let’s talk about functional workplaces

A reader writes:

I was hoping you would ask the readers to describe what their functional workplace is like and examples of how it functioned in a good way.

For examples, what happened at these functioning workplaces when…

  • A supervisor was treating people badly
  • A coworker was causing problems
  • Someone was under-performing
  • Someone in leadership didn’t communicate well
  • etc.

Your blog and podcast are great, but too often it sounds like most workplaces are dysfunctional. I’d love to hear about places that actually functioned properly.

I like this idea! People write into advice columns when something is going wrong, not when things are going right. So, as the Thursday “ask the readers,” let’s have people with workplaces that run well share firsthand specifics in the comments…

{ 423 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request: This is not the place to share stories of dysfunctional workplaces. We get enough of those in every other post. I’m asking that we stay focused on stories of effective, functional workplaces here. Thanks!

        1. Seriously?*

          Yeah. In a functional work place it doesn’t even become a situation. A problem causing coworker gets dealt with quietly before it becomes a big issue. A supervisor just doesn’t treat their subordinately badly or it gets dealt with after one incident. The things that stand out in our memories are the bad things that happen because they aren’t dealt with properly.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Yep. Functional is like air. You only miss it when it is gone. I have a 2:1 functional:dysfunctional workplace ratio in my career and I am struggling to come up with anything to say because things just worked well and issues were resolved before they got out into the wild

    1. samiratou*

      I work in a functional workplace, on a team with pretty wonderful people, so…I don’t have many stories of how functional workplaces handle bad seeds, because I haven’t seen too many. They’re not great a performancing out underperformers, to be sure, but those people aren’t super common among the folks I work with, so it’s not really a big deal.

      We just don’t get a lot drama. The last time we had drama (7 years ago) it was confined to a relatively small group of people and when it imploded most of the players left and the other got promoted to another business unit and out of our hair.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, the post had been up for four minutes when you wrote that! The first story came in when it had been up seven minutes. I don’t think there’s a lot to read into there.

  2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    Just a minor example, but shortly after I started my current job, 2 coworkers got into kind of a yelling match. We were in a little cube farm with walls 5 feet high, so we can’t see each other, and they were kitty-corner from each other (I was across from one and next to the other, so that was fun!). Our supervisor who has her own office heard them and personally came to fetch them to her office where they had a chat with the door closed. Later on, both coworkers sent out emails apologizing for their behavior, and for disrupting the workplace. I appreciated that my supervisor stepped in right away and that the parties were required to apologize. It was nice to see swift action taken, but I thought it was a nice example of professionalism.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I’ve seen similar happen, also, where someone encouraged others to move into an enclosed office to continue their loud argument.

      On another occasion, two people got into a heated argument where a supervisor actually got rather emotional at a subordinate and was shouting at him. I forget the context but it was sort of a personal mixed with work, like “you offend me greatly with your attitude and pushback against me,” with the boss being a bit more emotional than she should have. (I don’t know if her criticism of the employee was warranted, based on long-term actions, or just a momentary emotionally charged explosion). She stormed off in anger, near tears, and worked from home the next day. She also sent an email to everyone in the area apologizing for her unprofessional behavior. When she returned the following day, everything seemed to have calmed down.

      As an onlooker with almost no stakes in the game, I was kind of disappointed it didn’t become more dramatically entertaining, but for workplace function, the way it went down was probably better.

    2. Rachel in Non Profits*

      Great example! Something similar at my workplace. A co-worker (building manager) yelled at some students for messing around. I (program staff who knew the kids) stepped in to help and he yelled at me too.
      Although I was very shocked and frustrated, I went to our manager. We had a meeting the next day where he apologized and we worked out a new system. Now instead of yelling at the kids or me, he asked to speak with me privately in the office. Then I can relay his instructions to the children in a calm way.
      Easy peasy and the solution has worked for the Last 5 Years.

  3. MuseumChick*

    Clear expectations and goals. I’ve had so many jobs with managers and higher ups who seem incapable of communicating their vision (if they have one) and being clear about what they expect from their employees only to get extremely upset when their vague directions are not followed exactly how they envision in their heads.

    1. Leela*

      I’ve found that this is about 95% of my happiness with a manager. The other 5% is, are they capable of managing in such a way that I could actually reach those goals? As in not saying “you need to boost sales!” but then forcing me to use a demanding, off-putting and high-pressure tactic?

      1. MuseumChick*

        Yes! This reminds me a little the Sun Tzu quote: ““If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their oficers.””

    2. Ama*

      I would add that my best managers have also been the ones who are willing to listen if I come back and say “I know you wanted X, but I think Y might actually work better” or “We can’t do X because of this external/unnegotiable factor, how about Y?”

      I don’t mind being asked to figure out the details of a manager’s more general concept, but my most functional workplaces have been where management is willing to listen to options.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        This. My boss trusts me and is willing to listen to my opinion on best course of action. And she is open to changing plans when external factors prevent her original plan. Now that I’ve worked under her for 2.5 years, I have a very good sense of her priorities and which alternative plan will be most likely to get her approval.

      2. Susan*

        Yes. My current manager will listen to arguments and can be talked into changing his mind, but the arguments have to be strong. At times I lean towards them having to be a little too strong.

      3. CastIrony*

        I’m doing management work at my job lately (I manage part-time workers like me) and I often have workers suggest different options. I had someone do this today, and because they saw something I didn’t, I decided their suggestion was good, and everyone was happy.

        Thanks for making me proud, Ama. You made my day! I agree that good managers listen to their workers.

    3. Anonicat*

      My current bosses, and my boss at the job before as well, are pretty good at this, and also at recognizing that not everything can be a priority! Because there are 2 of them assigning work to me, I sometimes get a backlog of things to work on. I’ll send them both an email with the list of projects and ask which to prioritize, and they’re great at letting me know which to focus on. If they have clashing priorities, they sort it out between them and leave me out of the politics.

      They’re also great at believing me when I say the timeline is too short or my plate too crowded to get things done in a reasonable-length work day. They never tell me to just find a way to cram it all in.

  4. addiez*

    I’m so pleased to be able to tell this story! I worked in a nonprofit with a vacant development director role (DOD) for a while – about a year. I’d been hired to report to the Dev VP, got moved to the DOD, back to the VP while the role was vacant, then back to the DOD once he was hired (this will be relevant, I promise).

    Once the new hire came on board, it became clear pretty quickly he was a DUD. Misspoke OFTEN and doubled-down for no reason, made major typos in letters that were set to go to the CEO, gave bad information to those around him. The clincher for me was when he delayed in telling me about a promotion that the VP had already secretly told me about but he was set to “deliver” as he was my true boss. The reason? I’d aggressively pursued it. And I’d only asked once how to get a promotion. Pretty passive if I do say so myself.

    The VP was remote, so when he was in town I sat him down to tell him about the issues. He asked if we could put the DOD on a PIP, I said I thought he was doing such damage that it wasn’t worthwhile. He asked around, corroborated my story, and fired the guy. He trusted me already based on the time we’d worked closely together, trusted my judgement, and counted on me to give him good information. To go to my boss’s boss about a concern and to have him so thoughtfully and respectfully address the issue to resolve it quickly was huge – especially for a role that had such an impact on our external reputation.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      Oh, how I *wish* I’d had this opportunity back when my department was headed by a DUD – which has happened twice, though the second time, the dud was an interim. I don’t know, maybe it was possible, but I never got the impression that it was.

    2. Ama*

      We had a dud Development Director, too! In his case he’d come from an assistant director role at a much much larger organization and just was not willing to accept that being Director at an organization with 45 full time employees in the entire organization means you can’t set the kind of fundraising goals or handle fundraisers with the same kind of approach you could at his old org (where there were almost 45 people just in the development department).

      The rumor was that the final straw was a disastrous presentation to our board about 18 months in where he dismissed any concerns about his unrealistic plans (our board is very engaged and generally realistic about financial matters, which is one of the reasons we’re so functional). Not only did it piss off the board, but it proved to the CEO that the Development Director was just never going to adapt to the realities of our org, both financially and culturally. Normally we are pretty good at not talking bad about people who get fired here, but he was so completely off-base with the way he approached things that people couldn’t help themselves – I happened to sit with a bunch of development staff at our holiday party that year and I was just amazed at some of the stories they told.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Oh, that’s awesome. I’ve been in situations where someone was pretty awful at their job, universally acknowledged to be awful, multiple conversations were had about them being awful, multiple conversations with people above her with the power to fire them, with said powerful people agreeing with the assessments and adding their own “oh yes, this too!” kinds of stories and….

      Nothing was done.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          It’s really demoralizing because, like, why should I work to be halfway decent at my job if you clearly don’t care if someone is horrible?

          1. Alf*

            My company rewards under performers by taking work off them if they say they don’t want to do a certain task anymore. Sounds perfectly functional to some people.

      1. Susan*

        About a year ago our CEO was diagnosed with a disease that involved him having to take extended time off for treatment (he’s back now, treatment seems to have worked). While he was out the head of our board of directors came in to lead. This head of the board came out to our local office and we went to lunch. He wanted to hear from each of us, and particularly wanted some followup conversation with me and the other person on my team, asking about our feelings about the VP of a particular department. This VP had driven out three women out of four members of the team reporting to him – within six months – with his incredibly sexist comments. To quote – “I like having women in meetings – they are fun!” and when reviewing the resume of a highly qualified woman – “She’ll just work for a couple years then probably leave to raise kids.” These comments were second-hand and at some level I was reluctant to raise them with the head of the board, because they had been raised with HR and had not had an effective result. I did end up telling the board member and that VP was let go some time after.

  5. Leela*

    At a previous company there was a female employee who was very antagonistic and aggressive with other female employees at or below her level. She jumped at someone in a cast who was trying to get in the elevator with her so they’d jump back, and then she hit “close door” while they were too stunned to do anything, making them wait for the next elevator. She’d wait until we were like 75% through a doorway for an area that she was in (like if I was leaving the kitchen to go into the hallway and back to work) and then charge forward at you, causing you to jump back or be hit by her body. She’d look us up and down and smirk walking in the hallways and make a BIG show of it. This would start even the moment that the two of you would be introduced. Of course, the moment anyone with authority, or a male at her level and under would walk by, she’d turn into the bubbliest little sweetheart. She was also close with a high-level manager so we were worried that nothing was going to be done because of how underhanded she was and her relationship with that person.

    A few of us decided to bring it forward to HR, documenting what we could remember and when, and they brought it up to her but she profusely denied everything, apparently she even cried and said how hard she was trying to be friends with us and we just wouldn’t have it, and girls never liked her no matter what she did (girls is her term, from what we heard. Of course this is hearsay but that’s what I have to go on).

    We reported a new wave of behavior after this and the HR person and her manager decided to wait in the lunch room with one of the female employees, stay out of view of the door, and watch for the problem employee when they knew her break was. They caught her in the act and brought it up with high level manager who would have been able to make the call. As expected, high level manager leapt to her defense but HR pushed hard and stated that it didn’t make sense to keep such an antagonistic person in the role. They brought in another high level manager, and laid out the facts without saying who it was and went “would you keep a person in this role with this track record?” and they said no, and high level manager 1 was outvoted and problem employee was removed.

    1. Constanze*

      Woooo… this would definitely NOT happen this in a lot of places. :O This is good that this employee was dealt with in such a diligent manner !

      1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

        I’m imagining something like an aggressive game of chicken in a narrow hall/doorway? But it’s definitely more fun to imagine a bull charging at a matador!

      2. Leela*

        Yep that’s exactly what HR caught her doing, because of all the things we listed it would be easiest to spot (waiting in one of the 6 elevators that went up hoping both that she’d be in that one and the opportunity would present itself to catch it was unlikely, and if she saw them in hallway she would have been on her Very Best Behavior).

        She was just very alpha and aggressive with other women. This literally included women who hadn’t actually met her yet, but just happened to be in an area she was also in.

        1. Lance*

          I’m not sure if that even qualifies as ‘alpha’ behavior, unless she’s trying to control when other women go through doors? I’d be wondering what her purpose for it could possibly be, but then it wouldn’t likely make sense regardless.

          1. MuseumChick*

            It sets a tone. Alpha behavior goes far beyond what is happening in just the moment. By behaving the way she did she was sending a clear message to the female employees. “I can stop you from even walking through this door. Imagine what else I can do.”

          2. Close Bracket*

            Door guarding behavior is a common aggression problem in canines. Kind of weird to see it in people, although what about the LW who bit someone (still my hero)? The jackass she bit was blocking a doorway.

          3. AnnaBananna*

            I wouldn’t call her an alpha. She’s just a bully. When I think of an alpha, I think of those who *may* be assertive, but also have the ability to lead/influence others. She couldn’t lead a stick down a river with her behavior. Good riddance.

        2. WellRed*

          This is the behavior of an aggressive dog, which is what make me so weirded out. Usually we hear about backstabbing or stealing credit or whatever. Not lunging at people.

          1. Ama*

            It reminded me of the girl who bullied me in second grade — she’d knock things off my desk, block my way into the cubby area, and once ground clay into my hair. This woman seems to have stayed at an elementary school level of emotional maturity.

          2. Minocho*

            I am a horrible person. I am imagining her trying that with me. There are women that are larger or stronger than me, I am sure, but I am not a pushover. I am a giant pale skinned red headed Godzilla. I have been physcially attacked by other people and just held them off by holding out my hand to stop their approach. My arm got a little banged up, but they couldn’t get any closer.

            I’m sure the friendships with upper management added a whole other nasty dimension to all of this, but I’m just going to smile and imagine her pinwheeling her arms around as I hold her back at arm’s length.

            1. Alienor*

              That is a delightful mental image! I’m not a particularly imposing person, but I think in that situation I’d be willing to take a couple of body blows just to prove I wasn’t going to be cowed by someone.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Yep.I’ve had people int he past, not just women but males try to cow me. Not charge me or anything but definitely try to intimidate me/control access to whatever. I just stare them down. So fat I’m at 100% because yeah nope not playing that game.

                1. Lissa*

                  I usually am not physically imposing and tend to have a “freeze” reaction more than anything – I can only remember once when I managed not to. I was walking down the street middle of the day and a guy was walking towards me – I just got a sudden weird feeling from the way he was walking and KNEW something odd was going to happen. I had enough time to brace for something and sure enough as he walked past me, he jumped into my path and made a loud noise, trying to either block me or scare me. I managed to sidestep and just kept walking, completely pretending it hadn’t happened. He didn’t follow me or anything after that.

                  I am a total coward when it comes to proactively jumping into situations but if I have any warning I can fake composure really well.

            2. Lissa*

              I wonder if she might have not done it to people she read as more physically imposing than her – I see either that, or she would immediately turn it into YOU attacking HER – I really feel like this is how people like this get away with it for so long. They know who to do this to and how to turn things to their advantage.

              (Not that it isn’t a great image! I just often see people writing in about how if they were in that position they wouldn’t let the bully get away with it, but I think it’s more complicated.)

            3. Indoor Cat*

              This reminds me of a friend, whom I love. She’s a black belt in judo and in college competed on a national level. Ordinarily she looks like a friendly chubby lady– someone you would definitely think, “what a nice librarian/mom” if you had to guess based on her picture, especially since she wears, y’know, mom jeans and cable-knit sweaters and so on. But uh. She’s got like one inch of fat and the rest of her is pure friggin’ muscle. If bully-woman tried to jump at her, she’d just smack into a body as solid as concrete.

            4. nonegiven*

              I was imagining letting her knock me down. I’m not sure I could jump back fast enough. I saw that happen once in middle school, perpetrator was a teacher.

        3. SusanIvanova*

          Some day one of those women she hasn’t met yet is going to turn out to be her new boss. For about 5 minutes, anyway.

    2. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      Geez, someone could have really gotten hurt if they lost their balance when she was charging. That is such weird behavior!

      1. LilLamb*

        If I were one of the employees in that situation I would probably flop just to take one for the team, “Why did you just charge at me Karen?”

    3. Close Bracket*

      > charge forward at you, causing you to jump back or be hit by her body.

      I have no idea how I would respond to something like this in the workplace. Walking along the sidewalk, or in a mall or other crowded place, when groups of people are walking in the opposite direction and as obviously not going to break ranks around a single walker, I just stop in my tracks with a neutral smile and fix my gaze in their direction but not actually make eye contact. Sometimes whoever is closest will shoulder check me rather than go around, sometimes they go around.

      1. Ellex*

        I do the same – stop and look at the person in my way without making eye contact. The few who have tried to shoulder check me are often surprised that they were the ones who bounced back rather than me. I may be short, but I’m solid!

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      Way cool.

      On a side note women like this piss me right the hell off. It’s social conditioning really. It behooves the patriarchy to have women divided and sucking up to males and to be in their service in one way or the other. One would think grown women could put forth the effort to learn how to not be like that.

      Sorry, not feeling very articulate this afternoon. Hope that made sense..

      1. Not so rainy*

        I does. +1
        When in bad mood, if I anticipate it happening in a street or mall, I freeze my shoulder and oh so slightly change course. Being 6’1″ helps. When milder tempered, I stop like Close Bracket described.
        I never had it happen to me in an office setting though

  6. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’ve been here about 5 months and so far, everything seems pretty functional. When I was initially interviewed, I was told that they were adding a position to this department so they could re-balance the workload. Then someone quit, so I ended up sliding into her role instead and they still hired another person for that extra position. They are very conscious of the workloads and of providing assistance when it’s necessary. I haven’t witnessed anything remotely toxic yet. My supervisor has been kind, supportive, and appreciative of my work. They are flexible about needing time off/making it up.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It really is! I come in, I listen to podcasts or audiobooks and do my work with minimal interruptions. I don’t dread work every day. It’s kind of amazing.

  7. Manders*

    I’ve spent a lot of time in dysfunctional workplaces and a little over a year in a functional one. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed: My functional workplace starts with the underlying assumption that an employee who asks for something out of the ordinary is a competent adult with a good reason for wanting that thing. My dysfunctional workplaces started with the assumption that employees were trying to cheat the system and management had to fight that.

    1. Rose*

      YES! This is my biggest notice as well – that people are treated as adults and mostly rise to the occasion. And when they don’t, the person is dealt with rather than vague policies to “fix” a bad apple.

    2. MJ*

      Oh yes this is a great point. I have worked in places where any ‘ask’ made to a department was treated with suspicion. I always felt like a nuisance, and in the end began to dread asking other people to sprout their job.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Trust! It’s about treating people with respect and trusting that they’re trying to do the right thing. It’s refreshing when it happens.

    4. Jadelyn*

      Wow – thank you for putting that into words. I was trying to articulate why my current workplace is generally so great, and this is a huge amount of it. If I go to my boss and grandboss and say hey, here’s a piece of software I think we should look at buying, it would streamline things for me considerably; or when I asked permission to buy an expensive piece of ergonomic equipment for myself (I have a repetitive strain injury in my right hand and can’t use a regular mouse for more than a couple minutes at a time); or I found a training course several of us on the team could benefit from – even if the answer isn’t always yes, it’s always taken seriously as a legitimate ask. I’m treated like a reasonable person making a request in good faith, rather than treated suspiciously and interrogated over it.

      And I think you’re spot on, that it’s a mentality thing more than anything that makes the difference. If management takes an adversarial view of staff, staff will respond in kind, and you get a toxic workplace. But if management respects their staff and assumes good intentions whenever possible (dealing with those who abuse that on a case by case basis), you build a culture of mutual respect.

      1. Ama*

        My current office is so gung ho about listening to employee recommendations that I’ve had to teach myself to be sure I’m prepared to take action right away if I’m going to float a plan to my boss, because if she likes the idea I will walk away with a to-do list of items to make it happen, and even if she doesn’t like the idea she’ll probably suggest something I should research to come up with an alternative plan.

        I’ll never forget the time I went to my boss about eight months after I started to note that I was working on a desktop running Windows XP (in 2013!) and since Microsoft had just announced they were discontinuing support for XP I wondered if we could plan to get an upgrade for my OS. Next thing I knew I was pricing out brand new laptops.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Jadelyn, could you tell me what that piece of equipment is? I’ve been using a touch pad but I still get pains.

        1. Ellex*

          Not Jadelyn, but I’ve found that using a mouse pad that has a built-in wrist rest makes a big difference. The deep ache I was getting in my shoulder and forearm disappeared completely.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          What works wonders for me is a trackball (Logitech M570, to be precise).
          The wrist is more upright, so the hand posture is more natural; you move the cursor with your thumb. I got one at work and bought another one for home a week later.

            1. GH in SOCal*

              I use an Evoluent vertical mouse too! It is 100% worth the $100. An ergonomic consultant recommended it, and she had me hold my mouse hand out in front of me vertically vs horizontally just for a few moments — I felt the difference right away.

        3. Kitrona*

          One of my friends uses an upright mouse. I’m trying to get more information, but she swears by that and her ergonomic split keyboard that she can position how she needs.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Thank you! I have to check this out! My right hand is killing me. The gloves should come tomorrow (I wasted a week trying to find them in physical stores)

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “…dealing with those who abuse that on a case by case basis…”

        I think this is a very important thing. “Punishing” everyone for the actions of one (or a couple of) person/people reeeaaaalllyyyy hurts morale and creates resentment.

        1. Sarahhopefully*

          I think you just articulated why I feel so put off by the finance person who reviews expense reports. From one month to the next she starts demanding new, different kind of documentation for expenses in a way that makes me think one person abused the system and now everyone is being punished or treated as untrustworthy.

      4. Eleanor Shellstrop*

        Yes, this is so well articulated, thank you! It makes such a difference when you know you can say “I’m not feeling well and need to go home” or even something as small as “I think we should order this kind of food for this event” and know that you’ll be taken seriously and have your judgement trusted. I mean, why hire someone if you think they’re going to try to pull the wool over your eyes and you can’t trust them?

      5. thankful for AAM*

        Jadelyn, your comment made me giggle. I work for a non profit. I asked for a $16 stool to help with ergonomics (I am short and my feet dont reach the floor). I have to wait til the next fiscal year to start b4 we can order it.

      1. Techworker*

        I once said I’d take a half day of PTO, because I’d spent the previous evening being sick and hadn’t slept well – but was otherwise fine in the morning. My manager explicitly told me that if I’d lost sleep from being ill then I should just put it down as sick time – maybe that’s normal but yeah definitely the opposite of a manager who demands you justify the time off!

        (And yes, we have a workplace where taking a last minute day or half day of PTO is also fine, which I’ve used occasionally when I’ve been stressed and needed slob time :))

    5. MasterOfBears*

      Related: my (mostly) functional workplace assumes that mistakes are genuine mistakes and approaches them with a mentality of “Ok, let’s get this figured out,how can I help” rather than “what the f*** is wrong with you, you must be made to suffer”

      1. Manders*

        Oh yeah, this is another huge part of the same issue! Some of my worst memories from dysfunctional jobs were being berated for mistakes (which were sometimes just… failures to read my boss’s mind?) as if they were personality defects.

        Good bosses don’t start from the assumption that their employees’ failures are deliberate attempts to be lazy or undermine management. That doesn’t mean they ignore patterns of misbehavior, but they don’t leap straight to the worst possible interpretation either.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Last year I made a mistake that my manager noticed. She immediately brought it to the attention of the director who fixed it! It was amazing, I was embarrassed and apologized but the director and my manager both said it was fine, the mistake was fixable and no big deal. This week I was examining a piece of equipment that was broken. My manager asked me what I was doing on the floor, I explained, the very next day a technician was called in to fix the problem. It was hard getting used to a professional workplace.

      2. Xarcady*

        Oh, yes! My current workplace is like this. Mistakes are examined with the view of “How to prevent this from happening again?” not “Who is to blame and how can we make their life miserable for the next week?” It’s refreshing.

        All large projects have a “Lessons Learned” meeting at the end, where people can talk about what worked and what didn’t, and make suggestions to improve the process. And the managers listen to the suggestions and put them, or variations of them, into play on later projects.

      3. anycat*

        THIS. Same here. My boss turns things into a learning opportunity/teaching moment instead of shaming me and rubbing my nose in it like I’m a dog.

      4. Silly*

        We write post-mortems for system outages, with the first rule being they are blameless. The point is learning from what happened and taking those lessons forward so any mistakes that are made are new ones =)

    6. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      This is a great way of putting it. This goes into sick/vacation days as well. I had worked in so many dysfunctional places where you had to really justify using sick and practically beg to take your vacation. Functional workplaces know that these are benefits that people use.

    7. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes! And similar to this is that my functioning manager believes me when I say something is urgent or I need to talk to him right away. He knows that I don’t use those phrases lightly and that I am pretty competent on my own, so if I’m saying I need his support or input asap, that means something.

    8. froodle*

      Oh, yes! I worked for several years in a call centre for a large UK energy firm and if you tried to call i sick or move your start/end times you were interrogated and treated with suspicion and pressured to come in. Now on the few occasions I call in sick I’m braced with reasons and justifications and my manager is just like, “oh dear, I hope you feel better, bye! ” and I’m like, but my reasons!

    9. CMart*

      Yes, the difference between my dysfunctional jobs (restaurants, big surprise) and my current functional workplace (an office) boils down to this as well.

      I left work mid-morning the other day because I was concerned about my health (pregnancy/baby related). Caught my manager on my way out and let him know I was going to get checked out and a fast rundown of the status of my current project. His response was “I hope everything is okay, let me know if you need anything. Don’t worry about Project.”

    10. Jill*

      Thank you so much for this. After a week of being treated as if I’m trying to cheat the system, I really needed to hear this.

      1. MtnLaurel*

        Jill, they are out there. I know it’s hard to see when you’re in the midst of the dysfunction, but they really are. And once you get there (and you will), you’ll appreciate it all the more.

  8. Lunch Meat*

    I was underperforming last year in a way that made it to the top of the organization. My manager took responsibility for talking to me and sort of was a buffer between me and the higher ups so i didn’t feel intimidated, but she also explained in detail the problems it caused for the org and that it needed to stop. She talked through the problems I’ve been having, helped me access resources, and has been holding me accountable all year. Not in a holding it over me kind of way but in a straightforward way. When i was worried that i was close to being fired, she told me explicitly that when my job is in danger, i will know, lol.

  9. Anon for this one*

    This anecdote is almost thirty years old (!!), but I once overheard my manager stop a client dead in his tracks when the client was being verbally abusive to one of the administrative assistants. No fireworks or anything: he just overheard the screaming on the end of the phone, gently took the phone from the admin, dropped his voice an octave, and said, “Excuse me. You. Do not. Speak. To our admins. In such a manner. Apologize now.” There was no apology, so the manager simply hung up the phone and told the admin to forward calls from that number directly to him.
    Client never phoned back.

    1. JanetM*

      I had a similar experience (although the place as a whole was not entirely functional, IMO) — I worked for a job shop, and an applicant got very condescending to me about a word that has both a common meaning and a technical meaning (I used the common meaning and he got up on his high horse about the technical meaning).

      One of my bosses came barreling out of his office, took the applicant’s resume out of my hand and gave it back to the applicant. “If you treat my staff that way, I cannot trust you to treat my clients appropriately. You can leave now.”

      I would have walked through fire for that man, but as I said, the rest of the office was kind of wonky, so when a better-paying job offer came along, I took it.

    2. Lupin Lady*

      I had a similar experience once with an abusive client. When my one superior saw me tearing up after hanging up he asked what happened and told our CEO, who immediately offered me the rest of the day off and the client was reprimanded and instructed to only talk to the CEO and CFO from then on.

    3. kcat*

      I had a similar experience – a woman called to complain about one of our websites, and just wanted someone to yell at for about an hour. My boss told me to put it on speaker if it happened again. When she did call back, I put it on speaker, and my boss came and took the phone into her office. The lady continued to yell but I didn’t have to hear it.

    4. raktajino*

      I LOVE when bosses stand up for employees!

      In college, I worked at the computer help desk, fielding queries and issues from everyone from students to deans. One day I responded to a terse ticket from a professor and the professor wrote back a snarky missive about how incompetent us student techs were. Fortunately, the full-time staff got cc’ed on all these tickets, so the director saw the ticket and went to go deal with him. First though, he stopped at the main desk to reassure me (feeling like an imposter and an idiot, obviously) that my response had been spot on and the professor was absolutely in the wrong. Apparently he often responded like that, especially to the female techs.

      No student tech had to deal with that professor after that. Only the full-time staff did…and they didn’t exactly put him at the top of their priorities.

    5. Ophelia*

      I once had a similar experience – I was really junior, and wrote a long, thoughtful response to a subcontractor, but misspelled an industry-specific acronym that one could either read as a typo (it was) or me being an idiot. The recipient sent me a haranguing email, and my boss Handled It. Even better, I’ve worked for her on and off in the same organization for years, and she is wonderful and really goes to bat for her staff.

    6. Ingray*

      Along similar lines, 15 or so years ago I worked at a gas station and I was newish cashier. A customer came in to buy alcohol and I asked for his ID which he didn’t have. He went on a rant about how he knew the owner and he comes in all the time and how dare I card him blah blah. I still wouldn’t sell to him. A few hours later when the owner was in he called to complain. The owner told him next time to bring his ID, that I was only doing what I had been trained to do, then told me I did a good job standing up to him and to keep up the good work.

    7. Nonyme*

      I worked in a call center in a role where taking abuse from the customers was literally part of my job description. (I handled escalated issues; stuff the CSRs couldn’t handle. Sometimes, I had to give customers bad news, and then I had to listen to them rant. The client didn’t allow us to hang up, either.)

      I’ve got a pretty thick skin and a lot of customer service skillz so being screamed at by irate customers doesn’t really bother me as long as I know management had my back. And they absolute did, so no worries about being screamed at, right?

      Well, one day I dealt with a particularly talented screamer who was so loud my supervisor could hear her over my headset from two cubicles away. Customer was using profanity, making threats to have me fired, stating she was going to call back and lie about our interaction and have me fired, etc. I never raised by voice or responded with anything other than sweetness and light, and gave her the exact same helpful answers and useful information I would have any other customer — I pretended she was being nice, rather than a raving lunatic.

