my boss is a notorious liar, and he yells too

A reader writes:

My boss is a notorious liar. All staffers are aware of this, and, in fact, it’s become somewhat of a running joke around the office. Some of this takes the form of exaggeration (“Five different people told me…” means one person he doesn’t want to identify, or sometimes just that he overheard something, but wasn’t directly told). Other things are flat-out invented.

Most recently, he came into a meeting where he felt we were being too loud and screamed at us for being off-task (we weren’t) and for gossiping about something that had happened earlier in the week (again, we weren’t). He had heard us mention the name of a person involved in the earlier incident, assumed we were gossiping about the incident, and came in yelling. While we apologized for being loud, offered to keep it down, we did clarify that we were actually following the preset meeting agenda, and that we weren’t talking about the aforementioned incident at all. He got silent and awkward, then started chewing us out for being behind on our work, saying that he had already given us extra time to complete it. Again, this was untrue. There had never been a set deadline for what we were meeting about, and him saying that there had been only made him look irrational and petty. We politely told him that we’d already completed the first half of the project and given it to the person we report to (directly above us, directly below him). Then he decided to start lecturing us about latenesses to work in the morning and people who were coming close to using all their allotted PTO.

The yelling isn’t something that happens all the time, but it does happen. It happens more often with people who are less inclined to walk away or stand up for themselves verbally. The lying IS something that happens all the time, and trying to get the truth out politely, only leads to more lies. For example, he said he had heard us word-for-word gossiping about the incident. When we clarified what actually happened, thus revealing the truth that all he had heard was a name and then made his own assumptions, he started lying about us missing deadlines. When we said that we hadn’t been given a set deadline, and that in fact half the work was already done, he looked for some other reason to justify his yelling.

My question, I guess, is this: Is this typical stressed-out boss behavior? I feel like it’s not, but maybe I’m overreacting. There are other issues at this workplace, but is the yelling, lying boss enough of a reason for me to quit?

The fact that your boss is an asshole is reason enough to quit. Not walk-out-today quitting unless you are super in demand, but find another job and quit? Yes.

This is not typical stressed-out boss behavior. Decent bosses — even most bosses who aren’t that decent — don’t yell at people or look for reasons to berate them. And he seems to be yelling at you cavalierly — he’s not even saving it for particularly serious occasions (when it still wouldn’t be acceptable), but is yelling and berating you over really minor things. And it’s particularly remarkable that he’s doing it in such a casually abusive way, like it’s just part of his day — he’s walking down a hallway, overhears something minor, and decides to duck in and scream for a while.

If it were just a matter of him occasionally exaggerating to the point of lying (saying “five people told me” when it was only one), that would be annoying and unprofessional and even, I’d argue, incompetent. But this is far beyond that. He sounds like he’s looking for reasons to berate people. At best he’s a tyrant. At worst he’s outright abusive (my vote’s on this one). Either way, he’s a jerk, this isn’t normal, and you’re not overreacting.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 310 comments… read them below }

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Thirded! I just did an exit interview about a manager similar to this (but without the yelling) and boy oh boy was it the most wonderful feeling of catharsis.

        2. Specialk9*

          Also read this book on the structure, logic, and red flags of abuse dynamics. He’s not out of control in the least.
          https ://

    1. Green Goose*

      Agreed. I had a manager like this years ago, and she was not capable of changing her behaviour. It always baffles me how people like that get into managerial positions. I would only recommend staying at your job if you really like your coworkers, the work itself AND if there is a possibility that your boss will not be your boss for too much longer.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Reminds me of a guy who fired me for taking a lunch. Literally the day after he yelled at me for not taking a lunch. The guy who got me the job apologized.

        (Best thing that ever happened to me. A week later, I got my current job. That was 25 years ago.)

        1. Green Goose*

          They should have married!
          At the end of the school year all the teachers were given the same identical gifts, which were in big bulky boxes so I left mine under my desk to bring home at the weekend. A few days later my manager asked if I had gotten my gift, and I said yes because I assumed it was under my desk where I had left it. She had apparently found an extra one so she gave the “extra” one to another part-time teacher.
          When I went to the teacher’s room later in the day and noticed that my gift was missing, which is very weird because it was under my personal desk and not a communal place for people to go through. I told her that someone had taken my gift and didn’t think much of it…
          Well… by the end of the day she had replaced the gift but was extremely angry and kept repeating that I had “lost” the gift in a “how dare you” type of way. I kept politely correcting her and saying that I had put it in a place that I thought was safe and that it was now gone. The sad part was I didn’t even want the present, and she made such a huge deal of it.
          I also knew all my fellow teachers very well and can’t imagine any of them taking it, so I sort of think it was her the whole time.

      2. FD*

        People like this usually get the job through some combination of:

        1. Being a good independent contributor (e.g. someone can be a star programmer but an absolute disaster of a manger)
        2. Poor management that rewards the wrong things (e.g. promoting people just based on tenure, not on ability)
        3. An ability to look good to the right people (e.g. knowing how to kiss the right butts)

    2. Kathleen_A*

      I’ve never met this guy and I’m not likely to, but I hate him already. He’s a jerk and a bully.

    3. Anon for this*

      My former boss assigned me to work on a project. When I came back later with the research/requirements/proposal, boss didn’t like part of the proposal. I said, “The law requires (xyz).”
      Boss said, “I don’t care what the law says; I want (abc).”
      I started looking for a job that day and left ASAP.
      So yes, run.

      1. TardyTardis*

        I had a friend who had a job at an auto body shop, as the bookkeeper. She became aware that he was double-billing clients and insurance companies. I told her to run, run, like the wind, because when he was finally hauled off to jail, he would blame everything on *her*. She did (and landed a much better job at a local university).

  1. Parse*

    If a mistake was ever to happen, he sounds like the kind of person who would make up an “explanation” to cover his ass while taking you down. You do not need this kind of boss in your life.

    1. FunTillSomeoneLoosesAnEye*

      Oh he is for sure of the “make sure to have a bus schedule handy in the event you have to toss people under one” mindset.

      1. eplawyer*

        He’s thrown people under the bus for his own mistakes. He lies. He makes up lies to yell at you.
        None of this is normal. Polish up the old resume and get out of Dodge as soon as you can.

      2. Jo*

        Yup, I’ve had this boss. The org was going through a difficult period and had to cut costs so my horrible boss was tossing people under the bus right and left to save his job.

        We all got fired. He stayed on.

        My story does eventually arrive at a happy ending, though – I’ve just heard through the grapevine that the org finally succeeded in getting rid of him! (At least two years too late, but…you take what you can get)

  2. K.*

    Either of these things are enough reason to quit on its own – I’d have started sending out resumes after the first yelling incident – but yelling AND lying? Bye. You need to be able to trust that your boss is telling you the truth about your work and the company in order to do your job, and you can’t do that. Start looking today. He’s abusive and it’s not going to change.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I agree about needing an honest, trust-worthy boss. Now I’m anxious about being about to find one!

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        Or if you think your job search may take awhile or you are not ready to move on despite his ridiculousness.

        Take the ‘Let’s eff with Dwight’ approach.

        You can spend A LOT of time dreaming and scheming of ways to eff with him and maybe carry out a few.

        I must caveat – I’ve never done it but at my last toxic job I starting fantasizing and it sure helped the remaining time I was there be a lot less charged and negatively prickly.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        There are so many more honest/trust-worthy bosses than there are yelling liars! Or at least that’s been my experience. Sometimes being around a yelling liar skews our perspective.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        LW, are you early in your career? Please allow me to assure you that MOST bosses aren’t like this. Yes, there’s plenty of bosses who have less-than-great boss skills, but they still won’t lie and yell. Leave as soon as you can manage to.

  3. JokeyJules*

    I 100% agree with Alison’s notion that he’s abusive. When I read that he just kept finding new things to yell about in the moment, it just told me that he wanted to yell and he was finding things he deemed “okay” to yell about.

    I’d seriously look for a new job. It seems like your coworkers are all in on the reality of it, which makes a bad situation a little bit better. But it’s still a bad situation.

    1. Letter Writer*

      You are correct. We are all aware of the reality, which at least means we can commiserate… and write each other letters of reference.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I feel like we need a “YBIAAAIGC” tag (Your Boss is an Asshole and Isn’t Going to Change).

    This guy sounds paranoid and defensive to the point of delusion. This isn’t something you can help him change, OP. This is something he has to want to change, and it’s something he’ll need the guidance of a skilled counselor/therapist to change.

    1. artgirl*

      feel free to delete for politics, Alison, but Snark is NOT the only person who had a thought along these lines in response to this post

    2. J.B.*

      Dear AAM:

      My boss lies, expects everyone to lie for him, and fires people on twitter. Is this normal?

      (Couldn’t resist, and so not alone!)

      1. J.B.*

        It is at least mostly confined to this subthread.

        I do think it is an appropriate conversation to have about the workplace, and well “deep state” folks have reason to fear being targets.

