updates: the boss’s baby, the stress exaggerator, and more

Here are updates from five people whose letters were answered here in the past.

1. My coworker is pregnant with my boss’s baby

If it’s even possible, this update is almost as dramatic as the original post. Before I tell you what has happened recently, I want to just clear up somethings that we’re not adressed in the original letter. Many people questioned why I showed him the pregnancy test. I showed him the test because A) his door was open and I wasn’t sure who could have seen it and B) I was really freaked out because I found a positive pregnancy test!! Quite a few people were also saying that I was a drama queen and that I was basking in the drama of the whole situation. That is not true. I was genuinely really confused, freaked out and I was worried about my job.

Starting a few days after I sent my first letter, I privately asked Jane and Fergus to leave me out of the situation. They stopped confiding in me for a while, but about a week later it started again. It wasn’t much, but still enough to make me uncomfortable. Jane told me she was trying to go back to her family. Understandably, they weren’t super welcoming. At this point, I was job searching because I felt like I just needed to get out of there. I went and reported it to HR to get job security and because I only saw this escalating further. After I reported it, I was told that something would get done, but I wasn’t told how or when. A few days later, there are rumors swirling around the office. Someone in HR couldn’t keep theirs mouth shut, and blabbed. The rumors were for the most part true, but some people started involving me. They were speculating about if I was involved, or if I also had a romantic relationship with Fergus. The rumors and HR’s lack of initiative led me to quit. I don’t have a new job yet, but for the time being, I’m financially secure. I couldn’t spend another day in that office. Because I was an assistant, and didn’t have a huge role in the company, I was allowed to quit without notice. About two weeks after I left an old coworker and I met up for coffee. She told me that Fergus’s wife came into the office and asked someone to give him some “papers”. My old coworker, and many others, believe that they were divorce papers. With all of this as public knowledge, HR finally had to do something. HR ended up firing both Fergus and Jane. While I feel bad for Jane, I’m just glad I never have to see her again, and that this whole ordeal is over.

2. Should I really do mediation with my incompetent boss?

Alison, thank you for confirming my suspicion that mediation was not the correct action for dealing with the anxious office manager. Around Thanksgiving, without mediation and after numerous meetings, he was simply demoted. His responsibilities were cut, as well as his pay, and he is no longer a supervisor. I am very happy the rest of us were not dragged into what would have been an uncomfortable (and probably ineffective) mediation session.

I would like to say that everything is great after five months, but, of course, it is not. His anxiety is still very apparent, and now there is the added anger because of the demotion. Morale is not really high because he is still in the office every day, but it has improved. Coworkers feel that they can deal with certain issues with him that they couldn’t when he was their supervisor, and there are fewer mistakes made because he has different duties.

I hope that he is looking for another job, but I know that he is staying with this one for now, as he is the only breadwinner in his household.

Thank you again for your insight, and to the other readers who added their thoughts to the conversation. It helps to know that I was not the only one who thought that mediation was a terrible solution to this issue.

Update to the update:

It happened! He finally quit. Everyone is feeling relieved, even though we are very busy being down one worker. Hopefully, someone will be hired in the next few weeks.

The manager had a few meetings with him over the last few months, and the last one tipped him over the edge and he quit on the spot. I am assuming he was on a PIP, but I don’t know for sure. The errors continued to happen even after the demotion, and the frustration level grew. We are still finding errors, but I hope these will decrease over the next few months.
Again, thank you and the readers for your input on the question of mediation.

3. My manager keeps exaggerating about my stress level

There were a host of problems associated with the exaggerations/lies and the behavior that motivated them. As some responses to the original post suggested, I began looking for and found another position.

While my former supervisor did exaggerate for dramatic or comedic effect, as often she skewed or misrepresented events to her benefit. If I asked for help, she’d say something like “I saved G. from making a big mistake!” (I’m talking minor issues. The few times I asked for actual managerial guidance, she blew it off.) Or, she’d exaggerate my role in a project, putting me in an awkward position. When there was a positive outcome, I could cite a team effort; when there was a negative outcome, I couldn’t deny my role without sounding like I was weaseling out of blame. Eventually, I lost all trust in her and in our department head, who usually defended and even made excuses for her.

The personal comments became too much to ignore, too, and extended past weird exaggerations. Most conversations included a petty insult or one-upping, and trying not to take things personally became exhausting. (“Remember that restaurant you told me about? I tried it last week, and it was terrible.” “Oh, are clogs back in style?” “Since you’re handling the boring part of the project…”)

While still at that job, I began seeing a therapist to learn coping strategies and gain some neutral insight. Granted, the therapist only heard my version of events, but he thought my former supervisor might have an antisocial personality disorder. It was uncanny how accurately he described her personality and actions beyond what I shared. I won’t go into details about the diagnosis, but he was spot on.

One of the coping strategies I found most helpful was keeping a journal because it added objectivity. I saw that how situations had unfolded on one day were not how she recounted them on another. The journal validated that, in some instances, she was straight lying. The therapist also helped me accept some hard truths: I worked for a mean, dishonest person, and nothing would change; and, while the situation was intolerable for me, it was acceptable for others.

Thank you again for the advice and feedback to my original question. I want to thank other readers, too, for their advice. It was all very helpful.

4. I’ve learned that my mentee isn’t a very good person (#2 at the link)

I’ve continued to see my mentee at social events, and have had lunch with him a few times. He’s a lot happier at his new job than he was when we worked together, and that seems to have calmed him down and reduced his tendency to rant about his co-workers.

It turns out that I didn’t need to have a conversation with him about this, because in some ways, I already had! He mentioned that something I said in his exit interview really stuck with him: that it was obvious that he didn’t really buy in to the company’s mission and that he felt superior to his co-workers. I had said that while that didn’t hurt him as an individual contributor, it would probably impact his ability to advance beyond that kind of role into e.g. management, if that was something he wanted to do. I encouraged him to either find a way to feel part of the team, or get a lot better at faking it. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person who gave him this feedback on his way out the door.

I saw him a few months ago, and he said that he had tried to approach his new role with that in mind, and was surprised at how much happier he was at work when he was actively trying to be happier at work. So while I still probably wouldn’t hire him to work for me again, I do see that he’s growing as a person and as a professional, which is nice to see. Thanks so much for your advice!