      After about thirty minutes of screaming, the customer slammed the phone down (and called back and screamed at somebody else, who gave the same answers.)

      The call center I worked in had software running in the background to identify when a customer was stressed by word usage and intonation, and those calls preferentially got pulled for call monitors. So, of course, this one got monitored and scored.

      I got 100% on the monitor despite the angry customer. My boss also gave me a candy bar and a hug, LOL, stating SHE would have lost her cool eventually.

      Then they saved the call, bleeped out the identifying information of the customer (but not the profanity, LOL) and for years afterwards they played that call for new hire CSR training classes somewhere around the first or second day. Apparently, they wanted to give new hires advance warning of what they might be dealing with — and some did quit upon hearing it in all its glory — and also as an example of how CSRs were supposed to have to dealing with customers like that.

      (I estimated about 50% of my calls started out screaming at me. I was usually able to calm them down in a few minutes by sounding calm, competent, and courteous. This lady was just … special.)

      1. female peter gibbons*

        I was a manager at a movie theatre where most of my staff was around 16-20 years old. (Some) People honestly think if they’re paying $14 for a movie they are kings of the world and can treat you like garbage. Some customers would actually scream at staff until they cried. If I ever noticed anything like this even STARTING I would physically put myself between the customer and the staff member and tell them they’re not allowed to talk to the staff like this (and if it gets to that point) then they are welcome to leave. These cowards always stop when somebody is the ‘manager’ of something. Or is an adult, I guess. It’s pathetic.

        1. Nonyme*

          LOL. I had a retail job for a few months as an forty year old adult while looking for something better. Somebody tried the screaming meanie routine on me — and with my background of being yelled at for years and years in a call center, I was just completely unimpressed. The customer was out of line — they were trying to return a can of paint from a brand *the store didn’t carry* while claiming they’d purchased it there that morning, and the can had obviously been used and had been sitting out in the sun for awhile. Plus it had been tinted, so even if it was our brand, we would not have taken a return on it. So, basically, they were a loud and obnoxious scammer, and not very good at it.

          My supervisor let me deal with it, while observing from another register, since I had it under control and we were short on cashiers. Afterwards she asked how I managed to stay so cool.

          Me: “I was pretending to be a vulcan the whole time.”

          Complete with upraised eyebrow and expressionless face.

          (I was a lot more expressive and sympathetic when the customer had a legitimate complaint, but I totally pretended to be a vulcan at the scammers and complete idiots we had to deal with. It was all part of staying sane … the supervisor, once she realized what I was doing, found it all very hilarious.)

          1. Fluff*

            My friend taught me that “be a vulcan” when dealing with a-holes. And she had a logical vulcan response
            “Live Long and Prosper” with the proper greeting or
            flip the hand down:
            “Die Immediately and Decay.”

  10. Rebecca*

    I started out being extremely intimidated by the woman who wound up being my favourite boss ever. The thing that made her a good boss was that she noticed and took steps to put me at ease, though I don’t think she’s naturally a warm person. She tried to make time to talk to me and set up feedback meetings that I asked for, and offered me a lot of validation that I was doing things right–when I was. She was still critical of my work when she needed to be, but in a “I know you can improve” way that helped me do so. The fact that she managed me the way I needed to be managed–much different from how she was with my colleagues, who were more experienced–made her a great, responsive, boss!

  11. Greg NY*

    My current workplace treats me like a professional and as an adult. No one questions me if I take time off. No one questions me if I start late or leave early because they see me getting my tasks done. No one questions me if I’m not working every minute of the day (I’m composing this comment right now) because they know I’m effective at my tasks. My colleagues are willing to cover some of my urgent responsibilities when I take time off because I’m willing to do the same for them. I do have problems taking off as much time as I’d like, but that’s entirely the nature of the workload and the fact that while I can take time away during the day, I can’t take a ton of entire days off.

    This workplace isn’t perfect, in addition to the problems taking frequent vacations, the health insurance is a bit lacking and the vesting period for company 401(k) contributions is 5 years. Also, while the salary isn’t bad, it could be better. I will eventually leave, due to my desire to see the world, but for right now the low amount of stress acts as a counterbalance.

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Ugh, health insurance! Mine is good, but from past experience, I’d say that was the biggest problem with many jobs, and that’s not really the fault of the employer, but of the insurance companies.

      1. ENFP in Texas*

        The employer decides what coverage they are going to buy from the insurance company to offer to their employees, so it’s not all the insurance company’s fault.

        1. Nonyme*

          Yup. There are plenty of good plans out there, and the difference between a good plan and a bad plan is a couple hundred dollars a month for insurance premiums (that the employer could cover if the chose) vs. potentially thousands of dollars in high deductibles and a major headache with referrals and auths and claims denials for the employee.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      My current boss is great, and basically looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her if I could leave at 3:30 one day. She was basically like, “You’re senior enough to know your business — do what makes sense!”

  12. Ladylike*

    I worked for an organization with a VP of HR that I truly respected. He wasn’t perfect, but he understood the laws and followed them. When we had a VP who was an abusive tyrant, and a senior manager who was dishonest and unethical, the organization systematically collected evidence, coached them, documented everything, and eventually fired them with plenty of documentation to back up the decisions. To me, a functional organization gives people chances to correct behavior, but ultimately recognizes when they’re not going to change, and lawfully terminates them. It’s very important not to continue to “inflict” a few bad apples on the entire staff.

      1. Ladylike*

        It’s hard to say, because I don’t know exactly when Management became aware of the problems. But one was with the company less than 3 years and the other less than 2.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Yes. We have a great VP right now. I have a few good stories from my current job. Owner of the company is not the best person, but recognizes his faults (some of them anyway) and brought in an amazing VP to handle things. Such functional behavior includes:
      1. Employee is harassing women. Issue is investigated, and employee is fired. Women feel comfortable at work again, the end.
      2. Owner is a bit stingy and nitpicked people unfairly on their bonuses so he didn’t have to pay them. VP put audit with weighted measurements in place for each department so that only a certain amount can be deducted from bonuses for minor infractions, but Owner still gets attention on things that are important to him.
      3. VP listens to people, addresses their concerns, and makes improvements whenever possible in a thoughtful, realistic manner without pandering to anyone.
      4. HR coordinator is a super-stressed single mom who messes up everything she touches. Talked to her, found her a role in another department where she is thriving and happy; replaced her in HR with another person who is super productive and organized. Cleaned up HR messes. Buyer is terrible at her job, and Manager of Busy Department is terrible at his. VP is moving Buyer to Analyst role, demoting to the Manager the new Buyer, and putting in a Director and Assistant Director to manage Busy Department, which really needs the support and is the lifeblood of the Company.
      5. VP made decision to invest more money into good employees and pay salaries commensurate with cost of living as well as making Company an attractive place to work. We get more done with fewer people. Owner is happy because he is paying for fewer employees and employees are happy because they are making more money, but working at the same pace. Even though we have fewer coworkers, they are stronger and harder working and we don’t have to deal with the slackers. VP is currently trying to make good on all of Owner’s false promises without taking a bunch of whiny BS from people who expect to be catered to for No Good Reason. Very intuitive and kind person.
      6. Other awesome boss truly got to know his staff, understand our strengths and weaknesses, and helped all of us to develop our talents and achieve our professional goals. Did so while still keeping up those things that are inportant to the company. Stayed away from the drama and politics, and just did his job. We were the happiest department in that part of the organization, and the most productive. Other departments were jealous, and I don’t blame them. Had fun, worked hard, and supported each other because of his example and management style. Mentors many people to this day even though he retired.


      1. an owner*

        And good on the owner for recognizing the need for a VP that has the strengths he is lacking.

  13. Dr. Steph*

    I’m trying to come up with an example…my workplace functions so well that in the two years I’ve been here it’s been warm, collegial, focused and productive. Both my smaller unit and the larger division are well managed and focused around common goals.

    I think that’s because there are clear expectations for staff–they know what they have to do and are given the resources to get things done. I have been able to ask for resources when I needed them and have also had my work priorities re-evaluated at my request when there was too much on my plate.

    Is it perfect? No, there are still little things that bug me and sometimes communications and expectations could be clearer, but it’s usually about little things like who to cc in an email, not major failings of managers or staff.

    In the end we are recognized for our hard work and accomplishments and it’s pretty great coming to work every day.

  14. Tash*

    I was off sick for two months (I had a breakdown, nothing to do with work) and I was told not to worry about work or pressure myself to come back before I was ready. My manager met me in Starbucks my first day back so I wouldn’t have to walk in on my own.

  15. Anom-a-lom-a-ding-dong*

    After several days of increasingly odd behavior, my cousin’s boss professed his love for her by sending an email to her personal email address (not that it matters, but she had a steady boyfriend and he was married with kids, so it’s not like he had any reason to think she was interested in him). She emailed someone in HR on Friday evening to ask what to do. On Saturday morning, they called to tell her she would now be under a new manager and to work from home on Monday. The manager was gone before she returned on Tuesday, and somehow not even the rumor mill figured out why he resigned so suddenly- or that it had anything to do with her.

    It blew me away how fast and quietly HR handled it.

    1. Liane*

      A friend, Skywalker, had a similarly fast response to a different similar issue. He was about to be offered an internal transfer that was also a promotion (I think, I don’t work there, so not sure about the structure). Like many companies, his doesn’t allow employees on a PIP to transfer. No problem, Skywalker doesn’t have any PIPs, not even in the past here. BUT, Magically! There is suddenly an active PIP in his file, which states that he was harassing/intimidating Toxic, a female manager. Toxic, although senior to Skywalker, isn’t his manager, never has been, and they don’t even have work reasons to interact much. But she doesn’tt like Skywalker. The PIP is “signed” by Skywalker, his Boss, and Grandboss. Paperwork was done by company’s retired HR Minion, who had been brought back to cover a leave. My friend immediately calls the Ethics Hotline, on a midweek afternoon.
      The next morning, C-suite HR is in the local office, calling a meeting with Skywalker, Boss, Grandboss, Toxic, and HR Minion. Skywalker, Boss, & Grandboss all deny having seen or signed any PIP, with both bosses having nothing but good to say about Skywalker. I do not know if Toxic and/or Minion confessed, but at the end of the meeting, Minion was fired, with the warning that, due to the industry, she might also be facing charges for forging official documents. Toxic kept her job–no doubt, Skywalker says, because “She knows where ALL the [many] bodies are buried–because she probably buried them.” However, she got a Very Stern letter of reprimand. The letter stated that Toxic could not report misconduct on only her say-so. Henceforth, there had to be at least 2 other witnesses to the incidents, and none of those witnesses could report to her.
      Skywalker hasn’t told me if Minion did get charged or if Toxic ever left–but he has been in that new position for over 2 years, and is reasonably content. And yes, it was great that C-suite took less than 24 hours to deal with the issue. I have to wonder, though, if the response would have been as fast if the incident wasn’t so egregious and downright WTF.

  16. BusDude*

    Our team had this middle manager between the boss and the team. We’ll call her Anne. During the first few months of the job, Anne rubbed a lot of the team members the wrong way. She clearly tried to curry favour with the directors, while making sure to be all bossy lower ranked people, making a clear Bosses and Plebs distinction. A lot of the team was getting angry at her. I suspect the boss had taken her aside and given her some leadership training. Because after a few months of working with her, I noticed she really dialed down the bossiness. She didn’t lose her effectiveness as a manager, but at the same time, really took care to show that she was one of the team members, worked alongside us, while providing clear instructions to help the team along.
    I cannot be 100% it was because of the functional workplace, but I am glad she had grown as a manager and transformed from a bad manager to a good one.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I also had a bad-manager-turned-good story. This manager was in his first management position and went right into micro-managing the team. For example, previously we had all reported to team leads who reported to the manager – this guy wanted reports from everyone in addition to the leads’ collective reports, which was twice the work for everyone (including him!). Anyway, I switched out of the group after a few months. A few years later, he was slated to take over for a beloved manager (seriously, that guy was the best) and I really thought about getting out since I did not want him as my manager again.

      I stayed out of inertia and was very glad I did – he ended up being my second favorite manager, is still very supportive of my career, and is someone I really respect. I found out later that his own career trajectory did not go the way he wanted and that probably affected him at first, but rather than take it out on people he made peace with it and became IMO an effective manager.

  17. GeorgiaB*

    A few years ago, I was in the process of switching teams, already working for the new team, but my end of year review (and resulting salary action) was still the responsibility of my old boss. Part of the reason behind my switch was that the new team had a better budget, so that year’s raise was supposed to make up for a couple of years of not so great ones. Debrief time comes, and the raise did not meet expectations (that were based on discussions with both old boss & new boss). I tell old boss I’m a little disappointed and he tells me that he talked to new boss and that this was all he could afford.
    I sent new boss a message asking to talk to him when he had a few minutes, he immediately made time to call me and find out what was going on. When I explained the situation to him, he told me that old boss had never talked to him about budget or my salary, and he was going to go talk to his boss and they were going to get it fixed. By the next pay period, I had a BIGGER raise than what I had asked for.

  18. AMPG*

    I’ve been part of the management team in a division that successfully (I think) overhauled our team culture, and one of the biggest parts of it was that we had a couple of workshops with the whole team about how to “live our values” (the values themselves came from the CEO), which helped with buy-in and holding team members accountable to common standards. I think a big part of a functional workplace is that everyone understands what their goals are and how to get there, and this process really helped get us all on the same page.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this. A few years ago, I worked for an organization that was turning over to next-generation leadership, and this was how they approached it as well. Defining the core values of our organization and publishing them in plain language really helped everyone get on the same page and feel comfortable about the organization’s future. The CEO held town hall meetings and answered questions. A number of new department heads were successfully hired integrated into the teams to update policies that hadn’t been reviewed since the Reagan administration, and staff saw their suggestions implemented/complaints heeded on a number of fronts.

      It wasn’t without pain or some tough calls about long-term programs that no longer aligned strategically, but the process was transparent and well-communicated. Prior leadership didn’t feel staff below a certain level needed to be clued in as to what was going on, so policies sometimes seemed black box-y and nonsensical.

  19. ragazza*

    What comes to mind is if your manager actually listens to you to listen, and not just to think of a retort or defense. I had an old boss who if I had a problem, would carefully pick apart my statements to get me to agree that it wasn’t a problem or that I was the problem–gaslighting. When I got a new manager the difference was so dramatic. I was like, wow, you are actually taking what I say seriously!

    1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I recently changed firms in my career and I’ve seen this difference. I am used to questions going unanswered or dismissed, so it’s a surprise when my current boss takes me seriously, gives me feedback, responds to questions, and thanks me for when I do well. It is a dramatic difference.

  20. Anon because I speak of a coworker's issues*

    Is it sad that my first thought was “people don’t swear at me here”?

    It’s such a low bar, but it’s huge.

    But also – weekly one-on-ones with my boss, and weekly team meetings, that are productive and useful. Meetings that end when the business is done, even if the time is not up.

    Coworkers who feel free to ask and answer questions, without political jockeying.

    When a coworker’s responsibility (but not tasks – think painting teapot lids instead of painting teapot handles) changed and he started phoning it in (because he didn’t really like the lids, apparently), the boss talked to him one-on-one, worked with him, and eventually a) helped him transition out and b) a year later helped him get a job in another department (painting white-chocolate teapot handles, to stretch the analogy).

    (How do I know the whole story? That coworker was a friendly acquaintance of mine and chatted with me about it.)

  21. seller of teapots*

    2 years ago I was working for a great company. The great, small company was bought out and due to some restructuring I ended up with a bad manager. Fast forward to sitting in a conference room with my team and this bad manager totally lost his temper. He got very upset at me (for asking questions that he perceived as threatening) and became so ridiculous, I ultimately had to leave the room. (I was 7 months pregnant, and my friends later told me I was just gripping my belly the whole time.) What happened next?

    My former (amazing) boss, came running down the hall after me to check on me. My entire team rallied around me to reinforce how Not Okay that was. The next day, the president of the company (the small one that had since been bought out) reached out to speak with, both to get my side of the story but more to reinforce that this was Not Okay.

    I later learned that the president really, really wanted to fire the bad manager after this, but because of the buy-out he wasn’t able to make that happen immediately. Things dragged along, the bad manager was essentially afraid of me and left me alone for the next few months. While I was on maternity leave, he was let go, and awesome former boss became my manager again.

    I’ve worked at other companies where people lost their temper, and it was totally shrugged off, so it felt great to work at a company that actually saw that this was a problem and treated me (and the guy who lost is temper) as adults.

  22. AES*

    We had a lifer lead admin in my department who was supposed to supervise the two junior admins. (This is in academia, and the admins work in a department of 40 faculty.) The lead admin was just not up to it–was not up to doing her own work, but also not up to supervising the two others. As a result we essentially had no admin support–it was easier for faculty to just do things themselves than deal with assistants who couldn’t or wouldn’t do basic tasks (like convert a word document to PDF!) at all, or, if they did complete them, would take a week to do something that should have been done in a day.

    We’d had a series of department chairs who were supposed to supervise the whole admin staff, but were not effective managers (this is common in academia, where folks move into management roles with basically zero training or experience in anything outside of teaching/research). They continually let these people slide, until someone took on the chair role and started documenting performance issues, and realized that we could work with HR and staff union reps to make sure the admins knew that they needed to do their jobs. The upshot was that all three admins are gone–one was fired, one “chose” to retire, and one (the one who was the most helpful and professional of the three, but who had been caught up in a bad groupthink environment) was transferred to a different department. They were replaced by our current team, who are all outstanding, smart, hard-working, efficient team players who have totally transformed how our department is run. So, definitely a testament to the dysfunction that can arise from a long run of bad management, but also an example of how a workplace can completely transform when someone is willing to take up a leadership role and do the difficult tasks of managing.

  23. Rhiiiiiiannnnnnnon*

    Previously, I was at a very toxic workplace. When there, I got in the habit of not bringing problems to my manager, because one way or another the manager either didn’t resolve the issue, or found a way to blame me.

    When I got to my current role, I found myself afraid to bring things to my boss’s attention. Like when a coworker was acting inappropriately with me. I’m talking unprofessional texts, gifts, weird requests for photos of me, comments about how I look, the whole creepy shebang. When I finally told her about it she was horrified, but backed me up 100% and coached me though handling the situation. She made it so I wasn’t a victim; she used her influence to make the inappropriateness stop, but she also built me up as someone this guy did not want to mess with so I got my confidence back. I wished I would have gone to her sooner. Beautifully handled, and was a response tailored to my needs. She’s an amazing boss.

    1. Hiya*

      Yes, if you are okay with sharing, it would be helpful to know how you were able to build yourself up as someone not to mess with as opposed to a victim!

  24. NoMoDysfunction*

    My workplace is an example of a truly FUNCTIONAL family run business. Everyone here is so laid back and yet work actually gets DONE. We have access to a full kitchen(dishwasher included!), a Keurig, a large break room, and a gorgeous outdoor patio. The CEO/Owner takes lunch every day with the rest of the staff, and everyone is in a jovial mood. Talking in the kitchen is commonplace, and the atmosphere is very comfortable. Of course there are a few difficult personalities, but they aren’t bad enough to disrupt someone’s day, and they are mostly either not in the office or are in the back of the building and not bothering anyone.

    We have decent benefits, sick time and vacation time, and any problems are dealt with in a very charitable manner. I came from a very dysfunctional workplace that stressed me out so much that I got sick. For all I know, my company might be the baseline for a normal, healthy workplace, but to me it feels like the best company ever!

  25. ThatGirl*

    My current and most recent previous workplaces have been pretty functional. When co-workers caused problems, they were dealt with and/or swiftly terminated. (Examples include someone who was probably looking at inappropriate material on their work laptop and someone who threatened another worker.) But minor mistakes were not punished, simply dealt with matter of factly with some discussion about preventing them next time.

    My current job is not 100% great at communication from on high, but the CEO is good at squashing rumors and making sure that any information the whole company needs to know is communicated in a timely fashion, with VPs hosting meetings to answer questions – for example when parts of our company were sold off last year, or more recently when we were acquired by a multinational.

    And at both places, reviews are taken seriously, goals are set out clearly, and there was regular communication with managers to figure out if things were on track and where trouble spots might be.

    1. ThatGirl*

      In addition, work-life balance at both places was/is good; when a personal crisis comes up people are encouraged to go home/take care of it/worry about making up work later. At my last job I walked over to my manager in a panic because my husband needed an MRI, and he encouraged me to take a minute to calm down, deep breaths, then absolutely go be with him. (husband was fine, it was just a rule-out after an unexpected, 2-day migraine)

  26. Nervous Nellie*

    Ooh, this cheers me up no end. I asked something like this in last Friday’s open thread, and was greatly encouraged to hear accounts of sane, functional workplaces. How these workplaces deal with problems is a neat twist on my question, and is also a reassuring reminder that one problem does not a ToxicJob make! Thank you for addressing this question, Alison!!!

  27. First Timer*

    Basically you don’t hear about functional workplaces because, well, they’re functional!

    In my current office the day-to-day policy is basically, “Be presentable, get your work done.” As long as your actions don’t interfere with that, you’re good. For example, as long as I don’t miss meetings or delay someone else’s workflow, no one cares if I come in a little late. Obviously I don’t make a habit of it, but there’s no life or death pressure to timeliness.

    For the actual work, communication is amazingly clear considering it’s 90% digital (wither via WorkFront or company IM). Basically everyone knows that to get X done Y needs to happen. Most of my coworkers are easy to get in touch with and are responsive to questions. Even though we have a lot of roles and acronyms that are confusing for a new person, you eventually learn every topic has a specific role who is the expert when it comes to that topic. Even if you’re not sure, someone will point you in the right direction.

    The focus is always on getting the work done. If something is behind, yes the urgency is communicated, but no one wastes more time demanding what the hell happened. We get the project done, then huddle to go over how this can be done better in the future. It’s always a team effort.

    I mean, the bottom line is communication. Questions are welcomed, there’s an effort to make sure we understand each other, and no one is ever made to feel stupid or belittled. People who have been here for a decade longer than I have will still ask questions if they need to because that’s the quickest way to get stuff done! Compared to the internship I had elsewhere before this job where my questions were hardly answered, there was little room for error even though I was young and there to learn, and no one ever TOLD me what exactly my errors were and how to fix them, this place feels like a wonderland.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Agreed, it took me a bit to figure out how to describe my functional workplace because it’s harder than a non-functional one; how do you say ‘they do things well!’ in a way that makes sense to others?

  28. RabbitRabbit*

    This may not count because the workplace wasn’t all that functional, but – we did have good results from one of those employee engagement surveys. The big boss of the department was considered very unapproachable by the rank-and-file. He walked through the halls with his head down and a gruff expression. He’d talk to others around his level, but basically seemed to ignore everyone else, so we all mirrored the behavior.

    After an employee engagement survey, we had a required group session where we discussed the group average responses. One thing everyone felt open to talk about was how we all answered that we absolutely did not feel like we could talk to the boss about anything.

    I have to give him a ton of credit, he absolutely turned that around. He greeted employees genuinely. He smiled at us. He became a really decent person to interact with.

    1. Anonymops*

      Lucky you! Our CEO is like that and knows it yet still stomps around and refuses to smile or interact. We are in the process of surveying the company, I’m very interested in seeing how they will take the feedback.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I will note that this was a previous job, as the department administrator was a nightmare to work for – but that helped a ton, and it was good to see he took it to heart. In retrospect, he had a lot of medical issues he was personally dealing with, and between the pain of that and his responsibilities, he was probably just lost in thought most of the time we’d see him. He’d perk up for others closer to his job level because they would need something from him directly, but us grunt workers didn’t have much reason to interact with him.

  29. TheExchequer*

    My current workplace has taken every single instance of workplace inappropriate behavior seriously, no matter who it came from.

    The one thing that really bothers me is the seeming lack of consequences for people who somehow managed to stay long enough to be permanent yet are clearly not suited for our work with chocolate teapots.

    It’s a trade I can live with.

  30. Dweali*

    Not specifically my workplace but my manager is probably one of the best ones I have ever had. She takes the time to investigate complaints/concerns doesn’t just rely on Anna saying Elsa always/never does X (unless it’s something pretty egregious), has taken the time to find out how each of us prefer recognition (public vs private, etc), has given me actual concrete examples of what areas I need to focus on to be considered for any promotions, gives feedback (not weekly but on a pretty consistent basis).

    For a specific scenario, we had a coworker transfer from another department when it closed who…well suffice to say our department was not a good fit for her at all. We do inpatient admissions for a hospital so there’s a lot of different departments we interact with that have slight variations on some of our duties. Because of this our department is very fast paced, has a high learning curve, and while we have offices they aren’t assigned to specific people. This coworker couldn’t remember her passwords, refused to write any process down for later reference, tried to do the exact same thing for every department, and would try to login to the computer without typing her id…like just used the fact that the picture was the orange flower and couldn’t figure out why her password wouldn’t work. The list goes on but the crux came when units started refusing to work with her (she has a very distinctive voice) and would hold for someone else or call multiple times until someone else answered. It was bad and other coworkers wanted her fired (she really was super nice just really inept) and I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable for her but after looking at our concerns (and my boss likes concrete examples, not just so and so sucks) our boss worked with her for another day or so and then a position opened up in another department where this lady is actually a rock star. She has an assigned desk so can just lock her computer and only worries about a single departments needs so the job stays very consistent for her. I know normally just moving a “problem” employee is horrible but this turned out to be one of the few instances (at least I don’t feel like it happens all that often) where it worked out for everyone.

    1. OP*

      That’s awesome! It’s great when someone is recognized as not a good fit and another position they do fit can be found!

  31. Temporarily anon*

    We had a situation a few months ago where an employee was rude to a job candidate. I wasn’t present, but apparently it was pretty bad. The applicant asked the hiring manager about it, and several other people reported. Action was swift and clear. HR and admin were looped in. The candidate received a sincere apology. The employee was spoken to, and told that she could absolutely not ever do that again. No excuses. No hand-waving. No shying away from conflict. My previous workplace had a lot of problems with looking the other the other way in these kinds of situations, so I was impressed to see the right things happen.

  32. Allison*

    on my very first day at a new job my manager sat me down and asked me how she could help me develop and what parts of the role I was most interested in. I was absolutely flabberghasted having just come out of a very dysfunctional and explicitly unsupportive workplace (ie “you can take this course/experience/etc but don’t expect to come back here and be able to ask for a reclassification to a higher pay grade”). Since then she has continued to be great – direct, available for feedback and my personal favorite – wonderful at advocating for me and setting boundaries with other teams about the work I can do for them ie “I don’t think that is a valuable use of A’s time”. It’s kept me working mostly on higher value work that is a lot more satisfying as opposed to smaller admin tasks that technically don’t need to be outsourced to me.

    1. Manders*

      Yes! After working for small family businesses where no one moved up unless they were part of the family, I moved to a job in a pretty small niche. I think my current boss cares about my career development not just because he’s a good boss, but because there’s a very good chance that even if we don’t stay at this company we’ll run into each other again in the future. I still have to do my fair share of tasks that are boring but valuable, but I don’t feel like I’m being stuck with the worst work or that I’m failing to progress.

  33. Great boss*

    In my previous position, I supported three different teams within the same section of a government office. While one team was my main focus and my supervisor was the manager of that team, the work fluctuated seasonally on each team and my hours and priorities would have to shift a bit depending on which team needed more of my time and effort. My manager was hugely supportive during these fluctuations. He understood that my favorite work and Moran important contributions were on his team, but when I had to shift my schedule and efforts to other teams, he checked in with me weekly to ensure that my workload for him was balanced and I was meeting expectations and goals across all of my areas. He redistributed projects and responsibilities to my teammates, and spoke up for me with other managers if I wasn’t getting that help in other areas through my own advocacy. I was so much more productive in all areas because of his proactive support. I was so sad to leave that job when I moved for my husband’s job. That boss will be my standard for many years to come for these and many other reasons.

  34. Not Australian*

    Only one relatively minor example springs to mind. I worked in an office where to a certain extent I could set my own hours, and being a ‘morning’ person I used to arrive long before the people I shared a space with – and thus I would also leave before them. Of course they asked me why I was leaving early, and I told them – but they didn’t believe me. They reported me to the boss as ‘sneaking out early every day’. The boss asked around and was told that other members of the department had seen me arriving early on a regular basis, but that wasn’t enough for my co-workers; they insisted on having my work output checked. Therefore for a month every piece of work that crossed all our desks was tallied. (These were regular routine tasks and so easily quantified.) During the month my co-workers spent a lot of time chatting about TV, social lives etc., whereas I just kept going at my usual pace and did my best to ignore them. At the end, our boss just came in and said he didn’t want to hear any more about me not doing my share – although my co-workers tried to accuse me of somehow cheating the test by doing more work than them. (No, I didn’t understand that either.) Management was pretty good, but the other workers were toxic; I was glad to be able to leave them, and never once looked back.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t think that’s minor at all! I’m glad your boss had your back (and also glad you got out of there since your coworkers clearly sucked).

      1. Techworker*

        I’m glad this worked out for you, but to be honest I would have felt a bit unimpressed by being asked to prove my output (not to a boss, which is fine, but to coworkers). Sorta feels like if the manager/company has no complaints with your hours or output then your colleagues opinions shouldn’t really get a look in.

  35. Seacalliope*

    Recently, I felt highly stressed at my workplace. A very important project had rolled out poorly and I was one of the people who was dealing with the aftermath in terms of customer service and troubleshooting. I was also under stress from my personal life as I was in the process of buying a house. My grandboss noticed I was stressed and took me aside to talk. Our conversation was pretty brief and casual, just touching base on the work concerns, assuring me that my quality of work was still very high, telling me to advocate for myself, and taking my opinions about how the troubleshooting was going seriously, while also taking into account the current personal life concerns. At the end, felt buoyed by my boss’s support and like my workplace is one where we work through problems instead of letting them fester.

  36. Res Admin*

    Current boss gets a LOT of heat for hiring slowly. She would rather take her time and hire the right fit–from the lowest staff on up–than hire quickly and have the person not work out. Esp. faculty. This is academia–if you get the wrong fit for a tenure track position, it can really ruin someone’s reputation and career. Consequently, we have great faculty. Smart, caring, well-rounded–they care about their students and their research and work well together for the good of all.

