updates: the hellmouth, am I too generous, 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 three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My new job is a nightmare built on a hellmouth

As I write this update, a faulty fire panel in our filing room (far from my desk) is sounding an office-wide alarm, and I am tasked with shutting it off while doing… well, work. It’s too loud to just let it go, but manually silencing it only yields one minute and thirty seconds of silence before it starts up again, so getting any work done is… challenging. Additionally, there is currently a wasp “situation” in the office, I had to decline going alone into the woods next to the property with an irate resident with a Unibomber vibe who wanted to show me the specific individual squirrel that he claims was harassing him two years ago and has returned in order to vandalize his new vehicle, and I have also just discovered that my increasingly unhinged manager has placed a two way microphone in my office by my desk. Yes, it’s another glorious day on the Hellmouth.

I know that sounds kind of bleak, and I was going to wait until I had a happier “New job, yay! And my last day is Friday!”-type update before writing, but I really didn’t want to let the holidays pass without taking the opportunity to say thank you. Because, seriously, as bad as the above sounds (and yes, that is all from just today), I would not be coping as well as I am if it weren’t for you and the ever helpful commentariat. I know it’s dumb, but having strangers on the internet be kind to me and offer me great advice, supportive statements, and also somehow reference all of my favorite TV shows really helped. Just hearing from an outside source that I wasn’t crazy and it was okay to make moves to get out of this job filled me with so much relief—it really helped me feel less like a trapped animal and more like a human with choices. Which has been priceless.

For those commenters who said that my manager was not my friend, and that it also sounded like some really poor management was going down at my property, I’m sorry to report that you were all very, very right. My manager, it turns out, lies constantly. To everyone. About everything. She also refuses to address staff issues, has been trying to force us to spy on each other (and, since we’re not doing that, has moved on to motion activated cameras and secret microphones), and has been consistently ordering me to do or say certain things to coworkers or residents and then hanging me out to dry after I follow her instructions. I’ve never felt so unsupported in a job. Or like I’ve taken so many crazy pills. And that’s on top of a lot of other just… BAD management choices. For example, I learned that a temporary maintenance worker that she wants to hire on permanently has been watching hardcore pornographic videos on his phone with the volume turned WAY up while at work. Before I could tell my manager, she told me and my other female coworker that one of us would have to give him a ride (alone) to the office Christmas party. I pulled her aside to fill her in and explain that neither of us would be super comfortable giving him a ride in light of that information, and she became very angry… with everyone except the porn watching dude. Who she still seems to be planning to hire on permanently. Not a good scene.

However, I’ve been applying to new (non-property management) jobs and am starting to at least see some movement, even if I haven’t unlocked the Shiny New Job Achievement yet. I had a really great phone interview last week for an entry level HR position and am also playing phone tag with the local university regarding an admin position, so I’m hopeful that I won’t be on the Hellmouth forever. I’ve also been practicing giving my boss notice, so when that happy day comes I’ll be ready to roll.

2. Am I too generous with my employees?

I’ve stopped the “perks” given out to employees.

The proverbial straw on the camel’s back was an incident involving “Sarah”, who was going through a health issue but had used up all of her available leave. I gave her additional two weeks of paid sick leave and told her she was free to use it however she wanted, as long as she let me know a week in advance, so I could come and cover for her shifts. While she was outwardly grateful I discovered afterwards she complained about me behind my back. She’d been telling people I deliberately took the store’s busy days so I could earn more commission for myself, and cheat her out of hers. This thought had never occurred to me and it was such an unfair accusation I went home and cried.

I’ve decided the best I can do for my employees is to pay them fair wages and create a healthy work environment. Despite my good intentions, employees just don’t care about me or the business I worked so hard to establish. I guess it’s only natural for humans to think of themselves and do only what is in their own best interests. I’m sick of being nice to people then have the same individuals back stab me or complain about me unfairly. It’s not worth the stress.

I know there will always be HR problems wherever I go. But at least if I haven’t gone out of my way to look after them it wouldn’t sting as much when people cause trouble. It doesn’t mean I’m going to be a horrible boss and cheat people – I’m just not going to be so personally involved in caring for employees anymore. I would rather donate my time and resources into assisting people I don’t work with.

Thanks for answering my question earlier.

3. How to tell an assistant “don’t tell me the process — just fix it!”

I had written in previously about my admin (Amy), who had a couple of quirks that were impacting job performance. First off, a big thank you to the community here. Alison’s advice was spot on, and the comments helped frame my thinking about the conversation. As a reminder, I work for the government, and none of these are fire-able offenses for us.

How it went: First, I spoke with my manager about the situation, since she’s the admin’s direct supervisor. She had been having the same issues and was open to suggestions. We spoke to the admin about the issues. Being straightforward in the moment has significantly helped with these issues. Of course, now there are new ones.

1) Don’t go into a ton of detail, just fix the problem. Amy is much better at this now. Some of it came with the newness to the situation and now knowing how we work, who to contact, etc. it is SO MUCH BETTER. This has greatly improved her job performance.

2) Loudness. I think this is a hearing issue. I address it in the moment, but it never lasts. Instead, I close my door more often.

3) Scheduling meetings. I addressed it directly a few times when it happened, and it has gotten better with time. She seems much less stressed by this aspect of the job.

4) Asking us stuff we wouldn’t know – again, got better with time and being direct.

New and different problems:

a) Amy gets bent out of shape by things that seem like routine things to be an executive assistant (ex: interrupting meetings when they go long so I keep on schedule; helping me screen calls from telemarketers and certain staff; arranging meetings in a certain order whenever possible to keep our schedules on track). I’ve addressed these in the moment by matter-of-factly going through a bit of the back story and that it is part of her job.

b) Amy may be a hoarder of office supplies. The government changed our office supply process, and it now can take up to 30 days to get a box of paper. This is a bigger statewide problem out of my control. For reference, we go through about a box of paper a month. Amy has begun hoarding office supplies and significantly over-ordering each time (ex: 10 boxes of paper every few months). It took some time for my boss and I to realize what was going on and addressed it Monday when it came to light and we received another 15 boxes, when we had 10 already. We’ll see. She obviously isn’t a neat freak or very tidy, which wouldn’t matter except that her office area is the reception area for the suite. So she’s working on that one.

c) She is someone who uses the same rather abrasive tone for every single conversation. Once I realized that, I was able to address all of the issues more directly, since I kept reading things into her tone.

Overall, I’m addressing things directly when they happen and usually they get fixed. If not, I address it the next time again. Her problem solving skill level and ability to multi-task is very low (which was a surprise to me), so I’ve also come to realize that I shouldn’t expect that of her. Changing my mindset on that really has helped lower my frustration level with her, and instead give her tasks where she can succeed, or instead listing out the To Do list in an email.

Good news is that she is very dependable, never sick, always on time, open to feedback, and is building an internal network in our organization, which is fantastic. She organized and facilitated our management off-site, which she had never done before, and it was great.

Looking back – this is a mediocre hire, who was previously micro-managed, and we didn’t lay out clear expectations early on or address things directly immediately. A big lessons learned on that one.

{ 282 comments… read them below }

  1. Lance

    Re: #1… wow. Just… wow.

    That’s about all I have to say, but what amazes me the most is that all her surveillance is probably catching her in her own BS of getting mad at you for doing what she told you to do. I wish there were a way to do something with that, but with how bad she clearly is, I’m not holding out hope. I am, however, hoping you’re able to get out of there soon, because just… wow.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)

      I can’t believe that OP’s boss put surveillance cameras and hidden microphones to deliberately spy on her employees and thinks she can get away with it with no consequences. I really hope there is paper trail of that somewhere.
      Well, on the bright side you can set up a livestream so we can all watch the madness unfold live.
      I hope you get out there ASAP.

