my coworkers keep complaining about me

A reader writes:

I’m having a hard time fitting into the culture of my new office, and it’s starting to wear on me. I’m kind of unorthodox here for a number of reasons, including that I work later hours than everyone else (which was part of my offer negotiation) and I’m not shy about jumping right in, asking questions, and making changes. I’ve only ever gotten positive feedback on those traits from managers, so I don’t think I’m skirting the line into “pushy” or “rude.”

My manager and her bosses love me and love my work. It’s my coworkers who keep having problems with me: since I’ve been hired four months ago, my boss talked to me five times about complaints or questions others brought to her about my actions. This is about stuff like, “She comes and goes at odd hours,” (yes, which are approved by my manager), “She has visitors to her cubicle,” (yes, which isn’t disallowed and other people have visitors too), “She should run questions like that through the supervisor” (really, asking if you would mind turning off your cell chime is something a manager should have to weigh in on?), and “She’s asking too many questions, who does she think she is?” (I’m doing what I was told to do.) I even got a “warning” note left anonymously in my cubicle telling me to “mind my own business,” which was taken very seriously by admin, but mostly just gossiped about by staff.

My boss has my back, and she’s taken everything very seriously. Every time, she says, “I totally have your back, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong, but I wanted you to know that this happened, and let’s think of ways of appropriately addressing it if we can.” Sometimes we can’t address it because it’s a problem of someone else’s and I’m just the recipient; sometimes I can make some correction in my behavior to smooth things over.

The problem is: I think “smoothing things over” is actually code for “don’t talk to anyone else about this” or “keep your head down” or “this is just the way things are.” There seem to be a significant number of behavioral problems in this office coming from a number of different people that don’t get dealt with: tantrums/crying in meetings, bullying/sniping comments towards coworkers, disrespectful emails, etc. It seems like the more highly emotional/negative people just get to do what they want and all of us polite folks are expected to just deal with it.

How can I survive in a culture where this happens? Or, better yet, how can I work with my boss to make things better, if possible? My boss thinks that some of our newly-hired higher-ups will start to make changes, and it’s just a matter of time and we should trust them. But how can I make it through the long game if the short game kills me first? I keep bumping into people, being told I’m not wrong, but that I’m the one to have to make adjustments. It’s hard, confusing, and isolating. I don’t want to keep having negative run-ins, but I don’t want to compromise my values (equality, respect, professionalism) either.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 217 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark

    This “I totally support you, but these OTHER people have this complaint” behavior your boss is indulging in strikes me as super passive aggressive and annoying. It’s not actually suppportive of you if she burdens you with every bullshit complaint and whinge that crosses her desk; being a great boss who has your back would be saying “why are you complaining about this to me? She’s allowed to have visitors at her desk. Stop being a busybody,” to the whiner and then not dumping it on your lap to smooth over.

    1. Snark

      Aaand I should really read the article before I weigh in with my clever observation, because this is basically exactly what Alison said.

    2. grey

      Yes, exactly though. I still remember a boss taking me aside one time to tell me that some folks had complained about an outfit I wore* on a day when I was filling in for the receptionist. She then, supposedly, watched what I wore for a couple of weeks and other than on a Friday (which was Casual Friday) and the top I was wearing was just a little “plain” everything had been fine.

      My immediate thought was – then why on earth did you even tell me this to begin with? But that was it – she was passive aggressive and she was doing her best to undermine everyone and create fractures between all the coworkers. Thankfully she was walked out a few months later because upper management saw what she was doing.

      *I worked in a field office and it was Corporate people that supposedly complained, but the thing is I was actually dressed up even much nicer and more professional than our office normally would be (in a collared shirt and a good black skirt) – and especially our regular receptionist – than we would normally wear in our office due to the event going on. Plus after that I went to corporate a ton of times and the receptionist there was not any more dressed up than I had been that day – I really think she made up the complaint completely.

      1. President Porpoise

        I had a job once where one of my coworkers complained to my boss about how loudly I ate apples. My boss was inexperienced and not a great manager in many ways (often because her bosses were nightmares) but in that case, she saw it as ridiculous and didn’t pass it on until years later when we ran into each other. She used it as an example of how stupid that place was.

        Turns out, if she had told me to stop eating apples, I might have figured out that they make me really, really sick a lot sooner. But I still appreciate that she didn’t pass on a totally unreasonable complaint.

      2. designbot

        I’d like to know what’s going through the heads of folks who actually lodge complaints about how other people dress. There’s someone in my office who I do not think dresses appropriately, but she is not in my studio and is my peer, so I keep my yap shut and figure that if it’s a real problem somebody better positioned than I will also have noticed.

        1. grey

          I completely agree. Actually after I typed this it made me wonder if it had actually been someone else – a coworker/peer – who made the complaint – because the manager made it sound like it was someone from the C-Suite who had issued the complaint but it never made any sense to me. But I had a coworker who liked to complain about my clothing choices all the time – to the point that one day she brought her old clothes to help me update my wardrobe. As you can imagine, they were awful.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

            Omg. I’d have such a hard time not throwing them in her face and storming out.

        2. Angeldrac

          The one and only time I have complained about what a colleague wore was when a fellow nursing student kept attending college with a t-shirt featuring a picture of a nurse saying “I want to be a nurse so I can see lot’s of willies)”. A number of us brought it to our tutor’s attention as being highly inappropriate and, after a bit of discussion with the person in question, for whom English was a second language, it became apparent that she didn’t actually know what it meant. Which opened a whole new issue about whether her level of English could be considered “safe” for practicing in the the hospital. A whole big saga, and I felt quite sorry for the woman, however, a good example of the level of what is actually worth complaining about as far as clothing goes, in the workplace. Not a shirt that is “too plain”.

      3. Michaela Westen

        ” she was doing her best to undermine everyone and create fractures between all the coworkers. ”
        People who behave in destructive ways like this often don’t realize what they’re doing, or don’t fully understand the effects. IME it’s more bad habits learned from bad examples growing up then deliberate manipulation.

    3. MicroManagered

      To me it seems plain-old passive, or conflict-averse. To me “I have your back on this” would mean something closer to what you said, but a very conflict-averse manager might be saying “I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong, but you still need to fix this conflict because it’s easier for me to put this on you than your tantrum-throwing coworkers who scare the shit out of me.”

      1. Phoenix Programmer

        Yes and unfortunately a lot of bosses fall into this category. The complainer is never confronted and yet they wreck havoc in the office spreading paranoia and resentment.

        1. Phoenix is too hot

          There are valid reasons to be biased against “confronting a complainer.” You do not want to foster a corporate culture that deters employees from speaking up about problems. That is true even if the complaint appears to be unjustified. Nor do you want risk a scenario whereby you’re perceived as retaliating for a complaint.

          As with everything, this has its limits, and context is all, of course.

          1. Lavender Menace

            Hmm, I don’t know about that. You also don’t want to foster a corporate culture where everyone feels free to complain about every little niggling thing, especially other employees’ behaviors and schedules into which you have no insight. There’s a way for managers to push back against chronic complainers while still leaving the world open enough for people to feel comfortable bringing legitimate complaints; a good manager finds and toes that line.

    4. Anon today

      How much you want to bet that her response to the complaining coworkers was “Ok, I’ll talk to OP about it.” Instead of getting everyone on the same page about what is and is not expected, she is trying to not get involved.

    5. TootsNYC

      YES!

      I think Alison’s response wasn’t actually critical enough of the boss.

      I think our Letter Writer should say, “Boss, I can’t really do anything about these things–according to you, I’m not doing anything wrong. Can I ask you to push back to the complainers, and then NOT tell me about it? It just stresses me out, and there’s really nothing -I- can do about their resentment; it’s really a manager’s role to tell them to mind their own business, or to tell them that my hours are approved by you and they need to stop complaining.
      “But it makes it hard for me to work with people when their every petty complaint comes to me anyway, and with a manager’s weight behind it. I’d be better off if you dealt with it, and didn’t loop me in.
      “And after all, it’s not really appropriate for me to hear about other people’s disciplinary issues.”

      1. Specialk9

        I love this answer, it’s exactly the right expectation for a manager.

        That said, do you think it would work to actually say that to one’s manager?

        1. Snark

          I’d be a little more Socratic about it and phrase things in terms of questions asking for hard guidelines and conclusions. “So, what would you like me to do about that?” “Okay, so am I to understand that visitors to my cubicle are off limits now?” “If I’m not doing anything wrong, can I continue as I was?”

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I’m a fan of the questioning, too. As gold digger notes, below, I’m usually inclined to defend myself. But I’ve found that if I can take a beat and ask questions, instead, it helps illustrate (1) how ridiculous the complaints are, and (2) that it’s my manager’s job to filter those complaints instead of lending weight to them by repeating them to me.

      2. the gold digger

        My boss is usually really great, but I was really ticked off at him a few weeks ago. We went to corporate for a week, where the new person on our team (my peer) joined us from the London office. Siobhan and I work in parallel – she is now in charge of chocolate and rainbow teapots and I am in charge of just clay mugs and ashtrays. (Yes, I am a little bit bitter about that. I wanted to keep chocolate and rainbows and ditch clay on the new person.)

        I spend my time at corporate meeting with all the clay mug and ashtray product managers – the people with whom I work every day and with whom I want to spend time in person when I can. I buy them breakfast or lunch or dinner and do what I can to keep a good relationship with them, as I am not their boss but need them to do my job.

        On Thursday, my boss told me that Siobhan was upset that she had come all the way to the US and I had not invited her to breakfast or lunch. (We had eaten every supper together as a team.)