    Same boss will tell you immediately if she sees something that she wants changed/corrected/stopped–she will tell you what and why. Help you work through to a solution. And that’s it. No grudges. The only reminders might be a compliment on improvement or a nudge back towards the agreed upon solution. (My previous boss would suddenly decide she didn’t like someone, never tell them why, and just make their life a living hell forever).

  37. anonforthis*

    I wouldn’t necessarily say my workplace is a perfect paragon of functionality, but I can cite one tough situation that was very well handled by organizational leadership. Due to an extreme level of political dysfunction in our state, our agency was at risk of temporarily losing funding through no fault of our own. Our agency leadership was extremely transparent throughout a months-long process that led to an 11th hour solution to keep our doors open until the political crisis blew over. I hadn’t been working there very long at the time and was panicked about covering moving expenses and loans and such if we were all furloughed. The way they handled it made a really stressful time much easier, and kept crazy rumors from spreading.

    1. anonforthis*

      Oh! and I’ve now been lucky enough to work for two different organizations where people felt comfortable to give months notice before leaving in situations where that was possible (ex: going to grad school), because it was clear that you wouldn’t get pushed out early and people wanted to give their team plenty of time to find replacements/plan for handling future work.

  38. Teapot Tester*

    My workplace is great about handling underperforming employees. In the 3 years I’ve been here we’ve had two developers who were on PIPs not turn things around and were fired and 2 contractors who were fired as well without PIPs because of personality conflicts with their peers and/or not picking up the software quickly enough.

  39. Rey*

    I think how companies manage payroll mistakes (and paying employees in general) can be a huge indicator of good functioning. Sometimes managers act like their employees are so committed to the *important cause* that they would do it for free (and I think this mindset usually comes up with employees who aren’t that high in their organizations, and thus aren’t receiving high wages in the first place and each paycheck has a huge impact. No one would assume that a CEO or COO would tolerate this because *commitment and loyalty*.) When I brought a timecard mistake (that I made) to my boss and explained that about 25% of my paycheck would not be paid until the next payday in two weeks, he didn’t hesitate to call payroll and work with them to issue it immediately. I didn’t have to do any legwork besides talking to him, and payroll handled it as soon as they had the go ahead. I’ve heard of people having to follow complicated processes to get corrections even when it’s the companies fault and I think that’s total garbage especially considering the number of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck.

    1. Observer*

      Oh, yes! We have some fairly annoying and (some would say) nit-picky requirements about payroll and the like. But, in the past, if payroll was wrong a manual check was cut outside of the payroll system and then Payroll / Fiscal got it sorted out so everything was documented properly and squared away. This absolutely came from the top- I do recall one occasion where the payroll person was being a bit lackadaisical about the matter, and the Controller just totally over-rode that. “Payroll MUST be paid ON TIME” was a bit of a mantra.

  40. Zin*

    I do Consultant work (by choice and which I love) so I frequently find myself working for/with the same companies. At Questionable Teapot Designs, there’s a lot of issues. Generally stemming from Management down.

    At Ethically Competent Teapot Designs, people are fired when needed, the Management is genuine but not creepily over intrusive, I am almost completely self directed because I’m an Adult and am treated like one and people are unfailingly polite. On the occasions I space something, it’s pointed out, I correct it and take note to try and keep it from happening again and we all move on.

    I think the thing about this question is that you’ll find most functional companies are all functional in much the same ways so it’s hard to pull out a specific example of competency. Incompetent or toxic companies often have weirdly specific ways they’re dysfunctional which results in incredibly glaring stories.

    I know when I asked my husband he says “Oh that’s easy. At one you come home drawn, tired and with dark circles under your eyes. The other you come home and have dinner and talk about the neighbors new fence. That’s the difference.”

    I usually only go in for meetings, the rest of my life of spent out of the office. But he’s right.

  41. Naptime Enthusiast*

    Our department execs will have small meetings with us worker bees (3+ levels difference) to let us ask questions. They are very up front in their responses and say “this is what I know to be true – if you’ve heard otherwise let’s talk about it”. I once brought up a rumor about a very niche group’s manager retiring soon. All of his direct reports knew it was happening; it was just a question of when. Apparently this pushed them to come up with a backup plan so the group wouldn’t be left floundering. They also are happy to discuss concerns about projects, staffing, industry issues, whathaveyou. They have great attitudes about the questions and will “tease” me in a very good-natured way because I’m not afraid to bring up tough topics.

    My direct managers have always been good, with some of course better than others but I’ve not had a “bad manager” in the 6 I’ve worked for. My current manager pushed for me to be certified in a certain area, which is not only good for the team but also good for my career growth. He also has talked to me about my career aspirations and has told me flat out “if your goal is X, there’s unfortunately not a lot available on this team, so we would look to move you to another role. I don’t want to lose you of course, but if that’s what you want to do then we’ll do what we can to make it happen.”

    There are very clear succession plans for when somebody is promoted or out of the office, we all know exactly who is next in the chain of command and there’s almost always someone to back us each up so we’re not bothered on vacation. When I’ve traveled on weekends for work, I’ve been given a day off at my choosing to make up for my time lost. If my work doesn’t get done, we talk about it and if it’s that I’m overworked (we all are), we reprioritize. My management recognizes us for working hard with verbal appreciation regularly, and will usually give us monetary awards at the end of particularly tough projects.

  42. De Minimis*

    My two previous workplaces were pretty good about leave. You weren’t made to feel like you were doing something wrong for taking leave, and you got a good amount to where it was possible to take some time off and recharge.

    I’ll also always remember a manager at one of my most dysfunctional workplaces—upper management was applying all sorts of new metrics to us and I guess giving him a hard time about it, but he told us to just worry about meeting the regular production deadlines we had for each day and that he would handle everything else.

  43. LT*

    I’ve worked in lots of environments, including three restaurants, which are notoriously dysfunctional. But, one of them was the best place I ever worked. At Good Restaurant, the owner and manager were very careful and deliberate about hiring, resulting in a staff that was hardworking and friendly. When someone was sick or had a family emergency they went out of their way to find coverage–at other places, its usually a “if you don’t show, you’re fired” situation. They trusted us enough to give discounts or comp food if the customer was unhappy, without having to search for them or beg. They gave a free meal during every shift and a free drink after. They closed on major holidays so people could spend time with family. Overall, they treated everyone in the front and back of house with way more respect than anyone was used to, and that resulted in a staff with low-turnover (plus, happier customers!).

  44. SarahKay*

    Not long after I’d first become a manager (working in retail) I asked my manager if he’d mind if I left an hour early as I needed to do x (can’t now remember what x was was).
    “No, SarahKay, you don’t ask me questions like that!” was his response.
    ‘Oh’, I thought, somewhat taken aback.
    Then he followed up with “We’re all adults on this team; I know you do a good job and I trust you. If you need to leave early you don’t ask me, you tell me.”

    This totally reset my expectations of how to behave, from being a retail worker to being part of an ‘adult’ team where people were trusted to manage themselves.

    1. Meredith Brooks*

      So interesting. My first boss literally told me the exact opposite thing and nearly 15 years later I STILL have a hard time asking for time off. Amazing how a small example of good bossery can have such a big impact (as opposed to bad bossery… at least my direct reports will never be reprimanded for telling me when they need time off)!

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I’ve been asked via email to approve team members leave lately. These are not full time team members but they split their work between teams. It makes me feel weird since it would be a super odd situation where I would tell them “no.” I was tempted to tell the employee that they do not have to ask me; they can just tell me, but I decided to just happily approve the request and not make it weird for anyone.

      1. Meredith Brooks*

        My current boss has told me I shouldn’t ask for time off, to just let her know in advance so she can make sure if doesn’t conflict with anything, which she acknowledged would be a rare instance (and has yet to happen). Still I usually walk the grey line and say that I’m planning to take X time off, so there’s wiggle room for both of us.

  45. mostlymanaged*

    I think the easiest way to talk about a functional workplace is probably to compare it to a nonfunctional one– at least in my case, I only realized just how dysfunctional the workplace I’d been in was once I’d moved.
    My dysfunctional workplace once fired a woman over a typo, explicitly without any sort of PIP or write up– she was fired for the mistake. My functional workplace responds to mistakes by ensuring that there are different processes in place to catch the mistake, having one on one conversations with the person who made the mistake, and working with employees to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again.
    My dysfunctional workplace fired people as soon as they caught wind that person was job searching. My more functional workplace allows people long periods of job searching with no retaliation from management, and even support finding new jobs– this is a job where people can use their current managers as references when job hunting.
    My dysfunctional workplace had no feedback between management and lower level employees. There was no real feedback, and even on annual reviews, the feedback was kept vague (often because then they could point to a vague note as a pretense to fire folks.) My more functional workplace has a common culture of weekly one on ones and consistent feedback, with clear ways to move forward and up in the structure, and clear goals to work towards.
    My dysfunctional workplace had a turnover rate of more than three people a month in a 8 person office. My functional workplace has a turnover rate of 3 or 4 people a year in 60+ person office.
    My dysfunctional workplace didn’t trust employees, including bag checks (which I’m pretty sure aren’t actually legal?), security cameras all over the office (explicitly to keep an eye on employees), computer monitoring and random checks to ‘make sure you were working’, no headphones in at work, etc. My more functional workplace doesn’t mind what you do as long as you get your work done and don’t do anything that is work inappropriate– AKA we are treated like _adults_.
    My dysfunctional workplace had an abusive CEO who called people “idiots” to their face. My more functional workplace has a CEO who’s blunt but consistently gives both compliments and critiques, and never personally insults people. It’s incredible that I consider that a high bar.

    There’s a ton more. Working in a dysfunctional workplace ingrained me with habits that it’s taken almost three years in a functional workplace to undo. Basically, I would define a functional workplace as one where employees are treated like adults, given transparency, and respected (though… maybe this is all too low a bar.)

  46. cactus lady*

    At a previous job, I had a supervisor who was behaving REALLY inappropriately in a number of different ways. I tried to let it go for a long time, but finally spoke up when she denied my coworker time off to go to jury duty, saying “they’ll never know if you don’t show up” (yes really). After that, her wrath kind of focused solely on me. I ended up going to her boss about it, who was really supportive and awesome, but also shocked that this kind of thing was going on. She encouraged me to file a formal complaint, and they offered to promote me and move me to a different area of the department so I didn’t have to work with this person anymore. I ended up taking a job with a different department (and they were super understanding of why I didn’t want to stay). Later I heard that my former supervisor was demoted and lost her supervisory role. People blamed me for “ruining her career” but… maybe don’t behave inappropriately if you don’t want to face the consequences??

    1. Rob aka Mediancat*

      Fairly sure you can’t (in general, I’m sure there are exceptions) deny people time off for jury duty, anyway.

      1. zora*

        Yep, this is one of the rare “No, that’s not legal” times. Most states have laws that employers cannot fire or penalize someone for taking time off to attend jury duty. They might not be required to pay people for that time off, but telling someone they can’t leave to attend jury duty is pretty likely to be illegal.

      2. cactus lady*

        Oh that was the best part! That’s what I pointed out (they will issue a bench warrant for your arrest) and her reply was, “well my boyfriend is a deputy sheriff and he says that’s not true”. It was completely ridiculous!

        That company was a great place to work minus this lady.

  47. Mazzy*

    I can tell my boss the real reason why something is screwed up without having to be too political. In other words, if someone screws up multiple times, we discuss the person, unlike big corporation where we’d add large, cumbersome processes to deal with something that was never an issue before a blatantly bad employee showed up

  48. Liet-Kinda (nee Snark)*

    Just a little thing: I felt like hammered garbage yesterday afternoon . Boss asked me if I was ok, then said, “hey, just head home. It’s 2:30, we have things handled, go take a nap.” Went home, took a bunch of ibuprofin and allergy meds and chugged gatorade, fell asleep for 10 hours, felt like a new man, returned to work this morning clearheaded and feeling good.

  49. Lily Rowan*

    I worked in a functional department of a pretty dysfunctional organization. When someone quite senior went to my boss with unreasonable complaints against me, my boss and her boss assured me that everyone knew it was unreasonable, I was doing a good job, etc. The unreasonable complainer was eventually “promoted” out of management.

  50. Capt. Dunkirk*

    A small example from my retail days: The corporate office was really into setting high, nearly (and sometimes actually) un-achievable sales goals for us at the store level. Sometimes they would have sales competitions between stores in a district to see who could get the most sales on whatever the chosen product or service was that month, but the awarded prize only went to the manager of the store, not the employees.
    Fortunately the store I worked at had a great manager who realized the imbalance of who was doing the work and who was getting the reward. To make up for it, he set a box in the back room and told us to pick any item from the store (up to $50) that we would like to have and put it in the box with our name on it. If our store won the sales competition, he would buy all of us our selected items out of the bonus he received for winning. We all worked hard and won!

    We later found out that the cost of buying us all those items for us used up more than 70% of what he had won. But he understood that it was better in the long run to have happy productive employees than to win a bigger chunk of money one time. I really liked working for him.

  51. RabbitRabbit*

    My current team is great. My worst complaint is that we’ve had maybe 3-4 lunches go missing from the fridge in the last year; we think it’s security or housekeeping.

    My previous position’s manager knew of my interest in the field of the division that I’m now working in (same department, different division), so when a position opened up in the division, she let me know that they’d posted a job. I thanked her sincerely. She went to bat with her boss and grandboss, saying to not object to my transfer or they’d lose a lot of institutional knowledge because I’d go elsewhere.

    My last boss in my current position told me she’d considered it one of her last great achievements to get me on her team prior to her retirement; I got to work with her for about a year.

    My current boss told our team early on that our division has pretty much one of the highest engagement scores in the whole institution (over 8000 employees) and she’s worried that she has nowhere to go but down.

    New boss listens to our feedback and implements suggestions. Old boss had a “someone has to be on until 5, rotating schedule” policy. New boss listened to our feedback and said that we could cancel that unless she gets complaints, then we’d have to re-evaluate. We’ve been off that policy for months now. We have other work-flex options that we didn’t have before, like occasional work-from-home and half-days.

    Need to take a day or a week off? Arrange coverage of your workflow with a colleague and then send the notification to manager and boss that you will be taking the time off.

    Free coffee/tea/hot cocoa. Lots of catered-in lunches for meetings, even if they’re not over the lunch hour.

  52. sbs*

    When my team had an underperforming team member (3 separate times with three separate people) we…:
    1. put her on a PIP and let her go when she couldn’t meet expectations
    2. put him on a PIP, took him off when his performance got better, fired him a few months later when it slipped again
    3. put her on a PIP, took her off a month later when her performance got way better. Still too early to see if this will end badly.

    When I (a manager) raised my voice to a team member I was managing (for the first time):
    My manager shot me a warning look, booked a conference room 10 minutes later, and had a firm honest conversation with me about how that was wildly inappropriate, how it absolutely couldn’t happen again, and helped me consider better ways to approach a situation where a subordinate makes a mistake without getting mad. I honestly don’t know if that manager remembers that conversation (because it never happened again) but I remember it vividly and it was formative.

  53. Jane L*

    I have a decent example. I was harassed by a security guard at work–nothing physical, more a very inappropriate comment, but it made me uncomfortable, as I work late and it made me feel unsafe. I agonised about telling anyone because I felt guilty, plus it didn’t seem serious enough. When I told my line manager, having been prompted by a colleague I had confided in, he was immediately supportive. HR were great, too, taking it completely seriously and escalating it, with my permission, to the head of security. He was also fully supportive. The man in question had actually been fired on a separate matter earlier that day, but it was good to have my complaint upheld and believed, and dealt with quickly and sensitively. It’s so important to have a good HR structure in place

    1. Nita*

      Yeah. We’ve had some problems with staff being harassed or made uncomfortable by contractors – it wasn’t at the level where they would get fired over it, but HR was very clear that if someone is making you uncomfortable, you can get reassigned, and management will talk to the offender’s boss and make sure they’re aware and trying to put a stop to the behavior.

  54. caryatis*

    Sick leave. “Are you sure you really need leave now?” vs. “Yes, of course, take all the time you need, hope you feel better!”

    Of course, you’ve got to have quality, conscientious people to maintain the latter attitude. Sometimes a terrible place to work is terrible because people work there who can’t find anywhere else and who can’t be trusted with kind, lenient management.

    1. Weyrwoman*

      I think with this one it’s also important to note that the second quote is genuine! In a dysfunctional workplace, sometimes they will say “take all the time you need” but then text or call you every day asking how long until you’re back.

  55. Ancient blue haired lady*

    I work for a family business (although it is not my family) so it’s not exactly what I would describe as “functional,” but we have our moments.
    I was working on a project that had no requirements documented and no real project manager who was in charge, just a teapot designer who knew all of the information I needed. I would try to do my job in teapot testing but ended up with a lot of questions, so I would work on a section, then send the teapot designer questions before I reported any bugs. The teapot designer is known to have badmouthed many of our coworkers and actually quit years and years ago, but decided to come back for this one project and they were playing nicely at first, but then turned on me and my team. Instead of taking our feedback and answering our questions, we got an e-mail that chided us for asking questions and said we were bullying someone who had helped come up with the design. None of that was true. The teapot designer stopped answering my valid e-mails about when things would be ready for me to test and I went to my boss about it. I mentioned that I don’t have any issues with anyone else on my team, just this one person who will not respond to me, and that other people were also having issues with them. My boss took my feedback, asked some other people to corroborate, and then kicked the teapot designer off the project completely (although I hear that they are working on another short term project for someone else)

  56. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    Hmm… This is a hard question, mostly because you usually don’t notice when things work well as much as you do when they don’t.

    A couple of examples:
    – It hasn’t happened often (thank goodness) but there’s an unwritten rule that everyone looks the other way when it comes to terminally ill employees. Basically they work* as long as they want to before going on STD/LTD.

    -I’ve seen and been a part of (from the investigation side) sexual harassment allegations that were taken seriously and been fair. Of the two I’ve been involved in, one person was found to have committed the act they were accused of and disciplined the other was cleared from it – the one that the manager was cleared seemed to be a last grasp attempt to save the job of the accuser, who was a train wreck (her list of transgressions included being black out drunk at two separate customer functions, a cover up of evidence in the SH investigation which included getting IT to delete emails off the server for her, and not actually doing her job)

    -We’ve have had a fair amount of higher level people be fired for shady shenanigans

    -We appear to have more merit advancement than political -this one’s a little hard to gauge but most people who have advanced are competent and effective in their positions.

    -We have what I consider an appropriate burden of proof to achieve before someone can be fired. It sometimes is too slow and allows for a problem employee to remain longer than they should.

    -People are trained before participating in interviews. This gives them the overview of questions they should and shouldn’t be asking (even some of the more obscure questions that you wouldn’t think could lead to problems).

    -And lastly I’ve never been pressured to ‘do the wrong thing’. I feel like I can speak up when something isn’t right and can reach out to different groups (Legal, HR, and our Ethics officers) if I have a question or concern. I’ve reached out to 2 of the 3 on that list.

    *And by work, their job transitions into do what you can and document what you can from home when you can with zero expectation that anything actually gets done.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I really like the idea of interview training. I may suggest it in our team’s next status meeting. My company has won several new contracts and we will be hiring in the next year.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Honestly I was sort of shocked and impressed when I was invited to it. (Although I’d been a hiring manager for about 10 years by this point). I will admit that I learned something. I think it was about not asking questions about hobbies or something (not that I do on as a general rule) because it could lead to information that I could potentially discriminate based on… Like if I ask someone what they do on their weekends and they tell me about their church activities or their volunteer work at the over 55 community they live at.

        Most of it was the common sense things that unfortunately aren’t all that common sense. It also had some parts in there about how to ask questions to get relevant answers like asking a scenario based question and asking ‘how do you use X tool’ vs ‘Do you know how to use X tool’ to get a feel for skill level.

  57. Schnoodle HRM*

    I went from a workplace where I was constantly harassed, written up for pumping milk for my child, and where a Queen Bee who was a miserable person ruled the kingdom for no reason anyone can understand. The workplace ran off so many admin assistants, it should be a world record holder. There is daily yelling, an owner likes to put his finger in your face and pound on his desk, you can breath wrong and be “talked to” about it.

    I’m now at a place where I got a kidney stone and my boss offered to drive me to the hospital (I had been at the job maybe a month too). No yelling, everyone working for a common cause. They have their quirks but overall is a great positive place to work.

    I had a kidney stone at ToxicJob, and I won’t go into details, but let’s just say noone offered to take me to the hospital.

  58. Nita*

    I think my workplace is pretty functional. It’s not perfect, but management listens and tries to fix things that are not going well. They’re not always able, but they try. And HR is very on top of things, we can go to them with small issues (and they don’t make a mountain out of a molehill) or big ones.

    1. Nita*

      Oh, and sharing knowledge and asking questions are encouraged. We’ve had some problems with staff not getting enough training, but are working them out. And there is a definite upward track for people who do good work – although first one has to get through the really hard entry-level stuff (physical work in any weather, sometimes odd hours, workload can be too high though we keep trying to hire enough people to spread it out more).

  59. Juli G.*

    My boss left. I started reporting to the director, for what was likely to be 6 months. She gave me my performance review, which was one of the higher ones. I said I was pleased but I was looking for more of a salary bump than what I got with the review or a promotion. She said she wanted to evaluate my performance more closely for a few months to see if I was properly leveled and should just make more money as someone with longevity in the role or if I should be promoted.

    A few months later, I got a promotion.

  60. S*

    Early, early in my career, I had a situation at a company party where someone made me feel pretty uncomfortable – inappropriate comments, invading my space, etc. The next day, I went to my boss (tall, imposing Navy vet) to ask him how I should handle those types of situations. He said, “That is unacceptable, under any circumstances. If that ever happens again, you get yourself out of the situation as quickly as possible – don’t worry about seeming rude – and you come find me. I’ll give that person a piece of my mind.” It never happened again, but just knowing he had my back meant so much to me!

    1. Lisa B*

      Love that- one of the best pieces of advice I got from my manager, and a point I now make sure to share with all my new staff, is that NOBODY has the right to behave rudely to you. My profession often has uncomfortable conversations with high up people, but they should be conducted professionally and cordially. Client gets up in your face, swears, starts yelling? Tell them politely you will need to reschedule and leave. Call me immediately so I know it happened, but I’m behind you all the way.

  61. ACS*

    I am fortunate to work in a highly functional setting, so there are many things I could say, but I’ll focus on only a few.
    1) My boss is a true mentor to all who report to him. He’s always looking out for professional development opportunities for us, and connecting us to people who can support our work and help us develop new skills.
    2) Feedback comes regularly, and is both positive and constructive. We have bi-weekly meetings with our boss, so there are consistent goals being set and nothing ever comes as a surprise.
    3) No one is nit-picky about time – we have full authority to manage our responsibilities and time spent in the office/time off. I would say this falls under the larger category of “being treated like an adult”.
    4) Work/life balance: I once came into work directly after getting off of a red-eye flight returning from a vacation, and everyone was shocked to see me in the office. My boss even asked why I came in to work that day. I didn’t want to waste a vacation day, but he told me not to worry about it.
    5) All of us in the office like and respect each other, but maintain professional boundaries

  62. Elle*

    I work in a male dominated industry and was given the chance to work for a woman a few years ago. I was a little nervous because these things can go either way, but this woman taught me SO MUCH about working in the industry! I had a tendency to be very ‘default aggressive’ in my communication, something I probably picked up from the chest beating men at my old job.

    If she noticed me behaving/communicating in a way that wasn’t conducive to achieving my goal, she’d pow wow with me and explain how she’d have handled it differently if she were in my shoes, always in a non judgmental way. We also had to interface with a few guys who were weird about working with females, and she helped me sort through a strategy ahead of time and was always there to back me up if I needed it.

  63. Mbarr*

    During a Friday phone meeting, a senior person started yelling and screaming at the people on the call. This was not the norm for our workplace. My friend and our manager were on that call.

    That weekend, our manager spent his time reading up on how to deal with difficult managers in the future, figuring out strategies in case it happened again. He also lodged a complaint with HR. The company forced the manager to apologize and put him in anger management sessions.

    I absolutely loved my manager. He would always go above and beyond to support us!

  64. DouDouPaille*

    Two examples. #1: I worked for a destination marketing company where 99% of the employees were professional, smart, courteous and conscientious. Except ONE guy who was a lazy slacker: he watched non-work related videos at his desk all day, ate smelly food at his desk, cracked his gum loudly, and blatantly hit on women in the office during work hours. Various employees complained to him directly, and to his manager. Apparently HR was carefully documenting all this, because one afternoon a few months later they came by his desk, told him he was fired, and escorted him out of the building. That was the best day EVER, and an example of how it IS possible to sensibly fire someone who is a thorn in the side of everyone else.
    #2: At a different company a culture had developed where people had gotten weirdly aggressive about tone-policing emails. Using the standard, neutral “can you get that report to me by 5pm” would be interpreted as pushy or rude. If you weren’t obsequiously polite with lots of smiley faces and phrases like “if you don’t mind”, “would it be too much trouble to ask” or “Just wondering if you could…” then the recipient would assume you were being bossy or harsh (rather than simply straightforward). Despite push-back by many department heads and managers to try to encourage staff to be less sensitive, it persisted. Needless to say I was shocked when the CEO of the company actually addressed this in his annual company-wide town hall meeting. He said something to the effect of “it is the recipient’s responsibility to assume the sender of an email has only the best of intentions (unless there is some clearly offensive language). It is not the sender’s responsibility to try to anticipate every single recipient’s reaction.” I don’t know if this actually changed the company culture or not because I left shortly thereafter, but it was great to see an example of leading from the top, even on a relatively “small” issue such as this.

    1. JeanB in NC*

      it is the recipient’s responsibility to assume the sender of an email has only the best of intentions (unless there is some clearly offensive language). It is not the sender’s responsibility to try to anticipate every single recipient’s reaction.

      I love that so much. I have had many a problem working in NC and TX because I’m direct and straightforward in my emils, and I would have loved for someone to have my back for that.

  65. Lisa B*

    I was leading a meeting that involved many people, including my boss. One person had been taking a LOT of time covering some backstory, and I was getting nervous we wouldn’t get to the rest of the agenda. I gently (I thought) nudged us along. Later that same afternoon my boss suggested that I “motor down” in meetings. After he left, I still wasn’t entirely clear what he meant by that, so I added it as an agenda item to our standing weekly update. He clarified, and I explained what I was intending but realized it could have come across too aggressive. He saw where *I* was coming from, and gave me better suggestions for next time. Ta da!

    1. twig*

      so what does “motor down” mean in this context?

      that phrase connotes speeding up/speeding through to me…

      1. Lisa B*

        That he thought I was being a bit pushy and had cut them off too abruptly. He likened it to “the hook” when an awards winner was going too long, rather than subtly dimming the lights. :)

  66. Blue Anne*

    Small thing at current workplace: one of my conditions to take the job was that I’m allowed to dye my hair, get piercings, whatever. Very soon after I dyed my hair bright pink I got sent out to a client site for a couple days (and it went great). Someone in the company put in a comment through our anonymous online suggestion box that people with pink hair should not be sent out to represent the company. My boss showed me the comment, but said “screw em, that’s ridiculous”. :)

    I’ve been very lucky with mental health issues in the workplace too. At my first job out of college, my mental health got absolutely terrible. I had a good manager so I went to her and told her what I was dealing with. She asked what she could do, and we arranged for me to work from home one day a week while I was adjusting to meds, getting into therapy etc. I could pick the day depending on how I was feeling that week. It was so useful. She was a great manager.

    When I left that workplace, I went to a Big 4 firm which was a ton of pressure. After I’d accepted the offer part of the due diligence stuff they did was a health screen (this was in the UK…don’t think it would happen in US), and I let them know about my anxiety diagnosis and what nights I wouldn’t be able to work late because of therapy. Unfortunately about a year in it started getting really bad, that high flying corporate stuff while doing accountancy exams is not my thing. I spoke with my team manager about it and she was so understanding. She pointed me towards the EAP, got me on more assignments that were in my home city, she had a company doctor checking in with me once a month who got me a couple days off, recommended a new medication which was very helpful, and got me an occupational health assessment, which showed mild dyslexia and dyspraxia so I got extra time on the CPA-equivalent exams. Unfortunately for other reasons I ended up just really needing to leave the company. She was definitely shocked when I told her (NO ONE leaves these Big 4 graduate programs early of their own volition, it’s such a good professional opportunity), but spoke with HR and arranged for me to not have to pay back any of my training fees, which would have been thousands of pounds I couldn’t afford.

    Really wonderful. Unfortunately the real issue was an abusive husband, which was completely outside her control. I should send her a nice message on linkedin.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I intentionally pulled my hair up to show off my blue undercolor when I interviewed for this job to set the precedent.

      I hope that husband is out of your life, and I’m so glad you were able to access such great support.

  67. Duck Duck Goose*

    I’ve been at my current job for just over 8 months and I’m still getting used to how functional it is compared to Old Job I was at for 1.5 years before this one (and was also my first Real Job). I had never taken a day off at Old Job (despite my manager, the only other person in my office, constantly being late or being absent for hours at a time during the day). Then I asked for one day off to go to my grandfather’s funeral and I was still asked to come in for an hour or two during the morning to complete payroll (which my manager knew how to do without me)!

    At my current job, I feel absolutely no pressure taking days off every now and then and in fact, was able to take three days off to see my best friend get her master’s degree out of state after only working here for three months. Knowing that the people I work with actually care about me and respect my time and efforts is enormous.

    (Separate story about how dysfunctional Old Job was: my manager was the owner’s cousin, the owner’s stepdaughter was the manager of the corporate office, and all three of them got caught committing blatant perjury after they tried suing a previous franchise owner. This led to an ENORMOUS decrease in business for us as our clients found out which the owner then blamed on my office. I came back from our Christmas days off on Wednesday and was told I was getting let go that Friday and that I had to help pack up the entire office in addition to my regular work by that date as he didn’t want to pay rent in January. Crazy.)

