we’ve heard rumors that our incoming new boss is a nightmare

A reader writes:

I manage a group that is part of a larger division. Last fall, the division manager (my boss) retired suddenly due to an illness in his family. A member of the C-suite has been acting as manager during the search for his replacement. Last week it was announced a new division manager had been hired and would be starting the following week. One of my staff gave me his letter of resignation not long after the announcement. He told me he worked for her before and it was a nightmare and he would take his chances with unemployment. He said he would work until the end of the week but would not be here once she started.

I had never known him to be dishonest. When I brought his resignation to our acting manager, I let her know what my staff member said and my concerns. She assured me my staff member was talking about rumors and conjecture and she personally knew the incoming manager and none of it was true. She gave me the names of the people who had been on the hiring committee and I spoke to them and was assured they had done a rigorous background check with several references.

I am confident in the process but the rest of my staff and the department at large are on edge because of all the stories my outgoing staff member told in the days before he left. How do I get my staff to ignore the rumors because I want them to start off on the right foot with our manager and I don’t want her to come in to a rumor mill?

I don’t think your goal here should be to get your staff to ignore the rumors. I think your goal should be to assess how accurate your resigning employee’s perspective is likely to be — and if it’s accurate, to figure out what to do about that.

Because, frankly, I’m not very reassured by the hiring committee telling you that they spoke with several references. What you want to know is whether any of those references were people who worked for this manager in the past. If they only spoke with people above her in the hierarchy (which is really common), they might have gotten a very different picture than they’d get if they talked with people she had authority over.

It’s also not very reassuring that your acting manager told you your employee’s first-hand experience was “rumor and conjecture.” He worked for her. He had direct experience working for her, and he’s quitting a job rather than do it again. That’s serious stuff, and it warrants more than that dismissive response.

So. What do you know of the staff member who resigned? Is his work good, and is he relatively easy to work with? Is his judgment good? If so, I’d put a lot of weight on what he’s telling you. On the other hand, if his work isn’t good, or he’s difficult to get along with, or his judgment kind of sucks, those things might explain his perspective — and that would be a lot less alarming for the rest of you.

It also depends on the specifics of what he told you. If it was “she micromanaged the crap out of my work and constantly made me redo things” and you happen to know that your employee’s work isn’t that great, she might actually be a perfectly good manager who was managing him in a way that was warranted. But if it was “she screamed at people and constantly contradicted herself and monitored how long we spent in the bathroom,” then that’s a serious problem.

If the resigning employee does seem credible, then ideally whoever Jane will report to would go back to her now, explain that someone who used to work for her quit upon hearing she’d been hired and that the rest of the team is understandably anxious, and ask something like, “Would you be willing to put me in a touch with a few people who reported to you in the past, so that I can talk with them in order to give some reassurance to the team?”

Depending on how much capital and influence you have, you might be able to suggest that. Otherwise, though, I’d go back to your acting manager now and say something like this: “My team is pretty shaken up by what Bob told us about his first-hand experience working with Jane. He reported from his own experience that she _____ (fill in with specifics about his complaints). I understand the hiring committee feels confident about her, but I’d like to be able to tell my team that there’s a mechanism in place to raise the alarm early if we see anything like that, and that (whoever manages Jane) will be looking out for problems too.” You could add, “Frankly, that will be better for Jane too, so that she doesn’t walk into a team that’s already demoralized and distrustful.”

In fact, that’s probably worth doing even if the resigning employee’s reports don’t seem credible — because whether they’re right or wrong to fear that Jane will turn out to be monster, it will help people to know they’ll have some recourse if she does. (And really, you want people to have that recourse with any manager, not just Jane — but this is a time when it’ll be particularly helpful to underline that.)

That also allows you to say what you ultimately need to say to your staff no matter what Jane is really like: “Not everyone likes every manager, and frankly not every manager works well with every person, but that doesn’t mean that your experience will be what Bob’s experience was. The hiring committee is confident that she’s a good hire — but it’s also true that hiring is an imperfect science, so if things don’t go well, there’s always a mechanism in place to deal with that. To give ourselves and Jane the best chances of success, we need to go into this working relationship with an open mind and give her the benefit of the doubt — but also know that if there are problems, we will be able to flag them outside of the division and get them addressed.”

But of course, you need that to be true — so talk to your boss and make sure it is.

{ 346 comments… read them below }

  1. Lisa*

    I feel like there’s a giant red flag that might have been missed:
    “she personally knew the incoming manager and none of it was true”
    So, your acting manager hired her friend for this position. Sounds like trouble.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think that indicates they’re friends; it could just as equally mean she knows her professionally (that was my original read of it, although it could be either).

      1. Jesca*

        She did say “personally”, so I am not sure. But what is alarming is how dismissive she was of what their own employee said and did. Like this guy quits, and she is like “nah, its just rumors”. And I mean granted the employee who quit may have been problematic in the past and ended up in a bad place with this incoming manager. But still, I can only think of like three people in my entire career I would literally quit a job over if ever I found myself in a position where they would be my manager. And even on that short list, only like 1 was a previous manager. I think it is alarming enough when you think about it that way for this woman to have just dismissed it all. It makes me believe she KNOWS the “rumors” prior to this employee “exposing” them, and yet ignored them. I’m just going to throw out the possibility (conjecture alert) that the new manager is just very good at managing up.

        If I were OP, I would be worried. I have worked for companies that had, lets say, more than enough of the “shallow hires”. Disastrous.

        1. London Bookworm*

          If I say I ‘personally know someone’, I use it to mean I’ve met them myself. As opposed to, say, my coworker’s husband or Tom Hanks, both of whom I know, but not personally, since I’ve never met them.

          I imagine that’s what the boss meant.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Well, we don’t know what she said word-for-word, so it’s no use trying to parse it here. “Personally” could mean “I know her personally, rather than professionally” or it could mean “I know her firsthand.”

          1. Jesca*

            That is exactly my point … it is a confusing word so you can or can’t make assumptions either way. I was countering one assumption by showing how another assumption does equally apply.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree that the more alarming behavior is the minimizing. Whether or not knowing someone “personally” suggests nepotism or bias in the hiring is something we can’t really determine from the letter. But “nah rumors” is an insane response to someone’s actual experiences.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          Agreed. She dismissed the ‘rumors,’ that she was *already aware of* out of hand. The employee *quit* his job saying he would take his chances with unemployment, which he is unlikely to get since he quit…rather than work under the new manager. If this was a case in court and I was the judge, the preponderance of the evidence would lead me to weigh heavily on the side of what the employee said before he walked out the door.

      2. aebhel*

        I feel like it’s dismissive to a degree that would make me suspicious. ‘I’ve worked with her before and I’ve never noticed these issues’ is one thing, but ‘I know her personally and he’s lying’ is a bit different. It reads as inappropriately defensive for a relationship that’s strictly professional, and would give me pause about the manager’s objectivity on the topic.

        1. Susana*

          That was my thought exactly – that’s it’s worse than not knowing there might be a problem. It sounds (and yeah, it’s conjecture) like she knows there have been complaints against this manager and is choosing to ignore them. It’s a pretty big deal for someone to QUIT so s/he doesn’t have to work a single day for new new manager.

      3. Stormfeather*

        Maybe the employee is cutting and running because the incoming manager used to be his girlfriend that he ghosted by leaving the country…

        Anyhow, this is one I admit I hope we get an update to, because now I’m curious!

        1. Artemesia*

          The Germans as usual have a great word for this. ‘bicycle personality’ — above he bows, below he kicks

          1. Miso*

            Huh. Who knew I’d learn new words in my native language on an English blog?

            (Although it’s bicyclist principle – just nitpicking a bit because I had a hard time googling your translation and was totally going to tell you that’s not a thing ;)

            1. Myrin*

              Tröste dich, I’ve only ever heard of this expression on here, too, and I’d like to think that I’m usually pretty on top of stuff like this. I think “nach oben katzbuckeln, nach unten treten” is a much more common turn of phrase (and having just now googled the bicyclist thing, I seem to be right; you can find like three sources for it which doesn’t seem to indicate that it’s a very widespread term).

              1. Tau*

                Yeah, another native German who has only ever seen this one on English blogs. Not to say it doesn’t exist, but it can’t be all that widespread.

          1. RVA Cat*

            It’s not my phrasing – I remember hearing it in the media for a notoriously abrasive political appointee several years ago.

          2. Katie*

            And how exactly are you going to name me, when I usually have more issues communicating to upper management and I feel better managing the team? :)

            “Kick up, kiss down” doesn’t sound right to me :D

            1. Katie*

              Just to give more details, I feel confident enough communicating to my direct above Manager, I struggle communicating to one above her when I need to.

      1. Jaguar*

        “Nightmare” doesn’t mean bullied. I’ve worked with really disorganized people who are otherwise kind and I would describe the frustration of working with them a “nightmare.” There’s no indication that the incoming manager is bulling – there’s no indication of what her personality is at all.

        1. LBK*

          Agreed – this needs a lot more details on what the former employee had issues with before I’m willing to go so far to call her a bully. That’s a pretty extreme descriptor based on virtually no information.

        2. MommyMD*

          Nightmare usually means some kind of abusive behavior. Screaming, intimidating. Doubtful a respectful but disorganized manager would receive the nightmare title.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            To you it maybe “usually” means abusive behavior, but Jaguar’s own personal experience is using that word in other contexts as well. I also have said someone was a nightmare to work with when they weren’t abusive. We really cant’ say from this letter what the employee meant.

          2. bonkerballs*

            I consistently refer to my last boss as a nightmare. She was neither a bully or abusive. In fact, most people would consider her one of the nicest people they’d ever met. She was also the most scattered, unorganized, flighty, and forgetful person I have ever met. And working for someone who would consistently remember to tell me a key piece of a project only when I was 90% done with the project was truly a nightmare.

            1. Shandon*

              Would you quit a job, with nothing lined up to go to, based on that though? I can see myself calling someone like you describe a nightmare, but I can’t imagine abruptly quitting my job and facing unemployment for anything less than truly over the line, nasty behavior.

              1. LBK*

                I did actually have a coworker quit with nothing lined up because of my current boss, who is an amazing boss to me – by far the best one I’ve ever had. The things people want out of their manager can vary dramatically and tend to be heavily reliant on how that person views work as a whole.

              2. bonkerballs*

                To be clear, my response was to MommyMD who said she doubted a respectful but disorganized boss would be referred to as a nightmare.

                But to answer your question: First off, I don’t see me quitting on the spot ever, abusive or not, unless I truly thought my life was in some kind of danger. I absolutely do not have the monetary resources to do that. So I don’t think that’s necessarily the best judgement of what constitutes a nightmare boss. But this manager was the sole reason I quit my last job, a job and organization I absolutely loved other than her. I worked on yet another huge project that was almost finished when she remembered a key detail that made me have to redo basically the entire thing, I’d had enough, and within a week had accepted the position I’m in now. And if my current ED were to leave or retire and I was told my previous boss was coming on the replace her, I would immediately be looking for another job.

                1. bonkerballs*

                  Just to clarify since the week turnaround is so quick – I had done absolutely no job searching until that moment, so it wasn’t like I was already on my way out. The job search was 100% a reaction to that last project and just somehow fell into place that quickly.

              3. Stranger than fiction*

                Yeah, plus “nightmare” imo means you frequently lost sleep because of them or had, well, nightmares because of them.

            2. Emily*

              This is how I felt about my previous advisor (I’m in graduate school). Many other students in the department consider him pleasant and even endearing – he gives off kind, friendly vibes. And yet working under him was nightmarish – he was disorganized and forgetful, frequently asked me to work on large, time-consuming tasks that did not directly benefit my research, and would get stuck on unrealistic ideas and did not respond well to pushback (he once wanted me to design something that was waaay outside of my wheelhouse and only relented when someone whose opinion he trusted more than mine very bluntly told him that it was a job for a professional engineer).

              1. bonkerballs*

                Exactly. This is the nicest lady you will ever meet, and most people in our organization love her because they don’t work directly under her – they had me as a buffer – so they never got to experience her the way I did.

          3. Sylvan*

            I read it the same way, and I don’t know about the man in the story, but I wouldn’t quit with nothing else lined up if I didn’t anticipate something really crossing a line.

          4. Jaguar*

            That’s your interpretation of the word. It doesn’t meant that to me and I hear people talk about other people being nightmares without abusive behaviour being a part of it at all. In fact, the most common thing I hear people using “nightmare” for is when someone acts crazy.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yes well, a lot of words become diluted over time from over use. Kind of like “Literally” is right now.

          5. Sam.*

            Depends on your personality. I once turned down a job because the grandboss was so disorganized that I wanted to pull my hair out *while they were recruiting me.* I would’ve found it incredibly stressful and frustrating to work with her, and I think it’s likely that I explained to friends that I had turned down the job because she would’ve been a “nightmare” to work for.

          6. Plague of frogs*

            My last boss was a nightmare. He was also a nice guy. No screaming or intimidating–in fact, he never even changed expression. But he only managed up, and he didn’t have any understanding or interest in the work he was supposed to be managing.

            1. Maude Lebowski*

              How do ppl even manage to find themselves in these situations? I get being a bit lower level and having no interest (although you’d at least have to have enough understanding to be passably okay at your job), but managing?

            2. Bored All Day*

              This is my current boss…nice guy, even-keeled, no drama. But has ZERO interest in managing employees, and I seriously doubt he knows what I do all day because he never asks. No meetings of consequence, and I’ve been on the receiving end of being ignored and blown off so he can look good to the higher-ups.

              A manager who was definitely promoted past his point of competence.

        3. eplawyer*

          But would you quit with no other job lined up rather than work with them again? The extreme reaction says something beyond mere frustration is at work here. Something went really really wrong in this work relationship. Maybe the employee was the problem and didn’t like being managed. Maybe the manager was like a lot of the bad bosses we read about on here.

