesn’t even bother to retain the name of someone he’s been working with for longer than two weeks, I not only think you’re right to not promote him, I think he’s got a significant performance issue that needs to be dealt with as such. If he’s an arrogant ass and can’t even remember someone’s name, he needs a PIP, not a promotion.

    1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      Eh, I don’t think this necessarily means a PIP. Some positions have very little interactions with other people and I would assume that the manager would know if he is having trouble or performance issues.

      I know a lot of individual contributors that are great technical-wise in their positions but aren’t the friendliest people. That doesn’t mean that they are unprofessional or problem employees.

      That and I guess I can give someone the benefit of the doubt for a brain-cramp/blank on a detail in the middle of an interview. Hell I was so stressed during a period of time at work I was randomly losing nouns for about a 6 month period. Nouns like ‘table’, ‘phone’,’door’, and other common place daily spoken words. Had I been interviewing during that time I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to come up with a new employee’s name either.

      1. Snark*

        Given that the person whose name he forgot is someone he works with daily, I don’t think the interpretation that his current job doesn’t involve interaction or require friendliness holds much water with me. And other bits of context make me doubt the brain cramp.

        And it’s fine if an individual contributor isn’t the friendliest, but there’s a certain baseline of civility and friendliness that everyone needs to clear, whatever their role. I’ve seen a lot of SMEs and “technical resources” and “our go-to guy for llama psychology” whose expertise went routinely untapped because they were a missing stair.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        I think there’s also a big difference between not bothering to learn someone’s name, and going “crap, what’s his name? the new guy in llama-herding, red hair, came up with that great new comb-organization system?”.

  39. Turboencabulator Engineer*

    #3: I think it may be important to look at it from an outsider’s perspective. I probably would have been a little peeved by the result, had I participated, and might have griped to my coworkers.

    There’s a good chance it’s not about the $15 or even about the pride of winning, but rather the fact that the organizer winning comes across as socially insular. I don’t know your office’s dynamics so this is just guesswork, but it’s possible the competition came across as “this is a fun event meant for me and my work friends.”

    1. Snark*

      Even if you’re right, I think any reaction more demonstrative than an eye roll and a shrug are totally off base. Even griping would be….a little disproportionate.

      1. Big Fat Meanie*

        I have to agree. I recently participated in a cube decorating contest and did not win or place, but I knew anything more than an “aw shucks” would’ve looked bad on me *because* I work close to the organizers. It’s just a decorating contest, it’s supposed to be a fun way to spread Christmas cheer!

        I could think of a few legit reasons to be visibly peeved about the results of a cube decorating contest, but the sheer possibility of a slightly unfair advantage? Unless OP’s rules were super narrow or they knew about the rules significantly longer than anyone else, I don’t see any reason to be *that* upset about the result.

    2. Ten*

      Good point about outsider’s perspective. My last job hosted raffles every so often and the ticket money went to charity, but there was no limit to the number of tickets people could buy. The woman who primarily organized the raffles (and also drew the winners’ tickets) would drop $50 or more on tickets and therefore won a lot of stuff.

      People griping about the unfairness led to rumors about the raffles being rigged and even rumors about the organizer stealing ticket money. It got to the point where winners had to be drawn by a team of two people who were not in any way involved with the planning, with someone from QA standing by.

      And the big spender still won a lot of stuff.

  40. Troutwaxer*

    Op #1 could anonymously send every employee at her new job a jar of Excedrin. “I note you have just hired _____________ into a management position. I am therefore issuing all of you the necessary headache medication. Have a nice day.”

    They’ll keep an eye on her old manager after that.

  41. whosthat*

    #1–I understand this impulse, and am glad you asked for advice before acting. Alison is right, If you are asked you can provide honest feedback. You haven’t been asked.

    And, there is the slim chance that your company’s experience with this person will not be the same as another company’s experience. It’s kind of like dating relationships. Some people do better together than other people.

    And if the manager is really horrible, it won’t take long for the new company to figure that out.

