update: I bit my coworker

Remember the letter-writer who bit her coworker? Here’s the update.

So I don’t have an update I think anyone will like. Going through Alison’s three suggestions:

#1) Find a new job. I applied to the perfect position the next day, interviewed within the week, aaaaand bombed the interview. Nerves? Lack of practice? I do have Alison’s book, did research, but just didn’t click with anyone. Probably going to stay where I am. I like almost every aspect of my job except for my office manager, and not everyone can say that.

#2) Apologize to witness coworkers. Turns out, as I’d thought, no one in the office cared that I bit the office manager. I spoke to one person in the office that I find professional and whose opinion I respect. He was confused that I was upset, felt that biting someone wasn’t that crazy for our office, and in the end he didn’t think it was a big deal. Actually, the office manager was shoving me a bit the other day and one coworker chimed in, “Hey, careful, you know what happens when you do that,” referring to when I’d dropped and broken my mug. Everyone was completely confused, had to be reminded, and then lost interest.

#3) Learn to let it go. I roll my eyes now. I shrug it off. I don’t stress myself out. I miss a meeting? Oh well.

Addressing commenter suggestions:

I really took a step back and examined my high stress levels. It was clear I was having some anxiety issues. I called my doctor looking to talk it out and maybe get meds for the short-term. When I explained I bit someone, I could hear her metal stutter. She thought she’d misheard me. In the end though, it was decided I wasn’t “at-risk” enough to make office time for. I was referred to a different doctor about an hour and a half trip from my home, which didn’t help my anxiety or make sense for my schedule. Basically I just had a reaaally horrible few months, but made it out the other side and feel fine now.

Biting a coworker is obviously crazy behavior and never ok. I certainly haven’t done it again and don’t plan to. But in the long run, my office manager is a raging jerk. I’d like to see how others handle someone, sitting 5 feet away for 50ish hours a week, who constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible. Please, show me you can do better. In the end I feel bad … but not that bad.

The office manager doesn’t even care. He’s not angrily holding on to the fact that I bit him. We get coffee. We go on walks. He confides in me and asks for advice regarding work situations. He’s an ass, and I guess maybe I am too? But at least I’m an ass with better coping strategies going forward, because now I shrug it off and put on headphones when it gets to be too much.

I deeply thank everyone for their suggestions. Knowing that I’m not the only one who’s broken and lashed out really helped when I was going through that rough patch.

In the long run, yeah, maybe this is warping my perception of normal. But everyone I talk to with a “normal” office job seems to hate it. They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks. Do I wish my office manager would quit? Of course. But I’m not crying myself to sleep over his behavior. I put up with it and the trade off is an active, interesting office culture where we get drinks, have fun, tell jokes, the pay is good, the benefits amazing, and the work interesting.

Thank you for your thoughts, sympathies, and personal stories. I promise to keep my teeth to myself in the future.

Me again. I just want to say, letter-writer, that there are “normal” office jobs where people do interesting, engaging work, are reasonably happy, and are not verbally or physically abused by coworkers. Please keep looking!

{ 353 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    Thanks for the update, OP.

    It sounds like you’ve worked hard to understand why you bit your coworker and you’ve done everything you could to try to get out of the situation and develop coping techniques. It really sounds like your culture is completely out of the norm.

    The one thing that did draw my attention was that you get coffee and go for walks with this office manager. Given the volatility of the situation and your own feelings of stress and anxiety over the last two months, is it wise for you to give emotional time to this person? I’m not judging. I’m just asking.

    Overall though, it sounds like you’re in a better place, emotionally and mentally, and that’s always great.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      The coffee and walks…I get it. You’re in a crazy place where crazy is normal. Not good, but you are surviving and so it is what it is.

      Here’s to less stres in 2018 for you. <3

    2. Specialk9*

      Oh man this update made me sad.

      I totally get it, I’ve been in toxic situations at work and home and sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is a weird little hole in the ground rather than a planet that you can’t escape.

      But OP, your brain is feeding you untruths that are keeping you from being a Self Rescuing Princess ™. Good job looking at meds – please keep pushing your dr, and see if you can find a therapist to get unstuck mentally.

      You are NOT stuck there forever. You applied to one job and didn’t get it, but that’s not the end of it, and it’s not a referendum on your worth as a human or your ability to ever get another job. You don’t just have to curl up into a ball of not-caring and internalize the toxic norms. Those messages aren’t true, and you have more options than you realize.

      One more analogy. They say that baby elephants are trained by thing them to something strong, till they learn they can’t leave when tied up… And as adults big elephants stand still even when a rope is not attached to something. Personally, that story sounds a bit suspect, but it’s a great visual for you in this situation. The reality is that you have power to get up and walk away, and right now you’re trapped by training and habit and inertia. I believe in you! And I’m looking forward to update #2.

      1. Cube Diva*

        I’ve heard a similar analogy with grasshoppers. If you put them in a box with a lid, they will learn that jumping means they will hit the top. Leave the top on long enough, and they won’t jump even after you remove it again.

      2. KayEss*

        Don’t know about elephants, but once my family dog got sufficiently accustomed to the concept of a leash, she would stay roughly within leash-range even if the other end was just dragging on the ground.

        For the OP: The one bright side I see in this update is that it sounds like the biting may not be brought up in the event someone is providing you a reference in the future?

        (I personally do everything I can to avoid listing anyone at my former toxic workplace as a reference simply because my manager was so off-kilter and volatile that I have absolutely no idea what she’d say–I don’t have any reason to believe that she’d intentionally give me a bad reference, but she casually bad-mouthed a former employee to me in my interview as a way of making a point, so I’m not exactly confident that she wouldn’t do the same to me with a reference-checker. Pick your contacts at this place carefully, and definitely find a way not to use that guy.)

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          A former coworker of mine had a dog that did sonething similar after she and her daughter moved into a new apartment. Boxes that were waiting to be unpacked were temporarily stacked against one wall of a hallway, making the walking space narrower than normal. Not sure how long things stayed that way, but after the boxes were gone, her dog continued to walk close to the opposite wall, as if the other half of the hallway was still filled with invisible boxes! I don’t know if he ever got over it or not.

        2. Kelsi*

          We only had a working invisible fence for ~6 months.

          Our dog did not go past the boundaries of it when we let him out in the yard for approximately the next eight years. He learned that walking with us when he was on leash was safe, but leaving the yard on his own (when the collar was on) gave him a shock, so…he just never did it again.

          (On the other hand, the neighbor’s dog was too smart for anyone’s good. He would sit close enough to their fence that the warning beep would keep going off until the collar battery ran down, then happily run off consequence-free.)

      3. Agatha_31*

        I agree with this. OP, don’t give up after one bad interview. I mean I bomb interviews like a PRO, so I know, it sucks, but do keep trying! Yes it sucks but think of it in comparison to sitting next to that guy every day for years to come. “Interviewing sucks – but it sucks a lot less than sitting next to someone who thinks that verbal abuse in ANY environment, let alone a professional one, is totally on the table!” Don’t “settle” for a place that treats you THAT badly because “otherwise it’s okay.” That is a poisonous atmosphere, and that culture will seep into you no matter how much you think you’re staying out of it, will follow you to new jobs. I mean yeah, you say you’ll never bite anyone again but before this incident would you not have said you’d never bite anyone *to begin with*??? It also REALLY freaks me out that nobody ELSE is freaked out by this.
        THAT IS NOT A NORMAL REACTION TO HEARING THAT ONE CO-WORKER BIT ANOTHER. Heck, their reaction to his verbal bullying ought to be just as freaked out as it ought to be to your biting them! The sooner you get out and get your mental “normal” meter back to REAL normal, the better it will be for you.

      4. Optimistic Prime*

        I’ve never heard this story, but learned helplessness is a real psychological phenomenon. It’s when humans and animals are repeatedly exposed to aversive stimuli but are unable to escape; these animals/humans learn to accept the pain/obstacle and give up trying, even when they theoretically could.

        The original experiments were done by psychologist Martin Seligman, who shocked dogs under different conditions and then gave them the opportunity to escape. Dogs who had been shocked in boxes that they were unable to escape in part 1 of the experiment simply laid down and whined when they were shocked in part 2 of the experiment – they’d learned that they couldn’t stop or escape the shocks, so they just dealt with them.

    3. OP*

      I would like distance, but he’s now the highest level in the office. If I don’t make nice, my job is basically at risk. I play the game and in return find out company news in a quicker manner and at least try to rein him in for others.

      Certainly not ideal, agreed….

      1. Specialk9*

        I’m not judging, there’s a reason why there are patterns to abuse, on both sides. There is a lot of logic, if warped.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        How much longer can you make nice with this person? I went just over a decade and then threw in the towel. What was annoying in the end was the knowledge that I could have/should have done it sooner. I asked myself, “Do I want this job to be the high light of my working career? Is this the job I want to talk about with the other old people in my nursing home?”

        I knew what I had to do. See, OP, one of the many things that jobs like this can do to us is convince us that we can’t work else where. It’s a lie, OP. That is an out-and-out lie.

  2. fposte*

    Not every followup has to be “and then I was crowned queen and given title to lands.” You’re surviving okay and not biting people, OP. I’ll take it.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I agree. You are doing the best you can and it seems like you have learned a lot about yourself in the process. I’ve worked in warped and toxic workplaces before and it was really, really hard not to let it affect me. I failed at sanity a lot.

      Continued good wishes to you!

      1. Deidre*

        You’re terrible Muriel.

        Sorry, HAD to. Pleased to see another Aussie! (assuming)

        Keep an eye out elsewhere and good luck OP. Verbal abuse is not on, and pushing and shoving? That’s assault.

        I’m amazed how much goes on in other (particularly US?) workplaces that just. could. not. happen. here/elsewhere. Surely not?? Just phenomenal.

        I’d be getting a restraining order or refusing to attend work as it is an Unsafe Workplace, and getting the government workplace authority involved.


      1. fposte*

        It’s not a definition I thought I’d need, but it’s certainly the right side of a line that’s more crossable than I thought.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree with this, but also with Alison’s suggestion to keep looking for something else.

      It’s hard to get over working at a dysfunctional workplace and the longer you’re there, the harder it is. Ask me how I know.

      1. AcademiaShouldPayMore*

        I’m guessing you know from that time captain Holt got moved to PR and you were stuck with the vulture and then that incompetent guy

        1. Lentils*

          Oh, how I wish we could “like” or upvote comments at times like this. This made me laugh out loud.

      2. MerciMe*

        Dysfunctional workplaces also mess with your confidence. Every time I lose an Evilboss, I’m amazed by how quickly my physical and mental health (and competency at my job) also improve.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely this.

      OP, you’re doing an amazing job in light of the bare naked crazy running around your workplace. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you can keep job searching and exit to a more sane universe where people don’t physically abuse or emotionally terrorize their coworkers.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed! I am just in awe of your composure with all this – I would not survive your office environment with as positive an attitude or as much composure as you. Even with the anxiety bit cramping your day, I think you’re doing stellar.

        I also encourage you to keep job hunting though! Something good is out there for you!

      1. Amy*

        It would, but there’s nothing wrong with counting our victories where they come, no matter how small they might be. You’ve found ways to survive each day in an incredibly toxic, abusive work environment. You haven’t bitten anyone again. You’ve started applying for other jobs (and while this particular one didn’t work out, you did get an interview, which shows you’ve got some skills that people are interested in; that’s a good start, the rest of job hunting is as much about continuing to send in applications as anything). You’re recognizing the ways this workplace isn’t good for you, and taking steps to counteract them. Those are all great things, and hopefully they’ll eventually lead to a triumphant victory march!

    4. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      You’re right, sometimes just surviving is a victory. However, this workplace is so crazy that the concern is now the OP won’t be able to make it in a normal office. If you deal with crazy long enough, it stops being crazy and starts being normal. What happens when she eventually moves on, and isn’t capable of operating within actual business/social norms?

  3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    There are more jobs than this one and the one with the bombed interview. Please don’t give up just yet! You deserve something better. (EVERYONE deserves something better.)

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I have bombed plenty of interviews. It’s very easy to do when you’re stressed. Just keep moving forward. You’ll get something else and look back on this with fond memories.

      Just kidding. You’ll look back and with immense gratitude that you aren’t there and the relief of knowing you’ll never go back.

      1. EH*


        My first interview of any jobhunt is always bad, if not downright awful. I’ve done a whole bunch of “don’t do this in interviews” things, including griping about my previous job. *headdesk* NONE of my first interviews during a jobhunt have ever led to a job, only later ones.

        Everybody has off days, you and me included. On the bright side, a bombed interview can be a great source of information and help me figure out what I need to practice before I go to another interview.

      2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

        Yes, this! And think of it this way — every interview you go on is practice for the next one. The more you do, the better at them you get.

    2. k.k*

      Yes, please keep looking! I know many people with “normal” office jobs (ie no one one thinks that coworkers physically assaulting each other is okay). The majority do not stare at the walls in silence all day. You can have interesting work, good pay, and happy hours without anyone getting hurt and belittled on a daily basis.

    3. New Window*


      OP, it sounds like you’ve found a way to keep yourself from falling into a non-stop downward slide as far as your work situation and wellbeing go. That’s actually pretty cool, and a difficult thing to manage.

      But that’s not a long-term solution. There are more choices out there than “Stay at job where people make me miserable and warp my sense of norms” and “Find a different job where I will be even more miserable.” Telling yourself things could be worse is a mental strategy for situations you can’t change. Just because you can keep your head above water now doesn’t mean that all will be fine. One bad interview isn’t a life sentence to a miserable work environment.

      PLEASE keep trying to find a new job.

    4. Jes*

      +100- keep looking! It is not normal or okay for your boss to “constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible.” You can find interesting work elsewhere that will be much more rewarding because you receive compliments!

  4. a1*

    I don’t even know what to say. It sounds like such a toxic work environment. But I guess better the devil you know? I’m sorry the interview didn’t go better, but that doesn’t mean you should stop looking. That said, I’m glad you are feeling better, overall. Keep up the good work with coping strategies.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      “Better the devil you know” until you finally end up in a normal environment and wonder WTF you were doing that whole time.