          1. JustaTech*

            I had a coworker threaten (seriously) to quit without anything lined up if our previous boss became his direct supervisor on a new project. Ex-boss wasn’t a screamer, or a bully, though he could be dismissive. He was just disorganized and, most serious of all, had a terrible habit of not using nouns when talking about what he wanted you to do. Like “Hey, can you do that analysis on that thing? I need it by 5.” When we had 5 projects running and it could have been any of them.
            A person can be a nice human being and also such an awful boss that they’ll give you an ulcer.

            1. myswtghst*

              I had a boss who was wonderful in many ways, but was never willing to push back on the business we did work for, which led to a lot of nightmare scheduling situations which could have been avoided. I’d have to think long and hard about working for that person again, even though they did their best to be a good and supportive boss, because their unwillingness to say no to business partners had a really negative impact on my work-life balance and my mental health. Without an assurance they’d changed, I’d definitely have one foot out the door.

            2. Kathleen_A*

              I just had a colleague quit with no notice last year with no job in the offing (came in late at night, cleaned out his office, collected the files he needed, and then turned in his notice the next day “effective immediately”), and the reason was our mutual supervisor. Did he have reason to be unhappy? Yes. Was he being abused or did he work for a “nightmare”? It didn’t seem to so me, but apparently he disagreed. He still hasn’t found a decent job, at least not as far as I can tell from LinkedIn or Facebook, so I hope he hasn’t had second thoughts.

              “Nightmare” is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            I’m dying to know more too. I think the Op is being very careful not to give identifying details.

          3. Plague of frogs*

            I would absolutely quit with no job lined up rather than work for my former boss, who was a perfectly nice guy but a terrible boss. I recognize I’m in a privileged position to be able to do this, but perhaps OP’s former report is also in a privileged position.

            1. myswtghst*

              I wondered about this, too. We don’t know if the employee has plenty of savings, or another source of income, which would make quitting less of a big deal. We don’t know if the employee has an in-demand set of skills or recruiters in his LinkedIn inbox with opportunities each week, which would make getting another job a lot easier. We don’t know if the employee is even 100% satisfied at the job he’s leaving, or if maybe he’d been considering it for a while and this was the final straw.

              It’s definitely alarming that the employee said “nope, nightmare, I’m out”, but it isn’t a set amount of alarming – it could be anywhere from mildly concerning to flat out terrifying, depending on the employee.

            2. Only here for the teapots*

              My household is definitely not financially privileged, but I am rooting for my partner to quit her job without another lined up because the cash flow hit is easier to manage than the grinding unending daily struggle to cope with a well-meaning but completely overwhelmed and ineffective company owner and the ripple effects of his (lack of) management style.
              It ends up being like a cycle of abuse, with a period of somewhat ok functioning, then another manufactured all-consuming crisis. But we’re later in our career paths and might have different work/life balance expectations than other folks, a la Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes and her better insurance.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think it’s not just that they quit, but that they quit with only one week notice instead of two because they could not even bear to be in the building at the same time as the new boss! If you knew working with them was frustrating and would be untenable in the long term, but they were otherwise a nice person, I can’t imagine that you would be literally unable to be in the same building for one week.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              That was the tipping point for me as well. If it were me and this was a flighty or disorganized former boss, it wouldn’t be as hard to work in the same space for a week while wrapping things up, and possibly having a couple of fake-positive small talk experiences.

              But to say, “No, I will not be in the same building as this person. I do not want to see her face. I am cutting the standard notice period short so that I do not have to do these things,” implies more than a boss who doesn’t pay close attention and plays fast and loose with deadlines. There’s only one person I’ve ever worked for that would cause me to make this decision, and she was definitely abusive.

              So, yes, theoretically it could go either way. But the way the letter was worded makes me believe the new boss is likely to have abusive tendencies.

        4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          Yes and no. The fact that an employee would quit with short notice and without another job lined up rather than work for this manager for even one day would heavily suggest that she is more than frustratingly disorganized or nice-but-annoying. The employee could be a giant drama llama who wanted to do an Oscar-worthy flounce, but I would think that the OP would have said something if he had that habit.

          1. Jaguar*

            You’re explaining a conclusion by making up premises. Surely you can understand why that’s a bad idea, right?

            1. Triplestep*

              Not in this case given what little we do know. The idea of working a second time for someone I had found disorganized but otherwise kind would make me dust off my resume. The idea of working a second time for a bully or manipulative jerk would make me quit before he or she started. I don’t think it’s that farfetched to arrive at the bully conclusion here.

            2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

              I think you’re arguing for arguments sake — a war in which one person must win and the others must lose. Surly you also can understand why that is a bad idea too, right? You are also making your own judgements about what “nightmare” could mean based on your own experience. Perhaps in my career I’ve worked with a more rational and pragmatic group of people, but I’ve never met a professional adult who would quit a job and have no income because a new manager, who hadn’t even started yet, was disorganized.

              1. Jaguar*

                How do you expect me to have an honest discussion with you when you speculate (incorrectly) on my motives and then ask me a question predicated on that assumption?

                You’re wrong and you misread what I said. I don’t know what I can tell you beyond that.

              2. Camellia*

                You are just assuming they’ll have no income. Maybe they’re rich. Maybe they have a lot in savings. Maybe they know they can walk into a job at another company without any difficulty.

                You are making unreasoned assumptions and your argument is weak because of it.

                1. MK*

                  If they can get a new job so easily, it would make more sense to give notice and leave quietly, surely? Same with not needing the income. Considering the new manager hadn’t even started yet, most, if not all, people would tolerate being in the same workplace with someone not actively unbearable.

                  Refusing to even meet someone again suggests a bigger problem.

        5. J.B.*

          It could be any number of things. But when dealing with bullying, a higher up can absolutely miss signs that are grossly obvious to junior staff. Hence “troubling” not “this is what happened absolutely”.

          I don’t know what is going on with this situation, and getting details out of the employee would be a great idea.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I missed that Coffeecup was bullying Remote Co-worker because of the “remote” part. But I’d flatly refused to ever work with him again for egregiously bad performance reasons. Coincidentally enough, he’s now working at the same company as I am. Not on any related projects, but if the stars aligned so badly that it was work with him or walk, I’d walk.

        6. aebhel*

          I mean… I’ve worked for some very frustrating people in the past, but given that this guy is willing to quit and be unemployed rather than work with her again strikes me as something most people wouldn’t do for a basically nice person who isn’t great at staying organized.

      2. Kai Jones*

        I would like to (a) put this in my common reader and (b) use this in future conversations. Do you object? If not, would you like credit and how would you like to be credited?

          1. Kai Jones*

            Yes, it’s you. :) So would you like to be credited? Example: “As J.B. once said on the AskaManager site, Bullies definitely calibrate their behavior based on the power of the recipient.” or “[text of your quote] (J.B., February 2018).” Or I can just steal it without attribution if you prefer.

      3. PersephoneUnderground*

        Responding to J.B. “Bullies definitely calibrate their behavior based on the power of the recipient. Very very troubling.”

        Totally! On a related (but probably not to this letter unless there’s more we weren’t told) note, serial sexual harassers calibrate their behavior this way as well. An 18-year-old who doesn’t know how to respond will be targeted over a 30-something woman who is known to not take b.s. from anyone, and no matter how hot the boss is she’s unlikely to be harassed by a subordinate. They know it’s not ok and seek out victims they think are weak. This is also why so many powerful men got away with it for so long- they made sure to only target people who were beholden to them, and there were plenty of these once they achieved high positions.

        1. MassMatt*

          And the fact that the bullies/harassers are able to calibrate their behavior destroys their inevitable “it’s just the way I am/no that wasn’t sexual, you’re seeing problems when there aren’t any/oh, just can’t control myself” BS defenses. They know what they are doing is wrong, and they are able to control themselves, they just choose not to.

      4. Samiratou*

        I see you’ve met the former boss of mine that got promoted to a different department, who I would quit rather than ever work for again.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      That was my read too. The acting manager already knows the incoming manager has had trouble in the past and is choosing to ignore it. No amount of new complaints from the employees are going to sway the C-level manager into doing anything. And I bet the new division manager knows that too.

  2. Lily in NYC*

    Ugh, this is giving me bad memories! The same exact thing happened in my former division – someone in another dept. recommended someone who ended up getting the job. The person who recommended him did warn us that he was known to be dismissive to junior staff and that we was forced into anger management at his previous job. They still hired him and I was his EA. I tried to keep an open mind even though I was worried. Worst 3 years of my life. Of course, he was a nasty jerk and he wasn’t just terrible to junior staff, he was a jerk to everyone. Our president hated him and finally got fed up and fired him. The sad thing is that he was the most effective person we’ve ever had in that role – but he was just too toxic. I hope OP has a different outcome.

    1. Recently Diagnosed*

      I warned my manager as kindly as I knew how about an employee we were interviewing for an internal promotion. I had worked with her in my previous department, before I myself was promoted internally. My grandboss didn’t take my warning seriously and hired her anyway. I honestly did my absolute best to set things up for her success. I reminded my coworkers (who had heard negative things about her from other employees) to give her the benefit of the doubt. After all, it was a different department, maybe she would find her fit. Alas, this was not the case.

      I cannot say enough for listening to trusted employees.

    2. Amber T*

      My professional career is pretty short so far, but there is one person that I would almost definitely quit if he were hired as my direct supervisor. Thankfully, I think the powers that be in my company have enough willingness to listen and trust in me (and I have enough good will with them) that if I calmly explained why he I would refuse to work with him (while internally screaming/hyperventilating/doing my damnedest not to cry), they wouldn’t hire him or rescind the offer. And if they didn’t… well, I’d leave.

      1. copy run start*

        Yes, I have one former boss who I’d immediately quit a job to avoid. There’s no chance they’d be my direct supervisor again (career change), but if they were brought on to my company I’d have no qualms about sharing my experience and putting the C-level execs in touch with coworkers and managers who were harassed and terrorized by this person and making it very plain what my opinion was. This person would not only be a detriment to the people they worked for, but a total disaster for our company.

        Some people deserve a second chance, but if they have a 25+ year track record of abusive behavior and settled lawsuits like this person… they’re not going to change. (Sadly they actually are effective at their job, just… a horrid person in every other way.)

    3. Sylvan*

      The same thing happened at an old job. I left at the same time for unrelated reasons, but it’s kind of been an ongoing disaster since then.

    4. HRH the Emperor Kuzco*

      I actually had a slightly opposite experience. The executive committee had selected a new manager whose reputation wasn’t the greatest (especially among some of the more senior staff who had experience with him). He had a reputation of being a terrible, short tempered person who was sexist to boot. The only thing that ever saved him was that he was massively successful at his job. He arrives, and everyone who had been expecting a nightmare almost had whiplash as he was none of the things he had formerly been. He had in the years since last working in the company reformed himself as a person for a variety of reasons.

      I realize, however, how much of an aberration this was.

  3. MuseumChick*

    What stuck out to me as a giant red flag in all this was this line: “She assured me my staff member was talking about rumors and conjecture and she personally knew the incoming manager and none of it was true.”

    The fact that the acting manager personally knows the incoming manager makes me very, very, nervous. It hard to hear bad things about people you know personally. Will complaints about the incoming manager be taken seriously? I agree with Alison that you should push back a little more on this.

    1. Murphy*

      What made me nervous about that is that the employee was speaking from personal experience working with this person, and manager dismissed that as “rumors and conjecture.”

      1. CatCat*

        Yes, I was immediately taken aback by that. Things that you personally experienced are not rumors and conjecture!

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Definitely troublesome. I’d be updating my resume just in case.

          Speaking of updates, I’m already dying for an update to this!

          1. Candi*

            Agreed. This one needs an update in, say, two or three months. Give the new boss time to settle in and get comfortable. That’s when the show stops and the meat begins.

      2. MuseumChick*

        I think that underscores the “Oh I know them personally!” issue I’m having with the acting managers response. Instead of listen to the person with experience being managed by this person, they are dismissing it because (it appears) of a personal relationship.

      3. SignalLost*

        Exactly. And, dude, I can have a very different personal experience of someone (see also: the teachers my brother and I both had who tended to like one of us but not the other) so dismissing that experience as rumors isn’t just insulting and cavalier, it’s failing to acknowledge that different people have different relationships and therefore Bob has at least as much credibility as the acting manager.

        1. Oranges*

          Yes, I tended to like all the teachers everyone else either didn’t like or hated because they were the only ones who would actually get me to push myself. The teachers everyone else liked? I was bored and disruptive in their classes it worked best if they just let me read and trusted me to do the stupid busy work on my own. The worst ones of course didn’t trust me and I was a terror.

          This goes the same for bosses now. I need more hands on than some of my coworkers and my boss is very very busy (too many underlings). My desired amount of managering is micro-managering to a co-worker I know.

      4. Stormy*

        That really stood out to me, too. This manager is literally trying to redefine words in his attempts at spin.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Also that she dismissed his FIRST HAND experience as ‘rumors and conjecture’. Rumors are things you hear from other people, not things you have experienced. Conjecture is guessing.

      Everything about the company’s reaction signals that they personally like New Manager and want to play ostrich. Even if she is the best manager in the history of managers, that an employee quit on short notice because of her is something that any sensible, competent management would want to take a careful look at the situation. In the very best case scenario, you had an employee who picked no job over being managed by her.

      OP, I am very wary that your company would similarly “lalala can’t hear youuuu” should there be any complaints about this manager later, because then not only would they have to admit she was a bad hire, they’d also have to admit they ignored red flags, which most people would rather eat glass than do. By all means welcome her and act as though she’s going to be good at her job! But in your shoes, I would be very careful to listen to my staff and get ready to document issues should it turn out your ex-employee was right.

      1. serenity*

        not only would they have to admit she was a bad hire, they’d also have to admit they ignored red flags, which most people would rather eat glass than do

        So, so true.

      2. Ama*

        I have often wondered what I would do if either of the two bosses I had who ended up being fired for cause (financial misconduct, although one was not a great manager otherwise, either) got considered for jobs somewhere I was working– both of them were exceedingly good at “managing up” and flat out lying to everyone around them so even someone who worked with them at the old job but didn’t know the whole story of their termination might be persuaded to give them a good reference.