5. My boss’s second job is making everyone else’s job harder

Well, as it happened, it ended up being a non-issue for me. Our nonprofit was struggling and my boss was coming under a lot of fire from the ministry, which is the overarching funder and set all the rules and regulations. My position was a one-year maternity leave cover, and after several months of being told by my boss that I’d definitely have the permanent job after it ended (as the original woman on mat leave had since moved away), two weeks before the last of my contract she approached me and said she wasn’t going to fill the position at all as it “wasn’t necessary” and instead farmed out all of my work to the other five employees. The other employees were extremely upset, since the combination of my boss not being at work all the time plus their not receiving any training on what was my job meant that not only did they feel unprepared to do an entirely new aspect of their job, they saw my boss constantly leaving to go to her other job and leaving them high and dry.

One of my coworkers mentioned to the executive director at a fundraiser that “our boss spends an awful lot of time out of the office,” to which the ED said “well, there are a lot of demands on a manager’s time,” and when they clarified “No, she’s at her other job,” the ED’s response was “Oh yes, I see her all the time at Retail Craft Store. She works so hard!” My coworker said “Yes, bu during our workday? And she’s a manager at both jobs?” and the ED said “This area is hard to make a living in. We all have to sacrifice.”

And that’s probably about where it’s going to stay. While we do live in a remote and somewhat economically depressed area, that seems to not be a great reason to make your direct reports pick up your slack anyway. At any rate, the lack of any type of actual feedback from management (our reviews consisted of our manager handing us a rubric where she had selected our strengths and weaknesses out of a 4-point scale, telling us to read it silently, and then asking us if we had any questions) and the ongoing problems with the Ministry and funding makes me think that the end of my contract was a blessing in disguise. I’ve since taken a job that was a significant pay cut, but allows me both ongoing training opportunities, outstanding benefits, and most importantly, the ability to transfer my position elsewhere when my husband is posted away.

{ 139 comments… read them below }

  1. JD*

    I still don’t get LW1s response. You were shocked and confused over a pregnancy test? Granted, work is not the place for that but shocked and confused and involving herself is still a stretch. It isn’t confusing. Someone took a pregnancy test. That is clear as day.

    1. a1*

      You wouldn’t be shocked and confused to find a pregnancy test out in the open on your married boss’ desk with that note? And keep in mind you don’t know how long it’s been there or if others have seen it. Ok then.

      1. tigerlily*

        I don’t tend to go through the things on my boss’ desk. So I certainly wouldn’t have read the note even if I saw it. Not my business.

        1. a1*

          But it was right there, on top. There is no way NOT to see it. I mean she wasn’t in there just snooping around. She had to go in for a legit reason and saw it. If I went into someone office to get something legit – a file, even a pen, whatever – and saw that I’d be shocked and surprised and to say it’s odd to feel that way seems more than a bit disingenuous. So does going to someone’s desk for a legit reason, seeing something on their desk and calling it “going through” someone’s things.

          1. tigerlily*

            But I feel there’s a difference between noticing something and making it your business. If I noticed a pregnancy test on someone’s desk, that would register to me as “something personal and not my business” and would immediately be shuffled out of my mind as I went on doing whatever I was legitimately at my boss’ desk to do. Not something I need to be involved in or be confused over. I truly, truly don’t get noticing something personal on someone’s desk – something personal which means you probably don’t have the full context for it – and being “freaked out.” An eyebrow raise and a quick “yikes” at the situation? Sure. But freaked out? Shocked and confused? Involving myself in the situation? That just seems like way too much reaction for something not my business.

              1. Anna*

                Exactly. I feel like there are a lot of people working very hard to make this somehow the OP’s fault when it was a weird situation that she found herself in; not one she intentionally set up.

                The issue wasn’t really the OP noticing the damn pregnancy test; it was two people having an affair and involving the OP in a way she wasn’t comfortable with.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I’m applying the rule that, if you find this interesting enough to take time to comment, then people can be skeptical about all claims about how if you were OP the test would leave your mind in under 5 seconds and you wouldn’t have the teensiest passing thought as to how a massive explosion involving your BOSS and coworker might splatter on the bystanders.

                2. tigerlily*

                  For the most part, I agree with that. I think the boss and the woman he got pregnant are at fault, and especially after OP said she didn’t want to be involved and they kept talking to her about it. I don’t think OP caused anything or is really “at fault” for anything. I just also agree with JD that there was a lot of reaction for something that wasn’t OPs business.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Exactly. You’re supposed to notice things that you should draw to the boss’s attention.

                Also, even if it’s not my boss–if I go by Greg in accounting’s desk and see that there is a pregnancy test atop a note that says “From Sue in Accounts Receivable–let’s leave our spouses and children and start a new family!” and I know both Greg and Sue, I’m going to think something like “Holy crap!” and wonder what comes next. Even if I am a passing client and don’t know Greg and Sue, I’m going to think something like that.

              3. tigerlily*

                As someone’s assistant, I don’t. Especially as someone’s assistant that has access to sensitive, personal information of my coworkers – I am very good at compartmentalizing what I see that I need to know and what I see that is none of my business.

                1. GreenDoor*

                  The OP never stated her age, but I had “freakouts” over stuff like this – when I was very young, green, and thought that once I discovered a problem, I HAD TO be part of figuring out what to do about it and be a listening ear to those involved.

                  Now, older and more seasoned, I know that if I stumble upon *someone else’s* scandal or problem, I can simply say, “Huh. How ’bout that,” keep it to myself, and move on with my day.

            1. LBK*

              I don’t want to rehash the entirety of the comments section on the original post, but she had been sent to her boss’s office by her boss to get something when she saw it. He knew with certainty that she had been in his office around that time, so if she’d pretended to ignore it and then he came back later and there it was sitting in the middle of his desk, it would’ve been pretty apparent that she’d seen it, or at the very least he might have been suspicious that she had seen it.

              I think there’s value in just being straightforward about it and not putting the boss in a panic mode of “Oh crap, did Jane see this when she was getting the files for the Herman Shlow meeting?” on top of the obvious panic of finding out the woman he was having an affair with was pregnant.

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          She’s the boss’s personal assistant, and the boss had explicitly sent her in there to look for something in his things.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Working in IT, I learned long ago how to look at something without seeing it. (OK, the spreadsheet opens now, but I have absolutely no idea what’s on it, because I don’t need to know that.)

        This has been a useful skill in so many areas of life.

      2. DrAtos*

        I would have ignored it and not gone to HR even though OP 1 had every right to do so. HR handled the situation horribly as well. The affair should have remained confidential with HR. Lots of problems with that workplace. I find HR’s actions in many ways more inappropriate than an affair between two consensual adults.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        If the fallout had been instead that someone else saw the test (like a client, a top exec, or the office’s biggest gossip), and then the post mortem upper management worked out that she saw it and pretended not to, that could have gone badly for her.

