update: my coworker keeps asking everyone for loans

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker kept hitting people up for loans, and in at least one case hadn’t repaid a $1,000 loan? She gave different stories to different people, sometimes even on the same day. Here’s the update.

You may recall I tangled last year with a diabolical colleague, Cersei, who hit up colleagues for loans and then subtly punished refusers with undesirable assignments. Well, she turned out to be one small part of a very big mess.

In January of this year, after being with the company for a year, Cersei went to the managing partner and demanded that he fire our most senior staffer and promote her into that role. He was shocked, refused to do so, and then refused to beg her to stay when she threatened to quit. This happened on a Friday afternoon after everyone but the two of them had left for the week. Apparently the meeting ended with her promising to think about it. So much for that. We came in on Monday to find her desk cleaned out and a raging, defiant email that she has sent to most of us. If only that were the end of it. The bosses kept her sleazy husband on staff (which meant that Cersei had ongoing kitchen-table access to all info and accounts for months afterwards) and it came out later that everyone up to the CEO had known for months about her financial shakedown of staff, but decided to stay out of it “because it was deemed to be a personal matter.” Holy crap.

By the summer, the sleazy husband was fired for adolescent-style behavior (regular no-shows at client appointments, constant excuses about mishandlings), and we all hoped that the two would drift away. But the damage was done. Too many people had been ripped off by Cersei, and too many of us saw what spineless, unethical bosses we had. People started to quit left and right (me included). Of the original 17 people, 3 remain, only one of whom has been with the company more than a year. You can imagine the newbie chaos. But on the bright side, one of my former colleagues took Cersei to court to repay the thousands lent to her. My colleague won.

And here is where Ask A Manager comes in. I now have a lovely, neutral script to use in interviews when asked why I left my previous job, that says nothing about loan sharks, bullies, and teen colleagues. A million thanks to you, Alison, for listening and for your always excellent guidance!

{ 96 comments… read them below }

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      That really was a ride from start to finish.

      I also love the opening “You may recall I tangled last year with a diabolical colleague, Cersei…” it’s like the opening to a wild west film.

    1. NerdyKris*

      Eh, the problem with Judge Judy is that the money comes from the show. There’s $5000, the winner is paid out of that, and the losing side is given the remainder. So Cersei would be out no money and possibly make money off it.

      1. HannaSpanna*

        Woah, what on earth!! That is crazy.
        So better to get taken to judge Judy court cos even if you lose, you don’t actually lose any money.
        Must feel good if someone sues you for 1000, and you end up walking away with the remaining 4000.

        1. Percysowner*

          OTOH, if you win, you know you will get your money, so if you are suing a deadbeat or someone who is without funds, at least you get paid without having to garnishee wages or go to any other trouble.

      2. Screenwriter/Mom*

        That’s not actually true. The show will pay out up to $5000 to the winner, from a fund set aside from that. The rest does not go to the loser. What you may be confusing this with is that fact that both parties receive a fee for appearing on-air, as well as per-diems and hotel stays. That’s because they’re appearing on a TV show, and SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) has rules about what must be paid to anyone appearing on TV. (Guests on talk shows also get paid, scale.) The fee for appearance is about $500. Air fare would also be paid. You are, essentially, appearing as a paid actor (even in a reality show–the networks don’t get away with keeping all the money!).

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They deserve to be paid, to go on TV to be berated and called a ‘moron’ and whatever else that comes out of her mouth. Ick.

        Small claims court otherwise isn’t usually worth it. I’m interested in knowing if after winning, the colleague actually collected. I’ve heard lots about small claims wins that never pan out because you still have to collect. Unless you’re a bank or an institution with in house attorneys, good luck getting a garnishment in place!

        1. Autumnheart*

          I managed to collect on a small claims judgment when I elevated the case to district court (which basically entailed filing a form and paying about $125) and then filed to have the sheriff perform a writ of execution on the defendant’s bank account (another $100 or so). First, the time period to pay the judgment had to expire without payment (a year) and then it took some time for me to scrape up the money to file for the district case and the writ. I also had to have the routing number and checking account number upon which the writ would be performed—they can’t just go to Wells Fargo and demand money from any accounts belonging to Joe P. Deadbeat (or at least, I couldn’t at this level).