      1. Magenta Sky

        I’d confront her about the recording devices (even if I didn’t live in a state where that is a crime). device in hand, in front of any other employees. When she denied she’d put them there, and it sound like she would, I’d look her in the eye and dial 911 immediately to report that someone broke in and placed recording devices in my office (which would be criminal everywhere). Maybe the police report would work its way to someone who could fire her.

        If this were a TV show, it would have to be a sitcom, because nobody would find it plausible enough for a serious drama.

        1. Armchair Analyst

          Came here for the TV show comment and YES I would BINGE WATCH this show!
          That being said, I am so sorry that this is your reality, Letter-Writer. This stranger on the internet sends you hugs and good vibes in your job search and also permission to quit at any time.

        2. Thornus67

          If the boss is not a party to the conversation, it’s pretty much illegal in every state (speaking very generally; there may be slight exceptions). The general distinction is between two-party (or all-party) consent states (where every party to the conversation must consent to the recording) or one-party consent state (where just one party has to consent). If the boss isn’t a party, and it sounds like some of these recordings are made without her being there, she has no right to record them.

      2. Lady Phoenix

        I would check the bathrooms for cameras and mikes too. Who is to say your manager wouldn’t go THAT far?

        Or that the porn-watching dude isn’t creepy enough to put them there.

        1. OP #1/I work on the Hellmouth

          Truth? I check for bathroom cameras just because I think some of our residents would put them up, since we have to use the bathrooms connected to our fitness center.

    2. Gumby

      I’m now wondering if #1 is in a 2-party consent state because in addition to being sort of insane, it might also be illegal. Maybe? Is there a reasonable expectation of privacy in your work office?

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth

        Totally not legal for her to be recording/listening to us without our knowledge! But she apparently fed the our regional manager a line about how the cameras (which she put up personally without our knowledge) are just to watch the parking lot and neglected to mention the microphones. She gets notifications and is able to monitor them through her personal phone, and we’d have to prove she is actively listening/recording to do anything. So we just watch what we say. Mostly. I was so angry when I found the microphone that I had loud and pointed (and probably ill advised) conversations next to it with my non-boss coworkers where I said stuff like “Oh, look! A microphone! Did you know that it is illegal to use something like this to record us? Ha ha. What a strange thing to be here, right?”

        The very next day, Boss casually mentioned the cameras a few times to all of us. Not the microphones, though.

        1. Clorinda

          Your user name isn’t even an exaggeration. I hope you find a better situation soon, without crazed squirrels, wasps, fire alarms, and all the rest. Good luck!

        2. Essess

          Personally, the day I had another job offer in hand (and accepted), I would call the police about unlawful recording devices. Or talk to a lawyer about a lawsuit for unlawful recording and perhaps end up with a lovely going-away legal payout. :-D

          1. Essess

            I forgot to mention, take pictures of the microphone NOW so that they can’t disappear later if you do make a legal complaint.

            1. JSPA

              Hard to do that, while being watched by the cameras, though. I guess you could loudly make up some excuse, like your computer is flickering, and you’re trying to capture that for the tech team, or the light is doing that weird flickering thing that it only sometimes does, like maybe there’s interference, and you’re capturing that for maintenance. (Note: this does not actually work–but all you’re looking for is a plausible excuse to record video.)

        3. No Mas Pantalones

          You might want to actually speak with an employment lawyer about that, just as a CYA. With everything you’ve documented in your letters alone, you’ve got cause to quit and still collect unemployment (though it rarely covers all the bills).

          Maybe come up with a weird language or a code, or just a random string of words you and your coworker can say throughout the day to screw with The Big Bad. “Dude, did you check on the fountain pen strawberry box of wombats? Because if we don’t get that in the blue streak of lard by flatline, she’s going to broil us.” Screw with her. You’re on a hellmouth already. Bring her with you.

          1. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

            Here is the thing: I have recently discovered that this particular boss (who, I swear, seemed reasonably sane if a little difficult the time I previously worked for her–I used to describe her as a low stakes, nicer Miranda Priestly) is actively trying to ruin the lives of employees from a company that she previously worked for (and from which she was fired) via lawsuits and also glitterbombs, leaving terrible anonymous reviews about them with their corporate bosses, and other crazy stuff. I think she even had the utilities for one of them switched off. Soooooooo… I don’t really want to do anything that is going to provoke a big ball of crazy retaliation from her because it likely wouldn’t end after I left. Because it’s gotten really, really crazy. Like, she tried to get me to personally testify in court about these people that I DO NOT REALLY KNOW levels of crazy.

            1. Nerdy Library Clerk

              Yegad. I’m not sure whether the Hellmouth made her worse or whether her crazy somehow created the Hellmouth. D:

              1. No Mas Pantalones

                Co-mfing-sign!!!

                Buffy: Also, document that crap as well. A whole blank book (one with MANY pages) should probably be dedicated to this place. And you can use it later to query publishers! :-)

              1. OP #1/I work on the Hellmouth

                Yes. She made them herself. And she had friends and family mail them from different states.

                I’m sorry, guys. It’s a nesting doll of crazy. Just assume that there’s always some truly nuts thing that hasn’t been mentioned.

                1. Le Sigh

                  Your boss is taking tips from the Unabomber?

                  I’m sorry, I will stop asking questions. I do really want to know how she finds the time for this, though.

                2. I Love Thrawn

                  Gotta wonder if the Postmaster General is ok with this. They are not known for their sense of humor.

                3. Grandma3

                  I’m so sorry that you’re in this situation. If you do not write a novel about this experience, I will be sooo disappointed. Your descriptions are hellacious! I used to work in property management for a batshit crazy owner, so I feel some of your pain. Between the witch from another Hellmouth and the needy/angry/evil tenants, I thought I would lose my mind. I hope you find something much better in the near future. You deserve an environment without fear, cameras or microphones!

                4. AFPM

                  So she has multiple accomplices to the crazy? Unreal. Totally understand the fear of retaliation – if she were fired for her actions, I would worry for personal safety. Who knows what she’s capable of. I’m so sorry.

                5. Chilly Delta Life

                  I have no idea what a glitter bomb is and feel like a few pages in your upcoming novel should be dedicated to explaining it to us sheltered folks.

            2. Phony Genius

              OK, it’s official – you now have enough material to fill three seasons’ worth of sitcom scripts.

              1. Armchair Analyst

                Yeah, I’m seeing the cliffhanger of Season finales here! This is terrifically awful; I am so sorry.

            3. Michaela Westen

              I worked for a woman who tried to start fights with me by doing passive-aggressive things and waiting for me to respond. I didn’t. She was also verbally abusive and she used spyware and took screen shots of the personal things we did on our lunch breaks.
              She once said she was leaving and didn’t… trying to hear what we’d say when she wasn’t there… another time I was talking with my colleagues before she arrived about how I was there for a paycheck… she seemed angry when she came in and I wondered if she’d been spying on us. It would not have surprised me if she planted microphones.
              She was nowhere near as bad as yours!

              1. TardyTardis

                I once had the boss (the same one I needed emails from her to cover me) who would say she was leaving and then hang around for a half hour chatting to various people (no doubt to find out how hard we danced when we thought she was gone. We learned…).

            4. Recent Anon Lurker

              GOOD GRIEF!!!!!!!!!!
              (My jaw just dropped – and nothing else from your posts has managed that – I’ve done my stunts in hotels, I’ve seen a good bit too. Mardi Gras And Senior Bowl were known for “interesting stories.”)

