updates: the early morning meetings, the boss posting fake news, and more

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. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. Can I push back on daily morning meetings before my usual start time? (#2 at the link)

I emailed the meeting organizer something like, “8am is a bit early for me on a daily basis. Could we do this asynchronously or at a later time on some days?” His reply indicated to me that I was not the first person on the team to ask ;) In the end the daily meeting idea was dropped (thank goodness).

Many of the commenters reminded me that 8am for me is a late evening for someone else. If the 8am meeting had been the last meeting before those co-workers could leave I would not have felt okay asking to change it. However, we regularly have meetings that go until 11am that those co-workers are expected to attend.

It’s hard to find the right balance for our team because we span 9 time zones The co-workers in the eastern time zones knew the expectations when they took their jobs and built their lives around working in the evenings. One spends the mornings as primary caregiver for his son. Another has a 2 hour “no meeting” block for their family dinner time.

The team has a hard “no meetings Fridays” rule to make sure everyone always get proper weekends and everyone on the team enforces this rule even if it doesn’t affect us.

Some parts of our set up suck (I do the occasional 7am meeting) and other things are awesome (someone from our team is available 17 hours a day). The only constant for our schedules is the flexibility, which I think is partially why the idea of a daily meeting died.

Thanks for giving me the confidence to say something and the reminder to ask gently.

2. My boss won’t stop posting fake news and false memes on our company Facebook

The short and sweet of it is that I got fired in September. My original question had been about my boss ruining our reputation through social media; he stopped posting fake news but is now posting wholly irrelevant content. The reason he concocted for my being fired was such that I can’t receive unemployment and can’t say what it is publicly for various reasons that scare me a lot – even though it’s a practice that he and several other members of the organization have done and continue to do. I discovered that I was lied to about the board voting to fire me – in fact, the board barely knew they had an employee. The only vote ever related to me was the vote to hire me. My boss told me several times in the past that the board had voted to get rid of me but that he fought for my job. None of that was true. There were a lot of lies, but I can’t bring them to light because he has this “reason” I was fired that he could pull the trigger on any time he thinks I step out of line.

I firmly believe that I was fired because I had the audacity to use my position for good rather than as a publicity stunt. It was a massively abusive environment, and I developed a crippling anxiety disorder. I thought I’d have to go on disability. It took me months to realize that I did some amazing things and am worth SO MUCH MORE than he made me believe.

The organization started falling apart the moment I was fired, and he’s now quietly asking around for someone to buy one of our properties. I’ve had a plan to take this part of his org away from him when it became too expensive to justify, but he’s apparently so hard-up for money that it could actually become a reality. Soon. I’m realistic – I have a business plan, a pro/con list, and a ton of skeptics to shut me down, so I’m fairly grounded in my expectations. It’s an exciting prospect, and I’m willing to work incredibly hard to realize it. I’m pretty sure my former boss would turn me down out of spite, though.

Thank you to all the readers who told me to run – you were right. I have this “thing” where the “universe” leads me, and the “universe” absolutely did lead me to that job. It’s just that somewhere along the line, I missed the, “GIRL, RUN!” message. I’ve been lost for a long time, and everything’s felt wrong. This venture I’m considering feels right again, and I have a lot of people in my life to make sure I don’t just “feel” my way into it.

Thank you all so much, Alison and readers! Looking back on that post really helped me through all this garbage.

3. How to deal with a client who’s always late or no-shows

Immediately after reading your response and the comments, I asked this client to switch our weekly call slot to make it A) earlier in the week and B) first thing in the morning that day, so there would be less of a chance of things “coming up” right before our meeting to distract him. He agreed and this improved the missed meeting problem almost right away. I have also started sending a call itinerary about 30 minutes before the meeting (why I wasn’t doing this sooner, I don’t know) and this has greatly helped us to stay on track/create a paper trail of the items I need his input on to move forward, so that if we do miss a meeting it’s not on me if things are late.

I have also become more confident in defending my time; between this and several of your other articles I have taken your advice to be less accommodating of last-minute requests for “urgent” meetings (when the client previously blew off a scheduled meeting that I already held time for), and to encourage email communication in lieu of a phone call when possible.

This client is still late pretty frequently, but I have come to terms with that as being “just part of the job” for this otherwise good client. I usually have 10-15 minutes of busy work ready for myself to be working on when I know I’m going to be waiting for him to join the meeting. Not ideal, but as your commenters pointed out, I am getting paid regardless of his tardiness so I feel that it’s not something I want to rock the boat/overstep my bounds as a consultant over.

Thanks for this and all your other great advice – I read your column daily and am constantly learning from it!

4. My boss won’t let me give my staff feedback in case it hurts their feelings

Predictably, things deteriorated pretty quickly. Even after I expressed my frustration with the way things were currently being handled, things never actually changed. Whenever I gave my team feedback (always professionally handled, I swear), the CEO almost never had my back and doubled down on the “you’re doing great!” talk, so I ended up looking like the Big Bad Wolf.

Things went really downhill with one young team member in particular. She screwed up a few times in a big way (which is normal and not the end of the world, if handled correctly). But thanks to the CEO, there was never any real accountability and my attempts to correct it were undermined completely. This team member was basically under the impression that her work was flawless, and I was just being unreasonable. So she kept screwing up in bigger and bigger ways, but I was the only one being held accountable.

This lead to an extremely stressful work environment for everyone. Unfortunately, the damage is done. I have turned in my two weeks, and thankfully have been offered a position with double the salary.