          So it took a couple years all told, but miraculously, the checking account info I had was still active, and it had the sum of the full judgment in it, so they seized the money and put it in escrow, and after 30 days I got a check from the county.

          If it hadn’t had the full amount, I would have a choice—either to accept what they had as payment in full, or to not fulfill the writ and to try again (which would have meant filing again, and if the defendant closed the account and took all his money out, too bad for me). Luckily for me, that wasn’t an issue.

      1. OP*

        Hi all! I am sorry to say that I don’t have that email any longer, o. I left the company in the summer and only took my personal stuff like houseplants. I can assure you it was pouty and dramatic, and that no one in their right mind could have read it and said, “Yeah, she makes a strong case for taking that role over.”
        And to boggle your minds even more – the colleague who sued was attempting to recover $3000, not $1000. Whether Cersei actually has paid I couldn’t say – we all scattered to the wind after we left. In the end I know we tallied at least one month where she was into a few colleagues for a total of $8500.00. That was her personal best that I know of. I still have nightmares about that horrible place.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Oh my god. How do these people operate?! I struggled when borrowing money from my parents to the tune of £5000 and I’ve been living since then with this cloud over my head remembering that I have to pay it back (almost done, yay; NB: my parents in no way asked for the money back, they were pleasantly surprised when I started paying it back). I have no idea how people like your colleague live. Like how?!

    1. Been There, Done That*

      Yeah! Yeah!

      Seriously, you just can’t make this stuff up. It sounds like the jump start to a hokey evil-woman’s revenge TV movie. Maybe the one who’s owed the most money will have a torrid affair w/ the borrower’s husband, he’ll see what a fool he was for marrying That Woman, and …. Start writing!

      Otherwise, I’m glad you made it out alive.

  1. Tata*

    Wow! What an update. I’m happy to hear a colleague took her to court. I wish more would have done the same. But I’m happy for you that you got out of that crazy company. Best of luck!

  2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    …when she threatened to quit.

    I had a coworker at OldJob who did this. He was planning on leaving anyway, as soon as he’d finished setting up a new business in his home country. Our manager looked the other way as coworker took two-week vacations every month to go back to Home Country for his new business, skipped out on his on-call weeks, dumping them on the other two people on rotation (of whom I was one), and so on. We were shortstaffed and Coworker had been really good at his job, before he, you know, stopped doing his job; which I assume was why our manager let him get away with collecting a paycheck and doing basically nothing. I, luckily, got a job offer soon after I realized that this was happening, and left. We had a reorg in the week before I left and our group got a new manager; someone who’d been with the company for years. The rest happened after I left, but I was told that Coworker randomly got angry in a meeting at being told to do something (skip a monthly vacation? do some work for a change? who knows), and, right there in the meeting, threatened to quit. The new manager calmly said, “OK, I take this as your resignation, I accept, your last day is X” (within that week, iirc). Coworker turned all shades of pale and begged the new manager to let him stay, said he hadn’t meant it, but the manager was, “nope, we all heard it, you quit”.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the critical bit is the reorg (theme of a few letters) where the new manager had no patience with nonsense the old manager had let slide into great heaping piles of feces. And any remaining employees concealed amidst the dung piles poked their heads out and said “Wait, really?”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Thank you all, I’ll try to remember to tell the manager when I see him next.

      He no longer works there, but this OldJob has regular reunions 1-2 times a year, and he typically shows up. It’ll make his day.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        On a side note, I kind of like the idea of a workplace having regular reunions. I left a job because it was time to make a change, but wow did I (mostly) love my coworkers, and I’m not the only one!

    2. Nana*

      Worked with a woman who would occasionally threaten to quit. Got a new manager, who said ‘if any of you threaten to quit, you’re gone’ A few months later, she did her dramatic bit on a Friday. Came into the office on Monday, and all her stuff had been packed…and the manager reminded her that she’d quit on Friday. Tears followed by threats, followed by pleas…and she was gone.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I did that one time, with an employee of my mother’s. He had been a decent live-in person for her when she was pretty intact, but he wasn’t able to “grow with the job” as she became more disabled. Finally I had TWO other people (complete saints) living in with them both, and all he did was undermine them and do everything upsetting to my mother that they’d asked him not to do. They spend hours and hours trying to manage why he was “unable” to understand what they told him and why he was “unable” to execute it.