  68. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    I work for a small Teapot company as a low-level Project Manager, and my background includes project management but not Teapots specifically.

    Since day one, PMs and directors above me invested time in me to figure out where our knowledge gaps are and figure out how to bridge them. I’ve been here over a year and they still check in sometimes to make sure that I’m using my knowledge to full potential and explain either how Teapots work or point me to resources where I can learn more about them. Knowing how busy everyone is with their own work, this time investment in me is more than appreciated and is the biggest reason I feel comfortable here.

  69. ArtsNerd*

    My philosophy is that every workplace is some kind of dysfunctional (and certain fields tend to attract specific types and levels of dysfunction.) You just have to find the dysfunction that works for you.

    My current employer is fantastic in so many ways. Not perfect–oh boy are they imperfect–but they get many of the big things right.

    “Work-life balance” is WAY more than just lip-service. I had some serious health issues this year and barely worked at all in the month of June. When I came back, the staff was happy to see me and didn’t pile on stress, which was a new experience for me. I jumped from burnout job to burnout job almost my entire career before now. It’s clear that our Executive Director did the same, and he’s having no more of it.

    There are few opportunities for advancement in terms of promotions (small staff with low turnover) but our ED is always encouraging us to expand our skillsets and find ways to reduce the tedious work so we can sink our teeth into interesting projects of our own choosing. I’m interested in eventually leading either this org or a similar one, and my boss has offered to sit down and go over the entire organization’s finances so I can understand better how the big picture works, in addition to turning my responsibilities toward some of the areas I’d need more experience in, such as fundraising and managing a (single) employee. My pay isn’t bad relative to the budget size of our little nonprofit arts org, and when we have a budget surplus, a certain amount goes into bonuses for the staff.

    This is the first job I’ve ever had where I wasn’t expected to work miracles in areas out of my control, where I had a boss who really pushed me to be better at my strengths as well as my weaknesses, where I don’t feel exploited or taken for granted.

    I’m impatient enough that my frustrations are a retention issue in the long term, but the positives of this workplace and the potential of the directions we could grow in are simply wonderful.

  70. Knitter*

    I think I’m in the middle of something good right now, to my great surprise.

    I’m new to my position and the position is new to the organization. I share some overlap with another staff person, who has many years experience. This staff person, Mary, is incredibly possessive of her work, can’t take feedback and likes to badmouth coworkers. We were chugging along decently and some issues. But things exploded when I asked a colleague for feedback on something I had created that overlapped with one of her responsibilities. She yelled at me upon seeing the document. She followed this up with an incredibly offensive email which she shared with our mutual supervisor. It has been the only thing in my 20 years of working that has made me cry about something work related.

    I thought our mutual supervisor was a pushover and wouldn’t stand up to her. However, when I had the opportunity to bring up the email and some other disrespectful behavior in a one on one, he listened. Today, he pulled me into a meeting with his boss. He said he wanted to make me feel more supported and that he could read between the lines of what I shared with him yesterday that maybe things were worse than I had shared. Which was accurate.

    They offered to mediate a discussion between me and my colleague, but I said that I would rather handle it on my own. Grand boss set a deadline for me to have the conversation, which I appreciated, so I could report out to boss. Boss has scheduled a meeting next week with all of us to work clarify work responsibilities, which is a major contributing factor.

    I’m still a little anxious on how her behavior will reflect on me. Even though I get along well with all the other staff I’ve interacted with, it doesn’t look good that I have to have a meeting with boss and grand boss in the first month of starting a new job about an interpersonal relationship.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      “I’m still a little anxious on how her behavior will reflect on me. Even though I get along well with all the other staff I’ve interacted with, it doesn’t look good that I have to have a meeting with boss and grand boss in the first month of starting a new job about an interpersonal relationship.”

      Or maybe they anticipated her behavior and wanted to nip it in the bud. I suspect this is the case, otherwise I think their reaction would be different.

        1. Knitter*

          I think the number of typos in my post are evidence of how much this is getting to me….

          Thanks for the feedback. You both are right and there are some things I can do better in this relationship.

          My last job was at a toxic workplace. It’s definitely taking time to recover. For example, my current boss scheduled a check-in at the end of the day on a Friday. My first thought was OMG he’s going to fire me because he wants to meet at the end of the day on a Friday (something my last workplace did to staff regularly). That was a long day. It was a normal check-in where I actually got some significant praise about the amount of work I had completed.

  71. cwethan*

    I keep rewriting a comment about good benefits, transparency, and compassion that basically boils down to this: at the best jobs I’ve had, management and admin treated staff like human beings worthy of a living wage, health insurance, recognition for their labor, and information about their own company.

    1. cwethan*

      I thought of an example!

      At Good Company, there was a change in our health insurance provider that ended up costing a *lot* more for a large majority of staff. This was announced at a company-wide meeting without much fanfare or discussion and afterwards staff felt blindsided and angry. Because this place had a culture of transparency and open communication, people went to the CFO and expressed how surprised and unhappy they were, and he — to his credit — sent an email to all employees apologizing for not handling the announcement better and proposing a follow-up meeting entirely about the healthcare changes and the reasons behind them. Friends, he showed up with an entire slide deck about company finances, the options the committee considered, and the longer-term plans for maintaining a certain standard of health care coverage for employees, making clear that the plan they went with was the best of many bad options.

      I was deeply impressed by his willingness to put himself in front of a room full of upset employees and tell us so much about the background to the decision. The insurance plan still wasn’t great, but it was so much easier to swallow knowing that the company actually took on some of the cost for us and that it could have been much worse.

  72. Mobuy*

    When I started my job (junior high teacher) I had just been diagnosed with cancer. About two months in, I needed to start radiation, which is daily. I live about 35 minutes from the hospital where I was being treated. I asked my principal if I could leave right after school for my appointments instead of waiting the contracted 45 minutes. This would be every day for six weeks. Before I could even finish my request, he was nodding and telling me that my health came first. I still have a (totally appropriate, platonic) principal crush on him.

  73. YarnOwl*

    I have a pretty good example for the “A supervisor was treating someone badly,” point.

    When I started my current job, my department had a Director who was a bit of a nightmare. We are still hearing new stories about people having to deal with her and she’s been gone for almost two years now. I think what it all came down to was that 1) she didn’t have the knowledge necessary to run our department, 2) she had no people skills, and 3) she couldn’t handle ever being wrong or anyone ever disagreeing with her.

    She made me and my coworkers’ lives at work hell. Honestly I’m having a hard time thinking of how to talk about all of the problems she caused without writing an entire novel here. She would go into project files and make changes without telling us (which usually included a lot of mistakes/bad information/content that was copied and pasted from the internet/etc.), she threw me and my team members under the bus when confronted about problems that she had caused, she butted heads with our salespeople constantly (even though our jobs all literally depend on salespeople wanting our help), if we ever disagreed with her she would trash us to other department members (like I once disagreed with her in an email but ultimately said that she was the manager and I’d do what she wanted, and she pulled my coworker into a conference room and told them she was thinking about firing me), and just generally made everything as difficult and frustrating as possible.

    One team member in particular, who has been at this company the longest, had had many discussions with HR and with the Director’s boss about problems they had with each other, and the problems were usually chalked up to personality differences.

    Finally, after a couple of particularly egregious incidents, me and one of my other team members had had enough and were both going to quit, but we wanted to find some way to salvage the situation. We knew that talking to the Director would not have helped anything and only given us more problems. So one day when I went into the Director’s boss’ office (the COO) to talk about something unrelated, I asked if we could chat about something, and he said yes. He is an extremely nice guy and has an open-door policy about everything.

    I laid out all of the things the Director had done, told him I couldn’t stay around because I was afraid for my job (as my coworker had recently told me about the Director wanting to fire me), and told him I loved everything else about working there and wanted to find some way to stay. He was absolutely horrified. He talked to two of my other team members (which made 3 out of 4 of us) about it and realized that there was a serious problem.

    The thing was, we had been so good at covering for all of the problems she caused and the mistakes she made that, from the outside, it looked like our department was doing just fine AND like any problems we had were basically our own incompetence, when in reality, 95% of the issues we had were a direct result of something she did. But once my two coworkers and I laid everything out for the Director’s boss, it became very clear that wasn’t the case.

    Two days later, I was working at my computer with my headphones on when the Director tapped me on the shoulder and told me she had just been fired. Just like that, she was gone.

    Now I know a functional organization isn’t going to fire someone every time a complaint is made, but they listened to me and my coworkers, and they realized that the situation was beyond salvaging. She had created so much bad blood with other departments and salespeople, she had worn us all down to the point of wanting to quit, and she had showed us all that she wasn’t interested in being a helpful or good manager. So they let her go, and almost immediately our team made a huge turnaround.

    I think in a functional organization, every employee is treated as someone who is important. My coworkers and I, we’re marketing professionals, graphic designers, and a writer, of which there is no shortage right now, and we could probably be replaced pretty easily. But the COO of the company never treated us like we were replaceable or unimportant. Through the whole situation, we were treated like valuable employees who deserved to be listened to, trusted, and taken care of.

    And that was definitely not an isolated incident of them treating employees like they’re valuable at this company. They have an employee who is assigned to clean and restock the kitchens and she’s paid for it. Our Christmas party is a fancy lunch during the day and then a half day off. We get summer and Christmas bonuses every year. I’ve been given a raise every year since I started. They pay for training and education for employees who want it. The executives are open, communicative, and honest with us and want to hear from us. They do fun team building things in a way that makes people want to participate and doesn’t punish people who don’t. In general, they treat us like we’re important and valuable.

    Okay, I’ve kind of written a novel anyway, but hopefully this is helpful for OP!

    1. Manders*

      Ah, this is great!

      I’m admittedly biased because I’m a marketer, but IMO the way a company sees its marketing department is a huge indicator of how functional it is overall. Companies that treat marketing like an afterthought, or ignore tense relationships between the marketing department and other departments, are setting themselves up for a huge mess.

  74. CRM*

    I had a great boss at my last job. Although I could list many of his strengths as a manager, one thing that I really appreciated was how reasonable he was about using PTO. He expected us to manage our own time, and good employees who kept up with their work earned the right to take time off as needed. He never contacted us or pressured us to do anything work related while we were out.

    One example: After about a year of working there I came down with a bad case of the flu, and I was out of the office for a whole week. My boss didn’t question it or even request a doctor’s note! I emailed him every morning to tell him I would be out, and by the third morning he said “No need to keep updating me, just come back to the office when you are feeling better”. When I returned I found that he took over some of my duties (with help from a couple of coworkers) so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with work when I returned. What a great boss!!

    1. CRM*

      Another example: I went on vacation for my birthday and was out of the office for a few days. My flight home was extremely delayed, and I ended up only getting 3 hours of sleep that night. I didn’t have any big deadlines coming up, so instead of going to in to work the next morning I decided to take another day off. My boss’s response: “Okay, see you tomorrow!”

  75. Tea Fish*

    I’m in a customer service/admin role, and me and the other customer service/admin staff are always covering for each other, supporting each other, and looking out for once another, even through we’re all operating out of different offices across the state. Our position requires coverage through the day, so when a team member asks for assistance, there’s almost always someone willing and able to pitch in and help each other, and the whole system works seamlessly, with no bad feelings and “I owe you” or “you’re not picking up enough slack” because we all have each others’ backs. Sometimes if one of us sees that the other has a jam packed day, we’ll even preemptively ask if they need a hand. There are things that don’t work perfectly (or even well) in my company, but this is one of the things I enjoy the most– the sense of camaraderie, knowing that I can trust my team members to support me and that I can support them in turn.

  76. Tammy*

    I was getting ready for a vacation a while back, and was giving my boss a brain-dump of all the stuff I knew about that was in flight, in case any of it might escalate to her while I was gone. (I’m a mid-level manager, so there were about 10 things on the list). At the end of the conversation, she looked at me and said, “OK, great. One more thing I want to be clear about: If I find out you’re checking email or answering your phone while you’re gone, I’m going to be very unhappy with you.” I looked at her for a second, super confused, and she said “Look. You need the time off to rest and recharge, and you’re not doing that if you’re checking email. And just as important, you need to demonstrate to your team that you trust them enough to handle things while you’re gone.”

    This is the same boss who, when I became a manager, told me “As a leader, you need to remember that from the second you walk into the building until the second you leave, people are watching you, and they’re taking your cues about how to react to stuff from you. If you’re ever in a place where you’ve got stuff going on or whatever, and you can’t put on that calm, professional game face and be present for your team, take a sick day and stay home.”

    My company is not perfect, by any means, but I work with and for some pretty great people.

  77. Lora*

    Functional Workplace A: There was a guy who was rumored to be sexually harassing various technicians, and investigations were ongoing but not completed. A complaint was made to his director in no uncertain terms, and the director immediately pulled the security camera footage, apologized to the harass-ee, called the harasser into her office and fired him on the spot. All within hours of the offense. As soon as they had his number, he was GONE. Get your crap, get out, you will not receive a good reference. People with Difficult Personalities were sent to special training on a sort of three strikes rule: they were kept at a low level and not promoted, they weren’t permitted to manage anyone until they had passed a probation period after Attitude Camp, and they were demoted or fired if they couldn’t get it together and act decent. Difficult Personalities consisted of yelling at people, insulting or being generally derogatory at people, being directly insubordinate, things that were obvious. They had a very clear No Asshole Rule.

    Functional Workplace B: You had to be a real introvert to enjoy this, but you got your annual goals every quarter, and they were “deliver X number of projects to Other Department by Date” and “your operating budget is Y but if you need more for something just ask”. Everyone was so focused on getting X done efficiently, either so they could go look at cat pictures on the internet in their spare time or so they could spend the rest of the day golfing, that they mostly lived in their own little worlds. They were careful about hiring exactly the right personalities for this to work, though. If you didn’t deliver on your projects or were somehow a pain in the ass for your peers to deal with, you got put on The List for the next round of layoffs, which they did every six months or so. You did occasionally have to interact with other humans, but it mainly consisted of sitting in meetings and presenting a few slides’ worth of data and the once a week lunch and learn thing. About twice a week, my boss would poke his head in the lab and ask me what was going on, talk to me about whatever NPR was saying on the radio at that moment, and then wander out. Lots of training and continuing education opportunities were available to anyone who wanted them.

    Functional Workplace C: Extensive on the job training, both from an assigned mentor and from a corporate training group. Underperforming people were moved around either to lower level, simpler projects or assigned a sort of buddy to fill in the gaps. This wasn’t treated as “you’re too stupid to work on your own,” as people with wildly different expertise were often assigned to work in groups as an SME type of thing all the time. Name-calling and disrespectful behavior was simply Not Done. Criticism was phrased in a sort of Bill Belichick way, “this isn’t what we were looking for,” with specific, actionable corrections like “make this into a table, not bullet points” or “include a sentence about XYZ too, so that ABC is clearer because otherwise it could be interpreted as DEF” and “also be sure you’ve considered GHI and 123”. Praise freely given when you did a good job, especially from people high up on the ladder, and usually translated into better projects and better opportunities, it was very clear when you had succeeded by their standards.

  78. Not playing*

    Last month, my boss was on vacation. My coworker works from home on wednesdays. My grand boss is remote 75% of the time.

    I had a crap morning for some reason, I no longer recall. Probably something to do with my kids or my husband’s insomnia. Anyway, I realized when that I was going to be at least 30 minutes late, so I decided last minute that I would work from home so I could start work on time. We have a sub-department of 3, so I wanted people to know our whole department was not out for the day. I asked another manager to put a note on my cube and my coworker’s cube so that anyone walking by would know we were both working.

    At some point during the day, some joker came by and posted a sign saying “when the cat’s away the mice will play.” I am sure it was meant as good natured ribbing and I was neither offended nor worried about my reputation. I heard about the sign, but it was long gone before I came in the next morning. Someone must have taken the sign down and told our mutual grand boss. The next time she was in town during a regularly scheduled department meeting she made a public announcement that she knows we are adults who do our job and that if we were not doing our jobs it would be pretty obvious, so basically ignore the haters. If we need to work from home, do so. The validation was very nice.

  79. Amelia*

    A new hire started behaving strangely from the get-go. At a company dinner, he made all kinds of inappropriate sex jokes and then Facebook friended everyone at the dinner afterwards. His Facebook page was all about how our company was a bunch of suckers, paying him to eat and drink. The next time I saw him, he kept asking about the best ways to fudge expense reports.

    After about 2 weeks, many of us were asked to come to HR. They asked a bunch of detailed questions and he was let go immediately. He threatened to sue the company for discrimination. He was gay and argued that was the only reason anyone had a problem with his sex jokes (untrue.) They quickly wrote him a check and we all moved on.

  80. AnonForThisOne*

    Once I worked with an Academic was deeply abusive to everyone. He mostly aimed his ire at the Grad Assistants who, occasionally, he would curse and scream at. He was decent at publishing, but not a rock star. I later found out, he was denied tenure (which is basically being fired in the academic world) and when I asked my boss about it. She just shrugged and said something like, “Well, he shouldn’t have been so horrible to the GAs.”

    For all the horror stories I’ve heard of academics getting away with awful behavior, I was really heartened to see that I worked at a place where behavior did have consequences. Sure, it took a few years, but people had noticed and they had been concerned. I wish I’d realized that before he got fired.

  81. Rambler*

    The Head Honcho on the program I was working on also happened to be my mentor, and we have a very good working relationship. He is an exceptional leader (which is why I asked him to mentor me) but I had noticed that the stress level of this new program was getting to him, and he had started devolving into a lot of yelling at people, and doing things like coming into meetings late and derailing them, or not paying attention because he was on his phone.

    None of this was normal for him, and I felt bad that people who didn’t know him like I did thought it WAS normal for him. So at our next mentoring meeting, I turned the tables on him and told him everything I saw him doing and how it was affecting the team. Not only did he take it well, but halfway through I kinda choked up with fear (OMG I’m telling Head Honcho what he’s doing wrong!!) and he actually calmed me down, told me how much he appreciated the feedback, and encouraged me to continue.

    After that meeting, he made a concerted effort to stop doing the things that I had pointed out, and the meetings really improved in productivity and mood.

    I won’t say it was a complete turnaround, as he still sometimes does these things, especially when under tremendous pressure, but he is very aware of it now, and will usually apologize after the fact when he slips.

    Great leaders encourage open communication at all levels, and listen to you, no matter how low you are on the totem pole. This was an example of that which I will never forget.

    1. Lisa B*

      This is one of my favorite posts here- that is awesome to have a manager not only open to feedback, but that really listened and responded with change. Kudos to you for having such a strong and respectful relationship with your Head Honcho mentor!!!

  82. sj*

    An example of a functional PIP, which I’ve maybe posted about before.

    When I was younger, I was at a point in my job where i started to struggle to get things done. I missed deadlines and my projects were all off track. I don’t know that i could pinpoint a reason- feeling overwhelmed, under pressure, immature, and probably a bit depressed. My boss met with me and presented a PIP. It was tough to hear, but he was right, and it needed to be addressed and he handled it so well. We discussed what was going on. He offered help via the EAP for whatever in my personal life might be contributing to my struggles. I talked about my challenges with prioritizing and we discussed ways that we could address that. It resulted in us instituting a daily 10-minute check in where we quickly reviewed my much larger task list and identified 3-5 things that were my top priorities for the day – like, if nothing else gets done, these 5 must be (and that became part of the PIP). He also wanted me to also do some time management training and we started a department “goals for the week” email that would keep everyone focused on moving the top projects forward. I took it very seriously and worked hard over the next 6 months on my priorities and better communication on my projects’ status and deliverables, and completed everything that was required, and beyond it kept using the strategies that we’d developed. I still work at the company more than 10 years later and have received several promotions since then. When that boss left a couple years ago, he told me I was the best hire he had made during his time there; and i believe he was a great boss and his handling of the PIP directly led to my current success at the company.

  83. Eve Levine*

    I have a story about a previously functioning workplace that turned sour when new management came on.

    Previously, everyone worked well together. Work was done when it needed to be done, new project were taken on by those able to, everyone was on time, and everyone’s opinion was valued (not always followed by management, but always heard), and every employee was valued for their contributions. There was a manager, and an assistant manager, and the rest were part time staff. The manager retired, and was replaced by new manager. When new manager came on, he only valued his own opinion. He would randomly change things and either not tell anyone or just one person – and not his assistant. When that would happen, his assistant would notice something was off, bring it to his attention, and he would tell tell the assistant about the change. Quickly, employees started leaving when morale grew low. Customers noticed the issue and also stopped coming. Within 2 years, there was a complete staff turnover.

  84. Rat in the Sugar*

    I’ve got an example of something small.

    My coworker, Jane, once sent out an email with a project update that about 12 people had to be CC’d on, including a lot of high-level managers and C-levels. She made a mistake in the update–something small that didn’t affect the substance of what she was saying, think something like a typo or incorrect date. Normally for unimportant things like that we’ll just mention it one-on-one to the person so they can fix it, but one of our newer coworkers, Kathy, decided to be rude about it.

    She responded with something like “Jane, I would like to inform you that I noticed a discrepancy in your update on page blah. You have written ABD, but according to Official Document Section C–Subsection Z–Heading 2–Part iii, you should have written ABC. ABD is incorrect. I just wanted to let you know since we are required to conform to Official Document and we could face consequences if our documents are not carefully prepared.” And of course she replied all, so this got sent to several C-levels!

    Jane was absolutely fuming–Kathy was perfectly aware that the mistake was due to a typo, that the document wasn’t approved for external release and that even if it was the typo wasn’t one that would be a huge deal, and best of all Kathy’s office was literally right next door to ours! So instead of sticking her head and telling Jane that she needed to fix her typo, she replied all so that the managers and C-levels could see that she was the one to catch a mistake–throwing Jane under the bus in the process.

    Thankfully Jane didn’t have to take any action–less than five minutes after Kathy’s email went out, one of the most senior managers CC’d on it came in our office and said (quietly) “What the hell was that??” When Jane told him she didn’t know and felt like she was just getting thrown under the bus, senior manager agreed and immediately went next door to talk to Kathy. I don’t know what he said exactly (since telling someone a mistake is supposed to be, y’know, private. ;) ) but he told us that he was going to tell her that we just don’t talk to people like that around here, and if somebody made a mistake that didn’t affect anything you could tell them privately, and that this was not a company where you could throw your coworkers under the bus to get credit for yourself.

    I was still pretty new when this happened, and while it wasn’t huge in the grand scheme of things, the manager’s quick response and flat statement of “We don’t treat people like that here” made me feel really good about my office. I always feel confident going to my boss if someone is disrespectful to me, since I know it won’t be tolerated.

  85. AnotherLibrarian*

    About a year into my current job, my apartment flooded while I was out of town. I called by Boss to explain the situation. Less than an hour later, I got a call from my Grandboss. I thought she would be upset, but instead she was so kind. She wanted to make sure I had a place safe to stay (she knew I didn’t have any family in the area) and offered to help me get a discount at one of the local long stay hotels through my work connections. She also made sure knew I could take as much time as I needed. It was such a kind thing to do and I’ve never forgotten it.

  86. Perfectly Particular*

    I think most workplaces have functional and dysfunctional aspects, and these can actually play off each other.

    For example, at my current job, we are treated as adults, held responsible for meeting our commitments and are allowed to manage our own time within reason. On the whole, our managers have our backs if there is a conflict with our project partners. We are provided frequent feedback, both positive and negative, with the expectation that we will do what needs to be done to address any negative feedback, and that it will not need to be discussed again. If it does come up again, it is likely to be included in our review and balanced against the results that we achieved for the year. That’s the functional part.

    The dysfunction in this same workplace is that there are not clearly defined roles, and even our work instructions do not always indicate responsibility, so it is up to the team to sort these things out and decide who does what. This is done primarily on a “volunteer” basis. so low performers who are happy with their place in the organization and are not driven by the possibility of advancement take less than their fair share of work, while the high performers take double the workload. Low performers always meet their commitments, while working exactly 40 hours/wk since they committed to so little, while high performers work 50+ hours and still sometimes miss deadlines or need to ask someone else to take part of the load and end up getting negative feedback.

    At old job, the functional piece was that low performers were put on PIPs, moved to less critical roles, and/or terminated as needed. The dysfunction… there was little room for risk taking or error (in an R&D environment!) and so creativity was squashed.

    1. Susan*

      Yeah – I was thinking something similar to your first line. My current company is functional in many of the ways mentioned above – we are adults, trusted to make our own hours, and we hold each other in respect. One of the exciting things to me as well is that there is no fear of speaking your mind to anyone at any level.

      The downsides are the trust on hours can be too broad + there are folks that are abusing the trust. In addition there’s difficulty in making decisions and a very heavy meeting culture.

      The reason I tip towards functional even with the dysfunctional elements is that theproblems are talked about and we struggle to make them better.

  87. Catgirl123*

    Having worked in a dysfunctional workplace and now in a functional one, the biggest difference is my boss being flexible. We don’t work with clients and are not hourly so as long as the work is getting done, if I come in after 9:00, need to leave earlier, taking an occasionally long lunch…it’s fine. I had an epiphany about how bad my previous job was when I was actually treated like an adult, and I was like, oh this how it is suppose to be.

  88. I work in Advertising, but this is not Mad Men*

    I don’t know how fully functional my last workplace was (and it was large enough that it probably varied by team), but I was pretty happy with how this situation got handled:

    An assistant on my team (let’s call her Jane), came to the Supervisor “Sarah” working directly below me with this story… a friend of hers, who was an assistant on another team “Julie” was going to HR about yet another assistant (we’ll call him “The Asshole”) about being inappropriate with her. Jane went to Sarah, because she wanted to proactively support Julie’s story.

    In Jane’s own words “This is fine, and I don’t need anything done on my behalf, but here’s some of my encounters with The Asshole”
    -On our first day, he told me that I wasn’t going to have any trouble getting promoted because I could sleep my way to the top
    -He’s consistently peer pressured me to go drinking with him after work and calls me a pussy when I don’t
    -He’ll tell me I shouldn’t be at my desk, and instead I should go play foosball or hang out on the terrace with him and calls me a pussy when I tell him I have work to do
    -there was more, but we’ll leave it there for brevity’s sake

    Supervisor Sarah went “Holy Shit, I’m really glad you told me and I have to go tell our Director about this right now.” She came to me. I had the same reaction and pulled Sarah and Jane into my boss’ office. Jane re-told the whole story for all three of us. My boss (a VP) went directly to her boss (a SVP) and the two of them went directly to our department HR rep, who proceeded to pull both the girls in to talk to her, as well as the entire management team that was responsible for both Julie and the Asshole.

    Everyone supervisor level and above that new this was going on and didn’t stop it was reprimanded. The Asshole was given a warning.

    On my side, we circled back to Jane and made sure she knew why her qualifier of “I don’t mind these comments towards me, because I can ignore them” was bad. (It’s great that you have enough self-esteem to know he’s full of shit, but if he’s doing this as an assistant, just imagine what he’ll do when he has power over female subordinates.)

    And then it ended (predictably) when an female intern came forward a few months later with proof that he was pressuring her to underage drink with him / making more disgusting comments. (He was doing ALL of this over the internal IM system). He was fired immediately.

    While not all my stories of that workplace were functional, I was really glad that one worked out well. I suspect it had something to do with having 50% females at the Director and above level across most of the agency. In my whole story, the only male besides The Asshole, was the SVP.

    1. Observer*

      He was doing this on the internal IM system? Well, I guess it’s sometimes a good thing when someone is dumb as a post.

  89. Chicago Peach*

    My overall office is very functional (with the normal issues), but my current boss is really a stand-out. Besides fostering a feeling of collaboration, I feel like the most helpful thing she has done is given me consistent “micro-feedback”. She often circles back with me after a call, email, etc to say “that was very well stated” or “next time you might use x approach.” It helps me course correct along the way instead of getting all feedback at once at my annual review.
    She also takes questions seriously and makes time to answer them.

    1. Brownie*

      Ongoing feedback is crucial for me. An annual “You’re doing a good job” means nothing because it doesn’t let me know what I should do on a daily/weekly basis to improve.

      In 3 years at this job I’ve had 3 bosses. Boss #1 didn’t ever meet with me apart from yearly reviews. Boss #2 was fabulous and wonderful and without a doubt the best boss I’ve ever had because she believed that feedback in the moment combined with weekly one-on-ones was the way towards employee improvement. After a year she’d changed my attitude from one where I’d plod along with no drive to improve to the point where I was actually enthusiastic about going to work every day, was winning internal AttaBoy awards, and was thinking about applying for a promotion. With her as my boss I felt like I had a future full of possibilities and that I was capable of getting there because I was learning every day from her feedback how to be better and getting praise for what I was doing right. Then she retired and Boss #3 came in. Boss #3 is the same as Boss #1 plus micromanaging and I can feel myself slipping back into the “Meh, good enough” rut. I’m still winning internal awards, but they’re not celebrated by Boss #3, rather they’re treated as a participation handout, and it’s making me lose all the drive and ambition I had from Boss #2.

  90. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    My current job is actually pretty functional and awesome. One of the best examples I can think of recently is that summer is an incredibly busy season for us, and we were having transitions (one of our FT staff was leaving, we were hiring/training a replacement, and we also had some shifting around of who was covering particular admin tasks). During all this upheaval, there were some things that could have gone very badly, but my manager was pretty hands-on and checked in with us regularly to make sure we were getting the support we needed, that our new person was getting the training she needed, and when a couple things did fall through the cracks with all the transitions, she rolled up her sleeves and did the support tasks herself for a couple days to make sure that our workloads stayed manageable.

    Communication and a willingness to jump in the trenches and do whatever needs done really makes my manager a rock-star.

  91. Silicon Valley Girl*

    I’ve seen some criticism of unlimited PTO here at AMA, but I feel like one of the things that makes my current workplace function is the fact that we have unlimited PTO that’s used judiciously by most everyone. Taking time away when we feel like it seems to limit burnout & keeps folks fresh & focused. The place I was at before this said they had unlimited PTO but didn’t implement it evenly from dept. to dept., which caused a lot of friction. Not so where I work now, so there’s a greater sense of equality & mutual buy-in.