        If you pretend not to see the ticking time bomb in the middle of the office, that doesn’t mean everyone else passing through also cooperates in the shared delusion and it’s pretended right out of existence.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I work in maternal child health and would still be a bit weirded out if I found a positive pregnancy test for one coworker on the desk of another coworker, doubly so if it was on the desk of a boss. Even at my job that isn’t something you see in an average work day

      1. Artemesia*

        My first response would be ignore it; it is soooooo not my business. Even as the boss’s assistant, this strikes me as ‘not my business’ unless he asks me ‘Did you see anyone put something in my office?’ or whatever. This is so intensely personal that any observation of it in the workplace should instantly install blinkers.

        1. Marthooh*

          Yeah good luck pulling that off in this situation.

          “No, a thing, what? Somebody? I have no idea. Um, goodbye for lunch, now!”

    3. Legal Beagle*

      People saying that OP should have pretended not to see it – she was worried that other employees might see the pregnancy test, which was left in plain sight. OP was put in a very weird situation and acted to protect her boss (and the company) from even more inappropriate drama and intrigue.

    4. PersephoneUnderground*

      Erm, Alison- there seems to be a pile-on of the LW again here for #1. She was clear in the update that she wasn’t snooping or trying to be dramatic, and some of these are basically calling her a liar by re-hashing how she ‘should’ have acted to prove she wasn’t a drama queen. Possibly a bit of moderation needed, don’t know. In any case, guys/gals/non-binary people/etc. can you give her a break? She was nice enough to send an update. I’ve been a LW to another column and this sort of thread dissecting motives and word choice can be really shredding to read even when you know the assumptions don’t apply and are pretty thick-skinned.

      1. Elemeno P.*

        +1. She even clarified after the initial pile-on in the first letter, and her reasons are perfectly sound.

        I have to go into my bosses’ offices all the time to grab things, and we have that stupid modern floorplan where the offices have glass walls and no doors. If I saw what the LW saw on one of their desks, I would also tell them immediately; if I noticed it, who else might have? Going to HR out of fear for her job is also a perfectly smart thing to do.

    5. gl*

      OP1 doesn’t need you being rude to her. It is really damn strange what happened and I’m glad she’s out of there. It is NOT normal. What a mess. Even if OP didn’t see the test this would have blown up anyway.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          It actually is pretty rude, though. The OP is telling us how she felt in the middle of a situation – she was genuinely afraid for her job, and she knows her workplace better than anyone else here – and you were essentially saying that her reaction was “a stretch”, invalidating the way she felt in the midst of the situation.

          We’re asked to take the OPs at their word here, and frankly I’m not really sure why it’s so hard to believe that someone would be shocked and freaked out by finding a pregnancy test and note left by a coworker on their boss’s desk. I’m trying to picture this scenario happening at my job and I think I’d be at least a little weirded out.

  2. Lady Phoenix*

    I see that (almost all) these updates have a theme: My superiors sucked, They were not Gonna chance, So Imma Get da Fuck Out

    Good on all of you!

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Hahaha. Totally. I feel like Alison can simply say to many LWs, ‘GTFO’. I know she wouldn’t as she appreciates language better than I but it would work as well as “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change”.

        1. K.*

          She usually says “Your [boss/workplace/job] sucks and isn’t going to change.” And really, sometimes that’s just how it is and you have to cut your losses. There’s no shame in it!

    2. New Bee*

      Yeah, I didn’t know if it was just confirmation bias since I was one of the updaters who left the job, but that seems to be a trend in so many of them this year. Hooray for options?

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Wooooow #1

    Good for you on getting out of there. I hope you’re able to find something quickly, because I’m not sure how you’d even begin to discuss “why you left your last job” without something lined up.

  4. BadPlanning*

    For what it’s worth OP#1 — I didn’t think it that odd that you showed the pregnancy test to your boss. It’s a weird thing to find and you could have saved your boss a lot of embarrassment in a different situation. It fell out of someone’s bag. A weird stalking scenario. A wanted surprise from his wife, but not something Big Important Client should see in his next meeting.

    1. PB*

      I agree. OP’s handling of the situation may not have been 100% perfect, but 1) I’m not sure what would have been a perfect way to handle it, and 2) finding a positive pregnancy test on your boss’s desk has got to be pretty shocking. I have no idea how I’d respond! We’d all like to think we’ll act gracefully underneath pressure, but the fact is, we don’t know unless we’ve been there. Fortunately, most of us won’t have to find out what we’d do in this particular scenario.

      OP, I hope you’re able to find a job quickly.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I think there’s a reason “What to do when you find a SURPRISE HONEY positive pregnancy test from a coworker sitting on your married boss’s desk” doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all obvious next move.

    2. Specialk9*

      Agreed. I didn’t like where some people in the comments took that. I’m sorry you had to see some people being mean, OP.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          Yeah. I don’t get the insistence that OP must be the bad actor here. There’s plenty of terrible behavior to go around between Fergus and Jane, no need to drag OP in for a comment section dressing-down.

    3. Optimistic Prime*

      Yes, and I am frankly confused by all the folks who thought it WAS odd. As his assistant, it’s her job to notice things like that. My boss frequently has meetings in her office, and I’d imagine a boss important enough to have an assistant would as well, so I can imagine a situation where they’re walking into the office and the client/other attendee sees the note and test on the desk…bring his attention to it early so he can decide what he wants to do with it and/or deal with it as early as possible.

      1. nomadic mgr*

        Yes! I have a desk visible to the public floor, and I would really appreciate an assistant saying “hey, um, I went to your office to get that thing you wanted, and there is a personal note laying on top of your desk. You may want to go take a look right now.” OP#1, you’re better off being out of there, esp. considering HR’s hamfisted handling of the situation. Good luck!

  5. Thlayli*

    Poor Jane. I agree with firing a man who slept with one of his employees, but it seems overly harsh to fire her too. It will be much harder for her to get a new job if she’s visibly pregnant so it seems like an unequal punishment.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, WTF?! A manager sleeping with a subordinate is an abuse of power. There is one person for sure in the wrong. For the subordinate, there could be lots of pressures and worries that we would never know about… Which is why we judge managers so harshly.

      Firing Jane was not ok.

    2. eplawyer*

      Normally yes. But Jane caused a lot of drama on her own in the office. Announcing she was leaving her kids for the man. Dragging in the poor assistant into this mess. There were a lot better ways to handle this. So she wasn’t fired for the affair, she was fired for her drama causing.