    3. Jesca*

      The one thing I will never do again is work for a manager like this. Because I cannot stand abusive people in general (and yes, he is abusive as he is just seeking out punching bags just to, well, punch a bag and no other reason), but they are also extremely irrational.

            1. Letter Writer*

              I agree with both of you. I tend to just stand there in shock when it happens, although this time I calmly stood up for myself, as did others. Not that it helped. Wondering if its worth citing this as a reason when I leave, or if that will just make my life harder as I’ll be short a reference. Not that I could trust him as a reference… ugh.

              1. Sam*

                But you said that there’s technically someone between you and him, right? So you still have a superior who could serve as a reference from this job (assuming that person is reasonable, of course)?

                1. Letter Writer*

                  That person was reasonable, or appeared to be, up until a few months ago. Now it’s like dealing with lying/yelling boss’s sidekick. This is that person’s second “real” job, and by far the most money they’ve ever made… so lying/yelling boss is see as the model for all things.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Same. I’ve turned down positions with “screamers” and revoked my application when learning of them. There are very few times when I would excuse screaming at all, but there is no excuse for routine screaming.

          2. Anne (with an "e")*

            I agree. When my sister told me that she had never worked for a boss who didn’t yell, my mind was blown. I have never been yelled at in the workplace.

      1. Specialk9*

        They are actually not irrational at all, they only project that. The logic and structure is horrible and so deeply selfish, but it’s there. Lundy Bancroft does an amazing job with Why Does He Do That, laying it all out. Devastating and healing as a surgeon’s knife to cancer.

    4. Letter Writer*

      I agree… therapy is in order for him. I’ve watched him exaggerate and lie about things in his personal life, also. I’m not sure if this is paranoia that comes from insecurity (he is not great at his job, even excluding the yelling), but it is an on-going issue. I’m tired of being gaslit and abused.

      1. Observer*

        I’m tired of being gaslit and abused.

        I’m glad to hear it because that’s step one to getting out of there.

        I hope you find something good SOON.

        1. Not Cathy*

          This is triggering for people with abuse back grounds as well, heck for any adult. Run Op, don’t walk away from this dumpster fire.

        2. Letter Writer*

          There is one person above him, but they worked together at a previous job, so they’re buddy-buddy. There’s also a small board of directors, but they are notoriously useless.

  5. AndersonDarling*

    The OP must work for my old boss.

    Old Boss: Everyone said this project is a failure!
    Me: Holy Cow! Let me investigate what is going on. Who said it was a failure?
    Old Boss: Everyone! Everyone said it is terrible!
    Me: But who? I need to go talk to them.
    Old Boss: … I don’t know. Maybe Jane in accounting. And why didn’t you order me 3 lunches! How could you let me go into a meeting without my phone!

    Yep, he was a real piece of…work.

    1. Aimlesstraveler*

      Omg…this is my boss. It’s not like I needed to be told that he’s awful but…wow. Good reminder that I need to GTFO ASAP.

    2. The Tin Man*

      “Old Boss: Everyone! Everyone said it is terrible!
      Me: But who? I need to go talk to them.”

      Masterfully handled. Even if it didn’t ‘work’, per se, it sounds like it still got the boss off that train for a little bit.

    3. Letter Writer*

      This is exactly it. Except he never even IDs Jane from accounting. It’s just everyone and then the subject gets changed 10 times.

    4. AKchic*

      You’ve worked for a few of my former managers. All male managers, I might add… The women had their quirks, but none were so openly abusive as the men.

      1. Sara without an H*

        AKchic, I have worked for some horribly abusive women. Rotten managers come in all genders.

        1. AKchic*

          I’m not saying they don’t. I’ve just had the unfortunate luck of working in male-dominated industries with male-only supervisors and male-only management.
          Guess how complaints were handled. They weren’t.

          1. Sara without an H*

            I work in libraries, so I’ve run into more women administrators, some good, and some really awful.

              1. Specialk9*

                That sounds like a correction that didn’t need to be made. Sara said in libraries “I’ve run into more women administrators”. I don’t think you’re going to say that the majority of librarians are male, since according to ALA 61% are female, so Sara’s comment is perfectly correct as is. You’re nitpicking.

        2. MsSolo*

          But due to institutional sexism, you’re more likely to have a male manager than female, especially in certain industries. Arseholism knows no gender, but people in charge of hiring and firing sadly do!

  6. Snark*

    Oh, OP, don’t second-guess this. Of course your boss is an asshole, and of course normal people who otherwise aren’t abusive tyrants don’t act like this just because they’re stressed. You know this, Alison confirmed, get out.

    But here’s what told me he’s abusive and toxic: the fact that he shifts targets seamlessly when one pretext for abusive dressing-down falls apart. That is not the behavior of someone, even an asshole, with a valid concern – even a misguided valid concern. This is someone looking for a punching bag on any pretext, no matter how thin.

    1. ainomiaka*

      yeah, that’s what stood out to me. If one pretext doesn’t work immediately switching to another-it’s not that he had an issue he just doesn’t know how to communicate. He’s just looking to be abusive.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I had a boss that had a tendency to fly off the handle with about half the information he needed to understand the situation (my favorite incident: when he got extremely upset that we had allowed an external party to reserve one of our lecture halls for an event without asking him — when *he* was the person who had invited that external party to use our space in the first place). However, when pointed out that he was wrong he did calm down and quite often apologized. It still wasn’t a pleasant work environment because you never knew when he was going to go off (one of many reasons I no longer work there), but it was worlds better than what the OP is going through with this constant shifting of the situation to justify his behavior.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        It’s a close relative of the boss who addresses the symptoms (people reacting to their bad management) rather than the problem (their own bad management) because no they could never be a bad manager no, it’s those useless employees who keep [insert greatly inflated shortcoming here, and if it doesn’t work keep cycling through them until they placate the grandboss].

    2. AndersonDarling*

      It’s so sad that companies fall for this. I’ve run into people like this almost everywhere I’ve worked. They yell and lie and the people above them fall for it. The Jerk gets promoted because they are full of bluster and they can tell a good story (lie) to make themselves look good. And when the highest guy on the ladder figures out that there is no substance to the Jerk, then the Jerk uses his inflated title to go to another company and bluster there.
      ” ‘Tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and furry, signifying nothing.”

      1. SarahKay*

        I know it’s a typo, but “full of sound and furry” in AndersonDarling’s comment makes me think of a loud Muppet.
        Which, given that in the UK, Muppet is slang used to describe an incompetent person, this really is the perfect typo to make in describing this man!

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Animal! He’s my favorite. And from now on, whenever I see an adult throwing a tantrum, I will think of Animal. Lol!

        1. MerciMe*

          In my experience, terrible bosses skew your perceptions so that two false things seem true:

          You start to believe it’s like this everywhere (it is not).

          You start to believe you must be so bad at your job that only terrible bosses would hire you (Also not true).

          Even if your dreadful boss eventually gets themself fired, it will typically take too long to do you any good and there is no guarantee the replacement will be better. That’s why I recommend getting out as soon as you realize your boss is awful: it saves you misery and you can use the interview process to get a feel for your prospective employers, increasing your odds of landing a good one.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          If it’s of any consolation, I have faith that there are many, many bosses out there who will clear the incredibly low bar set by your current boss. That boss pretty much had to dig a trench to set the bar that low.

        3. Former Employee*

          Sure, there’s always bound to be something you have to put up with in any job, but having a manger who yells and lies is really the bottom of the barrel.

          What’s more likely is that you’s have a co-worker with an annoying cough, braying laugh or some strange ideas about the importance of “natural” supplements.

        4. Specialk9*

          Nope, don’t let him change your level set. You know what my boss does? He is impeccably professional. When deeply disappointed in something he really wanted, he gets a little visibly annoyed, and then the next day he’s cheerful and over it. He cares about his employees deeply. He trusts us to get our stuff done and tell him when there’s a problem. (And he has a finely honed BS detector, so can sniff out when to be less trusting.)

          These kinds of bosses exist, and you can find them – you just have to leave the safe and comfortable. Because it’s not actually safe, it’s toxic, it just feels safe because it’s familiar. You deserve better, and you’re worth better.

    3. Oranges*

      Snark speaks truly. Your boss just wants an excuse, any excuse, to yell at you. The two main reasons which spring to mind are control over you or the plain fact that rage feels good. Doesn’t really matter because he’s exhibiting abusive behavior.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I think you hit the nail on the head with “rage feels good.” I don’t want to armchair diagnose, but the rage combined with the lying makes me suspect there’s something compulsive in the mix here.

        1. Jesca*

          Meh, I think he’s just a typical abusive person who are abusive because they lack appropriate basic life coping skills.

          1. Oranges*

            I can’t decide; only the gods (or possibly the LW) could know his motivation. The reason can be both or it can be ones that I haven’t run into yet. I love figuring out why people do what they do and spend a ton of time analyzing it.

            I don’t think it’s compulsive because he doesn’t do it to people who will/can push back or to people in higher positions of power.