        4. AK

          If tenants are in your office at any point and you’re not in a one-party consent state, they’ll need to be informed as well. If they haven’t been and someone is recorded without their knowledge, that could stir up plenty more trouble for your crazy boss

          1. The Imperfect Hellebore

            I love this idea. Especially if you blithely sing along while doing your work. “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song, and make it be-e-e-ter,” etc. Then later, suddenly and loudly, towards the microphone: “DAAAAH, nah nah na-na-na-naaa, NAH-na-na-naaah, hey Jude (do doobie, doobie doobie doobie)”.

            Okay, I’m not completely serious. But it would be fun.

              1. The Imperfect Hellebore

                Look, I’m happy to play along with this stuff, but there is such a thing as a step too far. A ukulele? (Secretly likes the ukulele).

                1. Alldogsarepuppies

                  Ukulele is a deep cut to a letter earlier in the week….but you aren’t wrong if you acting like a character from AAM its a step too far.

              1. Mongrel

                ““It’s a Small World” is a particularly horrific choice as well.”

                Better yet…
                Go look for a Youtube download app for your phone and then go look for any of the 10 hour mixes of childrens songs, Let it Go is definitely there (as is “Everything is Awesome”).
                Save the video to a phone, an old one you don’t use is better.
                Set next to mic, making sure it’s on charge, set volume to low and hit play.

                1. No Mas Pantalones

                  I’d just like to know what your favourite snacks are so that I can stay on your good side, please.

                2. Mrs. D

                  Even better: do this, then use headphones to listen to regular music. No need for you to have to listen to the annoying playlist too! (Also, make sure the playlist has Baby Shark. Most. Annoying. Song. Ever.)

            1. Snickerdoodle

              It’s a two-way microphone; the music all needs to be call-and-response stuff.

              I vote for “Minnie the Moocher.”

        5. H.C.

          I’d be so tempted to play annoying music / sound effects near where the “hidden” mics are positioned.

    3. Waiting for the Sun

      A maintenance technician at an apartment complex looking at porn at work? Seriously sounds like a bad, bad situation waiting to happen. And the other client sounds dangerously delusional. Would not blame you for leaving without another job lined up. Wish I could hook you up with another company.

      1. WellRed

        Yeah, I hope he doesn’t have access to apartments. He obviously has poor judgment and I’d hate to see that accelerate.

        1. Nerdy Library Clerk

          I’m trying not to imagine him and the nightmare boss shopping for more hidden cameras and microphones together. … Unless the nightmare bananacrackers boss has *already* hidden them in the apartments too.

        2. Kitryan

          A complex I lived in had a flooring contractor who 1) went in rooms of people’s apartments that were not being worked on 2) moved items around that were not part of the needed work – in my unit a sawhorse style glass table was disassembled and not reassembled 4) damaged some small items- in my unit a dishcloth and jar opener were covered in caulk and 3) best for last, went in at least one tenant’s underwear drawer.

    4. TardyTardis

      I would get the manager to confirm all of her commands by email ‘oh dear my memory sucks, I have to have it in writing to remember, sorry about that’. I had a manager who was like that, too.

  2. Will "scifantasy" Frank

    #2:

    I’ve decided the best I can do for my employees is to pay them fair wages and create a healthy work environment. Despite my good intentions, employees just don’t care about me or the business I worked so hard to establish.

    This…has a familiar sound to it, and not one I think is healthy.

      1. Kit

        It’s unhealthy to stake so much of your personal wellbeing on being praised and thanked as a generous benefactor by your employees.

      2. Will "scifantasy" Frank

        From Alison’s original answer:

        “You don’t want people staying out of a sense of guilt, or turning down a truly great opportunity out of obligation.”

        The statement “well, you just don’t care about me or my business, that I worked so hard for” screams to me that yes, the writer would be perfectly fine with people staying out of guilt/obligation.

        1. CommanderBanana

          I mean, this is true, in a way. I’m saying this as someone who worked exclusively for small business owners until I got out of grad school. Your employees DON’T care as much about your business as you do, because it’s not their business.

          This was actually one of the things that nudged me away from opening my own small business, which I had thought seriously about doing, because I saw how damn hard it was to hire good workers at boutiques or restaurants and how hard it was to keep them – and that was even for the GOOD owners/managers, not the ones that opened boutiques because they loved a certain type of product but didn’t know how to run an actual business, which was most of them.

          You do not need to stop being kind to your employees – that would make you a crappy person – but you can and should stop things like personal loans or large cash gifts, especially if you are expecting employees not to quit because they’ve gotten a gift or loan from you. Re: “Sarah,” you definitely should have a talk with her about spreading that kind of gossip to her coworkers, but it doesn’t need to be more complicated than just “Hey, Sarah, I heard that you were unhappy with me covering your days like we’d previously agreed. What’s going on with that?”

          And I would actually recommend that you consider a therapist. This sounds really stressful and like you are dealing with a lot, and it would probably be helpful to have someone to work with to get a different perspective.

        2. FabTag

          Her earlier letter showed she wasn’t expecting people to stay indefinitely out of guilt/obligation — just that she wanted an employee she had treated incredibly well (e.g. paying a full-time salary for part-time work, covering health costs, etc.) to stay for the notice period (2 weeks?) during the busiest season for her business.

      3. NerdyKris

        It’s unhealthy to expect your employees to view their job as anything more than a job. If they do, bonus, but it’s not something you should be disappointed about if it doesn’t happen.

    1. Kelsi

      Yeah, I’m not sure LW2 took anything away from the answer except “stop giving perks.” They still seem to think that employees owe them some sort of emotional return for what they do, and instead of getting the message “they don’t owe you that and you’ll be happier not expecting it,” they got “they do owe you that, but they’re ungrateful little shits and you’re never going to get it, so just give up.”

      1. KimberlyR

        This was my interpretation as well.

        OP, I mean this in the kindest way possible: you are still expecting an emotional investment in your business from your employees and that will not happen so stop. You are giving gifts with strings attached and people don’t like those strings.

        Your employees do owe you some things: that they show up on time, call in (if needed) in reasonable time frame, do good work, and be pleasant to be around, that they give 2 weeks notice when they leave, etc. They don’t owe you more than that, unfortunately.

    2. Just a thought

      B-o-u-n-d-a-r-i-e-s. They’re good for bosses AND employees!

      This quoted line is very co-dependent. It says, “I try and I try but nothing I do is ever good enough for them!” and means “I’ve decided to put excessive emotional effort into something and no one is acknowledging my sacrifice or love [so FINE! I won’t even try!].”

      You cannot expect that everyone will react the way you want them to. What you see as expansive gestures for employee retention and camaraderie, and employee may see as a gross cross of boundaries. Or, frankly, they may just resent the obligation created and have no interest in having to weigh whether their employer’s gift to them comes with strings attached. Social performance is taxing and receiving big gifts are often more of a burden than an aid, especially when they come with this emotional component.

      Simply, you’re asking too much of your employees who, no matter how enthusiastic they may be about the work, are there to bring home a paycheck or derive some sense of satisfaction for doing a job well.

      1. Lehigh

        I think, though, that part of establishing healthy boundaries when you were formerly too co-dependent or otherwise enmeshed, often involves a little poutiness. “FINE I guess I won’t bother!” is not the best look but sometimes it’s a necessary stepping-stone. Unhealthy emotional entanglement–>healthy boundaries is not a one-step process, often, and I think it’s okay to have some Feelings during the transition.

        1. Just a thought

          Of course. But it’s very easy for that to be another emotional manipulation rather than a step toward healing.

          It is good to let go, even if letting go means that you have to have that one last outburst (or outbursts, if you need to revisit it a time or two more while learning how else to express your hurt). It is not good to declare yourself a martyr and huff off, especially if you’re hoping that will trigger someone to instantly change their behavior and/or cater to your emotions upon demand.

          Try to aim for the former and let the latter pass. DEAR MAN (GIVE FAST) from dialectical behavior therapy is a good place to start if you think this may be a struggle for you.