      Please keep looking.

      1. K.*

        For real. An office with fun, interesting work and coworkers who aren’t verbally abusive is not that hard to find, and certainly worth looking for.

        1. Koko*

          Yes! My job is fast-paced and creative. I have tons of autonomy, we turn things around on a dime from time to time to get a scoop, and we’re always trying new things.

          Also, everybody gets along and helps each other. In five years I have never seen anyone in my department have conflict with anyone else that rises above “rolling your eyes because Sansa sent another email flagged as high priority when none of her emails are ever high priority.” The excitement comes from our work, not interoffice politics or drama.

      2. Amber T*

        Yeah, this. I definitely get frustrated by my coworkers and work in general, but reading your description of your office manager made me mentally hug all of them, even the most annoying of the bunch.

      3. pope suburban*

        Exactly this. I was in an environment nearly this bad for three years. I never bit anyone, thankfully, but it warped my definition of “normal” in ways that hurt me, physically and mentally, very badly. Six months out of there, I am still uncovering fresh layers of trauma. Where I am now is less action-packed, it’s true, but you know what? That’s awesome. If I have a day where there’s jack squat to do, well, it’s a little boring, but I prefer tedium to being sexually harassed or screamed at. The devil I didn’t know was in fact not a devil at all, and there is no amount of money that would ever get me back in a place like my former office again. I hope the OP keeps looking, and finds a job where they will be treated with human dignity.

    2. serenity*

      He was confused that I was upset, felt that biting someone wasn’t that crazy for our office

      Agreed, glad to hear OP is doing better but oh my is this a toxic workplace (the quote above stuck out for me).

      1. Anon Marketer*

        Agreed. I’m glad OP is doing better and is become more self-aware, but oh goodness, how can someone not know why biting someone is upsetting? This is mind-boggling and I hope you find some place better soon.

        1. fposte*

          I was thinking that this workplace is all id and no superego. I wonder if they have a “going too far” and what that would look like.

          1. Rainy*

            I…am not sure I want to know.

            I’m really sad that this workplace is so fundamentally batshit that even the most professional person in the office thinks it’s no big deal to bite someone.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Seriously—that was insane. How is a workplace so crazy that it doesn’t phase someone that their coworker bit another coworker?

    3. Specialk9*

      But they’re NOT good coping strategies, they’re the coping strategies of an abuse victim. He is physically scary and nonstop verbally abusive, and the OP is responding by putting on headphones, being blase about missing meetings, trying to drug away anxiety, and socializing 1:1 with the abusive guy. I’m not judging ANY of that – in fact, I’m identifying with it. I did the same kinds of things in my abusive relationship.

      Seriously, OP, this isn’t your domestic partner, but the parallels are striking. I’m sad and worried for you.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s what I was thinking of too especially where the OP and this guy act like friends. It reads like the abuse cycle.

        1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

          My alarms were going off reading this update. :(

          Please, document everything. Keep a notebook at home, write it all in there at the end of the day. this can be cathartic for you if you wish, but really I think doing it at home is safer so that it can’t be found at work. Maybe if you have to, make a small note at work with vague stuff or in code that you devise for yourself, and then go home and write it all out in the notebook? you can just do bullet points, keep it short and matter of fact. Please start documenting his abuse. I understand you feel you are not perfect and are not blameless – fine, I can’t tell ya how to feel, but for safety reasons please document.

          You never know, when the situation might change, and you start feeling unsafe at work…
          and because after that is feeling unsafe at home…

          I’m glad you hear you’re applying around but until you have your last day please consider this. AlsoHang in there. You’re obvs one tough cookie.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        To be fair, OP sounds like she’s in an abusive situation, and she may not have other coping strategies for the time between being at her current job and moving to another one. The important thing is to be vigilant about self-care and continue looking (I would say aggressively) for other employment.

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s exactly what I was trying to say, but didn’t say as well, thanks Princess!

          OP, read Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That?” It’s a startlingly systematic drawing of the underlying structure of annotative dynamics and why they’re inherently logical (but seem from the outside to be pure chaos). It’s based on years of conducting court ordered domestic abuse therapy.

          1. Specialk9*

            / It’s a startlingly systematic drawing of the underlying structure of abusive dynamics and why they’re inherently logical (but seem from the outside to be pure chaos).

            Darn Swype.

        2. Sleeping, or maybe dead*

          And please op, don’t ever get used to this kind of crappy behavior from crappy people.
          Working on a toxic office, sometimes I need a reality check. Remind yourself everyday that you are not the crazy one.

      3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        In some ways, abuse is abuse, whether it’s by spouse, boss or whoever. I have been in an abusive work situation and I remember how randomly reading stuff online about abusive spouses matched almost perfectly my experiences with my supervisor. That helped me understand that it wasn’t about me, it was about her, and the stuff she did to me wasn’t normal.

  5. ZSD*

    This is not the kind of update I would have been hoping for.
    If the person you mentioned talking to in #2 says that biting someone isn’t crazy for your office, I’d reconsider your respect for his opinion.
    I’m sorry that you weren’t able to get better mental health services during your most difficult months. I’m glad you’re doing better now. But I’d strongly encourage you to find another place to work. I assure you that there are plenty of us with normal office jobs who don’t have them, who have interesting work to do, and who don’t experience stress at the level that would cause us to bite someone. So please do consider getting yourself out of this environment.
    And why are you still getting coffee with this person? If he calls you names and polices what you eat, you shouldn’t spend a single moment more with him than you absolutely have to.

    1. efb*

      Seconding the encouragement to continue looking for a new job. Presumably you don’t intend to stay here for the rest of your working life, and I think the longer you stay there and warp your sense of a normal work environment the harder it will be to find and fit into a new job.

      Glad you’ve found better coping strategies though!

    2. Luna*

      I agree, and to be honest am taken aback by the positive nature of most of the other comments. I’m not trying to be a jerk and make the OP feel bad, but I think she needs a serious wake up call.
      1) She applied to one job, was lucky enough to get an interview right away, and just because the interview didn’t go well she has decided to give up and never apply anywhere else.
      2) She tried to see her doctor, and it sounds like the doctor was not very helpful/didn’t make themselves available, which is unfortunate; but because the referral is inconvenient the OP is, once again, giving up? Unless I’m misreading that, it sounds like the OP never actually went in to see the doctor she was referred to.
      3) The statement “Please, show me how you can do better” is extremely defensive and coupled with her saying she doesn’t really feel that bad sounds like the OP is really not taking responsibility for her own behavior at all.

      OP, I would highly encourage you to keep applying to other jobs- one bad interview is nothing, and in fact many of us apply to dozens of jobs before we are lucky enough to even get to that stage. Also, I would encourage you to talk to the doctor again and either make time to get to the doctor you were initially referred to, even if it’s far away, or ask for a referral to someone closer. It sounds like you have been going through a difficult time in general, and it also seems that you would benefit by talking to a professional about this situation in particular and your response to it.

  6. Jam Today*

    “constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat”

    …What he hell? If I was dealing with that every day, that coworker would be lucky that I didn’t knock him clean out (I’d probably also be lucky I didn’t wind up in jail.) That’s PSYCHOTIC.

    1. NYC Redhead*

      I could hardly get past “the office manager was shoving me a bit the other day.” !?! I hope that’s figurative, but I suspect it’s literal, which is horrifying.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, what!? I cannot in any way imagine physical contact like that with a coworker that didn’t result in me going straight to management/HR. This place sounds insane.

        OP, get the eff out of there. You’re losing your sense of normalcy. The sole alternative to offices where you have to put up with someone being emotionally and almost physically abusive is not boring, underpaid offices, although I honestly don’t know how you can think staring at a wall for 8 hours sounds worse than listening to someone literally tell your coworkers that their mothers probably wish they hadn’t been born. Sitting in silence at a cubicle sounds like heaven compared to that bullshit.

        1. LBK*

          Oh – I misread and thought she was overhearing the office manager say that to others rather than to her. That’s even worse. You do not have to put up with this to enjoy your job (and I honestly don’t know how you can, other than straight up delusion).

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I agree with this.

          I worry that the OP might do something physical to a coworker who might call the police. I wouldn’t blame the victim at all, but I think the OP really needs to think hard about this.

    2. santa baby*

      and then a paragraph later: “We get coffee. We go on walks. He confides in me and asks for advice regarding work situations.”

      i am just……so confused

      1. fposte*

        It’s sounding to me like one of those dysfunctional family dynamics where it’s normal for adult sibs to interact like you’re battling teenagers and then turn around and be thick as thieves.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yes, this fits very well with the dysfunctional family analogy. You may never know your family is manipulative and abusive until you see it from the outside, and once you do know, it doesn’t always seem bad enough to cut ties. (It’s a lot harder to cut ties with blood than coworkers, though, so OP, do it for those of us who can’t cut ties with our blood relatives who bring out our inner 3 year old.)

        2. Coywolf*

          Yes I was just talking to my mom about this letter and I had to compare it to my relationship with my brothers which is… not good.

      2. Robbie*

        It sounds incredibly familiar to how my husband’s family reacts. It can either be manipulative behavior (see how nice I am being? I can’t be the Bad Guy) or just plain delusion about what is and isn’t acceptable. I completely understand the OP’s need for finding any shred of decency in that place, and seeking any bit of normal office interaction.
        But the fact is that this place it toxic. A burning house that has pretty curtains is not a safe home. A toxic environment with occasional moments of normalcy is not safe either. Please OP, take care of yourself and get out yesterday.

        1. miss_chevious*

          To paraphrase Captain Awkward, this is a Workplace of Bees. OP, please keep looking for a different position. There are many many decent office jobs where people don’t insult each other every day or put their hands on each other ever. At all. Don’t underestimate the harm that being subjected to this level of aggression is doing to you when you’re immersed it it every day. You’re coping now, and that’s great, but coping isn’t resolving.

      3. nonegiven*

        You know what? My advice is don’t f’in get in my way again! I’ll hurt you next time, it won’t be a love bite, I’ll break something.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The victims can learn to empathize with their kidnapper.
      Employees with bad bosses can learn to put up with the Jekyll and Hyde stuff and cope for a very long time.

    4. Zahra*

      Calling someone a b*tch, telling them they’re fat, criticizing clothes and makeup, policing eating behaviours are very likely to be gendered. (Also, try to notice if he has the same behaviours (including the shoving, etc.) with men as he does with women.)

      Depending on the size and sanity of the office, you might want to talk to HR about this. In any case, document (with a copy at home). Someone (maybe even you) might decide to make an EEOC complaint and your records will help a lot.

  7. EA*

    I am so glad you are doing better!

    I do think you have set up a false dichotomy in your head a bit. You can find a fun work environment where you are paid well, the work is interesting, and the office manager doesn’t verbally abuse you, I promise.

    1. YarnOwl*

      Yeah, I was going to say, I’ve never been called fat or told I eat too much by a coworker, but I also have a very fun team and enjoy my office environment very much! But if OP is okay with that culture, then that works for them! I will keep my boring job where I don’t get shoved or yelled at.

    2. santa baby*

      +1 to your second paragraph. OP, I have all of the pluses you mentioned in my office, and not once has anyone ever suggested my mother might not love me. i recognize that telling yourself “well, i wouldn’t want to work in a normal office anyway!” might help make what you’re currently dealing with seem more bearable, but i really would urge you to keep searching. don’t let one failed interview keep you down!

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        +2! Please oh please keep looking for a new job OP. Normal offices are not all four walls and staring. They might seem a little boring to you, but that’s because your current office is a toxic three-ring-circus.

        Biting, shoving, insults, screaming, normalization of abuse, then suddenly besties and getting coffee, none of that is a requirement for a ‘good’ place to work.

        1. a1*

          I was going to say something similar/related, that there are degrees of “hate”. That while people in “normal” offices say they hate their job if they were to compare it to somewhere where physically shoving and being called names occurred even they would agree they have it pretty good. And I think you would, too, if you had an experience in an office like theirs. You’d probably be surprised how good, or at least non-bad it is, especially compared to your environment. And the note somewhere below about people like to talk about notable things, whether good or bad, if very astute, too. They don’t go on and on about a normal day, only the annoyances or bonuses. So you get a very warped view of what it can be like in those offices.

          1. Koko*

            The worst job I ever had was one that I was just slightly not good enough for my Type A boss’s exacting standards. I could get 90-95% of the way to where she wanted, so if she had been a little more relaxed or if I had been just a little bit better, I would have loved the job. But she wasn’t and I wasn’t, and she was a huge source of stress that kept me up at night.

            When I moved to my current job, I remember spending at least a month just marveling about how wonderful it was that my job wasn’t a source of stress. As I grew into the role I grew to love particular parts of my work and bond with my team, but even before that fondness developed it was like night and day to be able to go home and easily fall asleep because I wasn’t riddled with performance anxiety.

            1. HJK*

              I had a similar job. I was actually the employee he liked the most; a lot of it came from the pressure he, in turn, was under from above; and I had preexisting mental health problems that it was exacerbating. But in the end it really was a bad environment, and eventually I snapped and quit without notice. Not at all recommended, of course.
              What I remember most is that even though I was scared for the future I was also so much more relaxed than I had been in a long time. I hadn’t even realized how constantly on edge I’d been, even in my free time.
              What I’m saying, OP, is that you don’t have to use the nuclear option like I did, but please get out of there ASAP! I think you’ll find that you feel so much better.

    3. New hiring manager*

      Yeah, this. My thoughts were, “um, not all of us with non-psychotic bosses have miserable jobs…” It’s totally possible to have both a sane office environment and an enjoyable job… I think the fact that the OP thinks this office isn’t THAT bad (aka worth staying at) just goes to show how much it’s gotten into her head.

      1. Naomi*

        OP, when Alison and the commenters express concern about this office warping your sense of normal, this is exactly what we’re talking about: the way you’ve resigned yourself to believing that your alternatives are either putting up with this dysfunction or getting a job you would find miserable and boring. I think you’ve had to adopt this “well, it’s not that bad” attitude to survive at your current job, but someday you will get another job and you will look back and wonder how you stood this one for so long. There is better out there! Keep looking!