      OP 1, there was a LOT of drama going on here. But you caused none of it. You wanted to nope right the heck out of it and they didn’t respect that. You did the right thing getting out of there. Hope you find a drama free job soon.

      1. DrAtos*

        Jane acted very foolishly the entire time. Anyone having an affair with a colleague should not tell ANYONE at the office. I have never put myself in this situation, but there are many things including an affair that should remain private from your co-workers. It’s impossible to trust anyone (and yes, Jane should not have trusted OP 1 or placed OP 1 in that uncomfortable position) when it comes to drama and gossip that could end up in being terminated. Jane should have told Fergus about the pregnancy in private and outside of the workplace. She should have kept her mouth shut about the affair to OP 1. Although difficult to conceal, the father of the child could have remained a secret up until the birth of the child, or even longer if Jane never discusses her personal life with her colleagues. Clearly Jane was miserable in her marriage and naively believed that Fergus would leave his wife for her. Now they are both out of a job, headed for divorce, and need to support a baby on the way. Not a good position to be in for either Fergus, Jane, or their poor child.

        1. Safetykats*

          I read the manager’s behavior as being totally inappropriate and deserving of dismissal. I read Jane’s behavior as publicly and inappropriately manipulative of an apparently consensual relationship with her boss. While the boss should definitely have known better than to get into a relationship with a subordinate, it really looks like Jane was the harasser in this situation. If one person is trying to get out of a relationship, and the other is publicly pursuing them in the workplace, it would be really clear to us that this was sexual harassment and hostile work environment if the pursuer was a man, whether or not he was the manager. It’s certainly less common for a subordinate and a female to harass a male manager, but just because it’s outside the normal paradigm doesn’t mean it should be tolerated.

          No means no, no matter who is saying it, and no matter what the past relationship.

          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            I think saying a subordinate is harassing a superior is a stretch, though it’s possible, and I kinda doubt it applies to this situation. It also doesn’t say he wanted out, just that he didn’t want to leave his family. It’s classic- sleep with someone and tell them you’ll leave your spouse for them- someday, but not today. He probably just wanted a perpetual affair, not for her to actually leave her marriage for him. So “I won’t leave my family for you” does not equal “I want to break up”. And really, now that it’s a bit messy for him her contact is harassment? Pull the other one…

          2. Thlayli*

            I think you’re being unfair to Jane there. There’s absolutely no indication she “harassed” him. The first letter says she told him she was pregnant and had left her family for him, but he told her to get lost and they had one row in his office. After that there is literally nothing in either letter that indicates she spoke to Fergus about the matter again. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, but there’s nothing whatsoever in either letter to indicate she “harassed” him.
            There’s also nothing in either letter to indicate she mentioned this to anyone other than OP. It seems it was someone in HR who started all the gossip and caused all the company-wide “drama”. Before that the only three people who knew were OP, and the two lovers. Other than cheating on her husband and being naive enough to think that Fergus really loved her and OP was actually her friend, Jane hasn’t done anything wrong.

            1. Temperance*

              Leaving a pee stick on your affair partner’s desk, in the middle of the workday, is unquestionably wrong. She also more or less bullied LW1.

              1. Birch*

                Yeah, this is what I don’t understand the most about the whole situation–I can’t imagine not taking 3 seconds to put it in an envelope! Was that an oversight or did she really want to cause drama by leaving it out in the open?

                1. Lady Phoenix*

                  You answered the question. She wanted drama. She wanted everyone to know he got someone prefnant. She wanted an audience and a team to support her in marrying her boss.

                  And it backfired.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    These updates are all fairly sad :(

    (Although I’m happy the crazy has been remediated for some of the OPs.)

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #5 – my jaw dropped reading your conversation with the ED. I cannot even begin to fathom how that situation was okay with anyone. I hope your new position is a good fit!

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah that one got me too. “Hi, my boss, your employee, is doing another job when you are paying her to be my boss.” “Yep, I know, isn’t she a hard worker?” O_o

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, she’s working hard at embezzling money out of payroll for hours not worked. I am so impressed I am yawning. And the ED is complacent about this behavior. If I were one who donated to this organization, I would want to know that this is how my money is wasted. I am sure outside auditors would be interested in knowing that people on the clock were working jobs elsewhere.

        1. AKchic*

          I worked at a for-profit company and my boss (the HR manager) did this. He ran his own business *plus* had a brand new apartment building (that I had just moved into because I was desperate – Alaska is slumlord central) on top of his “day job”.
          Well – all three jobs were 9-5, what a coincidence. He thought nobody would notice. Yeah. The big bosses noticed. I was in the works to get his job at the beginning of the year. Instead I came home from Christmas break to find out I’d been evicted the day after Christmas, and fired because the president of the company (the VP’s brother, who was the one canning him and making all of the changes) considered him a son and told him if he didn’t get his ish together I’d be replacing him.

          I’ve been asked to come back a few times in the last 11 years. I have laughed each time. No way. I will never work for a family company again.

    2. LBK*

      Seriously…and what a thing to say to someone who’s presumably earning less than the aforementioned boss. Like, is the implication supposed to be that everyone should have a second job?

      1. PB*

        Oh, that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms! I had a former boss who used to complain to me all the time about her not making enough money. This bothered me, as her household income was probably double mine. Yes, she was a manager and should make more than me, but complaining to her lowest paid subordinate seemed awfully tone deaf to me.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Everyone should have a second job that they do when they are supposed to be at their nonprofit job. I guess?

        1. Bitey Gobstopper Psycho*

          In the circles I’ve been working in, this behaviour would be grounds for a firing from at least one of the jobs.

            1. Bitey Gobstopper Psycho*

              eh, in my experience Retail almost expects that their people work multiple jobs, even the managers. So I’m not surprised that Retail Craft Store doesn’t give a flying fig. I am *very* surprised that Normal Job’s ED doesn’t care either.

              1. Optimistic Prime*

                Especially in the case where manager is willing to drop everything to cover shifts. Retail doesn’t care as long as you can make their crazy last minute shifts.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            She should be made to pay back the money she received from the NPO while working at her other job.

          2. The Voice of Reason*

            But here, the organization knows what the employee is doing, and the two parties are fully entitled to negotiate the employee’s compensation accordingly. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing going on here.

            1. LBK*

              There may not be evidence of wrongdoing, but there is evidence of the arrangement failing. Something needs to change – it feels as though you’re saying, “Well, the boss knows and is cool with it, so all is well!” when it’s creating a mess for the OP, so all is not well. They may very well have thought that her working part-time would be fine, but it’s become clear it’s not.