        What I should have said to him was, “Why are you telling me this? Why didn’t you just tell her that she can invite me to eat with her? Why didn’t ask her why she was telling you that? That she should be able to figure out the answer to that problem herself?”

        Instead, I defended myself, which I should not have done. I am still angry that I didn’t think of the right thing to say in time.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I remember one time discussing coworker Sue with my boss. Apparently another coworker, Jane, had a problem with Sue. My boss asked if I had the same problem. But his tone was that he already knew the correct answer to that question. So I simply said, “Yes, I had that problem. I told her that enjoyed working with her very much but she needed to stop doing X.” The boss asked me what happened next. I said she stopped doing X. Then he wondered why Jane didn’t think of that. And I wondered when he was going to ever be a manager/leader and I concluded he would never.

  2. Jenn

    Your boss is asking you to change because it’s easier for her to to make it your problem because you are a reasonable person (that will likely change your behavior ) than to ask the unreasonable, tantrum throwing co-workers to change (unlikely to change their behavior).

    1. Snickerdoodle

      This. The boss is essentially saying “That’s just how so-and-so is” rather than telling so-and-so how they SHOULD be if they want to keep their job.

    2. Emily K

      Yes, plus, “if we wait long enough the higher-ups will do something about this issue happening down in the trenches that I supervise?” Why isn’t *she* doing something about it? These new higher-ups have already been hired – if they aren’t willing to support her putting these troublemakers on PIPs (or speak to her manager peers about putting them on PIPs if she doesn’t supervise the problem people herself), what makes her think they’re going to become supportive at some later point in the future?

      It sounds like the boss was expecting management several levels above her to micromanage the performance of trench workers so that she and the rest of the immediate management team wouldn’t have to. Change agents who get hired into upper management positions don’t personally execute all the changes, they empower and support the front-line workers in making changing.

      1. Lucille2

        “Change agents who get hired into upper management positions don’t personally execute all the changes, they empower and support the front-line workers in making changing.”

        So true! The boss believes she can pass off her responsibilities to upper management to solve? The only way I think this is legit is if she has done everything within her power to change a toxic culture and didn’t have any support from previous upper management to carry out. For example, she wasn’t able to get approval to put anyone on PIPs for behavioral issues. But it more likely she’s hoping some new leadership will do the hard things she is responsible for. And if that happens, they may decide she’s not really needed in that role. There are just so many things wrong with this.

        1. Antilles

          But it more likely she’s hoping some new leadership will do the hard things she is responsible for. And if that happens, they may decide she’s not really needed in that role.
          That was my thought too. It’s usually pretty inefficient for a senior manager to get into the minor nitty-gritty of workers 2+ levels below. Your *entire job* as a mid-level manager is to handle small stuff like this before it gets to my desk; if you’re not doing that, then why are you even in that position?

        2. Clever Alias

          “The only way I think this is legit is if she has done everything within her power to change a toxic culture and didn’t have any support from previous upper management to carry out. For example, she wasn’t able to get approval to put anyone on PIPs for behavioral issues. ”

          You’d be surprised at how likely this is. It is exactly what happened in my office. Some senior leaders are more invested in the middle than they should be.

          “But it more likely she’s hoping some new leadership will do the hard things she is responsible for”

          Or waiting for them to get up to speed/introduce more important issues first. We don’t know how long “new leadership” has been there. A year? Yeah, this needs to be raised. A month? Not if there were three other things on the priority list first. To your point — you have to be smart/prioritize when managing up.

        3. PM Jesper Berg

          Change agents can be effective only with three things. First, senior management needs to have the change agent’s back. Second, the change agent needs budgetary authority. Third, the change agent needs to be able hire and fire. You should only take on a role as a change agent with these three conditions met. Sounds like OP didn’t do that.

      2. Effective Immediately

        You know, normally I would agree with this, but working in a culture where discipline isn’t supported by upper management, I read this a little differently.

        Some management structures are so dysfunctional that it hamstrings supervisors; for instance, you make a decision to fire an employee and your CEO goes behind you and tells that person they can stay. This is a common occurrence at my job, and I could definitely see supervisors here saying something very similar.

        I didn’t read it as a hope upper management would start managing front line staff, but rather institute a culture change and empower supervisors to be supervisors.

    3. Falling Diphthong

      Oh, yes! The ol’ “Obviously we can’t reason with the unreasonable people, so could you, a reasonable person, just go along with their unreasonable demand? And smooth everything over?”

      1. TootsNYC

        this is why all of us reasonable people should nonetheless practice how to be unreasonable, so we can whip it out now and then when it’s important.

      2. Ja'am

        This reminds me of those teachers and parents that say “I don’t care who started it!” and/or otherwise tell the victim to stop doing whatever they were doing and the other person will have no reason to taunt.

        Student: *runs*
        Teacher: Hey, stop running!
        Student: Billy’s chasing me with [item]!
        Teacher: We do not run in class!

        Sure, okay, yes I knew “no running” was a class rule, but why aren’t you doing anything about the offender? Why aren’t you getting to bottom of WHY I’m running. Why didn’t you do anything when I DID tell you why? This kind of thing happened multiple times with that teacher, I didn’t think that much of it then, but I sure do resent it/her now.

        (This behavior is also reminiscent of those that say the marginalized that rise up for justice in whatever way they can are “just as bad as them”, not exactly what’s going on here, but it’s reminiscent.)

        OP’s situation is much worse than my anecdote because they are literally not doing anything wrong and their bosses have confirmed that beforehand and after. Ugh. These kinds of people really grind my gears.

        1. Julia

          I have a feeling you’re just as frustrated about this topic as I am. When I was a kid, my brother would call me things like “ugly slut”, and when I asked why he was such an ass, I’d get in trouble for swearing, but he wouldn’t. It still makes me angry, so I feel you on this. Ugh. :/

          1. Michaela Westen

            Wow, such chauvinism! :O This is the reason we have frat boys. So sorry you experienced that!

        2. PlainJane

          You just described most of my elementary school career. *sigh* Teachers were too lazy to address underlying issues. It’s easier to blame both parties.

    4. Avalon Angel

      I had a similar experience years ago. Jill and I were both managers. One day, I came upon Jill screaming at two younger employees because she couldn’t understand them (they were recent immigrants from an Eastern European country). The two women were in tears. When I came in and asked what was happening, she turned on me to tell me to “mind your own business.” I then reminded her that I was actually senior to her, so this very much was my business. She then stormed off, yelling about how she “just wanted people to speak English.” For the record: both ladies spoke English quite well, albeit with an accent.

      I reported this incident to our superior, Jack, who set up a meeting between the three of us. During this 20 minute meeting, Jill cursed several times, knocked a chair over, and stormed out three times. The last time, she never came back. I asked Jack, “Is this honestly acceptable behavior by managers around here?” He shrugged and said, “Jill is an excellent manager, but she has a bad temper so I would just avoid her for awhile.”

      I later found out that Jack and Jill had worked together at another teapot factory before, and when Jack was hired by our teapot factory, he brought Jill with him.

      So glad to no longer work there…

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

          For real. Excellent management does not include screaming, knocking furniture over, and cursing.

  3. Snickerdoodle

    I agree with Alison’s response of “[I]s this a culture you want to be in? One where people throw tantrums, cry in meetings, snipe at people, send rude emails, and everyone else is told to deal with it? One that you describe as feeling ‘hard, confusing, and isolating’ and which you say is wearing on you every day?” Yikes. Tantrums, plural. Crying at meetings. This sounds like a dreadful place to work, and your boss sounds like she’s not interested in managing at all and just wants everyone to shut up. She needs to set and enforce boundaries rather than just let her employees complain that somebody’s more professional and hard-working than they are. I worked someplace where tantrums and crying happened a couple of times and weren’t dealt with, and I noped out in a hurry. This is why dysfunctional workplaces remain that way: Good employees have options.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat

      I didn’t see one on a quick search. I’d love an update– somehow I doubt the office culture improved.

    2. BWooster

      There was one, I am trying to find it. OP pushed back as advised and the manager actually took that on board and stopped bringing petty stuff to her. At least I think that was the right update.

  4. PiggyStardust

    Are there things in play that you yourself don’t know about? For example, your coworkers are complaining about your schedule, which was approved by your boss. Is your coworker with the noisy cell phone allowed to have their phone on for a reason? Sick kid/parent/spouse, or work-related reasons? Visitors in your office aren’t “disallowed,” but is it frequent and loud/distracting to your coworkers around you?

    Your office sounds dysfunctional, there’s no doubt about that — but it sort of sounds like there’s a missing element to this.

    1. LSP

      If the coworker is allowed to have her cellphone on, all she has to do is explain that. If people are speaking too loudly while visiting, all one has to do is ask them to keep it down. I think the missing piece to this whole thing is an office environment where people are used to talking around one another through the manager, and never addressing these very simple things directly to their coworkers.

      If OP’s coworkers asked her directly about her schedule (or even in a snarky way, like, “Must be nice to come in so late”), OP would at least be able to say, “Oh, this is a schedule I worked out with management when I was hired.”

    2. Pollygrammer

      I imagine it’s that they’ve taken a dislike to OP and are viewing every single thing she does through the lens of that dislike–so everything that isn’t their norm becomes objectionable. One of their own could ask them to turn off their cell phone chime and they’d be happy to do it–but because it’s this new person with her different work style it’s suddenly the height of arrogance and imposition.

      1. Marion Ravenwood

        I also wonder if the OP has replaced a colleague who was particularly well liked or played a pivotal role in this team, and so the others resent her for that. Which is petty and childish, but sadly people do think that way sometimes.