        At my current job, my boss trusts my judgment so she’d know if I felt strongly enough to object, I’d be doing it for good reasons and not just because I didn’t personally like the person. But if I was somewhere that didn’t take me seriously I would definitely have to start looking, because I’ve already dealt with the fallout from their actions once and I have no interest in cleaning up after them again.

        1. Oranges*

          Fistbump. Isn’t it awesome when you know that you can pull out the nuke of “I can’t work with this person again” and actually be listened to?

    3. Samata*

      I see why people are bringing this up, but I know a lot of people through networking groups, the chamber, conferences, etc. and that doesn’t mean I would do anything less professionally because I know them from the industry if they were hired into my company.

      1. MuseumChick*

        I think when you take the acting managers response into account this feels like more than just “I know them professionally”

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          It’s so interesting for me to see people having this response because I don’t have the same response at all. As I said upthread, we don’t actually know what words were used — and we don’t know what she meant by them. I don’t think it’s useful to try to guess.

          1. serenity*

            I think that’s missing the point that people are making, actually. It’s not about the words per se, but more that the resigning employee’s parting words are being wholly dismissed. That’s what’s troublesome – more than any possible favoritism in the hiring, if that applies (and you’re correct, we don’t know that part at all).

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I think “nightmare” is a scary word so people are fixing on that, but even if the employee had simply said “I’ve worked with Jane before and will be gone by Friday to avoid having to do that again” that’s a hell of a thing to dismiss as a rumor.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Exactly. It’s the fact of the enployee’s retraction that should lead management to ask “what’s going on here?”, instead of the current reaction, which seems to be denial.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            My thought was that the acting mgr was just trying to pacify the OP and not deal with the issue…but who knows?

      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        For me, at least, it’s the combo of “knowing potential nightmare personally” + dismissing the employee who resigned’s personal experience as rumor and conjecture that is alarming.

        It would not alarm in the least if someone higher up knew my incoming boss prior (in whatever capacity). However, someone who dismisses another person’s personal experience so readily makes me wary, then adding in some sort of prior personal/professional question… That’s the problem,

    4. Jess*

      I agree with all of this and would add that the response is excessively broad and tone-deaf in a concerning way. Even if she does know the incoming manager in some sort of professional capacity that she thinks gives her a good vantage point to judge future effectiveness, dismissing her employee’s first-hand experience based on her own first-hand experience is a terrible sign, in part due to Alison’s point about how direct reports often have a different experience of a manager than peers or senior leadership. It’s also a bad sign because no matter what, if an employee quits over not wanting to work with someone else, that warrants consideration and investigation rather than immediate dismissing, even if the manager dealing with the situation is shocked to hear the complaints. If someone on my team came to me and quit because they didn’t want to work with my favorite colleague ever, it would still not be appropriate for me to be like, “Well, *I* like working with that person so this junior person’s complaints are clearly not justified” and leave it at that without looking into it further.

      Also, “none of it was true” is very concerning because that’s a huge blanket statement about a situation the manager knows nothing about. That reeks of trying to push her own viewpoint and narrative on the situation rather than trying to protect her team. As described by the LW, this reaction demonstrates no nuance, open-mindedness, or willingness to consider concerns or take steps to address them. This entire response by management is the very opposite of reassuring and I think the LW is right to be on guard and plan ahead.

      1. Luna*

        Yes the “none of it is true” line is very concerning. How does she know whether it is true or not? It sounds like it was discussed either during the interview or during personal interactions, and she just took the new manager’s word for it.

    5. Malibu Stacey*

      I took that line to mean that, *in addition to this employee’s experience*, she is *also* aware of rumors that this manager is nightmare.

      1. Candi*

        Eh, I’ve parsed it four different ways and it doesn’t read like that to me at all. To me, any which way it’s swapped, it reads, “A first-hand account is rumor and to be dismissed becauseI know this person and I know better.”

    6. Coalea*

      I read that line differently – not as “I know the new hire in a personal or social context” but rather as “I don’t just know OF her, I actually know her.” Either way, it’s definitely concerning that the acting manager is completely dismissing the feedback from the employee who left. The departing employee’s input is clearly NOT “rumors and conjecture,” as it was based on actual experiences!

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      And sounds like she had already heard the “rumors and conjecture” prior to Op bringing it up. So this person must’ve fancy danced their way around it and theu fell for it.
      I really don’t think they’re going to pull the offer at this point unfortunately.

  4. Anon this time*

    Yes-have a plan if she really is a nightmare, but please encourage your staff to keep an open mind and keep one yourself. I work for a boss that I heard nothing but negativity about before I was hired, and still occasionally get the “poor you” look. My boss is a dream! Supportive, intelligent, shares my values for the position, values me as a professional, willing to invest in my success…I’m three years in and I’d still have to dig for a complaint. However, my boss tends to be very direct, which sometimes rubs people the wrong way. I get that. It just doesn’t bother me that much. I’m so glad I didn’t listen when people told me to run away from working with this person.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I found this with teachers–for every “Ms X is a dream” there was someone saying “of course, you know how awful Ms X is.” Some parents could break that down to specifics of learning style, and how that applied to their own kid and others, but simple adulation/condemnation was more typical.

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        Agreed! There were a lot of people who disliked a particular teacher and I LOVED her. Like loved her to the point of taking an advanced class in a shortened summer session vs having a different teacher for fall semester. She had high standards, lots of homework and projects, but also a lot of real world experience and all of the work was geared towards how to apply the lesson in the real world. Took her for as many classes as I possibly could.

      2. Stormy*

        Oh heck yes to this–especially in honors and AP classes. “Mrs. X is awful” = “Mrs. X won’t hand me the ‘A’ I deserve just for breathing.” The harder and more effective a teacher, the more complaining occurs.

        1. Elf*

          OMG, this is so annoying. I just had an AP student ask me to change his grade for the quarter (to a 100 from a 96!) so he could have a high enough average to be on the Principal’s list. That is not a reason for your grade to be different, and also don’t ask me to change your grade after report cards are finalized. (sorry, off-topic, but fresh on my mind)

          1. Rainy*

            When I taught university you would not believe how many times I had a student not show up for most of their quizzes, or skip an exam, or fail to turn in an essay, and then come in to my last office hour before the final and beg for the chance to do an extra credit assignment “to save their grade”. Grades are not “saved” last minute. You save them throughout the term, every time you turn in all your work.

            1. Bess*

              Similar. I taught a subject that is typically seen as “soft” and “easy” and students could not believe when they would get Bs and Cs, even when their work had obviously been rushed out at the last minute, they’d skip class, obviously not read, flunk pop quizzes, etc etc.

              I think it sometimes depends on what their high school experience was like. For my high school, straight A’s were not a given, especially in the honors track and advanced courses. Getting A’s took a lot of time and effort for everyone. In contrast, I found the majority of students I taught were very used to receiving A’s and seemed to see them as a default. Even a B meant you’d really messed up. Very strange to me.

              But part of it was also that I wasn’t teaching STEM, therefore it shouldn’t be “hard.” Frustrating.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                I was the kid in high school doing calculus homework during roll call while everyone else in that class was working hard at it. College was a complete shock because I never learned how to study.

              2. Candi*

                Let me guess, choir? Or art? Those things were hard for me, because my creative tendencies go to fantasy/sci-fi writing. And that’s the way it should be. Even Jamie Hyneman can’t do everything. :P

                Meanwhile, my sister was raking in the A’s in art. The only time she got a C was with a teacher who expected you to mindread exactly what she wanted.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I was one of those mutants who actually wanted one of the hard teachers So I Could Show Them. But I was docile little worker bee so they gave me as a treat to the cream-puffs.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yep. Along the lines of what Alison said, in school, if I heard students hated a particular teacher, I paid attention to who the students complaining were. Often the teachers that some students hated were there ones who were tough but very fair and whose classes I learned the most.

      4. Ann Furthermore*

        Yeah, I’ve run into some of this too. There’s a particular teacher at my daughter’s elementary school that everyone loves, but I would not want my daughter in her class. And this is not because I think she’s a bad teacher, but her style is just not a good fit for my daughter. My daughter really craves order and structure, and does not like it one bit when the usual routine is disrupted. This teacher is a bit loosey-goosey with the routine, and her classroom is rather unstructured. Some kids thrive in a more relaxed environment like that, but my daughter would not respond well to that at all.

      5. blackcat*

        Yep. I was a “love her or hate her” sort of teacher. Very, very few students and parents were ambivalent about me.

        Fortunately for me, the parents who loved me were significantly more numerous than the ones who hated me. But no, I was not going to switch to lecture style teaching when research shows that it is ineffective for the vast majority of students. The one time my boss asked me about being “more traditional,” I plunked a bunch of actual research papers on science education in an email to him with the note “My methods are consistent with the current best practices as identified by leading researchers.” He loved that response because then he had the tools to push back on parents who complained about me.

        I’ll admit that for some children a highly traditional environment is better or at least makes them feel better/more in control. But if I’m teaching a class of 25, I’m not going to do what’s best for 1 rather than what’s best (or at least neutral) for the other 24. I say this as a someone who does well in traditional lecture environments as a learner, too. (And, I will point out, that there is a wide range between “lecture” and “chaos.” My classroom was orderly, but highly active.)

        I am also going to face-palm any time a student or parent complains that they had to think for themselves in my class. Yes, this really happened. Often. You see, in science, you are supposed to memorize facts and then spit those facts out on a test. You aren’t supposed to think!

        1. President Porpoise*

          Your last paragraph is one of the major reason why feel that arts, particularly fine art, are so important for kids in k-12. There are no hard facts to memorize when trying to create a piece to fit the brief. It helps kids visualize solutions, test their limits, grow creativity, and problem solve.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          I realized that my daughter craves structure and routine after we went to back-to-school night for kindergarten. She was showing me around, telling me what they did at each of the numbered tables. Then she realized that table 5 was not in its usual spot. She was very concerned. “Where’s table 5?” I looked around and saw that it was against the wall, out of the way, and pointed it out to her. “Well, what’s it doing over there? It’s supposed to be right here!” I told her that her teacher must have moved it for some reason, but she was still quite perturbed. Table 5 was in the wrong spot, and that was a big problem. Her teacher came over and told her that yes, she had moved table 5 because there were going to be a lot of people coming through the classroom and she wanted to move it out of the way. And I could tell my daughter was thinking, “Well, OK, but it better be back in the right spot tomorrow.”

          1. Susana*

            Is your daughter’s name Adrienne Monk .
            My sister is very tidy and organized – and the funny thing is, she was even as a little kid. Always kept her room clean (and dusted!) and planned out. She’s the same way now, at 51.

        3. MassMatt*

          Your final paragraph really hits the nail on the head about how different so much STEM teaching is so from actual STEM WORK. Science is about thinking creatively, designing experiments to prove or disprove a hypothesis, and problem-solving. Increasingly, facts, formulas, and arithmetic are available at our fingertips at a moment’s notice–why have this busywork and rote memorization be the focus of the classes? I suppose because “it’s always been like this”?

      6. Not really a lurker anymore*

        Yeah, my daughter had the nightmare teacher for 1st grade. She adored her. Which shocked the hell out of the teacher when I told her that at conferences. Few kids liked her and she knew it.

        This same teacher would have been disastrous for my son, personality wise, they would have been a bad mismatch. She retired before he was in 1st grade.

      7. RUKiddingMe*

        Oh gosh yes! Way back int he dark ages (70s) when I was in high school there was a particular women’s PE teacher that pretty much everyone *except me* hated/feared. I loved her and took her classes (we got to choose our sports) whenever I could. One of the other PE teachers however…but I’m betting *someone* liked her. Maybe. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yes, sometimes a grain of salt is warranted and we have to come to our own conclusions. I once worked with a woman about whom I’d heard nothing but negativity. She was considered “mean”. People in my department were almost afraid of her. When a restructure meant that she would be coming to me for support, I steeled myself and expected fights. What I got was a very direct approach from someone who simply didn’t suffer fools and refused to sugar-coat things. I loved her, still do, and I consider her a friend.

      On the other hand, I once withdrew from consideration for a job when I found out that the SVP of my department would be leaving for the company I was interviewing with. I didn’t want to work for him at all and opted to turn down some nice career advancement to avoid him. Not as dire as the guy in the letter. A friend who wound up working for him told me he was terrible, the worst boss she’d ever had, for all the reasons I wanted to avoid him.

      It’s a tough call, but I think if this guy felt that strongly, I would take it as a big red flag. I wouldn’t necessarily leave until I made my own personal assessment, but it would color my impressions of and interactions with the new manager.

    3. Smithy*

      I think that this is also an opportunity to stress what systems are in place where the OP works to create a good work dynamic. I just left a “bad place” with a few people I’d be loath to work for again. However, provided I would not be directly reporting to them – their absolute worst features I wouldn’t be quite so scared of because where I am now has systems in place that would buffer me from their worst. I might still look for a new job – but I wouldn’t run away before having to look at them in the office.

      So I think telling employees the support they have from you, the systems that might prevent “super bad thing” from happening, what HR is and is not there for, etc. While it is worrying that management isn’t doing that, I think that is something the OP can do to stress “no one will start clock watching your toilet breaks because xyz”.

      1. hbc*

        Definitely agree. I’ve had a nightmare boss who would basically start projects on a whim, stall others indefinitely, and simply not communicate about the things that he insisted on micromanaging. The company started putting systems and measurables into place, and now he has to justify his spending and there was evidence that he hadn’t responded to official proposals.

        He still has issues, but you’d basically have to pay me double to work with him again in the previous setup.

        1. Smithy*

          Right….if there are good systems in place, then while this new hire may be tough, or aggressive, or just not amazing – the impulse to run away immediately is one that gives me a little pause. It may be that OP’s employee has super in demand skills and a financial safety net to take some time off…..but otherwise the immediate flee does make me pause slightly.

          Working for bad people in situations where their worst traits can run wild is an utter misery. But an otherwise well run place should place enough of a buffer that it wouldn’t turn things so bad that leaving instantly is the only option.