When I told the CEO I was leaving, she told me they’d go out of business without me (yikes). This all could have turned out very differently if she had just been willing to allow me to actually manage.

5. I’m about to go on medical leave, but I’m also hoping to take my long-delayed honeymoon (first update here, second one here)

I’ve finally settled in on this, thanks to a huge crazy set of circumstances in my life that started with a family emergency for my new husband and have culminated in us moving across town into a house from an apartment, a move we were not even close to expecting and accomplished in the span of one week. Through all of that, my boss has been remarkably supportive of the situation, even sharing a situation with her husband that was very similar to what had happened with mine.

I never did speak directly with her about why my leave was denied the way it was and all of the reasoning behind it, but I’ve managed to let it go. My work did suffer for a few weeks, but it was such a hectic time for the month after I would have returned, I don’t think anyone noticed. With everything that has happened since, it seems much less important.

Also, I now recognize how much the lack of sleep and the recovery from that was affecting my emotional stability, which I think a few comments pointed out. I’ve now been able to sleep properly for several months and I feel incredible because of it. I’m remembering things I would have almost immediately forgotten before, and I’m just overall back to my over-achiever self, which I definitely needed because our lives have been extra difficult the past month or so. I appreciate the advice from AAM and all of the commenters, even though I wasn’t necessarily the best sport about it, and I’m so pleased to report that it seems like I’ve truly solved the insomnia issue that’s plagued me for most of my life.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. Lance*

    For OP#4: The CEO, while behaving this way and letting everyone get away with anything, they’re probably not wrong about the business being toast without you. Then again, the business would be toast with you anyway… it’s merely that you being gone may speed up the process a little.

    Congrats for getting out of there, and hopefully your new boss actually lets you do your job!

      1. Polaris*

        I’m super glad you’re out of there and in a healthier environment. I’m also ready with popcorn in case you feel like sharing any further schadenfreude down the line.

        1. GJA12*

          Hahaha, thank you so much! I hope for everyone’s sake that things turn around. I do care about my former coworkers and clients.
          But, hooboy, am I glad to have that place in my rear-view mirror.

          1. Belle8bete*

            You could hang out with my husband who also got kicked around by a dysfunctional non-profit….it hurt because he loves that group and his whole family was involved with it his whole life. They can really do a number on you.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I’m glad to hear you are out of there – and at double the salary, woo hoo! As for the old company – they’re gonna reap what they’ve sown, payback is a you-know-what, etc.

    1. Marthooh*

      This is exactly what I thought. If you leave, they’d go out of business; if you stay, they’d go out of business. It’s like a Zen koan of silliness.

  2. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 I dunno if you can get severence, but it night not be worth it if the cost of getting is more than the severence itself.

    I may also let this conpany die. You know these people are awful and inheritanting THEM is not worth the stress.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If he bombed her ability to get unemployment, that psycho isn’t giving her a dime of severance pay!

  3. Antilles*

    When I told the CEO I was leaving, she told me they’d go out of business without me (yikes).
    If the organization is so close to the edge that one manager leaving puts the entire company out of business, then that’s *their* fault for having such a poorly thought-out setup. IF the company goes out of business without you, that’s the CEO’s fault for poor planning.
    Though really, I’d lay money on this being more of a last-minute attempt to guilt-trip you into staying rather than an actual true statement based on facts about the company’s fiscal status.

    1. irene adler*

      RE: the guilt-trip
      Do they really believe that such a statement would make someone nix their plans and remain in their employ? And, assuming this was true, then they should be the highest paid employee-right?

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I was coming here to say the same thing. If you got hit by the proverbial bus on the way to work, the company might still go under. It’s emotional blackmail designed to keep you there as a manager who is not allowed to manage. Good for you for getting out. Another update is needed to let AAM know if the company does fail.

      1. GJA12*

        Hi, it’s me! Yeah, things are NOT going well there. I gave some additional details on a comment below, but they’re losing some key employees, and their biggest client is not happy with the quality of the work being produced. A former coworker said that during a meeting, the client piped up and said “GJA12 could do this in her sleep!” and the CEO rolled her eyes (lol ok double yikes). (Also, before I left, I offered to continue helping on this project on a very cheap freelance basis because I didn’t want to see it fail. She was too mad at me to accept.)
        But I’m happy to report that I’m three months into my new job and I’m loving it. Overall it’s a much better fit. That said, I wish everyone the best, and I hope they can bounce back.

        1. Observer*

          They aren’t bouncing back. It’s bad enough that you drive a top performer out of the business. It’s even worse when it’s performer*S*, plural. When you top this with being too sulky to accept a lifeline, it’s almost impossible to come back from that.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          My former employer had this issue. Only it was the owner/President who under estimated my worth.

          Less than a year later, he sold. Now I see a lot of signs of bounce back with new owners who care and have the business knowledge needed.

          Once they replace the CEO, only then will they stand a chance.

      2. animaniactoo*

        My old company tried to keep me – the entire reason I was leaving was because I had more responsibility than somebody who didn’t have part-ownership of the company should have had and didn’t have a realistic way to off-load it. I’ve since been reliably informed that while they were going downhill anyway, my departure hastened their going out of business considerably.

        I was somewhat astonished to hear that since I was 24 when I quit. Yes, that’s right – 24. I couldn’t wrap my head around having been *that* necessary to their ongoing survival. However, as with this LW, that was not my problem. My problem was that they wouldn’t make the changes that would have allowed them to survive with or without me and I was tired of 65+ hour weeks. I was well inoculated against guilt trips at that point, so I never took their lack of survival as being any part of my responsibility. I hope the LW can get similar distance from any feelings of responsibility if the company does actually go under.