    1. Irene Adler*

      OP#1:We had a toxic CEO. He managed to keep his job for 13 years.
      His next employer managed to give him the boot in 13 months’ time. Progress!!

      So chances are good, as whosthat wrote, it won’t take long for the new company to figure out they’ve made a bad hire.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Longstanding bad employees are like old cars that need a lot of repairs–the more time and money you put into them, the more you force yourself to think they’re worth the time and money! Sunk cost fallacy :)

  42. Strawmeatloaf*

    Yeah, #3, unfortunately I would be wondering about it as a coworker too.

    There’s a site I use that has a lot of art events that you can enter for free. There used to be no rules against the artists themselves entering those contests (whether they be auctions using the sites currency, or whathaveyou) and it was quite demoralizing and annoying when you saw either all of the staff members of the shops in the site winning, or artists winning their own freaking art (because they could afford to bid more because they were paid in the site currency, etc.). It’s not a good thing and I am so glad they changed the rules so that the ones making the contests/the ones creating art for those contests can no longer enter.

    Next time, I would not enter if you organized it, even if you were judged fairly. I know a contest I once entered where a staff member won because of some concept art that was less than an inch on all sides (it was freaking tiny!). I know mine wasn’t that great, but I saw others who had greater ideas than mine and yet a staff member one something without even seemingly trying.

  43. Roscoe*

    For #3 a lot of people are saying if you organize you shouldn’t participate or be able to win. I kind of think this should only be the case if you are in management. If you are just a random person on the social committee, I don’t know that because of that you should be excluded from the ability to win. Thats like a double thing. Doing more work and no ability to win. As long as the “judges” are fully impartial, it should be fine

  44. AKchic*

    Gimmicky signatures for a job: Here’s the thing – if I want an applicant to give me signatures to prove they are worthy for a job, I want those signatures on letters of reference. I don’t care how many of your great-aunt’s bunko players signed a petition so they don’t have to hear Muriel complaining about you anymore. I want to see how many co-workers, managers, professors, teachers, or volunteers you’ve worked with actually give a rat’s furry behind about your skills as a worker and are willing to vouch for it.

    I don’t care if your friend’s mom and her friends signed a petition and you have 400 signatures begging for a job. I care if you have letters of reference and managers said “yep, this person works hard and gets things done”. I care if volunteers say “this person is kind and ethical and not afraid of hard work”.

    Gimmicks are generally flash in the pan. They aren’t substance. It’s just showmanship. I want the person behind the scenes making that flash in the pan look good.

  45. Noah*

    “And be aware that most job offers in the U.S. aren’t contracts.”

    This is definitely not true. Just because employment is at will doesn’t make an employment agreement not a contract. They promise to pay you, $25/hour for the time you work. You agree to work on some kind of agreed-upon schedule. If you work, they are contractually obligated to pay. Because it’s at will, the contract is easily modified and you don’t have a lot of choice if you don’t want to be fired and they’re willing to fire you (and they don’t have a lot of choice if they don’t want to lose you and you’re willing to quit), but it’s absolutely still a contract.

    1. LadyKelvin*

      Its not an employment contract though. Its an agreement. You have no recourse if they fire you at will like you would if they violated a contractq.

  46. Biff*

    I don’t have enough information to agree completely with Alison’s take on #1. For most scenarios, I think she’s right. BUT… there are some exceptions worth mentioning.

    * If you truly feel that she is a danger to the vulnerable population she is now supposed to serve, you should probably arrange to speak to the attorney at that charity (most charities have one.) If you can’t do that, write in under an obtusification of your own name to the board of directors, outlining your concerns as a member of the community who cares deeply about the cause the charity supports.

    * If you feel she will destroy the charity, inside out, rending the community without a necessary lifeline (this is especially important if this is the only charity in your community which serves these people), you probably have less options and less footing, but you could still write in as a concerned member of the public.

    * If there is any religious affiliation, consider speaking to the authority at the religious center.

  47. Manager-at-Large*

    LW #1 – There is always an outside chance that your boss will have had a moment of clarity after being let go and will not continue the same behaviors in the new job. Is it likely? Probably not . Does she deserves the chance to make her own impression at her new job if she did have a change of attitute? Probably.