    4. NW Mossy*

      The boss/direct dynamic is so personal, and it’s lot like other key relationships in your life in that even when it seems like it will/won’t work on paper, reality is sometimes the opposite. We all have things that are dealbreakers for us personally, but assuming those aren’t in play, sometimes you just have to try it out and see if you can build a good working relationship.

      Since I’ve moved into management, I’ve found it really interesting to see how certain directs of mine have changed now that they report to me. I’ve had more than one direct handed to me as “this person is hard to manage” or “this employee is going to be your biggest problem child,” and with some justification based on past performance problems. However, it became clear that the issues weren’t intractable – these employees just needed a different style from their boss to want to give their best work. Once I figured out what that was, things got back on track pretty readily.

    5. Chris F*

      Agreed–is it possible that there are some kind of extenuating circumstances? I don’t know how much detail you got from the employee about what “nightmare” means, but is it possible that there’s a specific personal reason that they don’t want to work for her that may have no bearing on how they’d be as a manager overall?

      1. ECHM*

        One of the first things I thought of was the story about the manager whose relative had abused his employee and she may not have made the connection until a colleague sent out an obituary for the relative.

    6. JB (not in Houston)*

      Same here! Before my current boss started, my department was pretty worried that he was going to be awful to work for. He had a reputation among other lawyers for being mean, and we’d heard that his supervisees hated him. Then one of my coworkers figured out that she knew someone who worked with him, and she called to try to find out what it was like to work with him. Turns out, my coworker’s friend was absolutely crushed he was leaving their firm because she absolutely loved him. While he’s not afraid to call out poor work product or bad behavior, he’s not at all mean! And he’s a great boss. I LOVE working for him.

      That’s not to say there aren’t concerns for the OP. But as Alison said, the OP needs to weigh the source of the information on both sides.

    7. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yeah, I think best case scenario is that the manager and resigning employee have massively incompatible work/management styles for reasons that are not really anyone’s fault. The hiring team’s dismissal of the concerns is still worrying, though.

    8. Bea*

      I have a history with difficult bosses who really just didn’t like BS and needed the right personality to work well with.

      Then I ran into Voldemort who was a dream until he decided I was not saving his sinking ship, therefore turned into the enemy. So when I told everyone I knew my nightmare they freaked out knowing that I’m not the sort to have problems like that with my superiors.

      I would need to know the employee who quit before I would know if I would panic over his insight and experience, that’s for sure.

    9. Future Analyst*

      Yes to all this. I also worked with someone that a lot of people found difficult (in part due to an unusual directness in speech and manner), but I loved her. I always knew exactly where I stood with her, and I’ll take that over “niceness” any day.

    10. Liz*

      I was thinking the exact same thing, and also thinking that this sort of reputation tends to follow women who are very direct and have low tolerance for poor performance. It’s totally possible that this woman is an utter nightmare to work with, but I am well aware that others have said that about me, too.

      This scenario is a good opportunity to coach folks on professionalism and emotional intelligence, not a situation that warrants a battle plan.

    11. MCMonkeyBean*

      Not quite the same thing, but I heard such terrible things about one teacher in college I tried to postpone taking that class until someone else taught it but he was the only one who taught it for my whole time there. He ended up being one of my favorite teachers ever and I did very well in that class. I actually wrote him an email after class was over telling him that usually before a final exam I have to kind of reteach myself all the material but for his class I found myself honestly just *reviewing* because the material stuck with me better than usual.

  5. Antilles*

    Here’s all you need to know: The only person with direct experience working underneath the new manager was so miserable that he would prefer to be job searching while unemployed rather than spend even one second working under her.
    I mean, he could easily have just started a job search knowing that he’d only be there for a few weeks, but he decided he didn’t even want to do that.

    1. AMPG*

      That’s not really fair, though. There are definitely situations where an employee could have a bad relationship with their manager without it being anyone’s fault, or there being extenuating circumstances. It’s definitely a HUGE red flag, don’t get me wrong, but it also can’t be accepted at face value without a little verification work.

      1. SignalLost*

        Exactly. I had a terrible relationship with a boss where his admin had a great one. We would have very different opinions on working for him again, and I would do a lot to not work for him again. That doesn’t mean my opinion is suspect (because I agree this is all a huge red flag) but it does mean different people work together differently.

        1. cncx*

          i came here to say this- i worked for a guy who i just did not get along with, and my coworker absolutely loved him. i would definitely quit anything rather than work with him again, and she would probably move to work for him. I agree it is a huge flag but there can be just personality differences that aren’t really anyone’s fault but the dynamic. Although maybe i’m being petty but that guy was toxic drama, i think my friend just could read him better or deal with it better or whatever.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The thing is, it’s not 100% conclusive. There are lots of good managers out there who are despised by previous managees — because they right held them accountable for performance issues/behavior problems/etc. That’s why it’s important for the OP to consider (a) what she knows about the guy who’s leaving and (b) the specific nature of the complaints.

      1. neverjaunty*

        The bigger problem is that the OP’s management is bizarrely dismissive. They don’t have to decide Quitting Guy was right and she’s a bad manager, but the way they’re handwaving everything off is troubling.

        1. London Bookworm*

          I agree. The word of one person is just that, but it does merit a follow-up investigation, for sure.

          1. LBK*

            The OP did speak to the hiring committee and they all agreed with the acting manager, so there was at least some sort of follow-up investigation.

            1. SignalLost*

              Not really. They said they’d spoken to Jane’s references, and I’m leery that those would all be people above her who have good impressions of her work, not reports who had to put up with her screaming and lying or whatever.

              1. LBK*

                My point is that there have at least been some other parties who have vouched for the manager – it isn’t solely the acting manager, whom many are discrediting because she said she knows the new manager “personally”.

            2. Phoenix Programmer*

              Well no. That read more to me like CYA we checked references see!! Then any follow up on this new information.

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I agree with this! I’m definitely in the “one person’s nightmare manager could be the next person’s dream manager camp”. One’s guy’s word/negative experience doesn’t mean new manager will be a nightmare and I would encourage the rest of the staff to keep this in mind.

          However, it is a rather extreme reaction and to dismiss it so readily really alarms me.

      2. Antilles*

        No, it’s not conclusive, but it’s a serious, serious red flag that he was so dead-set against her that he couldn’t even deal with her on a temporary “just till I find a new job” basis.

        1. Bostonian*

          Yeah, I can think of 1 despised ex-manager for whom I would work while job searching… not 1 would I quit without a job lined up. I agree that OP needs to use personal knowledge of this employee for context, but the quitting seems very serious to me.

          1. Alternative Person*

            Same. I wouldn’t quit straight away because I’m pretty mercenary when it comes to money, and I’d want to wait to see how close we end up in the grand organization of things, but I’d probably still be out of there sooner rather than later because even the thought of the manager I have in mind makes my skin crawl.

            The fact that one person quit straight away and the manager’s blase response would be enough to make me update my CV and start getting an idea of what was available. Maybe it’ll work out, but I’d check my parachute and escape routes just in case.

      3. Fiennes*

        I feel like the LW would’ve mentioned that the resigning employee was trouble—or wouldn’t have written in at all, were that the case.

          1. London Bookworm*

            Exactly. And we don’t know many details of what it was like when he worked with her. It might be that he’s attributing things to her that were actually a reflection of the company or culture he was working in; it’s plausible that he might have attributed to his manager factors that were out of her control, particularly if the people above her in the hierarchy were making bad decisions.

            I still agree with Alison’s advice here, of course, but I do think that the word of one person isn’t necessarily a guarantee. I’m really interested in an update for this one.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Not to nitpick, but we don’t know if he’s great or not. I’m pointing it out because it really matters. Plus, he could be great and the incoming manager could be great, and they could just not work well together. I can think of several people I wouldn’t want to work with again who are good at what they do.

              1. LBK*

                Yeah, that’s wild conjecture – there’s zero description of the employee other than “never known him to be dishonest.” There’s nothing to support the idea that he was a “great” employee.

                1. Pollygrammer*

                  The very act of giving only a weeks notice, regardless of circumstances, would give him a tick in the not-great column IMO.

                2. Phoenix Programmer*

                  Eh. I can see myself doing something pretty similar if my former manager who was emotionally abusive, a bully, micromanaging, dishonest, vindictive, and all in all a terrible person we’re announced to be my next boss. I would decide my mental health is more important than business norms… And I’ve been promoted yearly for the past 5 years with the highest performance reviews achievable….

        1. Shiara*

          We could equally argue that the LW would be asking “how do I wave this red flag harder with the higher ups” if she thought the resigning employee was stellar and credible, rather than “how do I get my staff to ignore the rumours left in the wake of his departure.” I’m not sure arguing from absence is all that useful; when people write in they’re sometimes so close to the situation that they don’t think to include details that to them seem obvious or irrelevant.

          And as others mention, the employee could well have been a fine employee for the LW, but a poor judge of character, or had a strong personality conflict, or else previously in a role that was a bad fit, but now in one that plays better to his strengths, or been thinking about resigning anyway and used this as an excuse, or there was some drama at the previous workplace that may or may not have been the manager’s fault and the resulting fallout was genuinely a nightmare for everyone. (This might also explain why the acting manager dismissed his remarks as rumour and conjecture, if the acting manager believed one side of the story and the departing employee believed another)

          Or he’s credible, and it really is the red flag it seems. LW is in the best position to judge that though.

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          It’s also possible they are both decent workers/managers, but they were just a particularly poor fit or their styles clashed spectacularly. Been there, done that unfortunately.

          1. Lissa*

            Totally. I think because it’s just one person, I’d wait and see but be wary. If it were 5 or 6 people all with the same issues, especially if they weren’t related, that would be much worse. But I think when it’s 1 vs 1 it could just as easily be SO many different things that could be either of the faults that trying to assume is basically impossible.

      4. Kathleen_A*

        Alison is absolutely right. And of course it’s equally true that a manager can be a wonderful person – kind and likable and knowledgeable – while still being a pretty dang awful manager. I’ve had a couple of those. The combination of good person+bad manager is better than bad person+bad manager, but it honestly can still be pretty awful.

    3. Pollygrammer*

      To me, his reaction is so extreme that I almost give it less credence. The worst boss I’ve ever had made my life hell, and even seeing her on the street would stress me out. But I would probably be willing to suck it up for a few weeks rather than endangering my finances and my professional reputation.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Except 1) we don’t know it’s a danger to his finance and 2) we don’t know giving a weeks notice is going to cost him reputation at all. Sure 2 weeks is considered the norm but some industries want more and others are ok with less.

      2. Dolorous Bread*

        That depends. I can think of one boss who I would *absolutely* do this with and would not be able to suck it up at all. I work near that old office and get stressed at the idea of potentially seeing her on the street, she was that toxic and abusive.

      3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I have one old boss under whom I started having symptoms of anxiety (and I am not an anxious person) and ground my teeth so much I cracked 3 of them. I always have found a job in less than a month (including in 2010), so I would quit without one lined up if I knew she was being hired. It would be cheaper than more dental repairs

      4. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        Eh, I’m pretty universally considered a star performer (God, I feel like a jerk writing that!) and I definitely have one manager that I would take the unemployment benefit over working with her for another minute.

      5. oranges & lemons*

        I will admit, a part of me wonders if he might have a dishonest reason for quitting before she starts, because it seems so dramatic. Like maybe she knows about something that he’s deliberately concealed at his present job and he thinks they might fire him if they find out (okay, obviously this is also a pretty dramatic line of conjecture).

    4. Nita*

      Well… there could be more to it. Maybe he has other sources of income, or plans to start a business, or is needed by a sick relative at home – basically, something else could be feeding into his decision to walk away. If none of that is the case, though, his resignation is the absolute biggest vote of no confidence that a manager can get.

      1. LtBroccoli*

        That was my thought – maybe he doesn’t really need the job or can afford a six month job search. I work with a woman who doesn’t need the income and could afford to leave anytime she felt like it. Heck, our old boss coming back (a boss that she hated, but I adored) might be enough to do it. Whereas it would have to be something HUGE to get me to quit without a new job lined up – I can barely afford my bills right now and sure couldn’t afford them on unemployment.

    5. Guy Incognito*

      Maybe the person quitting ghosted on a relationship with the new boss a few years ago?

      Too soon?

    6. Lissa*

      I disagree that the strength of his reaction means he’s definitely the one “in the right” and she’s awful. She could be, but since it’s just one person I think it could be him, it could be her, it could be a combination….we don’t know. All this tells us is that *he* has enough of a problem with her to do this, which yes, could be because she’s the worst ever, but there are a lot of other possibilities here.

    7. aebhel*

      I mean, a lot of that depends on the specific employee. Some people create their own problems.

      But if he’s a good employee who’s not inclined toward drama, then yeah, take that very seriously.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Way to miss the point here.

    “She gave me the names of the people who had been on the hiring committee and I spoke to them and was assured they had done a rigorous background check with several references.”

    That’s not what you asked about, and I can’t believe I have to spell this out. References are people the *applicant* chooses, which makes a lot of sense in the average interview process.

    But this selection process is for a higher position with more authority, responsibility, and oversight. If the hiring committee is aware of your concerns, then they need to dive a little bit deeper. They should have done it anyway because of the nature of the job!

    Also this is a bunch of crap too.

    “She assured me my staff member was talking about rumors and conjecture and she personally knew the incoming manager and none of it was true.”

    Your employee knows this job candidate personally too. One perspective doesn’t cancel out the other and leave things at zero.

    I get the impression people *listened* to you, but they did not *hear* you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be fair, good reference checkers don’t stick to the list the applicant provides — they ask for the specific people they want to talk to and often go off-list. Many employers take the lazy approach you’re describing, but references aren’t inherently just people the candidate offers up.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        On the other hand, I’ve never had anybody call me as a reference for a past boss (but I have been called a number of times for a past subordinate). I actually wish this was more common!

    2. Lizabeth*

      This 100%! The architect firm I briefly worked at got dinged several times in submissions because the selection committee not only contacted the supplied references but went two or three layers lower.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Sadly, the school board who hired a certain principal in our area called only the place he was leaving, and not the place he had left before that (school principals often travel a lot), which meant the school board only got the Greyhound Therapy version of how wonderful this principal was. Oops.