          1. GJA12*

            I actually ran into one of my former team members the other day. I asked her how she was doing, and she said she was in the interview process for a few different jobs. I expressed my guilt over leaving the team — I feel like I abandoned them to deal with that mess. But she said that she doesn’t have any ill will toward me and is happy I was able to get out.
            So yeah, I feel terrible for the other coworkers and clients. I want all the good things for them. But I can’t take on the owner’s mistakes.

            1. animaniactoo*

              [hands you one free wall sign] “I didn’t buy a ticket for this guilt trip and that means I don’t have to take the ride”.

              Retroactive gift of a guilt-tripping birth mom. Unless I actively contributed to the situation did something to help create it, I can feel bad for people still stuck in a situation that I have myself been stuck in, without feeling guilty for removing myself from it. Sometimes, the distance between “feel bad it exists and impacts people in a way I care about” and “feel guilty for it” is an emotional lifesaver.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve had this guilt trip before.

      Don’t fall for it. They sold the business within 6 months. It’ll be fine.

      One person cannot strap this emotional baggage on unless you have a helluva lot more invested/potential payout.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Eh. In my case, they weren’t fine (as just described above) – but it still wasn’t mine to be guilty about.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Fine is relative of course.

          I was also a young person saving a sinking ship. By fine, I mean they hastened the sale and took a bare minimum. Even the business acquisition consultant told them it would be better to sell the assets to get anything at all.

          Nobody died. Nobody ended up in chains or jailed. Nobody is homeless. That’s my definition of fine, lol.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Besides, if the *CEO* is complaining that the business will fail without a particular employee, then the CEO is really terrible at their job. Maybe they need to quit CEO-ing.

  4. persimmon*

    #2, if your boss made up a reason to fire you, you should definitely still file for unemployment. You may be denied initially if the DOL interviewer believes your boss, but you can appeal and get an informal hearing. These hearings are short and not too involved: they’re designed for people to be able to represent themselves, so the administrative judge will help you through the process. They are also private so you can tell the truth about what happened without worrying about fallout. A good site for more info specific to your state is lawhelp.org.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Not a lawyer and not in any way familiar with the unemployment process – but shouldn’t the board get involved too? If boss is saying the board made the decision, and OP mentions that, then can the judge contact everyone to sort it out and figure out who is lying? Would that help or hurt?

      1. persimmon*

        I’ve only worked on this in one state and it was a while ago, but: gathering any evidence you want to present would generally be up to you. One good option, if a board member wants to help, would be to get a written statement and submit it to the DOL. (You could also ask them to be a witness at the hearing but this is usually a lot to ask of people, and isn’t necessary as it would be in an actual court case.)

        1. irene adler*

          My understanding: Unemployment is granted when the employee leaves the job through no fault of her own.
          So if the OP files for unemployment, I believe it is up to the employer to prove this is not the case.
          Hence, won’t hurt the OP to file.

          Let the employer prove why OP should not receive benefits.

          1. Dragoning*

            I think this is exactly what OP is worried about–they have a made up reason, and if they file, the made up story is going to get out.

            1. irene adler*

              They will have to prove via documentation that this made-up reason is factual.

              But, as others pointed out, if they are holding some questionable action on the part of the OP over her head, then might be best to walk away. Which would be galling. But don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                If I read it correctly, it sounds like some questionable action is routine there, and that the OP did it as instructed/as she observed other people do it, and when they decided they wanted to fire her, they pulled out the “you did this questionable action!” I wouldn’t be surprised if “but everyone else is doing it too” would be a valid defense to the UI office, but also would harm OP’s reputation if the boss started spreading rumors.

                1. valentine*

                  OP2, consulting an attorney can help either confirm or allay your fears. After all, can your lying former boss accuse you without revealing he ordered you to do whatever it was? Do you have anything in writing or any witnesses you could mention (regardless of whether or not they want to get involved)?

          2. ChachkisGalore*

            I can only speak to the process in my state (NY), but I actually won unemployment against a company trying to get me denied. The process went like this:
            1.) I filed. I had to provide additional paperwork/documentation because this company had me incorrectly classified as an independent contractor so it took about 6-7 weeks to get approved. I didn’t receive any payments for the 6-7 weeks, but then I got the backpay from those 6-7 weeks once approved.
            2.) From what I could piece together my employer received some sort notice but they ignored it.
            3.) Then about 3-4 months down the line I got a notice that my employer was contesting my unemployment. Again, from what I can piece together, they got hit with some sort of financial penalty – possibly triggered because I was receiving unemployment payments when they did not pay employee taxes for me or something surrounding being misclassified. So then they decided to try to contest my unemployment benefits (maybe in an attempt to get out of this fine/penalty/tax bill).
            4.) Company claimed to have fired me for negligence which would have disqualified me from unemployment. At the time they told me I was being laid off because my position was being eliminated. I had to fill out a very detailed questionnaire about the details surrounding my termination. Were you warned? Did you get any written warnings or verbal warnings? What reason did they give you for termination? Who informed you? The notice said that I might be contacted for further information/documentation and that I would continue to receive unemployment benefits throughout the investigation, but if my employer won I would need to pay back all money that I had received.
            5.) About two weeks later I got a notice saying that their claim had been dismissed. I believe they would have had to have had some sort of proof that my responses to the questionnaire were false.