  92. FormerHoosier*

    After enduring several years at two different organizations that were HIGHLY dysfunctional, I am thrilled to say that I now work at a very functional organization.

    Employees are not allowed to have work email on phones for work life balance
    Employees are not allowed to curse or gossip (top down and it is pleasant-everyone slips every one in awhile)
    Leadership looks to promote good workers and does so based on performance and not just degree, seniority, etc.

    Every effort is made to support and coach an underperforming employee. Sine I have been here, I have seen a couple of employee put on PIPs, two employees who shared duties given separate duties to relieve some negative behaviors, and employees encouraged to change positions if unhappy

    There hasn’t been a toxic supervisor (that I am aware of) since I have been here.

    The company has a few quirks for sure but even the lowest level employee sees the CEO and COO act with integrity, consistency, and ethics. This is then passed down as a company value to the management team (of which I am a member).

    Employees are genuinely supported. I am sure that there are a couple who are unhappy (there always are) but overall it is a really, really good environment.

    I am confident that if someone was being sexually harassed, it would be addressed. And I know that employees who identify as a member of a minority group are hired and treated well.

    It is a wonderful feeling.

    PS My role requires me to be aware of the issues I listed above-no one is talking out of turn or disclosing inappropriately.

  93. The Fake Eleanor*

    A few months back I moved from a somewhat dysfunctional workplace into a much more functional workplace. The biggest thing that changed for me was the dedication to work-life balance. At my old job they liked to tout work-life balance, but they didn’t really like to follow it (not in my department at least). I was expected to check my email regularly while not at work (I was hourly, and obviously I shouldn’t be clocking those hours). I was also criticized for not working enough overtime. Again, as an hourly employee I could actually point to my time sheets and by the end of my employment there I was very rarely working just a standard week. I even had a mega amount of sick leave saved because usually when I missed a day or was late/left early for a doctor’s appointment I worked so much overtime the rest of the week that I made my hours anyway (and then some usually) so I didn’t feel right putting in sick leave. The line of work I did often required evening work and sometimes weekends, which I always went too, but I was very rarely given permission to come in late the day after an event, or leave early the next day. What kind of added insult to injury is that the supervisor who told me this was a part time employee, so she generally only worked half the number of hours I did in a given week.

    Where I am now actually does push for work-life balance. I started the job a couple of weeks before a HUGE event, and so one evening I saw an email from my supervisor and replied to it (I’m now salaried, so no clock-in required). She replied to let me know that while she may email after work hours I should never feel like I need to check in or even respond. She has also constantly encouraged me and my colleagues to leave early or come in late after an event. Barely a month into the job I suddenly had to take time off due to a death in the family, and then a sudden illness, and she (along with the organization as a whole) made sure I could (even though I didn’t have enough sick leave saved for a full day). Even though I don’t get paid over time now when I stay late or come in on a weekend, I don’t mind because I feel like the organization cares about my well-being over all.

  94. Portia*

    I’m a teacher at a private school, and my school administration is incredibly supportive of its teachers. Once, a parent sent an angry email, and I happened to mention it to the principal. She told me that other teachers had reported similar messages from that parent, so she called the parent in for a meeting and told her that since she couldn’t speak cordially to teaches, she was no longer allowed to contact teachers directly. She then told me that if the parent ever sent me another email, I should forward it directly to her and then delete it.

    I have a lot of friends who teach at different private schools, and they say their principal would never do something like that. I love my principal.

  95. Liz*

    Lots of things I love about my current workplace, but here’s my favorite example: a few years back, I was struggling in my role. It was in part because I had a bad manager, but I felt like I couldn’t ask for a new manager because I’d never heard of anyone else switching and because I wasn’t performing strongly, so I just kept struggling along.

    However, we do 360 annual reviews, and after I filled out a lukewarm review for my manager, HER manager called me about 5 minutes later, got me to talk about the things that were holding me back, and I got a new manager in the next week. New Manager was a dream, helped me identify what was working for me in my role and what wasn’t, and together we identified a different path for me. I’m still with the company 3 years later.

    Not only did that work out nicely for me, but not too long after, our monthly all staff bulletin began including a regular notice about who to talk to if you wanted to change supervisors, to avoid the experience I had where I felt like I couldn’t request it.

  96. Amber Rose*

    I wouldn’t say we are 100% functional (we definitely have some crappy stuff going on), but there are a few things about my workplace that are functional or were addressed well that I can talk about.

    1) Procedures. When I started we had none. Everyone was frustrated all the time and there were always fires and crises to deal with. Upper management assigned a guy to fix it and set him loose. He held a lot of meetings, listened to all of our complaints, and then started making changes. A year or so later, the difference is remarkable. Those meetings weren’t just lip service, they REALLY took what we said and improved stuff. It’s so nice. They even took our complaints about space and moved us to a bigger building. They’re not done yet either. More good stuff is coming before the end of the year. More cross training too, so we don’t go down in flames if someone goes on vacation. The number of emotional breakdowns has basically gone from several a week to none.

    2) Nobody is ever yelled at for making mistakes or screwing up, no matter how bad it is. There’s a lot of yelling just normally which is just how our people work, they are loud, but all serious discussions are held calmly. This is a balm on my soul. I can handle atmospheric yelling, but not being yelled at.

    3) Team building stuff is optional and during the day. We have pizza lunches or BBQs, but people are welcome to grab food and leave, or not participate at all, and nobody gets upset.

  97. Scarlett10is*

    So happy to say something here! I work in higher education, and at a previous institution I had a dreadful supervisor who was fired within a year. I appreciate that leadership above her did actually fire her after talking to all of her direct reports and hearing from us in person to document how things had deteriorated. That supervisor had sown a lot of discord and our team was fractured and battered with high turnover. I applied for my supervisor’s vacant job and didn’t get it, and the person they hired was AMAZING! My first communication with him was a Starbucks mug filled with chocolate saying hello, which made me like him immediately. I still have the mug! He was an external hire who came in to really tough circumstances, and did a phenomenal job of getting to know his team members, who were very diverse and talented. LGBTQ, international, white, brown, introvert, extrovert, etc. He built us back up, celebrated our successes, was transparent and communicative, protected us from crap, supported our decision making, and didn’t punish anyone for “mistakes.” Funny how “mistakes” plummeted when we could trust our boss! It was the best team I’ve ever been on! My team members and I all left the same summer b/c we couldn’t bear to be there without each other. Our departure made it tough on our supervisor but he gave everybody the glowing reference they had earned, which is not always the case. Did I mention when my teammates and I each got married (not to each other, to other people not in our industry :-p), we and our supervisor were all invited to our respective weddings? JH is the best!

  98. First post for a great boss!*

    First time poster, just to brag about my favorite boss, Jane. I worked retail in college, and she was my store manger. We had an assistant manager, Sue, who was mean. Everyone hated her. My boss must have seen something good in Sue and had a closed door conversation with her, basically telling her that she was coming across mean and impacting everyone. Sue walked out of that office a different person and became a really great manager. I don’t know how you can have that conversation respectfully and with kindness, but Jane managed to do it. Jane was the kind of boss who would never ask you to do something she wasn’t willing to do herself. She valued everyone’s work and effort, and made it known. She led by example and was a great role model. I’m still in touch with her, and Sue almost 20 years later!

  99. anonjustbecause*

    The kind of work my nonprofit org does means that it could easily be a fairly toxic workplace – most staff do direct client services, which can really easily lead to burnout, many of the positions require advanced degrees that the rest of us don’t have, which could easily lead to a hierarchical culture, a lot of the staff are young and just out of graduate school or college and we have an AmeriCorps program that means we have significant turnover in the people doing a lot of crucial work every single year – but somehow the problems all these things cause are minimal and handled well with almost no drama. The leadership staff are super big on professional development and are willing to train staff who have no experience, if you have been here more than five years you can take a 3 month sabbatical (that you can use however you want, even if it’s just to sit at home on your couch), supervisors understand that when staff leave or when the AmeriCorps term ends each year that the amount of work we can all get down will be temporarily lower, etc. Because a lot of staff don’t have much experience, supervisors work with staff to train them, give them feedback, and give them a chance to improve if there are ongoing mistakes, but also are willing to sit down and say this person isn’t a good fit once it becomes clear that there are still significant problems. I think another sign it’s pretty functional is that it’s super common for people to be open about their plans to leave their position, even if their leave date won’t be for several more months – staff know they don’t have to worry that they will be pushed out of their jobs or punished. I initially only planned to stay at this job for a year, but it’s been several years and I have no immediate plans to leave because the work environment is so positive.

  100. Probably Nerdy*

    I used to work in a functional workplace. We had a guy who would always fall asleep during meetings and seminars. They discussed it with him, and ended up working with him to send him to a sleep clinic to see if anything physiological was wrong.

    Eventually he was let go for a constellation of unfixable performance issues.

  101. MM*

    This is more of a functional boss story than a functional workplace story, but I think it counts.

    At my last job, I was in charge of putting conferences together. When I first came on board, we were about three weeks out from the first conference I was responsible for, so it was an incredibly heavy lift to start out. First of all, all my colleagues went out of their way to be helpful–coming up with suggestions from their contact lists of people I could reach out to, being on hand the day of the event to help field unexpected emergencies, etc.

    In the process of making this happen, I was directed to a specific person the org had a relationship with. He made himself incredibly difficult–he assumed I was asking him to speak when I was only inviting him to attend, hemmed and hawed and went back and forth with me when I adapted to find a slot for him to speak in, wouldn’t commit one way or the other, etc. On the advice of a colleague who knew him, I finally told him that I needed his answer by COB Friday (this was the week before the event was to take place, so we were really running out of time).

    He lost it. He sent me an incredibly abusive email, went straight to the org’s CEO to complain about my “disrespect” and “incompetence,” and generally had as big and visible a tantrum as he could. This is not exactly what you want to happen in your first month on the job.

    My boss called me first thing the morning this all happened–I actually heard from him before I’d even seen the email I’d been sent. He immediately assured me that I had done nothing wrong, that I would not suffer any form of repercussion, and that this guy was out of line. I never even had a chance to worry. We worked it out (he ended up speaking at the event anyway, which makes sense because clearly he lives to feel important), we moved on, it never came up again. I really appreciated that my boss’s first concern was for me, to make sure that I wouldn’t be worried or discouraged. He recognized that smoothing things over with someone who did have a relationship with the org that they considered important wasn’t mutually exclusive with reassuring/looking out for me, and he never made me feel that my being treated with courtesy was less important than the organization’s relationships.

    1. MM*

      Oh, I forgot to mention that in the course of throwing this tantrum he also texted the colleague who knew him/had suggested him to try to get her to agree that I was incompetent, and she not only defended me to him in the moment (I’d only known her a couple of weeks!) but also apologized to me for pointing me in his direction in the first place.

  102. Quackeen*

    My previous boss was a dream to work for and made our department very functional, even if the larger organization was not.

    He took his role as manager seriously in that he provided excellent coaching, clear goals and expectations, opportunities to stretch, constructive feedback when needed, and made sure everyone on his team recognized that he would support their growth even if it meant losing them.

    I think the biggest differentiator in a well-functioning team for me was communication. Clear, direct, with complete ownership and always telling us when there were limits to what he could share.

    I sometimes feel like I spent time in the presence of a unicorn and never will again, but the great stories here are very hopeful!

  103. T*

    My job has very clear KPI or key performance indicators. Everyone’s performance is sent out to the entire company weekly and everything is very transparent and public. I’ve seen people who were not measuring up quietly get let go. It’s not a place where you can slack off and not do your job, or blame other people.

  104. SigneL*

    I worked in a lab in a teaching hospital. We had a clear mission, a very knowledgable boss, and a boss who was a decent person. Plus he was always telling us interesting tidbits about unusual bacteria he had met during his career. He was also hands-on – some days, he just felt like looking at bacteria. He valued every person in the lab, from the admin who logged in all the specimens, to the senior techs who did the really complicated analyses, and we knew it.

  105. Anonymous sloth*

    My workplace certainly isn’t perfect, but my boss is amazing and basically treats me like an adult (not a given, from past experiences). As long as my work gets done and I’m present for important meetings, no one really cares what time I get in or leave, and I have flexibility to attend appointments and do errands as needed during the workday when it works with my schedule.
    I recently was hiring for a new role in my department, and the person we wanted to hire was (and is!) amazing, but was making much more money than we were able to pay her (and much higher than my own salary). My boss really went to bat for our department and was able to get the amazing person hired at a negotiated salary, but was also able to convince HR to give me a market adjustment and raise my salary nearly $10k in the process (they realized they had not counted my years of experience correctly so I was being underpaid). She consistently followed up with me to make sure I was in the loop about the salary increase and when it wasn’t applied correctly immediately worked with HR to fix it. This was particularly meaningful to me because at my last job, I was denied a raise because I would have been paid more than my colleagues, but then I found out that a new manager was hired in at over $10k more than I was with the same experience.
    Also at my current job, my boss is very conscientious of my time and life outside of work. For example, I was recently asked at 3pm to stay late at work for a meeting with our president (to discuss project work), and I had previous commitments. My boss was also on the email and immediately let me know that if I wasn’t able to make the meeting it was totally fine since the request was so last-minute. Overall I feel very supported in my role and like my boss and team have my back.

  106. MJ*

    My best experience was in a new govt educational quango. I started as a temp receptionist and worked with the two directors whilst recruitment was in progress. The first surprise was when I found one director photocopying. Coming from a ‘traditional’ previous job, this was unheard of! I got taken on permanently, was given day release to do a professional qualification, was frequently asked for my opinion and I got promoted twice with no problems. I was allowed to work from home when my son was constantly sick when he was very little – this was in the early 90s, and again unheard off.

    The female employees were inspirational in that they had all got degrees in their 30s and 40s and encouraged me – a woman who had left school with really poor qualifications – to think about doing the same.

    I grew up in that job, and eventually took redundancy to get my degree. I now have my PhD and work in academia.

    I am still close friends with 5 of the women I worked with 20 years later, and we often talk about how fabulous it was to work there and how all of us progressed in our current careers due to the positive and affirming ethos fostered by one of original directors. Sadly he passed away a couple of years ago, but I got to see him a few months before at a reunion of the staff. I told him how much he had meant to me and that he had been the best boss I have ever had.

    Echoing other posters – the ethos was collegial, trusting and positive. We were expected to give our best and were recognised for it.

    Good days.

  107. Caroline*

    Here is a story that represents dual sides of the coin on dysfunctional/functional. I work for a government with two offices – one who works with civil society and one that works with the United Nations. The UN team mentioned casually a couple of years ago they were working on a project and asked if we’d like to help. We signed on originally thinking we’d just need to volunteer on the night but as more details came out it turned out to be a project of massive proportions (full scale production event at the UN itself) that had been handed to interns to handle. We were a week out and nothing had been done. My team took over and righted the ship but it took working until 1am every night for a week, and my first-ever panic attack.

    The dysfunction obviously came from that team that had no idea of the scale of the project and put a negligent project management system in place. Also dysfunctional because I mentioned several times how things could go wrong but no one seemed to care but me. It went fabulously but they had no idea the mental toll and frankly didn’t seem to care. I mean – they’d given it to two college students who’d been there a month to handle so there’s the value they’d put on it…

    The function came from my own leadership who (slightly alarmed at the panicked phone call they got on the morning of) pledged any support they could give. They realized the reputational risk if it went wrong and basically shut down the office for the entire afternoon to pledge every member of staff to me as volunteers. Afterwards, they nominated my team for our work around the project, got the other office to pay us for all of our overtime hours (exempt so not something we traditionally get), an official thank you from the leadership of the other organization, and a public thank you for our work.

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

    I can go to my boss and tell him I’m overloaded with work and he will go over all my projects with me so he can reassign a few to my coworkers, or lobby his boss to eliminate it altogether. I know it sounds so simple and mundane but it makes all the difference. I was recently given a large quarterly magazine that my coworker has been doing for about a decade because he was burned out on it. It wasn’t just dropped on me. My boss asked if I’d be willing, I said OK, but I need someone else to take over this other magazine and he agreed to the trade so that I wasn’t overloaded, while my coworker got the respite he desperately needed.

  109. Melody*

    My previous job of 10+ years was/is fairly dysfunctional. So now that I’m in a healthy work environment the biggest thing I notice is clear communication.

    And if something IS unclear, no one is annoyed that you ask about it.

    I also see management and coworkers being really supportive. Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed.

    I realize I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but it’s such a dramatic difference that I don’t think it’s ALL new job excitement.

  110. gmg22*

    This seems so obvious, but one of the things I have learned to treasure about the more functional places I’ve worked is the simple fact that when you do nice work, people will say “Hey, nice work!” I learned this after working somewhere where no one ever, ever, ever said this even if you HAD done nice work, and man, did that mess with my head.

    1. Avocado Toast*

      Shortly after starting here, my boss came in and said “Hey, thanks!”. I said “For what….?” and he said “Just today and for the work you did.” And then left. I was both confused and delighted.

    2. Elle*

      Haha yes! Even just replying to emails with “thanks for getting that for me” like… I always have to check to make sure there’s no hidden camera because its so out of the ordinary.

    3. NoMoDysfunction*

      YES. This applies to me too. Almost every day I get a “thank you” from the CEO as I head out the door before 5 pm. It’s so wonderful!!

  111. Avocado Toast*

    The first day of a new job I woke up and knew I was having a serious health issue and I needed to go to the ER. Emailed by boss-to-be at 5 AM and apologized profusely. She emailed back when she got in, very understanding. For the next few weeks I had regular doctors appointments and sometimes had to escape to the bathroom just so I could sit and close my eyes for a few minutes. Everyone above me was patient and understanding, brought me up to speed slowly, and didn’t mind that I was spending a few hours a day at the doctor as a brand new employee! They also asked kindly about how I was feeling -not in a “How soon can you do your job” way, but in a “you’re a human and I don’t want you to be in pain” way. When I slowly got my strength and focus back, they gave me more work, and they were effortlessly accommodating and kind and it made me really happy to work here!

  112. Anon As I Wanna Be*

    I started working for the US federal government last year, and applied for an internal-only promotion this year. Instead of an interview, the candidates were given a work assignment of the specific position. HR supervised, then gave the completed work to the hiring committee anonymously.

    I got the promotion. The hiring committee asked me to keep it to myself until they could notify the other candidates personally that they hadn’t been chosen. I still don’t know who the other candidates were, but I do know through process of elimination they had all been on the job longer than I had. The official announcement played up some of my work in previous jobs that was directly relevant to the new position. I didn’t even realize until the recent letter about not getting a promotion that HR was making the point that while I was new to this workplace, I had past experience that meant I was bringing the necessary skillset.

  113. ThursdaysGeek*

    I work in a cube farm that is almost always very quiet. If I need to work from home or come in late or leave early, I let my boss and co-workers know, and it is fine. My boss works in another state, but we have a mostly weekly one-on-one, as well as other meetings and ways to keep in touch.

    No-one steals food from our communal fridges. I’ve known people who leave their wallets on their desk and they are always safe.

    When the managers say that safety is important, that message is coming from the very top.

    When people are hired, an email is sent to the company with their picture and a very short bio to introduce them. When people are laid off, when they leave, when they retire – an email is sent out saying that they no longer work for the company. I’ve seen it for both firing and retiring, so it’s not possible to tell from the outside why they are gone, but we do know they are gone.

  114. Jaybeetee*

    My own observation has been that functional workplaces have more transparency, accountability, and overall trust in their employees.

    Transparency: Here’s the new procedure, here’s why, any feedback or anything we should change?

    Accountability: If there’s a problem with a manager (or anyone else), here is recourse you can take/other people you can talk to about it. Managers explain the hows and whys of their actions and invite conversation and feedback.

    Trust: Employees are adults, not schoolchildren who need to be watched and disciplined. People come and go and take their breaks, and no one is standing over them with a watch, assuming work is getting done to standard.

    In my own life, the themes of a lot of more dysfunctional jobs were higher-ups who thought they were God, poor communication and seemingly sudden changes in procedures with no rationale, and treating employees as if they needed to be “kept in line” instead of trusted to do their work.

  115. DCGirl*

    My employer was just recognized as one of the top places to work in the DC area, so I shared the announcement on my social media pages and had friends ask me if it really is a good place to work or if it’s just window dressing. I said that it really is, and it got me to thinking about why I feel that.

    It’s clear that there’s a real commitment to ensuring a positive workplace culture here. Some of it is because we have employees from 40+ different countries, so developing a common culture is important, but some of it is because it’s very clear that some behaviors will just not be tolerated, like the business development director whose jackassery is tolerated because they bring in lots of new business. That just doesn’t happen here. No one’s contributions are so great that they can be allowed to treat others badly.

  116. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    I had an issue with a coworker. You could say I “started it”, but his reaction was really over the top considering what my original transgression was. And about five minutes later, he came and apologized, I apologized, we figured out where things went wrong and everything was fixed. Coming from largely dysfunctional workplaces, it kind of blew me away how easy it is to resolve issues when people treat each other respectfully!

  117. Dovahkiin*

    I love my functional workplace! Here’s my 2 cents on these bullets:

    * A supervisor was treating people badly
    * Someone in leadership didn’t communicate well

    What my company does to prevent this is to give all managers (people who are hired to manage and people who are promoted within the company to a manager position) 4 weeks of management training, so while management styles might be slightly different (like doing 1 on 1s weekly or as needed/relatively hands-off good or more hands-on), everyone has the same guidelines on what good management looks like in the company, what is expected, how to deliver bad news/critical feedback, and how to motivate and develop good employees.

    Every manager gets an in-company mentor, and a peer group of the new managers they took the training with, so you have a nice support system for pinging people with questions or letting everyone know if you found a system that works really well.

    Of course, this isn’t 100% foolproof. We had a supervisor who was treating his direct reports very badly – belittling them, micromanaging, etc. This supervisor was effectively demoted after 1 person requested to be moved from the team (and she was! And she’s pretty happy on her new team) and 1 person left his team and mentioned specific incidents with the mean supervisor in her exit interview. The supervisor was enrolled in training again his employees were moved off his team, so he wasn’t supervising anyone. After 6 months, he got 2 new hires to test out his new skill set, but managing wasn’t a good fit for his personality, so he left the company. There might have been a transition plan in there (no one but his boss and HR would know if there was), but as far as I know, he left voluntarily.

    For communication, there’s an intensive skills training for that too for people leaders. We’re an international company and communication is primarily through email/chat, so we have really strict guidelines on company communication that we try to stick to. We use the https://effectiveedge.com/ model and training. It’s a lot of common sense stuff like putting deliverables in the subject body of emails, using bullet points, and eliminating a lot of the fluff and cushioning around communication. It might seem brusque to some (I know our “midwest nice” employees sometimes find it hard initially), but it works well to deliver concise effective messages to teams across lines of businesses and across the globe.

    For what it’s worth, I work in financial tech. The technology in my industry is complex and it takes new employees a year or two to get truly up to speed, so it’s worth it to invest in developing the employees we have rather than doing the constant tech job churn that a lot of other tech companies do for talent.

  118. AnotherSarah*

    I got pretty sick within the first few days of a new job (for which I had moved cross-country and my partner hadn’t yet joined me.) A senior colleague called to check in and sent periodic texts, but with the explicit message that I didn’t need to respond. To be both checked in on but then allowed to not respond struck, to my mind, the best balance, and set me up to feel really confident moving forward that if I had other health issues, I’d be fine at work.

  119. History Chick*

    I have two quick stories. I held a job at a small non-profit (25 employees) and a newly hired director came to work drunk (before a huge public speaking event), cornered several women and made inappropriate comments and advances. Since it was such a small organization, we all immediately knew what happened. He was driven home (because he was drunk) and ultimately he was fairly swiftly fired. Everyone on staff was offered free counseling.

    At my current job, my boss is very protective of his team’s time. He checks in to make sure we aren’t overworked and won’t assign projects if we’re at full capacity. He’s really flexible when things come up to allow working from home when things unexpectedly come up. And he is always looking for opportunities for development and growth. For me, the concern over not being overworked is a huge one for me, and, in fact, is why I left my previous job.

  120. giraffe*

    My current company is very functional and it’s taken some getting used to! To be honest, I attribute a great amount of it to the fact that there are no men in management. The company was founded by women 20 years ago and we now have about 50 employees, mostly women. Everything just works so great and people are flexible. We’re all trusted to get our work done and work remotely a few days a week; as long as you’re around for meetings and projects, it’s recognized that we all families and livees outside work and when things come up, it’s flexible.

    Also, one of my favorite details about my office is that it’s a norm to show each other drafts of sensitive emails before we send them. Everyone from the coordinators to the bosses will sometimes say, “I’m struggling to get the right tone in this email, what do you think?” and it’s so nice to work with people who value communication. I pointed this out to my boss once and she said, “oh — does this not happen in other offices? Why not?”

  121. Akcipitrokulo*

    Where I am now.

    We’re respected.

    We have retrospectives at end of each sprint, where we all give +ves and -ves, and are listened to. Sometimes people disagree, sometimes we debate it, but we listen.

    Then go for lunch usually :) or at another time, but usually about once/month.

    That is the best team-building exercise I think I’ve ever seen. It’s also recognised that our 1-hour lunch break is… negotiable on those occasions. I’d been there 3 days when I had first one – I was stressing about getting back in time before I realised all the managers were also there…

    A lot comes from the top. There is an actual culture of respecting people and taking them seriously – they won’t always be right, and sometimes things will happen with which you disagree, but your concerns will be taken on board. Sometimes taken on board, considered and rejected, but always respected.

    Director of our department is approachable. Managers trust you to deliver – if you don’t, they will deal with that issue, not things like being late if something goes wrong.

    We’re treated like adults and it’s awesome.

  122. Akcipitrokulo*

    When manager left, I applied for their job. It was manager of my team/other related role.

    I didn’t have enough experience for other related role.

    So director took time to explain to me in person why they went with external candidate who did have experience, and asked me about my ambitions…

    and arranged for me to shadow new manager in other related role to get hands-on experience…

    and sent me on 5-day course to get qualified in other role.

  123. Leah*

    At my workplace, we give IT support to local employees, so our desks are located in a prettt public area, right next to the coffee machine and behind the entrance door to our floor, and a few times, stuff has vanished from our desks – wireless mouses, phone chargers, etc. One time my coworker’s wireless mouse actually vanished when he was out having lunch, aka the middle of the day! Another coworker was at the desk, but he was busy helping an employee and he didn’t see the culprit. We suggested to our boss to install a camera pointing to our desks, since we’re always working with notebooks and such and we got seriosuly worried something bigger and more expensive would end up being snatched, and I am very pleased to announce that a camera was installed just this week. I was honestly shocked at how quick it was!

  124. SDSmith82*

    Depending on what team you are on at my current company, I think it’s very much functional. Now, that being said, there are some elements of dysfunction that you can see, but part of making it functional is knowing how to set your own boundaries.

    Now I’m not saying it’s perfect, but my role, and my team are pretty close to what I need to be almost perfect. On my team I have a boss who deals with what needs dealing with (including termination when absolutely necessary), and can be flexible as anyone needs her to be. She doesn’t hound me over sick time or question vacation requests. She allows me to work from home if needed (and had an informal telecommuting option before the office officially had one). She doesn’t micromanage (a true sign of dysfunction in my opinion) and simply cares that our clients are handled and that work gets done.

    Our parent organization is one of the top 100 employers in my field (possibly in all fields) and I actually understand why. Coming from all the others, and then hearing coworkers complain (who’ve been here so long they don’t know how bad other options are) this place is fantastic.

  125. user_loser*

    I think it’s a continuous scale.

    I currently work at a company, which is simply extremely dysfunctional.

    I’ve worked at one in the past which I would describe as quite normal. I need to say that I was a consultant there, but the project lasted 10 months and spent 5 days a week there so I learnt a lot about the culture.

    Why was it normal?

    – The communication was really straightforward. Conflicts happened of course, but they were solved by discussion – people weren’t excluded from meetings for political reasons. I didn’t see much passive aggressiveness either.
    – People weren’t afraid to bring up their ideas or to say they didn’t agree
    – People were given clear feedback and expectations were clear
    – There was some bullying, but not dramatically much

    What I learnt during my career so far was that a good culture in which you see conflicts. Because if there are apparently no conflicts in a company, this only means that no questions and discussion are tolerated. In this situation, bullying replaces visible conflicts.

  126. Jake*

    My current employer is really the first functional one I’ve worked for, and frankly almost none of those things even happen.

    We did have an under performer that was let go 2months after being hired. He was coached and talked to 5 or 6 times by his manager before being given 2months of severance to go away. That is really the only thing from the list.

  127. Hypatia*

    I was at an after-hours work function where a guest made a bunch of creepy lewd comments to me (I’m a young woman). I excused myself and went around and warned all of my co-workers about the creep and let them know not to leave anyone alone with him. Everyone was horrified, supported me, and we all banded together for the rest of the evening. The next day, a bunch of people reported him to the admins, and I got a follow-up call from some super nice people from the Title IX office and a big packet of information about where to go if I needed more support. He was banned from all future events and the person who invented him ended her association with him.

    So that basically all went as well as it possibly could have gone! Horray!

  128. Lisa*

    I wouldn’t call this a 100% functional workplace, but one way in which it WAS highly functional was that they really understood the return-on-investment of getting employees the right technology and tech support. Everyone got a brand new MacBook on their first day, and every one had at least one huge external display at their desk, many people had two. IT hired help desk employees who had previously worked at the Apple Store, and they set up an actual physical help desk at HQ, where at least one person from the tech support team was always available during regular hours. One of them even helped me replace my iPhone battery (in a personal phone although I did use it for work). They had bins full of small tech items – mice, chargers, accessories – where you could just take what you needed. If you needed Adobe Cloud or LucidChart or MS Office – you just requested it, and you got it almost right away. The CEO himself explained it to me when I was new – he understood the math of the cost of the technology vs. the cost of salary. It was worth the improved employee productivity – it just made financial sense. And because they were so trusting, there was relatively little pilfering. When I left that job I went through my house and checked every room for chargers, mice, etc. that had come from work and made sure to return them all.