  7. NJ Anon*

    What AAM said. We had a new boss start. He was a disaster and all we heard was what great refetences he had. Probably because they wanted to get rid of him!

    1. Future Homesteader*

      Same! She had extensive experience (read: had moved around a lot). We quickly figured out why! I am positive the references were just trying to get rid of her.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        My mom told me she did this for a past employee. Jane drove everyone up a wall. So when she was interviewing and used my mom as a reference, she gave a GLOWING review just to get her out of the building. Dishonest? Yes. But effective.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          So is putting someone on a pip and firing them. Or taking the loss on the lemon car you bought instead of passing it on to the next “chump” and every other number of not dishonest tactics for dealing with crap situations.

    2. Augusta Sugarbean*

      That’s a good point. We’ve read a fair few letters here about people being afraid to give a bad reference. A lot of LWs say something along the lines of “He punched a coworker but his work was great so I’m just going to talk about how his work was great.”

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      “Probably because they wanted to get rid of him!”

      Exactly! “She’s amazing, you’ll love her!……Suckers”

  8. Former Retail Manager*

    Alison’s response is great and certainly all inclusive. Nothing to really add except to say that I’d be very inclined to believe your departing employee. For him to leave a job and be unemployed over an individual that won’t even be his direct manager is saying A LOT! He clearly believes that she has the reach to make his life miserable without being his direct manager, and if that turns out to be true, how does OP think that will bode for her own interaction with this new director?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      To me, how I would handle this situation depends on that employee’s credibility, as Alison noted. Even if his entire story was correct from every viewpoint and he was a perfect employee, for all we know, he was going to resign in 2 weeks anyway. Maybe he has another offer that he’s expecting already.

      I recently found out that a rehire who had no-showed on his first rehire day and called with an elaborate story about his wife’s new job actually started with a competitor instead of us within the same month. As a rehire, he had left on good terms and had a great reputation, but there he is with some lie about why he’s not taking our job. You never really know for sure about people’s credibility.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, don’t 100% believe the employee and assume the new boss is a monster. You don’t know what happened, maybe it was a very personal issue between them. Maybe the new manager got your current employee fired and that’s why he’s shaky (especially if he’s been concealing that). Maybe they got into an ugly fight one time. Maybe they used to date.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Maybe they used to live together until one day he took all his stuff and vanished while she was on vacation!

          1. ALadyfromBrazil*

            I’m here all “I got this reference” like Captain America in Avengers first movie! hahahahahahahaha

  9. AnonForJustThisOnce*

    Wait, monitoring how long someone was in the bathroom for, and what was done while in there, is not normal….?

    Where were you guys when I was at my last job?!

    1. Anon for Always*

      LOL, that was my last job too! She not only monitored the amount of time I was in the bathroom, if she thought I was in there too long she came looking for me. Ok, so that was awful enough on its own. What made it worse is that she had previously told me about one of her former bosses who was so horrible he came looking for her in the bathroom. I am still not sure how she never made the obvious connection of behavior there.
      This is one boss that if she came to work where I do, I would do the same as the LW and quit. She was abusive beyond anything I have ever seen. When she turned against someone, she went after them with everything she had and would try to destroy careers. To the point that she wrote horrible letters about herself, mailed them to the company which started an investigation, all in an effort to destroy an assistant that had stood up to her and refused to take her abuse. I am still, years later, terrified of her.

      1. Former Employee*

        That whole sending herself letters reminded of a show I saw (I think it was on “Forensic Files”) about a teacher who claimed that another teacher was out to get her. Things escalated and I believe the accused teacher was suspended. Then the authorities found DNA on the flap of the envelope and it was that of the person who claimed she was was being harassed. Not sure what happened to her. Apparently, she was of the other teacher who was very popular.

      1. Kiki*

        I’m 32 and just received my first raise this year (2.5% COL woo hoo!). I’m still waiting for the day I receive my first holiday bonus.

    2. Lizabeth*

      Or being told that you’re on the phone too much, when all you were doing was answering the department phone (sat next to it) when the supervisor wasn’t available to do so. AND it was always for someone else! Head hitting keyboard…

    3. Leela*

      at a previous job I was required to log into bathroom time on a computer (not just me, all of us were) so they could monitor how long we were in there. Then, when they got that average, they halved it for everyone (so we had ten minutes total throughout the entire day to be in the bathroom. Oh, and bathroom time also counted getting a kleenex, pencil, or water). Worst job I’ve ever had and I still have nightmares.

      1. Anon for Always*

        That is INSANE! You achieved the unachievable – making my former boss look nearly normal and easy to work with. Whenever I hear super crazy stories like this, I put the face of one interviewer on it because she was so nuts. My entire interview with her was story after story of the horrible employees she’d had, culminating in (for a white collar job) “…and if I ask you to dig a ditch, you will dig a ditch no questions asked!” As the interview wrapped up, she asked if I had any questions. I said “no, I think you answered them all and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what working here will look like.” Needless to say, I didn’t not even answer the phone when she called.

    4. Nacho*

      It’s normalish for jobs where your time is heavily tracked. I’ve worked at three call centers and at each one, we had to go into “personal time” code to go to the bathroom, and obviously too much personal time was a bad thing.

  10. AMPG*

    I agree with the advice to try to talk to other people who’ve reported to Jane. I’ve written about this here before, but I had a coworker who was very much the “kiss up, kick down” type. Management loved her, as did our various partners – she was wonderful to them and produced high-quality work. But she made everyone who ever reported to her cry at least once, and I know one of our entry-level staff left for another opportunity at least partly because of her. I tried to flag it for my boss at the time, but he wasn’t having it. Finally she left on her own and I advanced to middle management, and I was able to successfully thwart her attempts to return a few years later. There are enough high performers in the world without having to hire people who will destroy your team’s morale.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      On the other hand, if this high performer is really kicking butt at the work of the organization – sorry to say, they may well decide it’s worth poor morale from the plebes :(

      1. Barney Barnaby*

        On the other, other hand (is that a thing?), the “high performer” could look like a high performer because she works her team half to death, then takes credit for the great results.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          True, but in my org I’m not sure they’d care how it happened, if they get the outcome they want!

        2. JanetM*

          I use “on the one hand,” “on the other hand,” “on the gripping hand” (which is a Niven / Pournelle reference), and “on the octopus half” (which I think is mine). Also “forewarned is half an octopus” (which I think is mine).

      2. AMPG*

        I’ve come around to the idea that it’s pretty rare to have someone who’s such an excellent performer that it’s worth the destruction they cause to the team. Toxic employees cost a company money due to increased turnover and lower output among the other team members, and if it gets bad enough the company can end up with a recruitment problem if the manager develops a reputation in their field.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          The one exception I’ve seen to this (coming from a nonprofit background) is fundraisers. If somebody can leverage their personal / professional contacts and bring in big big big donors – like, six figure gifts that would not have been received without this person’s connections – the nonprofit will probably be willing to lose all their science/programs team members to keep that person happy. They figure they can hire six more scientists for the money! I assume a parallel in the corporate world is sales, but I can’t speak to that.

  11. Kathleen_A*

    I have gone through a fair amount of turmoil in my professional life – i.e., even though I’ve worked at the same place for more than 20 years, in those years I’ve had four different direct supervisors, and two of whom were fired. There were also a couple of interim managers in there, one of whom was (how to put this?) wildly ineffective while also being disruptive. I’ve also weathered two periods in which there were major changes (some voluntary, some not) in my team. Not fun, not fun at all.

    Anyway, when any or all those changes were going on, I would have *loved* some sort of assurance that I had somewhere to go, someone to turn to if things weren’t going well. Maybe I did, but if so, nobody ever told me about it. I and my team always, rightly or wrongly, got the feeling that we were expected to suck it up and cope on our own. So if you and your company, OP, can provide this outlet for your team, I think that would be a wonderful thing.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Only 4 direct supervisors in 20 years? That’s actually pretty good – I’ve had seven in fifteen. Mostly retirements and restructuring – I bet the two fired were rough. The ‘suck it up and deal’ is certainly the expectation here, unless it’s a protected status / legal harassment issue.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Four in 20 years isn’t bad…although in that time other departments here managed to have the same department head for decades. That’s what makes it so notable, I think.

        But yes, the two being fired (and it was two in a row, although several years intervened) was very tough. I don’t recommend it! :-)

      2. Spider*

        I’ve had three in the past five years, and literally only yesterday realized how unusual that is in my field and how subconsciously tough that’s been for me. My first supervisor developed brain cancer and passed away while on medical leave, and since then I’ve had two interim supervisors on temporary contracts. All three had/have wildly different managerial styles (and unfortunately my first supervisor displayed some really erratic and difficult behaviors during the last months she worked here before she was still undiagnosed), and yet I too have just “sucked it up and dealt” without any support from the higher management….because I’m used to that expectation from growing up in a dysfunctional family!

  12. CutUp*

    Frankly, the hiring committee is working with better data than you are here. OP, this advice might not help now, but if you feel very strongly about the process of checking references, conducting behavioral interviews, assessing fit, etc, you need to muscle yourself onto the hiring committee.
    Too late now to hem and haw about how the process **could** be wrong (and we have no reliable information that it’s wrong)

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I beg to differ. The hiring committee is working with whatever data the candidate presented to them, and whatever they made the effort to find out in addition to that. They have, barring previous encounters with the candidate, a maximum of a few hours of personal experience with her.

      I am on the side of other commenters saying that quitting precipitously is a HUGE deal, and that there are only a few people in my own background to whom I would have the same reaction,* so if the employee was in other ways sound, the OP should take the actions available to ensure that their team is supported and protected.

      *I’ve had everything from “meh” managers (several), to people who would leer at me while I was working (a few), to one person who treated me in a way that was technically human trafficking. I am now at a point in my life where I can circumvent “meh,” shrug off or report leering, and take legal action against the last type, but before the legal action, the last type would indeed have me walking off a job no matter how desperate I was to have one. There’s no indication that the OP’s former employee is talking about illegal activity, but certainly there’s something more there than “meh.”

    2. serenity*

      Frankly, the hiring committee is working with better data than you are here.

      That’s absolutely not a given, not at all. Some hiring committees will surely go above and beyond in vetting a strong candidate, but others will just take the candidate’s resume and (hand-picked) references at face value. I can’t believe you would be so dismissive of the real-life experience of a former subordinate (yes, he may not have great judgment, but we don’t know that yet; he may absolutely be accurate about Jane’s managerial behavior).

    3. Antilles*

      I don’t think it’s “better” data as much as it is different data.
      OP’s data came from a former subordinate.
      Even if the hiring committee did go above-and-beyond the Candidate-provided list of references (itself semi-uncommon), it was almost certainly focused on tracking down clients, co-workers or other managers – NOT subordinates.

    4. Alice*

      I don’t like this idea that only the people doing a project can judge whether the the project is being done well. I have lots of internal clients who couldn’t do my job’s technical aspects, but are well-placed to evaluate my success based on my output.

  13. Barney Barnaby*

    “Because, frankly, I’m not very reassured by the hiring committee telling you that they spoke with several references. What you want to know is whether any of those references were people who worked for this manager in the past. If they only spoke with people above her in the hierarchy (which is really common), they might have gotten a very different picture than they’d get if they talked with people she had authority over.”


    This is like light shining down from the sky. “Kiss up, kick down” is a saying because a lot of people do it. It worries me when people aren’t perceptive enough to understand that some people put on a nice show for the higher-ups but are just terrible to those working underneath them.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Yes. This is giving me flashbacks. I had a grand boss who was well- liked by his peers and came well-recommended… except that a friend of mine called me and said “I heard X is your new director. I worked for him for two years. Let me tell you exactly what is going to happen next.”
      From the half- finished reorg to the muddled funding and promised promotions that disappeared, she was spot on. The hiring team had thought they did diligence and I’m sure even contacted people he didn’t list as references. But they were all the hiring team’s peers. And this guy was a classic kick down-er.
      I’ve also heard them brush off reports from those below him because “people never like a change agent.” That… may be, but in my experience if you listen and ask specific questions you can tell the difference between someone with a legitimate gripe and someone who dislikes having their cheese moved.
      Honestly what concerns me most about this letter isn’t that the new boss might be bad, it’s that the current management might not be willing to do the work necessary to tell.

  14. CatCat*

    I’ve had an ex-manager where I started job searching when she came back into the picture because she sucked so much to work for (and I was one of the people she purportedly liked). I can’t imagine how bad it would have to be to quit with nothing else lined up. Yikes. Definitely a relevant data point. Alison’s advice is spot on.

  15. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Here’s the thing. If the employee leaving was prone to drama and overreaction, I doubt your staff would be concerned. Or at least *as* concerned. We ALL know who the drama llamas are in our office. If the one I had right now started spinning out of control about a previous manager coming to manager our department I might pause, raise an eyebrow, but ultimately take it with a grain of salt. He freaks out over everything and creates problems where there aren’t any. Now…if it was one of my coworkers I trust? You bet I’d be nervous and polishing up the old resume.

    Go back to your acting manager. Use Alison’s scripts. You owe it to your staff to reassure them that even if the stories are true…it’s going to be okay.

  16. Strawmeatloaf*

    I really don’t get hiring manager’s response.

    In school you learn about types of sources. Co-worker who quit, would be a primary source since they actually worked with the person coming in.
    Rumors and Conjectures would be a secondary source. So what hiring manager did, was say that Co-worker was a secondary source, rather than a primary source which is… odd to say the least. You’re supposed to take primary sources more seriously, and use secondary sources to build/comment upon primary sources.

    Now this isn’t to say that the person coming in would be bad, just that the hiring manager’s response was weird.

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      And since the primary source and the secondary source in this case seem to agree it should definitely be looked into.

    2. Interviewer*

      Frankly, as soon as the hiring manager got all dismissive with “rumors & conjecture” I immediately thought the hiring manager already had all the details from the new hire’s side of the story at the previous company. Either he knows it because “I know her personally” or she mentioned it during the recruiting process. Either way, the new hire got her side of the story in before the coworker got a chance to do so, making her the primary source in the hiring manager’s view.