            The only thing I’m unsure of is if the fact that they ignored the initial notice (and opportunity to contest my unemployment) had any sort of effect on the bar they would have had to meet to have my unemployment benefits revoked. EG: would the bar have been a bit lower if they had contested at the initial notice?

            It really sucked that an employer could contest the benefits so far after the fact, but ultimately the system seemed pretty firmly on my side. I only needed to fill out additional questionnaires about the independent contractor thing and then about my termination. I had a bunch of documentation I could have shared to back up my responses, but that was never even requested.

      2. Observer*

        Probably wouldn’t make much of a difference – generally unless the person in question is pretty high up or there are other unusual circumstances, the ED has Hire / Fire authority.

    2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I’m not sure the reason is fictional, just that the boss caused the LW to do it and is now holding it over her head. She says “it’s a practice that he and several other members of the organization have done and continue to do.”

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

        Agreed. Like, they are all embezzling money. The OP either didn’t realize, or was set up, and she was embezzling too — now if she discloses the crime, she’ll go down with the rest of them.

        1. Anna*

          How would she go down? I mean, our law enforcement system has its flaws, but this isn’t Mission: Impossible and her boss isn’t a criminal mastermind.

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

            Because if they’re all embezzling, then they all get charged. It’s like calling the police when your drug dealer stiffs you — if you’re doing something illegal, but get hurt in the process, they’ll laugh as they arrest you for doing the illegal thing.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The post sounds like she did engage in something that’s not just fireable but illegal. Being denied UI isn’t the issue, the anxiety sounds like she’s scared of criminal charges. But it sounds like it’s a “SOP was to be fraudulent so I went along with it now this guy is using it to strongarm her into silence/not fighting”

      1. Suspendersarecool*

        That was my read too. Still, wouldn’t they need proof? If it’s that easy to prove, they’d be torching themselves along with her.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’ve seen some shady slapnuts in my day. Most who are willing to extort a person, think they’re evil geniuses. They also know she’s able to be manipulated because they’re classic abusers.

          So it’s hard to say…

          I had some dbag fire someone for getting hurt on the job. They generated a bunch of false, pre-dated paperwork to try to get out of trouble.

    4. AnonDueToDetails*

      I actually second this too. I recently won an unemployment case against my (also shady as all get out) former non profit employer 15 months after leaving. I didnt get much in the way of profit, but winning was a HUGE relief and my previous employer is now being investigated for tax fraud among other things. OP, you are worth WAY MORE than some shady douchecanoe and whatever manipulation hes trying to pull!

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #2 – it sounds an awful lot like you are being blackmailed and that is illegal. You may want to consider consulting with an employment attorney in your area.

    #4 – they made their bed so you shouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt if they do go out of business. Presumably having employees making mistakes is also pretty bad for business and they wouldn’t let you correct that, so… Either way, good on you for getting out!

    1. Hills to Die on*

      #2, good idea of getting a lawyer. Also, if you think that this guy won’t sell you the business, could you try to do a 3rd party sell? He sells it to your parents they turn around and sell it to you?

      1. CM*

        OP#2, if you are buying something of value, you should set up a legal entity (like an LLC or corporation) to do it. Hire a lawyer to represent the entity, and get the lawyer to negotiate the sale. Your old boss does not need to know you are personally involved.

        1. valentine*

          OP2 should not buy a business whose owner is extorting her, and should not lure anyone else in, especially not family. This sounds like returning to an abuser. Cutting all ties is the way to show she’s not down with the alleged infraction he’s threatening her about.

    2. 2horseygirls*

      +1 on exactly this.

      LW#2: they cannot take away your family, friends, or home. Apply for unemployment and let the chips fall where they may. This person has no more sway or hold over you, period.

      When I was terminated by a supervisor that just did not like me, the unemployment office called, and I did my interview.
      UnOfc: “You were there for 7.5 years – what happened?”
      2HG: “I was in a different department for 5.5 of those years, with good reviews each year, which I have copies of, and am happy to provide. My role was eliminated, then reformatted as managerial, so I transferred to another department. My new supervisor . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . , resulting in being put on a PIP. I accomplished 3 of the 4 items satisfactorily, in plenty of time. The 4th was a completely new task, that based on IT’s estimation, would take 3-4 months of programming and testing to complete. I was given 4 weeks, including the documentation manuals and other items on the PIP. I did not complete it, and was terminated.”
      The interviewer said “What the . . . . geesh.” (I was about the 4th person this supervisor has terminated in 3 years, so I am sure they were very familiar with Supervisor.)

      I got my unemployment payments, and never heard about it again. Interestingly, three years after the fact now, not only was the task/project I did not complete not reassigned, it was never mentioned in the office again (according to the supervisor’s assistant, who is still a dear friend).

      My point being – be truthful, honest, own the mistakes you did make, and then let it go. You will either get it, or you won’t. I have lingering stress from that supervisor, and it changed how I interact with my current position very much. Having recently started my dream position with people who think I am pretty ok has helped tremendously. Good luck to you!

      1. valentine*

        OP2 should not admit to anything illegal, except to her attorney, without a signed full-immunity deal.

  6. AnotherKate*

    #2, am I understanding right that you want to buy out a portion of your former toxic boss’s business? I have to say, doing business of any kind with this person seems like a huge mistake.

    1. Antilles*

      I don’t read it as an investment or a plan to work together, but just directly purchasing part of it and establishing it as a completely separate company run by OP. The boss isn’t involved, you’re just directly purchasing the assets of the one division/property/department that works.
      Whether or not it’s a good idea generally is definitely up in the air for a variety of other reasons, but I don’t think she’s actually planning on working together with him.