        1. Been There, Done That

          That’s what happened to me. The colleague moved up but didn’t attain all their missing qualifications by the deadline. Colleague was put back in their old job. When my manager hired me she told me how embarrassing it was for colleague. Colleague has been ugly to me from dot, always running to the boss w/ petty nonsense complaints about me, and boss takes every word as gospel and you’d think I burned down a hospital. Colleague also has a very sympathetic clique who see him/her as a victim. One of the clique is slated to go for the qualifications in the next year. This is gonna be juicy. Wonder how they’re going to blame me for Clique-member’s success?

        1. Kat in VA

          Yep, classic BEC.

          “She came in and took off her coat and started BREATHING in her cubicle! The nerve!”

        2. J.

          (It’s short for Bitch Eating Crackers. A person annoys you on such a deep level that even completely innocuous behavior drives you up a wall. Ex: “Ugh, just look at that bitch eating crackers like she thinks she owns the place or something.”)

    3. LCL

      The missing piece is that OPs office culture rewards this behavior. The division where I work was a lot like this when I first started. The group was mostly male, which may be why I never saw any crying in a manipulative way, but everything else OP lists as problems that don’t get dealt with, is dead on. In our case, the cause was management who sincerely believed that everybody’s opinion needed to be heard and considered in all disputes, and then gave all weight to all opinions. Sure, management does have to listen to all sides of a dispute, but then management has to tell people who are whining and being manipulative and vindictive to knock it off. Or even harder for a manager, sometimes the drama llamas are completely right in their complaints, but raise them in the most destructive way possible because that’s the best they can do.

      1. Lora

        Yeah, I will never know why anyone imagines that any organization is a bloody democracy.

        Look, these are the type of permissible complaints:
        “Boss, I have Problem. Do you advise me to do X or Y?”
        “Boss, I have Problem. I have already tried X and Y, but they have not worked. What advice do you have for me?”
        “Boss, I have Problem, and it involves Legal / HR / Important People, I shall be notifying them and wanted to give you a heads up.”

        Note that in none of these scenarios, “Boss, I have Problem, I have done literally nothing about it, and now I would like to barf my feelings all over your desk” is an option. It does not take a massive amount of spinal fortitude to nod and mmm-hmm at someone in a vague way and ask, “what have you tried so far to solve Problem?”; managers who cannot ask this simple question need to examine their life choices.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Not only does this culture reward this poor behavior it does everything it can to generate more poor behavior.

        How hard is it to announce to everyone that OP’s hours are x to y. Synthetic drama, totally avoidable.

        As a supervisor, I laid out what types of complaints I would listen to and what types of complaints were not appropriate. For example, everyone can see how someone is dressed. If there is an issue with the way someone is dressed that person will be quietly spoken to, there is no need for any discussion or complaint making.
        My group all hung out with each other after hours. I actually liked that they had friendships. But sometimes things got rocky. I set boundaries, “What happens out side of work has nothing to do with work. When you come in here you are expected to cooperate and help everyone in our department. You don’t have to be best friends, eh, you don’t even have to be friends. You do have to work with each other in a cooperative manner.” If I caught two people not speaking to each AND it was causing problems with the work itself, I would sit down with them and tell them a similar message. “If you cannot communicate about work matters with each other then you have failed to do an important component of this job and that will work into a serious matter with serious consequences. You must keep each other informed of work matters.” I think in some ways, it was a relief for some people that I said this. They no longer cared about the friendship but they really did not want to lose their jobs because of not being informed of the latest directive or concern. (The work environment was crazy fast paced. People had to communicate with each other at all times.)

  5. Emrin

    Run like the wind, my friend. Start job hunting now before this unstable environment sucks the soul right out of your body.

    1. Been There, Done That

      Exactly exactly exactly. A personal situation kept me from running like hell early on, but fortunately I had a buddy who offered a sympathetic ear and the kind wisdom that if I decided to stay, I must accept it for what it is. I’ve dabbled at a job search along the way and need to ramp up now that Personal Situation is nearly in the bag, but if you stay in the horrible place overlong, inertia sets in and you may need to call AAA to tow you out of there.

    2. the gold digger

      I had already started looking for a new job at OldJob, but the day that an anonymous co-worker complained to her boss about how I identified myself on the phone (company had just changed its name and I was new – I couldn’t call clients to introduce myself and say, “This is Gold Digger from NewName” – they wouldn’t know who I was – I was saying, “This is Gold Digger from OldName”), her boss told my boss, and my boss told me was just another data point in the, “I have got to get out of here” file.

      BTW, they already hated me because my boss, against my express wishes, had turned off the office radio on my first day and told everyone it was because I didn’t like it.

  6. Jaybeetee

    This sounds like it might be some core group of “mean girls” who have been around long enough/have enough job security that they feel like they own the place and everyone has to play by their rules. And it sounds like they may be right, if even your boss isn’t speaking back to them, not just about their comments about you, but about all their poor behaviour (crying in meetings??) I actually can sympathize with your boss being perhaps overwhelmed if there’s a group of them and if they have some clout. But I’d also be asking myself, as Alison said, if this is a job you reeeeaaaally want to stay in.

    (Oddly enough, this letter reminds me of an unmoderated fan forum I used to post to sometimes – core group there who seemingly never slept or left their computers, had VERY strong opinions, and would dogpile anyone who posted disagreeing with them. A couple them posted “We were here first” type comments, signifying they felt some ownership over that forum and that no one would tell THEM what to do (like…stop bullying the newbies? Remember that people can have different opinions about this and it’s okay?). So pretty well anyone who wasn’t them/agreed with them was driven off, the forum became an echo chamber, and was eventually shut down. Anyway, I could be way off, but that’s the kind of vibe I picked up from this letter.)

    1. Suzie/Elaine

      Mean girls in the workplace is a real thing, and this sums it up perfectly. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way. Thought I left that drama when I graduated high school. Nope. I recently left a job where this was happening, but on the manager level. A couple of mean girls (managers) were heavily influencing some change in the organization – most of which was leading to a lot of turn over and low morale. I believe they influenced our director to move a manager into an individual contributor role because they felt he wasn’t managing his team effectively. They also eliminated said manager from all hiring & personnel discussions before the decision to transition his role was finalized. Icing on the cake: they even had mean nicknames for this manager they used behind his back.

      When I resigned, the mean girls essentially turned on me. Then other colleagues mysteriously distanced themselves from me as if I was contagious or something. I really believe they lead the department to believe my departure was not a positive one, but rather I was pushed out. Whatever helps their agenda.

      If this is the case for OP, I say get out before becoming entrenched. This culture does not retain high functioning employees, it churns through them.

        1. Anon Amiss

          I just call this workplace bullying. Women tend to have different tactics, and target other women more often, but it’s still bullying.

          Top 25 workplace bullying tactics
          From the WBI 2003 Abusive Workplaces Survey:

          Top 25 tactics adopted by workplace bullies (as reported by bullied targets)

          1. falsely accused someone of “errors” not actually made (71%)
          2. stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68%)
          3. discounted the person’s thoughts or feelings (“oh, that’s silly”) in meetings (64%)
          4. used the “silent treatment” to “ice out” & separate from others (64%)
          5. exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (61%)
          6. made up own rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow (61%)
          7. disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence (58%)
          8. harshly and constantly criticized having a different ‘standard’ for the Target (57%)
          9. started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person (56%)
          10. encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented (55%)
          11. singled out and isolated one person from co-workers, either socially or physically (54%) 12. publicly displayed “gross,” undignified, but not illegal, behavior (53%)
          13. yelled, screamed, threw tantrums in front of others to humiliate a person (53%)
          14. stole credit for work done by others (47%)
          15. abused the evaluation process by lying about the person’s performance (46%)
          16. “insubordinate” for failing to follow arbitrary commands (46%)
          17. used confidential information about a person to humiliate privately or publicly (45%)
          18. retaliated against the person after a complaint was filed (45%)
          19. made verbal put-downs/insults based on gender, race, accent or language, disability (44%)
          20. assigned undesirable work as punishment (44%)
          21. made undoable demands– workload, deadlines, duties — for person singled out (44%)
          22. launched a baseless campaign to oust the person and not stopped by the employer (43%)
          23. encouraged the person to quit or transfer rather than to face more mistreatment (43%)
          24. sabotaged the person’s contribution to a team goal and reward (41%)
          25. ensured failure of person’s project by not performing required tasks: signoffs, taking calls, working with collaborators (40%)

          (Link is in my handle, and you can also get the whole study, which gives more of a breakdown by gender.)

          1. PlainJane

            Thanks for the useful information and for referring to this behavior as what it is: bullying. You’re right that, in general, how it presents may vary by gender, but bullying is not limited to women (as you correctly imply). I hate the term, “mean girls,” because a) it’s sexist as hell, and b) it’s hard enough for women to be taken seriously in the workplace without this kind of gendered belittling. I’ve seen all manner of workplace drama from men and women.

      1. Specialk9

        Someone above posted that they had seen similar things in a male dominated office.

        I wonder if there’s a non-gendered alternative to mean girls. I know exactly what that means! But after that bitch video Alison posted, I’m dealing thinking about gendered insults, and mean girls seems pretty problematic… But I can’t think of a good substitute.

        1. JB (not in Houston)

          Yes, I have the same thought. I’d like another term for it, but as a society we haven’t yet coined one (I’m not going to think about why)

            1. Lavender Menace

              Yeah I don’t know why we can’t just call them what they are – bullies. Mean girls are simply bullies who use communication and social behavior to do most of their bullying rather than violence, but it’s still bullying.

          1. Anon Amiss

            I just call it workplace bullying. Women tend to use different tactics, and more often target other women, but that’s still what it is.