      And it worked. Everyone believes her, instead of him. OP, you’ve got to figure out why this is. Do you have bad management? Or a bad coworker?

  17. Lil Fidget*

    Yeah, we’re missing the most important part of the story here, IMO – *in what way* was the manager a nightmare, according to the previous employee? There are plenty of things that some people can’t stand that would be totally doable for somebody else – but there are some things that *nobody* should have to deal with. Of course, I still always take one person’s opinion with a grain of salt, as there could have been any kind of interpersonal conflict between two individuals, but this is the most important point to me, and we’re missing it here.

    1. AnnaleighUK*

      This exactly – it was such a knee jerk reaction from the departing employee that I’d be wondering exactly what happened. As in, I’d do serious digging to find out if it was something as simple as a personality clash or something far worse. You’re not going to get along or agree with everyone you work with, but never have I heard before of someone going ‘omg nu’ and leaving when they hear someone was being appointed into a position.

      Also, if it was that bad, why didn’t the employee just ask for a transfer to another department? I would have done that first instead of risking unemployment. So why leave the entire company?

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        An internal transfer may not have been possible depending on the role and size of company. In my organization, for example, there’s only one accounting department so accountants can only move up or out of the organization.

    2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      I’d agree this is more a yellow-flag than a red-flag situation with more data needed. I worked for a boss who everyone said was hard to work for – she had told me herself people found her hard to work for! But really she just was a harsh editor on things I wrote (which didn’t bother me much and was only a part of my job anyhow). And the longer I worked for her the more I got used to her style and even that diminished.

      On the other hand I’ve worked for people who were very nice personally but were absolutely awful managers because they were disorganized and the boss was more focused on growing the business than actually finishing the contracts we had. So you really never know.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, like if your direct supervisor is very poorly organized and uncommunicative, that can be a big problem for you as an individual contributor. But if that’s just some senior manager a few levels up, you may not care and might flourish in this “benign neglect” (ask me how I know). Likewise some people can’t stand to be micromanaged and others don’t really care. It’s weird that this employee quit when it sounds like this new manager wouldn’t even be his direct supervisor.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Aren’t those questions that the OP’s managers/hirers should have been asking, though, rather than dismissing her concerns as ‘those are rumors’ and ‘we checked references’?

  18. essEss*

    I agree that there might be cause for concern, but make sure to counsel your team to have an open mind and to make their opinions based on their actual experiences with the new boss. I worked at a job that brought in a new boss and I’d heard horror stories about how awful she was to work with. I worked for her for 8 years and she was one of the best bosses I ever had. She was fair to everyone on her team and enforced positive respect among the team members. I have no idea why others spread stories about her.

    I know this is probably not the norm, but you need to make sure you start out with a clean slate with the new manager, but being ready to address serious concerns if they do end up rising.

    1. London Bookworm*

      This is a good point. I wonder if OP knows how long it’s been since her report worked for the manager. If it’s been three years, that might be more meaningful than if it’s been thirteen.

      1. Dr. KMnO4*

        I agree that the time since the report worked under the manager is a factor, but it should also be balanced with the substance of the complaints. If the issues were things that might be due to the person being a newer manager and still learning that would be one thing. I could see those things changing significantly over time. But if the person were a bully or other things like that, well, it’s not that they couldn’t have changed, just that it’s extremely unlikely that they did.

  19. animaniactoo*

    About a decade or so ago, we had someone who was pretty bad to work for or under. Bad enough that people who had been laid off from another company and had worked with her there almost didn’t even apply or accept jobs that were open here after they found out she was here. They only ended up here because they were explicitly reassured that they would not have to work directly with her.

    She annoyed lots of people – even those over her. But the quality of her work was good. I actually learned a lot from her and was one of the few people with a functional relationship with her because she respected my opinion and skill – and I pushed back when she stepped over the line. That did not make me a supporter of hers, because I saw how she treated my co-workers and I was not on board with that. The fact that she didn’t do it to me didn’t make it okay.

    There can be a sharp difference between the quality of a person’s work, and their impact on a work environment. I am seriously concerned that the acting manager was so ready to dismiss an employee’s first-hand experience as rumors and conjecture. Particularly, I am concerned that it *sounds like* acting manager is aware there are rumors that the new hire is a nightmare to work for and – despite the “rigorous” background check – has not really dug into THAT portion of the new manager’s career. Dismissing it as rumors and conjecture because she personally knows her. I would be very very concerned about that possibility and I would be creating my own failsafes around this no matter what reassurances I got.

    In the meantime – as far as addressing it with the rest of the team – I would state that I was not discounting employee’s experience, but am willing to give the new manager the benefit of the doubt that they have learned something about how to manage people in the years since they worked together. I would like everyone to do the same, but also be sure to bring me things that they felt were concerning early so that we can see if there are ways or better ways to adjust to new manager’s style, which we would be doing no matter who was our new manager. If there are going to be serious issues it is better to know about them as early as possible so that we can try to get it worked out before it becomes entrenched.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      “She annoyed lots of people – even those over her. But the quality of her work was good. I actually learned a lot from her and was one of the few people with a functional relationship with her because she respected my opinion and skill – and I pushed back when she stepped over the line. That did not make me a supporter of hers, because I saw how she treated my co-workers and I was not on board with that. The fact that she didn’t do it to me didn’t make it okay.”

      This was a previous manager, exactly. And that’s why I had no respect for him. I hated that he treated me like a human being because I seemed to him as though I was smart and capable, while everyone else was condescended to and merely tolerated. I was also the one to push back when he started acting that way towards me on occasion, which I think is another reason I was treated better. It’s pretty obvious why he had 100% turnover in the department TWICE in a year and half.

      1. Adlib*

        There’s a manager in my company like that. I think she still kinda hates/resents me because I was originally supposed to report to her during the last reorg, and I let the higher ups know that I would quit on the spot if that happened. It’s enough that she just acts normal around me, but she treats her team like dirt. I wish they’d report her, but they’re too scared to.

  20. Susan K*

    Yikes, I would be pretty concerned about this. Alison’s point about the possibility of the references only being people above the new manager (rather than people she managed) is really important, and it reminds me of a horrible manager I had. Everyone above him thought he was awesome, but everyone who worked for him despised him. He was an incorrigible liar who would throw his subordinates under the bus at the drop of a hat to avoid any responsibility for problems, and he took as much credit as possible for anything good that happened. He drove away many good employees but always had some excuse as to why they left that conveniently had nothing to do with him being a terrible manager (even though that’s what they said in their exit interviews). If you asked his superiors for references, though, they would tell you he was a great manager.

    On the other hand, I also know people who hold grudges against decent managers because the managers took disciplinary action or fired them for legitimate performance problems, so it’s also pretty important to consider the performance of the employee who quit as well as the specific complaints he has against the manager.

  21. mia*

    It could definitely be a personality rub thing. I hated my last manager so badly that I too would 110% quit if I found out she was going to be hired on at my new company, on my team. Wouldn’t even wait around to see if she changed. My notice would be IN and I’d be GONE.
    (fwiw, 9 people under her left in less than a year)

    But, my old manager did get along with some people. And she could be exceptionally nice if she wanted to be.

  22. NW Mossy*

    One other data point you’ll want to assess here is how your organization has handled bad-fit hires previously, especially leaders. Do they quietly disappear after less than a year? Get marginalized to the outer territories? Remain floundering in their ill-suited roles? Get promoted and flail about even more flagrantly? While you may hear the right things in the conversation Alison suggests you have, past experience with performance problems is often a strong leading indicator of what will happen when they pop up again in the future.

  23. SamKD*

    I too would love an update on this one!

    Bob would rather be unemployed than work even one day under not his boss but his grandboss which is an extreme choice. So extreme as to dance rather closely with irrational, IMHO which is why Alison’s “consider the source” advice is so wise.

    However Acting Manager is highly motivated to fill Manager slot so she can get back to her actual C-suite job and I’m not crazy about “my personal knowledge says his personal knowledge is all rumor and conjecture” and “we did so check references.” Those three facts together are pretty much “ye’re marryin’ Princess Lucky so you’d better get used to th’idea!” and thus would be worrisome to me even without Bob’s actions.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah, I don’t really care much about the personality of my grandboss, I barely see them – so this definitely struck me as odd too.

      1. Karo*

        I’m assuming here, but that may be because your grandboss is a good one.

        My current grandboss is a good one; I know he’s available if I need to speak to him but otherwise he works with my boss and my boss works with me. I barely ever see him. On the other hand, my previous grandboss (in the same position) was horrible in just about any way you could think of. I saw him much more frequently and it was normally because he was literally cursing us out over something that was ultimately his fault.

      2. Nacho*

        My grandboss just instituted a couple of VERY unpopular rules after my great-grandboss, who had been pushing back against them, was fired. Nothing I’d quit over, but he certainly has the power to make life miserable for his underling’s underlings.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      His choice struck me as irrational too. I don’t doubt that the relationship is poisoned, but I’m not sure any amount of bullying would be enough to bring it to such an extreme reaction. Not to mention his indiscretion in trying to turn people against her before they’ve even met. I would guess that whatever happened between them was on both of their parts, at least a little. There may be something in his past with her he doesn’t want to come to light.

      1. brightstar*

        I was bullied at a job: screamed at in front of customers, hours cut, my bathroom use was monitored to the point that he stood outside the door whenever I was in there. He began double-checking my work (I’d been there for two years at this point and the bullying occurred after I reported sexual harassment and stalking.) I would immediately quit on the spot because my mental health is worth more than a paycheck. When I was going through that, I’d get in my car at the end of the day and scream and cry and worry that I wouldn’t be able to stop. So, based upon my experiences, I can totally see someone who isn’t a drama queen quitting like that without a nefarious reason or in an attempt to hide something.

      2. aebhel*

        My previous boss called the police on a subordinate and lied to them that said subordinate had threatened suicide, so that they took her into (technically voluntary) custody–after screaming at her until she cried–because of something mildly critical of one of the boss’s new initiatives she’d brought up at a staff meeting. I am quite sure that she would quit on the spot if this woman was ever re-hired, and she wouldn’t be alone. And frankly, we would all tell anybody who hadn’t worked with her before to watch out.

        This was, of course, NOT how any of this was reported to the board, and she was so good at managing up that none of us wanted to risk reporting her. They all thought she was a delight, and she absolutely would have retaliated. Five people (out of a staff of eleven) quit specifically because of her, more than one without notice.

        So, I mean. There are definitely people who are incredibly terrible like this.

        1. Blurgle*

          Unfortunately I also know a conservative Christian who quit on the spot rather than work under a Jewish woman, and made it out to everyone as if the new boss was 100% to blame.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          My God. That is thoroughly evil.

          And I’ve known people who are that level of terrible as well. People don’t want to believe that they exist, and people like that use this reluctance to believe – this internal censor a lot of people have that blocks out bad behavior – to get away with a lot of nasty stuff. Sometimes people get away with things simply because they’re so outrageous people don’t believe they really happened.

      3. Bea*

        My former boss most likely would never ever end up in my life again since he’s an owner and despite being certain he’ll kill his company soon enough, he’ll retire sooner than punch a clock somewhere…I suppose he could try buying a company I work for but yeah let’s go with that idea. I would walk right out the door and never look back.

        I was overworked and known to be the one actively killing myself trying to save his sinking ship but I drew the line at him getting violently angry when someone he viewed as just a laborer in a lowrung position got hurt and refused to continue to do the task that was outside his hired duties that injured him. He was bullied and constantly threatened until he walked out.

        So yeah. That guy. I didn’t quit without a job the first time but I wouldn’t breathe the same air as him again that’s for sure. He’s a lowlife.

      4. cactus lady*

        I had a previous boss who harassed me repeatedly, mostly verbally but occasionally physically. It was a large organization (extremely well-known and a leader in it’s field) and I reported it, and found a job elsewhere in thankfully a short period of time. HR was supportive and offered to place me elsewhere, but I elected to leave. Former boss completely trashed my reputation at that organization in retaliation – which I could have pursued legally, but frankly didn’t have the energy to. If I were to be told that person were to be my new boss in any way, no matter how far removed, I would do the same thing that this employee did. It wouldn’t be about trying to turn people against my former boss – it would be the honest truth of my experience and an explanation for why I was leaving. No one should have to worry about their boss trying to harass, stalk, or hit them. My first reaction to this letter was that this employee was probably in the same boat that I was – you don’t realize it’s a thing until you are living it.

  24. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I have a different reaction than most folks. It seems like many people are taking the employee’s no-notice quitting as an indication of just how seriously they should take his complaint about the manager… I feel almost the opposite. Taking such an extreme action (quitting with no job lined up, giving less than a week’s notice) makes me question his judgment.

    1. Jam Today*

      I was harassed twice (by two bosses in a row), and would quit on the spot if I found out that either of them was being hired into my organization, much less being put into a managerial position over me. A third person I worked with, who had influence over my group but didn’t manage me, took enormous pleasure in being cruel to me that while I may not walk out of the building on the spot, I would absolutely give my notice and take the risk of job searching while unemployed rather than associate with her.

      1. Moose*

        Same here. I left my last job because of a manager’s sexual harassment that the company refused to address. If I found out he was coming to my current company that would be the end of my tenure here.

    2. Southern Ladybug*

      I can see it both ways – to me, it depends on the employee. A great employee and coworker not prone to drama, I’d be very concerned. Some other folks…yeah, I’d take it as a good sign they left.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with this. There are some people from my former life that were total drama llamas. If they flew off the handle like this–and they would–I really wouldn’t take that as a sign that the manager is terrible. Rather, I’d question their judgement and probably ignore it. But other people who weren’t prone to drama and whose opinion I trusted, I would have taken them pretty seriously if they quit with little notice due to an incoming manager.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, although I’d have expected OP to have mentioned it if Bob were that kind of employee, unless perhaps he was relatively new and not someone OP knows well.

        That said, the manager’s dismissive attitude towards the concerns being raised is a red flag.