        1. AMPG*

          Yes, it’s a survival tactic to tell yourself that the alternatives might be mind-numbing, but that’s not true. Everyone has things they complain about regarding their work, but many many of us find jobs where we do interesting work that uses our skills and where our colleagues treat each other like adults. These are pretty basic things to ask for in a job, and I’m sad that you seem to feel like you can’t have them. Please keep looking.

          1. Specialk9*

            It’s important to realize that in many cultures, complaining is a form of bonding. Talking too much about the good can seem like bragging, so many go too far the other way. “Oh my hubby filled up my gas tank again and then took the kids to the playground so I could rest” may be true, but sounds smug. “Argh my hubby left a nail clipping on the floor *again*” is somehow more socially acceptable. “I had a good visit with some friends” is less likely to be conversation than “I went to New York and man, the traffic was terrible.”

            In other words, believe half or less of what complainers say. Sometimes it’s just talk.

    4. T3k*

      Agreed. My current job has been a very rewarding environment so far, pays great (they actually offered me more than I asked for), bosses are nice, I get to have fun, and the only time someone curses it’s to say how awesome something is or getting annoyed at the software, never at a person. My last job was not so nice and the boss and a coworker would get into yelling arguments at least once a week.

    5. Steve*

      I can sort of imagine someone enjoying an office culture where coworkers aren’t afraid to call each others’ ideas stupid, or whatever. But I simply can’t imagine anyone willingly deciding that they want to be called fat, stupid, or have their clothing choices insulted.

        1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

          I didn’t read Steve’s comment as victim blaming. I saw it more as “It’s easy to picture a dysfunctional workplace but to picture a workplace that bad where workers are being verbally abused as bad as the OP is? It’s difficult to do.” And it is. And not only that…the office is beginning to escalate into physical violence and nobody there seems to think it’s weird. WHAT?!? I do think it’s a good sign that the OP has recognized that this workplace is super toxic but it does sadden me that her update includes this line – I put up with it and the trade off is an active, interesting office culture where we get drinks, have fun, tell jokes, the pay is good, the benefits amazing, and the work interesting.
          OP…I work for an active, interesting office. My pay is good, my benefits are amazing, the work is always interesting, and while I may not be friends with my co-workers outside of the office, I have never had anyone verbally or physically abuse me. There are offices like this all over the place. Don’t give up on the job hunt!!!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I think that part was not included in the list of reasons to stay put. Personally, for me, that one is ranked higher as a reason to leave than the good reasons to stay to stay are ranked.

  8. Interviewer*

    This is not what I expected from your update, but learning new coping strategies are always a good thing. However, I’d advise you to get back up on that interviewing horse and try again. What you describe about your manager’s bad behavior is straight up abuse, and everyone just forgot about your bizarre response to it. Your workplace is seriously not good. There’s no “tradeoff” here.

  9. K.*

    … You know your life better than I do, but if I worked in an office where anyone “constantly calls [me] a b*tch, tells [me I’m] fat, says [my] mother doesn’t love [me], criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much [I] eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible” and was apparently allowed to thrive unchecked, I couldn’t stay there. But then apparently you’re sort of work friends with the guy, so maybe it doesn’t bother you as much as you say?

    1. 42*

      I really start to clench when people who have never been in a certain situation tell others who are actually in that situation how they’d just simply leave. The only viable thing you said in your entire post was “you know your life better than I do.” Please don’t do that in the future, it’s not helpful and it’s a bit naive.

      >> so maybe it doesn’t bother you as much as you say?<<
      What on earth is the purpose of this statement? She sought out help from her doctor, good lord.

      1. K.*

        While I have not been in the OP’s specific job at her specific company, I have been in a dysfunctional toxic work environment (screaming bosses, many people coming back from lunch hours with tear-stained faces, etc.) and I eventually took steps to leave, as did others (the company has seen about 25% turnover in the last year). Once I did, I was much happier – my friends and family noticed immediately, and I felt physically and emotionally leaps and bounds better. My therapist (who I was not seeing at the time but who I’ve told about that particular work experience) helped me recognize just how dysfunctional it was, because it IS hard to recognize that when you’re in it.

        Is leaving a bad situation simple all the time? No. I would rather work at that aforementioned toxic company than be on food stamps, if those were my choices (and I have indeed been on food stamps). Do we deserve to work in places where people don’t call us names and tell us our mothers don’t love us? Yes. I think it’s worth it to take steps to get there, and in the OP’s shoes, I would take those steps.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        Wow. That’s fucked up to see recognizing and leaving abusive circumstances as a measure of character strength and not like a culmination of environmental lessons. Super fucked up.

      3. Jo*

        Vesket, that comment is out of line and shaming. It’s attitudes like this that discourage people from seeking help about abusive relationships and make them feel worthless and trapped. You can point out this woman’s situation but you should never shame someone to this extent.

        I was in an abusive relationship for two years and my perception was totally broken by my gaslighting abuser by the end. The idea that my situation was caused by my own weakness is frankly offensive and breaks my heart.

      4. Oranges*

        Glad you got out. Sad that you think it’s because you’re better than others. Terrifying that you think it’s okay to heap scorn on those already suffering.

      5. Solo*

        vesket, as someone who has left multiple abusive situations, your comment was condescending and unhelpful.

      6. Specialk9*

        Yeah agreed that it’s messed up. And really not helpful to this person who’s curled up and feeling defensive and like there’s no out. Like, kinda the opposite.

      7. Jennifer*

        Yeah, how are you going to leave if you can’t get another job? I know people who have been out of work for years on end. If you leave, you’re risking your life in another way unless you can get another job, and a lot of people can’t.

    2. Oranges*

      Yes, she’s totally okay with all of this because human beings aren’t wired to be social creatures. [/sacrcasm]

      Most people are wired to take their cues from their current social situation.
      Most people have psychological defenses in place to make their current situation tolerable.

      Interestingly enough I have heard from some in the therapy world that our brains react to certain types of violence in a somewhat predictable manner. Eg. Survivors of certain forms of abuse will use the exact same seemingly tangential coping mechanism.

      The “if it was me” that pops up again and again is self-serving. We’re trying to feel like we have control and that “it couldn’t happen to ME!”. Like saying I can’t get cancer because I don’t [fill in blank], it doesn’t work but it soothes our anxieties. However, this means that all cancer patents get the “You did [fill in blank] no wonder you got cancer! I never [fill in blank]” when what the cancer patient really need is tips on how to get through chemotherapy.

      So please stop judging and start thinking about what could help her.

      1. K.*

        I’m not judging the OP at all. Her situation is her workplace’s fault, not hers. Based on what the OP said, this is a “this situation sucks and isn’t going to change” scenario. Everyone in her office acknowledges that this place is so dysfunctional that biting isn’t that weird there. That means the dysfunction runs pretty deep, and that’s not likely to change without years of reprogramming and possibly some new senior leadership (things have improved at the company I left because the CEO quit).

        If the OP can make it work, that’s good. She shouldn’t have to though.

  10. Ainomiaka*

    Everything about this place just sounds so far out there. I also hope you find something else soon. I’m for sure glad things are going as better for you as they are.

  11. GigglyPuff*

    I’m so confused.
    The OP says the office manager is actually still shoving them? That’s just so unacceptable.
    Socially interacting with someone who is verbally, mentally, and possibly physically harassing you. OP I honestly think you need to find a new doctor so you can talk to someone about this. None of this is okay. It’s all so dysfunctional. You shouldn’t just be surviving, yes it’s a bare minimum but shouldn’t be a long term solution. *Hug* OP things can get better and I hope they do for you.

    1. Observer*

      This is true. This sounds a bit like Stockhold syndrome. (I don’t mean this as a diagnosis; I’m using the word colloquially.)

  12. Not My Monkeys*

    All I want to do is send you good thoughts and say that you are an inspiration for tolerating a terrible co-worker. I don’t know if this qualifies as a hostile work environment but I really hope the office manager can be removed.

    1. Observer*

      Why is this an inspiration? If the OP were actively looking for a new job, and dealing in the meantime, yes. But what’s inspiring about continuing to accept abuse?

      1. Specialk9*

        Exactly. I feel for OP, and I identify with OP – but I’m sick and scared for OP. This situation is not inspirational or improved, it’s worse because OP is still in a toxic waste dump of a situation, but is now resigned to it and internalizing behavior that will harm them in a functional workplace. Do not take lessons from this – but let’s hope together.

  13. Say what, now?*

    I understand different strokes for different folks but… boring is maybe better than medicated? But if you’re heart is in staying, I hope it works out.

    1. LawBee*

      I get what you’re saying but let’s not disparage mental health medication. Many many people use meds, both short-term and long-term, and there’s enough stigma out there.

      1. LBK*

        I agree with you generally speaking, but I think SWN’s point was more that maybe getting a new job was a healthier, more long-term solution than going on meds to deal with the anxiety her job is causing. If you’re getting punched in the face at work every day, the solution is not to start wearing a hockey mask to the office.

        That’s not to say that meds aren’t the right answer in certain situations or that they might not be helpful for the OP overall, but for this specific situation they don’t sound like the right answer.

        1. sin nombre*

          I don’t think we have anywhere near enough information to assess this, and I don’t think speculating about it is helpful.

          1. LBK*

            I don’t think we really need more information to say “Going on meds is not a permanent solution to coping with an abusive workplace”? That’s a pretty good general rule, not anything specific to this situation.

        2. Koko*

          Ha, I like the hockey mask analogy!

          And as a person who takes several psychiatric drugs, I agree with you. I love my meds for keeping me stable but if I had my druthers I’d be stable without them. And some of them I have indeed cycled on and off some of them at different times in my life when circumstances beyond my control exacerbated a condition. I prefer in general the times when my circumstances require minimal meds, because just about everything I take has side effects in some form. None as bad as the condition they treat, but I’d be happy to lose them.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think the point would be more clear if we were talking about something like a heart attack. If your job is driving you to the point where you have a heart attack or perhaps in a tamer scenario you have heart problems that are traceable to the stress of your job then you have a job that is making you sick.
        We can only stand in sewage for so long and then things can start to go awry.

  14. Lady Phoenix*

    Your place sounds like a toxic waste dump… the kinda that oozes pollution and smells worse than death. Also, all your coworkers are beyond fucked up.

    I don’t apaologoze for saying this either. This place deserves dragons fire.

    1. OP*

      Ha, yeah, I do feel that sometimes. It does sound terrible. Nothing to apologize for!

      I still look elsewhere, just not with all my focus.

      1. EH*

        “I still look elsewhere”

        Excellent! You deserve a decent workplace, OP. My worst gig was a miserable garbage fire of a company my last year and a half there, and nobody ever made shaming comments to me about my eating/body/whatever, let alone got physical.

        Hang in there. Getting out of a toxic situation is really difficult (I never managed to quit the garbage fire company job, they “laid me off”) and jobhunting while employed full-time is hard, but it’s worth it.

        BTW: there’s an app called Talkspace that offers affordable online access to trained therapists, it’s worth checking out. If nothing else, it’ll help you adjust when you transition to a healthy workplace. Toxic environments often instill really unhealthy coping mechanisms that are hard to spot from inside and a therapist will be a huge help.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You deserve better, OP. And you can do this, you can make this leap to a safer, happier workplace.

        I know what you mean about fun, etc in the place. It’s a raw energy that drives the place. But in the long run, that energy can have negative effects. Toxic job that I stayed to long at was a place unlike any other. I never laughed so hard or cried so hard. It was a roller coaster. I never knew if the day would be up or down. Additionally the highs and lows were exhausting. Your on switch had to be on at all times or else someone would take advantage, make you look foolish or whatever, so your guard had to be up at all times. I had nothing left by the time I got home.
        Life does not have to be this hard.

  15. LeisureSuitLarry*

    The office manager is a raging jerk that calls you fat, bitch, probably both together, and makes very aggressive and demeaning comments about your mother not loving you. In spite of this, you still go get coffee with him and take walks with him and he confides in you. What the actual F? Why on earth are you allowing yourself to be alone with this ass?

    1. Specialk9*

      That’s a really common reaction to being abused. It sucks though because then people create this false equivalence – he did these awful things but you socialized with him so everything must be ok. But it’s not ok, and OP is not the one creating the dysfunction.

    2. RVA Cat*

      This. “Coldly professional” is all this jerk deserves. Pull back from the coffees and walks. Try to only interact about work matters, and tune out the insults. Literally pretend not to hear them. If he escalates to shouting, well, that’s him making a scene.

      1. Specialk9*

        But… There’s a reason OP is cozying up to him despite verbal and emotional abuse and physical intimidation + now shoving. Most likely they feel safer when they’re ‘friends’ with the abuser. Disengaging from an abusive domestic partner is when a lot of people get hurt. Just saying there’s a reason it’s a common strategy.

        1. nonymous*

          > But… There’s a reason OP is cozying up to him despite verbal and emotional abuse and physical intimidation

          yeah, I’ve been taught that what looks like crazy-making on the part of the victim in abuse situations can be a survival mechanism that actually works. Because obviously the abuser is not a logical, rational being and those around them need to suspend rationale to live in their world. The victim will have much better insight than outsiders re: how to handle their abusers flavor of crazy.

          That said, OP, please do take note at the parallels the comments are drawing between your behavior and survivors of domestic abuse. I get that you need to cope, but please set aside dedicated time/energy to new job finding.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yeah, buying into their crazy is frequently the only thing that works on any level with some people. Stockholming can really work well, a lot better than saying, “This isn’t right” to people who won’t acknowledge that.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Hold your friends close but hold your enemies closer. They can’t round house you if you are really close at a given moment.

          Wouldn’t it be nice to have real friends, OP. and not a modern day Jekyll and Hyde type “friend”?

  16. Miss*

    I have a friend who this could be from. I have a lot better perspective on her choices now.

    Not to say that I think this situation, or hers, are healthy or sustainable, but I get it a bit better now.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I actually have a friend who writes with this exact tone about sticking it out in a truly truly pointlessly awful situation — it’s really coloring my perception of this letter and OP, I legitimately hope you’re in a better place than my friend.