    1. Manders*

      Yes, this! At my last job, I had to spend a day pulling all the RAM out of old junked computers “just in case we need it.” I wasn’t in IT either, I was a marketing assistant who just happened to be a little bit handy with computers. They almost never called IT in and they lost a lot of time and productivity to slow/old machines, and probably more because the marketing team really wasn’t qualified to be doing IT work and we screwed some stuff up.

      I went straight to a new MacBook on day 1 at my new office and it took a while to adjust. It sounds minor but it says a lot about how much the company values my time.

      1. Lisa*

        Exactly. At my previous job to this one, IT was methodically thrifty to the point of hoarding, and you had to jump through so many hoops to get the smallest piece of equipment. It was such a contrast!

        1. Observer*

          Penny wise and dollar foolish. The amount of time and money that gets wasted this way is mind boggling.

          I’m so glad my org is supportive of reasonable policies on equipment.

  129. Lady Blerd*

    I work for an organization where personnel rotate in and out every few years and you never know who you’re going to get at any level but I had lucked out with a grand boss who was great when I came in and his successor was also a good boss. He was put aside for not meeting our regional goals and when the incoming boss came in for a visit, I knew our joyful and happy workplace was over just from looking at him. The other higher ups who knew him either retired asked to be transfered. Once he took over, he severely restricted all access to his office, for example he had to sign off on many time sensitive documents required by our hiring process and he would refuse to see us outside of specific times and dates, jeopardizing the job offers. He demanded that all managers had to work 75-80 hours a week with no compensation. He cut off the budget of the person responsable of the diversity programs. When he came in, he berated a junior manager in front of all assembled because something that was out of his control went wrong during the handover presentation. He was a management professor at a local university and he used us as a laboratory. Generally, I had never seen a workplace atmosphere get poisoned so thoroughly and with a very clearly identified culprit.

    I left a few months after his arrival but still had friends at that office. There were so many complaints to the head office that itsent someone down to investigate and apparently the line to his office snaked around the floor. In the end, Toxic Boss was told to retire or face sanctions. You may say that’s not satisfying because he didn’t face consequences but in our organization, that was a big deal as it tends to usually just shuffle off bad seeds to other posts as happened with a former direct boss of mine.

  130. Squab*

    I remember at the start of a job, I had a situation that made me *think* the workplace was dysfunctional. I had a coworker who was just awful, a true troll of a human being. He made passes at interns, he told other women coworkers about his racial/sexual preferences(!!), and the final straw for me, he posted white supremacist imagery on internal company sites. (This wasn’t ambiguous. It was Nazi stuff.) It was tech, so he hid behind the “free speech it’s all for the lulz” bullshit; it had apparently been going on for a while. So my calculus was “he’s been doing this since before I was hired; he hasn’t been fired; ergo nobody cares.” I was completely miserable — how did I get myself into this awful place, where they’d hire this awful person and not do anything about it?

    I remember sitting at my computer with a letter drafted to Alison. I never sent it, because I knew the answer would be “this place sounds awful, you need to leave.”

    But I decided to at least try. I reported the Nazi stuff to HR. And a week or two later (stunningly fast, given the size of the company) he was gone. Gone gone gone. Quietly, efficiently, gone. And nothing like that has happened since. That outcome really has empowered us to have some great conversations about workplace culture.

      1. Squab*

        I’m sure it was a team effort :)

        Also I’m underselling the place. It actually was a lovely environment – conscientious, well-trained managers; a culture of regular, polite, actionable feedback; investment in people’s long-term growth. All of that was the big part of why I joined that company. Thus my dismay at the beginning!

  131. Kelsi*

    God this comment is so long, I apologize in advance.

    So, some of my stuff may be borderline, because my workplace started as VERY dysfunctional, but due to a major shakeup in leadership several years ago has been steadily moving along the spectrum back into functional. There are still missteps and problems along the way, but having been here in some capacity or other for the last 17 years, I can conclusively say it’s very functional and continues to move in the right direction.

    I feel like a good example recently was a pretty terrible staff meeting, and the aftermath.

    It started with the best intentions. One of our departments does a program for parents to help them build their network of other parents, backed by a lot of research about the value of support networks and the best way to help people bond. However, until recently, a lot of other departments didn’t know much (if anything) about this program. Instead of just talking about it, the department thought they’d demonstrate, to make it more interesting! They’d actually run a simulated version of the program, with staff members participating as if they were the parents we serve. Great!

    Except…not great. At these sessions, parents are asked questions that are appropriate, but can get deeply personal and emotional (e.g. How do you ask for support from the people in your life? What’s a time in your life you have not received the support you needed?) It works well, because participation is ENTIRELY VOLUNTARY.

    1. This was part of a mandatory staff meeting. Parents can walk away any time with no consequences; the staff couldn’t.
    2. There’s a world of difference between sharing personal, vulnerable things with a group you’ve self-selected into, who likely have similar struggles, and sharing them with your coworkers who you have to continue to work with and may have little in common with outside of work.
    3. The facilitators of this session were poorly trained. In the parent program, it’s emphasized that nobody HAS to answer the questions–if you feel like staying out of the discussion, it’s a totally legitimate choice. Not only was this not stated in the employee session, but facilitators weren’t told–which meant when some of us didn’t speak up, facilitators SPECIFICALLY ADDRESSED US. (“Kelsi, Dorothy, did you have anything to add?”)
    4. Because several people chose to share some VERY personal and emotional things–say, the usually taciturn coworker who talked about the difficulty of caring for her terminally ill mother when her siblings wouldn’t help, or the one who admitted she was seeing a therapist and feared people would see her differently now that they knew–the rest of us felt a LOT of pressure to not only share, but to share things that didn’t seem frivolous/surface-level.
    5. When, near the end of the session, they asked for people to volunteer some “takeaways” they had from the session, a senior staff member mentioned that she wasn’t comfortable with the level of sharing, her concern was dismissed by the person running the session with the quote about “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

    So, yeah, it was truly awful, especially for folks like me who want a huge separation between work and personal life. (I said nothing in the session, except when I was called out directly by my group’s facilitator, at which point I was probably a little short in replying that I didn’t have anything to add) I don’t want to share, but I also don’t want to know all this stuff about my coworkers!

    BUT, here was the aftermath:
    1. I (and probably a lot of others) contacted the person who oversees staff meetings with a (rather lengthy) complaint.
    2. She wrote back to say that she had received it, was reviewing it, and would be back to me by the next day.
    3. She came and spoke to me directly, acknowledging the issues I had as valid.
    4. She apologized. She also mentioned a method they had tried to use to pre-empt the issues, but did not use it as an excuse–more as an “I realize now this was completely insufficient, and I apologize that we didn’t handle it better.” (They had sent out a notice ahead of time to supervisors letting them know that they could allow staff to opt out. However, they didn’t properly explain to supervisors what the session was, or WHY people might need to opt out. Additionally, they should have just told employees, instead of letting supervisors decide whether an employee might want to opt out.)
    5. She invited me to be part of a group that would review sessions planned for future staff meetings, and provide recommendations about whether they were appropriate and whether any modifications or special handling might be needed.
    6. We’ve had several staff meetings since. The sessions have been reviewed, but we’ve never really needed to make any changes, because they’ve always been professionally appropriate since. Staff meetings are no longer a source of dread.

    I know this is just one piece, but I feel like it’s a good representation of how a lot of our processes work nowadays.

    Or, for another example, Jane was a valuable but difficult employee in the Teapot Repair department. The TR department is large and has had a lot of leadership turnover in the last few years, making Jane even more difficult because there were many times when her interim boss didn’t actually have the authority to do much, or else her actual boss was so new to the work they weren’t able to recognize her issues yet. Phryne, the manager of the Teapot Schematics department, often had to work with Jane to get data and has a proven track record of working well with Jane. Additionally, Teapot Schematics is a small department, where Phryne can give each of her direct reports individual attention, and she’s known for being a competent manager who can have difficult conversations.

    On the last TR leadership shakeup, Jane was reassigned to Schematics. She’s still doing the same work (plus some broader scope stuff), but she now reports to Phryne. Not only has working with Jane become much easier, but Jane also seems much happier–because her skills and knowledge are being recognized, valued, and put to their best use.

  132. alwaysanon*

    An example of how problems are dealt with in a functional workplace…

    I had issues with a male colleague. Not major enough to report to HR, but I was uncomfortable. I initially raised it with my line manager during our regular monthly catch up and he was supportive and made some helpful suggestions, as a result of which the problem seemed to go away. The colleague’s work quality then took a dive on my projects which caused me loads of problems. I spoke to my boss’s boss who again was supportive and asked what outcome I wanted. I said I wanted this guy to stop messing up my stuff and just treat me professionally, like anyone else, so my boss’s boss spoke to the guy’s line manager, his work returned to normal, I’ve not had any problems in the intervening five years, and I don’t believe it has had any repercussions on my own career.

    What was functional about it was that a) I had space to bring this kind of thing up through our regular catch-ups, b) both my boss and indirectly boss were overtly supportive but also led by me and crucially c) their intervention was effective.

    To give a different example of successful problem resolution in a functional workplace: last time I got promoted I inherited a new hire who was completely unsuited to the role. I discussed this with my boss every month in our formal catch-ups, as well as on an ad hoc basis, and I of course did likewise with my employee. My boss made it clear that I was empowered to decide whether or not to keep the guy. After six months of setting expectations and coaching to help him develop he wasn’t getting any better so in his mid-year review I said he would need to go on a formal PIP, as a result of which he chose to leave, and we hired somebody much better.

    The formal monthly catch-ups were a key part of what made this functional, as I was able to get support from my own line manager during them, and I was able to use them to set out expectations, identify needs, and evaluate progress with the individual. Plus of course my manager was willing for me to let the guy go if he wasn’t delivering.

  133. sara*

    We had a senior dev who was fine, but really wasn’t a good fit for the work he was being expected to do. I was a junior at the time and had to show him how to set up his dev environment (same setup) multiple times, and he would have these ideas that were completely unworkable (like would have been a complete nightmare to maintain or were using things that were incompatible with our existing massive code base) and he’d push ahead on them instead of working on new solution, and then erupt into a rage when his idea didn’t work out. I stewed for ages about how to talk to my boss about it, and by the time I worked up the courage to say something, my boss told me that they had it under control. The next day, an email came out that he was no longer working with us. I definitely learned that I should speak up here sooner, but I’d come from a different company where, if I’d spoken up, I just would have been speaking into the wind.

    1. sara*

      Note that it wasn’t what I said that got him let go, just that they’d been observing the same behaviour and had been working on a plan to figure it out. I just happened to hit my breaking point as they were reaching the conclusion that he wasn’t going to work out long-term in the role.

  134. Tech sector*

    A friend’s workplace once handled a sexual misconduct situation brilliantly. Two employees had been dating, and the man did something inappropriate (never specified publicly) to the woman. She reported it to the higher bosses the next day, and by the end of that day, the man was fired, locked out of the company systems, and a company-wide email was sent out to tell everyone that he’d been fired for cause and was not to be given any access to company systems. The company never disclosed the particulars but made it clear to everyone that they would not tolerate misconduct toward their employees. That they acted so swiftly in support of the victim of the misconduct is a heartening change from the more usual pattern, and I think women employees particularly take note of this kind of thing. Plus, this was the tech industry, which has plenty of harassment and abuse issues, so seeing management take this stance was even more impressive.

    (My own workplace, sadly, doesn’t measure up to this standard.)

  135. VermiciousKnit*

    When I worked in a different, higher-functioning agency than I currently do, they had some issues with really embarrassing misspellings of their name that aren’t caught by spellcheck (part of their title is “public”), and some employees not double-checking information before sending it out.

    As a result, they instituted a formalized review process with clear roles and steps. It was sometimes a frustrating bureaucratic process, but it did it’s job. Also, when we got a team of younger, tech-savvy admins, we were allowed to taking on streamlining the process as a project, with a great deal of autonomy.

    There was one problem coworker there that was not under direct supervision of my bosses, but they also did really well with intervening when needed when she’d go off on her rants. She never had legit complaints, all her sour grapes were over things that came from her own rigidity about how people are “supposed” to be (e.g., she didn’t like how fast I walked or that I didn’t stay to chit-chat with her when I dropped something off). Because of the way civil service worked, it would have been difficult to dismiss her, but my bosses did all they could to make things easier on the people she disliked, including giving me a second cube that was not next to her so I could go sit somewhere else when she was in a state.

  136. Schnapps*

    I work for a large public organization. Me and two coworkers were being bullied by our direct supervisor (director level). We went to our union steward who had a meeting with our department head (director’s manager). We all had a meeting with my Dept Head and our HR rep. They believed us when they saw how upset we were.

    They convened meetings with an external consultant who works on executive and management coaching. Not only did he work with the director, he worked with our team to repair relationships. The director was going through her own training and after a disastrous (for her) one month follow up when the consultant found out she hadn’t done any of the work he had wanted her to do, she went on medical leave for two months, then ended up retiring.

    So the system worked, not in the least because I had a department head who was willing to go to bat for me.

  137. Newlywed*

    There was one incident that I think previous company handled really well. Someone had been fired and the rumor mill was swirling. President of the company talked to all of us in a room and explained what the situation was. In this particular case, the person had made a mistake that cost the company well over 100k, didn’t attempt to rectify it, and then tried to cover it up and keep it from being noticed. President said that it’s ok to make mistakes, that we all do, and that making mistakes is not a fireable offense…but that when we make a mistake, especially one of that magnitude, you need to take it to someone who can help correct it, and the person had been dismissed because of the deception, not the original mistake. I thought he did a good job of addressing the situation at the time and I felt more secure in my job after hearing his explanation about the firing. It wasn’t a typical firing (people were let go all the time for minor infractions) but I think there was a lot of employee chatter about it, so it was good that he addressed it directly.

  138. Rey Mehlhorn*

    ElectronHut was not a truly wonderful place to work, but at the store level we had an awesome team for a number of years, in part due to an awesome store manager. When we got a bad apple that would backtalk other higher ranked employees (‘you’re not the boss of me’ when asked to perform basic job duties), he took them aside and had a lengthy talk that yes indeed the other employee was in charge of them, and talked to the other employees to let him know if there was any further problems because he had our backs. The difficult employee did not last long, even though the store manager was not directly in charge of hiring/firing.

  139. NotAnotherManager!*

    In dealing with a couple of under-performance situations as of late, I think it’s being done in the best way possible. I find that expectations and timely feedback are critical to handling these situations, as is having the support of HR to provide guidance and not get in the way of terminations for poor performance.

    1. We have current, up-to-date job descriptions that everyone gets when they are hired or promoted. They’re periodically vetted to ensure that they’re up to date.

    2. In orientation, we provide guidance on taking on, managing, and communicating about projects within our organization.

    3. We have a culture of asking questions. There is often not time to redo things, so getting them right the first time is critical – asking questions to ensure a project is handled correctly and everyone’s on the same page on timing/deliverables is key to this.

    4. Post-project debriefs are important, and not just when something goes horribly awry. How can we do this better? What do you wish you’d know on Day 1? They’re not lengthy, but good info comes out of these. I wish we could make them mandatory!

    5. Addressing issues with people directly and not as muted messages to the whole team when, really, it’s one or two people that are doing/not doing whatever it is you need to address. I hate it when managers say to the team, “Everyone needs to fill out their TPS reports by Monday at noon!” when 3/4 of the team is doing it right – you need to talk to Arya about the fact that she is not turning in her TPS reports on time. This also means sitting someone down sometimes and talking about how their slacking is affecting the rest of the team. (Have been the high-performer in a team of social loafers before – it sucks, and it’s important to me that my teams not have to deal with slackers. Pick up for people when they’re sick/on vacation? Yes. Pick up for Bob because he’s on his third guacamole run of the day, fifteenth this week? No.)

    6. And, if people just can’t do the job, they have to go. We are required to provide feedback and notice (absent situations like lying on expense or time reports or something serious like workplace harassment) for termination-qualifying issues, but we don’t have to keep someone around forever given twelfth chances.

  140. Techworker*

    Once at my company I was assigned to go to an all day event with two colleagues, who had a *very* intense friendship (like, never seen apart, making excuses verging on lies in order to be in the same room despite the fact they had no reason to be working together – It’s all calmed down a bit since). I really stressed about taking it to my manager because I didn’t want to make trouble and didn’t know how to phrase my reservations (and people are allowed to be friends..), but I barely got the words out/didn’t have to explain anything before he was like ‘oh. Yeah, we’ll change that’ and it immediately got sorted by switching the schedule. Yay!

  141. katie counter*

    I worked in a gift shop that was attached to a larger non-profit operation (“upstairs”). It was very functional when I started – three things that manager did to make it run smoothly:

    – She was excited and appreciative of the diversity of her employees and what we did outside of that job. She liked having interesting people on staff, and treated us like she was lucky to have us moonlighting there. It’s hard to describe, but it was a huge improvement over some retail managers who act like part time retail staff are inherently contemptible and/or treat you like a traitor/failure for having another job.
    – She had an office upstairs among the non-profit staff but was constantly on the move; she was on the shop floor at least once every two hours and was always aware of what was going on.
    – She was proactive making sure that retail staff got to participate in “all staff” things that were really designed for the upstairs people. If there was a goodbye party for someone, for instance, she would actively make sure we took a ten minute rotation so everyone working in the store could go up for a cupcake. If a staff appreciation party was being planned in a bar she would be quick to point out that some of the retail employees were under 21 so the location needed to be changed.

  142. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

    As an intern doing public health field work, our supervisor was super aware that we had gotten a total of 1 day of field training, vs the several months that the actual employees doing the same job got. He never shamed us for slip-ups, while also immediately bringing any problems to our attention. That always really stuck with me–problems never had time to fester, we didn’t have a chance to develop bad habits, but we were also never berated or shamed for not knowing everything. It was all very matter-a-fact.

  143. Justin*

    At my current job, someone suggested that we send a gift card to our manager for her birthday. I groaned to myself when I got that email, since I was used to this at other companies and I’ve always hated it. My assigned mentor, who is a leader on the team and close with our manager, replied and explained how it’s inappropriate and how some people might not be able to afford to contribute, no matter how little, and that it’s generally against company policy anyways. The person who suggested the gift tried to hem and haw and say that we could choose to not contribute, the people who contributed would be anonymous, and that we could all just “keep all this inside the team, don’t tell anyone else.” My mentor replied and shut it down hard and I was really impressed.

  144. I regret everything*

    One place I worked in, and only one, had a really amazing manager. She was able to get us everything we needed, while balancing that with budget. For a more specific example: when I started in the office, I got the impression that one of the sales people disliked me. This was confirmed when the manager told me that she had told the manager I had been slacking. I pointed to the work I had gotten completed, and stress that I would not have been able to do this work if I had been slacking. The manager agreed, and spoke to the sales person. Not only did I never hear about this incident again, but the sales person was actually nice to me from then on. I don’t know exactly what the manager said, but whatever it was shut down her complaining without making her more angry.

  145. EmilyAnn*

    I work for the federal government and our leave policies are very generous (with the exception of maternity leave). You can build up unlimited sick leave and vacations becomes generous after your first three years. People are expected to take their leave, go on vacation, go to the doctor with nary an eyebrow raised. There is a lot of trust about understanding when it would be a bad idea to use your leave because of workload/seasonal requirements.

  146. Kaitlyn*

    I’m on a two-year contract, and at the end of my last cycle, we did a performance review. I had only had one review in my life before, about eight years ago, back when I was a new grad, and in a very toxic workplace – I cried through the whole thing and then quit a month later. So I had, like, reverb from that experience.

    But this time around, my board started the whole process by saying “This isn’t about if or how you’re failing. This is about we can improve *our* systems so that we can have more success.” So things that routinely got forgotten? We set up calendar reminders. Difficult interactions? Addressed with both parties. It felt so safe and wonderful! I will say that I got a glowing review, and have consistently been referred to as “the glue that holds this organization together,” so I wasn’t paranoid they would use this as a reason to put me on a PIP or terminate the contract. BUT, it was so NICE to have a review that started out by acknowledging that a staff person can only be as effective as the systems in which she’s working, and that changes would be systemic, not personal. It made me feel respected.

  147. Beaded Librarian*

    So at my current job the old director retired and the new one ended up being a nightmare. Bullying a good chunk of the long term older staff for the apparent reason of not thinking they would be open to change.
    It was so bad that after his job was threatened out IT person went around to everyone she had bullied and got them to draft resignation letters that he then took to HR and let them know that if they didn’t do something over half the staff and most of the experience both institutionally and professionally would be leaving. She resigned a couple days later after a month on the job.

  148. Apple Dumpling Gang*

    I work for a functional company, in functional group.
    Everyone is expected to manage their time and workload. The culture here is pretty strong, and I cannot remember a supervisor treating people badly. Probably because part of every supervisor’s job is to succession plan and grow their staff. A successful manager has successful people, and offers them opportunities to grow – even if that means getting them stretch assignments with other departments within the company.
    Because of the strong culture, a coworker causing problems is dealt with humanely and fairly. The only case I recall, the staffer was listened to, then staffer & work group underwent a team session on communication with HR (which only underscored the gap between the team culture and the difficult staffer and really let the staffer’s true self shine) after which HR met with the supervisors, and then over the next few months PIP ensued and the staffer was let go. But the staffer was offered multiple chances to turn the train around before it wrecked.

    Someone was under-performing – that person had their responsibilities scaled back (employee in other department volunteered to take on tasks) as it turned out staffer was dealing with heavy family issues (terminal illness), EAP was provided, HR did some HR things to assist the staffer, the managers told staffer to take as much time as needed, flex hours, time off, etc. Everyone felt sad and just wanted to help, nobody wanted to add to what was already a heavy load. When staffer came back, other dept person continued to cover tasks for addtl 3 months, so staffer could ramp back into job. This did not negatively affect staffers end of year review.

    This is a big company that takes work/life balance very seriously. It is tough to get a job at this company (or if you work here to be chosen to interview for another position) because everyone here is amazing, hardworking and smart, so 80% open positions are internal hires, and when it is an external hire, it is usually someone who left the company coming back (leaving is not held against them).

  149. Maggie*

    My favorite principal ever (at a high school) would end every staff meeting as quickly as possible with the same words: “Do your job.” Then he would individually go talk to the people who weren’t. SO refreshing instead of preaching to the choir!

  150. GreenDoor*

    I used to work in government and one of the agency heads would ask people outside his division and well below his level to evaluate his performance. My boss invited me to join his review session with the guy and I was told to be candid. (I was at a clerical level at the time). I had good job security so I was candid – even about negatives. Lo and behold, this agency head, who was well above me in the hierarchy and not beholden to my boss at all actually acted on what he was told. I found out that he passed on the compliments I had mentioned about certain members of his staff….and that he was implmenting some new ideas to deal with some of the negatives we had raised. So….a C-suite occupant that actually listens to employees at all levels. Pretty admirable!

  151. TiffanyAching*

    My team and my boss have struck the right balance of warm and friendly, while still maintaining professional boundaries. We trust each other implicitly (very important in HR), and are able to talk about personal things with each other — though there’s never any pressure to do so.

    My boss especially is fantastic, and I think she’s spoiled me for life, I’ll never have another boss as great. She is involved just the right amount — available to problem solve and answer questions, but generally trusting us to get our work done and use our best judgement. She is super flexible about time off, and only denies a request if it would leave the office without enough coverage. If I make a mistake on something, I’m not afraid to tell her; she helps solve the problem and work out ways to prevent the same thing happening again. She also goes to bat for us with her boss and other departments. There have been a few times where an employee in another department was repeatedly rude to someone on my team, and my boss called the rude person’s boss to say it was unacceptable.

    1. TechWriter*

      Off topic, but I *love* your user name. Tiffany is a good example of functional management by the end of I Shall Wear Midnight.

  152. raktajino*

    A few years back, my company participated in one of those company-wide engagement surveys and then sent someone out to each site to interview small groups about the themes in the survey results. The person was not part of the company heirarchy; I think it was a contractor. As a result, our wages were reassessed and adjusted upwards (though not enough), the PTO buckets were rearranged, a recognition system was implemented, and other small changes to our quality of life were made. Additionally, when a group of us formed a committee to discuss career ladder things, they were able to actually implement their requested changes. Now our career ladder is more visible and we can (potentially) do things like work part time in a different department to see what that path is like.

  153. Beaded Librarian*

    Have a second one. Coworker developed a seizure disorder, director looked at her job responsibilities and rearranged things to help until the HR department forced her to go on short term disability because they were afraid she’d hurt herself having a seizure on the job. Boss had the job open for her until HR determined that they had to let her go as her condition had deteriorated from when she went on leave and had not made significant recovery again.

  154. Prof_Murph*

    I’m not sure how well my experience applies because I’m an academic. But it’s pretty unheard of for academic departments to get along well and mine does. In fact, the collegiality and respect between my co-workers is the largest factor in me staying in my position. I think we are well functioning for several reasons. 1. Almost all of us are productive and contributing members to the department – we do our jobs well. There are a few who don’t – but there’s consensus about who needs to be doing what and who’s a weak chain in the link. 2. I feel appreciated by my ‘boss’ and co-workers. They seem to recognize that I do my job well and my contributions. 3. everyone is very respectful to one another. 4. common goal – I think there’s a consensus about our goals as a department (for the most part) – we all want what’s best for the students, as well as maintaining the collegial atmosphere. We are recognized across the university as a well-functioning department. That being said, we have a lot of flexibility and autonomy – there’s an assumption that we are competent adults and motivated to do our jobs well. We are fairly well-compensated, have very good benefits, and work in a pleasant physical environment. (We know we have it pretty good.)

      1. Reliquary*

        I thought I’d chime in here because I am also an academic, and my current department *and* my former department were and are models of good leadership and unfailing collegiality. Capable and trusted senior colleagues step up and take turns in administrative roles (chairs, directors, etc.), newer folks are actually protected from burdensome service and attentively mentored through tenure and promotion processes. Despite some minor rifts (some folks think their specializations are more difficult and rigorous than others, for example), everyone works together for the benefit of our students and for the good of the department. We are recognized by our peers and our chair for the varied skills we each possess, and we are rewarded (with raises, even!) for performing outstanding work. And I am in the humanities! I’ve led a charmed academic life thus far!

        1. Libervermis*

          I’m on the humanities academic job market this year and your comment gives me such hope that a collegial, functional, and effective work environment is indeed a possibility!

          1. Reliquary*

            It really can happen. I think that because we only see horror stories in the news and a litany of complaints elsewhere online (in blogs, etc.), it’s difficult to perceive that there are lots of good, functional departments out there. I hope you land in one! Good luck! (And feel free to reply here if you think I could help in some way.)

  155. Snickerdoodle*

    My workplace is functional! I LOVE my bosses and coworkers, especially in comparison to the appalling hellhole I left.

    The best example I have of their awesomeness is of the creepy guy on vanpool. I’d been working here for about two years before I started taking vanpool, and one of the other riders was a guy (about 50 and married with kids) who immediately took an overly friendly interest in me (35-but-look-25 female and single). He started off fairly innocuously with invitations to lunch or the company book fair, etc., which I declined. He sent me a few more emails with a paper-thin veneer of plausible deniability (stuff like “here’s a knitting pattern you might like,” etc.), none of which I responded to. Then he dropped by my cube unannounced and uninvited, again with a paper-thin excuse, and it creeped me out because I never told him where I sit (in the middle of the second floor in a low-traffic area; he sits somewhere on the fifth floor in a completely different department). He also tried to insert himself into my personal life by trying to invite himself to one of my hockey games or my neighborhood pool (he lives several miles away). Finally, when none of that worked and I started wearing earbuds on vanpool, he started talking about sexual assault (all the cases currently in the media) in a way that was very dismissive of the victims, like insinuating they were lying or deserved it in some way.

    I documented every last thing he said or did to make me uncomfortable, printed it out, printed out all his emails to me, and took the whole thing to my supervisor, who IMMEDIATELY went to legal and HR. There was a few days of back and forth as I am a contractor and the vanpool guy is a regular employee, but about a week later, hoo boy, did they lower the boom. Last Friday, my supervisor phoned me to say that creepy vanpool guy’s supervisors had just spoken with him, and he was not to contact me anymore. I was immensely relieved but dreading vanpool that afternoon and fully anticipating him to start up again but more subtly or passive aggressively. Instead, he exited the building at the last second, boarded the van through the back door, and was dead silent the whole ride.

    He didn’t ride Monday, and that afternoon, our vanpool driver emailed us with the monthly fare bill and told us the creepy guy was having to drop out. ! They must have really read him the riot act. I don’t know if it were suggested, encouraged, or demanded that he quit riding, but one way or another, he’s gone. All the supervisors and coworkers who were aware of the situation followed up with me to check that I was okay and to see if I needed anything. Nope; I’m great.

    I never even requested that he quit riding. I hoped for that, obviously, but I wasn’t going to push for it as long as he behaved himself. As one friend said, though, it’s too much to ask some people to behave for upwards of half an hour at a stretch, and he probably guessed that sooner or later he’d say something inappropriate that would cause me to complain again, so he opted to sit in traffic and yell at his radio. Fine by me.

    It’s a VAST difference from the “He’s just like that” or “Oh, we can have a word with him if he’s making you uncomfortable (but really we won’t say anything)” or “Well, what have YOU done to stop it?” I’ve heard from previous employers.

    My bosses are getting a cake the size of a house for Boss’s Day. I don’t care how stupid that holiday is.