      1. AnotherKate*

        I don’t trust this person not to be shady within the actual transaction, though. At the very least, #2 should get a good lawyer before getting into any of it (I assume she has, but maybe then talk to that lawyer about the sketchy circumstances of her firing, too, because something in THAT milk ain’t clean, either).

      2. Autumnheart*

        How would that even work, if indeed the business is engaging in shady, possibly illegal business practices that may very well affect a transfer of ownership?

        I’d let this business die and start up a new one without the baggage of the old.

    2. Marthooh*

      This is the universe speaking, so listen up, OP#2!

      Do not have dealings of any kind with your toxic tire-fire of an ex-boss. If he’s willing to blackmail you out of unemployment benefits, he’ll be equally happy to blackmail you to get a better sale price.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t, either. Better to start your own business than try to buy off a piece of Toxic Boss’s failing business.

    4. Chaordic One*

      I think that buying a portion of your former toxic boss’s business could actually be a worthwhile move, but you wouldn’t want to do it by yourself. You’d need to hire someone to act as your agent and keep your identity confidential until after the sale has taken place. A real PITA and an extra an unneeded expense. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all, but OTOH you do seem to have a lot of other good ideas.

      1. valentine*

        This would make OP2 seem a willing part of a criminal conspiracy when the illegal dealings are exposed.

  7. Lady Phoenix*

    OP: Boss, employee is messing up this task. Let me fix it.
    Boss: No, she’s doing great. Everything is fine.
    OP: Boss, employee messed up these tasks too. Please let me fix it.
    Employee: Eff you brat. I’m perfect!
    OP: Boss. I am handing in my notice.
    Boss: But this company won’t survive without you!
    OP: THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE LET ME FIX IT. (Drops the mike)

    1. Myrin*

      For real. This is one of the most frustrating letters I’ve ever read on here. I’m really glad OP is leaving (for hopefully saner pastures), and I’d actually be interested for another update on this in six months or so, providing OP still has any insight into the comings-and-goings of her still-company. I so hope for someone, anyone, be it a higher-up or a client or whatever totally freaking out at the boss in an “are you kidding me?!” kind of way.

      1. GJA12*

        Hi! It’s me!
        I’ve actually been at my new job for a little more than three months, and things are going great for me. It’s nice to work with people who act like grownups.
        Things have gotten very, very bad at my former company. An employee in a similar position in a different department recently up and left, and she, too, got the “We’ll got out of business without you” speech, with the added layer of “We’ll lose our house and everyone will lose their jobs.” on top of it! I told her that this game the CEO plays is abusive and manipulative.
        Right when I left, we had brought on someone to fill a role on my team. As I was leaving, they decided to offer this person my role on top of the role she was already filling. She had no experience relating to my role, and I tried to calmly warn her that this was going to be A LOT of work. They set her up to fail, and she is, predictably, failing pretty hard. I feel terrible because she was a really great fit for what she was actually hired for.
        I didn’t want it to be like this. I wanted the best for everyone involved. But I’m much happier now.

        1. Observer*

          I told her that this game the CEO plays is abusive and manipulative.

          That’s a good insight, and I’m glad you shared it with your former co-worker.

        2. Jen*

          I am so glad you have solid self insight on this. This abusive behavior is not okay and I am glad you are out of it.

    2. valentine*

      If they lose the business, it’ll be because OP4/GJA12 was the only one treating it like a business.

  8. Bigintodogs*

    To the person who got fired, I feel like your old boss is holding you hostage. You can’t get unemployment and you can’t even talk about things? This is so upsetting, to say the least.

    1. WellRed*

      I wonder if the boss is saying that to her and she’s too scared to investigate for fear of getting in some sort of perceived trouble. She should apply for unemployment if she hasn’t and she shouldn’t assume her former boss has any other power over her. I second the advice further up to consider an employment lawyer.

      1. BRR*

        I hope this doesn’t stray from taking the LW at their word but I was wondering this as well. For unemployment, I’ve always heard that you should always apply and always appeal if denied.

        1. Natalie*

          Pretty much. Unless you are actively attempting to defraud the UI system, no one gets in trouble for applying and then finding out that they weren’t eligible.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          In our state if you’re denied, it means you can’t file again for a length of time. This means Denied, gets a new job, let go within their length of time window, automatically denied again. So there are some places you’d want to take that into consideration.

          It’s to try to keep people who are always being fired but not everyone fighting the filings from gaming the system.

        3. GreyjoyGardens*

          That’s how it is in my state (which is a worker-friendly state; YMMV) – always file and let them deny you if it comes to that. My state has a narrow definition of “Fired for cause:” – the cause has to be something tangibly damaging to the company, such as tardiness, no-showing, vandalism, etc. “Stannis was fired, because he was a grumpy so and so and no-one could get along with him” is not for cause; “Stannis was fired because he was always an hour late” would be.

      2. Observer*

        I was wondering this, too.

        OP, you say that you were in an abusive environment, and that you developed crippling anxiety. From what you say, your view of yourself got a bit warped. Is it possible that your seeing your former Boss’ threats through that warped lens rather than actual reality?

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah; OP may have a whistleblower complaint on hand, especially if Toxic Boss tried to con her into doing something illegal.

    2. ISuckAtUserNames*

      Yeah, I would speak with a lawyer, if I were LW2. It sounds like the boss is trying to blackmail them with falsehoods, and someone familiar with the law may have some perspective.