            1. Observer*

              Yes. The ONE thing that ties bullies together is this: Whatever other motivators they have, they are opportunists. Bullies bully because they can. It’s that simple. All the rest is fluff.

              All of the other possible motivators are meaningless when a person behaves this way.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            A bad plan is better than no plan, OP. His way of managing is by crisis mongering and any crisis will do, does not matter if it’s real or not.

            Some people energize themselves by finding things to get upset over. I know of bosses who felt angry people work harder. When I pointed out that angry people make a lot more mistakes because they are not concentrating on their work, the bosses were totally shocked. They had never heard such a thing.

            I suspect that this is a dude who honestly believes you can best lead people by keeping them miserable.

            1. Letter Writer*

              Crisis mongering Is the perfect phrase for this. There are times when I think he purpose really likes things to be disorganized because it creates a crisis, an excuse for him to get worked up, A reason for him to “come to the rescue” with his yelling and lies and drama. Since a few months after I started working there, I have honestly believe that there are times when he keeps things chaotic purely for the job security/ego boost, as weird as that sounds.

              1. MsSolo*

                Who’s got that link to the Sick Systems post? We have another textbook example! LW, keep in mind that the constant crises and bullying are not just to make himself invaluable, but to convince you guys that you can’t afford to leave. You have to stay to sort out this one last crisis, you have to stay because everywhere else is the same, you have to stay because you need to protect your colleagues… I bet you have the kind of staff turnover where people either leave in the first year, or never do?

    4. Antilles*

      It also falls apart given the frequency. If your boss gets super-stressed and blows up once, well, sometimes you just get off a call with a legendarily awful client or have a spectacularly bad meeting or whatever. It’s not OK and not really the right way to handle a problem, but it’s understandable.
      …However, the key word in that paragraph is “once”. If your boss is constantly stressed, he’s not suited for the job. Part of the reason he gets paid the big bucks and has a fancy title is that he’s expected to deal with all sorts of minor (and even major) irritants on a regular basis.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, and if your boss gets super-stressed and blows up once, then most likely he will apologise or otherwise acknowledge that it was Not Appropriate for him to react that way.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        A former boss once unloaded on me and our team, at great length and volume. It was very much out of character for him, but I admit I was pretty stung. The next day he called us all into his office to apologize, personally and directly, and to explain why he lost his cool. We all accepted his apology and could tell he was still upset with himself. He never yelled at us again, and I probably would have given him a pass if he had. It just wasn’t in his DNA to abuse his team as a matter of course.

        Antilles, you nailed it. Anyone can have a bad day, and deserving managers should get a little understanding and maybe situational amnesia from their team. If they have a bad day every day, well, that’s a sign that someone needs to find a new place to work.

    5. Letter Writer*

      I know you and Allison are correct. I have left romantic relationships and friendships for less severe behavior than this, so although I had professional and personal reasons to deal with it at first, time is up. Sometimes I think that I’ve just stayed so long that the abuse feels normal. When he is nice, he’s super nice. Buying us lunch, bringing by my exact coffee order, asking about my family— which I guess only makes this more abusive, because that lures many of us in and makes us think “well it’s not always this bad.”

          1. I am good at dealing with people*

            I have a parent who treated me much like A’Hole Boss treated OP. I had to tolerate it at home. There’s no way I’d be effective in those working conditions. I would have to leave — and the OP ought to leave.

      1. AKchic*

        Consider your boss the same as a romantic partner. Those nice bits? Honeymoon phase. His yelling and gaslighting and lying? His emotional/mental/verbal abuse, which are his norms. He throws in the “nice” to keep you both off-guard, to butter you all up, and to keep you all complacent.
        “Oh, he’s not *all* bad; see, he bought us lunch!” *ignores the yelling, the multiple lies, the gaslighting, and near-constant stress* Keep smiling everyone, he brought cheesecake with the sandwiches.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Good bosses don’t need to do the Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing.

          Basic leadership. I remember one teacher who had fantastic control over a pretty rowdy group of high schoolers. And he did it by never losing his cool, taking the time to talk to each person and by having honest conversations about tough topics. He was one of the few teachers the whole school respected. This guy would sit in the middle of the class and just talk with us. He answered our questions with respect and we asked questions with respect. If a newcomer didn’t “get it”, someone would tell him to back off, “leave Mr. Smith alone”. This is what good leadership looks like.
          As others have said here a person who works at leading people is a person who gets forgiven if they get upset or make a mistake. This is because on most days everything is consistent. People know what is expected and they are confident in doing their jobs.

          Your boss is afraid of all of you and he is afraid of his job.

          1. Letter Writer*

            “Your boss is afraid of all of you and he is afraid of his job.”

            I think you hit the nail on the head. He is underqualified and not super effective at his job, particularly the leadership aspect of it. He’s perpetually stressed out, and I think this is because he’s in over his head. As a result, he takes his rage out on us.

          2. Former Employee*

            Teachers like that are truly worth their weight in whatever is valuable to them – gold, rubies, baseball cards.

            From what I understand, teaching is well paid in Finland and they get a lot more Mr. Smiths over there as a result.

      2. Oranges*

        Agree. This is how abusers get their victims to stay. I mean no one would stay in an abusive relationship if it didn’t have the nice bits (at least in the beginning, after they’ve ground the victim down…. not so much nice is needed).

      1. Letter Writer*

        I’m so sorry to hear that. :( But glad you recognize it and can avoid it in other relationships.

        Boss, btw, also does the kind then yelling/lying thing to his romantic partner, with whom he has children. I hope he fixes his behavior.

  7. paul*

    He’s an abusive ass and I doubt you can change him.

    Most bosses aren’t like this, even bad bosses. Try to get out if you can. If you can’t, just try your best not to internalize it and work on self care and coping.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. It’s very hard not to internalize it. I suffer from anxiety to begin with and yelling is a major trigger for me. I’m working on remember it is about him, not me, and on doing things to relax, especially after an incident like that.

      1. Kiwi*

        Ouch. Picture him as Animal from the Muppets (but try and keep a straight face while he’s yelling) and focus on your job search. You don’t need him messing with your health.

        1. Anony*

          I was thinking one of those small, yappy dogs who think they are God-Emperor of the House. But without the charm.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Having worked under similar conditions that anxiety can get worse around people like this. I was a worrier but once I got a boss like this I started having panic attacks. It got worse as the years rolled by.

        Make a plan and keep working on your plan until you have a new job. Start now, while you still remember that there is better out there. Yes, we can forget that or we can stop believing that there is something better out there.

        1. Letter Writer*

          So true. I’ve already started to doubt myself and other organizations. I’m so scared that I’m not good enough to work someplace better, or that any other job will be the same… I hope that’s just the anxiety and self-doubt talking.

          1. Jean (just Jean)*

            In my experience, anxiety and self-doubt are always eager to start a song and dance routine! However, they can be kept to a dull roar (and, eventually, pretty much silenced) with determination, strategic indifference, and a steady stream of encouragement to one’s other, more supportive, inner voices.

            Hang in there. You are not obliged to provide anxiety and self-doubt with a stage and an audience.

          2. rldk*

            LW, this is me, all the time. I have a very different type of bad boss, but her behavior also makes it clear that she doesn’t appreciate my work or particularly care about her reports. And I also have anxiety, so I have that same worry of not being good enough for anywhere else.

            But, the thing is, the very skills you showed in this anecdote, of calmly pointing out facts in response to vitriol and irrationality, that shows that you are adaptable and capable. Put in a normal workplace, you’ll thrive. It takes so much self-possession and knowledge of your work to be able to stand up for your work and your coworkers’! You deserve better – and when you find that next job, you’ll get it :]

          3. Observer*

            Yup, that’s just anxiety and self doubt.

            Think about this – you say elsewhere that he does this stuff to his SO and you KNOW that this is not normal in that context. You even said that you’ve left romantic relationships over this. There is no real reason to think that this is more normal in the work place than in the rest of life. Anxiety will do that to you – it will present all sorts of nonsense as perfectly logical, but it’s not.

      3. SebbyGrrl*

        I replied above that one way to live through this to think about ways you would love to sabotage or eff or prank him.

        I deal with anxiety also and tend to freeze and then later the stress of the rebound hits me and it’s that much worse.

        What really helped me dial it all down was these silly revenge, prank fantasies.

        It took the charge out of the moment as the yelling was happening when in my head I could default to the thought of setting his stapler in jello, or what it would be like if I disappeared one thing from his office every day(put it back and took a different thing another day).

        Keep in mind I never actually did anything. But having that fallback emotionally helped me not get so sucked in to the drama and the confabulations – which we KNOW aren’t true but that knowledge doesn’t help while they are yelling.

        And instead of ruminating about how I could have somehow done it better – I couldn’t have, you can’t, nothing we do can change them, I could escape to my plots and plans and laugh about each new episode.

        Lastly, is started to de-escalate my fear and anxiety about the next episode, so I felt better and not so at the whim and mercy of the crazy.