    1. Lissa*

      Nice!! Did you post about this an open thread while it was happening? I feel like I remember reading about it and being concerned – if so I’m really glad it worked out!! If not, ugh, not surprised there are multiple creepy guys who do this…

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Yes! I posted asking for what else I could do to ignore him because I felt trapped on vanpool and didn’t want to address it then and there for fear of what he’d do. He seemed to start backing off me but then started talking about sexual assault in a victim blame-y way, persisting even after I snapped at him, and then he lowered his voice so I couldn’t hear him as he continued to discuss it (like that would work; I was three feet away). That was when I’d had all I could stand. He obviously didn’t care that I didn’t want to hear it and was going to just keep talking about it anyway. It also really freaked me out because really? Of all the things you COULD talk about, you choose that, over and over again? And that particular tone? That told me that it was on his mind, that he didn’t think a woman saying no was a valid answer, and that gun violence was the solution to anything. It freaked me the hell out. I also noticed then that he’d gone from overly friendly stuff like lunch invitations to visiting me at my cube and trying to invite himself into my personal life (effectively telling me he knew where to find me) and then to floating rapey stories around. Ew. Not anymore. My bosses were horrified and, like I said, read him the riot act. Now vanpool is peaceful. :D

        Sadly, though, there have been a LOT of posts on this site, Captain Awkward, etc. about exactly this kind of thing, and as I noted on one Captain Awkward post, they are all the same story and not one of them turns out to have been “just a misunderstanding.” (I was careful to note in my discussions with my bosses that I did not want an apology or an explanation and DEFINITELY didn’t want to hear the word “misunderstanding.” Thankfully, they knew better.) Yay!

        1. Julia*

          That sounds immensely creepy. What did he think he would accomplish by telling you about his views on sexual assault? (Other than creeping you out, which he was already doing a great job at.)

          1. Snickerdoodle*

            My take was “Oh, well, if you’re not interested, I may as well go ahead and tell you what I REALLY think about women” with a gross undercurrent of “If I can’t get you one way, I will another.” Also, he wasn’t specifically addressing me; his opinions were floated collectively to the whole vanpool. I suspect he was testing everyone else’s reaction as well as mine to see how it would go if I accused him. When I snapped at him for his opinion on the Mollie Tibbetts case, he started keeping his voice down and only addressing the vanpool driver, who didn’t seem very interested. Creepy guy just wanted an audience for his creepy opinions and figured “Well, SHE’S a buzzkill, so I’ll just make sure she can’t hear.” And of course nothing makes you listen harder than somebody trying to keep you from hearing. It showed that he KNEW I didn’t like what he was saying but was going to say it anyway. Gross.

            1. Snickerdoodle*

              . . . It reminds me of one Captain Awkward post where the OP had written in about a date with a guy who insisted on getting touchy-feely quickly and then told her a story about a friend of his who’d been “wrongly” accused of rape. Of all the things to talk about a first date, why that? There’s a reason when a man talks about assault in a dismissive way.

  156. Traveling Teacher*

    Told my team lead recently that I was pregnant. Really early in the pregnancy (1.5 months), but he is such a kind, reasonable person, as well as a long-term planner, that I knew I should tell him right away rather than wait, as per Alison’s usual advice. He was extremely supportive and very happy for me. He also reassured me up and down that my job would still be here when I’m back from mat leave (I’m a contractor, so one of the few instances where your return is not necessarily guaranteed as would be usual in my country). He’s also managed to adjust a meeting schedule so that it’s at a better time for me.

    He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever had in a lot of ways–organized, realistic about workflow, doesn’t hesitate to share insight about what’s really going on behind the scenes when it gives helpful context, gives us a lot of autonomy when he can, has given me more opportunities to learn new skills than I ever imagined before taking this job (not teaching related at all–first job I’ve had that isn’t.)

    In short, he is a great human, :)

  157. Nonny-nonny-non*

    My current company is a huge global one and has always taken equality seriously, with annual training to be done by all staff about what is considered discrimination, and the penalties for doing so. It’s now gone one better, with the CEO explicitly calling out the need for every member of staff to show respect for all co-workers and putting out a new video we’re all to watch, on unconscious bias and how to try and avoid it.
    Granted, I’ll be more impressed when the board is slightly less middle-aged-white-male dominated, but I do genuinely feel that the company would totally support me if I ever needed to make a complaint.
    Part of that is that the one time a male colleague was both sexist and incredibly rude to me (suggested that my preferred title being Ms was ‘that spinster lesbian thing you’ve got going on’) my manager took it straight to HR who then made it very clear to my colleague that this sort of behaviour was. not. tolerated.

  158. AMA Long-time Lurker*

    I can’t speak to a highly functional workplace as a whole (I work in a large, matrixed organization), but I can speak to some highly functional bosses! Some things that they do:
    – When communication from leadership is poor or unclear, they allow us to vent about the lack of transparency and hunt down answers for us. This might seem small, but it goes a long way in affirming that poor communication should not be normalized and that our direct management, at least, has higher standards.
    – Another thing that feels invisible until you lose it: my managers do not demand our emotional labor – i.e., they don’t expect us to be cheery and happy at all times. I have been in other work atmospheres where attitudes were hyper-scrutinized and bosses always assumed the worst. Now, if I come into work and am simply tired, not feeling well, or have a real frustration with something work-related, it’s a relief to know that I don’t need to “fake it” as long as I communicate my concerns in a professional manner. (And behind closed doors, I can be even more candid with them. This is magical.)
    – When an employee is having a problem, THEY TELL THEM. And put them on a performance improvement plan. No one is blindsided this way. My managers have often shared their “leader’s intent” in writing so that we all know their styles and expectations up front. That way, we’re all on a level playing field and can focus on the work instead of dodging mines.
    – Finally, good managers DO NOT make you feel guilty for using your benefits. They trust your decision to use sick time and personal time and understand that it contributes to your long-term growth and prevents you from burning out.

    So, basically, my best managers have just…treated me like a whole person, and not an employee!

    1. Close Bracket*

      “When an employee is having a problem, THEY TELL THEM. ”

      Ya don’t say. I would make “work with them and explain why the problem is a problem” before jumping to PIP. Functional managers are not PIP happy.

  159. Close Bracket*

    I had submitted a request for some physical analysis through the appropriate system, and I had also spoken to the person who performed this analysis. He gave me a due date, which of course I promptly forgot, assuming he would do his work by the due date (I was young and naive back then). He didn’t. I was in big trouble. My boss came to me in my cube and asked why the work wasn’t done. I explained that I submitted it through the accepted channels and assumed it would be done by the due date, and it slipped my mind after that. My boss repeated back to me what I said for confirmation and said ok.

    The good part about that was that my boss came and got my side of the story. He could have done a lot better, though. For anyone, but especially bc I was just a few years out of university, he should have followed up with a sit down meeting in his office explaining what had gotten back to him about me, why that sort of thing happens, and how to make sure it didn’t happen again.

    I had a similar incident with a different level boss (sort of like boss and older sibling boss, if we are going with family analogies) where someone complained about something I was doing (I was holding something up pending confirmation of vital information that was missing), and he asked me for my side of the story. The follow up in that case was highly dysfunctional, but that’s a story for another open thread. :)

    Functional managers talk to their direct reports.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Oh, another one. The workplace above was highly dysfunctional (with occasional moments of half-assed functionality). I heard “no” a lot, even when the thing I wanted was something without that group or person’s scope of work.

      Then I got a new job. I needed something from the test group. I was directed to the manager, told her what I needed. She said she would look into it but the answer was probably no and if that turned out to be the case, she would find the person I needed to talk to to get a yes.. I was floored.

  160. Bagpuss*

    I think the thing that made it most obvious for me was a couple of months after I moved from a very toxic workplace. In my new job, I made a serious mistake a couple of months in.I told one of the bosses (my on immediate boss was away), and I was absolutely convinced that I would sacked on the spot .

    His first response was to ask what I’d already done to address it, tell me that I had done exactly the right thing both in those initial steps and in coming to speak to him, then said “OK, lets see what we can do next to sort this out”. The simple fact of his treating it as a problem *WE* had, not a problem *I* had , or had caused, was such a revelation.

  161. ELK*

    I’ve been at my current job/position for nearly nine years. After a string of shorter term jobs in “bad-to-horrible” workplaces, I have to say this one is a jewel. The manager who supervises the entire program is friendly, engaged, and compassionate. He’s interested in our lives. The second-level managers take their cues from him, and are also engaged and relaxed. Everyone watches out for everyone else. Anyone who finds themselves in a difficult personal situation will be surrounded by co-workers offering food, transportation, help, and even cash. I’ve had co-workers bring me bags of snacks to the emergency room when my husband was in serious trouble.
    I believe the one connecting thread is the strong conviction that it is imperative to HIRE people who like other people, people for whom getting along with others is almost the primary characteristic. Our interviews always dig at that specific characteristic. Have some poor hires been made? Yes, but they just usually don’t last. It’s easy to tell who doesn’t care about his/her co-workers when everyone else is so compassionate and caring.
    It’s not heaven – there are the usual workplace kerfuffles – but the main focus here, aside from getting the job done, is CARING for each other. Watching out for each other. We are all ages, from near retirement all the way to just out of college. We are white, black, Indian, gay, straight, Christian, atheist, parents, single, married, divorcing and everything else. Retired employees return often just to catch up and see everyone.

  162. Cedrus Libani*

    I’d managed to escape my one truly dysfunctional workplace, and landed somewhere much better. In my first week, they gave me a small project. It had never made it to the top of anyone’s priority list, but it needed doing, and it would be a good training exercise for me.

    I spent a day wrapping my head around the project, and by the end of that day, I was certain it wasn’t a small project. I could do what needed to be done, but it would take me a couple of months. Given that my new boss thought it would take me a couple of days, we needed to have a chat.

    I was not looking forward to this chat. In my former workplace, I would have received a comprehensive bollocking for my incompetence, definitely including the “if you can’t do such a simple task then perhaps this field isn’t for you” lecture, and probably followed up with the “is there a psychological reason you can’t commit to this task” amateur therapy session. (The latter is, I suspect, what that boss took away from the remedial management training the higher-ups made him take.)

    This boss was clearly better, but I still wasn’t expecting him to take me seriously. I was so new I barely knew where the toilets were. So I asked for the meeting over email. I’d at least have documentation for when the inevitable mess became my fault.

    Instead, he sat down with me, had me walk through my concerns, and then told me that my plan was reasonable and he would back me up. Could have knocked me over with a feather. I did fix the thing, it took several months, and the company ended up getting a patent on the fix. Two-day project, my hindquarters.

  163. Carsonelli*

    I happen to be in a bit of a paradox where my department is one of the functional few within a dysfunctional organization.
    One example of my manager, being a stellar human being was on an occasion where I had a bit of a slip-up. I accidentally overlooked something in a process that was incredibly easy to miss something, important to not miss something, and had absolutely no back-ups to ensure things were not missed. Obviously, it was not good that I had missed this detail, but it wouldn’t have resulted in any kind of huge disaster. However, based on the reaction of the department director that these details related to, let’s call him Bob, you would think that I had committed an egregious error that would have resulted in the implosion of the organization. Instead of bringing the error to my attention or to my boss’s attention, Bob decided to call me out in front of my boss, my boss’s boss, our COO and CEO. This was the first time this error had ever occurred and there were no real processes in place to address this kind of error (apparently the expectation was that human error was non-existent).
    My boss thought Bob’s reaction was outrageous and decided to have a few words with him. My boss went to HR to let them know he was going to address the situation directly with Bob, someone who was higher on the totem pole. In the discussion with Bob, my boss explained that in future, he would prefer that issues like this to be brought to his attention first to allow us the opportunity to rectify the problem. He didn’t appreciate the public humiliation one of his employees was subjected to and he hoped that Bob would apologize to me (that never happened…).
    Also, my boss explained that the way the process was set up at the time promoted failure because there were no contingency plans for catching items that were missed during review. This lead to an entirely new program being instated and a process that ensures that a computer and two people review each piece of information to ensure nothing is missed in future. Go boss!!

  164. Nicki Name*

    At my highly functional tech workplace, we have a retrospective meeting after every development cycle where we talk about what worked well and what didn’t. People are able to discuss problems without getting angry and blamey. If there’s something we have the power to fix, we discuss how to modify our process to work better and then we actually make the change! Like grownups! Unlike some other places I’ve worked where people vent about the same old things and nothing ever changes.

    1. Lavender Menace*

      RETROSPECTIVES. They are THE BEST. We have retrospectives after we ship something big and oh my god they are amazing.

  165. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    A couple of projects ago we had a supervisor who went off the rails. He started out OK but I think he just got overwhelmed with managing such a big team. He shouted at some people and treated others very badly, and it ended up with multiple formal complaints being made.

    The company did a formal investigation, talked to all the staff about their impressions of the incidents, and in the end moved the supervisor to a different project where he wasn’t in charge of so many things and brought in someone else to take over. It’s the first time I have ever had a complaints process result in a tangible change.

  166. The Expendable Redshirt*

    I work at a place that views mistakes as learning experience opportunities. This is pretty great for me, because I used to have managers that reacted to (reasonable) errors by jumping to doubting employment suitability. Period. Before I started working where I am now, my self confidence was a bit shaky.

    Now the mistake correction process goes something like this…..
    Me: Boss, the lamas got out of the pen and are stampeding down main street. Citizens of our fair city are upset. I should have checked to see that the gate was locked after feeding the lamas this morning.
    Boss: That’s not optimal. Have you notified the lama wrangling team that there are animals on the loose?
    Me: Yes. And I’ve installed a self locking mechanism on the barn door so that this doesn’t happen again.
    Boss: Okay, it sounds like you’ve learned from all this. Don’t make the exact same mistake a second time.
    Me: Got it!

  167. B*

    My company hired the wife of an employee. She wasn’t going to be working with her spouse at all, and she had rare skills that we needed and were struggling to find.

    My friend regularly worked with the husband for their job duties. One day, HR called her into the office and quietly asked what her relationship was with him. She was baffled (she said she started by basically saying “he’s always completed his projects on time” thinking he was having performance issues). From subsequent questions it became clear to my friend that HR had received a report that there was an affair between the two. At the end of the meeting, HR reassured my friend that the investigation would be kept confidential.

    Shortly after, the wife wasn’t there and her team was told she was no longer with the company. My friend was called in again and received an apology from HR and assurance that the investigation found that the claims were baseless.

    In their next meeting, the husband quietly apologized to her, explaining that his wife had tried to spread a rumor they were having an affair to manipulate her husband. When the wife first said something to a coworker who knew neither of them, the coworker had quietly and immediately reported it to HR. HR managed to conduct an investigation, determine the wife was attempting to slander an innocent person, verify that the claims were entirely baseless, and dismiss the wife, all before she told it to more than 3 people. Of those three, none told another soul except HR. I only knew because my friend confided in me. No rumors were spread when the wife was fired. The husband and my friend faced zero backlash, though the husband was instructed that his wife was not permitted in the office or to contact employees except through HR.

    The best part about this was that my friend was ultimately very replaceable; entry-level and no specific skills. The fact that the company (HR and the employees who heard the “rumor”) took such care, ignored the two employee’s levels and skills, and kept the whole thing so exceptionally quiet was remarkable to her.

  168. Totally Minnie*

    I’ve got one for what a functional workplace does when a supervisor is treating staff badly.

    I was part of the supervisory team in my office. There were four departmental supervisors and one overall manager. Supervisor #4 had never been a supervisor before, and she was eager to establish herself as an authority figure. Unfortunately, her method involved a lot of patronizing and yelling and “my way or the highway” type of statements. The worst of her behavior took place when she was the only supervisor on duty, so the rest of the supervisory team was unaware of what was happening.

    My organization has an open door policy which allows an employee to take their concerns to any supervisor, not just their own. I was approached by employees in all four departments about #4’s behavior. As soon as I was made aware of how serious the issue had become, I took the information to my manager.

    My manager initiated our progressive discipline process. She met with #4 and informed her that her behavior was unacceptable and laid out specific things #4 needed to change in order to keep her position. #4 did not improve, and HR became involved. HR launched an investigation and interviewed the employees who had come forward, as well as people they identified as witnesses. As the supervisor who received the initial reports, I was interviewed as well. HR then met with #4 and issued a final warning. By the end of the following week #4 was asked to resign and was walked out of the building by our manager.

  169. Em too*

    I worked on a major project that required long hours for months, unpaid. Afterwards, they said ‘Everyone has seen you working late and now we want them to see you leaving early. ‘

    And we did, including senior managers, and it was great.

  170. Grammar Maven*

    I’m a magazine editor. I used to be a freelancer writing for this magazine, and when an editorial position opened up, the editor I wrote for asked me if I wanted to interview for it. “Okay,” I said warily, having gotten very used to being my own boss, “but you have to promise me there’s no office politics.”

    “There’s no office politics,” he said, in tones of utmost sincerity.

    I’ve been here nearly twelve years and it’s TRUE. There’s NO OFFICE POLITICS. There’s something about publishing where people find their jobs and then just… stay in them. I started out as an assistant editor, and then became an editor, and now I’m a senior editor, but the work I do is still fundamentally the same as the work I started doing twelve years ago (though there’s more of it). When the head of my department retired, there was maybe thirty seconds of jockeying among some of the senior editors to be the new department head; then someone was brought over from another department to take the role, there was another thirty seconds of grumbling from people who wanted the gig, and we all moved on to figuring out how to work with our new manager. And he’s fantastic, so that was easy.

    It’s not easy being in media right now, and I hugely appreciate how honest the company management is about our financial situation as a company. When things are good, we hear about it in detail. When things are bad, we hear about it in detail. Everyone is encouraged to talk directly to the company president about ideas for bringing in more revenue or being more efficient, and those ideas are listened to and acted on if they’re valuable.

    When I came out as trans, the company president sent around a personal note congratulating me and reminding the staff to use my correct name and pronouns. Every single one of my coworkers has tried very hard to get it right. They don’t always succeed, but I appreciate the effort so much. They also immediately started consulting with me for articles on gender-related topics or about queer or trans people, to make sure that we were using the right language.

    Several of my colleagues have disabilities and the company is extremely accommodating, going way beyond what’s legally required.

    And there’s one small thing that makes me really happy. We’re often sent freebies to write about, and then those things need to be disposed of. When I started the job, I was shocked to see all those perfectly good new items being tossed in the trash. I arranged for a local charity to pick them up if we boxed them up; the company management immediately agreed that that was worthwhile, and assigned the mailroom staff to do the boxing-up. We donate dozens of boxes a month. Every time I walk past the stack of boxes waiting for pickup, I get warm fuzzies.

    The job’s not perfect. No one makes a ton of money in this industry, and I’m lucky that my partner has good health insurance, because the insurance available through my job is lousy. But I love the work and I love my colleagues and I love the atmosphere at the company. I’ve never lasted at a job more than 1.5 years before I took this one, and I plan to stay in it until the media industry crumbles and sinks into the sea.

  171. Kat J*

    I got a promotion and inherited an employee at the same time as I got a new boss. I quickly realised just how little work the employee was doing, despite having all the training and support necessary (and I had found ways to provide more). So, ruling out glaring issues from my end I recognised that she just wasn’t likely to meet performance standards.

    With support from my boss, I started a process of informal performance management. Just setting reasonable goals for each day and week, and checking in with progress regularly. The employee knew that I was onto her – and then began the shouting, the throwing objects (!), rolling eyes in meetings, accusations of bullying, insults, etc. Again with support from my boss, I gave an informal warning that those behaviours were totally unacceptable and had to stop immediately.

    When I started being concerned for my own physical health (not to mention my ability to work while being shouted at), we gave her a written warning, and a request for a meeting to discuss the problem. She phoned her lawyer, he phoned us, we told him the story, and the lawyer advised her to leave with a small (but generous as she wasn’t entitled to it) severance before she got fired.

    Basically, my boss supported me in managing my own staff without getting in the way, and provided me the right tools to do it!

  172. Dawn*

    I’m a teacher and have worked in both a dysfunctional school and (my current) functional school. Here’s what I like about it:

    There is respect for work-life balance. Our field can be intense; it’s not uncommon for us to work 60-hour weeks on a 40-hour contract. And my school is in a high-needs community, and the nature of working with kids living in poverty adds an extra layer of intensity. Our principal respects our time and encourages us to dial back whenever we can. (In my dysfunctional school, the director would waltz in at noon then hold us over a half-hour or hour past when we were paid, after we’d been working with kids with emotional disabilities all day.)

    Our principal helps us to solve problems. For example, I told him yesterday that a training we had to attend at another school started too early, and nearly every off-site person was late and missed part of an essential training on a new grade-reporting system. He said he will advocate for us for future off-site trainings that we are able to be present for the whole thing.

    My school treats us to breakfast and lunch on in-school professional development days. It’s such a small gesture but so appreciated! This is not a lucrative profession and we don’t get to eat lunches out otherwise, so it is really a special treat to get not only restaurant food on a workday but food we didn’t have to pay for or prepare ourselves!

    Perhaps most importantly: we are all here for the kids. So we share a purpose centered around our mission. At my previous school, most staff members were so disgruntled that, whenever anything extra needed to be done, it fell over and over again to the same few people. At my current school, we share responsibilities and support each other; we are constantly asking ourselves what we can improve to be more supportive of our students, their families, and the larger community. This shared ideal means that we actually do good work toward that goal, and no one is left feeling like they’re shouldering responsibilities while others are cutting out early or not doing their share.

  173. Serendipity*

    Having a manager who has your back makes all the difference.

    I work as an product expert and auditor for a large company that has recently launched a new line of business. My role expanded dramatically to take on the new products (product expert, working with marketing, sales, legal and production teams, writing manuals and upskilling staff etc), while still supporting the main line of business.

    With all the new work on my plate my audits fell behind, but I felt I didn’t need to flag it with my manager; the reports are issued quarterly and I was confident I would make them up towards the end of the quarter once I settled into a rhythm with my new responsibilities.

    My manager was in an executive leadership meeting recently where the gap in audits was questioned. Without missing a beat my manager explained that she had directed me to put the audits on hold and focus on the new product launch for the time being. She then came privately to ask what was going on and I was able to explain.

    I love that my manager trusts me to get my work done, knows that I will ask for help when I need it, and has my back to the point that she would stand in front of the executive leadership team without hesitation and say “yes, I told her to do that”

  174. CastIrony*

    Because I listened to a cook’s toxic complaining and stories, I believed it when my now current supervisor was part of a group of higher-ups who stole expensive food, but erased the tapes. This made me not trust my supervisor until I had to bite the bullet and go tell them about said cook, who decided to micromanage me one night, but inadvertently triggered me (Thanks, toxic job trauma! (sarcasm))

    I’m glad I did. They were horrified, and then helped me schedule me so that I could see said cook less and feel less like I’m waiting for them to do it again.

  175. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    Seconding everyone who’s highlighted what a difference it makes when your managers have your back!
    I’m a few years out of college and in my first office job ever, and my managers have been wonderfully sensitive to that without me even having to say anything. The amount of emails I was being expected to send/manage was overwhelming at first (coming from a retail background). My manager took me aside after a few days and told me that the tone I was striking in my emails was just right – I had been wondering the same, but didn’t know that was even a question I could ask! That’s something I’ll never forget.
    My other manager periodically checks in to make sure that my workload is manageable (I’m the receptionist, so sometimes will get overloaded with projects from various people who don’t know how much work I have) and will advocate for me if necessary.
    Despite being a large, busy law firm, having managers like this helps to maintain a culture of being supportive and kind, and it shows in the way that both attorneys and staff treat each other.

  176. Hot Chocolate*

    Dysfunctional workplace: no annual review in 4 years, no raise for 4 years, when I met with my boss to negotiate a raise (because they wanted to change my duties) she laughed at me.
    Functional workplace: I was supposed to be on probation for 6 months and since I started in late January that meant I would miss out on the annual salary progression that ticked over July 1, but unknown to me my supervisor put in for my no restrictions permanent employment early in June, I signed the contract just before the cut off date, so I got the raise!

  177. ECHM*

    My current job has performance reviews, treats us like adults, expresses appreciation verbally and financially, and is generally a drama-free workplace (except for drama caused by people outside of the organization). Staff support each other and are kind to each other. Best work environment I’ve ever had.

  178. DMouse*

    Although not everything in my workplace has always been functional, my boss is a model of how to be a great boss and handle problems in a functional way. Great example from just this week! We were working on a project with a firm deadline, coordinating the design of posters for an upcoming event for about 30 of her clients. We suddenly found out that pretty much all of the materials we had were the wrong format, meaning we would have to go back to every client, and potentially some of them might not be able to get us what we needed within the deadline. And although I’m the main point person for this process, I was out of the office for several days right when she found out. Here’s how she handled it:
    – Saw that I was stressed just coming back to the office and having to deal with this, and acknowledged that it sucked.
    – Did not panic. Spent time discussing with me and gave me clear instructions of how she wanted me to handle finding out what exactly we needed, and then how to approach the clients.
    – Since I will be out again, she has a plan of what she will “take over” to get this completed. (In a helpful way – and she has done this before as needed. Doesn’t matter that it’s not “her job” – she does whatever needs to be done.)
    – Put together a clearly worded email about what we should do differently next time to avoid this happening again, without blaming anyone.

    1. DMouse*

      Also want to add one more aspect: There was something I hadn’t completed yet, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if this problem hadn’t come up. But I had to tell her that I had not yet completed that item. And that’s ok! Because my functional boss doesn’t yell at me when I make a mistake or drop the ball on something. I can feel comfortable being honest with her in those situations, and we talk it over to come up with how to fix the problem or get the missed item done, and (if it’s a mistake I made) what I can do differently to not repeat the problem in the future. She’s also totally honest with me when she makes a mistake or missed providing me with something I requested from her.

  179. Lusara*

    I’ve had 5 reviews in the last 18 months. At each one, my boss asks how my work-life balance is. She gives me a choice of a raise, more vacation, or a combination.

    We have a policy of use it or lose it for vacation with no payout. But there’s never any pushback on vacation requests, and you can take two or three weeks at a time.

  180. Diverse Anon*

    Recently my whole team was asked to pitch in for a special event. Everyone… except me. I was afraid I was being shut out or discriminated against. I planned out my approach in writing, called my supervisor to a private meeting, and asked how people got to be picked for this event. He explained how a core team had been decided but they had to keep adding people for various reasons, so I was actually being chosen to watch the phones, not being left behind. I explained that in the past I’d been discriminated against in this way so it made me nervous, and he apologized and said he should have thought more about how it looked to me. Problem solved, event went well and I manned the phones.

    In a dysfunctional office I can see this being the result of actual discrimination, or me assuming so and ascribing all kinds of bad motives to the company. It would have really poisoned the relationship but I am happy with how it was actually handled.

  181. wasnuts*

    Once upon a time we were not functional, like literally, in the news not functional. It takes a strong boss to change the workplace habits, processes. S.B. did it, honesty was vital, leading the charge on problems, and asking questions and listening. Very willing to put money and people and resources where needed.

  182. syseng*

    We had two chronic underperformers who a previous, dysfunctional supervisor had dealt with passive aggressively. The experienced manager who replaced him also quickly determined these two were not contributing their fair share (one more than the other).

    The first one was almost immediately placed on a PIP (a fact that was not disclosed to the department) and was fired after not meeting those requirements after six months or so.

    The second had other issues. It was a bit of an unfortunate case, as the work he was really good at had disappeared over time as newer products displaced it. I got the impression our supervisor was more sympathetic and willing to find alternate paths for him. In short, this was dealt with by giving him some of the first departing underperformer’s less technically complicated role, and giving him the chance to access some extra training so he could feel more comfortable filling roles the rest of the department needed him to fill. However, he was resistant to the training efforts, and frequently complained to other employees about what he was asked to do. Within that time, he was most likely placed on a PIP, and within a year of the new supervisor joining, he was fired.

    The main points are that my supervisor treated these employees like they were human beings who wanted to improve. If that they were capable of doing so, they were given a fair shot at that, but since they were not, they were dealt with kindly over a fair and appropriate timeline.

    1. syseng*

      This supervisor also gives salaried employees a much-appreciated choice between a fairly calculated overtime bonus (where hours billed as not overtime for whatever reason are still counted) and time off as available to offset overtime.

  183. heliotrope*

    I spent many years in a very dysfunctional workplace – I was hired by my current job three years ago, and have been amazed at the difference simply having management that cares about me and my work makes. They back me and my team up when we’re overloaded, they’ve been incredibly flexible when I’ve needed an unusual amount of time off for family and health purposes, and they’ve allowed me and others in our department to pursue professional development opportunities that I’ve never had before. The biggest and most recent thing happened just a month or so ago, when my manager called me into her office to tell me that one of our directors had spearheaded a project with HR to do “market analysis” of what the average salaries for my position are in the area. The result of that analysis? Significant raises for nearly every person who holds my position. It really made me feel like they value what I bring to the team, which honestly is something I’ve never truly felt in more than 20 years of working full time.
    Is there dysfunction in my department from time to time? Of course, no place is ever perfect. But I feel like the management honestly tries to do well by us, and that makes all the difference in the world.

  184. Maria*

    4 years ago I had to take a prolonged sick leave due to stress. Had to? Yes, my job basically ordered me to. Here’s the sequence of events.
    The manager of one of my projects could tell something was off with me. He’d suffered from stress himself in the past and could recognize the signs. He told me to see HR immediately – if I didn’t feel like talking to them myself, he’d talk to them for me.
    HR told me that unfortunately their stress expert (who’s also the head of HR) was away on vacation, so the earliest she could get me a meeting with him was Tuesday (this was Thursday), but to go home until then and turn off my email and work phone in the meanwhile.
    The manager of my other project agreed with her, and told me not to worry about my meetings or deadlines – he’d get somebody to cover for me.
    During the month I was off work, my job paid for me to see a therapist and I had weekly meetings with the head of HR to see how I was doing (which actually helped me more than the shrink!). He’d repeatedly tell me not to rush back – that he’d rather see me take one week longer to come back, than to come back one week too soon.
    When I came back (part-time at first), I was put on a different project with a different manager who made sure to keep an eye on me, and who on at least one occasion told me to go home early as he could see I wasn’t doing well that day, and told me “don’t gamble with your health.”

    My place of work is pretty amazing.

    1. Back Row Girl*

      Oh, WOW, that sounds amazing! I literally had a doctor order me to have bed rest from stress from work several months back, and my manager was very annoyed about it and tried to question it (and of course, as soon as I was back, I had to deal with all the stuff that did not get done/sorted/resolved while I was gone).