            Top 25 workplace bullying tactics
            From the WBI 2003 Abusive Workplaces Survey:

            Top 25 tactics adopted by workplace bullies (as reported by bullied targets)
            1. falsely accused someone of “errors” not actually made (71%)
            2. stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68%)
            3. discounted the person’s thoughts or feelings (“oh, that’s silly”) in meetings (64%)
            4. used the “silent treatment” to “ice out” & separate from others (64%)
            5. exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (61%)
            6. made up own rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow (61%)
            7. disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence (58%)
            8. harshly and constantly criticized having a different ‘standard’ for the Target (57%)
            9. started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person (56%)
            10. encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented (55%)
            11. singled out and isolated one person from co-workers, either socially or physically (54%) 12. publicly displayed “gross,” undignified, but not illegal, behavior (53%)
            13. yelled, screamed, threw tantrums in front of others to humiliate a person (53%)
            14. stole credit for work done by others (47%)
            15. abused the evaluation process by lying about the person’s performance (46%)
            16. “insubordinate” for failing to follow arbitrary commands (46%)
            17. used confidential information about a person to humiliate privately or publicly (45%)
            18. retaliated against the person after a complaint was filed (45%)
            19. made verbal put-downs/insults based on gender, race, accent or language, disability (44%)
            20. assigned undesirable work as punishment (44%)
            21. made undoable demands– workload, deadlines, duties — for person singled out (44%)
            22. launched a baseless campaign to oust the person and not stopped by the employer (43%)
            23. encouraged the person to quit or transfer rather than to face more mistreatment (43%)
            24. sabotaged the person’s contribution to a team goal and reward (41%)
            25. ensured failure of person’s project by not performing required tasks: signoffs, taking calls, working with collaborators (40%)

            Source: http://www.workplacebullying.org/tag/workplace-bullying-tactics/
            (You can also see the study, which does more of a breakdown by gender.)

            1. Anon Amiss

              (Sorry for the duplicate post. I thought there was a technical issue on my end, but there was a delay because I had a link in there.)

              I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about workplace bullying, especially by women, because I’m going through it. Trying to explain it though, is much harder, since it’s not “Someone beat me up and took my lunch money”. Male higher-ups at my org seem to think of that kind of thing first, so it’s hard to convey how toxic things really are and have it understood.

        2. ArtsNerd

          Thank you for posting this! I reflexively get just a little bit angry every time I read that phrase, but no other shorthand alternative comes to mind. “Malicious and petty group of people”?

      2. Unpopular opinion

        You are so right. This is why all those people who crow on about diversity and “the future is female” need another think coming. No workplace should be more than 1/3 female, except for female owned businesses. Otherwise you get too much cattiness, too many queen bees, cliques, and mean girls. And yes too much emotion, like crying in meetings.

        1. Lavender Menace

          I mean, aside from all the other things wrong (not just unpopular…but wrong) about this comment…how on earth will we mandate 1/3 female workplaces when the world is a little over half female? The math don’t work.

        2. Kat in VA

          Mmhm. Mmhm. And where do the rest of us women work?

          In the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, amirite?

          As if men can’t be just as catty, cliquish, King of Crap Mountain, and mean guys.

          Sit down.

          1. Angela

            I don’t agree with all of the comment because women who want to work out of the home should. But a lot of us would much rather be SAHM’s than deal with all this workplace crap. The problem was that during the 1980’s/90’s all the people who SAID that being a SAHM is a valid choice also rammed economics down our throats that forced working families to have two incomes . Fortunately we’re going back to how it used to be, when you could have a good middle class lifestyle on a single income because we protected our own industries and had secure jobs. Its good for women and men both if women have the choice to be SAHM’s and now people who understand this are willing to go back to policies that let us do this and protect our jobs and not the wealthy.

            1. media monkey

              agree that to work or not to work should be a women’s/ family choice however

              “Fortunately we’re going back to how it used to be, when you could have a good middle class lifestyle on a single income”

              all the LOLs!

            2. TardyTardis

              That would be nice, but when SAHM’s go back into the workplace they’ve lost a lot of steps, and if there is no longer the first income, get used to eating lots of rice and ramen.

        3. DoctorateStrange

          lol so me having had to witness male managers dress down male employees for the pettiest of things, male employees raising their voices each time they didn’t get their way, all the men being inappropriate in some shape or form, including their little boys’ clubs that would leave out female leaders, was not “drama?”

          Mind you, you learn so much about humans and what each is capable of when you’re working in a restaurant.

        4. I See Real People

          I couldn’t agree more. And I’m a woman. I just read an interview with a female celebrity who said she had been bullied by more women than men in the business and why no one was talking about that. Why isn’t anyone talking about women bullying other women? I’ve seen it happen to someone in every single job I’ve ever had; always a woman bullying another woman.

        5. PlainJane

          Sexist and gross. I work in a profession that’s about 80% female (*waves at my fellow librarians), and I’ve seen plenty of bad behavior and general drama from men and women. Male anger, aggressiveness, and yelling is drama and sometimes bullying just as much as so-called cattiness is–but men are much more likely to gain respect from their abusive behavior, while women get dismissed and belittled.

  7. Amber T

    In this instance, what does “having your back” mean? Because usually it would mean, I support you, you’re not doing anything wrong, let’s fix the behaviors around you. She might be saying the first two, but she’s failing hard on #3.

    1. Autumnheart

      I’m getting a mental image of someone back-slapping a person as if to say hello, but instead sticking a post-it on them that says “Kick me”.

  8. CJ Record

    > I even got a “warning” note left anonymously in my cubicle telling me to “mind my own business,”

    Oh look. Bees.* Lots and lots of bees. I was kinda certain I heard buzzing in the lead-up, but this is a lovely little bee all by itself, if they think anonymous notes are acceptable. I am also rather unimpressed with the manager’s empty “let’s think of ways of appropriately addressing it if we can.” I hope things have either gotten a lot better, or OP has found a better office!

    * Yes, I do know bees are lovable adorable fluff things that do important things in the ecosystem (likewise wasps and hornets), but the metaphor is what it is.

    1. Bea

      Ways to address it.

      Management tells the insufferable whiners to leave LW alone. Threats, nitpicking and trying to police her coming and going? Nope. Sounds like they should take their own advice and mind their own business.

      1. Else

        Here is a thing that I just learned about bees – if bees make a home in your walls, and you evict them, they leave their honey behind. If you don’t get that honey out, it ferments, it stinks, and then it attracts flies. Which create maggots. So. Bees in your house can lead to MAGGOTS in your house. And then, flies. So, bees in your house are always always EVIL BEES. (Our bees turned out to be wasps, which was another kind of bad, but not one leading to maggots)

    2. Tootie

      A warning note in my office would have gotten cameras rolled back to see who left it, that person would have to sit down with management for discipline, possibly a PIP or termination (harassment and zero violence policy would have been cited and if they claimed they didn’t know, the handbook form they signed saying they read & understand it would have been pulled), there would have been an all staff meeting where we would have been reminded about those policies and if we had issues we should deal with them like adults and probably been told to mind our own business instead of policing our coworkers.

      1. SavannahMiranda

        Can I work where you work? I want to work where you work.

        I’m sure there are downsides, there are to any organization. But man oh man, a predictable organization, that runs on clearly spelled out policies, with compliance to standards of how those are enforced, can be a thing of beauty. A person only has to work one place where that’s not the case to realize how lovely it can be.

        1. Snickerdoodle

          Exactly. I’ve worked at my current job longer than I worked at the toxic hellhole that was my old job, and every day here feels like a vacation even though it’s completely normal. Normal is WONDERFUL.

        2. Tootie

          It wasn’t always this way. We had huge staff turnover one year and the grand boss spent a month in the building and figured out what was going on. Within weeks, we had several new department directors, a new executive director and they all agreed “this culture is toxic, it has to change” and they started cleaning house. I had one foot out the door and when I saw the changes, I decided to pause and I’m so glad I did!! Things are a million percent better than before. It’s amazing what great managers can do! (But I still love reading AAM!)

      2. strange words

        This is the sane response to someone leaving that kind of note. That part of the OP’s letter gave me serious heebie-jeebies.

    3. Les G

      This. These folks think they’ve found an awesome life hack that allows them to resolve whatever issues they have with the OP without having an awkward conversations. And they are sadly, pathetically mistaken.

  9. AnonForThisPost

    Job search as soon as you can! This behavior won’t change. I worked at an office where a coworker who had the same job title as me was very emotional, easily frustrated, liked to catch people in mistakes and crow about but could NOT take feedback or criticism in anyway. After a certain point in time our boss just stopped dealing with that coworker and would come to me and either just give me the task coworker didn’t do correctly to re-do or asking if I could “help” which meant me guiding that person into agreeing to do the task the correct way. And this behavior kind of infects the entire work place. We had at least two other people on the “team” who couldn’t take feedback and/or loved finding people in the wrong and reporting back to anyone with a management title. It was hard to cut loose because you get so involved with it but I ended up transferring into another department. It instantly took a weight off my shoulders being around people who want you to succeed and are there to work with you.

  10. Bea

    Hell no! When I get stupid complaints “she just asks questions!!”, I shut it down and don’t pass along the message. A threatening note?! Someone will be fired.

    This is a vile set up and maybe it’ll change but it’s not worth your sanity to wait it out unless the pay is enough to buy yourself a dragon to eat these horrible hissy fit throwing dbags.

    1. Snickerdoodle

      Exactly. The complaint about asking questions reminded me a lot of that letter where the manager and her entire team got fired for running off an employee who was “making [them] look bad by going above and beyond for no reason.” I thought “Um, she sounds awesome; can she come and work with me?”

      I don’t think the boss is taking everything very seriously at all, otherwise it wouldn’t still be happening.