      Finally he had a complete meltdown and texted me that “everything had been fine” before the Two Saints had moved in (false), and “if I wanted him out, all I had to do was say so.” So I replied, “I accept your resignation.” I don’t think he was expecting that.

      I also promised him EXCEEDINGLY generous severance provided he followed my move-out instructions to the letter and didn’t upset my mother about it. Amazingly enough, he was completely “able” to follow instructions and not push her buttons, when he wanted to.

  3. CatCat*

    Well, she turned out to be one small part of a very big mess.

    This is definitely a prominent theme of many of these updates!

    Glad you’re out of there and that your coworker who sued WON.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “This reeking pile of garbage on my desk turned out to be just one corner of a giant mountain of garbage.”

      1. OP*

        May I just say – your comments are a delight! I am still chucking about your ‘dung piles’ comment above – great visual!!!

    2. Wintermute*

      Well a case like that is pretty open and shut, the problem then is collecting, as the old saying goes you can squeeze a turnip as hard as you like but you’re not going to get anything but turnip juice out of it.

  4. Alldogsarepuppies*

    Was there an earlier/comment update for this post. I don’t remember the part of her punishing people with bad assignments.

      1. fposte*

        Alison posted a last-minute update from the OP in the comments of the original post—might be in there.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      The OP is “Winter IS Coming”, and there’s just one comment with “I got serious possibly career-ending pushback yesterday for pointing out that she was assigning herself the highest-paying accounts instead of divvying evenly as it was promised by the higher-ups that she would”

      But it sounds like the sort of place with so much dysfunctionality that we only got the tip of the iceberg.

      1. OP*

        Hi all – yes, I forgot to read my original post before sending an update to see what had changed in between. Yes, she was actually promoted in the middle of all this, and punished people who refused to lend her money by giving them less lucrative accounts. Good riddance to that unethical hellhole!

        1. Perpal*

          Wow, that’s quite the racket she setting herself up with! Really wonder what the heck managers were thinking

      2. OP*

        And just want to clarify – I am not Winter IS Coming. That letter was about a similar experience. I shudder to think there are TWO Cerseis out there, and hope that WIC got a satisfying resolution as well.

  5. Elizabeth West*

    But on the bright side, one of my former colleagues took Cersei to court to repay the thousands lent to her. My colleague won.


    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      But did she collect on the winnings…you can’t bleed a turnip :| Small claims is such a joke most of the time, argh.

      1. Nubuck Rogers*

        True, but now she has a judgement against her which is a blight on her record and will collect interest until she does pay.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          If you allow yourself to get taken into court over this nonsense, you’re not worried about your record. It’s also civil which doesn’t pop unless running a specific bg check. It doesn’t sound like she’s in an industry who cares:(

          I’m jaded from years upon years of uncollectable debts and took courses only to find out that a deadbeat is as a deadbeat does. So I’m cold towards the laws and courts and of course the cons who get away with it all.

          1. Nubuck Rogers*

            She might not care about her records, but if she is gainfully employee, she’ll need to worry about wage garnishment and property seizure. I know of family having to resort to doing that.

            We know that Cersei is a hot mess and that it may. It may even amount to bupkis in getting the funds back in the immediate sense. That being said, the act of dragging her ass into court and winning is a moral victory that matters.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Once upon a time, there was a Canadian businessman tired of being stiffed and slapped a lien on…drumroll…

              A Soviet battleship.

              (or so the story goes. But it should have happened).

          2. Autumnheart*

            In my state, an unpaid court judgment also shows up on your credit record, and can be put as a lien against any property you own (so you can’t sell your house until you pay it).

            It definitely doesn’t stop anyone who’s fine with walking away and leaving others holding the bag, but it isn’t *totally* “Too bad, sucka!”

  6. Mommy MD*

    What a mess. Glad you’re out. Another example of never loan money you expect to see back and never loan coworkers more than twenty bucks. Not for any reason.

    1. Artemesia*

      I cannot imagine someone lending a co-workers $1000 If they are suffering a tragedy, then fund raise for them and give it to them. But ‘lend’ on a personal level? Unfathomable.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        This is what gets me as well.