          1. FabTag

            I’ve found another good resource is the book “Women Who Love Too Much”. It deals primarily with personal relationships, but the lessons are valuable for professional relationships too.

            1. Jaybeetee

              As corny as that book is, reading it seriously changed my life (particularly how I approach romantic relationships) in significant ways.

        2. boo bot

          Lehigh, that’s exactly what I was thinking – I actually think the response is healthy! The letter writer isn’t quite happy about it yet, but it sounds like she’s making the right choices regardless.

          Kind of like if I say, “I’ve decided the best I can do for my mental health is set realistic expectations for myself and my loved ones. I guess I just can’t keep expecting all my friends to drop everything at the last minute for my midnight surprise-theme mystery-solving parties that they never appreciate.”

          Passive-aggressive? A bit! Still the right choice? Absolutely! And, if I keep those thoughts to myself, my therapist, and the anonymous internet, I won’t even be bothering my (already-beleaguered) friends with it.

    3. Holly

      Yes… in particular in the context OP brings up. The perk like giving extra sick leave should be something that you create a uniform policy for, so it’s not a perk given to someone in return for never saying a bad thing about you/sucking up. The employee’s comments are a separate issue that should be addressed personally with that employee.

      1. Wintermute

        Bingo, 100%. I hate to say it, but that work environment would so not be one for me. I am a loyal employee, I’ve put up with a LOT to help my employers meet their needs, I’ve been moved to third shift long-term, I’ve moved my days off, for 6 years in a row I worked every Christmas and thanksgiving, and 4 out of 6 new years to boot, it was a 24/7/365 workplace and they . But a workplace like that sounds like one where being really demonstrative/performative is valued over actual demonstrations of value or performance. It sounds like little gestures of supplication are valued more than actually being a good employee.

        1. Lena Clare

          “…a workplace like that sounds like one where being really demonstrative/performative is valued over actual demonstrations of value or performance.”
          This is such a perfect description of what the problem is!

    4. Story Nurse

      Yeaaaaah. Back in the day, I spent a year and a half working for a small independent business that the owners had built from the ground up and turned into a really special place where people felt like family in a good way. There were a lot of workplace romances (some lasting, some not, but none with any massive drama involved), there was a bagel brunch every Tuesday because one of the owners liked feeding people, and we were encouraged to bond with one another and to see the business as a collective of people who had our back. One of my coworkers was an amateur photographer and photographed my wedding for free. The business owners were really generous with perks and often stretched the rules (“Sure, your employee discount extends to your mom”). And then my life changed and I moved away and they gave me a nice reference and switched me over to “left-on-good-terms ex-employee discount” status in the database, and that was the end of it.

      I do care about the business and the owners, in the sense that I vaguely hope they’re doing well, and when I encounter someone who needs what they sell, I suggest they go to that business. But I don’t care for the business or the owners in the sense that LW #2 seems to want her employees to care for her and her company. I’d still be very friendly with any of my former colleagues if I saw them on the street—and it’s been almost 20 years since I actually worked there—but I don’t owe them or the business anything. It was a particularly good business to work for, but it was still just a job, not my life.

      1. Cathy Gale

        Friendly rather than friends. That makes sense. My husband and I have several close friends from former businesses we worked in. One of my close friends is a former boss, and his best male friend is his former boss, so I would never say never…

        But the letter writer needs to understand that you, as the business owner or manager, can’t force people to develop lasting affection for you, the manager or owner, no matter how many perks you offer. You can’t make someone fall in love with you no matter how many flowers or boxes of candy or blandishments you give them. Your goal should be for them to do their job well when they are at work, to communicate well and create a positive environment for everyone while they are at work, and to give two weeks or more notice when they are ready to move on.

      2. the once and future grantwriter

        I like your giving an example of what a genuinely warm, friendly, and close-knit workplace looks like from the employee’s perspective — while it sounds like some of OP’s employees really have done some generally unprofessional and uncool things (quitting without notice and gossiping about their boss scheming to take their commissions), it is absolutely true that no employee will care as much about a business as its owner (and founder?) will.
        Think about it this way, OP — would you expect even the most thoughtful and considerate tenant to care about a home they’re renting as much as the landlord?

    5. Kes

      The first sentence is true and accurate. The second… I have to agree that the OP doesn’t seem to have fully absorbed the original answer.

    6. Autumnheart

      Agreed. Employees aren’t *supposed* to care about you and your business as much as you care about you and your business, or about how hard you worked to establish it. They’re not co-owners. They don’t accrue the same benefits that owners do. They’re not sharing in the profits. They’re providing you with the privilege of their labor in specific roles, in exchange for compensation, because you need additional hands to perform those roles. That’s it. That’s what you’re buying. If employees become emotionally invested and supportive in their work as it pertains to your business, you can feel good about promoting a business with engaged employees. But it’s really unrealistic, and unfair, to expect employees to care and invest like an owner when they don’t benefit like an owner.

      Going back and reading the original letter…yeah, you seem to be trying to buy the lifelong loyalty of these people, and then you get mad and resentful when they don’t give it to you. Stop that. You’re not their rich uncle.

    7. Sketchee

      This line jumped out at me as well.

      LW#2 – It’s not your employees role or job to care about your business in that way. Care about handling the business, helping them do their role and otherwise manage the work

      As for how much they care about you or your business… Most people just need the money and a friendly, professional environment. You’re not hosting a party for friends and that’s okay! It’s a job. You’ll be happier if you focus on anything that has to do with the business

      Yep, they don’t care about your good intentions in that way. Or about you or your business in that way. Or how hard you worked to establish it. They care about you as a human who can take care of yourself. And they care that you direct your good intentions into creating helping them with their roles. This is all a good thing for you.

      If you want peopel who care about you and who celebrate your business, let it work for them. And spend time with friends and family who are proud of you.

    8. beth

      Agreed. I get major “At this company we’re a family!!” vibes from this letter, even with LW2 acknowledging that they’re not going to get the loyalty they want from their employees.

      LW2, expecting your employees to care about your business as much as you do was always unreasonable. You’re invested in it because it’s *yours*–unless you’re giving them a partner-level share in the business, you really can’t expect anyone else to have that level of investment.

      And it’s also unreasonable to expect your employees to care about you so deeply on a personal level. You can expect them to be professional and reasonably amiable while at work, but that’s about the limit. Your employees aren’t your friends. Your relationship with them is 1) professional, not personal, and 2) inherently limited by the power dynamic of you being their boss and therefore having a lot of power over their financial stability and day-to-day work life. They don’t owe you favors or loyalty beyond fulfilling their job duties properly and maintaining a professional attitude.

      I think your intention of being a good boss is great, but you need to do it for the sake of being a good boss, not for the response you imagine you’ll get in return. If you can’t do that, then you need to cut back to ‘regular boss’ level stuff.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Yeah…

      Having truly wonderful generous bosses in my past, this is a screaming alarm to me.

    10. Linzava

      Yes, that letter made me feel like the LW was seeped in black and white thinking.

      The general tone reminded me of a former boss, though, I’m not at all saying that I think LW is like my former boss, I have no idea.

      Former boss would say that our office gave more time off than the state(our state is crazy generous to their employees) but the reality was, we got only got what was required by law and one less day than every other employer I had. He would talk about how flexible the office was when there was actually a but-in-seat rule and we were forced to stay during a blackout on a 115 degree day. He, of course, was working from home.

      My point is, he really did believe he was good to us, but he acted like we were trying to take advantage of him constantly and would watch us from his couch every day on his survalence system. Again, not saying this is what LW is doing, but when people score-keep, it’s always heavily skewed and unhealthy. It’s best to keep healthy boundries and be kind for kindness sake.