      Go get your dragon.

  11. Lemon Bars

    Your boss doesn’t want to make a change to the workplace or she would shut your co-workers down. She is not and by relaying the complaints to you she is signaling that you need to change this is how your boss operates. Change or look for a new job the workplace is not changing. Sorry for the bluntness

  12. Triplestep

    … I’m not shy about jumping right in, asking questions, and making changes.

    I’m surprised that Alison did not address the “making changes” part of your OP. Asking questions is typical for new joiners, but making changes? In my view it’s possible that the other complaints that are clearly over-reactions might be due in part to things that are actually worth complaining about. Making changes when you haven’t been there long enough to learn the existing way of doing things (and what’s wrong with it) can come across as pompous, tone deaf, and a lot of other things that just aren’t good. At four months in you should be starting to suggest changes now – how many did you try to implement your first month?

    I say this as someone who has been spoken to about complaints having to with my communication style, issued by a minuscule percentage of the people I have to deal with daily, by a boss who says she has my back yet for some reason needs to share petty grievances with me. So I’m in the same boat as you, except I do try to use this information to soften my style. In other words, even though it’s a vast minority of people who complain and might not even be worth passing on to me, I take the complaints seriously.

    But I’m also someone who has had to deal with people who come in and – with very little background about what can or should change – push forward with their changes nonetheless. Those people lacked self-awareness and had other off-putting behaviors, so I wonder – could some of this be on you? I’m in agreement with everything Alison said about your passive aggressive boss and work culture (an anonymous note? Please!) But I think some self-reflection is probably in order, too.

    1. Lexi Kate

      The making changes threw me a little too, if you are asking tons of questions how can you make sound changes. I get the impression that OP came in and pushed her way around to make the managers take notice and stepped all over everyone that worked there, and now goes above everyone to the manager with everything. The office sounds awful but it sounds like OP isn’t helping herself out any.

      1. Rat in the Sugar

        That seems pretty uncharitable towards the OP. And “goes above everyone to the manager with everything” is literally the opposite of what she says she does in the letter–one of the issues how CW had is that she directly asked someone to turn it down instead of going to the manager about it. Sure sounds like it’s actually the coworkers who are going above everyone to the manager about everything.

        Also, OP says that their manager is backing them up and they are doing what they have been asked to do, so I don’t know why you would assume they’re running roughshod over the whole office.

        1. Lexi Kate

          The manager is not backing her, the manager is telling her about every complaint. If the manager was backing her the manager would put the stop in with the complainer but the manager is looking to the OP to change her habits. And the OP says “I’m not shy about jumping right in, asking questions, and making changes” so it’s not a far out assumption to think OP is stepping on other co-workers.

          1. Lavender Menace

            Yes, it is. Asking questions and making changes doesn’t necessarily mean you need to “step on” other people – there’s a wide gulf of good behaviors (and neutral behaviors) one can exhibit before making it all the way there. So assuming she’s stepping on people is quite uncharitable.

      2. TootsNYC

        if you are asking tons of questions how can you make sound changes.

        By using the information you got when you asked tons of questions?

        When I was hired, I was expected to make changes. And the LW’s bosses are telling her they like what she’s doing.

      3. Autumnheart

        I imagine a scenario where the OP was hired specifically for her industry expertise, so she could bring their team into adopting more cutting-edge/industry standard practices.

        If nothing else, that would certainly explain the response if this team is a “We’ve always done it this way” kind of team who is antagonistic to change.

        1. Chaordic One

          Often times people are antagonistic to change because they don’t really get any benefit out of the change and it’s just one more task or more work for the same amount of pay. OTOH, if it were a change that made their workloads easier or if they were getting an increase in compensation to reflect the extra work, then they’d probably be more accepting of it. It’s not so much antagonism for antagonism’s sake (or “We’ve always done it this way”), as much as it is a legitimate complaint that isn’t being addressed or acknowledged. The coworkers now seem to be finding additional petty and insignificant criticisms to build their case, or to make an alternative case.

          Earlier this week Alison wrote about an unhappy employee, “Sometimes … when people feel like they have little control, they end up focusing on small pieces that don’t really matter — because they’ve given up hope about the pieces that do matter.” That might be what’s going on here.

          1. Mongrel

            “Often times people are antagonistic to change because they don’t really get any benefit out of the change and it’s just one more task or more work for the same amount of pay. ”

            I’ve worked with, and tried to coach, a few people who would rather spend a day completing a task manually than take half an hour to learn how to use an Access query to complete it in 10 minutes.

    2. BRR

      That part stuck out to me as well. There is such a thing as being too assertive when starting a new job and I wonder how much of that is going on? But it sounds pretty clear that the coworkers are unreasonable.

    3. Bea

      That’s a good point that I glossed over during the read too until you noted it.

      I don’t even make changes as an incoming manager until I’m aware of all the whys involved in procedures. And I’m usually brought in to define and retool a situation, it still has to be gradual and bounced off the right people each time.

      1. SavannahMiranda

        Yes, this. And the trick is that many of the “whys” are not overt or fully-realized whys. Which are not at first apparent, and may never be spelled out during the asking. But that does not mean they are discardable.

        Underground whys are not necessarily wrong or illegitimate by their nature. They can be something like, “Amazing Manager X who was here for ten years and left last year, but whom we all still feel loyalty to, did things this way, and had very good reasons why. So we are still emotionally loyal to this process.” That’s not a dumb reason. It’s an underground reason. But it’s not inherently wrong. And almost no one will ever say it. They’ll say things like “this is the way it’s always been done” which is scoffed at as illegitimate. But the authentic why says something good about the people – their loyalty, their admiration for a good leader, their trust in good processes – not something bad.

        This is what the advice to not make changes one’s first month to three months is getting at. A person can ask all the questions they want. They’ll never get the authentic answer above, because it’s a non-verbal, subconscious reason. These reasons have to be ferreted out and intuited over time. And it takes a *minimum* of 12 weeks to do that.

        Because the solution to the problem of changing processes instituted by an amazing but departed manager is different from the solution to the problem of changing processes held on to by recalcitrant and stubborn employees. The framing is different. The understanding is different. The approach is different. The solutions are different.

        Not saying this is the exact problem OP faces. It’s just an example of why making changes too quickly in the face of entrenched reasons can backfire. There’s a reason the “no changes for X period of time on the new job” general rule is in place.

        1. Specialk9

          This post was really eye opening for me.

          Ohhhh yeah, I can see that! But I’m not sure I could have ever gotten there on my own.

    4. Former Retail Manager

      I had the same take as you and Lexi Kate. And I wonder if much of the problem isn’t so much what OP is saying, but rather how she is saying it. If she is coming off as a know-it-all, overachiever who is doing everything but screaming “look how fabulous I am!” I could see how that might rub the co-workers the wrong way and make some perhaps immature co-workers want to point out her shortcomings, no matter how petty. I definitely don’t think that’s right of them, and the boss is certainly not doing her job either, but I have to wonder if OP’s communication style/actions aren’t contributing to the situation.

      1. Bea

        Or she’s changing things and it makes things harder somewhere else.

        I’m now thinking of the guy I fired for rearranging the inventory. He had an idea to make things “easier” that wasn’t possible to implement without massive overhauling. But he dove right into moving things before the groundwork was even discussed. He was insufferable and not very smart to say the least.

    5. Jadelyn

      I think it depends on what you were hired for. If you were specifically brought in to, for example, manage a struggling department, then you should absolutely be making changes, even fairly early on.

      But it’s really, really hard to tell whether OP is behaving normally and their coworkers are overly tetchy, or OP is being more overbearing than they think, simply because – nothing against the OP, but people tend to have a blind spot for stuff like that when it’s their own behavior at issue. So OP can say they’re just asking questions, or they’re making appropriate changes, but I’ve heard overbearing jerks say the same things about themselves, and with limited insight into the context beyond what OP wrote in with, it’s nearly impossible to discern which is likely here.

    6. Hapless Bureaucrat

      OP addressed that in the comments on the original thread: https://www.askamanager.org/2014/07/my-office-permits-bad-behavior-under-the-guise-of-harmony.html#comment-516604

      She says her role was designed by her boss and grandbosses to be a “shake things up” kind of role, so making change was part of her responsibility.

      That tends to come with a really tough balancing act, between making sure you actually understand what you need to change and have buy-in, and meeting your higher-ups’ expectations about how fast things will improve.

      1. Artemesia

        It is impossible to be the person who is hired to shake things up and change things if management doesn’t support that but throws them to the wolves. A c0-worker can’t improve things by coming in hard and making changes. This is a fantasy of weak bosses who can’t manage and expect a newbie to come in and fix everything they have let get out of hand. It never goes well for the person ‘charged with making changes’ but not given the authority or role/power to do so.

        1. Lora

          And it happens friggin EVERYWHERE.

          Step 1: department / business realizes they are losing money
          Step 2: senior manager is shouted at to stop losing money pronto
          Step 3: a consultant says, this group is the money-losers
          Step 4: group manager hires a Change Agent, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to go fix things
          Step 5: Change Agent investigates and says, you need to change XYZ. XYZ doesn’t actually have to cost anything or take more time, it doesn’t even have to be very much of anything.
          Step 6: Woe! Disaster! Wailing and gnashing of teeth! Rending of cloaks and prayers for smiting!
          Step 7: Change Agent gets frustrated and leaves, or is pushed out for nonreasons such as “looked funny” or “didn’t sit at the cafeteria table with Susan”.
          Step 8: Nothing changes for many years. Group manager makes soothing noises to senior management about not being able to find the right Change Agent, still trying to hire someone, hmmm…
          Step 9: Repeat when new C-level or controller is hired.