  17. blackcat*

    “He was confused that I was upset, felt that biting someone wasn’t that crazy for our office, and in the end he didn’t think it was a big deal. ”

    This, I think, perfectly captures the craziness of your office. As others have said, I’m glad you’re coping, but I do hope you continue to job search. Continuing to work in an environment where biting isn’t a big deal is going to really warp your sense of what’s normal in interpersonal relationships, both in and outside of the office.

    1. Janet*

      If I was the coworker I would’ve reacted the same way trying to smooth over the situation; you don’t provoke someone that bit a manager at work.

      Either everyone is so warped that this was just another moment in the day, or they are putting on a show either out of fear or sympathy.

  18. Observer*

    No maybe about it- this office HAS already warped your sense of normal.

    As to what others do about raging jerk managers? Well, if they can’t find a way to change that (which is not so rare), they either learn to let it roll off them, or THEY FIND ANOTHER JOB. They don’t rage and then make excuses for not finding another job.

    If you have found a way to make this job work for you, that’s fine and totally your call. But don’t for one minute think that the biting is in any way reasonable or ok. The fact that your “professional” coworker was confused by your concern speaks volumes about the toxicity of your workplace. It does not indicate that what you did was ok.

    1. Q*

      And, it sounds like, everyone else’s. The person they asked advice from who they thought was super professional didn’t see the problem. That’s warped.

      I’m concerned. OP is clearly pretty far down the rabbit hole already, and I’m very worried about them.

      As for what I’d do in an abusive job situation, well, historically, come home, scream, cry, and keep job searching until I found something else.

    2. J.B.*

      This reminds me of the letter writer who called her bosses daughter a (curse word for women) and indicated in an update she had been called that multiple times at religious school. Yes, the environment is that bad. It is abusive. Normal office frustrations don’t even come close.

  19. CaliCali*

    I, too, worked at a place with ” an active, interesting office culture where we get drinks, have fun, tell jokes, the pay is good, the benefits amazing, and the work interesting” but was also run by manipulative assholes with no boundaries. It all ended up resulting in a power coup, a sexual harassment lawsuit (that I believe was triggered by the person who staged said coup in cahoots with someone else, based on a few things I saw firsthand), lies, vendettas, not-insignificant alcohol issues, and the loss of so much business opportunity. I was next in line to be subpoenaed before the suit was settled. And when I left — for a “boring” place with a promotion, better pay, better commute, and much healthier culture, I was CONFLICTED, despite all this evidence I’ve clearly laid out. In the toxicity, I’d learned to feed myself on the drama and sustain myself on the conflict, and for a bumpy adjustment period, I didn’t know what to do without it. But now I am stable in the “new” job and don’t experience verbal abuse each day, or stress breakouts, or emails on Christmas day outlining the boss’s disappointment with me, etc. So maybe…think a little broader. As someone upthread stated, you’ve created a false dichotomy, in part because the chaos can sometimes justify the negativity in your mind, and sometimes when you’re plucked out of it, you have to come face to face with your own flaws. It’s a hard road but I’m glad I walked it, and you probably will be too.

    1. LBK*

      In the toxicity, I’d learned to feed myself on the drama and sustain myself on the conflict, and for a bumpy adjustment period, I didn’t know what to do without it.

      Yes yes yes. It feels to me like the OP is almost thriving on knowing this situation is so messed up and priding herself on figuring out how to weather it. I can relate because I have that part of my psyche that longs to be the person with the conflicted, complex life that makes other people pity me (maybe from watching too many indie movies growing up, who knows), but being bored is never worse than being abused. Your life being “interesting” is not worth the cost to your mental health.

      1. A.N.O.N.*


        Prior workplace was as dysfunctional as it gets, and I had a front row seat to all the drama. Despite knowing that it was a toxic workplace, I felt like I could handle it (and that I almost liked the drama?). Eventually I left for a job that was less work, less stress, better pay, better benefits, and runs like a well-oiled machine (for the most part).

        …And at first, I hated it.

        Suddenly, I had no crazy work stories to tell friends and family. Everything seemed so mundane and boring in comparison. It felt like I was working on less interesting/juicy issues at work, so I was less engaged in the work. But that feeling faded with time, and now I am MUCH happier – and healthier mentally – than I ever was at the toxic workplace.

        OP, I’m not saying you’re wrong in deciding it’s worth navigating your toxic workplace – the choice on what’s right for you is obviously yours. But I am saying that I understand the feeling of thriving off a toxic workplace, and can tell you from experience that it’s still not as good as working at a not-toxic, normal workplace.

        1. mlurve*

          This is me right now. My situation isn’t quite as bad as CaliCali’s comment (no sexual assault at least, just a ton of bullying, intimidation, and general toxicity). After essentially getting pushed out (but still here to finish out the year) I accepted a new job for more pay, better hours, closer to home…but still feel some sort of weird sense of failure for not being able to “survive” and “hack it” in the crazy environment. They’re all so proud of the insane culture, and I was really proud for a while of being able to handle the biggest jerk in the office and even get him to like me…until he didn’t and it all blew up in my face. I had some sort of a mental breakdown, went to my doctor and got an “as needed” prescription for anxiety, and started going to therapy, all triggered by what I was dealing with at work.

          Anyway, I’m glad I’m not the only one to feel these conflicted feelings even though it’s totally illogical, and am already feeling a lot better about my situation in the new year. Thank you all for sharing your stories!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        People do thrive for a while in the situations. Drinking large amounts of coffee will help a person do a lot of work quickly, until it doesn’t. When the coffee stops working the person has a problem they still need to large amounts of work quickly but they can’t stay awake.

        The brain goes into emergency mode in these situations. Like any emergency equipment the battery lasts so long then it is done.

        It’s a high, it’s a kick when you have a win in the places. The high fades and then you have to do something again to get the next high.
        Brings me to my point. Where do we get energy from? Some people feel energized by drama, upset, chaos. The problem with energy from these sources is that it’s not sustainable. It works until it no longer works.

    2. OP*

      I’m glad to hear your story! That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been in bad places in the past (I once has a boss who told me to kill myself and threw things against the wall behind my head), and it was such a relief to leave there… I know someday I’ll feel that about this place. It’s not my forever home!

      1. 42*

        OP – I don’t want you to out yourself, but is this type of behavior typical in your industry (I don’t know how else to phrase this…like it’s more permissible and common in your professional atmosphere)? Bosses outright assaulting you and all the repugnant name-calling? In now TWO jobs that you’ve had?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        My wise friend said, we have to decide that these types of incidents are unacceptable. Now you would think that would be obvious, but it is not, I can assure you. We have to decide that we will not tolerate sh!t from others.

    3. Jules the Third*

      Yeah, this.

      There are a lot of jobs and sane workplaces out there.

      Has that ever been a Friday thread? “Hey, post here if your workplace is sane, maybe give some structural examples of how they make it happen, the industry, business size, geo area”

    4. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      This. One of my last workplaces was drama fueled. I liked the job – it was exciting and stretched me in areas I’d never really had an opportunity to work but the work place itself was filled with in-fighting, back stabbing, a ton of gaslighting. I found that all recognition I got was about how I dealt with the “challenges” (their term for the drama).
      I’m now at a company where there is no drama. None. It’s still exciting and stretching me in new directions. The difference is the hard work I am putting in now seems to be more visible because I’m not competing with all that other stuff that was distracting the powers that be. I’m constantly being recognized and given new assignments. And now when there’s talk about “challenges” it’s related to the work we do and not the drama that was created.

  20. animaniactoo*

    But everyone I talk to with a “normal” office job seems to hate it. They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks.

    OP, I think you may need to widen your circle of acquaintances. There are a lot of jobs between you are and here. Almost none of them will be perfect. But most of them will not push the needle so far into reductio ad absurdum as either of the two extremes you seem to be seeing.

    I’m glad you’ve found some better ways to cope in the meantime, but I wouldn’t give up on escaping a situation where the most professional person you know in the office doesn’t see the biting as crazy or a big deal. Something you recognized for yourself that it was as soon as it happened.

    If possible, I would also look at switching doctors. Somebody who makes an already hard thing even harder – helping create obstacles to getting mental/physical health help for yourself, well it’s worth at least trying to see if you can find somebody better than that. At the least, I would go back to your Dr and let them know that the distance and hassle made things *worse* for you at a point when you were trying to get help.

    1. fposte*

      That’s a good point about switching doctors. The OP praises her benefits, so I’m hoping that means she has some decent insurance.

      1. Q*

        Yeah, this shouldn’t be a factor of “Risk” really.

        I wonder how OP phrased it a little, though. Were they mostly worried about violent behavior when they brought it up, or their actual mental health?

      2. Specialk9*

        Yeah! I don’t have to prove to my doctor I’m sick or really need to come in – I tell the admin I’m coming in and we swap calendar openings and schedule something. If I’m willing to take the hit to my leave and work flow, and they’re open, I have an appointment.

        1. Ganache*

          Yeah here in the UK we’re in a bit of a crisis with primary care doctor appointments, it’s now standard to have to wait four to six weeks in many areas to be seen. Some places won’t book any future appointments at all, you have to ring frantically on the day at 8am (when most people are at or on their way to work), I had to dial 47 times last time, and then the appointment times are often gone by the time you get through.

          Additionally a lot of surgeries are booking patients in with nurses as a matter of course before they’re then booked in with a doctor, to save money, and you often don’t even realise until you’re sat there with the nurse wondering why they can’t help you.

          In some surgeries you have to speak with a doctor over the phone to assess if you need an appointment or not before being given one.

          So yeah this situation would sadly be likely here. In some areas the surgeries function fine but in many it’s next to impossible to see a GP, so A&E and walk in centres start to overflow.

      3. TootsNYC*

        that “determining whether I was at high risk,” and having that decide whom she sees made me wonder if she’s in the US.

    2. Jules the Third*

      GPs usually don’t want to deal with mental health issues. They can’t do talk therapy, they can only do medication, and there’s so many wrinkles, side effects, etc, that it’s best to start with an expert. You can switch to a GP for maintenance *if* you find a medicine that helps and is safe for long-term use.

      It sounded to me like she lives in an area with limited access to mental health specialists, or limited in network access.

      OP: If this is right and you still want to pursue help from a medical professional, my understanding is there’s a lot of remote / computer based help becoming available. Captain Awkward has a good ‘how to find affordable mental health care’, just google “How to locate low-cost mental health care” Captain Awkward, it’s the first link.

      1. Specialk9*

        For Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is the term “I’m anxious a lot” seems to get translated to by a doctor, I had no problem working with my regular doctor. The methodology was basically try this, mm that’s not helping, ok try this, yeah that actually helps, and then fiddling with dosage.

        And then once I was out of my abusive situation, I was just a person with some tendencies toward anxiety, rather than a ball of consuming anxiety. (Funny how that works.)

        1. nonegiven*

          I think English may be my doctor’s 3rd or 4th language. She calls anxiety nervous. It doesn’t make you anxious, it makes you nervous.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          My GP refused to do the initial treatment / diagnosing for my post-partum anxiety. They referred me to specialists (MSoc and psychiatrist) for talk and medication respectively, which helped me get to an OCD diagnosis. Once I had that under control for a year, my GP was willing to take over the maintenance for medication, but the GP required I continue the talk therapy (which studies say is effective, so ok) and come in for med checks every three months.

          Several of my friends in the area (metro area population 1M, southeastern US) had similar experiences for multiple mental health issues – psychiatric professionals are easy to find here and we’re mostly professionals, so maybe it’s a regional thing.

  21. Ramona Flowers*

    I must admit I’m confused that you can say you like where you are while also telling us about such dysfunction. I really hope you find something else soon.

    1. fposte*

      I think there’s a lot going on in this situation that’s kind of hard to untangle, especially from a distance; the OP sounds really angry sometimes, really defeated other times (a single interview where you didn’t get the job is being taken really hard, and that doctor situation seems to disappoint the OP much as it would me); I do feel like her decision to stay with the current situation seems based on an overly negative view of other possibilities. I hope she’s just the happy warrior in crazytown that Joielle talks about below, but some of this doesn’t sound like that to me; I do think another doctor might be worth consulting.

    2. SallytooShort*

      Familiar dysfunction can be comforting sometimes.

      On the one hand, it’s the sort of place where LW is regularly insulted and belittled and frustration grows to the point of actually biting someone. On the other, when LW bites someone he/she doesn’t get in trouble and the collective response is indifference.

  22. Joielle*

    You know, I have a lot of respect for people who can be in a crazy situation, have perspective, and keep on keepin’ on. I know a lot of commenters will be disappointed in this update (and I would personally never make it in OP’s office), but I actually think it’s kind of refreshing. Maybe it’s because I work in politics (sort of), but I know a lot of people whose office lives sound insane to me, but who are happy and fulfilled in their jobs. It seems to work for some people.

    1. LBK*

      I think there are plenty of people who believe they’re happy and fulfilled at their jobs because it’s been easier to delude themselves into thinking that way rather than taking the scary risk of trying to get a new job. I find that almost always, those people look back after they finally do get a new job and wonder what the hell took so long.

      1. Evan Þ*

        I was that way three years ago. It took me too long to admit to myself things weren’t good, and when I did, I decided to stay on for four months in hopes that the upcoming reorg would make things better.

        Fortunately, it did make things a whole lot better – so maybe it didn’t take me too long after all? Anyway, I’m still at the reorg’d job, and now I really am enjoying it.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t know if the OP is happy or not. What IS clear though, is that she does NOT have perspective. The way she is justifying the toxicity and her reaction is scary.

      1. Clare*

        Yeah the justifying her behavior is really bugging me. I went back and read the cmoments from the original post, where OP explained that she, this office manager, and their boss are the 3 highest ranking people in the office; and also the only employees who have been there for any length of time, others are all recent hires. Which means the other employees start a new job at this place, see their bosses screaming, biting and shoving each other, and decide to get out as soon as they can. I’m really hesitant to assume the OP is a victim here, it sounds like she is part of a trio of terrible people running this office, and actively contributes to the toxic environment (she bit a coworker and is trying to now say its not that bad!)