    3. AnotherJill*

      Yeah, I wonder about that too. I’ve also seen some serious personality conflicts between two people that didn’t really affect others in the organization. I always prefer to make up my own mind about someone, so hope that everyone involved can start with an open mind and a clean slate regardless of the innuendo.

      1. cncx*

        that was my thing with a manager. while i personally think he was a drama llama, other people in our org saw it as more of a personality conflict that wasn’t anyone’s fault other than we did not get along at all. I can see that logically, but he was really mean to me.

        I would quit on the spot if he was ever anywhere in the hierarchy over me but that doesn’t mean either of us are bad people with bad judgment, i just know it wouldn’t end well so why even try.

    4. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      It is extremely fortunate that you’ve not found anyone who you absolutely cannot work with/under. I have. There are occasionally very valid, logical, and responsible reasons for walking off a job with no notice, and people should not be discouraged from taking care of their own well-being because someone might question their judgment.

      1. AnotherJill*

        That’s true, but others should also not let those kinds of situations prejudice their own judgement. Keeping your own mind open about the incoming person does not diminish the experience of the person leaving.

      2. LBK*

        And it’s extremely fortunate that you’ve apparently never worked with a wingnut who hated a good manager for illogical reasons. Half my department quit when we changed managers because – *gasp* – the new management actually held them accountable for their work and expected them to do more than mindlessly click buttons for 40 hours a week and collect a paycheck. To the majority of those coworkers, I said good riddance.

        Everyone comes at this through the lens of their own experience; I’ve had a lot more melodramatic coworkers who quit jobs for stupid reasons than I’ve had managers who were so awful I’d rather be unemployed than work for them for even a day. That’s not to say either experience is invalid, but there are multiple perspectives here, and the situation as presented in the letter doesn’t necessarily point towards one or the other.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, this is very much one of those posts where a lot of people are approaching it through the lens of their own experiences — and being convinced that must be the situation here too. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, and good advice needs to account for a full range of possibilities.

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I too have worked for both. My experience has been the opposite – in that I’ve seen more awful bosses than melodramatic coworkers. But again, I have seen both. From what is written in the letter it definitely can go either way. I’d say it’s 50/50 right now whether incoming manager has real potential to be a nightmare.

          However – I do lean a bit more towards taking the complaint of the outgoing employee seriously, not because of my personal experience, but because it seems like the consequences of dismissing the outgoing employee as a drama llama IF the manager is an actual nightmare are pretty significantly worse (though how worse does depend on the mechanisms in place to catch this type of behavior) than the consequences of taking the accusations of the outgoing employee seriously if the incoming manager really is just fine. The former is a lot of stress/strife/low morale/potential turnover (an all associated costs) with an added dose of “we told you so”. The latter is… a bit of extra research that confirms the hiring committee’s decision.

          1. LBK*

            I’ll agree with that – if the hiring committee isn’t swayed by this prior to the manager starting, I think they do at least need to be taking a particularly critical eye to the new manager’s performance once she starts.

    5. yup*

      I do not get this…. Maybe the employee has a good financial cushion and doesn’t need the job. Maybe they have a significant other who makes enough money that they can take off for a few months. Maybe they are a minimalist and can manage without many expenses. Maybe they will have severe anxiety being in the same room with the new boss and they prioritized their own health and well-being over a job.

      This idea that we must work for 40 consecutive years with no break or else we have poor judgment because society says so is really getting old. People have different life circumstances and needs. Not everyone needs or wants a job or wants to live that way.

      Kudos to the employee for doing what is right for him and not what society dictates.

      1. LBK*

        He says he’ll “take his chances with unemployment.” That doesn’t sound to me like someone who’s financially comfortable enough that quitting their job isn’t a big deal.

        And if you are correct that this isn’t a big deal for him, that means people shouldn’t be reading into it so severely. The only reason it’s being treated as a red flag about the new manager is because generally, quitting your job without anything lined up is an extreme and risky action.

        1. yup*

          That could mean all kinds of things…. It could be “he will take his chances with unemployment” and apply for UI benefits or he will take his chances with unemployment and hope he gets a new job before his savings runs out… in 10 years. I don’t know why that statement is any indication of his financial security. I think he would prefer to not have a job than work for her.

          I agree that his decision is a statement about the new manager, but I do not think it is a statement about his “poor” judgment. He is choosing to make a choice based on his own emotional needs and (presumably) financial situation. That is something that everyone should be encouraged to do.

          1. LBK*

            I don’t think you have any evidence to suggest this is a good decision for him. You’re backing into it by assuming that if he went through with it, he must have thought it through thoroughly and correctly assessed that it was the best course of action, but people make bad decisions all the time that they later come to regret. The decision being made does not inherently confirm that it’s a good one.

            1. yup*

              And there is no evidence to suggest it is a bad decision either. I don’t know the full story and neither do you. I just want to challenge this idea that just because someone quits a job without another one lined up they must have poor judgment.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I agree with your challenging of that idea.

                But, to your earlier comment, it doesn’t look like he’s taking a year off to travel the world, eat, pray, love, and find himself. What I am gathering from the letter is that he is leaving, even though it would put him in a tight position financially, because he cannot work for this new manager; and that he would not have left otherwise. He is not super excited about leaving, but feels that he has to.

    6. K.*

      In the year and a half since I quit my last job (I left for another job), a quarter of the company (small company of about 45 people) has left. The CEO, who was the source of the toxicity, recently left of his own accord and those remaining cheered after his last day. I can think of several of the departed ones who quit with nothing lined up, including folks with kids, aging parents for whom they provide care, etc. As one of them told me, “I had enough.” Sometimes people are that bad to work with/for.

    7. Anon Accountant*

      After working under (and still am but trying hard to leave) a manager who bullied me because I wouldn’t commit perjury, prepare fraudulent reports in a legal case, and had a total meltdown because I complied with a subpoena I’d absolutely quit without another job rather than deal with this again. This all happened without support from the managing partner because he won’t take action over anything.

      There’s many circumstances where a reasonable person is better off quitting rather than staying to see if things change.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      Several years ago my spouse called me at work and told me he was thinking of quitting that day and was I ok with that. In our case, he knew we could live on one income for a time, so his desire to escape a toxic situation didn’t mean he was using bad judgement. He most definitely isn’t a drama llama, and that was an indication of how bad things were at his work. Other co-workers begged him to stay, and he fought the nepotism and bad management a much slower way, and eventually outlasted them (although the bad management is just less now, not gone). So Alison is very right: look at the person who quit.

    9. neverjaunty*

      You can question his judgment and still look into the circumstances of his refusal to work with her.

      It is possible for someone BOTH to be a drama llama AND right that their incoming manager is a human trash fire.

    10. AnonAnonAnonForThis*

      At my current job, in the past twelve or so months, several people have walked out with nothing lined up. I had never seen anything like this before. There are valid reasons behind their actions. Admittedly, they all had either savings or other sources of income, and could afford to quit. But they wouldn’t have done this if the place hadn’t become increasingly toxic.

    11. Lissa*

      I don’t think the extremeness of his reaction means he should be taken more seriously either. I think it’s absolutely possible that it could be a reasonable reaction and he shouldn’t be looked at as irrational necessarily, but I think ignoring that possibility and assuming it’s gotta be the incoming boss is awful *because* his response is so strong is also not right.

      Management’s response is concerning but this is one data point from one employee. I understand why everyone is bringing out their “I would totally quit if my old boss came in” stories, but there are just as many possibilities where she *isn’t* horrific, aren’t there?

      I would be way more worried if multiple employees were saying the same thing about her. One person is a reason to be concerned, sure, but I don’t see why he’s *more* likely to be the one in the right.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Maybe they would, if OP had access to multiple employees who had all worked under her. But that’s something she’s not likely to ever find out.

        1. Lissa*

          Well, yes, but it’s still just one data point! Maybe they would, but maybe they wouldn’t. I’m not saying don’t be cautious but I really think people are using their own experiences and assuming what happened in their situation is most or more likely than other options here.

            1. oranges & lemons*

              Well, I’d say it’s striking enough that it should prompt the LW to investigate further, but just because it is a striking and dramatic action doesn’t necessarily make him more likely to be right. It just suggests that there is something going on here, whether it’s that he’s highly dramatic, or has something to hide, or is correct that she’s an awful manager.

    12. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I walked out of a job with nothing lined up once. It was a part-time job, low-paid, not in my field, but we were a young family with a toddler and needed the money. The manager/owner was unreasonable, and made me work long/odd hours for a part-time salary. One day, when I was already a few weeks pregnant with our second, I left for work at something like three PM, came back home at four AM the next morning (yes you read that right…) Woke up the next day and told my husband, “I cannot work there anymore, I don’t think this is good for the new baby, either” and he said “so quit, we’ll manage”. A week later, I did. Found a new, much better job (still not in my field, but closer to it, in an office with a great team, reasonable hours, and several times the pay) three weeks after that. When I last checked six months later, Horrible Boss was still looking for my replacement, and still having no takers.

      I can absolutely relate to the feeling when you cannot stay at your place of work another moment. My judgment is pretty solid, if I say so myself. I never did this before or after that job. But, if I had that job again, I’d do it again.

  25. Lumen*

    Yikes yikes yikes. Someone QUIT THEIR JOB rather than report to this person again and it’s being dismissed as completely unimportant? Even if it turns out that this guy was just a terrible employee, or did something awful at that other job and he’s running away rather than face someone who knew about it, this is lousy for morale around the office and completely setting up the new person to fail. Maybe she deserves to fail! Maybe she’s the awful one! No one knows, so everyone is going to make up their own stories and react to her based on those.

    It really does a disservice to employees AND to the new person to just let this lie or brush it under the rug. Someone quitting with very little notice over this is a big red flag, either way.

    1. Ten*

      this is lousy for morale around the office and completely setting up the new person to fail

      Yes, this exactly. Regardless of what the incoming manager is actually like, she’s stepping into an office that is already against her – that’s what needs to get straightened out. If she turns out to be terrible, deal with it then. But not before she even arrives.

  26. Jubilance*

    I have a feeling that the update to this is going to start with “the employee who quit was right, and the manager was a nightmare”.

    The hiring manager has decided that the person they hired is the bee’s knees, and maybe the are – to leaders. I’ve had managers who were adored by higher ups, but openly disparaged by their team, former employees and even their peers. They were completely different to their team than they were to the leaders. All the leaders saw were the great things, meanwhile the team is suffering in a toxic environment. Maybe the employee who quit is overreacting, but I doubt it. Most people wouldn’t quit a job without another lined unless it was the absolute only option they had.


    about 5 years ago, our team’s most senior leader resigned and highly recommended a former colleague (a “dear friend” and former colleague of hers) to fill her position. the person she recommended had managed some of us in the past and we detested him. this guy played favorites and babied them at the expense of the rest of the team, he lacked maturity and professionalism, and had a mean streak a mile long. we all complained about it quietly for a while, but ultimately a few of us decided it was worth the potential fallout and mentioned to some other senior leaders that we would all be looking for new jobs if this person came back to manage us. ultimately they didn’t bring him back. i’m not sure if it had anything to do with our concerns, or if the c-levels doing the hiring didn’t care for him either. (he can be very charming, but alternately can be extremely abrasive.) it’s been years and i’m still so relieved it worked out the way it did. the woman who leads our team now is very, very imperfect… but not nearly as awful as the guy we almost ended up with! we really have no idea if our voices were even heard, but it seemed like a sure thing then suddenly we just stopped hearing about him and his candidacy.

    it’s one thing to not like a former boss, but if you put yourself on the line to say you will leave if that person comes back, that’s saying something. at the very least, it should be looked into!

    1. Purplesaurus*

      The fact that several of you had this shared experience and spoke up about it makes me think you probably were listened to (yay!).

      I hope for OP’s sake and all others who would report to this person, that the runaway employee is overreacting/has poor judgement/etc.

  28. Jam Today*

    This letter is giving me major anxiety. I can think of three people on this planet that I would walk off the job than ever work for (or even in proximity to) again. My bias is with the person who quit; the prospect of long-term unemployment is preferable to associating with that person for even a day. That’s a big, huge, blaring klaxon that people need to pay attention to.

  29. Irene Adler*

    Having a mechanism in place if “Jane” turns out to be a nightmare is good. But it could be risky to say anything should “Jane” manifest the issues the ex-employee experienced. I might just keep my mouth shut and move on should that be the case.

    How does an employee know that significant issues brought up regarding “Jane” won’t be dismissed by the C-suite folks in similar manner as the now ex-employee’s related experiences? Or that there won’t be retaliation for bringing up issues regarding “Jane”?

  30. InfoGeek*

    I will say that there is one site director in our company that no one in our building would willingly work for again. He’s moved several times since being here and disaster has followed every time. His current place, though? They love him. He’s been great there. They have nothing bad to say about him. I don’t know if he’s learned things along the way or if this location is just a better fit. (This is all within the same global company.)

  31. I'm Not Phyllis*

    This would make me really nervous. Working with someone, or being their supervisor, is definitely a different experience than working FOR somebody. I think we’ve all experienced that at some point. I do agree with Alison that your manager was quite dismissive of your employee’s concerns – and that would worry me too. That said, I’d still give her the benefit of the doubt. Even if the new manager wasn’t great in the past, it is possible that they have learned and grown since then. Your employee made his choice and there’s nothing you can do about that now. So put your head into getting ready for your new boss. You can make your mind up when she gets there. And if it makes you feel better, you can always start polishing your resume just in case!

    There’s literally only one person in my professional past where I’d rather be unemployed then work for her again. All kinds of fun things happened, like a low performance rating even though I’d met every single target because she decided that they weren’t the “right” targets (they were set with a previous manager before she came into the role).

  32. MommyMD*

    Our department hired a manager with glowing references. To say she was an unstable nightmare prone to screaming outbursts is an understatement. She didn’t last long and her glowing references never worked under her. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Especially if a good employee quits.

  33. Decima Dewey*

    It could be that the hiring committee wanted someone who would kick butt and take names. Which could lead them to dismiss people who actually worked with the manager in question as “rumors and conjecture.”

    That said, the employee quitting could be a yellow flag, not a red one. One person’s nightmare manager is another person’s good boss, if that person knows how to get along with the manager.