    7. 2 Years until Retirement

      If you change the boss from a she to a he, I would swear the OP works here. We had a new transfer employee, an admin, walk in and immediately, as in first week, start changing everything. Needless to say it did not go down well and she felt everyone hated her.
      She brought it on herself. She eventually transferred out and this department has gone back to the quiet, dramaless place it used to be.

    8. NicoleK

      Several jobs ago, the organization I worked for brought on a new staff. New staff carried on as if she was the best thing since sliced bread, made several suggestions on her FIRST day, was more interested in building her own department (that was not the reason why she was hired), and only wanted to work on her pet projects (that had zero connections to the tasks she was responsible for). The people who worked closely with her complained about her, but she honestly thought she was doing a fabulous job. Our boss was essentially useless cause boss was conflict avoidant and it didn’t help that new staff was either arrogant and/or clueless. So if everyone is complaining about one person, sometimes there is smoke and fire.

    9. sfigato

      Yeah. And given how conflict-avoidant and passive aggressive op’s boss is, I can see boss not addressing any real actual issues with op’s work/style and just being like ‘you’re great! btw, someone said you ask too many questions.”

      Which isn’t to say this is all on OP, but there may be reasonable things the op can do to make their communication/work style better mesh with the existing one at the new office.

    10. Courageous cat

      Yep, agreed. I wonder how much of this is just a “one side of the story” issue. Making changes, asking me to turn off my cell phone noise (particularly if everyone else has theirs on/it’s never been an issue in the past), etc… all of that would strike me as a bit overbearing for a new employee, who I think are usually better received when they do more Observing and Learning rather than Changing and Doing in those first few weeks/months in some cultures.

      Basically, I can see why some of this behavior might be annoying to coworkers.

      Also, if anyone knows: why does Inc have this annoying rectangular popup in the bottom of the screen lately, and is there a way to X out of it? It makes it so much more cumbersome to read.

      1. Stop it

        One of the rules of posting here is that we take letter writers at their word. We need to remember that here and stop blaming OP, who is the VICTIM if this mistreatment, not the cause. OP was brought in to shake things up, boss doesn’t really want that and was coy about it, etc. We need to stop looking for reasons to blame OP and believe her.

    11. Lavender Menace

      The changes thing initially threw me, but OP at least implies that making changes and asking questions is part of her job. And occasionally, changes DO need to be made – sometimes people are brought in from outside explicitly for that reason.

    1. Les G

      Eh. On the whole I think folks are too quick to jump to that. Even when all the things are really bad (and in this case, it’s hard to tell), sometimes not having a job is worse even if it’s not for financial reasons. My wife always says she’d rather have the same birch tree scraping her window every night than a sapling growing next to her parking space, and I think that applies to jobs too.

      1. seewhatimean

        I have long handled pruning shears. Can your wife advise as to when she would use those?

  13. bleh

    Oh the crying in meetings routine; I know it well. Left a job I otherwise enjoyed to get away from the victim bullying, crying routine and the give in the the squeakiest wheel-if you say anything about the bad behavior you are the problem attitude. Sometimes the toxicity seems to be the perpetrator but is more the people around them, especially people in power, who allow and encourage it.

  14. E. Jennings

    Until you got to the part about the other dysfunctional behavior, I was going to say that maybe you just came in a little brasher and stronger than this office is used to and your coworkers aren’t sure what to make of it. Doing some social outreach — getting lunch or coffee here and there to show you respect them and their way of doing things, informally putting word out that you come in late and leave late because that’s how your contract is set up, etc — might help smooth things over.

    But “There seem to be a significant number of behavioral problems in this office coming from a number of different people that don’t get dealt with: tantrums/crying in meetings, bullying/sniping comments towards coworkers, disrespectful emails” — yeah, that’s bigger than just you, and your manager is handling it badly. A manager who actually has your back will tell the complainers it’s a non-problem, and tell you when she needs you to take action.

    1. Ronnie

      Great suggestion to get coffees or lunches. I think getting to know co-workers can go a long way with a peaceful work environment. There is no need to be best buddies with anyone but by participating in such things can show that people can fit in with team mates.

      I suspect the manager can’t handle feedback well and is being really unprofessional about it. This is the biggest hurdle. Good luck.

  15. BRR

    My manager did this to me! I think there are a variety of possibilities. For me, it was that my manager thought my colleagues were being ridiculous but it was less effort to say I was making some changes while addressing things with them than to argue that I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

    It was specifically about three people who were (and still kind of are) making constant errors and I was asked by my manager to point them out. My office previously didn’t have a culture of accountability so they were upset that their errors were being pointed out and thought it was mean. While my manager worked to addressed the errors, we are in the minority in knowing that it’s not personal and it’s just part of being in an office. So she asked me to slightly tweak my emails so she could say that I was working on softening my language while telling my coworkers that I should be pointing these things out to them.

    1. Artemesia

      the boss could have ‘pointed out their errors’ i.e. managed. He just wanted a goat to sacrifice and picked you. No way you come out of that alive.

        1. BRR

          Not in QC but my manager was thrilled I was catching these things. I think she should have handled it a little differently, but all she asked was that I make the changed to slightly soften my language like in the post earlier this week. Not the biggest sin in my opinion.

  16. Falling Diphthong

    It seems like the more highly emotional/negative people just get to do what they want and all of us polite folks are expected to just deal with it.

    Excuse me while I have a flashback to assigned groups from middle and high school…

    Okay, I’m back. The reason those groups sucked, and were not good practice for later work life, is that work isn’t supposed to function like this. You work with people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, who know less than you about some things and more than you about other things–that’s normal.* Work teams are supposed to be drawn together for their strengths–you don’t hire a bunch of people who can’t code, and one person who can, and then tell them they’re the “coding team” and will only be judged on group results.

    It sounds sort of like your boss is hoping your lack of drama can rub off on everyone else. And while office culture is very much a thing, it would take a lot more than this to change it. And it’s not what you signed on for, demonstrating untantrummed behavior to your colleagues.

    The bit about your schedule particularly stands out to me, because that was such a clearcut “Persimmon negotiated that schedule when she took the job; it is totally fine.” There was absolutely zero reason to come to you and brainstorm ways to change the perception of your schedule–the way to do that is to work the normal schedule, which you explicitly negotiated to not do. The perception change on this is on the manager–“Persimmon is working the hours she negotiated; you REALLY don’t need to worry about this.” That would have far more impact than Persimmon claiming to have already negotiated whatever This Week’s Thing is with management.

    *And I’ve heard execs in my school district argue in favor of bussing for exactly this reason–that part of work now is being comfortable with people who are not exactly like you.

    1. nonymous

      re: the schedule thing, I’ve seen it pitched more along the “what’s the easiest way that we can all see when someone is in the office?” I mean, even if there needs to be an in/out board, is it hosted on slack or sharepoint or by sharing outlook calendars or IM status or something else?

      I wonder if the odd hours comment is really a lead in for “when I need to ask questions or handoff to OP, she’s not there and this makes it harder to do my job?” Obviously it’s management’s job to do whatever interview to elucidate this, but it could also mean that OP and company culture is so very different that they can’t address this (very common and non judgement worthy) issue head-on.

    2. Jennifer

      ” Work teams are supposed to be drawn together for their strengths–you don’t hire a bunch of people who can’t code, and one person who can, and then tell them they’re the “coding team” and will only be judged on group results.”

      Yeah, that’s what drove me nuts about school “team” projects: only one person actually cared about the grade to do the work. Whereas in jobs, people actually need the job/money and usually will actually DO what they are supposed to do.

  17. gk

    Ugh. Your boss sounds like my old boss. She’d suddenly pull me into a room and tell me all the things someone was complaining about… about me. Completely blindsiding me. The complaints were trivial things that didn’t matter at all and I wondered why on earth she even had to tell me about them! I left that job eventually and I always look back and think about how juvenile it all was. Former coworkers told me she deteriorated after I left so I know I wasn’t the problem. She was insecure and cried a lot at the office.

    The problem is your boss. Those complaints are quite frankly very petty and she shouldn’t even be wasting your time with them. She needs to tell the people complaining that she doesn’t see a problem with anything you’re doing and ask them to stop.

    It’s almost like you’re being bullied by your coworkers AND your boss. She’s making you feel like people don’t like you and that’s not right. It’s harassment and it’s contributing to a hostile work environment.

    Have your coworkers actually spoken to you about these things personally? I’m questioning if she could be making things up. She seems a bit… weird. Personally I’d be very careful with this boss and dismiss what she says when it comes to gossip. Don’t be like me and take those comments to heart – I’m still recovering from the experience at my lost job. It really impacted my confidence.

    1. LSP

      It’s not technically a “hostile work environment” since that is a legal term used for instances of unlawful harassment, which would only be true here if OP were being harassed based on a protected characteristic (sex, race, religion, etc.) It just sound to me like a case of a toxic work environment and a manager who refuses to manage.

  18. LSP

    This is how I picture one of these conversations with the boss going-

    Boss: So-and-so said they don’t like it when you do this thing.

    OP: Okay. How should I work differently?

    Boss: Oh, no no no! You are not doing anything wrong, and you don’t need to do anything differently.

    OP: Okay. I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.

    Boss: Well, no. I need you to smooth things over here. I mean, I completely have your back and you are not doing anything wrong, and you don’t need to change what you are doing, but you need to make it so this person is no longer upset by what you are doing. But don’t ruffle any feathers. And don’t talk to them about it. Just smooth it over, and never speak of this again to anyone, unless I bring it up to you again because someone else has a complaint. Is that clear?