      1. Marie

        I worked for a small business whose owner had the same attitude, including watching us on camera from home. She deprived us of federally mandated meal breaks AND criticized us if a customer walked in while we ate dinner standing behind the register.

        Her name was Karen. Suffice it to say I love that the name Karen has become synonymous with “go fuck your self righteous self”.

      2. Prof Green

        Ahhh! Yes! My aunt is like this, though she worked in the US for years so I think she truly believes that 20 days PTO plus bank holidays is generous when actually that is the legal minimum for full time workers in the UK so she looks really out of touch when she brags about how generous she is to her staff. Face palm.

        1. Magenta

          I’m also in the UK and get 30 days holiday plus bank holidays and 30 fully paid sick days a year. I would have to be offered A LOT (like double) more money to consider a job with only 20.
          I tend to judge companies that offer the legal minimum and assume that they would be bad to work for in other ways, because by offering shitty benefits they show that they don’t value employees and this is a bad business decision on their part.

    11. sequitur

      Yeah this line stood out for me too. I think it can be much harder for business owners than employees to see the boundary between their own experience of working for themselves (because they love it/because it’s their dream/because they worked so hard to build it/because it’s their area of expertise) and their employees’ experience of working for that business (because it’s a job and they need to get paid if they want to survive in a capitalist system [that exists to funnel wealth towards business owners disproportionately compared to the share that employees receive]).

      I work for a company that is still founder-owned, even though it’s pretty well established, a decent size and has global offices, and our CEO sometimes gets hurt around the holidays that no or very few employees write to personally thank him for the annual profit share bonus that he thought up/authorises each year. Like he can’t understand that to his employees, this looks & feels like part of their compensation, rather than a personal gift from his own lord-of-the-manor largesse. It’s got a weird sting of “but my peasants aren’t grateful enough!”, especially when I’m aware of the disparity between his personal wealth and what most of us make (even the well-compensated), and of how much of the company’s current success is directly attributable to employee- rather than founder-led work at this stage.

      Fortunately he’s not petulant enough to stop paying the bonus because he doesn’t get personal thank yous, but it’s one of a couple of things I’ve seen while working fairly closely with a founder type that has made me really appreciate just how differently they see the business compared to their employees.

      1. Urn

        “it’s a job and they need to get paid if they want to survive in a capitalist system [that exists to funnel wealth towards business owners disproportionately compared to the share that employees receive]”

        louder for the folks in the back!

        I hate hate hate hate the emotional manipulation that seeks to obfuscate the unfortunate necessity of generating surplus labor value for someone in exchange for the bundle of commodities required to reproduce your labor power. (yes, I am reading Capital for Christmas, why do you ask? haha)

    12. JSPA

      The decision to be a demonstrably good boss, as opposed to a well-meaning one who often does possibly very helpful but also too intrusive personal favors in a parental vein, while also expecting a similar level of boundary-blurring buy-in from the employees (who are probably distancing themselves in search of more normal boundaries!) is hugely healthy.

      The lingering disappointment that a really functional workplace doesn’t work like a sitcom or like the stereotype of a 1950’s family will presumably dissipate. Especially when the employees slowly come to realize that the boundary pushing from above is being dialed back, and some of them slowly become more invested in the company. Which may well happen, if it’s a place with above-average wages, decent leave and perqs that don’t come and go based on the boss’s say-so, good boundaries, and a boss who doesn’t come across as martyred, personally disappointed in people’s deeper selves, or otherwise focused on interpersonal issues rather than helping people succeed in the workplace.

      This dynamic is also in play in families as kids grow up. Trying to bind your teen to the family by dangling potential gifts over their head, but then feeling and acting martyred if they don’t go through the right motions and have the right reactions, rarely works well, either. Even if you do it with all the love and best intentions in the world.

      1. Michaela Westen

        OP#2, I’d like to suggest you try to develop activities and relationships in your personal life so you get the attention and appreciation you need there and won’t be expecting it of your employees.
        When I found a hobby I love and made the effort to do it, it changed my life. Before it had been bad jobs and loneliness. Having outside activities was a lifesaver when I worked for a verbally and emotionally abusive woman. I didn’t get upset because I had fun times with friends to look forward to.
        I think you’ll feel much better when you find an outside activity you enjoy and develop some friendships, and then you can be more businesslike with your employees.

  3. Emily K

    Tell the Unibomber that the squirrel from 2 years ago is probably dead now; clearly he’s angered squirrelkind in general and will now face the wrath of their whole people.

          1. Oblique Fed

            You know, Thanos. Kind of a goth because he’s obsessed with death, but kind of a hipster because he makes his own gloves?

          2. Wintermute

            She has done that, in canon, to some giant universal-power-level baddie if I recall, maybe thanos. she did a funky time loop thingy and gaanged up with thousands of herself. It was a cute call-back pun, because in her first comic the villain was defeated shouting “squirrels, so many squirrels” and it calls back to that with “girls, so many girls!” (I may be paraphrasing, I haven’t read it in some time). It was a cute little in-joke.

    1. JS82

      On a plus side i really wondered if this was my old apartment but the woods comment makes that impossible.

    2. Magenta Sky

      There are many web sites devoted to the Great Squirrel Conspiracy. They control the world, you know, and according to The Express (and a British tabloid would never mislead us!), they’ve taken over Mars, too.

      1. Bulbasaur

        Maybe OP should apply for a job with them? It seems unlikely they’d be worse than the current employer, and it would give OP a lot more leverage with Unabomber guy, at a minimum.

      2. Anonymouse

        Cats are mortal enemies of squirrels.

        Suggest the Unibomber get a cat. (That may help him emotionally but that’s a side benefit. The cat is there for his protection.)

        As for OP #1, does your company have any government contracts? If so, one call to the FBI gets your boss in so much trouble that she ain’t ever climbing out. (Of the hellmouth).

        1. irene adler

          Big points for bringing in the FBI on this. Good idea!

          I say, no mercy for this boss for the things she’s done.

    3. SignalLost

      You joke, but we had about three generations of crows that had it in for my brother for reasons I’m not getting into here. For years, you couldn’t park a dark-colored car at my parents’ house and not have it covered in crow poop pretty fast.

      1. Magenta Sky

        Crows are very, very, frighteningly smart, and have long memories. There’s a good deal of research on this. Some varieties can manufacture tools to get food. Some can solve pretty much any puzzle box.

        And the common crow, ubiquitous throughout North America, does, indeed, recognize individuals who cross it, and they have enough language to describe that individual to other crows, who will also hate them. This will pass down through multiple generations. (The researchers went out of their way to harass crows while wearing a somewhat realistic looking face mask, and every crow for miles around returned the favor for years afterwards, against anyone wearing the mask.)

        Squirrels are, indeed, clever (just search on YouTube for squirrels and bird feeders), but crows are *organized*.

        1. Partly Cloudy

          This is effing terrifying, yet explains a lot. I once had a duo of crows tag team me to steal a piece of croissant directly out of my hand (one to distract, the other to swoop in from behind).