    3. AnonLawyer*

      As someone who has done a couple unemployment hearings pro bono, I second this. The details obviously are unclear but something is really fishy here. OP needs to get legal advice.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Especially since “step out of line” could mean anything the former boss wants it to mean and could be outside of the direct control of the OP. I can imagine new company getting a client that old company wanted and the OP suffering for it.

  9. animaniactoo*

    OP#5 – great news! Thanks for updating us, and I hope that your honeymoon trip is fabulous when you do get to take it.

  10. WellRed*

    “This all could have turned out very differently if she had just been willing to allow me to actually manage.”
    Oh, LW 4, I really really hope you said exactly this to her.

    1. Blue*

      Same. It wouldn’t do a bit of good, but at least it’d be out there for the record (and who knows? Maybe it’d sink in at some point in the future.)

  11. It's mce*

    #2 – Definitely, refile for unemployment benefits and get a hearing. Don’t pursue working with this man again.

    1. Anna*

      Precisely this. You have the right to appeal and if you have a good mediator, they’re going to ask for more than just his word for it.

  12. mr. brightside*

    #4: I’m so glad you’re getting out of there!

    When I told the CEO I was leaving, she told me they’d go out of business without me (yikes).

    I’d never say it, but I’d be so tempted to respond “that sounds like a You problem”.

    1. GJA12*

      Oh it gets worse, too. In addition that, she was also crying and asked if I could give her a month instead of the traditional two weeks. I said I’d ask my new employer, but they had specific plans in place for my training, so it didn’t work out. When she found out I could only give her the two weeks, she took me in a conference room and screamed at me. Screamed. As if that would make me want to stay. I almost quit right then and there.
      But things are much better for me now! Very happy with my new job.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Well that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings! I guess it’s only okay to hurt someone’s feelings if it won’t be productive?

      2. Blue*

        YIKES. It’s really something that she’s so worried about hurting people’s feelings but doesn’t have a problem screaming in the workplace. I’m quite impressed you didn’t walk out right then. I probably would’ve, tbh.

        1. GJA12*

          Yeah, I walked out, took a 45 minute break to pace back and forth at a local park while on the phone with any loved one I could get a hold of to have them talk me off the “f— all of this” ledge. I didn’t want to leave the team and clients in an even tighter spot, so I went back, kept my head down, got everything done, and left a day before the two weeks was up.

          1. valentine*

            This is extraordinary. It’s okay to put yourself first. You don’t need to care more about the business/clients/colleagues than the CEO does and you don’t have to tolerate abuse.

      3. irene adler*

        Screamed at you?
        I think I would have walked out right there-especially since there was another job lined up.

        But then I’m old and cranky.

        “I think I made the right decision. Thanks for confirming that so completely. “

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You are a saint.

        I’ve cared more about a lot of places than the bosses did but they would never have dreamed of screaming. I’ve been bribed and had money figuratively thrown at me to stay. I’ve taken a few raises to stay on for a predetermined time and done weekend training for others because they’re good people and I love them. But you act a sloppy mess and even raise your voice and its “lol gurl bye, you have no power here.”

    2. ISuckAtUserNames*

      “Well, you’re going out of business, anyway, but at least I don’t have to go down with you!”

      Seriously, the CEO has no business running a company. Probably for the best if it fails sooner rather than later.

  13. The Ginger Ginger*

    #2 – If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of paying money to a toxic org to take over part of their business/property, and you land on giving them money, you can do the whole transaction through lawyers/realtors/third parties under the name of the business/charity you plan on forming on that site. I know someone who bought a semi-abandoned property this way in order to revitalize it when he knew the people who let it fall to ruin wouldn’t want to do business with him. (He’s awesome, and I’m so happy he saved the place; they were – and still are – weirdly combative). They didn’t know the person behind the purchase until the ink was dry on the contract. So it’s possible to do it without your ex-boss knowing you’re involved if you truly decide to move forward.

    1. Clorinda*

      Or, if you have the money to make this investment, maybe invest the money somewhere else where you don’t have to deal with these people at all?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But if this is a business the LW is familiar with, having worked with it, it might be a good choice for them.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. This guy will not let go and is like to make the same threat of disclosing whatever it is she is afraid of having disclosed. She needs to sever her relationship with this guy totally. If she wants to start a business, NOT a piece of this one.

  14. Suspendersarecool*

    LW2 may have been pressed into doing something shady on the job that they’re now using to blackmail her. But if it was that bad, they would be at risk of her exposing them, since they all did it too. Or if it wasn’t that bad, it might be better to take the potential lumps and file for unemployment anyway. I’m not seeing much upside in staying silent – I highly recommend consulting an employment lawyer and filing for unemployment. And definitely don’t buy the org!

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      Seconding consulting with a lawyer. The LW might be afraid of something that is ultimately no big deal, or that the boss can’t actually do. And if it is Really That Bad and something that could get her in big trouble (losing a professional license, getting arrested) then a lawyer could at least advise on that. (Not saying that this would apply to LW but there are people who aren’t charged with a crime because they agree to turn state’s evidence.)

  15. Natalie*

    It was a massively abusive environment, and I developed a crippling anxiety disorder.

    […]There were a lot of lies, but I can’t bring them to light because he has this “reason” I was fired that he could pull the trigger on any time he thinks I step out of line.