    OP: Ummm…

  19. Snickerdoodle

    . . . I’m reminded of the stark contrast between two old bosses at different retail jobs.

    The first boss was completely non-confrontational and didn’t address complaints about the assistant manager’s abrasive treatment of seasonal employees, sexual harassment (!) from another seasonal employee, and only fired one employee who desperately needed firing after he tried closing the store half an hour early and ignored the warning not to (there would have been a huge fine from the mall if he had done so).

    The second boss was the district manager and heard a lot of “complaints” from the worst employee in the store about the store manager. The store manager was pretty incompetent, it is true, but nowhere near on the scale that the complainer was. (The complainer would fail to wear the required uniform, routinely keep food and drinks on the sales floor despite knowing it wasn’t allowed, be rude to other employees–including right in front of customers, slack off while her boyfriend visited her at work, etc., etc. etc.) The district manager was well aware of her problem behavior, so when she tried complaining about the store manager, the district manager told her to keep it to herself. The bad employee huffed and whined a lot and then quit before she got fired. A lot of people complained about that district manager, but I LOVED her.

  20. Defender

    I think my earlier comment washed into never-never land or maybe got stuck in a filter, so please excuse if this is already in the comments.

    A threatening, anonymous note in my office would have gotten the cameras rolled back to see who left it*, that person would meet with management for discipline, a PIP or termination (harassment & zero violence policies would have been cited & if the person claimed to have no knowledge the handbook form they signed would have been pulled), an all-staff meeting reminding us of these polices and to handle any problems like adults and we probably would have been told to mind our own business and not to police coworkers.

    * People often forget we have cameras all over building, including the admin offices.

    1. Defender/Tootie

      Oops. Guess I should check which website I’m on and which username I’m posting under. Guess I outed myself. :)

  21. BookCocoon

    This reminded me of a question I submitted a few years ago. I thought I’d sent in an update, but I can’t find it, so maybe I never did!

    I solved the problem pretty simply the next time my supervisor told me that my coworker had complained about me again, in another situation where I wouldn’t do the coworker’s work for her. I asked my supervisor, “Is there something YOU think I could have done differently?” She thought about it and said, “No, you couldn’t have done anything differently unless you’d done her job for her.” I said, “Is that what you’d like me to do in the future?” She said no. Then we just looked at each other. Then I asked what she was hoping for by bringing me this information. She did not have a response. And that was the last complaint I heard about from then on.

    1. Pollygrammer

      I hope that doesn’t mean she’s still accepting the complaints without correcting/contradicting them but just not passing them on to you.

  22. MLR

    This actually reminds me so much of a dysfunctional office that I worked in once. On my first day someone came up to me and said “you are going to hate it here”. Boy, were they right. I started job searching after only 4 months there, and resigned after 8 months.

    Poor OP. I hope everything turned out okay.

  23. Jake

    How sad is it that most of the comments are some form of, “yeah I ran into something similar back when…”

    This type of management and workplace aren’t nearly uncommon enough.

        1. Jake

          I often wonder how many people become the problem after learning they aren’t going to win. Can’t beat them so join them type of thing

    1. Been There, Done That

      It’s been a relief for me. I’ve “suffered in silence” in my toxic sweatbox, but knowing I’m not alone at least makes me feel less like I brought it on myself or somehow subconsciously picked the worst boss in the room.

  24. Kristine

    Is this perchance a government environment where managers mistakenly think they cannot terminate longtime employees for bad behavior never before addressed? This was the situation in my workplace until the current HR Director took over. Now managers are learning about investigations and disciplinary hearings, and some longtime employees have indeed been terminated; others received feedback and decided to leave. New hires are wonderful, a breath of fresh air. If the OP thinks new managers are on board with changes s/he may wish to stay, but it’s a judgment call.
    I have had at least two people (and oftentimes more) do this “complaining” about me in every, every, every job I have ever had, from food service to administration, with the exception of my freelance/contract work. (It’s never only one person; it’s at least one bully plus an enabler. If it’s a group, they belong to a clique and do it to other high performing employees, too.) There is only so much one can do to not rub certain people the wrong way, especially if they are social slackers, chronically dramatic, and require a lot of managing. They have taught me not to care about their opinions that have nothing to do with my job or behavior. I smile and am unfailingly polite to them, but I don’t attempt to be friends, fit in, or pay them much mind. That comes with time and with focusing on one’s own work and goals.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat

      In the original letter, OP says it’s an academic administrative office.

      Having worked in both, I can say academic admin is even more prone to this kind of office culture then government. I recognized it all too well.

      Good for your new HR director! Its amazing what a difference competent HR and trained supervisors can make. One of the big reasons I love my current job.

      1. irritable vowel

        I was thinking “if this isn’t an academic library, I’ll eat my hat” even before I saw your comment (I hadn’t looked at the original post). This has to be an academic library – the patterns of behavior are so extremely typical of the tensions between the old-guard public services folks who are already feeling anxious and put-upon about all the new services they’re being asked to take on, as the nature of librarianship changes, and what they perceive as the “young whippersnappers” who are being hired to do new things that they don’t think are important and are resentful of limited funds being redirected to. I have been in the OP’s position, and know that she was being set up to fail by her boss, who probably thought everything was hunky-dory. She needed to get buy-in from her coworkers’ manager and it sounds like that wasn’t happening. This can be so frustrating and lead to burnout. I hope the OP has either moved on to a better work environment or managed to make things work in this job.

      2. seewhatimean

        And not just academic admin. I’m coping with the “people don’t like you” aspect, in an academic setting where I have no sure idea who is upset, nor have I been able to get my supervisor to explain exactly what the issue is, but it has been going on for a year now, and my coworker was asked about me ,and how coworker gets along with me at this year’s performance review. CW said all was good, and then was told that people haven’t been getting along, and CW says their reply was “it’s not always seewhatimean who is at fault” – And I don’t know if I need to get my union rep to back me on a conversation with supervisor to stop entertaining the complaints without either acting on them or disputing them, or just keep working wondering if the person I am talking to is one of the people who will scurry back to complain if I stand my ground on things. Or what.

  25. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse

    I would like to hear from the co workers here some simply because I wonder if OP negotiated something they’ve tried for and were refused.I also wonder about the making changes as a new person. As these are co workers, I can see them bristling. (Why does X have these hours and we were told no? Why is X making changes to my work when she isn’t my boss?) And why has boss lost their spine?

    1. Atomic Cowgirl

      Even if the complaints are legitimate, they are the manager’s job to handle. No manager worth their salt would bring a list of actually invalid complaints to an employee.

      If the complaints are not valid, there is no reason to bring them to the OP’s attention and every reason in the world for the manager to shut down the complainers with facts.

      If the complaints are valid and the OP misunderstands what the structure of their job is or if their behavior is not appropriate to the culture, the manager should have a conversation with the OP that addresses any problematic issues without mentioning that everyone in the office is complaining about it.

  26. Anonforthis

    I think an office where people leave “mind your own business” notes in your cubicle is one you can safely say is one you don’t want to be in.

    Unless you work at Goombas Inc. where that sounds like it would be okay.

    1. virago

      “That’s a nice little cubicle you have there … it would be a shame if something were to happen to it.”

  27. MissDisplaced

    This is really horrible. While some things like the “odd hours” and “you should run this by your supervisor” could just be quirks of being new and unproven, the note to mind your own business is troubling. There is fear and jealously in this workplace, and it sounds like your manager isn’t addressing it!

    I feel I’m in a somewhat similar situation, but with another department that is seriously hampering my work, ignoring my requests and changes, and taking extra long to complete projects, which are then completed incorrectly. That department hates me, because I am “outsider.” My supervisor knows all about it and the struggles I face, and is happy with my work, but no one will really address the issues with this other department and that department wields a lot of power within the company.

  28. Polymer Phil

    I wonder if the coworkers are unaware that the OP was brought in with a mandate to “shake things up.” I’ve seen situations where a new coworker either makes a lot of changes quickly, or acts bossy toward people they don’t manage, and I’m never sure whether the new person has a mandate from upper management or is just overbearing.

    1. Alton

      I was wondering if they do know (or sense it) and resent it. If these people have been getting away with unprofessional behavior like throwing tantrums, they might feel threatened by someone who’s trying to change things, who seems more professional, or who appears to be favored by management.

  29. T

    I worked in an environment like this and it does not get get better over time. In fact the danger is when you stay too long and absurdity starts to seem normal because you’re exposed to it every day. Getting a new job where this sort of behavior is not tolerated is your best bet.

  30. Jason A.

    Similar problem on my end (also academic library). How do you handle it when people are complaining largely due to differences in expected workplace culture? My current work environment discourages going out of your silo or making any work for others, regardless of whether that work is something they should be doing. I doubt anyone has ever been told to just do their job and deal with it in response to a complaint. Toss gender differences in there too (90% female).
    All that said, I will admit I am not always the easiest to work with and that some complaints are valid.

  31. c.j.

    Ugh, I worked for a boss who did something along these lines and it only got worse over time.

    During our bi-weekly one on one meetings, he would give me vague feedback that went like this: “I think you should know that some people on the team don’t like you” or “you need to watch how you come across to other people, because they don’t like your attitude” or my personal favorite: “people complain to me about your difficult personality, I thought you should know that”

    Needless to say, I was really upset & uncomfortable during these conversations. I would usually ask if he could be more specific or provide an example of what exactly it was that I was doing that was causing people to complain and what he wanted me to do to fix it. He would always smile awkwardly and say “Now now, I don’t want to go into specifics or name names, but you really need to be careful with these people”. This cycle went on unbroken for the better part of a year until I got a new job with a boss who actually gave useful feedback and went to bat for me when needed :-D

    All these years later, I still get paranoid about what my coworkers in my current job (which I love) *really* think about me. This feedback really messed with my mind and I am still working to rebuild my confidence five years later.