      2. shartheheretic

        Crows have legendary long memories and they apparently communicate amongst themselves about how they should react to various events. They are well known for carrying grudges (as well as returning kindness), and if you piss off one crow you have pissed them all off. They will never forget or forgive.
        I’ve always thought if I have a spirit animal, it’s gotta be the crow (their love of all things sparkly has always made me feel like we are on the same wavelength as well). ;)

      3. Shira

        Oh God so I can’t believe this has actually become (slightly) relevant to AAM but please humor me, this was legitimately traumatic.
        Once I went with my extended family to a monkey safari type place, and for part of the safari you had to walk through a section of the park with zero barriers between you and the monkeys. This seemed to be a terrible idea to me so I asked the guide (who appeared to be a teenager on a summer job and did not appear intimidating in any way – not that I judge, but we are dealing with primates) if there was a way to get out without passing through this section. She said I could walk back through the entire park but it had been a long walk on a hot day, so I figured, well, this is a popular park (including for families with small kids) so what’s the worst that could happen?
        The guide instructed us to put away all of our food, which we did. But my niece was in her stroller, and apparently (here’s the relevant part) the monkeys have seen enough strollers pass through that they now associate then with snacks – which is completely logical to anyone familiar with strollers in the wild (as it were). The monkeys began stalking is through the trees, hanging down from the lowest branches. The guide looked uncertain and told us to keep walking, when several jumped down around us and one leaped ONTO MY NIECE’S FEET, with its hands on her knees, face to freaking (literally) face. The monkey and my niece were approximately the same size. We all screamed and the guide (still uncertainly) told us to keep walking, and after a step or two the monkeys all left. She explained about th stroller-food association afterward. But I could not believe no one had explained any of this in advance.

        **tl;dr: monkeys have long and sophisticated memories as well, which led to one accosting my toddler niece in her stroller.

        1. SherSher

          Is it wrong that I laughed, Shira? (While also wide eyed at this harrowing episode!)
          We had monkeys steal food from the tables in a restaurant ([partially outdoors) in Costa Rica… but they always waited until you had left the table. They also stole the packets from the sugar container, and promptly discarded anything pink or blue!

        2. Animal worker

          I used to work at a zoo with a wildlife show. There was a trainer with bright orange/red hair who used to frequently work with a red-tailed hawk, so he’d have the hawk on his arm on a glove. The local grackles would dive bomb him and the hawk at times. It wasn’t long before some grackles began generalizing this and dive bombing anyone in the zoo, including visitors, with orange/red hair. Pretty aggressively at times too. Amusing for those with other color hair, not so much to the targets.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago

    LW #1 – are you comfortable sharing your general geographic location in case any of us can help you with job leads?

    1. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

      Ooooh. So tempting. My only hesitations are that, while I know my boss doesn’t read AAM, I can’t be sure about anyone at the corporate level and they might be able to peg who/where I am if I narrow it down. Also, it seems like a lot of awesome HR people read AAM, and since I’m applying for a number of HR positions in town I would hate it if, by some weird coincidence, one of the hiring managers read this, figured out who I was, and then thought that I was only applying because I’m trying to escape the Hellmouth (I mean, I AM trying to escape the Hellmouth, but I also legitimately am super interested in those positions). That second one is probably a little over-thinky/highly unlikely, but these are anxious times.

      1. That One Person

        I really hope you make it out of there. The place sounds like a setting for a TV show, possibly horror-based but at the very least strange-fiction (though…in your case…nonfiction unfortunately). Could even just be called “Hellmouth” or some variation/phrase and maybe adopt some Cthulhu elements into it.

      2. Cathy Gale

        Could you explain state or multi-state region?
        I don’t have Willow’s power for spells but I will be mumbling some incantations for you.

      3. No Mas Pantalones

        Look up your state’s laws on recording; see whether it’s a one-party state or a two-party state. It will tell you if it’s legal (or legalISH) to record you without informing you.

        And if you run into Spike, send him my way, wouldja?

    2. Troutwaxer

      My personal take on this is that AAM types who practice the mystic arts should be brought in to find the ancient Indian burial ground or tomb of an eldrich horror. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’leyh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

    3. CoveredInBees

      Detective Santiago, I think it is perfectly clear that OP works in The Bad Place. Let’s drop the investigation before Shawn and the other demons come after us all.

  5. cleverleper

    #1, for your own sake, I hope you find something better soon. But for my sake, I hope you don’t, because your letters are fascinating, terrifying, and hilarious. As others have said, please, please start a blog.

    1. Emily K

      This kind of thing does make great blog fodder.

      I’m suddenly reminded of a blog I read wayyyy back in the olden internet days – it was probably on Geocities – by a woman who worked at a video rental place that, while nominally a general video store, did about 80% of its business on the large and extensive adult film section. She had the most amazing stories. There’s nothing quite like weird/dysfunctional workplaces for generating those kinds of stories.

      1. Emily K

        Wow – I just googled to see if I could find it again, and it turns out she did go on to publish a book from the stories (Amazon link in username).

        1. Nopetastic

          Ha! Curiosity got the better of me, and I followed your link to the book. Discovered there’s an audio version, and couldn’t resist purchasing. Thanks for tonight’s commute entertainment!

        2. Sprinkle Cookie

          I loved this blog back in the day!! Thanks for reminding me of its existence and linking to her book, can’t wait to read it. :)

    2. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

      Honestly? So MANY things happen on a given day that I could probably tell you stories for ten solid years after I leave this place. If I left tomorrow. I legitimately can not remember having a day without at least a minimum of four or five really out there things, or terrible management things, or Why God Why things happening. And four is a QUIET day. Here is an actual example of something that I have said to my boyfriend: “Oh! Hon! Yesterday when I was telling you about my day I completely forgot to tell you about the high speed car chase that ended on property! One of our residents apparently was driving drunk, hit and badly injured someone, and fled and was followed onto property. I can’t believe I forgot, but I guess all of the other stuff pushed it out of my brain entirely.”

      1. E

        Writing your memoirs of working at this place could be a best seller and solve the financial issues. Just sayin’, folks will pay to read about that level of drama.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein

          Seriously. You’re leaving money on the table when you come here and tell us about it for free!

          (Which is not to say you should stop…)

  6. FYI

    LW #2 — Sorry, but this —
    “Despite my good intentions, employees just don’t care about me or the business I worked so hard to establish.”
    — gave me an eye roll. I say this with kindness, but you are missing the point entirely. What everyone was calling “generosity” and “kindness” and “good intentions” was in fact enmeshment. It was YOUR behavior that was waaaaaay over the top in every instance that you cited, including today’s. A guy quit, and you gave him THREE MONTHS of full-time pay afterward. A woman used up all her sick leave, which I’m sure was a lot, and you gave her two weeks more. Paid.

    NO relationship works when the boundaries are so out-of-whack. It does engender disrespect, yes, because people sense that you don’t care enough about yourself to take care of your OWN needs. It’s insulting to assume everyone is incompetent and needs your sacrifices. “Helping” anyone (again, it’s not helpful) should be last on your list for quite a while until you can get some self-respect going. The worst thing you can do is miss the lesson here and go into a self-pity party about how no one appreciates you.

    1. ella

      One of my favorite podcasters, John Hodgman, said in one of his episodes, “Helping in a way that you enjoy is not helping; helping in the way you are asked is helping.” I think LW2 maybe needs to take that to heart a little bit. How have her employees *asked for her help*? Have they *asked* for three months of extra pay? Have they *asked* for significant extra sick time? Maybe for some of the extras, but not all of them. They also want a job that’s free of drama and entanglements, and that’s what OP isn’t giving them so far.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      For real, though, OP#2, no one is going to care as much about your business as you do. Same way that no one cares about someone’s wedding or baby as much as they do.

    3. Walter White Walker

      Exactly. “Helping” in such an over-the-top way will engender one of two responses:

      An emotionally healthy person will be uncomfortable with such an out-of-proportion gift, sensing that there may be an unstated expectation that they will reciprocate later on in a way that they didn’t ask for and won’t be comfortable with.

      An exploitative or unscrupulous person will sense the lack of boundaries behind such a generous gift, and seize the opportunity to take all they possibly can.

      In neither case will your “help” be appreciated. Your time and energy is better spent building good interpersonal boundaries.

      1. Tuxedo Cat

        “An exploitative or unscrupulous person will sense the lack of boundaries behind such a generous gift, and seize the opportunity to take all they possibly can.”