        Look at stuff on the Office and YouTube office pranks – not to do them but as a bit of escapism to help the stress.

        1. starsaphire*

          I like this strategy.

          I’ve heard from more than one mental health professional that revenge fantasies are really healthy, too — as long as they stay fantasies, and no one but you knows about them.

      1. KellyK*

        In later verses, the singer’s wife leaves them for the bad boss, taking both their dog and their pickup truck.

  8. Bea*

    Do not ever accept a boss who yells at you. The only time I’ve had one do that, they are nasty trash of a human and will always create stress for you and them. Being under pressure and dealing with stress is part of a bosses job, they do not get to take that out on staff, even if you were all dicking around during a meeting.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I agree about yelling never being OK. Unless of course there’s a fire or other emergency. However, I have anxiety and yelling is a trigger for me, so sometimes I think I’m just being overly sensitive about it. My previous bosses have rarely, if ever, yelled— even when they were very stressed or unhappy.

      1. Bea*

        I understand completely. I’m the same way and have mentioned it to all my bosses that I do not respond to or tolerate yelling. Their response is regularly shock over the idea others use far in the workplace!

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        I distinguish between shouting and yelling. Shouting is what you do if there’s a fire, or you need to get your friend’s attention from the other side of the street. It’s about volume.

        Yelling is a thing you do AT someone. It’s about anger or control.

        LW, consider walking away the next time you’re yelled at. Even if you’re in a conference room and the yeller is closer to the door than you are. Just “Excuse me” and walk away until you’re out of earshot and out of sight. (Or if you need, “Excuse me, I think I might –” while holding your hand to your mouth and fleeing to the bathroom.)

      3. Junior Dev*

        There’s this weird thing where abuse survivors often feel we are being overly sensitive, when in fact we are the only ones being sensitive enough.

        I spent 3 months working for an abusive, narcissistic executive. He was comically self-centered, and had no boundaries with employees. I was really disturbed by him because he reminded me of my abusive ex-boyfriend. Everyone else acted like his behavior was normal.

        The job before that, my boss sexually harassed me and it took me way too long to do or say anything about it because I assumed I was being overly sensitive due to a history of sexual abuse.

        Now that I look back I’m so sad I ever doubted myself. I truly believe it did long term damage to my mental health, not just to work for those jerks, but to convince myself it was all in my head and I should be ok with their treatment.

        It’s possible your trauma history means you’re better equipped to recognize the warning signs than anyone else in the office. Listen to those warnings. Get out as soon as you can.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you so much for sharing that. Sometimes I feel like I’m emotionally intelligent and working in an insane place… other times I think I’m sensitive and overthinking. I need to get out. I’m working on it.

  9. Observer*

    Your boss is terribly, and worth quitting over. But, PLEASE try to make sure you find a job in a reasonably functional work place. The fact that you are wondering if this it “typical” tells me that your ideas of normal workplace are seriously warped. That’s not a good thing, and the longer you stay in dysfunctional environments, the more your perceptions are going to be warped.

    Please start looking for a decent job NOW, and be aggressive about. (Not with prospective employers, of course, but in terms of how much time and energy you put into this.)

    1. Observer*

      Oh, and make sure you document EVERYTHING, not just the yelling and lies, but anything he tells you, any instructions and deadlines, and any related information he gives you.

      1. Oranges*

        I hate documenting; I hate that most people go straight to it also. But. This is actually a good time to do so just because of the insanity of your boss.

        1. Observer*


          Keep in mind that so many of the people who write in here are coming from problematic environments – whether is a lying boss or a harassing coworker + spineless HR, etc. And that may be why we see this kind of suggestion so often here. Because in a reasonable workplace, you’re right. This kind of documenting should not be necessary.

          1. Kate 2*

            Right. And you know you have a REALLY problematic environment when your boss doesn’t let you confirm their instructions in writing. “Boss, to confirm you wanted me to get ABC done by Monday?” “Why do you need to write things done, don’t you understand when I am talking???!!!” Um, I tried to confirm in writing because you always rewrite history to make yourself look good and me look bad. Of course there is no reason NOT to document. A boss doing nothing wrong would be fine with confirming instructions and meeting notes with them in writing.

            1. puzzld*

              Yeah. A former boss taught me to always confirm all of his requests by email. He’d tell you to do something or order some such thing then go ballistic when it turned out not to be what he wanted. So I ran everything back thru his email to get sign off. Once I figured out that he was drunk, when he gave most of the orders he’d rescind it got easier. I’d have quit, but we knew he was a short timer…

            2. Letter Writer*

              My boss will answer an email or text by coming to talk to you in person, often. Even if it’s an answer that’s simple to type.

        2. Natalie*

          I usually have the same reaction to the suggestion to document. And yet, like you, I think documentation is warranted in this situation, but not to show to your boss and try and prove something. The boss won’t care – look at how he reacted to having his error proven to him already! The documentation is for you, LW, so you don’t start doubting your own memory.

      2. Letter Writer*

        I have worked in other places where bosses rarely, if ever, yelled. I don’t think it is normal, but I’ve been in it for a few years now and we are an office with 25+ employees (granted- there is a fair amount of turnover) who all deal with it… so sometimes I wonder if it is just me being sensitive or overreacting. That’s a real sign of abuse, right? Starting to think that it is you, not the abuser, who is in the wrong?

        1. Observer*

          Correct. Google the term “gas-lighting” as well.

          By the way, the fact that there is high turnover should tell you something.

          1. Letter Writer*

            I told a coworker last week that we are being gaslit. She agreed. When that thought first came to mind, I thought I was being dramatic. Very glad I posted here. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s real.

        2. eplawyer*

          Yes it is. Abusers make it your fault. If you had turned in the TPS report on time, I wouldn’t have yelled. I had to cover with the higher ups because of YOUR mistakes. Etc. So when they yell for no reason, they have you conditioned to start looking around for what you did wrong. Takes the focus off them.

          Sadly, this is learned behavior. Just as it took time to learn, it will take time to unlearn.

        3. This Daydreamer*

          YES it is very much a sign of abuse. If you called my workplace, a domestic violence shelter and hotline, I’d be talking about safety planning to help you get out of there without physical harm.

          Start looking for a new job, and be prepared to jump immediately. If your boss realizes that you are getting free he might get even worse.

      3. Letter Writer*

        How should I go about documenting things? If I have a feeling about the meeting being ridiculous, I record it (where I live it is legal to do this without the other party knowing). But sometimes I am caught off-guard. Other than that, and saving emails/screenshooting texts, how do I document? And what to I do with the documentation? I don’t feel like he’d respond well to being shown an email he sent or played a recording of a meeting while he’s yelling (of after).

        1. HappySnoopy*

          2 ways to document.
          1. To presolve. Save emails/sent mails signed docs and even track changes to have backup you are doing your job when he goes off rails, similar to your original scenario. why didn’t you do x? We did, but you told us to change to y here. We can change it back if you prefer.

          2. basically journal. When you get hit with these specific crazy moments, as soon as you can, write down your minutes/memo to [your] file of what happened and save it so the date/time is noted. That’s to protect you. If /When you need to provide specific examples of behavior or questions on work product, you have your diary file to reference. And worst case scenario, contemporaneous records are often admissible in court proceedings*
          * Exceptions apply.

        2. Oranges*

          I think for this one, documentation isn’t for anyone besides you. You’re already CYA-ing but with bosses who lie it can… skew your reality. So the documenting is for you. To prove to yourself that it IS that bad and you ARE’T “overreacting”.

        3. Not Ned Stark*

          Documenting is about describing a pattern of behavior, and in this case, showing it to Shouty Boss isn’t going to do you any good. What it will do is a couple of things, maybe:

          1. If you have an HR department, you can show it to them if you have to bring a complaint. You can also show it to your direct supervisor, or anyone above Shouty Boss if you have to.

          2. It reassures you about what really happened. You write down, factually, what he said and what the reality was. You document the date and time of his yelling episodes. This helps you recognize that, yes, he really is lying (when you start to doubt yourself) and that, yes, it really does happen this often (when you start to think maybe it isn’t as bad as you thought).

          It might never come to anything, but if you ever decide to bring a complaint to HR or someone over his head, you have this in your back pocket.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I have worked in other places where bosses rarely, if ever, yelled. I don’t think it is normal, but I’ve been in it for a few years now and we are an office with 25+ employees (granted- there is a fair amount of turnover) who all deal with it… so sometimes I wonder if it is just me being sensitive or overreacting. That’s a real sign of abuse, right? Starting to think that it is you, not the abuser, who is in the wrong?

    3. anycat*

      i left my last company partly due to an unstable boss. one day she would be your best friend, the other she would throw you under the bus and say that you were a disappointment. you can get out – and trust me when you find a normal employer it’s such a breath of fresh air. wishing you the best.

  10. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP —
    I think you knew the answer by the time you finished your post. Your boss is a vulgar expletive. I don’t know what he’s paying you, but it’s not enough.