    Tbh, this threat dangling over your head sounds an awful lot like the kinds of stories an anxiety disorder and/or abusive person can tell you. I don’t think you need to do anything to expose him or anything, to be clear. Except maybe don’t accept this claim as some kind of unimpeachable fact, at least in your own mind. The more you repeat it to yourself, the more it becomes The Truth, even after you’ve moved on and your disordered thinking has receded.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah, I’m wondering how egregious the ‘reason’ is to someone not so invested in the situation. OP2, I agree with all the posters suggesting you talk to a lawyer — but I’d also love for you to talk to a therapist. Similar to a lawyer, they’d be legally barred from disclosing this ‘reason’ to outside parties and would be able to give you some perspective and tools to navigate the whole situation on a personal level, whether or not you go through the legal system or UI. I don’t know what he’s holding over you, but in almost every single case, the awfulness of the secret and blackmail is worse than whatever consequences are of the information getting out, especially since he can’t ‘expose’ you without hiding his own behavior.

      Best of luck, and please keep us updated if you’re able and inclined. We’re all rooting for you.

  16. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Please talk to a lawyer, #2. They will let you know if your boss even has anything on you. That will help you relieve the anxiety.

    Don’t buy out a business with this cloud hanging over it. Focus your efforts and funds in a direction without needing to perform an exorcism on the skeletons you’ll be inheriting from this monster.

    1. Oranges*

      Agree to all this!

      I got fired and got denied unemployment because my boss was shady AF*. My sister (an actual lawyer) told me that would only happen if (a) got fired for egregious/illegal behavior (b) weren’t trying to do the job or (c) cost the business money through lost clients.

      I did NOT know these things before I talked to a lawyer. I challenged the decision and won! It was totally worth it.

      *Shadiness includes: Trying to deny me health coverage and when that didn’t work documenting everything I did to fire me “for cause” so he wouldn’t have to pay the unemployment.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It varies by state when unemployment is involved. The most liberal places lean towards “did they light the building on fire tho?” when misconduct is involved.

        We tried fighting a case when a guy refused to do a job and then started screaming in my bosses face in the middle of the shop…he was allowed benefits because he had lost his temper before and we didn’t act on that. So we were told too bad, too sad that this was your breaking point, he’s eligible for benefits.

        Years ago another employer had an open case against a former GM for embezzlement!!! She won unemployment as well. The case didn’t stick. I blame the fact they didn’t use a forensic accountant and also due to not having proper internal controls.

        1. Oranges*

          I left the part about it varying by state out. Ooops. That’s why if she can swing it just sitting down and TALKING to a lawyer can be a good thing.

          I’m assuming that lawyer/client privilege will cover anything that she’s worried about getting prosecuted for? (If that is indeed the case…)

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It should be privileged and they can get a hypothetical in there to not necessarily admit guilt. Also just admit your boss engaged in these activities and “What if an employee followed his direction?” kind of thing.

            Lots of employment attorneys will give a free or cheap consult. Also there’s always local law schools.

  17. Harvey P. Carr*

    OP #2 wrote: “There were a lot of lies, but I can’t bring them to light because [my boss] has this “reason” I was fired that he could pull the trigger on any time he thinks I step out of line.”

    What would happen, or what does OP #2 think will happen, if the boss does “pull the trigger?”

    1. Harvey P. Carr*

      ($%@# formatting… italics were supposed to be turned off after the first paragraph! Why, oh WHY can’t we preview our posts?)

  18. Anon for this*

    #5 – if you could share what kind of doctor helped you get your insomnia under control, I’d be extremely grateful!

      1. Artemesia*

        I recently struggled with a really pathological level of insomnia as a result of a traumatic family event. I was getting like 2 hours of sleep a night and just could not sleep. I used an on line Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program. There are several; the one I used was called Shuti, but I think it is currently not available as they are doing research on it. I followed it zealously and it worked really well. CBT programs are probably the most effective way to deal with insomnia and while the general principles of ‘sleep hygiene’ are helpful, having a very detailed program you work through is probably necessary when the problem is severe. It involved record keeping on sleep, restricted sleep times and required absolute compliance with the program and sleep principles; worth the effort and every nickel it cost. There are therapists who manage this some places, but it is very expensive.

        1. insomnia anon*

          I had looked into the online ICBT but couldn’t find anyone doing it online when I was in need of it! I’m so glad it worked for you! Thankfully this routine has helped me tremendously because my next step was trying to find someone who offered ICBT in person.

    1. animaniactoo*

      In the comments on the first update, she shared that she had been diagnosed with a circadian rhythm disorder and had to make strict lifestyle changes that could not be veered from in terms of when she went to bed without upsetting the whole applecart for weeks. IIRC it was either an 8 or 8:30 pm bedtime that she had to stick to. I’m sure that’s not everything involved, but it seemed to be the top priority.

      1. insomnia anon*

        Yep! Also, no caffeine or exercise (nooooo) after noon, no engaging TV or books after 7pm. I’ve watched a *LOT* of sitcoms since then. Basically, take my sleeping medication at 8pm and bore myself to sleep. It mostly works.

    2. insomnia anon*

      It was a sleep specialist, just a different one who seemed to be more willing to address the problem. I’d been to another sleep specialist who insisted on slapping me with a CPAP machine despite only having negligible apnea. My psychiatrist recommended me to the second specialist after he too was struggling to find a way to help me out. New sleep specialist pretty much immediately diagnosed me with a circadian rhythm disorder, which we’re treating with some very strict regimens and different medications.

    3. insomnia anon*

      Also, the original post had a LOT of great suggestions/advice on methods to try, some of which(ICBT) were my next steps if this second sleep specialist hadn’t worked.

      1. valentine*

        I hope you get to go on your honeymoon soon and that you really enjoy it. (Your supervisor should’ve allowed it.)