  23. Cloud Nine Sandra*

    I have a pretty normal office job – I’m just an admin assistant at pretty big company. But I don’t come into work and barely talk to anyone and come home and complain. My coworkers are generally professional and my big complaint is that the woman two cubicles down talks loudly. I talk about movies with the compliance officer and politics with a few others, and chat about my weekend with a few of the other people who work here. It doesn’t have to be a hellish slog or horrible and so dysfunctional. I hope you consider looking for another place to work, maybe work would be even less stress-y without the environment you’re currently in.

  24. Cyrus*

    “In the long run, yeah, maybe this is warping my perception of normal. But everyone I talk to with a “normal” office job seems to hate it. They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks. Do I wish my office manager would quit? Of course. But I’m not crying myself to sleep over his behavior. I put up with it and the trade off is an active, interesting office culture where we get drinks, have fun, tell jokes, the pay is good, the benefits amazing, and the work interesting.”

    This is understandable but seems too black-and-white to me.

    I’m a technical writer and my job does tend to involve some wall-staring. I don’t love my job but I don’t hate it. I don’t always complain at work, and when I do, half the time I’m complaining about myself – I put things off too long, I dropped the ball on something and got a bit embarrassed, etc. – as much as about other people. My job has some elements that I actually find fun. Wordsmithing can feel creative and/or like doing a puzzle sometimes. It has a lot more elements that aren’t really fun, but I can do them by reflex, without any stress or difficulty to it. I’d say my job is 10 percent fun, 70 percent menial stuff, 20 percent fear/anger/general bad stuff. I could always look for a job with more fun or less bad stuff, but I figure that if it was nothing but fun, I’d have to pay them rather than the other way around.

    Your job sounds like roughly 20 percent fun, 30 percent menial stuff, 50 percent bad stuff. If it works for you, great, but it sounds toxic to me.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      In regards to this, I’d challenge the OP to a test. Say to your friends: if its so bad then why don’t you leave? There are many people that just complain as a general rule and there are some who don’t talk about the good things in their job, relationship, life in general because the don’t feel like its a safe space to do so (if everyone else is talking about how their SO is a terrible POS you aren’t going to tell the story about how yours brought you breakfast in bed this morning, you’ll mention how they always leave their toothbrush on the counter or w/e). Just because people complain to you about their job doesn’t mean they actually dislike their job. All of us can point out at least a few things we would like to improve.

    2. Jennifer*

      “But everyone I talk to with a “normal” office job seems to hate it. They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks.”

      I would concur that this is pretty typical. However, the reasons one might hate an office job vary. Could be management issues, bullying issues, being bored, being overloaded, being forced to answer phones, etc. Some folks don’t nearly have the problems that other offices do. Hell, I used to like mine just fine until it became all drama.

  25. Broadcastlady*

    I’m so confused. You said the office manager is a raging jerk, and you ask for suggestions on coping with him; but in the next breath you say you have talks, walks and coffee breaks with him? My advice on coping with the raging jerk is to stop doing those things for one! Honestly, it doesn’t sound like you want help or advice at all. Best of luck.

    1. Broadcastlady*

      I re-read thinking I had missed something, but I didnt. You let a guy confide in you and ask your advice when same person calls you a bitch and fat? Nothing about that is healthy. I’m just so confused.

    2. SallytooShort*

      I am glad you have found your own coping mechanisms at your job.

      I do hope some day soon you find a better balance in your work situation. But the most important thing is your own mental health (and not harming others, of course.) And it sounds like for now you are doing what you can to maintain that.

      1. SallytooShort*

        On no! This wasn’t meant to be a response but it’s own comment.

        This wasn’t directed at you, Broadcastlady.

  26. palomar*

    LW, it’s good that you’ve found a way to cope with an untenable situation, but… it seems like you’re trapped in some black or white thinking here, in that you seem to think there are only two kinds of jobs: quiet and boring, or so insane that even when you commit physical violence against a coworker no one bats an eye, and in your view people complain about both kinds of jobs in equal measure so there’s no point in trying to find a better situation. That’s kind of a scary thought pattern to be trapped in… how bad does it have to get before you’ll try to find another job? Do you need to be thinking about carrying a gun into work before you’ll be ready to make the leap?

    Now, to be fair, lots of people gripe about their jobs. My best friend’s husband has a job he loves, but he still comes home every day and gripes about little things that happen there. He does that because work is the biggest focal point of his life outside of his wife and kids. When he has other things going on, like when he takes time to engage in hobbies, the amount of work talk goes WAAAAAY down. And so does his general frustration and level of grumpiness.

    Also… have you ever been screened for depression? Because defeatist thinking is kind of one of the big hallmarks of a depressive state. Just saying, it might not be the worst idea to talk to your GP.

    In any case, it sounds like you might not have much going on in your life outside of work; if an average work week is 50+ hours, I get that you might not have much in the way of free time to seek a better work/life balance. All the more reason that you need to get the hell out of that place.

    1. LBK*

      100% agreed with this. The either/or the OP has invented is not realistic – and I bet a lot of her complaining friends’ jaws would drop if she described her workplace to them. I guarantee most of them would prefer their dull work environment to one where they’re being actively abused.

      And, frankly, work isn’t supposed to be that fun. It’s work. If you’re relying on it for your source of social interaction and entertainment, maybe you need to branch out in your personal life so that you’re feeling more fulfilled in other ways. I go out and have drinks, make jokes and have a good time…with my friends. Outside of work. Because that’s not what work is for.

      1. Myrin*

        Yes, I was thinking that.
        I bet that most of the people she’s refering to – the one with “normal” office jobs, I mean – actually do that thing that most humans do: they only find something noteworthy if it’s either outstandingly positive or outstandingly negative.
        So they might have a perfectly normal, not-super-exciting-but-engaging week at the office, doing work they don’t-love-but-don’t-hate-either, but during that week, they had two meetings with an annoying coworker and needed to deal with three exasperating clients and then at the end of the week, the only thing that’s really stuck in their mind is “ugh, annoying coworkers and exasperating clients!” when these factors accounted for maybe 5% of their whole office time.
        People don’t generally talk about decent averages, OP!

        1. LBK*

          Extremely good point. I don’t bother venting to my boyfriend about work when I just had a normal day where nothing happened, he only hears about it when I’m frustrated and need to tell a neutral party. It doesn’t make for very interesting social conversation to talk about how normal your job is.

    2. Observer*

      I agree with you. What’s concerning is that her doctor seems to be missing the ball. If I’m reading the letter correctly, her doctor doesn’t think she’s worthy of his time unless she’s at risk of doing something truly terrible. Otherwise, to be eligible for the treatment she needs, she’s going to have to travel.

      It might be worth finding a doctor who gets that if someone is a point that they bit someone (or anything else that causes a “mental stutter”), they should get access to treatment even if you don’t think they are likely to go postal.

      1. anonagain*

        I am not sure the doctor dropped the ball, unless I’ve majorly misunderstood the OP.

        My reading was that the OP’s doctor gave her a referral for treatment. If so, she (the doctor) did try to help the OP get seen for this.

        If anything, I suspect the doctor thought that she was ill-equipped to treat the OP herself and thought that the situation was severe enough to warrant referring the OP to a specialist immediately.

        Why delay the OP’s treatment by making her schedule and pay for an office visit, if all the doctor can do for her anyway is give her a referral? Why not just do it right away based on the phone call?

        The fact that the referral was to someone far away is something that just happens. There’s no deeper meaning in it. OP needs to go back an ask for a referral to someone closer.

        If I’ve totally misread this and the doctor didn’t make the referral, then, yeah. OP should find a doctor who helps her get needed treatment.

    1. Specialk9*

      I got defensiveness, like they’re internalizing the toxicity. But it’s worth saying out loud – OP, most of us are firmly on your side (though we agree with you that you shouldn’t bite people). We want things to be better for you, and don’t see that happening with the current setup.

      1. Oranges*

        Yes, and seriously it’s hard not to get defensive. But yes, we all want better for the OP. Because a baseline should be “I am respected (as a human being) at work” and that’s… not happening at her current work.

    2. NaoNao*

      I think the OP is frustrated with the unilateral, exaggerated “burn it with fire NAOWOH!” type of remarks that we all see when an ultra-bananas situation gets brought up. They’re not helpful.

      I get really irked when I see “I would punch that guy in the face!” or “Flamethrower. Now.” “OP, PLEASE DO WHAT I TELL YOU in all caps with a side of concern trolling cluelessness” type of thing when what the OP needs/wants is concrete advice to get through the day in a very toxic situation.

      I turned off a pretty good TV show last night because they showed the main character punching a man directly in the face hard enough to break his nose because of a very unwelcome sexual advance (borderline assault). I felt like…while it wasn’t out of line with the character’s personality on the show, it sends a message “if you don’t physically fight back immediately, you’re not really being assaulted or harassed. If you freeze, try to befriend the perpetrator, or are confused (“this…can’t…really be happening, right?!”) you’re “less than” and everyone else is able to do something you can’t.”

      I’m tired of that narrative and I’m tired of flippant advice (although I understand it’s usually just expressions of horror and sympathy for the victim) that’s about committing crimes or violence to deal with situations like the OPs.

      Having said that, I did read a note of anger at the commenters in the “I’d like to know what other people would do with…” line.

      1. Oranges*

        Personally, I’d have a breakdown. 100% no questions asked. That doesn’t make me weak nor does staying in the current situation make the OP strong. It just marks differences in our mental pain threshold and different life circumstances.

        Why would having a high mental pain threshold be good? Because some people need them to help others (people who come into contact with the broken people and the sadists eg. abuse therapists). But this isn’t the case here.

      2. Lissa*

        I agree. I understand why but when people say “I would do this” it’s very often not even true. Most people *don’t* punch people in the face or immediately quit with nothing lined up, though it’s the response we all want to have. And so I think we see it portrayed all the time on TV shows like you say, internalize it as the “right” thing, and think it’s what we’d do…then criticize or implied-criticize the person for not doing it. And having dozens and dozens of people saying “I would totally be a hero” can feel pretty shitty when you’re already in a crappy situation.

        I have been in a situation like this too, where my thinking was absolutely warped. I had a supervisor who screamed at me in front of customers for *her* mistakes, did drugs with the boss in the office, but also took me on coffee runs, bought my coffee, and called me to sympathize when she finally got put on suspension. It’s hard to explain how this sort of thing warps your thinking in the moment. I would even look back and go “huh, that’s really weird” but it is very difficult to go against what seems like everyone else thinks is normal in the moment.

        1. Observer*

          What you are saying is true. Which is why so many of the commenters are telling the OP that she needs to start looking NOW, and that her view of normal is warped.

          What “I” would do is actually unknown and really not relevant. What IS relevant is that the situation IS toxic, that there ARE better environments and that the OP needs to recognize this so she can try to make her life better.

      3. boop the first*

        True, I’ve gotten the “just get another job” line so many times, and it just sounds so flippant and simplistic… like has everyone forgotten that I have zero leverage in the working world? That I’m not qualified for the things people are suggesting I look for? That maybe I’m sick of taking huge pay cuts just to transfer from one crappy job to another crappy job?

        It comes off as a long list of excuses and helplessness, but the OP has a perception of reality, and vague advice from paradise doesn’t even begin to fit into it. It just comes off as bragging about being in paradise and shaming OP about not “just” swimming across the cold expanse of ocean to come be where you are.

    3. OP*

      I was a little angry, I suppose. A few of the previous commentators acted like I was some sort of crazed, biting monster and that’s really not how I wanted to come across.

      But just as many were wonderfully supportive and helpful! I do appreciate the ones that came through with some ideas, strategies, and personal stories.

      1. Kathleen*

        I checked the original responses – I didn’t tally them or anything, but I checked – and I don’t think there were many who thought you a crazed biter. Some, sure – it’s just so…you know…shocking. But not that many.

        They thought your workplace “crazed,” though. And still do – in fact, even more so. Good luck in getting the heck out of there and into a decent workplace.

      2. Specialk9*

        I suspect we all give a lot more weight to the negative over the positive comments, but I remember it really differently, very much on your side on the whole. I remember most of the comments as “I never thought I’d be on the side of someone who bit someone at work, but I mean, I’m actually on their side.” I saw a lot of credit going your way because you owned up to your action without trying to deflect blame on others. I hope you can come to see the overwhelming support and dismiss the mouthbreathers. :D

      3. HJK*

        If it helps, I found that comment section very difficult as well. I’ve been the person reacting violently to verbal abuse and intimidation (I never bit anyone, but I did cut myself in front of the abuser once, which I think is about as crazy), and some of the comments were coming across as minimizing his part in driving you to react defensively, to escalate it in an attempt to regain some control when nothing else had worked. It was, of course, unacceptable and not at all normal. But to me it was all too understandable.

        (Maybe I’m projecting too much and it wasn’t like that at all. But the point is because of my own experiences the comments were hard for me too.)

  27. Daffodil*

    I’m glad that you’re coping okay for the time being. I’d suggest keeping up a low-key job search if you can. Even if it were a great place to work, you’re not planning to stay at this job forever, yeah? If you move on sooner rather than later, that would be good.

  28. a Gen X manager*

    OP wrote, “I’d like to see how others handle someone, sitting 5 feet away for 50ish hours a week, who constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible. Please, show me you can do better.”

    OP, I don’t think anyone here is saying in any way, shape, or form that if you were better, stronger, etc. that you’d be able to “handle” this situation (better). The majority of comments are saying that we would choose to leave because the behaviors exhibited (and tolerated by senior management!) and office culture are just that bad. You’re asking “how others (would) handle…” and we’re saying we wouldn’t and instead would find different employment. I don’t think anyone should put up with those behaviors from anyone in their lives, let alone at your place of employment. It’s so unhealthy. It’s obviously your choice, but leaving doesn’t make you weak, it would actually be a sign of self-respect to refuse to be treated that way.

    1. a Gen X manager*

      Why would you willingly work with (and talk, walk, and coffee) someone who treats you this way?