    Start looking for another job. You’ll find lots of good advice in the AAM archives.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. I did know my answer… putting it down in writing helped me realize that. This isn’t even my only complaint about this boss or workplace. I have started the job hunt. This blog has been a great resource.

      1. Sara without an H*

        When I made the decision to leave a Truly Toxic Former Employer, just making the decision made me feel a lot better.

        Do you journal? If not, I recommend you try it. You could write a daily brief summary of your boss’s antics — pretend your an exobiologist describing a strange form of alien life. (“When excited, the specimen’s ears turn bright red…”)

  11. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    There are two words for a person who, when face with something he doesn’t like, turns to hyperbole (Everyone else is….and Nobody else ever has too…) and when confronted with a lie doubles down and points the finger at someone else.
    The first group is children.
    The second group is assholes.
    If your boss ain’t one, he’s the other.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Slow clap for that response. You are correct! Lots of hyperboles flying around here. Using superlatives and talking in black-and-white often makes you look like a crazy liar. This is one such case.

    2. Katie*

      Yes! And that’s only because both can’t control themselves! They think this sort of “confidence” makes reporters honor them, and when they get caught, they feel like the best way to defend their “confidence” is to attack again, and again, and again, no matter the reason!

      This of course works opposite. People just hate them.

      Reasons? Lack of self-confidence, skewed understanding of honor and management, not being ready to learn or even simply admit their mistakes. Awful.

  12. MLB*

    I’ve had experience with this type of boss. The first one was with an otherwise chill boss, who while under stress spoke to me like I was the dirt on the bottom of his shoe due to a stressful situation. I was about to discuss it with him, knowing that he was normally a rational person, when I got laid off.

    At my previous job, my boss was a liar. She would either tell us something and deny it later, forget to tell us something and get pissed when we didn’t do it, or tell each of us a different version of a story (which was the most ridiculous because we were all close and she knew it). Thankfully I was able to find a new job and get far far away from her.

    Start looking for a new job. Definitely not even close to normal.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Letter-writer here. Thank you for your reply, Allison. I had a feeling this was abnormal and unacceptable. At first I stayed for professional reasons (didn’t want to be a job-hopper, then I got a significant title bump and raise), then personal ones (I needed to use our insurance and paid time off for a medical procedure). Now that I’m out of reasons, I think I should just go.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes – start job hunting now, and leave once you have a good offer. This isn’t going to get better. I have a similar experience and left it too long to leave. I was at the point where I would sit in my car outside the office, feeling physically sick at the thought of going in. In hindsight, I wish I had left much earlier.

        I lost a lot of confidence in myself and my job-skills there, because of the constant criticism and irrational and inconsistent demands.

        1. Letter Writer*

          I feel my confidence plummeting. I’ve gained skills and experience here, and I’m a hard worker, but I doubt myself often because of the way I am/other workers are treated. I’m worried about applying a d interviewing with my confidence so shot.

          1. Recently Diagnosed*

            Look up tips on how to shake interview nerves. There are some good tips out there. Most useful to me was to get my blood pumping just a little right before the interview. I walked slightly briskly up a flight of stairs. Not enough to get sweaty or disheveled, just enough to direct my nervous energy to the physical rather than the mental. Anxiety and low-confidence are a bad combo, but once you find your mojo again, you’ll be in a much better place!

            1. Letter Writer*

              Thank you for that advice. I have a phone interview later this week. It isn’t one I’m very excited for, but it will be good practice if nothing else. Will try the brisk walk– and it won’t matter if i’m a little disheveled over the phone!

          2. Not So NewReader*

            And your energy is zapped. Look for sources of protein such as chicken or salmon for a bit of a boost before an interview. I will plan on chicken or salmon or similar for dinner if I know tomorrow is going to be stressful or busy. It does make a difference when we put a little extra fuel into ourselves.
            If you are vegetarian you can find plant based protein drinks that might help.

            As far as your current self-doubt, remind yourself of how you felt when you were around an uplifting person. This can be anyone, a teacher, a coworker, a former good boss, etc. Compare the differences in yourself when you are with uplifting people vs. toxic people. And this is how to figure out when someone is pulling us down and making us feel like less-than. “How come I feel better about me when I am with Persons A, B and C, but I feel lousy about me when I am with Person X? What is different with X?”

            1. Letter Writer*

              The diet thing is important. After boss yelled in the aforementioned incident, I didn’t eat lunch. I was too upset and just wanted to be alone. I need to remember to eat and drink water at this job especially, for my mental and physical health.

              I have cut people out of my life for treating me badly. It was harder in this case because I had personal and professional reasons to “need” the job at first, and now that I’m free to go I feel worn down. But I will keep reminding myself that it doesn’t have to be like this.

            2. Oranges*

              Oooo! That reminds me. Before the interview try remembering a time when you just ROCKED at something. Like the feeling of throwing your hands in the air because you are awesome (I have been known to do this at my desk btw).

              Try to hold onto that feeling because you are awesome and your employer would be lucky to get you if your skills align with their job opening.

      2. Newlywed*

        Additionally, try not to waste any more time and energy on the job than you have to. Don’t put in tons of overtime and stress over projects. I’m not saying drop the ball and become a slacker, but for your own sanity, concentrate your energy on the job only while you’re there, and once you’re off the clock, funnel your energy into anything you can that will get you out of that situation and help you maintain your sanity in the meantime.

        1. Letter Writer*

          It’s definitely a place where above and beyond is expected… though not always rewarded. And even when it is, the criticisms outnumber the praise. I’ve gone above and beyond for them many times for years, so I fear doing just what I need to-
          But I have already started giving them less of my extra time and energy.

          1. Bagpuss*

            it sounds like you are doing the right things! I think the confidence thing for me stemmed from the fact that I couldn’t, deep down, believe that anyone would behave like my boss did without *some * reason, so while his reactions were totally unacceptable, I started to believe that there was a legitimate reason for him to be dissatisfied ( you know, ‘of course he shouldn’t have yelled at me, but he wouldn’t have said anything at all if I was doing it right, so I must have done something wrong / not well enough’) in other words, I assumed that it was his *method* of expressing his ‘feedback’, not the feedback itself, which was wrong. The reality was that he didn’t need any (rational) reason. His yelling at me or my coworkers was often due to things which had nothing to do with us, or our work.

            Do you have colleagues who can offer constructive feedback? If so, make sure that you listen when you get that (even if it is not ‘official’), to remind yourself that yes, you can do this, and do it well.

            I also agree with the suggestions to make sure that you are looking after yourself with regards to diet and self care generally.

  13. Sherm*

    My boss is in super-stressful situations sometimes and is never, ever like this. This isn’t stress, this is abuse.

  14. Bea*

    I want to also tell you that there is hope and you will be able to get away from this dbag. I’m six weeks deep into my new job away from That Frigging Guy and each day I wake up not dreading work is amazing. I’m still shaking the effects of him turning on me and have a sealed copy of my utterly insane “write up” that lit the fire under my butt to get out.

    It took me less than a month to find a new job.

    You are not trapped. I had that undying fear after a job that I was at over a decade. But I’ve fluidly moved beyond that. You can too. You deserve to be respected and allowed to do your job, bosses do not want a stressed workforce, this dude is such a POS.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. I’m anxious about the job search… that it will be too hard, that I’m not good enough, that no one else will want me… the more I verbalize this the more like abuse it sounds.

      1. Recently Diagnosed*

        Sorry to spam your comments, but I’m about a year into therapy for various fun things, and I have a tip or two. Try writing down what he said and how it made you feel. Then, below that, write out the facts of the situation. By having it on paper rather than in your head, you can VISUALIZE the truth and have a better chance of separating it from what your anxiety is trying to feed you. Use it to link what he said to how you felt, and make special note of how it is removed from the TRUTH.

      2. Bea*

        You’re not alone and many of us have been in your shoes. You have a place to talk about these things with AAM and its important to realize speaking about these things among peers may help your anxiety more than anything. It certainly has helped mine.

        Your health and happiness are important and a good work environment is achievable.

      3. Frankie Bergstein*

        Yes, exactly! Do you have people who can keep telling you how great you are? I don’t mean that to puff up your ego, but people to give you a reality check. It can be difficult in an environment like the one you’re in.

  15. Amber Rose*

    Get out, maybe take some people with you if you can. Also leave an honest Glassdoor review on your way out about his behavior.

    Best of luck in your job hunt.

    1. Amber Rose*

      For the record, when my boss is stressed out he screams and curses. In his office. With the door shut. He’s never yelled at anyone even when very bad things were happening.

      And he’s still a pretty terrible boss in a lot of ways.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I have my Glassdoor review drafted in my head! If I land someplace good, there are definitely several great coworkers I’d recommend to come with me!

  16. Myrin*

    I know this is actually a quite serious topic but I can’t get over “And it’s particularly remarkable that he’s doing it in such a casually abusive way, like it’s just part of his day — he’s walking down a hallway, overhears something minor, and decides to duck in and scream for a while.” – this honestly made my evening. You have such an admirable way with words, Alison!