        OP must have been working with some extremely generous people and/or people with more disposable income than I do, or Cersei was literally a witch. With AAM, I’m not ruling anything out.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Our employer would give them a loan if they needed that much and collect payments from their checks.

        I wonder if it’s the running total? 50 here, 50 there, oh no 100 for a vet bill kind of thing.

      3. Wintermute*

        I can see DONATING to a co-worker in need. I never lend any amount of money I would regret never seeing again, that way if I ever get paid back it’s a pleasant surprise not a “if she doesn’t have my money I can’t pay the rent” situation like my friends have been in hoping, begging and pleading with someone to pay them back so they can meet their own obligations.

    2. Dr. Doll*

      I lent $20 to a dean one day so she could buy a book and get it signed by the author, as they were only taking cash. Got it back the next day with a thank you note. Situational decision.

      1. MommyMD*

        Yes. A small amount. Someone forgets wallet. Needs lunch money. Wants to make a small purchase. Lending hundreds to thousands of dollars to a coworker is asking for trouble.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        But if you didn’t get the $20 back, you’d probably have forgotten about it. That’s like taking them out to lunch. Unlike a thousand bucks that’s like paying someones rent.

  7. justsomeone*

    That was a wild ride. Definitely one of those stories that makes me happy to not have lived through it. Best of luck in future endeavors LW!

    1. OP*

      Thank you so much! I took a few months off (boy, that was nice!) and found a great job right before Thanksgiving. Same salary and same short commute, but the company is worlds apart from the last place – sane, ethical, calm colleagues, established structures and business practices and palpable ethics! I am still working to shake the trauma and habits from protecting myself at the last job, but with AAM’s help, it’s coming along swimmingly. I have you all to thank!

      1. OP*

        Well, it’s really just a vague statement about cultural fit, and then I stress the value I place on rightness, ethics. I usually say that the company made some significant structural changes that misaligned with my values, and then I talk about what those are. It’s nothing magical, really, but it got me a job and saved me an awkward conversation last month!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I really appreciated your last paragraph in the update, because as entertaining as these are to read “Hoo boy the drama lemme tell ya” isn’t a good job interview conversation.

  8. WellRed*

    I love when updates include new info. I don’t recall the original letter saying the husband worked there too! That makes her asking for $ even weirder! I mean, ask your hubs for gas money, not me. Yay for this update, eff that company and congrats to the court win!

  9. Mirea*

    Like others, I’m on pins* and needles* for the “raging defiant email”. Even just the gist of it.

    *Interestingly (to me, at least) these are the names of my identical kittens who I can’t tell apart because they won’t keep their collars on and leave a trail of perforations everywhere they go.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Yes! Both to kittens and to wanting a little taste or basic overview of the “raging defiant email”.

  10. Anonfor this*

    Years ago, I worked at a clothing company where I was the HR Manager who oversaw the distribution center. We had a lot of recent immigrants working there (legally, as far as I could determine) and most of them didn’t speak English well (or at all). One of the managers took advantage of the fact that his employees were not fluent in English or knowledgeable about U.S. labor laws by soliciting pretty hefty loans from all of them over and over. We only found out when one of the workers finally reported that she was owed several thousand dollars (!!!) and needed her money back so she could travel to her home country to visit a sick relative. It turned out that he owed his employees in excess of $30,000 due to his out of control gambling issues. We ended up firing him, which the employees were not happy about since they felt they had a better chance of recouping their money if he continued to work there. Sheesh, what a mess that was. I think several of them ended up taking him to court but I don’t know if any of them were ever paid back.

    1. Perpal*

      That’s awful. Wish there was some kind of greater consequence than a few people trying to get through small claims court, which I hear is a pain; some kind of small claims class action lawsuit or something IDK. Can management every keep him on but dock his pay until it’s paid off then fire him? XD (probably not and not worth the risk but.. yknow…)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        No. You can only deduct pay for written agreements between company and employee. Like payment advances, employee loans, IRA contributions, union dues or insurance premiums. Or garnishments set forth by the courts, which require a judgment and usually a contractual obligation (think banks, finance companies and state agencies). Sometimes medical facilities or large consumer purchases will end up in garnishment but it’s a long period of time. And it’s all noted on your stub with your mandatory tax deductions.