        I thought of this when reading the update and reading the original letter. I’ve had a few friends in the past deal with this issue.

    4. BluntBunny

      Yes the reward for treating your coworkers well is good work, that is all they owe you. Also in regard to the employee that complained about you behind your back, it reminds me of when parents spoil their kids and they become entitled ungrateful brats. I think you would be better served to reward people based on performance this shows that when they work hard they get good things rather than here’s something because it’s Wednesday. Also it might be more fulfilling to put your giving nature into charity, volunteering maybe mentoring or employing young people.

      1. winter

        +1 to volunteering or giving to charity.

        OP, as an employer you are doing all you need to do, if you provide your employees with a stable, well-compensated job with reasonable boundaries and good management.
        When it comes to giving back to the community, charities are a great option.

  7. Falling Diphthong

    #1: To quote the wise Jason Mendoza: “Whenever I have a problem, I throw a molatov cocktail at it. Right away, I have a totally different problem.”

    1. Rebecca

      Oh, I love this!! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face this afternoon! It’s been a rough day, and that just was such a mood lifter!!

      —no, I’m not going to toss a molatov cocktail, but it’s fun to imagine Jason doing it!

  8. animaniactoo

    OP#1, I look forward to the day when I see your username change to “I Worked on a Hellmouth”.

    Hang in there, we’re rooting for you.

    1. CM

      I hope your notice-giving practice goes like this:
      1. Pack up your stuff, put it in your car
      2. Walk into boss’ office, hand her resignation note, say, “Thank you for the opportunity, but I am resigning effective immediately”
      3. Walk out door and go home

            1. Canadian Natasha

              7. Perhaps spelling “I QUIT” in stuffed squirrels* on the desk before leaving would give a nice flair to her exit?
              *The toy kind, not the used to be alive kind.

      1. [insert witty username here]

        Would like to amend step 2 to be: yell into your microphone that you’re leaving and your resignation letter is on your desk – while flipping off the camera

    1. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

      If by “go on about my day” you mean “break into the Snoopy dance” and “cheer until my voice gives out,” I am totally prepped and ready.

  9. The Imperfect Hellebore

    OP #1, good grief, my sympathies. But I have to second those commenters who’ve suggested you write a book, or start a blog. I absolutely love your writing style, and would happily read more from you on whichever subjects take your fancy.

  10. periwinkle

    For the first time in AAM history (as far as I can tell), “your workplace is full of bees” is both figuratively and literally accurate.

    1. The Imperfect Hellebore

      “I like my workplaces like I like my women. Covered in beeeeees!”

      (That was a misquote from the wonderful Eddie Izzard, for those not familiar.)

  11. CatCat

    Re #2, I’m just not going to be so personally involved in caring for employees anymore.

    Though your overall tone comes off as still overly emotionally involved on a personal level and somewhat bitter, this that I’ve highlighted is actually a good outcome for yourself and your employees. I believe you were coming from a personally generous place that just does not mesh well in a work environment. Continue the things that were professionally awesome (good pay and benefits, flexibility) and work on not seeing it all as personal.

    Also, on the employee who you said stabbed you in the back. Did you talk to her and correct what others reported? “Lucinda, I’ve heard from others that you’ve been telling them I was trying to keep you from earning commissions. What’s going on?” And to others who you are hearing this from, “Hmmmm… that’s not the case. I don’t know why Lucinda would say something like that so I’ll talk to her.”

    I would recommend looking into counseling to help you with coping emotionally and strategies for separating the professional from the personal. I have relative who struggles with this overpersonalizing/emotional investment into what other people at work are doing and counseling has helped.

    1. your favorite person

      She might be coming from a good place, but all I read here is MARTYR. Yes, those things are generous, but there was most definitely string attached to those ‘kindnesses’ and it’s easy to see one someone is trying to buy your love. Annoying when it’s family, off-putting when it’s your boss.

    2. Just a thought

      I appreciate seeing someone give constructive criticism. I’m like others in being caught up in the emotional manipulation aspects, but it is valuable to point out a way forward even if this is the case!

      Bottom line, I think, is that communication needs to change. There are lots of undertones and assumptions apparent in the letter — things you think, things others have said to others, assumptions about reactions and their level of appropriateness — but far less actual dialog.

      Give it a go. Straightforward, neutral (can’t stress this enough – NEUTRAL) dialog. “This is what I heard. Can you help me understand?”

  12. Jennifer

    I was glad to read the update from Hellmouth. It would be nice to read that she found a great new job and had told this crazy manager to shove it, and in the movie version that’s what would have happened by now, but in real life it takes a long time to find a job and just quitting isn’t always an option. I think a lot of people wait until they find something else before they send an update, but it’s not necessary. I’m not glad she’s still having troubles but glad she’s alive and still sounds relatively sane :) The new job will come through soon, I’m sure of it. I hope she stays strong!

  13. CatCat

    #1, We’re all pulling for you! I can’t wait for the update where you have the sweet, sweet revenge of coolly and professionally putting in your notice.

    1. Ali G

      I kind of feel like if OP1 gets a job in another industry, they should just quit without notice. Why give anymore time to this place?

      1. CatCat

        Because it’s a small world and reputation matters. There aren’t a lot of situations where ghosting is appropriate.

        It could certainly be a short notice if that’s necessary like if the manager totally flips her lid. Alison has scripts for “I’m going to have to make today my last day.”

      2. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

        Well, I won’t say that I wouldn’t really WANT to, but at the end of the day I just couldn’t do that to my two non-boss coworkers. They are blameless, and just walking out with no notice would really make things even more unpleasant for them. If I give normal notice, tie up loose ends, and make sure they’re prepped it will at least be a little easier on them.

        1. Jerusha

          Is there any way you can quietly tie up loose ends (and possibly forewarn your co-workers), so that your “disengaging from the job and leaving all in order behind me” period is of normal length, but save any mention to your actual boss until you’re actually ready to walk, just in case working out any sort of reasonable notice period is untenable? (See Alison’s scripts, mentioned above, to the tune of “I’m going to have to make today my last day.”)

          It will be hard on your co-workers nonetheless, because I don’t expect your boss to take this calmly, either between your notice and your departure or after you’ve left, but you might be able to mitigate the impact in most/all respects other than your boss’s reaction.

      3. Magenta Sky

        I’m not sure “quit” is the right word. I think I’d go more with “escape.”

        “It’s a great place to be from, and the farther from, the better.”

  14. Four lights

    OP2 I’m sorry that “Sarah” was ungrateful. It’s certainly true that some people are ungrateful and unappreciative of kindness. But it’s likely that not all of your workers are like that. The fact is that your interests as a business owner and their interests as an employee don’t always coincide, and that’s ok. For example, while of course you want good employees to stay forever, the employee may decide to leave because of health reasons, or family circumstances, or an offer too good to pass up.

    I guess I just don’t want you to be cynical or give up on people. Best of luck.

  15. Jennifer

    LW2 – you sound like a nice person, but generally most people just want to be paid fairly, get reasonable sick time/personal time, decent benefits, and a safe, relatively pleasant place to work. There may be circumstances where someone may genuinely need extra flex time, like if they have an ill child or are mourning a death, or an advance on their pay, but when gifts are so over the top it comes across as though you are trying to buy people’s respect, which turns people off. It’s nice to read about someone that cares about their employees instead of someone that just sees them as resources instead of human beings, but they need to respect you as well.

    1. Archaeopteryx

      Yes, going back to the first letter- giving someone three weeks off for their honeymoon? Awesome. PAYING for an employee’s honeymoon? Big overstep, no matter how generous.

  16. kittymommy

    LW #1: a “wasp situation” dang near sent me into hysterics at work. All I can picture is the Lysol commercial where the little biy is in the bathroom struggling to get his belt off and yelling to his mom (?) ” …we have a situation….”