    1. MuseumChick*

      Yes, if there is anyone over him to go to. Which, I’m inclined from the tone of the letter to think their is not.

    2. Augusta Sugarbean*

      That’s what I was wondering. I guess it would depend on the LW’s standing in the company, reasonableness of the grandboss, etc. If I was sure I wouldn’t need any kind of reference from the company and once I’d secured a new job, I’d consider letting the grandboss know why I was leaving.

    3. Letter Writer*

      The chain of command goes BIG BOSS -> yelling liar boss -> weirdo supervisor -> me -> other employees. Big boss is out on family leave until March, and from experience I can say he just tells yelling liar boss exactly what you said and then you get iced out/treated poorly until you leave. We also have an HR director and her assistant, but they useless on good days, toxic on bad days.

      1. Oranges*

        Soooo… basically big boss doesn’t wanna do their job. I wonder if they’ll ever realize them not doing their job is impacting their business….

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This makes sense. Bad bosses very seldom keep existing because everything is well with TPTB. Healthy companies would have purged this guy a while ago.

        I know of one company that had classes for bosses on how to be nice to their employees. Okay, there was more to the classes than that. But the point is that if a boss got reported and it was serious enough then the big boss would send the offending boss to classes. I suspect the classes had more meat and potatoes than just being nice to the employees. I also know that the same bosses would have to be sent back periodically. But the employees knew that TPTB were trying to do something and the employees knew they had been heard.

  17. animaniactoo*

    “Boss, did you just need something to yell about? Because public transportation* has been really frustrating me and I’d be happy to let you yell about it.”

    *(or insert other non-workplace relatively innocuous target)

  18. MuseumChick*

    To quote Alison in other posts “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.” Run far, far, far away from this place (once you have another job lined up of course).

  19. RVA Cat*

    Just to de-normalize it better….
    “The Force-choking isn’t something that happens all the time, but it does happen. It happens more often with people who are less inclined to walk away or stand up for themselves verbally. The blowing up planets IS something that happens all the time, and trying to get the truth out politely, only leads to more planets blowing up.”

    1. MuseumChick*

      This reminds me of the Captain Awkward concept of the “Darth Vader Boyfriend”. Some bosses are Darth Vader Bosses. They force-chock, blow up planets, etc and convince others that it is totally normal behavior.

      1. whingedrinking*

        And their own personal Luke Skywalkers run around saying, “There’s good in them! I can feel it!”

    2. paul*

      IDK, Vader started choking that one dude that was bragging on the death stare. and in TFA, he choked the engineer guy that tried to stand up for himself.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      omg! Did you see the SNL skit with Adam Driver? Undercover Boss: Kylo Ren. It was spot on. Not just the Star Wars universe, but the real world, too.

      1. Health Insurance Nerd*

        This SNL skit is one of my favorites. My husband I will sometimes just say “Matt straight up sucks” for no reason.

      2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        “A buddy of mine saw Kylo Ren take his shirt off in the shower and he said that Kylo Ren had an 8-pack, that Kylo Ren is shredded.”

        That quote was all I could think of when Shirtless!Kylo Ren made an appearance in The Last Jedi. I almost spit my drink out.

    4. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I’m not on Metafilter anymore but one thing that has stayed with me from there is the poop milkshake analogy. The short version is: would you want to drink a milkshake with poop in it, even if it’s a tiny amount of poop and it’s the most amazing ice cream ever? LW, put down the poop milkshake and run away. Good luck!

      1. Letter Writer*

        Ugh. And this milkshake is at least 50% poop. I’ve had a few other milkshakes before… only one was anywhere near this poopy.

  20. Trout 'Waver*

    Can I just say that I really, really hate the “multiple people have told me…..” lie? I had a boss who would do this constantly and it drove me up the wall. Nothing drives paranoia and distrust like telling your employees that multiple people are trash-talking them behind their back. It’s passive aggressive trash that has no place in a professional environment.

    1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      I had managers who did this too. “Several people have told me this about you, and I’m not going to tell you who.” Way to make me paranoid about every interaction I have with coworkers!

      1. Stormy*

        “If they won’t stand behind their comments, I can’t take them seriously. They are welcome to discuss their concerns face-to-face with me, like adults.”

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yes. I suppose maybe it might be better than not knowing whether the “complaint” was from one person (who was wrong), or several people (who were wrong). I used to have a conversation periodically with a boss of mine (who was a mostly good boss) that consisted of him telling me things (usually complaints or “concerns”) he’d heard from others. He’d (almost*) never tell me the source or if it was one person or multiple people, and so I was left wondering, was it a single VP who noticed I left on time, or multiples? Paranoia went through the roof. I felt like I was always being watched.

      *once, he did tell me that a coworker who sat near me and spent at least 3/4 of her time on the phone (with bill collectors) complained that I was too loud. It was then that I realized most/many of these concerns/complaints were total bs. But boss took them seriously.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        In my case, the point is that he would just lie straight out, and try to make his lie sound more plausible by attributing it to multiple unnamed sources rather than acknowledging it was his own misguided opinion.

    3. Cassandra*

      Yes, thank you. I once got the “nobody wants to work with you!” variant on this.

      Thankfully, I was gone from that hellhole not too long after.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I got that one once. It came from the person known as the worst boss in the company. Her problem was she wanted friends and was totally dismayed that she had subordinates instead.

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I had one of these too. Usually no one told her anything. She just made it up and decided to give it weight by pretending it came from other people.

    5. Been There, Done That*

      I thank heaven for the wise neighbor who, years ago, described this situation at her own job and said, “I told my boss I want to know who these people are and exactly what they said, and when he said we didn’t need to go into that now, I knew he was making it up.” I grew up in a culture of The Boss Is Always Right, and it never would’ve occurred to me that a boss would outright lie. Now every time Current Boss gives me the vague “somebody said something bad about you” line I figure she’s making it up because she’s having a bad hair day and wants to cheer herself up by creating an excuse to chew me out. And she does that a lot.

  21. Sarah M*

    I had a boss like this. She was like this All.The.Time. to pretty much everyone who wasn’t above her in the hierarchy. Sh was constantly screaming, losing her temper over the craziest things, and blaming everyone else for her mistakes. It did catch up with her (final straw: we had a vendor quit rather than put up with her abuse, and that got back to Upper Management), and she was fired. Thank God. I was 29 at the time, and over half of my hair started coming in grey after a few months there. Is it possible for you to take your concerns as a group to a GrandBoss, OP?

    1. Irene Adler*

      As long as we’re sure the bad boss and the GrandBoss aren’t buddies. IF they are, then GrandBoss knows and is okay with bad boss’s behavior. Nothing will change. You’ll be in an awkward spot too.

      (This is my situation)

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yelling/lying boss and GrandBoss are buddies. Came to the company together from another company. GrandBoss definitely doesn’t know all, but he knows enough.

  22. Nita*

    I used to have a boss like that. He lost some good staff over it. Being the manipulative person that he was, he knew that he couldn’t treat certain people this way unless he wanted a very public problem with the client-facing side of the business. Doesn’t matter, everyone saw how he deals with people he considers expendable, and morale was not very high. When I finally bailed, what was left of his team consisted of family members, and a few staffers who needed the paycheck too badly to afford walking out. He’s still around and the business is still creaking along, so I hope the years brought him a little wisdom.

    1. J.B.*

      I’ve explained people like this as “sometimes people are different inside and outside of the organization” which is always a big OOOOOH moment.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Hey, this goes back to my earlier comment. There was a term my mom said, “home devil, street angel.” That kid who was a brat at home, but sweet as pie at school…or the reverse, where he was a little angel at home who mom and dad would never believe did anything that the teacher is accusing him of doing.
        And again, the person is a child. Not an asshole. Well, not yet.

  23. Zennish*

    This sounds like the behavior of someone who is afraid of their job (and a jerk)… either they are incompetent and don’t realize it, and are constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed, or they are incompetent and do realize it, and are being super defensive/aggressive to try and hide it. …and it is never, ever okay to yell an employee. Even when I’ve fired people, I’ve always done it in a calm and reasonable tone of voice.

  24. Still learning to adult*

    Oh, yes. run fast and run far.

    One trouble in the everyday working world is that there really are a LOT of managers like this. I mean a LOT. That’s one of the reasons I read AAM; to remind myself that there is a world out there where managers manage by thought and deliberation and example instead of bullying and insult. Of the several places I’ve worked in the past 35-some years I have only had a small handful of acceptable bosses. Most of the rest of them have been bullies, liars, privilged jerks tending toward sociopathy.

    LW, where is his own boss in this mess? Do you think he has an inkling of what this guy is doing? If your group can come forward as a unit to the next level you might get something to happen.

    Good luck!