        A friend just had a garnishment…for a hospital bill…for her child’s birth. Sixteen years ago. That’s how long it took.

        Small claims court doesn’t involve lawyers, the laws don’t pay much mind to individual loans. It’s why unless your running a fraud like a pyramid scheme or fake charity, you’re not going to get into much legal trouble.

    2. snowglobe*

      If the guy had a gambling problem, it was unlikely that he’d ever pay anyone back, even if he’d kept his job. Firing was the right thing to do; it at least kept him from borrowing more.

  11. Lena Clare*

    This woman should work with the “nosy co-workers who won’t stop asking me about personal health issues even though I’ve specifically said not to” organisation below…

    Maybe they’d both learn something about boundaries from each other!

  12. Dragonfly*

    With people like Cersei and the employee who used the language barrier to rip off unsuspecting coworkers, it may help if the employer publishes a company website report of dismissal that cites the reason why the person had to be let go. The website report and the decision to fire would be “based on several internal reports of unethical and counterproductive behaviour (specified here).” To publicly give away the person’s name and what they did will be similar in nature to a Glassdoor review, hence not grounds for legal action on the part of the fired individual; but I don’t really know if I am right about its not being illegal.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Whilst I like the idea, I do feel that might be breaching some employment laws. Maybe slander? We’d need a lawyer to find out, and I’m not sure about the ethics.

      In a dream world where everyone bad gets their comeuppance, this would be nice though.

      1. Wintermute*

        No employment laws would be breached, and slander must be UNTRUE. there’s no legal bar to a company taking out a billboard over the downtown freeway and posting the reason they fire people along with their name if they wanted to. They might be harassed by meritless suits though, but a case like this is especially brilliant because he accomplished this by betting that his victims wouldn’t go to the cops– and he’d be getting his cumuppance based on the fact they know he could never afford a lawyer (and for a case like this even IF they took it, and some lawyer might theoretically but it would be a long shot) and that no lawyer would touch this without cash up front.

      1. Wintermute*

        I think this is pretty brilliant. They can’t sue in small claims over this they’d need to go to a proper court, no lawyer will touch this on a contingent fee basis and they would never be able to afford a lawyer, and if your state has SLAPP laws you could get it dismissed easily enough because the first amendment protects true speech and earnest opinions.

        Take advantage of people by betting they won’t go to the cops, get hit back by people betting you won’t go to court (and that they’re within their rights if they do).

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That means psychopathic bosses we see here would be able to use this to slander people who leave. There is too much corruption in the HR and business world to give them that power.

      Heck, think of the reviews on GD that are clearly disgruntled employees…then flip it. The bad review to a business is far less detrimental than a bad review to a worker.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Sometimes when an executive, manager, or other high-profile employee is fired for something really egregious this DOES happen, though. Think of all the creeps who got fired because of #metoo. I’d think extorting thousands of dollars from your subordinates would also warrant that kind of public announcement and disgrace.

      1. Mommy MD*

        A court determines what is “true”. Our court system is already backed up. Comprehensive background checks are the answer. Not “why you got fired” websites.

  13. ..Kat..*

    Wow. I missed the part in the original post about Cersei giving crappy assignments to people who refused to “loan” her money. And management did not think that this was something management should address? Wow.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, sorry – I forgot when writing the update that Cersei’s promotion to team lead had occurred after the first letter. We were all shocked, but only more so when we later learned from each other that we were all separately being pressured by her for funds and that the management knew all about it but wanted to stay out of it.

      I really have an enormous debt of gratitude to Alison and you all! Until I started reading this site, I never knew what was reasonable or not at work. The reinforcement I got here when you all shrieked and said, yeah, that’s not right really influenced my (scary, life-changing) decision to quit. I would still be there in that terrible place had you all not given me a fresh perspective and some very badly needed advice. You all changed my life! And how often can you say that about the internet!!! A million thanks to you all.

  14. Nicole*

    What an update! I truly hope management uses this mass exodus as an example moving forward. So glad your (former) colleague got their money back!

  15. Trixie Belden*

    Well I guess this should resolve the argument over whether this deadbeat borrower had good intentions!

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