    Listen to the criticism, observe for yourself, make up your own mind.

  34. Chriama*

    Dismissing the leaving employee’s concerns as listening to rumours strikes me as odd. Where there’s smoke there’s often fire, and I would have wanted to hear some more reassurance from her. I also wonder how it was phrased “oh, he must have heard some silly rumours” is different from “oh, I’ve heard this before but it’s just a rumour.” The former is dismissive while the latter sounds like someone out to force the facts to conform to their opinion.

    Either way I really want to hear back on this one in a couple months. I can’t imagine even the most over dramatic drama llama would *leave their job* rather than try to find a new one and then quit.

  35. TheCupcakeCounter*

    There was a guy at OldJob who was a very polarizing figure. If you worked for him he had your back 110% and would go to bat for resources, raises, bonus, etc… Great right? Unless you did not directly report to him. He was demanding and would do nearly anything to push work off his team (they need work life balance!) onto someone else but his team would still need to “review and clean up” the report and then hand it in as their own.
    My predecessor in that role was working under him during a particularly bad time for me (had been promoted to a new role but no backfill for the prior role which 100% supported the new role…very bad) and asked for a report. I knew he still had the appropriate access so I handed him the instructions and told him I don’t have time right now and if he can’t wait to run it himself. His boss came over and started yelling and me and demanding I “do my job” and run that report. I calmly told him it wasn’t my job, it is the empty desks job and if he wanted it done he could complain to the powers that be that kept pulling the position off the hiring site. More yelling ensued and I told him to fuck off (nice and calm like too!) since I had been fed up for a long time at that point and had some interviews lined up. I was gone within a month of that happening. Never did run that report.
    Needless to say without hearing first hand from several coworkers who worked under him and witnessing the lengths he went to for his team I would have done the quit at the mention of his name thing if I found out he was going to be my new boss.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Whoah – did you work for my old dept? You just described my dept. head to a tee. His team was incredibly close-knit and very friendly with each other. He absolutely would go to bat for “his people” but he could be such a huge jerk to anyone (well basically everyone) else.

      Except for me… I was in the dept., but I didn’t fit in. Turned out they were very close-knit because they were the most homogeneous and insular dept I’ve ever seen in action. I had a different work style/communication style and was completely ostricized pretty quickly. Honestly it felt very cult like.

    2. Anon for this*

      Oh man, I had a boss like that. I liked and disliked working for him at the same time. It was obvious to those of us under him what was going on, but also, it worked best to approach other departments ourselves instead of through him, because they tended to obstruct him. Ugh.

  36. Where's the Le-Toose?*

    OP, I think the type of person the departing employee was is inversely proportional to the red flag that should be attached to the new manager.

    There is a manager in my office who I briefly worked for as a supervisor before becoming a manager myself. This manager is a goldbrick. An equal opportunity a-hole. Lazy. Arrogant. Loud. Does the bare minimum. Strongly infers that people need to bring him chocolate for Halloween if he lets them leave early or bring him a souvenir from the airport if he lets you go to training out of the area. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate him a 1. Some of his direct reports would rather work for Lumbergh from Office Space. I personally can’t stand the man.

    And yet, half his staff love working for him. He doesn’t pressure test their work. He never says no to the last minute request for time off. He never challenges them. He lets people slide and do things their own way, even if it conflicts with our agency’s mission. It’s like they get to be an independent contractor with the perk of employee benefits. I could see a couple of the people who work for him leave overnight if they heard they were getting a boss that made them toe the line.

  37. Colorado*

    Maybe they had an affair or something happened on a very personal level between them that didn’t end well. Just a thought that crossed my mind.

  38. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    Ok so one idea for the OP. Your mileage will definitely vary based on your industry and if you happen to have any contacts like this…

    Do you know/trust any external recruiters? I’ve found that the good ones know their industries and the players within fairly well and are often a pretty reliable source of information (at least when it’s not regarding a role you are directly in the running for – in those cases there are some personal interests that could fact into the info they provide).

    So story time: I worked for, what I felt to be, a horrifically toxic and dysfunctional department. So bad that I quit after 9 months with nothing specific lined up because the toll on mental health was too great. *Sidenote – the manager from this place is the only person that I would quit immediately over if I found out she was going to be anywhere in my dept – anywhere above me or even at my level if I was going to have to be working closely with her*. Anyway, I landed on my feet. Fastforwad to me in my next role, about a year in. I work pretty closely with a couple of different external recruiters on behalf of my boss. One of them asks me to give him a call about a personal question. Said he had candidate who had been offered a role at my old firm, in my old department, and that he had heard some negative things about this company/dept. Then he asked if I’d be willing to share with him my experience. And boy was I! *Sidenote: based on convos with current employees who are still at the firm – the candidated must have declined the role and they still haven’t hired anyone for it*.

    Fast forward another 1 year or so. Now I’m conducting my own job search. Unfortunately I cannot use any of the recruiters I work with professionally b/c they nave non-competes with my company. However, I have a fairly strong relationship with that one in particular. I ran a couple of the companies that I was interviewing at/considering by him and he was EXTREMELY helpful. Saved me from taking a role in a department that had 100% turnover within 1 year (and the head had been there for 6yrs, so it wasn’t a changeover or anything). My spidey sense had been tingling (the job postings they had up seemed off), but everything the department head sounded terrific and I was seriously considering accepting a role there.

    I live in NYC and work in a pretty broad industry (finance), then within a smaller department (think marketing of financial products) – but still I had no idea how small of a world it could be or how “in the know” recruiters could be.

    Just a thought for anyone looking for additional information…

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Yes I discovered this in my job search as well – my recruiter (at least the really good one I worked with) gave me a great rundown on several places on my list. When we got to one she said it wasn’t worth looking into because I would be a terrible fit. She has placed several people there and has learned over time which type of people work and which don’t. I’ve been at the role she helped me find over 5 years now and she pretty much explained the environment perfectly.

  39. Stormy*

    Without knowing the direct report’s specific complaints against her, it’s too hard to say whether his issue will become everyone’s issue.

    I dislike a coworker who almost everyone thinks is incredibly kind and helpful. He made several incredibly snotty, classist comments in a series of small meetings I attended. The only other people who heard him were people who had circumstances that favored his nasty opinions, so they thought he was funny and clever. If I ever had to report to him, I would start looking.

  40. lnelson1218*

    Actually, I made sure that I was in the group who got laid off from my previous job because one of the SVP is such a poisoned pill. I knew that if I had stayed, I would have told him off (using G-rated words here) and gotten myself fired.
    Hearing stories from those left behind, I made the right decision. The SVP is on some ego power trip and making everyone’s life miserable. He is the type of person who manages to get on a President’s/CEO’s/etc. favorite list and then he can do no wrong, so misuse of funds/not following company policy/opening the company up to lawsuits get rewarded, not punished.
    After he is done running the company into the ground, I really hope that he stay “back home” which is in another part of the country. Because if I discovered that we would be working at the same company, especially a smaller one (50 EEs and under) I would turn in my resignation on the spot. He is an HR nightmare and I would be less stressed on unemployment unsure when my next paycheck would be coming in.

  41. Anon in this case*

    I would not be reassured by “we checked several references”. I worked recently with one who had excellent references but was an awful employee. (This person even tried to quit but the boss wouldn’t accept their resignation!) To this day I have no clue what the references saw that we didn’t.

    1. Catabodua*

      We had a hire who we are convinced the previous employer gave glowing references for in order to get him the hell out of their organization.

  42. Nico m*

    Take the quitter out for lunch and get the details. If they are not the crazy one they should be able to provide other “bad references”

  43. Narise*

    Did employee who quit have an exit interview with anyone and state why they were leaving? Is there anyone else you can speak to rather than acting manager? A VP or someone in HR? I think its important that this is taken up the chain of command. I would phrase it as ‘I have an employee who has worked here for x years , always received great ratings on his review. He quit rather than work with the new manager for even one day or one week. It doesn’t make sense for someone to give up their job without another job lined up without cause. I think we need to do our do diligence and vet this employee further.’ Make sure you document all of this in case anyone starts pointing fingers later as to ‘how could we have hired this person’. If you take this step and nothing happens you can’t say you didn’t try. Be welcoming and give the manager every opportunity to prove former employee wrong. If he’s not wrong you should know soon and then you can decide if you should start looking for another job.

  44. Sunshine Brite*

    I just got done reading “Snakes in Suits” and feel like the OP should consider checking if any of those red flags are present.

  45. voyager1*

    Serious question, why haven’t you asked your staff what stories the departing staff member said? Or have you spoken/heard them and that is why you are concerned?
    If it is the later, well you know why he quit. If it is the former then talk to your staff and get a pulse of what he said to put in context his quitting.

    That your staff member is telling others what happened to him should give you pause and be something you should get to the bottom of.

  46. Winged*

    The new manager has been hired, and it looks like the offer won’t be rescinded. So really, all the current employees can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Approach the new manager with a good attitude, while keeping your resume updated. And this is really what people should do in any case. Any new manager could be fantastic or terrible, or somewhere in between. Granted, this guy quitting is definitely concerning, but the current employees need to make up their own minds about the incoming manager rather than assuming the worst. Maybe the new manager is legitimately terrible, but maybe it was just a really bad mismatch for this guy, or hey, maybe they lived together for a few years and he ghosted on her. Time will tell.

  47. Cassandra*

    One possibility (n.b. it is ONLY THAT, it should be CHECKED, not assumed!) is that the person being hired pulled something illegal and/or unethical that the person who quit knows about.

    If the departing person strikes you as hardcore ethical, OP, this might be an avenue to (quietly!) poke around in.

    Would a real-for-true human being quit on the spot over this? It’s at least possible, I think. I’d like to say I would, but it’s never come up. I did refuse an interview once after finding out that the company was highly shady.

  48. AnonAnon*

    In case it’s not been mentioned yet (I don’t think it has) – but too much managerial ambition, at any collateral cost, is enough to make any employee run. This often looks like success to other managers, but a total garbage fire to their team.

    I ‘made it work’ for a few months with a brand new manager (and fresh out of his doctorate with little work experience), who was desperate to prove his worth politically.

    To do this, he decided that:
    – he needed to take away all my responsibilities, of which I had received kudos for, and make them his.
    – anything I suggested was placated but not required, or feasible
    – told me not to go to meetings to save on work pressure, he would represent and (never) keep me in the loop.
    And ultimately, Senior Management loved him and he is still there two years later (over three replacements for me have come and gone however).

    My bosses boss, who loved me, sort of saw it happening, but had used too much political capital to get the role made that she just couldn’t face the situation without losing cards. So there was no way for me to stay. It’s a silent lever and I wouldn’t let it happen to me again.

  49. Never Again*

    There is only one manager I would never work for again. He told everyone I was pregnant by one of my coworkers when I had a boyfriend. If he somehow magically appeared in my new field, which I admit is a -100% chance of happening because he doesn’t have the degrees or background needed, I would tell my boss and grandboss it’s me or him and expect a decision that day. If they said him I would probably stay until his start day as a professional courtesy but not a minute working with him again.

  50. Anonymous Grad Student*

    OP, please talk to your former employee and see if he is willing to provide you with more information about what happened.

    This post reminds me of the person currently in charge of my graduate research department. He has no direct formal authority over grad students, but that doesn’t stop him using his position as a high-up tenured academic to bully and intimidate students and other people he considers to be beneath him. He is open about his personal dislike for the professor who does directly supervise me and has targeted me as well as other students working for this professor. To this day I regret not standing up and walking out of a meeting he called with me and some other (young, female) grad students where he yelled at me, insulted my supervisor and insulted my intelligence as a result of us not attending a non-compulsory departmental event. I am proud of myself for staying stone-faced until dismissed from said meeting. I managed to hold it together until I got into my car, where I burst into tears. He later shouted at one of my lab mates and belittled her because she was writing a paper with my professor instead of attending the department’s Christmas party (which students had to pay to attend).

    This is a man who has received accolades from my university and is well-regarded by his higher ups and the professors in my department who he does choose to treat as equals. I am certain that the committee that made the decision to hire him as director of my department only spoke to his academic superiors as references and have no idea how he treats people that he doesn’t perceive as equals. He recently hosted a prestigious academic event at our department building and was gregarious, charming, funny and friendly towards the distinguished visiting professors who attended, and I have no doubt that their impression of him was very different to mine.

    I’ve definitely had coworkers who disliked managers who rightly called them out on poor performance, and maybe that’s the situation here – but I also know that people who are nice to their higher-ups and nasty to others lower on the food chain tend to be very good at hiding it and will only show their true colours when they think they can get away with it. There’s a reason that serial bullies and sexual harassers go undetected for so long – they deliberately target people who have very little power to stop them.

  51. cncx*

    i commented in a lot of subthreads and i had a manager who i just did not get along with. I do also think he had a problem with my then-husband’s ethnicity which didn’t help our relationship, and i also think our personalities were like oil and water. He had a great relationship with his EA at the time and was capable of getting along with people, just not with me. Likewise for me, if someone quit on the spot rather than work for this person, i see it through my lens of “ok is this person toxic with everyone or was it just bad luck?” I would need more information but wouldn’t judge the person for quitting (i would quit before working for that manager again, but that doesn’t mean either of us are bad people or drama llamas) and keep an open mind for the incoming manager.

    Also i had a coworker who i really didn’t get along with because he tried to act like my boss, and honestly while i wouldnt have him as a coworker again i would probably be open to working under him, because at least then his job title would match his impression :) So context is everything.

  52. MassMatt*

    A big problem is that people doing the hiring are invested in their decisions and often feel like they can’t back down from them without looking foolish. That or they really don’t care if someone is kiss-up and kick down, “someone else’s problem”.

    That someone quit rather than work with the new manager, and that the concerns raised by the OP were dismissed as rumors makes me think this is unlikely to turn out well.

    OP I wish you and your colleagues well, please give us an update in a few months!

  53. Catabodua*

    OP – polish up your resume and start networking right away. I have a feeling that 6 months from now you’ll be happy you started preparing your exit before the new manager arrives.

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