    1. Bea*

      It depresses me that you’ve had so many asshole bosses. I’ve had one asshole and the rest were delightful humans I keep in touch with regularly. I’m sorry you’ve had a rough ride, wow.

      My family has a history of getting along well with our employers, idk what the secret is…

      1. Lurks@Work*

        That you’ve had so many bad bosses makes me sad as well, Still Learning to Adult. Though it may depend on the industry.

        Restaurants tend to attract the screamers, because it is a fast paced, stressful environment and, for many, a first job. The screamers get away with more since they are dealing with people who do not know better.

        Once you enters the corporate world, it tapers off. I have had three corporate jobs since college and one screamer among the assorted management. That person was not taken seriously.

        That’s my experience, though.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You are not alone. I have spend long periods of time working 2 or 3 jobs so that increased my chances of finding more bad bosses. The ones that were good were very good. Sure, stuff happened, but on a different day or even later in the day you could go back in on The Stuff and clear it up.

      I don’t expect perfect bosses but I do expect bosses to know they are not perfect. I had one boss say, “I have told so many lies, I cannot keep my lies straight anymore.” This boss was a well-known liar. I said nothing. I just let that hang there in thin air. Not my circus.

    3. Letter Writer*

      My boss’s boss is on leave till March. But they are buddies and he knows some of what goes on.

  25. Irene Adler*

    Find another place to work.

    And, when interviewing, ask your potential boss: How do you support your reports?
    I asked this. The response: “I’m the only one who can yell at you-just kidding!”
    I walked away knowing I’d dodged a bullet- an abusive one at that.

    1. K.*

      Great question! At a previous job, I found out later that a candidate’s would-be boss asked something along those lines – “What would your current staff say about you?” or something like that. And she said they’d say she cursed and yelled too much. She was not hired.

      1. Irene Adler*

        Geez! That was her chance to make herself look good. I wouldn’t hire her just for being that ignorant. Don’t get me wrong, cursing and yelling are deal breakers too!

  26. stitchinthyme*

    I would find a new job, give my notice, and if there’s an exit interview, I’d tell them exactly why I was leaving.

  27. LittleLove*

    I had a wonderful job until the Toxic Troll arrived. I tried for a year to get along with his nasty temper, his yelling, his micromanaging, his constant insults. Then I quit. Told my Grandboss I was a leaving and he understood. He had tried to fix the Toxic Troll but didn’t have the authority to fire him. Took my two weeks notice as vacation. My health has improved by leaps and bounds, as that of my husband, who I worked with and who quit with me. He took early retirement and I am working part-time. We’ve always been frugal so we can afford it but I can’t say it too loud or too often. No amount of money–and we were paid crap–is worth destroying your physical and mental health under a Toxic Boss. We sleep better, have less stomach problems, less blood pressure problems and are enjoying life again.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It continues to baffle me why companies do not understand that the way the employees are treated can be driving up insurance costs. Employees have to do all these healthy things to get reductions on their insurance but the employer does not have to do anything about a toxic cohort. What is up with that.

    2. Been There, Done That*

      The health issue is crucial. As an acquaintance once said of her toxic, high-pressure job, “your biography becomes your biology.” She went on to a new job she loved.

  28. mf*

    LOTS of red flags here. This stood out to me: “It happens more often with people who are less inclined to walk away or stand up for themselves verbally.”

    Abusers love to pick on people less powerful/more timid than them, but they’re great at kissing ass when the other person is intimidating/more powerful.

    Anyway, the point is: RUN. RUN FAST AS YOU CAN. This guy is abusive and is not going to change.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Yes, this isn’t an anger management/rage issue. This is selective abuse of those perceived as weaker.

  29. DCompliance*

    So his reaction to thinking you and your co-workers were too loud was to start screaming….great.

    1. Letter Writer*

      The irony was not lost on me there. We’ve also heard that we’ve been rude/informal with clients and that it’s “pissing me off!” and “what the &*@! is wrong with you.”

  30. RES ADMIN*

    Sounds like he lacks self control and then lies and deflects to (try to) cover it up. I’m glad you are going to find something better. Working for people like that will really warp your reality.

  31. Observer*

    I find it interesting how many people are focusing on the yelling. Not to defend yelling at staff at all, but the lying is even worse, imo. Especially since he uses it to justify the yelling, as well.

    And you know that things are pretty bad when it’s possible to say “not to defend yelling, but x is worse.”

    To anyone who has a boss the EITHER yells or lies, start looking for a new job. If they do both, kick it up a notch!

    1. Bea*

      The things he’s lying about don’t ping on my radar, so if he calmly made up stories I would roll my eyes and ignore it.

      Yelling I can’t ignore and spikes my blood pressure.

      1. Observer*

        I think he’s lying about potentially material things. It’s not just exaggerations about his exploits, but excuses for his misbehavior and for disciplining people, and incorrect information about their jobs. I think that that’s hard to ignore.

    2. Oranges*

      I think it depends upon the person. I’m very people-pleasing/affibile so gas-lighting is my kryptonite (I’d be saying “there are five lights” real quick). Yelling… it would make me cry (because emotional) and it would destroy my self esteem. So for me both are horrible but in differing ways.

      I can see someone who has a strong sense of self and/or a strong sense of their own reality not being troubled as much by one or the other.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think the yelling is easier to nail down.

      Lying can be written off, as he was confused on a point or he misspoke or he misunderstood the situation. Compounding matters, we can do this little write offs for quite a while before we realize, “why do I always have to explain/justify his behavior?” It can take years to before we start asking ourselves these things.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Yes- it’s sometimes hard to concretely prove that he’s lying, though some lies are so blatant and easy to bust. Even then, many employees aren’t comfortable confronting their lying boss.

  32. Old Cynic*

    Get the heck out of there ASAP.

    A (now) funny story: some years back I took a job, and after being there several months, I walked in one morning to several staff members in the reception area along with a handful of client visitors and the CEO. I had my sunglasses hanging from my neck.

    CEO: is that a Croakie?
    Me (unfamiliar with that trade name): Excuse me? This? (pointing) We called it a leash at the sunglass company I worked for.
    CEO: A leash? What are you? A f***ing dog? You don’t even f***ing know what you wearing! (addressing the others) What kind of f***ing idiot is he?

    I had another job 6 weeks later.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am trying to figure out how this “leash” was the end of the world for this guy. What a meltdown, holy crap.

  33. Tim C.*

    In case you are having any doubts about leaving, consider this: If he pushes you to a limit and you get yourself fired or quit on the spot, you could tarnish your professional record for a long time. What goes in the HR record is “not worthy of re-hire”. It does not explain any of the circumstances or that he is an all out ass, just “not worthy of re-hire”. The other danger here is he is tarnishing your professional reputation when lying about missing deadlines. If looking for another job, I would be worried about his reference.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      OP, decide he won’t rattle your cage anymore. Be confident in getting out of there soon and don’t let him get to you. You have gotten this far, so you can do this.
      As far as references, if you dig around you can probably find good references. You can just tell interviewers that you would prefer your current employer did not know you were job hunting.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I am worried about his reference. I don’t want him to know I’m looking, but even a few years/jobs down the line I won’t want to list him… which I think makes me look bad, not having a supervisor reference from a job I’ve been at for a few years.

      1. Frankie Bergstein*

        Is there another person in your office that you can request references from? My understanding is that you need just one positive reference from this employer for the future.

      2. Observer*

        Once you have more of a job history it becomes easier to say something like “Boss x was problematic and it’s quite possible that he won’t give an accurate reference.” Because the other good references will show that you’re not some drama lama who can’t get along with bosses.

  34. Whyblue*

    Get out! Get out now!
    I had a boss like that once. He even took it one step further by lying to keep his employees at each others throats. I could live with it as long as there was a whole group of us, we managed to see through him and stick together. But they quit and left me alone with him and his lies turned into full-on gaslighting. He’d tell me to do A, then a day or two later insist that specifically told me never to do A. I ended up sending him e-mail summaries of more or less everything he said to me. Not that it helped, as he simply claimed he never had the time to review all my e-mails and of course I already got it wrong in the e-mail. By the time I quit, I thought I was basically to stupid to breathe. It took me several month of working with normal, non-abusive people until I was back at a reasonable level of self-esteem. Before this experience I would never have thought that this kind of stuff could affect me that much but this stuff has a really sneaky way of doing damage.

    1. Kate 2*

      I am in your situation right now, working hard on getting out. It’s amazing how they can mess with your head isn’t it? My boss is a terrible communicator, very vague, lots of 30 second long pauses in the middle of a sentence, etc. And yet he tells me I am one! I haven’t been gaslit enough yet to believe that, but I do think “I am terribly timid and ineffectual “sometimes. I keep reminding myself how awesome and kickass I am.

  35. MktgGeek*

    I worked for a boss exactly like this once. So thankful he showed me the door (at a termination meeting with a list of lies that nearly made me laugh).

  36. Stormy*

    This is my dad. He just wanted everyone to feel inferior and scared of him so he could feel powerful, and he didn’t care if what he said was true or logical. It took over 70 years for him to change, and that’s only due to memory failure.