    LW#4 – Yes, tell him privately before it is public knowledge. It sounds like perhaps your organization could benefit from two different senior paths – a) Team Lead, Spouts and Handles and b) Lead Spout and Handle Engineer. He would be in line for b) based on his expertise and skills, but not for a). This is a common distinction made in IT – to define an expertise-centric career path for the non-management candidate who excels as an individual contributor.

  48. OP #1*

    Hi OP#1 here. Thanks for all your comments. I have decided not to send an email; i don’t know if I would have anyway as the anger has passed since seeing she got a new job. I’ve realised that writing an email would be just dredging the whole thing up again and I’ve no real desire to do that.

    For those asking about why I’m going back when the upper management clearly aren’t doing their jobs. This is very true; there is no doubt that they aren’t. However, there is a new manager in my service and i have been assured by several coworkers that i was friendly with that she is very good. I have no doubt that upper management haven’t changed a bit but they generally don’t look too far into things as long as everything seems fine on the surface, which means if the new manager is good our service will just be left to ourselves.
    This was actually probably how bad manager got away with so much crap; she was brilliant at managing upwards, making everything sound good and deflecting blame. So upper management left her alone.

    With regard to whether bad manager has changed. I would be pretty certain that she hasn’t; as far as I could see her main talent was making things sound good (which she was very very good at) but she did’t actually have any management skills. So if she had changed, i don’t think she would have went straight into another management role because she would have realised that she actually needed to work on actually learning to manage.

    1. AKchic*

      Sounds like you had a “Spin Master” on your hands. Someone who was terrible at the day-to-day managerial/work aspect, but great at spinning everything to the upper echelons and making things sound fine or at least deflecting blame onto someone(s) else. Spin masters rarely ever break pattern, so I’m sure this will continue at the new job. Hopefully the new company will see through the master’s spinning webs and keep her on a short leash.

      I wouldn’t worry about it unless you have to work with that company (and her) directly for anything. If you do have to do some inter-company mingling for the common good on community projects (I know how non-profit funding and grant projects can be), make sure you take great notes and utilize follow-up emails and paper trails to CYA. Just in case. You never know when something may come out to bite you. I kept 8 years worth of hand-written notes at my last job. Never shredded a single notebook. It came in handy. My near obsessive note-taking and email saving/organizing saved a lot of time and hassle quite a few times.

  49. Liz*

    OP 4, I totally agree with your decision not to promote this guy, and I would add one thing to the advice here. If you deliver the news and he does react poorly, that is further proof that you were right not to promote him–and I think it’s OK to tell him that. I have had a similar situation in the past and, when the candidate flipped her lid, I said something like, “I understand this news isn’t what you wanted to hear, and that you’re disappointed and maybe a little angry right now. I have to tell you, though, that your reaction right now is demonstrating to me that you aren’t ready for the professional responsibility of this job. My suggestion is to come back with a fresh perspective in the morning, and we can talk about next steps to help you build the skills you need to be competitive the next time we have an opening like this.”

  50. Casanova Frankenstein*

    Alison, I’d really love it if you wrote an article outlining good guidelines for workplace competitions, similar to the articles you’ve done about gifting and holiday parties.

    There was recently some mild drama at my company over a costume competition for the 20’s theme holiday party. Initially, costumes were simply encouraged, but the week before the party, it was announced that there would be 1 winner who would receive a $300 cash prize. There are 12 employees here and the creative director was assigned to be the judge and there were some grumblings about whether he could be an impartial judge. Also, there was concern that the prize would almost inevitably go to the company owner’s daughter-in-law who works here and loves to cosplay in her free time; years ago, they stopped giving out a big prize for Halloween costumes after she won several years in a row (I believe she was not married to the owner’s son at the time).

    When it was suggested that we determine the winner by popular vote, the creative director argued that he would be impartial and that voting would be less fair since people would just vote for someone they liked personally rather than the best costume. /facepalm

    Ultimately, the owner generously ponied up $100 cash to everyone who participated. Apparently, management (owner + creative director) did not expect that many people to dress up and didn’t think the competition would be a big deal.