    OP, this is really stressful and I am sorry. If I were you, I would start looking elsewhere…

    1. the gold digger

      My sympathies.

      My old boss: You keep using big words nobody understands and it makes them feel stupid.
      Me: Ummm. Who?
      Boss: People.
      Me: What words? Can you give me an example?
      Boss: You know. Big words that make people feel stupid.

      1. Bea

        WTF!!! This could have been fixed by saying “You have an impressive vocabulary but some of the words like (x, y, z) have left folks confused. Can you keep that in mind for communication?”

        It’s not the part where they /feel/ stupid, it’s the part where they’re too stupid to look the word up later, rme. My partner is a writer, so I have had to google from the first time we started talking. Now I just say “What does that mean?” Most people who use words aren’t doing it to make you feel stupid (as you know!), they’re doing it because it’s part of their way of speaking, jeez.

    2. Same here

      Oh man, I had a very similar experience.

      My old boss would give me feedback that my coworkers found me negative, difficult to work with, abrasive, etc. When I asked for more specifics she would say tell me that this was how people generally perceived me, even though I’d always thought I had solid, close relationships with most of my colleagues. I was so desperate to figure out what was going on that I individually surveyed my fellow managers who supposedly though I was difficult, and they all told me that they loved working with me. I felt like I was losing my damn mind.

      Of course, it turned out that no more than 2-3 people were complaining about me behind my back. They were upset that I wasn’t helping them…with projects that my manager and I had explicitly agreed that my understaffed team didn’t have the capacity to support. My manager even admitted that this was what was going on, but the “everyone is telling me they secretly hate you” feedback continued.

      The whole thing made me feel awful about myself, and continues to undermine my confidence, even in a new job with wonderful coworkers. I was and am in a crossfunctional role where I have to prioritize requests and tell people no — it’s part of my job — and often have to fight the paranoia that I picked up.

      There may be some lessons to be learned here about how to build trust and get buy-in before making changes, but at the end of the day, I’d head for the hills if I found myself in another workplace like this.

  32. Girl friday

    Well, you have to perfect both your long game and your short game, or your score will never change. So maybe look at it from that angle and practice on both of them. While you’re looking for another job, use this time to practice changing things maybe 10% of your short game and 10% of your long game. Make small adjustments just so you know which ones work. This problem is not your problem, but that’s one way you could use it to your benefit.

  33. Anonymous Gerbil

    This is my office culture. It kinda goes about like this:

    (a) I get called in and find out that coworker accused me of raping her gerbil. Which is at her home, she has never brought the gerbil into the office, I did not know she had one, and I do not know where she lives. Also I don’t know how you’d rape a gerbil.
    (b) An investigation is done by asking other coworkers if they knew about the gerbil raping. Other coworkers go shrug, say they never heard anything but they always found me very suspicious about gerbils.
    (c) My boss actually believes me because all of this is obvious BS, BUT his supervisor says, “Well, they DO have a history with gerbils.”
    (d) I get written up anyway, thanks to head supervisor.

    Basically, if anyone has any kind of complaint about anything–I’m talking eating, breathing, having a phone ring level of stuff–it’s respected, by which I mean the person is told about it and/or written up, even if my boss acknowledges that it’s ridiculous. But boss is obligated to operate in this manner because office culture and the higherups said to.

    That is kind of what I thought reading this, actually. Boss may agree BUT it may not be the culture to just tell someone to shut the hell up and stop complaining about petty shit.

    1. Been There, Done That

      This is why I think so many write-ups and PIPs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. They often come down from ineffectual or vindictive or toxic bosses who, sad to say, are out to get somebody and are laying a false trail to a pink slip.

  34. Former Employee

    I was going to call the manager a gutless weasel, but then I remembered how cute weasels can be and I am not aware of them having that sort of reputation.

    We need better sets of words to use when calling co-workers names. No reason to impugn our friends in the animal kingdom.

    1. Chaordic One

      You’re being too kind to weasels, really. I remember when I was little and a weasel broke into our chicken coop and killed all of our chickens. It didn’t even eat any of them. Just bit each one on the neck and killed it, then left it.

  35. user15803

    Oh dear, I’m in exactly the same situation. The only difference is my boss actually doesn’t support me. Instead, he tells me I’m the problem because, for example, someone offered to take over some of my tasks and I politely refused telling them I would like to keep it unless the management decides otherwise, to which they reacted by going to my boss and telling them I’m “rude”.

    I agree with the response. It’s impossible to change a culture like that.

  36. Margery

    That annonymous note is bang out of order and your boss should have investigated to find out who left it.

    As for her ‘having your back’ she’s a gutless coward IMO.

    Your co-workers are pretty pathetic too going to your manager about noise levels – just blooming tell you if it’s a problem.

    Short term – I’d rein it in and kill them with kindness, once you start being a real rockstar – you can then make sure your manager deals with these incidents if they continue to happen. Good luck

  37. Dawn

    Ah, the tattle jar!

    We have this at my school, where my colleague’s class was once being a little too loud, and a neighboring teacher called the principal, who then came down to pass my colleague a note to quiet down. Um … why not call the colleague directly and ask him to quiet down? Ah yes … because then the principal wouldn’t be made aware that he was being too loud in the first place, and THAT is the real motive when people do stuff like this.

    My school is generally lovely and I sincerely like all of my coworkers, but this “tattle jar” phenomenon is so destructive to morale. One of the last acts of our outgoing principal was to address this, and when my team met with the new principal a few weeks ago, one of the first things he brought up was “concerns over student safety,” which were tattle jar incidents almost a year old now but other teachers were bringing up to him anew, even though they were addressed a year ago when they first happened. I really don’t get it.

  38. AAAAA

    Been in a similar situation. It escalated to the point of my work being sabotaged by managerial peers after I’d been promoted. I left quite quickly after that.

    On the outside now I continue to see that organisation go down the drain, funding cut and public opinion slip and slip. I had totally underestimated how negative and territorial staff can ruin an organisation entirely. No one wants to be pushed out by bullies as it feels like they are winning but Organisations (and managers) that tolerate these things don’t deserve your help, and just like a romantic relationship – read it as a red flag of potential future bad behaviour/treatment – if it exists in the lower layers it often exists in the upper layers too and that’s where it can get real nasty. It’s very hard to ‘win’ people over, and frankly don’t you have much better things to be doing with that mental and emotional energy?

    Respect yourself, your value and your work enough to protect yourself first – especially if your manager isn’t. No job is that worth the damage that these situations can cause longer term. It’s taken years for me to get over this insidious type of bullying – as when it’s tied in with your work it can undermine your self view entirely.

    I hope your situation is not the same as mine, and is resolvable, but please be aware that it can feel minor now but a year down the line it is plain exhausting and corrosive. I ended up burnt out, had to stop working for a little while and have therapy all at my own expense. I was only a few years into my career.

  39. ThepowerofChristcompelsthem

    I love this topic. I love AAM. Reading this is therapeutic. There is nothing more comforting than realizing you are not alone and others are experiencing similar workplace toxicity. Thanks Allison.

  40. WorkerBea

    I wouldn’t be able to get out of there fast enough, but then I’m totally burnt out on this type of dynamic.

  41. Chatterby

    The office doesn’t seem that professional, so I’m going to offer a non-professional approach.
    Maybe flip out yourself, just once, and just to shut down the complainers?
    Like, the next time you get a vaguely threatening note, you address the whole office, loudly, that such things are Not Cool and you won’t put up with it?
    Or the next time your boss says “Susan complained about you doing X”, you go up to Susan afterwards and tell her to approach you directly with complaints next time, especially since you’d be able to clear things up much faster for her.
    Most bullies stop when approached directly.

  42. doingmyjob

    OMG this totally happened to me too. Turned out the boss did not have my back–he did not want to address the behavior and instead encouraged it by allowing people (that I managed by the way) to come to him “privately” and complain about whatever. I finally figured out what was going on when someone else we hired looked at me and said this is a ridiculous and crazy making environment and THAT GUY is the problem. You are being gaslighted.

    I have a great job now and am so happy I am not in that job anymore.

  43. Liz

    This same scenario has happened to me. Sometimes managers hire people as change agents, and they expect we’re going to clean up the mess they’ve spent years creating. It’s unfair and completely miserable to be surrounded by a culture that is the opposite of how you want to work, yet be told that YOU are the role model, it’s just that people around you just can’t see it yet.

    FWIW, I don’t think it’s a big deal to start making changes right away when you’re hired in to a new role. The people who resist that are often part of the problem. The right question to ask is exactly where Alison started — do you want to stay? If the answer to that question is anything other than a fervent “YES,” then it’s time to go.

  44. K Archer

    This happened to me when I first joined my current company. The lady in charge of Customer Service complained so much that the VP asked/told me that we needed to get along. I sat down with her one afternoon, and she told me “You act like you know everything”, and “You’re not humble.” I replied that I did know my job really well, that’s why I was hired, and offered to change whatever it was that was offending her. She said “I just don’t like you”. Not a whole lot to work with, there.

    She finally retired last year. After 15 years here, she STILL did not like me. But I outlived her. Yay me.

  45. Penelope

    On one hand, I want to say that yes, OP’s boss does seem to have her back but on the other, I’d say if she really had OP’s back, she’d have squashed the chatter by now and OP would be free to work in peace. She clearly hasn’t. I suspect the boss is either chicken or she’s playing both sides.

    Moreover, is it possible that OP is a healthy person working in an unhealthy office? That will never change unless she moves on or learns to deal within it while not becoming part of it.

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