      1. NaoNao*

        Because the consequences of not doing it are worse than doing it.
        Because many of us are socialized that, at the first opportunity, we should forgive and move on.
        Because many of us have soft hearts and can’t bear conflict and discord and allow a manager to steamroll on us.
        Because we’re confused and broken down and don’t know how to say no.
        Because there’s parts of this person you do like and the coffee and walks allow you to see that person.
        Because people are complicated and life isn’t black and white.
        Because it’s probably not that willingly. It’s a pressure situation where this person has control over your livelihood.

      2. Jennifer*

        Because you may not be able to find another job and your career/ability to find other work may depend on this person’s goodwill. Because you can’t afford to be their public enemy.

    2. a Gen X manager*

      Here’s the thing, OP, you bit a co-worker and the commenters are STILL nearly unanimous in supporting you. If that doesn’t provide clarity about how extreme the warped behaviors and culture are in that office, I can’t imagine what would. We’re on your side!

      1. Clever Name*

        Yes! I can totally understand how it came to biting. It still would be best if you got out. You deserve better!

        You’re holding up really well in this messed-up environment, but that doesn’t mean you should stay! Keep keepin’ on, but also try to get out!

        I hope we get an update soon about how you got an amazing job with better pay and wonderful coworkers very soon.

    3. pope suburban*

      To piggyback on this, OP, I was somewhere nearly as bad for a long time. And I get it, you need to pay the bills, and I’d never suggest that being out on the street is less stressful than having a toxic job that affords you food/clothing/shelter. I understand that that is sometimes the choice one makes. But the fact remains that the way you are treated is not okay, and that the sensible course is to leave. I say this as someone who once resolved to apply for a new job every time my boss insulted me to my face, like as some sad 1:1 ratio of spite applications to him being a jerk. It was bad. I was not healthy. I was not proud. But the answer to my myriad problems was never “Stop trying to escape, and instead just buy the one manager who goes out of his way to undermine me a nice latte.” Like…I was never, ever going to make those people grow up. I tried, sure, with a few of them, but they were too far gone and eventually I stopped trying and put all my energy into surviving each individual day. Which, OP, it sounds like you are now doing. But that isn’t enough, and you shouldn’t ever be treated this way. Please keep up the job search. Please know that the choice isn’t between boredom and abuse. From one person who’s been there to another, there is more out there and you 100% deserve to go get it.

      1. pope suburban*

        To clarify, I’m not against doing things like picking up coffees if it will help you fly under the radar. You do what you have to do to survive. The thing I object to is any notion that you should be treated poorly, or that this is the kind of workplace anyone should be in and so it’s okay to stay put. You can and should look for better, is all; I know from bitter experience that the only way to really get to a healthy place is to leave.

    4. LBK*

      I like this a lot – it feels like the OP is digging for praise for not quitting, for fighting the fight and putting up with such toxicity when most people have said they would leave the job. But that’s kind of missing the point – this isn’t a fight you have any reason to fight. Leaving the job isn’t giving up. You are Sisyphus trying to feel like the hero for never stopping pushing the boulder up the hill, but there’s no point. You’d be better off letting it roll down and moving on to something better.

    5. palomar*

      Agreed. I can totally sympathize with the letter writer, I have definitely been in work situations that were really awful and left me feeling powerless to change anything or improve my life. And when you feel beaten down by such a terrible situation, having people rush in and tell you that they wouldn’t stand for it and you need to get out… it can definitely feel like you’re being ganged up on and judged.

      I really hope the letter writer will start feeling like job-hunting again after the turn of the year. Making a change is scary as hell, but if the alternative is to continue feeling awful every day and dreading going to work…

    6. OP*

      It’s very important to respect myself. Good point about what really makes a person weak. Lot to think about here! Thank you

      1. CaliCali*

        As someone who had a kid in day care, even then, it wasn’t ACCEPTABLE. The kids get in trouble when they bite! There are consequences!

      2. fposte*

        Vet med? Dentistry?

        I was also thinking about what would happen at my workplace if I bit someone and ran through various scenarios with different bitees.

      3. Broadcastlady*

        Nope. Our child’s daycare kicked out two biters this year. Even the 2-year-old class doesn’t tolerate biters.

      1. Lissa*

        not gonna lie I thought it too, especially when comments above were saying “how crazy can it get . . ” I had a very similar conversation the other day about what would actually get more than a few days of attention in the news. I wonder if that’s what’s happening at OP’s workplace, where the biting was forgotten so quickly because the latest outrage always seems to erase people’s memories of what came before.

    1. Oranges*

      Mixed Martial Arts? Or do they have rules against that? I know you can’t elbow someone in the back of the head….

      1. Jenn*

        I work for a Martial Arts Academy and our rules are probably even more stringent than my previous office jobs. No hands on if it’s not on the floor. :)

  29. Snark*

    “In the long run, yeah, maybe this is warping my perception of normal. But everyone I talk to with a “normal” office job seems to hate it. They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks.”

    But here’s the thing. I’ve worked in plenty of offices where there’s active, interesting office culture where we get drinks, have fun, tell jokes, the pay is good, the benefits amazing, and the work interesting (in your own words)…..where I didn’t get verbally or physically abused, where I never felt the urge to bite anyone, where my biting someone would have been a firing-level offense not just shrugged off, and where the people sitting 5 feet from me are kind and decent people who want the best for me.

  30. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW – I don’t think that work, in general, is a choice between ” sane and functional, but boring and uninspiring” and “fun and meaningful, but riddled with dysfunction and abuse.” Every job has its boring bits, and most jobs are not like what is portrayed on TV (police work, for instance, has few exciting car chases and a lot of filling out paperwork; tax law is NOTHING like Perry Mason). But a lot of people enjoy their cubicle jobs, or at least find them tolerable enough that it’s not a giant drag on their lives.

    Re your friends who complain constantly how their jobs suck etc. – are they negative, Debbie Downer types in general? Maybe their fields are overcrowded (so employees are treated as disposable) or have a wide tolerance for overwork and dysfunction? Do you, yourself, like your field? Do you want to change career fields to one that is more inspiring to you? How is life outside of work – do you have enough fun and excitement going on in your leisure and relationship areas?Sometimes people look to their jobs to provide meaning in their lives, just as some people look to relationships. Neither are sufficient. You need a balance.

    The Good Enough Job is out there, I am sure. Just because you bombed one interview doesn’t mean you will never, ever get another job and you will be stuck in this one until the day you die. There will be other interviews and other opportunities for you.

  31. Chickasaurus*

    Sweet grilled cheesus. No one thinks it’s a big deal that you BIT someone? You are undergoing constant verbal abuse? I really think you might want to consider getting out of there. I worry that if you absorb this as the norm, you are going to be frankly unemployable elsewhere. This is not a good situation.

    1. Specialk9*

      “sweet grilled cheeses”. I’m promptly coopting this phrase as my own. I need to not swear in front of my toddler!

  32. Falling Diphthong*

    No one in the office cared that I bit the office manager.

    This is the new “Your office is full of bees.”

    One person in the office that I find professional and whose opinion I respect felt that biting someone wasn’t that crazy for our office.

    Also this.

    1. Q*

      The only explanation for the second is that their professional norms have already been warped in this environment.

    2. a*

      Not to make light of OP’s terrible workplace, but “No one in the office cared that I bit the office manager” is legitimately one of the greatest sentences I’ve ever seen in an update. Or any post here really.

      Good luck to you, OP.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      BTW, OP: ‘full of bees’ is a reference to the old horror movies where bees attack people and it’s a signal that even worse things are going to happen. Over at Captain Awkward, it started as ‘house full of bees’.

  33. sometimes the grass IS greener*

    OP, my husband worked at a toxic job. Nasty managment, poor policies, overworked, way underpaid (his boss promoted him, promised him a raise with the promotion, and then refused to give it to him for 9 months so he lost out on thousands of dollars) . I begged him to quit his job but he wouldn’t because he liked his co-workers and didn’t want to deal with the “hassle” of having to update his resume and go on interviews. He was miserable to live with, because he was so stressed, angry, and tired all the time. He kept saying that every job in that industry is miserable and refused to leave. Eventually a former co-worker who had moved on and up contacted him and offered him a job with better pay and hours. He still almost didn’t take it, but thankfully he did! He is SO much happier now! He is in a much better workplace without the issues from management at his old job, and I have seen his self confidence grow so much. Being away from that environment he finally sees how toxic it was and is in disbelief that he was resistant to leave. Sometimes when you are in that bad place you trap yourself into thinking it’s ok as a way of coping, and you don’t have a clue how awful it is until you leave and don’t have to cope anymore. If you truly want to stay at your workplace go for it, but examine yourself closely to make sure you aren’t fooling yourself. There are other workplaces out there and you do NOT have to stay in a place where you are treated this poorly.

    1. [insert witty user name here]*

      Was coming down to relay a similar story. My husband worked for a very small (6 people small) family owned company that became very toxic. Hubs was MISERABLE (which actually led to him reacting badly to the super jerkwad owner one day and getting fired) and I never fully realized just how much it was affecting his life otherwise (and mine!) until he was gone from there. He had been grouchy, short tempered, and just very bored and dis-interested in pretty much everything. Getting fired didn’t help in the short term, but within about a month, he was just so…. Happy!
      Anyways – long story short, please don’t let this toxic workplace suck you in because it’s likely affecting you more than you know. Does your health plan cover mental health services? I was surprised to find mine did – with just a $35 co pay! Look up mental health providers through your health insurance provider’s website to find someone in-network (and closer than who your doctor recommended). Maybe you can keep functioning at this workplace, but it might be good to have someone helping you. And don’t let one bad interview keep you down – think of it as practice.

      Best of luck, OP! Your self-awareness is commendable so make sure you are being FULLY aware of how this workplace is affecting you!

  34. Oranges*


    You’re rationalizing and normalizing the toxic/bizarre workplace which is what humans do. Nature has one commandment of us “survive” and has given us plenty of tools to do so. Your brain has imprinted this behavior as “normal”. This is harder and harder to break the longer it goes on. I’m not surprised at anything you’ve done. I’m just worried about you.

    Possibly helpful story time!

    You’re on an island filled with zombies and you’ve gotten bit. You have felt hungry for braaaains but! You know it’s wrong. You’re fighting against something you can’t control though. You’re trying to “hold out” until you can escape off zombie island and get the vaccine (on a non-zombie island). You made one raft but it kinda… sunk, sadly. Please, please, make another raft. You’ll get better at them the more you do. Also, staying at this island means that you will eventually think that killing people and eating their braaaains is normal. Because zombie.

    1. Specialk9*

      So the OP is turning into a zombie but there is actually a vaccine (or treatment) that reverses the zombiism? And the raft sunk but while OP was still on shore so a new raft is possible?

      This metaphor seems really fraught and confusing. :×

      1. Oranges*

        My stories do that sometimes. Often. But they at least amuse me and sometimes work. I just wanted to push against multiple ideas and the idea of the modern zombie movie where someone get’s bitten popped into my head.

        The Ideas:
        “This job (island) is great except for the scary people (zombies)”
        “I’ll never get another job (island) because I bombed the interview (my first raft sunk because I have only read about raft making)”
        “I can hold out against the toxicity (zombie plauge)”

        These are all lies her brain is telling her because of an inherent survival mechanism. This is a good thing! She’s not a full on zombie because she’s still horrified at her behavior. Just like I would be horrified if I suddenly wanted to eat my friends brains. BUT she’s rationalizing it so she’s infected. She needs to get off the island of death.

        1. Specialk9*

          Lol well it amused me too, so win. I spend a huge amount of time making metaphors for complicated things, and many of them founder on a zombie raft along the way. :D

      2. LBK*

        Whoa – between this and your other comment above, I think you need to find another site to comment on. These are not even remotely in the spirit of the comments that are acceptable in this community. If you want to be nasty, you’re in the wrong place.

    2. OP*

      BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, I love zombies and I love this analogy.

      I’ll keep trying. Some day it’ll happen for me.

  35. Addison*

    LW… I understand completely. I never *quite* got to biting my annoying ass of a coworker but I sure did fantasize about hitting him with a shovel and then using that same shovel to bury him in the pet sematary a few times, that’s for sure. After things came to a head for me I still wound up in the same position without much happening, and I’m still here now. I get it… it’s kind of like a coping thing, but not. Just making it work, rolling the punches (uh, bites), I get it.

    I just want to say I totally sympathize and I’m wishing you all the best. When your job isn’t great but it’s also not always horrible enough to mean you have to Leave Right Now it causes all kinds of weird stress things in weird ways at weird times. It might not be “normal” but it happens all the time, so please don’t feel like you’re alone. There’s something better out there for you, it just hasn’t quite come along yet. And when it does, it’s going to totally blow you away. Hang in there!

    1. Q*

      One of my brothers went so stir-crazy at an old job, he started fantasizing about eating his coworkers in vivid detail while on the job.

      He quit shortly after.

      1. Liz*

        I always know when I’m ready to move on from a job when I start writing murder mysteries set in thinly-veiled versions of my workplace.

        1. Q*

          He was, fortunately, very concerned about the whole “cannibalism” ideation. Parents were furious with him for quitting, but, you know, I think I get it better now.

    2. animaniactoo*

      Hey, you! I was hoping to hear from you and get an update on how you’re doing and how he’s doing?

  36. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP – if you happen to live in Southwestern PA, please contact Alison for my email address and I will help you find a new job.

  37. Clever Name*

    This worries me:
    “Actually, the office manager was shoving me a bit the other day and one coworker chimed in, “Hey, careful, you know what happens when you do that,” referring to when I’d dropped and broken my mug. Everyone was completely confused, had to be reminded, and then lost interest.”

    The fact that shoving is not the thing you’re complaining about is … not good. Also, that the reaction was “hey, shoving HER isn’t a great idea” because you broke the mug, not because shoving is not appropriate is messed up. As is the fact that no one was all that interested.

    Every workplace has idiosyncrasies, but shoving is not normal, no matter how small the shove. My office has plenty of weirdos, but I know that if someone shoved someone else, it would be a problem. Please keep looking. One interview without an offer doesn’t mean you can’t move on!