    1. Should I send an anonymous email to my terrible manager’s new job?

    I’m anonymous because I may giving really bad advice, but against my better judgment I did send the email when I found out someone was being moved into a new role where she was equally toxic as your former manager in a new org. She had been my peer and aside from being toxic, she was also very lazy but took credit for the work I did. Before I found this board, I didn’t know how to be assertive and protect myself as an employee. I didn’t know how to relate to management about things I needed or wanted and I was always scared that any push back or saying anything contrary to what was the norm or whatever, I would be at risk to lose my job. So I just kept my head down. Did my work and was friendly with people who eventually sabotaged my job. While I am now doing well self-employed, I was pretty resentful for a while about what happened. I kept tabs on some things and when I found out she was being promoted into a new role with our former manager (who was great personally but very hands off and out of touch as a manger, so he just believed whatever she fed him and she brown-nosed her way up through my hard work) when he moved to a new org.

    So I sent some anonymous emails. I was strategic about how I did it and who the emails went to. I don’t feel bad about it. It also worked. They took the emails seriously (and to be clear here, I did not lie about anything, but I left out all the stuff about me doing her work to keep me off the radar, I was also gone from the job at this point) and they went to the current (my former) job and the new org as well. I was given copies of an email chain (long story, but I knew some people who still were at former job and she stayed logged into her email on the shared computer in the back office) and they were actually really concerned about everything that was said.

    She was investigated and nearly let go from current job. new position rescinded the offer and current (my former) job demoted her after discussing letting her go. She was watched very closely from that point on and actually had to do work. Turns out she was doing the same thing to other people still there, so they had no idea who sent the email but it was so valid that upon getting the emails they talked to everyone under her and her peers.

    It’s been a few years and she did eventually recently move into a new position. But I was told by people still there that with the eagle eye on her she began to pull her weight and started to do better and be better. I don’t get tabs anymore, and I am over what happened and working on my own now, but she is married to the bff of my cousins husband so thats how I know what she’s done since, because we gossip from time to time.

    I still dont regret it. I DO think it was insane and that I was way out of line and YMMV. But sometimes you gotta do what you feel is right even when you know you are ridiculous.

    This isn’t to say do it, Alison’s advice is way more sound and is probably the likely outcome and even advice I gav e myself but ignored, but eh, you never know. lol.

    Okay leaving know because I feel like a horrible person a little bit.

    Still. NO #RAGERTS!!

    1. AMT*

      The difference between this and what LW #1 is considering doing seems to be that (a) your concerns were actual, concrete instances of wrongdoing (rather than complaints about her management style) that were apparently big enough for the higher-ups to rescind her offer and demote her, (b) your manager’s new position was at your organization, so you knew exactly who was in the best position to respond to your messages, and (c) since you had worked for the organization and presumably had some level of investment in the work, your complaints could be framed as concern for the organization rather than simple vindictiveness.

      Still might have been better to communicate your concerns openly instead of anonymously, but I’m sure you’re the best judge of that — toxic workplaces don’t always do confidentiality well, and maybe you didn’t want to burn that bridge with your former manager if you didn’t have to.

  52. Gary*

    OP4: I was once that applicant that didn’t get that promotion. Boss told me in private; she promoted someone else in the office even though I was more qualified. Knowing that my career was dead at that office, I immediately began looking for a new job. Within a few months, I was promoted somewhere else, making more money, and learning skills that I never would have learned had I stayed.

    Not getting the promotion was one the best things that ever happened to me, so this non-promotion might be a blessing in disguise.

  53. ClaireBear*

    OP1: did you consider that perhaps she was hired to “clean house?” Sometimes managers are hired specifically because they are willing to fire/demote/”counsel out” under-performing staff. And yes over time it can catch up with them if good employees are affected, but it is worth considering that your perception of a toxic environment may actually be the house-cleaning senior leaders wanted to happen. Perhaps I am playing devil’s advocate, but having been a manager during organization changes too many times to count…..

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