  19. Troutwaxer*

    OP 2 wrote: I’ve had a plan to take this part of his org away from him when it became too expensive to justify, but he’s apparently so hard-up for money that it could actually become a reality.

    Keep in mind that if you purchase part of his organization, you might also purchase the liabilities which go with the organization. That includes both financial and legal liabilities – and if there is something sketchy going on, those legal liabilities could get ugly!

  20. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    OP #2 – I’m 70% sure your boss is trying to terrify you out of filing for unemployment because he never paid your unemployment taxes to begin with. I think there is every chance that he was also pocketing your payroll and income taxes and not forwarding to the government. I went back to your original post, and it is full of red flags.

    The guy has gone full crazy to stop you from filing for unemployment or pursing anything related to your time there. He’s got you convinced you will go to jail if you talk to any government agency. I guarantee he is hiding something big.

    Whatever it is that you think this guy “has got on you,” you need to talk to a lawyer. If he’s got you this scared, it’s not something you can handle without outside advice, and you should not be relying on him to tell you what’s real. You already established in your first letter that this guy and truth are not even nodding acquaintances.

    1. Mommy MD*

      Agreed. But she said that it’s “something” they all did. If it’s illegal she is still culpable. And if it is, she needs to consult an attorney in case it rears its head, now or in the future.

  21. Mommy MD*

    OP 2, why do you want anything more to do with this Boss or Company? Especially if he thinks he has something on you and especially if that something is illegal. Spite plans never go off as well as you think. Maybe I’m misreading the whole thing? I vote just move on.

  22. Mommy MD*

    Screwing up in a big way a few times is not normal. It’s incomptence. Once. Ok. Twice? Maybe. Three times? No.

  23. Happy Girl*

    #5 do a Google search for Modafinil. I’m living with fatigue caused by MS (multiple sclerosis) and it has allowed me to function as if I weren’t sick.

    1. Happy Girl*

      Oops, sorry, I was basing my response on your original post and it’s good to see you are sleeping and functioning better now. (But I’m glad my comment is up for any other readers suffering from sleep problems and next day fatigue.)

  24. OP #2*

    OP #2 HERE! Lots of people asking the same questions, so I figured I’d just put the answers in a single comment.

    Yes, the whole unemployment thing is a mess. I’ll just come out and say he’s calling what I did a “felony,” which I’m sure made him so happy since he’d been waiting for me to make a mistake bad enough to get rid of me. I talked to two different lawyer friends and they both agreed that I did do it and it would be a difficult time in court proving that it was – AND IT WAS – an accident that was immediately remedied. I see the crap he does – including but not REMOTELY limited to my situation – so that’s how I know he just wanted me out with something to keep me quiet.

    Anyway, I DID file for unemployment because he said we were going to tell people that I got “laid off,” and I figured “people” included “the department of labor.” It triggered this huge, long, stupid debacle where he’s always avoided doing anything the government requires except in this situation – in THIS situation. Almost certain there’s drug trafficking going on somewhere, but let’s focus on making sure the employee doesn’t get the money we’ve already paid and can’t get back. I guarantee he thinks that unemployment either means he’ll get the money back if I don’t take it, or he’s supposed to be cutting me unemployment checks out of his own bank account. Arugh this is all so stupid. I’m thinking about starting a blog or book or podcast or SOMETHING to chronicle the INSANITY I lived with. So anyway, he disputed the claim but didn’t give them any more information than, “She was fired,” because he actually is trying to keep the real “reason” from ruining my life (because he’s oh-so merciful; bow down and lick his shoes!). So they called me and I slept through the call, and they decided that I was eligible for benefits because my boss didn’t give them a good reason. Now, the choice is he appeals and says the real reason I was fired under oath, or we skip the appeal and I just don’t take the money. So I’m just not taking the money. I’ve talked to two of my friends who practice different types of law and they both agree that I should just put the whole thing behind me and let it all go.

    I know the unemployment taxes were paid because I paid them. The guy at the unemployment office says it’s money that’s already been paid and set aside specifically for me, and that’s just sitting right there waiting for me to take it. Anyone know if former employers are notified when their employees receive their benefit checks? ‘Cause I’m getting that money for sure if he can’t find out. I paid all the organization’s bills and taxes and filled out all paperwork…researched regulations until 2am… I was the only reason that office ran – I technically don’t even know if I’m actually fired. Is there paperwork for that? If there is, I’m definitely still an employee, ’cause nobody else is filing it.

    I absolutely do not want to go into business with this man. The world (most people reading this, I guarantee) has heard of the place I worked and thinks it does really great things. It does not. It is a publicity stunt and it makes me sick. I want to start my own organization, buy the property from him, and make it so he never needs to come back to this state for any reason. The nice thing is that I know the property needs MAJOR work, and he knows he’s not going to be willing to put the money into that. The property is worth about 60% of what he paid for it. In this situation, I’m basically like, “Look, you can keep the property, redo the foundation in five years, hope the live wiring hanging from the ceiling doesn’t cause fires, hope nobody breaks in and starts squatting while you’re gone for 9 months every year…or I can be nice, not have an inspector come through and condemn the place, and offer you the original price since I’m a nice person.”

    Any organization I may or may not make would absolutely have a board of directors and lawyers and already has more than its fair share of skeptics, lol. Honestly, a lot of us really just want him OUT of here, and since he’s looking to get rid of one property, I think the right organization can get both.

    -Quick request – I’m writing this at night and my sleeping pill just kicked in. I think this comment looks ok, but if anyone finds any identifiable info, please reply and let me know. <3

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