              1. The Voice of Reason*

                I agree that we know that the arrangement was failing for *OP*. We don’t know whether it’s failing for the entire organization. It may be; it may not be. Even if it is failing for the organization, the fix isn’t necessarily to say that “manager MUST work full time”; it would be more along the lines of empowering the staff to make more decisions without the manager’s input. With due respect to OP, she doesn’t get a veto over the terms of her boss’ employment.

                1. Temperance*

                  I bet that the Board would be very interested to find out that the supposedly full-time ED was less than part-time.

                2. LBK*

                  If you’re creating a miserable work environment for your employees, you’re failing, period. That the organization hasn’t collapsed isn’t the single measure of success. Just because something is financially viable doesn’t excuse any mistreatment occurring underneath.

            2. Observer*

              Actually, it’s quite possible that they do NOT have that freedom. This is a non-profit which means that they actually do have an obligation to make sure that a full time employee is actually working full time more or less. If the employee’s salary is based on NOT being F/T, then it needs to be treated as such.

              1. Candi*

                Yep. If the agreement is the manager is to work full time (for argument, say 35-40hr/week) and she is regularly not working that time, she has failed in her professional agreement with the business, regardless of why she’s not working that time. She’s also scamming if she’s getting paid to do NPO work when she’s actually at the retail job. Employers (normally) expect you to do the work they’re paying you for when you’re supposed to do it.

                It’s on her to sort things out with her boss and the business. But the ED’s reaction gives her no incentive to do a thing about it.

                Meanwhile, the workers suffer.

    3. The Voice of Reason*

      I don’t think this is quite as outrageous as you (and the below comments) are making it out to be. The board of this nonprofit is saying — de facto if not explicitly — that the executive director position is a part-time position. The board is OK with the executive director working a second job, particularly in light of the compensation the organization can offer.

      We can’t say that this arrangement is inherently flawed. It may simply be that the organization has weighed the pros and cons and concluded the latter outweight the former. If (say) the going rate for a nonprofit executive director is $200K, and this organization can only offer $100K, the options are (1) settle for someone incompetent who will settle for $100K, or (2) come up with a flexible arrangement such as the one OP describes. The organization is likely aware that the tradeoff is that the executive director will sometimes be less available than might be ideal from the perspective of the other employees. That can be a legitimate call.

      1. LBK*

        If they intended the position to be part-time, why wouldn’t they tell everyone that and structure the workflow of the organization that way? This wasn’t a case where she only worked 3 days a week, but at least it was the same 3 days. Reading the original letter, the boss would sometimes call out in the morning for an entire day because she needed to cover a shift at her other job, or leave halfway through the day unexpectedly. That’s not just “less available than might be ideal,” that’s making it impossible for your employees to accomplish anything with any kind of consistency.

        If they intend for her to be out of the office so much, deputize some other employees to make decisions in her absence and create some kind of structure around her schedule so that it’s at least semi-predictable when she’ll be available for times her input/approval is required.

        Frankly, it sounds to me like the ED was cause off guard by this question and tried to covering the embarrassment of not realizing one of her managers was barely in the office by making it sound like she was totally fine with it.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          1. It’s clear that the executive director knows that the manager is working a second job on a regular basis. She knows the name of the store, at the very least, and that she’s working there during the day. (And apologies, I originally thought it was the ED working a second job, not a middle manager who reports to the ED.)

          2. We don’t know that the organization *didn’t* formally intend the role to be part-time. But even if the organization didn’t formally describe it as a part time role, that’s what it is, de facto.

          It may very well be that the ED hired the manager, and set her compensation, with this flexible arrangement in mind. The manager wouldn’t be the first candidate in the history of the world to say “I’ll take this job if I can devote X% of my time to outside projects”; here, X% just happens to be unusually high. Those terms were ultimately acceptable to the ED and board; so be it. (Recruiting an qualified alternative candidate to a small town in a depressed region can be challenging, to put it mildly, which may explain the board’s openness to it.)

          Ultimately, the organization and employee are entitled to negotiate whatever compensation they want with this arrangement in mind. Once LW (diplomatically) established that this arrangement was legitmate, it was time to back off — and definitely time stop insinuating that there was wrongdoing going on. (I’m of course assuming that the ED isn’t herself shielding information from the board, or something like that; but really, there’s no evidence of *anything* like that happening.)

          3. As to whether this arrangement was optimal for the organization, we don’t really know enough. Again, a flexible arrangement like this has pros (better chance of recruiting a desirable candidate) and cons (reduced availability), and the organization is within its rights to determine the pros outweigh the cons.

          Yes, I agree that the ED ought to be clear about what the staff should do if they have a time-sensitive matter and the manager is unavailable. (Depending on the nature of the organization, this may not occur very often.) It may be that the organization should empower the staff to make more independent decisions; it may be that they the organization accepts the wheels will turn more solely due to this arrangement.

          4. If LW ultimately can’t live with this arrangement and needs a more structured environment, she’s free to leave — which she did. There’s no need to be “flabbergasted” or have anyone’s “jaw drop.” The outcome worked for LW and for the organization.

          1. Bitey Gobstopper Psycho*

            My major pain point with the ED’s reaction here isn’t that, as you put it “X% just happens to be unusually high”. It’s that X% is happening on CompanyOne’s time, as far as I understand things, such that the manager is effectively getting paid by CompanyOne while working for CompanyTwo when they should only be working for CompanyOne.

            In my experience, if a person wants to have two jobs, they might arrange their life so that they work JobOne from 9-5, and JobTwo from 6p-10p.

            1. The Voice of Reason*

              “the manager is effectively getting paid by CompanyOne while working for CompanyTwo when they should only be working for CompanyOne.”

              Which is none of OP’s business. OP’s boss and the organization are both private parties, perfectly entitled to negotiate whatever terms of employment work for them. If the organization has decided it’s OK with the manager working two jobs, then that’s the outcome — OP doesn’t get to unilaterally decide that her boss “should only be working for CompanyOne.”

          2. Mary*

            It would be incredibly weird in my experience for someone’s boss to be part-time and for your direct reports not to know that.

      2. myswtghst*

        It can be a legitimate call, but as LBK details, it seems like one they could have done a better job of arranging if that were the case. The ED has to have their head fully in the sand to not realize the negative impacts this “arrangement” will have on workflow, morale, and general effectiveness of the boss and the team, especially without any type of explanation to the team or setting of expectations.

      3. NW Mossy*

        Sure, but not being explicit about the part-time/flexible arrangement (or being unwilling/unable to confront that reality) is having a negative impact on the organization’s ability to keep running on a day-to-day basis. Her staff clearly expects her to be there and they think they’re supposed to function as if they have a full-time boss process-wise, but that’s clearly not the reality.