  38. Samata*

    I am sure someone else pointed this line out but I haven’t had time to read all the comments yet because….Actually, the office manager was shoving me a bit the other day and one coworker chimed in, “Hey, careful, you know what happens when you do that,”

    Ok, biting is never acceptable in an office. But when is shoving referred to so flippantly?

    I don’t know what I expected in an update, but this wasn’t it for sure. OP, I hope you continue to look. I agree with Alison, there are normal jobs out there that people enjoy. I am one of many that I know.

    1. OP*

      It’s funny, because I would never “settle” in a romantic relationship, and work interactions are still very important life relationships….

      1. Jennifer*

        Well, romance isn’t always your livelihood. It’s easier to not settle when money isn’t in there.

    2. The Expendable Redshirt*

      The OP does deserve respect in all their human interactions.

      Sometimes people settle for jobs because…..economics. It’s completely understandable to accept a terrible job in order to avoid homelessness. However, I hope that the OP continues applying for new employment. Settling for this job long term doesn’t seem viable.

  39. Liz*

    He’s still shoving you?!! Abusive relationships come in many forms, and I’m fairly sure that’s what I’d call LW and the office manager’s interactions.

  40. Cassie*

    OP, please remember that every interview that doesn’t work out is yet another bad match you’re crossing off your list.

    That may sounds like a platitude, but I looked for a job in my field for more than four years while working multiple jobs in retail and waitressing. It took me a very long time to find a healthy environment, but in the end it was worthwhile. You can do this.

    1. Specialk9*

      Oh gosh yes, interviewing is like dating, you need to get the numbers up to find the right fit.

      I know someone who desperately wants to be married with a family… but … adamantly refuses to do online dating, won’t try any activities or hobbies or classes, and only hangs with people she’s known forever. So she’ll likely never marry. Because it’s a bummer, but you have to go on so many dates before you meet someone – and yeah that means some awkward dates when really you’d rather just read a book at home in bed, but you’ve gotta play the numbers game.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      OP best of luck with the job search. Tbh i have the same fears as you about “normal” jobs although we don’t bite or shove (no touching here).

      All I can say is good luck.

  41. KayEss*

    OP, it’s tough and scary looking for a job even when you aren’t being totally drained by a toxic environment. So much of your energy is going into just surviving right now that getting out seems impossible, and the odds of finding a better situation completely insurmountable. It’s not, and they’re not. You can do it, and I’d wager that even if you take a job that’s only 90% as good on paper as this one is, you’ll be much happier… all your time and energy won’t be going toward maintaining your sanity in such a messed-up situation.

    I say this as someone who was in a similar position early in my career, and was (extremely mercifully) laid off… as depressed as I was during the six months of unemployment that followed, it was nothing compared to the detailed fantasies of a messy, public suicide in the office that I had been having on the regular while working. Please take care of yourself. It’s much better on the outside.

  42. Kimberly*

    Honestly, keep looking for another job, your work place is toxic. This is not good for you.

    I completely understand biting him, I may have gone with a kick to the shins (but I don’t wear ballet flats so it sounds like biting was the better choice). If no one higher up will deal with the office manager or the work place issues then you will probably end up in a situation like this again. If you are fine with that then, then no big, but this is definitely NOT NORMAL.

  43. MG*

    OP: you do not deserve to be in such a toxic environment and you do not deserve to be brushed off by your doctor. While you keep job searching, please go back to your doctor and keep pushing. From personal experience, gruelling honesty and pushing is often the only way I’ve managed to make doctors take me seriously when it comes to my mental health. Would phone appointments with a counsellor/therapist be possible for you? Are there local support groups you could attend? I really feel that it would be beneficial for you to have a place to go where you can find ways to cope and destress. Best of luck to you!

  44. Kelssss*

    I am really curious as to what field you work in. Not that the field makes any of it ok but it may explain why you have worked in different places with the same type of abuse. I am so sorry to hear about all of this. You can and will find something better.

  45. Yorick*

    I want to agree with Allison and the other commenters that you can have good, interesting jobs that are not so dysfunctional. But I also want to say that it’s a good thing for you to focus on the positive aspects of your job. Keep doing that while looking for a new job.

  46. Mine Own Telemachus*

    On the anxiety portion: I’m sorry, but why in the world would the doctor not make time to see you for obvious anxiety issues that are interfering with how you function in daily life (as is clearly the case because YOU BIT SOMEONE). Anxiety medication is both a treatment for ongoing issues, and preventative—ie, helping you out before something bad happens so you know how to react and can do so rationally and without panic.

    Please don’t let this one doctor’s opinion dissuade you from seeking treatment. It can help you to get back to “normal” and help you get through those high stress times. The coping mechanisms you describe aren’t great, and you probably need to speak to a qualified professional about it. Please do so.

    1. Student*

      It’s possible the doctor didn’t feel comfortable or capable of handling the OP. Frankly, anxiety severe enough to lash out by actually biting someone else is very far outside the “anxiety issue” norm.

      Not every doctor is going to take an admittedly violent patient on, and I can’t say I blame them for that. Biting violence is also an anomaly itself in violent tendencies, with both added stigma and the bonus fun of worrying about saliva-transmitted diseases. The doctor did a due-diligence, professional response by referring the OP to somebody they thought could handle a violent patient. While off-putting and too inconvenient to help the OP, this is better than the doctor either responding unprofessionally, or trying to take on a patient with more severe issues than the doctor felt they could handle.

  47. Bingo*

    Hi OP. You provide a lot of justification for your decision to stay at your job in your update, and I can’t tell if you’re trying to convince us or trying to convince yourself. I’m not here to judge, I just feel like I need to say this:

    If you’re truly happy with where you work, then all the power to you. I’m glad you took some steps to address the personal issues you were experiencing, and have found some coping mechanisms for dealing with your workplace.

    However, if you’re just trying to convince yourself that you’re happy with where you work, I hope you will pause and take a moment to be honest with yourself. The way you describe your coworker and your work environment very much reminds me of the way a domestic violence victim might describe their relationship. I assure you, the way your coworker speaks to you and treats you is not normal nor okay under any circumstances. It sounds like sometimes he behaves properly, and you are struggling with how he can be both abusive AND human. Please remember that even though you do not hate someone 100% of the time, that does not mean that when they behave badly it is somehow less inappropriate. It most certainly is possible to have a rewarding career, a good benefits package, and a great culture, all without being verbally and physically abused.

  48. Jadelyn*

    For the record, OP, nobody at my office would ever say such awful, emotionally-abusive things to anyone else at the office, and I am far from bored and miserable. Every office has their issues, sure, but I work with a team that encouraged me to go back to school, is happy to share knowledge and teach each other new things, I’ve been given development opportunities and sent to conferences, I literally got to design my new job by taking on bits and pieces of other projects and improving them using my unique skillset until they realized that it would be great to have someone doing what I do full-time – so they hired an admin that I could give admin tasks to so I could specialize more into my other work.

    The options are not “interesting and dynamic job/culture with a side of verbal abuse” or “stare blankly at beige walls for 8 hours a day”. My team jokes and laughs and has fun, we’re interesting and dynamic. My branch played Family Feud at our holiday party and has an enormous Jenga set that we play on the floor in the middle of the cubicles (seriously, this thing stacks almost as tall as me, the blocks are basically chunks of 2×4). It’s possible to have “dynamic and fun” and also “healthy and supportive” without “deathly dull and boring”.

    That said, I understand how reframing it as “at least there are upsides to this hellhole” can help you make it through despite the crap. Just don’t let yourself fall too far into that way of thinking that you get stuck there.

  49. Jules the Third*

    Good luck OP. You’re in a tough situation, with a job that you like except for That One Guy. That One Guy who has:
    – Is sometimes nice to you
    – Is often mean to you (Called you names, etc)
    – Prevented you from getting your work done (blocking you from mtg)
    – Physically assaulted you *twice* (at least)

    To get around it, you’re using the coping mechanisms you see as available, and getting by. That’s pretty amazing. You have some more options, though, if you can put together the willpower to do them.
    1) Job hunt – practice does make this easier and makes you better
    2) Talk to That Guy about how his actions impact your *work*
    * Have a sit down with him where you ask him to talk to you less socially while you’re working, and not to get in your way if he sees you going somewhere. Do not discuss anything other than how his actions affect your work: “When you call out to me, it distracts me from Work, please save it for coffee / walks”; “when I’m on my way to a meeting, that’s Work, for our employer – they want me to do that.” “Don’t shove me – that is too easy for people to misunderstand, which could become a problem for our employer.” You can invoke the higher authority’s reasonable expectations without getting their explicit support against That Guy.
    * When he does something you need to have stop, invoke, “this is Work that our bosses want done, you are interfering”
    * Remind him in writing – ‘Remember, I said I need you to stop X and Y because they are interfering with my Work. I like my Work and employer, I want to give them their money’s worth.’
    3) Start documenting. You’re in a less powerful position than you were before because of the bite, but things are currently a little scary for That Guy, post-Weinstein. Writing down Stuff That Guy Does helps give you more power and leverage when you get desperate again.

    A lot of desperation is the feeling that you are not in control of the situation or your choices. Job hunting and documentation are things you can do to regain some control.

    He does sound like a typical abusive person. I strongly agree with the Gavin de Becker recommendation (with the caveat that his domestic violence chapter is a little victim blamey). If he is abusive, the ‘honeymoon’ phase is important for you to keep in mind, and actions in place for the times when he’s not honeymooning will help you.

    Good luck, and there are *totally* interesting jobs / workplaces out there with upper mgmt that will stomp on Those Guys.

    1. Liz T*

      Do you have experience with tactics like Step 2? That seems to be treating him as a reasonable person, which he is not–OP can expect him to react with verbal and physical assault.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s not actually about treating That Guy as a reasonable person. It’s treating That Guy as an entitled male in a patriarchal society and using that social hierarchy to your advantage.

        The OP’s (probably male) boss is the top of the local hierarchy. Boss is not going to step and and manage That Guy, or fire him, but Boss does want OP to get her work done, and That Guy knows it. So borrow Boss’s authority by referring to Boss’s goals. That Guy will almost always defer to Boss’s goals. Can’t do it all the time, but once in a while it will work, and will actually reduce the collateral insults too, because it reminds That Guy that OP is valuable to the Boss.

        In general, yeah, you can not reason with That Guy. He’s not arguing in good faith, and he’s awful. But there some tools that may help a little bit.

        Basically, it’s the ‘My boyfriend doesn’t like me to talk to other guys’ of dysfunctional workplaces.

  50. Lady Phoenix*

    How long will it take for you to want to step out? A week? A month? A year? A decade?

    This place has already turned you. You bit a coworker and no one there bats an eye. Your therapist is so scared of you that they send you to someone away from your home.

    It won’t take long before other people start steering clear from you too. Friends tend to be the first. Even family will treat you differently. If you don’t think this toxic mindset is not going to bleed into your other relations, then you are very VERY wrong. People will notice you are “off” and will aboid you.

    And right now the only confidants at work is a guy that doesn’t blink at people assaulting each other and another guy that physically and verbally assaults you.

    So tell me, how long do you plan on staying here?

    1. Olivia*

      Whoa. Her therapist referring her to a different doctor does not mean the therapist is scared of her. That’s absurd.

      1. Student*

        Any therapist who has a prospective patient asking for treatment because she bit someone, who isn’t scared of that patient, is a dumb therapist.

        Doctors should be scared of violent patients. That is not unprofessional. It is practical. Not all doctors can or should take on violent patients. Those that do treat such people effectively are either scared of them or pretty sure they could win a fight with them; they just get better at hiding that calculus from the patient.

    2. Louise*

      wow, saying that a doctor referred her because she’s scared of her? that is insulting to OP, folks who suffer from mental health issues, and tbh the medical profession in its entirety.

      doctors make referrals all. the. time. and GPs or internists are not therapists and don’t do talk therapy. and the doctor might not have felt comfortable prescribing medication for a mental heath issue that wasn’t immediately life threatening without the patient having a mental health professional do a screening first. and affordable mental health resources can be horribly difficult to find. and… I could go on. basically there are so many possibilities for why it happened the way it did. and most of those problems fall on the failings of the medical system, NOT on OP.

      and look, I get the whole “how long would this behavior go on before you leave” as a mental exercise for people who excuse other people’s bad behavior—I read captain awkward too. but blaming OP for her abusive coworker and saying that people will abandon her because she works in an abusive environment AND saying that it’s her fault that there isn’t good, affordable mental healthcare near her? that is so beyond offensive and damaging that I can’t even.

      OP, I hope you’re able to take care of yourself, get access to the help you need, and that you’re able to find a more sustainable work environment. None of this is your fault and please don’t let others make you feel like it is.

      1. Louise*

        I should clarify that when I say “none of this is your fault,” I of course don’t mean to imply that it wasn’t OP’s fault for biting the coworker—but I think OP knows that that was wrong and is taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again while surviving in a toxic environment.

        It is NOT OPs fault that they found themselves working in this environment, NOT OPs fault that office manager is horrible and abusive, NOT OPs fault that a doctor referred them to someone that is unfeasible for them to get to. And if friends start abandoning OP??? That is definitely not OPs fault, but maybe a sign that those friends weren’t good friends to begin with.

        Sorry, I have this weird allergic reaction to victim blaming that makes me write impassioned defenses in online comments sections.

  51. beanie beans*

    OP, I feel like I’ve been you for much of my 10 years at my current job, so I definitely sympathize. I think you’re making the best of a decent job and workplace with a terrible coworker, which is what we are told to do so much of the time by self-help type stuff. Be positive, your attitude is everything, etc.

    I have a couple of coworkers who can be really horrible, and for years I have told myself to just block them out and focus on my work, which I like. Good pay, interesting work, and for the most part really great coworkers. But the difficult ones are the ones that can stress me out and make me question working there.

    The past year I’ve started a serious job search not because I couldn’t stand the difficult coworkers anymore, but because I no longer want to work for a company that lets horrible people continue to be horrible people.