    Unless you want to wait for your boss to develop dementia, GTFO.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I’m sorry to hear that :( But at least the experience gave you perspective.

      I’m on the hunt…

  37. AKchic*

    Your boss is an abuser who wants to feel powerful. If you have an HR department, talk to them. As a group, because this ish is absolutely ridiculous.

    Start brushing up that resume and getting your applications sent out. He isn’t going to change, even with HR breathing down his neck, but at least you can help the next batch of employees, and there is a paper trail. Granted, I am going to go out on a limb and say HR is already aware, and they aren’t caring much past “keep things quiet so we don’t get sued”. Document everything. Have everyone document their interactions. Paper trails matter. Date, times, witnesses, have witnesses document what they’ve seen. Bury them all in documentation to show that you all mean business when it comes to hostile work environment (and those are the key words).

    You don’t have to take the abuse. Nobody should.

    1. Observer*

      Hostile work environment is not an issue in most states, unless you can show that it’s related to a protected characteristic, such as race or gender.

    2. Nursey Nurse*

      Hostile work environment is a legal term that only comes into play in discrimination cases. Your boss is allowed to be an asshole. That’s not a hostile work environment in a legal sense, unless he is selectively being an asshole to women or people of color or another protected class.

  38. HB*

    Congratulations! You work for a narcissist. I would suspect that you were one of my former co-workers, except our boss was recently fired because the entire staff came together and filed an HR report.

    Working for a narcissist is terrible. He will lie all the time to make everything fit what is inside his head at that moment, and never believe you when you remind him he said the exact opposite two days ago. Everything is about his ego and things going well in his head. He will gaslight, throw people under the bus, and tell the most ridiculous lies you’ve ever heard.

    I recommend leaving. I did and life became much better afterwards. If he is a true narcissist, nothing will ever fill the void and it will not get better. See our current president for a good reference!

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      Great comment! I think that this is well-said and clearly explained. I had a parent like this :/ It’s really, really hard to change, and it’s like there’s no reason or conscience to appeal to.

  39. SaltTooth*

    I had a former boss similar to this one and I when I referred to this behavior I would say, “oh, he decided to ‘manage’ today”. Because most of the time he would hide in his office and had no idea what was happening, pretend to be our friend, and openly talk about how he wasn’t doing any work. Then he would decide to “manage” which meant pulling people into his office to berate them over minor or non-existing mistakes, corner employees and try to dig out dirt on other people in our department, or send passive-aggressive emails about how “someone” did “something” and we should all be more careful or he’ll have to start issuing write-ups. All of us knew who that someone was and that something might be as small as leaving a dirty cup in the break room sink. Any pushback and we were accused of insubordination. Thank god we were union or we wouldn’t have been able to get any work done for fear he was going to fire us.

    My advice is to RUN.

  40. Coffee Cup*

    OP#3 seems to think that people would disapprove of her use of the conference rooms because she is a woman looking at her phone eating a salad, which she contrasts to the men who play table tennis. I personally don’t really understand how this is a gendered issue…

  41. Wintermute*

    It’s easy to say “RUN RUN RUN!” but changing jobs is a stressful thing, and it’s not always easy. So please allow me to explain WHY in this case you have to run, and run soon.

    The term “gaslighting” is overused– it should refer to physical alterations to your environment designed to make you doubt your perceptions, but these days most people would call blatant to-your-face lying about your own actions to be gaslighting too.

    An authority that is apparently prepared to berate and punish you for invented actions you know you didn’t do can seriously mess with your head, your sense of normalcy, and your ability to self-advocate in a reasonable situation.

    Stay there too long and you risk ending up with reflexive ticks that will hold you back in the future, you will find yourself second-guessing your judgement, anticipating problems where none exist, distrusting your management in unreasonable ways that WERE reasonable at this terrible job. Getting over the bad habits you’ve had to adopt to survive a deeply dysfunctional environment will hurt your career growth over the long term.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Gas lughting is a term to mean making someone think one thing when it is not true.

      Constantly second guessing their work and lying about it sonthat they look inconpetant is classic gaslighting.

      Afterall, how is one supposed to point out the thing without lying?

      1. Wintermute*

        I agree that that’s what many people feel gaslighting now means. But that’s not really true. Gaslighting in the classic sense is altering someone’s environment or changing things they have done to make them doubt their own perceptions, mistrust their memory and eventually start to question their sanity. It comes from a movie where a man would alter the gas pressure in the house and cause the lighting to flicker. This distinction is really important because to people that think blatant lying or common deception and gaslighting are the same thing don’t realize how much WORSE real gaslighting is and why the distinction is important when discussing abusive behavior.

        “True” gaslighting would be deleting your work off your computer and claiming you never finished it, throwing away things in your desk and claiming you lost them, moving your possessions, altering your timesheet and claiming you did it improperly (even to the extent of keeping a fake timecard for you with punches you never remember) and so on, where there is physical concrete hard evidence (a piece of paper with a timestamp, files in a desk drawer, folder contents listed on a computer screen) that contradicts your memory. You can see how that would become extremely disorienting in a way merely lying to someone isn’t.
        You rapidly lose trust in your own perceptions and start to question your sanity if you have CLEAR memory of performing actions that there is now physical proof didn’t happen the way you remember.

        It’s been diluted in common culture to mean everything from “having a different perception of a situation than someone” to “lying” to “blatant lying” but that’s not true gaslighting that’s just deception and being a liar.

        But even lacking the intent of classic gaslighting (and the whole “altering your physical environment” thing) the end result for the LW is the same– the net result is a situation where you are acculturated to mistrust your own judgement eventually, and are always trying to accrue enough proof to defend yourself from attacks, start expecting to be yelled and and become pre-emptively defensive, develop a stress reaction to things that with a normal boss would NOT spike your blood pressure (“can I talk to you quick?” is a huge stress trigger for me to this day, to the point of full-blown chest tightness, tunnel vision panic attack), it’s a bad scene.

  42. FD*

    I think you know, at this point, that you have to leave. I suspect, from your letter and the comments you’ve made that you’re worried that it’ll be as bad or worse somewhere else, and at least you’re familiar with this situation.

    One of the catch-22s about working for jerks is that they make you doubt yourself. Partly they make you doubt your own memory–did you forget to tell him about the TPI report glitch?–but partly they make you doubt your own assessments. After all, you took the job. Why didn’t you see the signs?

    First of all, most bosses aren’t this bad. Bosses tend to be on a spectrum, with bozos like this one on one end and amazing bosses on the other end. Most bosses are in the middle somewhere. Your boss seems to be in the bottom 25% of crappy bosses, so that means that even if you chose randomly, you’d have good odds of getting someone better than him.

    Second, you may be able to learn from this. Were there red flags you can screen for? (This isn’t to blame you for taking the job, but sometimes, you can pick up red flags better in the rear-view mirror.) You can keep an eye out for similar red flags in the future.

  43. Been There, Done That*

    I appreciate Alison’s “decent boss” definition. I’ve been in this boat–although not this extreme–for several years and have known from the beginning that it couldn’t last. Sticking it out long enough for the sake of my resume has been horrible. I so agree with Wintermute. I’d expected to stay at this firm to retirement (quite a few years away), but chances of another job elsewhere in the firm are slim, and it’s clear that life in Boss’s imaginary world threatens to erode a view of workplace reality.

  44. Anonyanon*

    This describes my old boss at my old job, except everyone was abusive and yelling. I hung out as long as I could because it’s tough to find a new job, but eventually just left because it was affecting me physically and emotionally. (Not worth it!)

  45. Mayati*

    Oh hey, I worked here too last summer. It was a law office, and the boss had made a big name for himself in the local [practice area] community, so I guess he felt entitled to abuse his employees. Nobody except the people he couldn’t fire had worked for him longer than a year since…well, since before he was caught using cocaine at a courthouse 8 years before. He yelled at me in front of everyone for not reading his mind, sabotaged my work, couldn’t understand why I needed to be trained in on anything, and had decades of practice making people (especially young women like me) feel small and foolish. I stood up to him, professionally and constructively, and then got fired on a pretext.

    Thing is, I’d tried to take the route of “apply to jobs now, quit once you have something lined up” but underestimated just how HARD it is to apply for work when you’re being demoralized and abused every day. So, OP, if you need to quit with nothing lined up to preserve your mental health and your sense of yourself as a professional worthy of basic respect, then quit. I recognize not everyone has the luxury of being able to afford a little unemployment, but if you can, then this is precisely what savings are for: to save you.

  46. Annepad*

    Thank you for sharing your situation. I also have a boss that tells his employees to shut the front door! He doesn’t use the word front though. He always interrupts when you ask him for help. If his solution to a problem was the wrong solution, he points blame on everyone else. Thank you to everyone that has commented on Letter-Writers post. I love my job however my managers actions and reactions are totally abusive towards me and my team. I definitely will begin looking for a new job today.

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