        That lack of alignment speaks to a deeper dysfunction, which is troubling to me. The organization knows that this manager’s schedule regularly throws sand in their gears and the ED doesn’t seem shifted to do even small things that would help mitigate the impact. Approvals sit around too long? Time to change the process by delegating some authority or changing up the timing to reach the manager when she’s around more consistently. Meetings getting cancelled? Time for the team to take ownership of running their own. The list goes on, and none of the fixes need to be crazy expensive or mold-breaking. They do, however, require an awareness that significant problems in an org don’t tend to solve themselves through magical thinking.

        1. The Voice of Reason*

          “Sure, but not being explicit about the part-time/flexible arrangement (or being unwilling/unable to confront that reality) is having a negative impact on the organization’s ability to keep running on a day-to-day basis.” –> I don’t really disagree with this, but that’s a quantum leap from everyone saying that they’re “flabbergasted,” or that their “jaw dropped,” at the arrangement.

          1. LBK*

            I think people are more shocked that the ED seemed so casual about this when it’s wrecking havoc on people lower in the organization. I’ll reiterate that if this is an intentional decision and an arrangement was made to allow her to work part-time, everything else should be structured around that. It shouldn’t be a secret agreement between the two of them, meanwhile everyone working for this woman is still being expected to treat her like she’s full-time but just not showing up for half her schedule.

            1. The Voice of Reason*

              @Temperance, fair enough. When it’s you’re organization and you’re on the board or senior management, you get to make the call that “moonlight is henceforth verboten.” Ultimately, OP, as a junior level employee or outside consultant or whatever, does not make that call.

              Lookit, I get it; lower-level employees sometimes grouse that senior management is overcompensated or has “golden parachute” terms of employment. Economically, that’s what this situation is. OP doesn’t think her manager should be working part time and wants her to be available full-time. OP probably thinks the manager is being overcompensated for a part-time position (although I doubt she knows the manager’s salary, but who knows).

              All that is well and good. Nonetheless, OP has run the problem up the chain of command and established that senior management knows about this arrangement; she’s done her bit for king and country, and it’s not her place to complain about it further. Continually escalating complaints that “my boss is overcompensated!” is not a recipe for long-term success in an organization. If OP can’t live with that, she can leave — which is exactly what she did.

              I’d also respectfully disagree that an arrangement that allows employees to moonlight is, ipso facto, a “mismanagement of resources.” 3M famously allowed employees to work a set percentage (10%, IIRC) of their time on independent projects; some engineer invented post-ad adhesive during that time, and the company mismanaged its way to its most successful product ever. At the other end of the corporate lifecycle, I’ve seen pre-funding, very early-stage startup organizations — think founders, maybe an early employee or two — that encourage their staff to moonlight, because that’s how they garner some income before determining whether the new venture is viable.

              In this case, it seems to me that we have a nonprofit in a rural area/small town that had a candidate they wanted to hire for the manager position, but couldn’t afford to pay her a market rate. Perhaps that candidate may have had some hard-to-find skill that gave her some extra leverage in negotiating the terms of her employment. For this reason, the organization acceded to her request to moonlight.

              In my view, some degree of flexibility is required in running any organization, but particularly a shoestring nonprofit or new startup, and a flexible arrangement may be appropriate here. The only real basis for your allegation of mismanagement, or that the board is out of the loop, is that “the arrangement is somewhat unorthodox, therefore I don’t like it.” That’s a total non-sequitur. *Could* there be mismanagement going on? Sure. But that’s assuming a lot of facts not in evidence, and ignoring some of what we do not.

              Now, I’m not saying the organization has handled the situation perfectly. I agree that the organization would be better off formalizing this arrangement, if only because it sets expectations.
              I do question, however, whether OP’s life would really have improved that much if she’d been informed, on her first day, that “Jane only works part-time.” The organization still must confront the issue of how to handle workflow bottlenecks created by Jane’s absence. The solution is (1) empower rank-and-file staff to take more decisions, or (2) defer making decisions until Jane gets back to the office. This organization sounds like it prefers option (2), which may, or may not, be the right choice. But it sounds like option (2) isn’t to OP’s liking, and realistically, that’s not going to change much if the manager can waive around a piece of letterhead stating “I work part time!”

      4. Valancy Snaith*

        As the OP, to clarify–my former boss was not the ED, she was the director of our section, and the executive director was HER boss. The board of the nonprofit was not, as far as I know, aware that my former boss was working a second job in any way, shape, or form.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it’s actually really, really unusual for a board that can offer $100,000 as salary to figure someone will take that job plus a second retail job and just do the first one part-time. Much less that that person will be really great and COULD be pulling down $200,000 elsewhere, but the way you attract quality executives is to let them work second jobs retail.

  8. Bitey Gobstopper Psycho*

    OP#5, I’m just flabbergasted at the ED’s reaction essentially boiling down to “oh well, life’s tough”! Having an absent manager makes a job soooo much more difficult, especially if it’s a job where you need manager input in order to move forward with projects and whatnot.

    OP#3 – I hope your new position is kinder than the last, and that you are well away from your dishonest supervisor/manager/person.

  9. Health Insurance Nerd*

    While these emails are understandably annoying, can you please not use the word “retarded” here (or anywhere, actually)?

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Someone removed the comment faster than I could respond! Disregard :) (and thank you, Alison!)

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      thank you for calling this out (and thank you, Alison, for deleting the offending comment)

        1. shegotzen*

          Being in IT does not justify throwing around ableist language, making racist generalizations, or leaving off topic comments.

            1. LBK*

              Generalizing about Indian people being dumb stalkers is pretty racist. Either way, this has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    3. Health Insurance Nerd*

      You call them annoying, decline to take the phone calls, delete the emails, and move on with your life.

      The End.

      1. The Voice of Reason*

        Are you willing to risk your job over it? OP was already wrong in calculating that the executive director didn’t know about her manager’s second job. (And this is a small town; likely some of the board members may have shopped at the retail store, just as the ED did.)

        There’s a point at which intruding upon the arrangements that the manager and the organization — two private parties — have bargained for, and agreed on, is not going to end well for you. If my subordinate ran to my boss and complained, “I’m flabbergasted that my boss makes $250K. The typical market practice is not more than $100K,” I would be beyond irritated. And if the subordinate escalated the matter further, to the board, I would want to show the subordinate the door. The fact that I make more than market is irrelevant. There may be very legitimate reasons for that.