  52. mf*

    The office manager has demonstrated a pattern of physical intimidate you (blocking your way into your office, shoving you). This is a huge, ugly red flag. He’s obviously a bully.

    Please keep job hunting. It took me a year and a half to find a new position so I could quit my last job. It takes a while to get your resume into top condition–you need to review it and edit every time you apply for a position–and interviewing is something you’ll get better at every time you try (even if you fail–especially if you fail). Job hunting is a process; it takes time and patience but it will pay off.

    To be honest, if I were you, I’d step on his toes next time he tries some form of physical intimidation. And then I would play dumb: “OMG, did I step on your toes? I’m so sorry. It’s just that I was so surprised when you tried to block my office door. I guess it was just a reflex.” But you probably don’t do that–just get as far away from this guy as you can.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think this actually qualifies as a “decent job.” When behavior of this sort is explicitly tolerated, that leaves the realm of “decent”.

    2. nonegiven*

      The shoving? I’ve had instruction in how to fall. Somebody shoves me, they’re going down, too.

  53. Anonaconda*

    I had one (only 1!) crappy job where I’d “go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much work sucks.”

    I would still take that job any day over “someone, sitting 5 feet away for 50ish hours a week, who constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible.”

    This all-jobs-are-mindless-drone-work mentality is the same thing that people trapped in pyramid schemes tell themselves. You got one interview, you can get another one! Please don’t accept this status quo for your one life, OP.

  54. Bea*

    Re: tanking the interview
    Please keep trying. A lot of times going through the motions a few times will help you shake those jitters out. You need to survive now and deal with the psycho whatever way you need to but you can escape eventually.

    I’m not shocked nobody cares in your office but in the long run the abuse will change you in ways you’ll only see later down the road. You deserve better and there are jobs that do not expect you to live like that and they’re enjoyable jobs.

    Part of being confident in the interview process is knowing you deserve better. I was interviewing recently in order to get away from toxicity and I swept my interviews because I knew I had a valuable skill set and sold it all the way.

    Right now you’re hurting and yes, that will damage your escape plan. It’s like mentally limping into the prospective employers office, they don’t know why you’re hurting but they don’t want to take it on as their own.

  55. Tertia*

    I certainly haven’t done it again and don’t plan to.

    Yes, but surely you weren’t planning to bite him in the first place, were you? I’m not making fun of you–I’m just echoing other commenters who are concerned for you and are encouraging you to keep looking.

  56. Employment Lawyer*

    “I’d like to see how others handle someone, sitting 5 feet away for 50ish hours a week, who constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible. ”

    Generally speaking they lawyer up. The things you describe are so objectively offensive that they may well sustain a hostile environment or other type of claim. And the fact that they are gender-linked (bitch, fat, clothes) makes it a stronger claim. If it is as you describe, most ERs would not want to get it in front of a jury.

    If you’re in a one-party state you might be able to record (ask your lawyer) and if you’re in a two-party state you still might be able to record openly (ask your lawyer). Many people are unwilling to put this on record.
    Even with your own behavior issues, you should still talk to a lawyer.

    1. Bingo*

      Step 1: Try to resolve on your own (clearly unsuccessful so far)
      Step 2: Have employer intervene (sounds like this is not an option)
      Step 3: Legal counsel

    2. Specialk9*

      I’m baffled by myself that I didn’t already suggest this. Good advice!

      OP, keep a log of day, time, statement, and action. This will give you options.

  57. Anonynony*

    Hrm, the last comments from OP seem like a way of excusing the environment because it makes things interesting. I guess you either need to decide interesting and stressful to the point of anxiety-inducing is better than interesting and *not*. I am really confused that you seem to have a good relationship with this office-manager in some ways, but he also abuses you. Have you ever actually sat down with him one on one to discuss the situation and ask him why he says such horrible things to you? You mention that you have a therapist, what does he/she say with regard to this situation that has driven you to seek medication? You say you feel fine now, but it sounds like you need to do something different before it gets to this point again. Biting someone is never okay, and you were not doing it in self-defense, only to get someone to move out of your way? Next time just turn heel and tell whomever you need to meet with to meet you elsewhere..? This whole scenario sounds suspect to me, to be completely honest. You mention the age of your coworker, but not your own…how old are you? Have you ever worked in an office previous to this job?

  58. Accidental Analyst*

    It may still be worth changing companies even if the office manager left.

    Just say the office manager left and his replacement was able to change the culture. Staff change and you’re still there. Some of your current coworkers joke about you biting. More time passes and your current coworkers leave. You’re now in a place where there is still a story that comes up time to time about you biting someone. No one there had any exposure to the old office manager so they have no context. Better to leave while you’re working with people who don’t find the story shocking.

  59. Granny K*

    I feel like the OP has settled for ‘the devil she knows’ rather than go out and find another job at another company. I don’t think anyone is questioning the situation or how well the OP handles things as much as the fact as the tone of the letter, which suggests this is something you HAVE to handle and is NORMAL to deal with on a regular basis. Your workplace is the OPPOSITE of normal and you deserve better. Really. Good luck and I hope you find it….

  60. willow*

    “But at least I’m an ass with better coping strategies going forward…”
    Sometimes this is all we can hope for!

  61. RES ADMIN*

    Sometimes, there is that moment of clarity when you realize that it is time to go. And suddenly, you look harder and find something better. The feeling of lightness is amazing.

    I’m about 4 months out from weird, toxic, totally dysfunctional unit. People had been telling me that I needed to get out for at least 3 years. I never realized how bad it was until I left. I’m still getting used to working with relatively sane people (my new boss is a tiny force of nature–so, fun crazy). I run into people I haven’t seen in a while and they can actually see the change in me as well as hear it in my voice, attitude, etc.

    It really is hard to see while you are in it. I was always rather surprised when people would comment on how horribly I was treated. Those things just didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Until one day, they did. But I had to come to that realization in my own time. Hopefully OP will too.

  62. blue phone*

    Okay there is a biiiiiig happy medium between “crazy workplace where biting coworkers is seen as no big thing” and “boring, soul-sucking, beige job full of boring, soul-sucking beige people who are just twiddling their thumbs until they die at their desks.” Your job search might go better if you start absorbing that lesson.

    Also, I wouldn’t mind knowing who OP works for so I can be sure to never apply for a job there.

    1. Lilianne*

      Absolutely this. “Normal” work is nothing like “They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks”. Please try to find a better workplace, the current one doesn’t seem to be doing any good for you.

  63. Collingswood*

    OP, I just wanted to agree with all the “keep looking” posts. There are better jobs out there. Me getting let go from a toxic workplace was one of the best things (in retrospect) that could have happened to me. So much happier now with colleagues I enjoy working with and a great boss. Don’t lose hope!!

  64. Tuesday Next*

    OP, please, please keep looking for something else. You deserve better.

    The situation you describe is so dysfunctional that most of us can’t even begin to grasp it. The fact that none of your colleagues are bothered by what happened is a very clear sign that it’s not just one demented office manager. Just one of many signs.

    As many others have said – there are many, many places where you can do interesting work with lovely people. Please keep looking, just until you find somewhere that approaches normal. It doesn’t have to be your dream job. It will help you to reset your ideas of what a workplace should be like.

    And try to find another doctor, one who will actually help you.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      I want to add that the horrible places I’ve worked (even the one where I almost had a nervous breakdown without realising it) didn’t come close to what you’re describing. Your office belongs in the Workplace Hall of Shame.

  65. Francesca*

    Holy crap, this is the saddest thing I’ve ever read on this site. OP, I really hope that one day you are in a position to reread this and recognise how entirely and massively screwed up everything about this is.

  66. Scubacat*

    Thanks for the update OP. It sounds like you’re content at work, despite the toxic environment.

    Random internet stranger with a normal 9-5 desk job reporting in. My job is fantastic! I’m one of the fortunate people with a career that satisfies my financial, emotional, and cognitive needs. It’s possible to have a job in an environment that’s interesting AND respectful. You deserve better than where you are.

  67. viva*

    I’m….confused. You get coffee and go for walks and have conversations with someone that calls you a fat bitch and tells you your mother doesn’t love you??

    Ummm…NO. This is not ‘normal’ office crap that everyone puts up with.

  68. Candi*

    LW, seriously: Find. another. doctor.

    If this guy can’t or won’t have you in for an appointment at all after you were at such a bad mental level that you snapped and acted completely out of social norms, he’s either too busy or isn’t taking you seriously. You don’t need the first, and the other isn’t good for your long-term health.

    Right now (well, tomorrow at 8:30) if I called my doctor, I can expect to get an appointment in no more then six weeks, and possibly as soon as two. After the conversation you had? You’d be on the appointment list and the waiting list to be called if someone canceled. They would likely also have you talk to a nurse for risk assessment, because that’s some awful mental crap you had going.

    Research up the wazoo, check reviews and Glassdoor, but I really advise switching doctors.

    Meanwhile, you can totally rock those interviews. Workplaces like this wreak havoc with people’s confidence all the time; you can get and deserve that new job, whatever job it is.

    Also remember the new car rule: Everyone complains about a lemon. No one calls the dealer to say, “This car is awesome!” Same goes for jobs.

  69. MM*

    Reading this is like a front-row seat to the process of rationalization inside another person’s brain. I totally get why LW is relieved there doesn’t seem to be any fallout, but beyond that: like Alison said, the opposite of dysfunction is not boring. LW has created that binary so as to be okay with the situation she’s in, and it’s evident even in the letter–we go from “I’d like to see how long anybody else could last under such abuse before they bite somebody” to “The abuse is the trade-off for not being bored” in just a couple paragraphs! Which is it? Is the abuse so bad that anybody would lash out tooth-first, or is it just the cost of staying awake?

    (I mean, I know what the answer is, but I’m just saying the contradictions LW is learning to live with here are…vibrantly evident in the text).

    Anyway, I don’t think LW is a bad person, but I do think they’re succumbing to something very bad as a means of coping, and like Alison, I hope they keep looking.

    1. Winter Blossom*

      Yeah, I think either this situation has already damaged the OP’s perception of normal to a terrifying degree, or they already had a deeply twisted sense of normal and thus accepted the incredible dysfunction of this workplace. Either way, something is seriously wrong here. I’m beyond horrified.

      OP, you may just be hyper-rationalising this to survive, and in a way I hope you are. But there is nothing acceptable about what you describe. Pretty much ANY other job would be a vast improvement on this, and the fact that you cannot see that speaks volumes. That worries me greatly. Please get help. Find a doctor who will actually work with you. Find a new job! PLEASE.

  70. Going Anon Today*

    I’d like to see how others handle someone, sitting 5 feet away for 50ish hours a week, who constantly calls them a b*tch, tells them they’re fat, says their mother doesn’t love them, criticizes clothes and makeup, polices how much they eat, and basically makes everything as difficult as possible.

    Is he doing this just to you? Just to women? I ask because I was in a similar situation, and how I handled it was filing a (successful) EEOC complaint.

    I’m also in a “normal” office job now (have been for nearly ten years) and it’s fantastic.

    Good luck.

  71. Anon for this*

    OP, I can really relate to your situation. I worked in a very toxic environment for almost ten years–boss was verbally abusive, had major substance abuse problems, lots of creepy sexual harrassment type situations, blatant racist statements, late night drunk texts/calls, and more basic problems like not getting paid on time because he would forget to submit payroll and then threaten to fire us if we complained about it.

    At some point I knew and believed I could do better for myself by leaving that job, but the prospect of job searching when my head was in such a negative space was very overwhelming and I ended up not really making much effort toward it. And at the same time, there were a lot of things about the job I loved–coworkers were fun and great to talk to, customers were mostly nice, there were a lot of perks that were relevant to my particular interests and hobbies, and I had a lot of freedom and latitude to exercise my own judgment in certain aspects of the job. And the horrible boss could also be super nice and even generous at times, if you stayed on his good side and didn’t call him out on his horribleness too often.

    So I stayed for a long time, and it wore at me slowly, and eventually I was diagnosed by my general physician with anxiety and depression and went on meds for it. A few months after I got on the anxiety meds, I felt mentally strong enough to really put my heart and soul into serious job searching and I managed to get a temp gig that turned permanent in a totally different field. It’s not something I ever initially thought I would enjoy, but the new job was so peaceful and my manager was so positive and affirming and professional. I didn’t even realize how much I’d been missing normalcy until I had it. It’s not always the most exciting job and my friends miss my weird facebook stories about work, but it absolutely changed my whole life to change jobs.

    I really hope when you are mentally and emotionally ready, you can take the steps you need to find a more healthy working environment. In the meantime, just know there are people who understand why you haven’t left yet. And try to find a healthcare provider that can appropriately care for you and help deal with the way this is impacting your mental and physical well-being.

    Good luck!

  72. partypants*

    um, WHAT?!?!
    You hang out with the person you bit and who calls you nasty names and makes nasty comments?
    And you expressed anxiety to your doctor and that you actually BIT a co-worker and they didn’t think it warranted an office visit?
    Jeepers, I thought my office was bad.

  73. Giselle*

    LW, every single job I had before my current job made be think that all jobs were ridiculous like that. When I started at my current job, I repeatedly asked the woman who was training me things like “Will I get yelled at if I….” and finally she stopped me and was like, “No one is ever going to yell at you here, ever. If they do, go to HR.” I was speechless. LOL.

  74. zapateria la bailarina*

    this is so confusing to me. if your office manager is so awful, frequently insults you, makes your work life exceedingly difficult, etc, why do you go get coffee with him? That is not right. Also, you applied to *one* job. One. And then since you didn’t get it, you stopped looking elsewhere? This honestly makes no sense.

  75. Davysmom*

    OP, go back and read this part of your update, please: “the office manager was shoving me a bit the other day”. Please see that your physical safety is at risk every day in your job. Your life will be so much better when you do not have to deal with this every day. Even if your new job is boring. This is so not normal. Please keep looking for another job.

  76. Longtimereader/firsttimecommenter*

    I’ve tried to read through all of the comments…but I can’t find mention of it anywhere.

    Could it be that OP has a crush on office manager? This would explain A LOT.

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