  185. Back Row Girl*

    My department used to be pretty functional before my old boss had retired. I really respected how she herded cats, I mean, managed a bunch of designers – we always knew what she expected from us, and never shifted blame though she made people take ownership of their actions.
    Shortly after I was hired, I got diagnosed with depression, and I trusted my boss enough to have a one-on-one and tell her about that. We came up with an agreement that on my really bad days I would warn her, so she knew what to expect (normally I was the point person for rush or “down-and-dirty” projects). So instead of feeling overwhelmed and stressing about workload AND depression, I knew I could just pop into my boss’ office in the morning, tell her “I’m your weakest link today,” and she would take that into account and not assign anything to me that would be due the same day.
    Obviously, I compensated as much as I could on my good days, but I don’t think I would’ve if I did not feel like my boss had my back.
    Pretty sure she also felt better having a better understanding of her resources, as we work in a field where expected turn-around time can be a couple of hours, but since it’s creative area and work/effort cannot be quantified or predicted, if you don’t judge correctly, you either end up with insufficient or inferior concepts, and that can mean lost business.

    I now have a similar understanding with all my team members, which makes us able to be super productive, and one other team (whose members trust their supervisor) adopted the same policy with really good results. Several of my team members have ADHD, for example, so if any of them forget their meds, they feel comfortable telling me (I keep it confidential, of course), and I know not to give them anything that involves a lot of details for that day. No one seems to be taking advantage by claiming feeling off to get out of harder work, and there’s a kind of unspoken understanding that just naturally started happening to compensate for the “ailing” person, so that’s also nice!

    And to finish up – two of my now former team members were “hand-me-downs” from other supervisors (what a horrible term for a person!), because they were viewed as problematic employees and someone(s) who would never advance (my current team is viewed as “minimum skill level” which is a whole other conversation).
    It took 1 year for one and 1.5 for the other, but both of them have moved up within the company to positions with a lot more responsibilities. I didn’t have to baby them or “keep them in line”, and obviously there was mentoring involved beyond the above-mentioned policy, but they both said it did help a lot.

    So it’s less of an example of how my boss (and later, me) dealt with a “difficult employee” (and with toxic people it would not work, obviously), but more of a situation where someone could (and was) viewed as difficult, but a functional approach made all the difference.
    (sorry this might be less coherent than I think it is – I probably should not be up at 2 am, but I just really wanted to share).

  186. SageMercurius*

    UK based person here (and commenting for first time!)

    I’ve seen a lot of stories on here about people being afraid to talk to their managers about finding employment elsewhere. In my previous job, I had advanced as far as I could without taking over my boss’s job (which was unlikely to happen). This and wanting to move to live with my other half in another city led me to start a job hunt – a long job hunt involving lots of interviews and requiring me to ask him for time off to attend them.

    While he made it clear he was sorry I was looking to leave, he was very supportive and helped mentor me for my interviews and provided me an excellent (I presume since I’m still in my current job!) reference.

    I guess that’s what I see as a functional workplace – willing to support your development, even at the risk of losing an employee. Even though it meant I would eventually leave, I did feel supported and valued. (Please note I had been at that place for 5 years, so this wasn’t job hopping on a whim!)

    Anyway, I hope this adds to the discussion – I do wonder if it’s a terrible thing to discuss these kinds of things with your manager as I’ve read on here before, but I guess it depends on your circumstances and job area (and area of the world perhaps).

    Love the blog and your advice – as someone who is going to soon be managing, I’m picking up as many tips as I can!

  187. londonedit*

    Having suffered a few toxic/dysfunctional workplaces in my time, I’m still amazed that my current place of work is so normal and functional! There’s no blame culture – if a mistake is made, the response is ‘Don’t worry – let’s find out how this happened and work out how we can stop it happening again’. We’re also trusted to manage our own workloads, and trusted to do things like working from home and organising our own working hours (some people come in early and leave early; some people come in late and leave late). Basically we’re treated like adults and any concerns are listened to with compassion and understanding. It’s quite novel!

  188. DustyJ*

    Thought about this for a while before writing. I’ve noticed that in a functional workplace, there is far less non-work information that you need to keep tabs on.

    I recently moved from a toxic department to a functional one, and I found that the information I used to rely on to protect myself wasn’t there. For the first weeks, I worried that I was being excluded from the information loop, and that I was vulnerable. I tried to dig for intel on the office environment to protect myself – but my new colleagues didn’t even seem to understand the questions.
    “What is NewBoss like?”
    “He’s OK.”

    That *sounds* like faint praise, but the *absence* of information is also information! In functional workplaces, people just do not need that high level of information. They do not think all the time about who can be trusted, who is dangerous, which bosses are aggressive, where the pitfalls are, who is setting up a trap for whom, whether or not the boss is lying today. They think about *work* instead.

  189. writelhd*

    We have a functional workplace by all of the basics, but I have noticed there is a deep division of opinions among senior management about some key aspects about who are target market is and what/how we should be selling to them, as well as how our company should change to adapt to our changing industry. This causes a lot of stress for me because the very nature of my job puts me the most squarely on one side of this ideological divide, which also seems to be the path that our boss and the owners support in broad terms, but I sense there are some very senior people who think what I was hired to to do is just wrong for the company.

    Our boss would classify us as handling this deep-seated rift very functionally, but I do not know if those on the other side would agree. Here are some of the ways we handle it:

    -We all make efforts to be very professional and polite to each other, and help those on the other side of the divide with such small things as we are able to within our roles and abilities to do so.

    -It’s nonetheless a lot of my job to ask some of them to do things that I know they just don’t agree are worth the time of the company, but will do if I ask with enough authority, because it’s their job. For my part I try to explain my rationale, the market data, the science, etc, including where I’m still uncertain but why I’m taking this path, incorporate their feedback if I can (but often I can’t, unfortunately), to pick my battles very carefully, and give adequate time to get the undesired tasks done. I occasionally get some grumbling and unprofessional sniping back that annoys me, but, I also often come away from those conversations feeling like they went better than I’d feared they would, and perhaps having gained some new insight.

    -Our boss holds strategy meeting with senior management where he asks us all our input on many key questions, and we have brainstorming sessions, etc where I do feel like everyone has emotional safety to speak their mind even with very different opinions, which usually, there are. He carefully weighs what we say and usually charts the path himself, and it’s usually something that considers all of our input in valuable ways, at least to my thinking.

  190. SierraSkiing*

    So here’s a real unicorn – my most functional boss was an academic! I started working for him while I was in college. He was great at setting clear goals and expectations, and he gave me at least weekly check-ins where he would help me problem-solve, review my work, and set the next week’s priorities. He wasn’t effusive, but he gave plenty of praise when I earned it. And when we scaled up the project and hired 20 younger RAs to work under me (hello, first management experience), he was always willing to make time for the younger RAs to talk about their goals, and he supported me in learning to manage.

  191. CaitlinM*

    In light of this morning’s OP1, though certainly not as serious. When I was 18 I worked in the county archives one summer. One day there was a young man there with his grandfather. He was hitting on me, not in a creepy way, but obviously hitting on me. My recollection isn’t entirely clear and I don’t remember how things exactly unfolded, but I do recall my manager pulling me aside to ask me about my comfort level, tell me that I did not have to accept that kind of behavior in the workplace, and offer to interfere.

  192. Emily S.*

    Alison, I just want to say I really appreciate you posting this letter. It’s been wonderful to read all the positive responses about healthy workplaces.

    Also, thank you OP for suggesting this topic for discussion!

  193. iglwif*

    At CurrentJob, I work remotely and a number of other people do too, either sometimes or most of the time. Big!Boss is currently on extended medical leave.

    Two colleagues and I have been working on a project for a while, and when we got to the stage where Big!Boss and Second!Boss were involved, we had some concerns about the process and about the result we’d arrived at. So the three of us set out our concerns in an email, edited 90% of the feelings out of it, and sent it to Big!Boss and Second!Boss. We asked to go back a couple of steps in the process and see if we couldn’t arrive at a result that more people in the company were happy with. (It’s a small company.)

    They read the email, thanked us for caring so much about the project, scheduled a meeting for the next day, and at the meeting, we talked everything out and decided on a way forward. And now we are on track for a much better result!

  194. Quinalla*

    We had an employee who just wasn’t performing. He was given clear expectations of what he needed to do and where he was falling short in a more informal way at first. When that didn’t yield results, it was a more formalized process (we don’t call them PIPs – performance improvement plans – but essentially what is is), so that it was in writing with a timetable to reassess. The issues were clearly spelled out as job threatening. I think the timeframe was 6 week, long enough to actually make improvement, but not too long if no improvement was made. Before it got to the end of that time, he announced he was leaving for another job and he confided in me that he knew he wouldn’t be able to reach the level we wanted, so he started looking for a new job. It is never comfortable or fun to have to go through letting someone go or having someone leave, but at least the process we had was clear and up front and allowed him and us to do what we needed to do to move forward.

  195. HLK1219HLK*

    I’m late to the post here, but…my workplace recently moved from total $***show levels of dysfunction to one I’m proud to be a part of. It has everything to do with corporate leadership. Our previous “leaders” were very invested in politicking and maneuvering against each others’ fiefdoms, staff, industries, you name it. Any interaction was a potential landmine that could and did blow up in my face and end up with me getting my butt chewed for raising concerns (I am in charge of internal auditing among other areas). There were multiple ethical issues – partners flat out telling me to bury issues, lie, or make evidence up (I did not, which led to more holes being chewed in my heiny). I would have left but was going through medical treatments covered by my company’s insurance plan so I stuck it out.

    Thank God I did. We had a major shakeup and almost all of the bad actors were shown the door (the rest showed themselves the door). The new leadership’s first action was to convene an Ethical Business Framework deployment group and code of ethics. The first time I had to raise a concern, I felt like I was half cringing because I was waiting for the reaction of Deny, Attack, Divert to pop up. It did, but…our execs Shut. It. Down. Hard. I can’t think of a Xmas, Bday, bonus, or any gift or prize I’ve ever been happier with than to have my boss’ support and commitment to holding others responsible for doing the right thing. I honestly can’t describe how good it felt – it was like I got to crawl out of a dungeon into the light. There have been issues and people who keep trying to slip back to the Bad Old Days, but it’s a lot easier to stay strong and do the right thing when you have leadership showing by their own examples and holding others accountable to working mindfully and ethically in a positive environment that focuses on learning and course correction instead of punishment and fear.

  196. ce*

    I worked at a small-town newspaper where the publisher and managing editor were both really thoughtful, ethical people. Just about every day, the editor would send a short email to the editorial staff (and probably a few other folks) bulleting the high points of that day’s paper and noting areas where we could have done better — he was so careful to always praise people by name, but to phrase his criticisms as guidelines for the whole team going forward: “When we switch out a photo at the last minute, we need to make sure the caption gets changed too.” If the criticism merited more attention, he’d speak to the person responsible privately. But you always knew if it was your screw-up, obviously, and not getting publicly shamed for it actually made it really easy to say, “Augh! Sorry, everybody — I did that.” And then often, someone else would say, “Well, I should have caught it too.” And somebody else would say, “Yeah, it was kind of my fault too, because…” Honestly, he spent probably 20 minutes putting together this email every day, and it yielded such a huge return. We felt noticed and appreciated for our achievements, and we had concrete proof that we could make mistakes and wouldn’t get lambasted for it, and that steps would be taken to ensure they didn’t occur again.

    He and the publisher were also just great about stopping by people’s desks, chatting, and being aware of the temperature of the newsroom. And of course they did a good job of holding annual reviews and giving (small — I mean, it was a newspaper in the 21st century) raises. They also asked us about what kind of opportunities we were hoping for and recognized good work with real rewards, instead of the bullshit that gets promoted by so many HR departments. Once I had a friend coming to visit, and my editor told me to expense dinner with him at one of the nicest restaurants in town. I’m sure the bill didn’t come to more than $200, and that was probably the biggest “bonus” I ever got, but I still remember and appreciate it over a decade and a half later. It was a wonderful night.

    We had one problem employee on staff, and they did a really good job of balancing their concerns for her (she had been at the paper a long time, was good at a lot of her job, and had some mental health issues) against the rest of our needs. When it was finally clear that she had to go, they did it quickly and nobody could say they hadn’t been fair to her.

    The sad end of the story is that because they were so good, the publisher got promoted to a paper that paid better. His replacement was a giant asshole, and our managing editor (who had worked with this jerk before) quickly found a new job as well. (Replacement Publisher is at another paper now, and actually made the news this week for writing a horrible, insensitive, misogynistic column, which is about par for the course.) Our new managing editor was one of the most awful human beings I’ve ever worked with at any length, and within a year, all of us except for a couple of people had left the paper as well. Sigh.

  197. M*

    This is a small thing in the context of a generally functional department but — at my most recent performance review, my manager, who for complicated reasons actually supervises very little of my work, told me the standard raise everyone in the department would be getting. It was 3.5%, better than the cost of living raise of gotten the last two years, so I was happy. But then after that meeting she was getting a few more comments from people who do supervise my work and some of them were extremely complimentary, and in our brief follow-up where she mentioned that I was literally in the process of psyching myself up to ask for a raise, which I haven’t ever done before in my career (because at my functional workplace we get raises every year lol). And then my boss starts in with, “well, this feedback was so great I went to see if we can get you a bigger raise.” And I got 8%!

  198. sfigato*

    A client at an old job was being “flirty” with a junior staff member on the phone (we worked remotely coordinating training programs across the country) – this guy was in his 40s, she was early 20s. She casually mentioned it at a meeting, and our boss, a 30-something woman, told her that it was totally inappropriate, she should not have to put up with it, and she called the guy and read him the riot act (professionally but firmly). It was the kind of thing that could have been totally blown off as gross but whatever (he was telling her she sounded pretty and asking if she was married), but my boss stood up for her employee, and sent a message to her, the guy, and everyone else that this kind of behavior was not to be tolerated. Same manager also sat me down at some point and said, basically, you are messing up and here’s what I need for you to get better, and how can we make sure you get there? And when I did she congratulated me on doing great work. And if I hadn’t, she would have fired me, which would have been the right move. In retrospect, she was one of the better managers I have had.

  199. CM*

    Coming in late on this one, but I am in a blessedly functional workplace and here’s what I see:

    – People are respected both as professionals and as human beings. If you express a thought, opinion, or request, the assumption is that you have a valid reason and should be taken seriously. If your thought, opinion, or request is rejected, you are given an actual reason. If you have a personal need, in general the assumption is that your need should be met because you are a conscientious professional who wouldn’t ask if your need were not genuine.

    – Questioning and criticizing are encouraged as long as it’s about facts, ideas, and decisions, not people, and the goal is to learn rather than just to challenge. This takes the form of saying, “I’m not sure X is a good idea because ___. Have you thought about that?” or “I’m concerned that if we do Y, ___ will happen.” And everybody, up to and including the CEO, needs to justify their decisions with facts or a well thought-out rationale.

    – Rules and processes that make sense, and a willingness to question and change when they don’t make sense.

    – Strong culture of trying to do the right thing even if it’s not the most expedient or profitable.

    1. CM*

      Oh, one more thing: Regular and constructive feedback. If you’re struggling, you are told about it and how you can improve. If you can’t improve, you are encouraged to leave and it’s not a shock.

      Some specifics:
      – In my first month here, I questioned the CEO on something and flat-out said I thought he was mistaken about something. I was a little worried but nobody blinked and the CEO actually agreed.
      – Various people in the company have contacted me or others in my group when they were annoyed or frustrated with something within our area, and while these conversations aren’t fun, our response is to talk to them and make changes if it makes sense, or communicate about why things are the way they are and why it wouldn’t make sense to change.
      – I had a friend who I liked a lot who started around the same time as me, but wasn’t a great fit — she knew it early on, got a coaching plan, and ultimately left of her own volition because it was clear this wasn’t the right place for her. No bitterness because she knew all along it wasn’t working out and had opportunities to improve.

  200. Liz*

    I came into a team where a supervisor was treating people badly. After a single report of the issue to HR, there was a rapid investigation where the details of the situation were validated with a few different individuals (including the offending supervisor). The supervisor was walked out immediately after the investigation concluded. The whole process took 3 business days, which I still think is too long, but legal processes always take longer than expected.

    This is how it should work. It should only take one person speaking up to say “this happened to me and it is not OK” for the company to take action.

  201. WillowSunstar*

    My company today let a worker go for being unreliable and we think, lying on the time card multiple times. This is a coworker who was seemingly in protected status. I was stunned actually when this co-worker was let go, as opposed to my previous job, when a coworker who made multiple errors and acted like he didn’t comprehend his job after more than 2 years in it was protected up the wazoo. So note to fellow readers — people can be let go.

  202. Sheila*

    The Assistant Manager at a retail shop I worked at recently did something pretty great.

    A customer that comes in often asked another manager (a female) for a discount on a set of items, She offered him three dollars an item. The customer then saw the Assistant Manager and asked him for a discount as well, he offered two dollars an item, not knowing that the other manager offered three. The female manager caught wind of this and told Assistant Manager what she had offered. The Assistant Manager let the customer know that since he did offer two, that offer would still stand, but going forth, he would need to respect the numbers the other managers quote, and not to go over their heads (he said this in a very firm, cool way that still respected the customer).

    He also explained the situation to the female manager, that he didn’t know he had already talked to her. He is a pretty great manager and treats everyone with respect.

  203. JB*

    Functional Workplace Example:

    We’re on a military exercise in Fort Polk, Louisiana. This is basically a HUGE, $30 million make-believe war, intended to be as realistic and challenging as possible, that decides whether an organization of 5,000-something Soldiers is able to do their job before they go to Iraq.

    We had one mid-level manager that wasn’t performing to expectations. She was rude, hostile, arrogant, lazy, and basically inept in every way. She has some problems caused by her own negligence, and it culminated with the exercise observers recommending she be removed from a leadership position. Now there’s a cultural expectation you need to be aware of: The exercise observers almost never make these kind of recommendations. They prefer to let the training unit know there is a problem and then let us work it out on our own. For the observers to go to a unit commander and say, “This person isn’t fit to lead” is a HUGE deal.

    So a dysfunctional workplace would have lots of people screaming and yelling, blaming her or each other for her poor performance. A dysfunctional workplace would probably have even more senior leaders coming to the unit asking, “What the hell is your NCO [manager] doing? Get them in line!” This would be followed by a degrading shouting match with the individual in which they are belittled and shamed and assigned to some kind of useless, low-priority task.

    This is not what we wanted. The first thing we did was take a trusted and more-senior manager and assigned him to the team so that he could objectively assess the individual’s performance and report back to us. Then the other senior managers spoke to each other informally to discuss courses of action. Finally, we all had a conference with the unit commander [the final decision-maker] about our recommendations. This is done so that every stakeholder is communicating the same message, with the same intent. We don’t want any of the stakeholders to give contradictory information or undermine someone else’s effort.

    We decided that the individual would be removed from her current position. But we would not put her in some useless downstairs office. We would give her a position that involved less risk, less initiative, and less supervision of others… But one that was nonetheless still a position of responsibility. And we would make it clear that if she was diligent and worked hard at her new position, she would be given another chance for increased responsibility and leadership.

    This message would be delivered by two of her supervisors. The other stakeholders (about four people with different interests) would reinforce the message and uphold the standards when needed, but would refer disciplinary matters to the immediate supervisor (Again, in the interests of maintaining consistency and preserving the supervisor’s authority.)

    Then the individual did something unexpected. She recruited another peer, approached one of the stakeholders (a superior who did not have disciplinary authority) and asked for a frank discussion about her problems and her performance. The stakeholder told her exactly what was happening, relayed the message we had all agreed upon, and the individual listened carefully without arguing or becoming emotional. This talk did not replace the disciplinary meeting we had planned, but it did ‘clear the air,’ established expectations, and increased transparency.

    Whether the individual’s behavior will actually improve, I don’t know. We will have to wait and see. The important things that made us ‘functional’ were:

    (A) Senior leaders accepted the initial complaint without becoming defensive or trying to second-guess anyone. They accepted that there was a problem.
    (B) The leaders and other stakeholders all conferred together and agreed to speak a single, consistent message. No one acted out of anger. Disciplinary actions were decided after careful consideration.
    (C) The leaders agreed upon a course of action that mitigated the immediate problems, but still allowed the individual to retain their autonomy and do meaningful work. The individual was given the opportunity and incentive to improve their behavior.
    (D) The individual acted on her own initiative to approach a senior leader and ask for direct feedback. She accepted the criticism without becoming angry or defensive.

  204. nd826*

    I once worked in healthcare administration for an absolutely wonderful boss who was going through an absolutely horrible time – his young adult son was dying of brain cancer. One day, he got an emergency call to meet his wife at another hospital’s emergency room because his son had been brought there after having a severe seizure in public. Not minutes after he jetted out of the office, a manager who was a peer of my boss’ in another department at our institution (let’s call her Cruella) called with a somewhat serious issue and demanded that my boss get on the phone to talk with her.

    I told her what had happened with my boss, but she totally blew her stack – ranting about how my boss was ‘getting too much slack’ because of his son and demanding his cell phone number (these were the early days of cell phones – not everyone had programmed everyone else’s) so that she could call him while he was on his way to the ER. I straight up refused (as politely as I could) and she threatened to call the CEO and get me fired if I didn’t do what she was asking RIGHT NOW. I refused again, and told her that, yes, I understood what the consequences could be when she asked me that question in the most condescending, nasty tone possible. Then she hung up on me.

    Sure enough, about five minutes later, our CEO called and asked me if I was refusing to give Cruella my boss’ cell number. I told him that I had indeed refused to. He was clearly irritated but did what all good managers do – he asked, “Why?” I told him the situation with my boss’ son. The CEO was totally silent. He said, “Did you tell Cruella that?” I said that I had and could not stop myself from adding, “Repeatedly.” The CEO asked if I could take care of the issue Cruella had called about and I told him I would. He said he would speak to Cruella, but told me that no one needed to be calling my boss right now in case anything else arose, and that was the end of the conversation.

    I never told my boss about this – he didn’t need any additional stress at the moment, and this lady was sure to tell him anyway. Or so I thought – she was evidently told by the CEO that if she did something like this again, it would be the last time, and ever since she acted like she had a complete personality transplant around both me and my boss, and ultimately left almost a year later. I wasn’t super enamored of my CEO, and he always seemed to be very buddy-buddy with Cruella, but I always suspected he was a fair and compassionate guy, and he proved me right in spades that day. When my boss’ son passed, he attended the funeral, put in a word to Cruella that she should not, and he worked closely with me to keep our department running while my boss was out.

    It shouldn’t be exceptional that someone in charge shows compassion for a parent whose child is dying, or asks at least one question before firing someone that has pissed off a mucky-muck and a friend of theirs, but in my experience it has been……

  205. Tanya Jones*

    I’ve worked in a variety of places (I’m in the UK), and can only think of two that were genuinely dysfunctional. The rest have been a mixture of both, but the most functional workplace I’ve ever been in was a strongly-unionised one, and although they’re not always a force for good, I think they help keep people in check. Because of the long union tradition in this workplace, they had a very clear performance policy, and although you had to be failing quite badly to be put through it, when someone was, the company made sure they followed every step. When this fired employee asked for my help as a union rep to appeal against her sacking, I found there was little I could do, as her performance problems were well documented, and the management had done everything reasonable to help her. I’ve not found another workplace where performance was so clearly signposted and discussed, and it makes me sad, as I think it becomes genuinely difficult when employees don’t have a clear idea of what is expected of them.

  206. Candace*

    I think our workplace used to be dysfunctional, but with a new boss, is much better. New boss came in and got rid of a nasty, abusive coworker, as quickly as allowed. She rewarded people who did their jobs well, as much as possible in a tough time, and promoted a few. She helped two who were in grad school by writing letters so they could get support. She started regular open staff meetings, and tries to communicate openly. She goes to bat for us. There are lots of other dysfunctional areas in our organization, but we are doing better.

  207. CKY*

    I mentioned this during an open thread weekend, but I had an incident where an employee in a different department basically lied about me to cover her butt. I had requested she complete a task but was ignored for several days. I emailed her a reminder, and cc-ed her supervisor,something we’ve been told to do. When her supervisor confronted her, she lied and said she had tried to talk to me, but I had ignored her. Her supervisor called my supervisor and said we needed mediation – all this without even finding out my side of the story first!

    So my supervisor got my side of the story, went back to the other supervisor and said, “Here’s what I was told, and I believe her because she’s an awesome employee and even people from other departments respect her and request her help. And here’s what I know about your employee. . .” and she basically told the other supervisor every single valid complaint she had ever heard (and there have been many complaints about this other staff member).

    And that was that. What makes my supervisor great is not just that she heard my story and defended me, but also that if I had been in the wrong, she would have held me accountable.

    What makes the other supervisor crappy is not just that she did not follow protocol by investigating before coming to a conclusion, but also that despite all the valid complaints from another supervisor about her employee, she chose to ignore them and do nothing. And yes, the employee is still working for the organization, and is still not doing her job.

  208. CKY*

    Another functional workplace situation, which may not seem so functional…

    A co-worker has behaved like a 13-year old middle school student and has basically alienated almost everyone around her, but she has chosen me as the special recipient of most of her ire. I’ve tolerated it for two years, but am nearing the end of my ability to do so.

    I had a discussion with my supervisor who, in a roundabout way and without breaking any confidences, let me know the co-worker is currently experiencing some core-shaking personal problems and, again in a roundabout way, requested I try to be patient and compassionate.

    Some people may think my supervisor should “do something” about this other co-worker – speak to her about her treatment of me or whatever. But my supervisor is treating each of us as we need to be treated, and is asking each of us to behave however we are capable of behaving. I have faith that my supervisor would have dealt with the situation in a different way IF the circumstances were different. But she’s considering THIS situation, and the people involved at THIS moment in their lives. I think that’s the sign of a good manager.

  209. Ka Is a Wheel*

    At my last job I was the supervisor of a summer project with a large team, a significant amount of whom were college students on their first professional contract. We are all housed together and work together – close quarters. The first day of work, we had a representative from the police department (“Susan”) come in to detail some of the specific state and regional laws we’d be under (many of us were in from out-of-state), and also to talk about alcohol use, consent, and sexual harassment. We actually used the words, “there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment.” (Similar talk to what you’d get in a first-year college orientation – again, lots of college students, and lots of specific regional laws that aren’t typical.) The second day of work, a new hire (“Roland”) came up to me about some text messages he had received that were of a sexual nature. The content of the texts were such that it could have been a wrong number, or it could have been someone in the company. I contacted Susan who gave Roland and myself some guidance on how to proceed, which we followed. She also said she’d have her investigators run the phone number, to see if it was any of our other employees. It didn’t match any of the numbers I had, and it ended up being one of those burner phone numbers.

    I let my boss “Jake” know about the circumstances and what we had done (but not the identity of the person involved), and said I would keep him updated.

    A couple of days later, Roland came back with some new text messages, as well as some new inappropriate behaviors directly from a coworker, Walter (who was a returning hire). Some other coworkers had been witness to this, so I spoke with them individually, then presented all of the information to Susan, who recommended that we let Walter go.

    I presented all of the information I had gathered to Jake and Jake’s boss, as well as Susan’s advice. This included the sexual harassment, but it also included some not-up-to-standard work that was not so much “Walter isn’t the best” as “Walter’s inability to do this work to a certain standard could present a danger to fellow employees.” Sometimes I have issues getting decisions and action from both Jake and his boss, but this time they were like – we are an at-will state, we don’t need any more than this. Walter’s work isn’t up-to-par, and he’s already displaying inappropriate behavior. Bring him in.

    So I escorted Walter to the office and he was gone by the end of the day. The text messages stopped. Later, several coworkers unrelated to the situation confided to me how relieved they were, because of some uncomfortable situations they had been in the previous summer with Walter. He was replaced with a stellar employee, whose performance and attitude were everything I could ask for.

  210. FloralsForever*

    I once worked for a very large, well known company with a reputation of having an efficient workforce, i.e., all employees had a lot of work. But it was the best job I ever had. They compensated their employees more than fairly and provided everything they needed to get the job done. Managers were given management classes and taught to ask the right questions. It was formulaic, but it was a formula that worked. For example, if my manager noticed I was not getting my work done at the right speed, I was asked what support I needed. It was treated as a training issue, not a competency issue. Competency was a question only after all other issues were addressed. It was a very empowering place to work.

  211. Chris Hogg*

    What a nice and uplifting series of comments, and I feel compelled to join in.

    I’ve been following AAM for a long time (I’m sure it’s been at least 7 years, maybe more). About a week ago I thought about writing Alison and complimenting her on being able to run this site and answer the huge amount of “mail” she gets about dysfunctional worksites and situations, all without having her head explode at least once a week.

    And then this.

    So publicly, to Alison, to the OPs, and to all who comment (especially some of the “regulars” (you know who you are)), thank you for sharing your challenges, your struggles, and your suggestions. I’m often amazed that so much of what one reads about here actually happens, and I’ve learned a lot (I hope) about how to get along in the workplace.

    And I especially want to share about my current workplace (I’ve been working since 1961 in a variety of organizations, most good, some bad). I work (since 2008) in a relatively small non-profit that resettles, assists, and teaches refugees who are newly-arrived in the US. We have a multi-cultural / ethnic / racial / religious / gender / age staff that includes former clients (as a note of interest, my boss is a former refugee who has been in this agency less time than I have). We all seem to get along, and I’ve told people that of all the places I’ve worked this is the best. No office politics. No games. No one-upmanship. No yelling, sabotaging, back stabbing, arguing, gossiping and all the other really bizarre things that we read about here (one of our teachers and an administrator did get a little heated about two weeks ago, but they and an appropriate “upper” sat down together and worked it out, and that was the first time I’ve seen something like that happen in years). We’re focused on our mission, people are quick to volunteer to help out when someone needs help or when plans change (and sometimes change seems to be part of our agency name), and people smile a lot. Every time a new AAM post comes out and I read through it, I thank the Lord He’s given me the opportunity to work here. We’re not perfect, and I’m sure things happen that I’m not aware of, but seriously, I love my work, really like my agency and the people who work here, and as I say occasionally, I’m as happy as a duck in warm water.

    Just wanted to share this with you all, and again, to note what a great discussion this is.

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