        1. Mary*

          Voice of Reason, you’re really not. “My manager is actually part-time but that’s never been formally communicated to us, her team and it’s causing us lots of problems” is not in any way a normal or reasonable arrangement and if the ED isn’t willing to entertain that conversation, then escalating it to the board is a very normal thing to do.

          It’s not necessarily risk-free, of course, because not all boards are good. But that’s exactly the kind of organisational issue that the board *should* take an interest in if they’re doing their job properly.

          Nothing wrong with the manager being part-time, but *secret* part-time, in a way that hurts her team’s work is definitely a problem.

          1. The Voice of Reason*

            @Mary, as I’ve said earlier, I agree it would be preferable for the organization to formalize the part-time arrangement, that the open secret ought to be made official, and that it ought to develop decisionmaking parameters for when the manager is out of the office.

            I don’t really see that as the crux of the disagreement, however. People seem morally offended (“flummoxed,” “flabbergasted,” “jaw dropped,” etc.) that this manager is working part-time; it’s not merely that the arrangement was poorly implemented. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to reserve language like that for egregious situations when the boss asks his employee to donate a kidney to his brother, not where someone has botched communicating the nature of a part-time role.

            Before we condemn the organization for the part-time arrangement, there’s a lot more we need to know. Is the organization paying the manager a full-time market salary? Can it afford to offer one? Is a market salary enough for the hire to make ends meet? Were there other qualified candidates who have applied to work there? (I’m skeptical on all counts, given that it’s a nonprofit in a remote, economically depressed region.)

            What happens if OP gets her way, the manager quits, and the board can’t find a replacement willing to work for what may be a sub-market salary? Then she’s gone from having a part-time manager to a zero-time manager.

        2. Temperance*

          I mean, I absolutely would be in this instance. The nonprofit is either mismanaging funds by allowing this woman to double-dip and work her other job while on company time, OR it’s so badly run that no one bothered to tell the staff that Fergusa has another job and will only work half-time.

          I’m honestly flummoxed that you’re more bothered by alleged insubordination than the very real possibility that this org is misappropriating donations. (Which is exactly what they are doing, unless this person is publicly and specifically a half-time employee with a flex arrangement and limited benefits.)

          1. The Voice of Reason*

            @Temperance, an organization is allowed to hire part-time employees. That practice perfectly consistent with fiduciary duties to shareholders, donors, and so on. (Google “business judgment rule” sometime.) It in no way constitutes “misappropriating” donations, unless the organization has, implausibly, represented to its donors that “all our employees work full-time.”

            I fully agree that it would be preferable for the organization to formalize the part-time arrangement. But you’re elevating form *way* over substance if you think that issuing the manager with a letter stating “you work part time” miraculously dissolves all your concerns about “misappropriation of donations” and so on. The real crux of your objection is that the arrangement may be unusual; “unusual” doesn’t equate to “wrong.” That’s particularly true if the organization can’t afford to adequately compensate a full-time employee. (And of course, the organization *has* told its staff that Fergus works elsewhere; they’ve done it in a sub-optimal way, to be sure, but it doesn’t sound like her second job was a secret.)

            On “insubordination,” I don’t have a problem with OP discussing the matter with the executive director. In doing so, she acted in the best interests of her organization. But I also think there’s a point where continued escalation is not her place – where she needs to accept that this is the arrangement her manager and the organization have agreed on. Moreover, the organization has no obligation to share all the details of that arrangement with her. I suppose this stance makes me some kind of overzealous Col. Frank Burns.

      1. paul*

        The funny part is it does work as a stand alone response to, well, a lot of those situations too. Yeowsh.

  10. Ry*

    #3 – I have to say I’m not very impressed with the therapist who told their patient that their boss, a person they have NEVER MET, had antisocial personality disorder. That’s commonly called psychopathy – it requires someone to have a disregard for the rights of others and generally the people have legal and criminal problems. It’s a very serious diagnosis that shouldn’t be made lightly and I find it really hard to believe a therapist could make that diagnosis based solely on what an unhappy employee says, with no insight into the boss’a personal life or circumstances. And to use that to help their patient to understand that this means the boss is just a terrible person? That’s something I’m really disappointed to hear about in a mental health professional.

    1. Ry*

      But do want to say – nothing about my problem with what the therapist did is OP’s fault and good on you for getting out of what was obviously a stressful situation. I just can’t imagine a situation where what the therapist did was appropriate.

        1. Ry*

          I was talking about ASD which is not the same thing at all. Regardless, I have already have first-hand experience with people with BPD, and other personality disorders – and also experience of being emotionally abused as collateral to someone else’s mental illness. But these have nothing to do with being annoyed at the therapist for diagnosing a person’s boss – I don’t see a situation where they could possibly have enough information. If it were the persons close family member then I could MAYBE see it, but not their boss.

        2. Language Student*

          My partner has BPD, which my therapist knows about. This would be so not-okay for my therapist to say, even if my partner hadn’t been diagnosed yet. A “maybe she should see her doctor” would be appropriate, and talking about strategies for helping me deal with things would be appropriate, but not diagnosing a total stranger, especially when that wouldn’t even be helpful to my progress. It’s unprofessional.

    2. Anon for this*

      I don’t know. My therapist has pointedly suggested that I do some research on certain psychological conditions/diagnoses after me telling her about multiple instances of a behavior from a family member or friend. We both know that she’s not legitimately diagnosing that person because clearly that’s outside her abilities since she’s never met these people (and couldn’t tell me their business, anyway). But those suggestions for further research have been really helpful for me to understand possible reasons for these people’s behavior and good strategies for how to cope with those behaviors. If OP’s therapist did more than merely suggest, that’s not okay and not cool. But there are ways for therapists to give patient’s tools for dealing with people with likely diagnoses that are not unethical.

    3. Temperance*

      A few minor quibbles: not all people with ASPD have tons of legal issues. Many are actually *quite* successful in business and other professional endeavors.

      It could be helpful to LW to look up strategies for dealing with someone with ASPD, and maybe LW just worded her therapist’s advice badly.

      I’m a member of many communities for family members of Cluster B folks. Many of us have gone to therapy and been told, in one way or another, that the behavior of our relative was unhealthy and sounds like it could fit a certain disorder. That’s not really a diagnosis, and, IMO, can be extremely helpful to healing for victims.

      1. Ry*

        You are right – generally was too broad a word to use, sorry!

        I hope the therapist’s advice was better than it was portrayed. I can see how it can help family members but it honestly doesn’t seem like an employee’s business or that an employee could pass on enough information (info that family members would be able to) and the conclusion that they were “just a terrible person” rubs me the wrong way. The stigma around personality disorders just gets to me because of a suicide of a friend with one and also being very close to someone with psychotic episodes (who gets conflated with having psychopathy as a result of people not knowing the difference) so my heckles get raised.

  11. Lady Phoenix*

    Here is another though: if Boss did not see rest before OP1 went to office, sends OP1 into office, then goes into office to see a posititve test on his desk… wouldn’t he either suspect OP1 of making a gross prank and get her into trouble, since she would have been the last person in the office?

    Cause you know what is in used pregnant tests, right? I sure as hell would be mad if I found something like that on my desk.

    Either way, this could have been a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation and once again I am disapointed by the behavior of the commenters. This and how a good chunk of people flipped their shit over the “gun target displays” is going to start an end to “Updates”.

    1. Observer*

      Well, the gun targets update was a bit different. I think that even a lot of people who agreed with her basic issue were rubbed the wrong way by the aggressive and dismissive tone of the post.

      This one is different. I think it’s both unkind and stupid for people to lambast the OP for not handling a really weird situation in that “perfect” way, and also assuming that there actually IS a knowable “perfect” way.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        The OP for the gun letter was pissed at all the gun fanatics getting on her case for not liking guns and belittling her for it, so I can see why she would get mad.

        But with those 2 plus the recent letter of the Mom OP getting lambasted for not wanting to travel as much (after just having a baby), I worry that we will start losing updates and even letters.

  12. The Voice of Reason*

    @Mary, as I’ve said earlier, I agree it would be preferable for the organization to formalize the part-time arrangement, that the open secret ought to be made official, and that it ought to develop decisionmaking parameters for when the manager is out of the office.

    I don’t really see that as the crux of the disagreement, however. People seem morally offended (“flummoxed,” “flabbergasted,” “jaw dropped,” etc.) that this manager is working part-time; it’s not merely that the arrangement was poorly implemented. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to reserve language like that for egregious situations when the boss asks his employee to donate a kidney to his brother, not where someone has botched communicating the nature of a part-time role.

    Before we condemn the organization for the part-time arrangement, there’s a lot more we need to know. Is the organization paying the manager a full-time market salary? Can it afford to offer one? Is a market salary enough for the hire to make ends meet? Were there other qualified candidates who have applied to work there? (I’m skeptical on all counts, given that it’s a nonprofit in a remote, economically depressed region.)

    What happens if OP gets her way, the manager quits, and the board can’t find a replacement willing to work for what may be a sub-market salary? Then she’s gone from having a part-time manager to a zero-time manager.

    1. LBK*

      Well, it seems the manager is more of an obstacle than really providing much if any value to the OP as it is, so I don’t know that that would actually be worse. At least that would empower the OP to act without the manager’s approval since there would no longer be a manager she’d have to go through to get things done. A manager’s presence is not intrinsically valuable if there’s completely disregarding all their responsibilities (like, y’know, managing).

      I almost have to wonder if you’ve been in or authorized this kind of part-time management situation and that’s why you’re so ardently defending it as normal, because it’s being called out as not necessarily the best solution for the employees and you’re feeling defensive that maybe when you did it, it wasn’t as successful as you thought it was.

      1. The Voice of Reason*

        (First off, apologies for the repeated post. Didn’t realize I did that until now.)

        “I almost have to wonder if you’ve been in or authorized this kind of part-time management situation and that’s why you’re so ardently defending it as normal.”

        No need to wonder. A few years ago, I was offered a managing director-level role which I agreed to accept on the condition that I could devote 10% of my time to a trade organization I was building. The company agreed, and in exchange, I accepted a slightly below-market salary. In general, it worked out well. There was an occasion on which there was some pushback from an associate who objected to this arrangement; the company calmly explained to him that this was the arrangement we agreed on, that the company believed it was in our mutual interests, and that the arrangement would be honored.

        In another organization I worked in, my direct boss took off every Friday, because her sister, who lived a three-hour plane ride away, was suffering from a terminal illness — an arrangement that lasted about three years. This was in a very high-octane industry (think investment banking/consulting/political campaigns), and it occasionally meant having to defer important decisions until her return, or once in a blue moon, taking them directly to the CEO on Friday. My boss did not have any reduction in compensation in exchange for this arrangement (for various idiosyncratic reasons, everyone in that organization knew everyone else’s salary).

        And you know what? That was perfectly fine with me, because my boss was unquestionably the best-in-class in her role. And our organization was the best in the industry, and widely recognized as such. She’d absolutely earned that unorthodox arrangement by adding tremendous value to the organization. If some entry-level employee began decrying it as “mismanagement,” it Would Not Have Gone Over Well.

        Now, I fully agree that there are some differences between these situations and OPs. We don’t know that OP’s manager was a rockstar (although truth be told, we don’t know that she *wasn’t* a rockstar, either; that’s part of the peril of a newcomer barging in and complaining about her boss’ compensation arrangements). The staff knew about the arrangements in advance and had procedures worked out about how to handle her absence.

        I don’t think those differences are the crux of your objection, or Temperances, though. You fundamentally object to a “part-time management situation.” I disagree, and I think that handled correctly, that kind of situation can be viable — particularly when you’ve got challenging circumstances, such as seeing to it that nonprofit employees in a depressed area can make ends meet. OP was an external consultant. Possibly she could parachute out to her next gig. That may not be true of the manager who was stuck in the small town.

        And finally, many of the most innovative, best-in-class companies recognize the benefits of some degree of moonlighting or independent work. I’ve already brought up the example of 3M and the engineer who developed Post-It adhesives in his spare time. Google allowed employees to devote 20% of their time to independent projects, one of which ripened into AdSense (I’ve heard contradictory things about whether this policy still exists at Google, and in what form). Apple, LinkedIn, and Microsoft have similar programs.

        Hopping up and down on one knee and complaining that “my boss isn’t available on Wednesdays!” is profoundly missing the forest for the trees.

  13. LawBee*

    “surprised at how much happier he was at work when he was actively trying to be happier at work”

    It’s amazing how effective just deciding not to be annoyed and angry can be.

  14. Candi*

    #5 -my jaw is on the floor at the ED’s response. I say it was good you got out of there; it definitely looks like the dysfunction was from the top down!

  15. Annonymouse*

    Not enough people are complaining about how terrible the HR is at OP 1 s workplace.

    Gossiping about the situation?
    Letting OPs name get dragged through the mud?
    Firing both people after the situation got way out of control?

    It like HR 101 – This is not how to do your job skit playing out.

Comments are closed.