    Seriously though, this sucks and I’m so sorry. Is there a way you can take photos of the microphones and talk with some law enforcement of your state attorney’s office or DA (depending where you’re at)?

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      I started laughing way too hard at the Unibomber and the squirrel. IRC, in the first Hellmouth letter, the LW mentioned a wall full of dead squirrels. Perhaps the vengeful squirrel and the wall are connected? If they aren’t, the LW should make up a story connecting them for her blog

  17. hi hello

    OP3: I know it’s helpful to you that she isn’t sick frequently, but it’s an odd thing to list someone’s health as a qualification like that.

    When I’m worried about someone’s tone, I think about if i would react the same way if it was a man saying it. Sometimes we’re socialized to think that women are being abrasive if they aren’t being peppy or apologizing.

    1. she was a fast machine

      Yeah, as someone who has had a chronic illness but otherwise has been desribed as a star performer…that made me cringe/feel a little bad that nobody can say that about me.

      1. Thursday Next

        But there are other positive things they can say about you, if you’re a star performer. OP was listing the positives of someone they describe as “a mediocre hire.” And for a front-of-house admin position, showing up reliably (which includes not calling out sick) is undeniably a positive.

      2. chronic employee

        As someone who’s chronically ill, it does suck to hear “not sick” as a good part of an employee BUT i also know that attendance is a huge part of something like an EA/front desk/etc kind of job, and that simply wouldn’t work for me – i need a flexible job. Some jobs require someone who can be there as much as possible at exact times, so someone with chronic illness, lots of kid issues, etc, simply isn’t going to be the best hire, and i think that’s ok to acknowledge.

    2. BadWolf

      A friend of mine is an admin in an office and after going through a couple front desk admins that were out a lot (cold, bad back, bad allergies, sick family, food poisoning, death in the family, mystery disappearances…), being there everyday did seem like a huge bonus. It was a morbid joke to verify that the new admin was coming back after lunch (after a previous admin disappeared after lunch more than once).

  18. Ok_Go_West

    LW2 — there are absolutely people out there who take and take and take, and the more they are given, the more they feel entitled to ask for. I’ve worked with some of them. The best way to deal with these people is to set firm, clear policies that apply to everyone (they can still be generous, but they should have limits), and then enforce them consistently.

    All in all, I wonder if you have a hard time saying no to or disappointing people and if one reason your employees do not appreciate you is that they do not see anyone else suffering any consequences for bad work behavior. One of the most important jobs a boss has is creating a good work environment by disciplining or firing those who are not pulling their weight. Your employees may very well be the ones who are taking advantage of you, but it is still your responsibility to put a stop to it.

    1. Lis

      One of the best managers i worked with (not my manager but my job was pointing out mistakes his department made) was completely consistent, if his reports made a mistake they should not have he disciplined them fairly and consistently and if there was a reason they made the mistake other than them just not doing it right he did everything he could to defend them. He never threw anyone under a bus to save himself but held everyone to the same standard. Not sure if everyone who reported up through him knew the lengths he went to (overall he had 200+ people in his department) but he stood up for every one if it was unfair. Some may have thought he was unfair if they had consequences but he really wasn’t and the najority of the employees knew he had their back but there were consequences if they went against SOP.

  19. hi hello

    OP1: Thinking of you and rooting for you in your job hunt! Also your letter has made me go out of my way to be nicer to everyone at my apartment complex.

    1. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

      That will be so appreciated by them! I know that every truly pleasant interaction that I have right now is a life raft, and even at NORMAL apartment communities the nice folks in the office probably have been treated not-so-nicely often enough for that to really make a difference in their day.

  20. CM

    OP#3, you’re incredibly patient. The explanation about being a government worker makes total sense. From all the updates, it sounds like you’re going to have to keep coaching her as long as she works for you. An external training class on communication skills for Amy might be a good idea — sometimes lessons sink in better when you hear them from a neutral third party.

    1. Observer

      That’s a really good idea. Given that you’ve had some success with coaching, it sounds like you might have some good returns on this, if you can get it.

  21. ShwaMan

    Yeah, OP2, you arrived at the correct outcome perhaps, but not sure you got the lesson. You can’t control other people’s feelings.

    I wondered a bit if you have young/inexperienced employees? If so, they may not have the right frame of past job experience to appreciate you were being more generous than employers usually are – maybe they think it’s normal for bosses to do all those things, and thus didn’t think it such a big deal.

    Either way, it doesn’t matter much – no one is ever going to care about your business than you do.

  22. Marthooh

    OP#3 — It’s so satisfying to read about communication and good management saving the day! This update about Amy and the earlier one about Josh in IT made me so happy.

    Admittedly the Hellmouth update is more purely entertaing, what with the wasps and the spycams and the ninja squirrels…

  23. she was a fast machine

    OP #4, I just want to note that the things you mentioned that Amy is now having trouble with is not always the purview of all EAs. Obvious it is in many places, but personally I’ve never worked somewhere where bosses expected their EAs to interrupt meetings to stay on schedule or arrange meetings in a certain order for the same reason. It might be as simple as Amy not realizing that’s part of her duty and then being scared to take charge and do those things. I know I would be, just because I’ve had some nasty bosses who would have gone off on me if I dared to change their schedule or interrupt a meeting. But you are definitely handling her well and I hope she continues to grow under you!

      1. ch77

        LW #3 here
        Thank you! It is always helpful to realize what is an office norm here isn’t one everywhere. The other EAs at our office do this a lot (coming in to remind people of time checks, cutting meetings short, etc) so it oddly is a norm here. It wasn’t with her previous bosses. She’s had to do it a few times this week, and it has been helpful and gone well.

  24. Candid Candidate

    OP #2 – have you ever heard of the Enneagram? Because I think you may be a Type 2: someone who is well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but who sometimes does things for others in order to feel needed. (Taken from the Enneagram Institute type description.) Anyway, it’s a personality typing system that’s been really helpful for my understanding of myself and others, and I think it could be really beneficial for you. No doubt your generosity for your employees comes from the best intentions and a desire to foster a strong community, but it also sounds like it’s time for some self-reflection about some underlying motivations and insecurities. Generosity is really only generous when you’re not expecting something in return from the recipients. I think there IS a way to be generous with your employees without getting hurt or creating tension, but I think it takes some serious internal work.

    I would also strongly recommend going to a therapist with all of this. In your original letter you mentioned growing up near the poverty line – I did too, and it has had a huge impact on my personality and working life. For example, I tend to have a lot of anxiety about whether someone is going to be okay if something goes wrong (like a loss or an emergency), and I’ve jumped in too quickly to “help” and it’s made things awkward. I strongly believe that people who grow up in or near poverty have PTSD – we tend to be more sensitive to that stuff and try to hard to save people, because our survival instincts kick in. It’s been helpful for me to talk with my therapist about this and work on responding to those situations in a healthier way.

    Also, rather than taking the attitude “guess I’ll never be generous again,” maybe think about ways to make it a communal effort. I work for a company that has a community emergency fund that employees pay into, and then the HR team distributes funds from it to employees in need. Each employee gets to choose whether they want to pay into it, and how much, and that amount is automatically taken from their check each pay period (a recommended amount is usually $5+ per check.) It’s been used for everything from funeral costs for an employee’s loved one to recovery costs for employees affected by a natural disaster. I work for a huge company, but even for a smaller business, it can have a big impact and it makes employees feel like they’re all invested in each other’s well-being. It also takes away the weird power dynamic when a boss bestows a huge sum to an employee out of the blue. Just an idea.

    1. Regina

      This is a really great comment – everything said here.

      I co-founded a company with someone who is very similar to the OP in many ways. She means well, but doesn’t have a good understanding of setting boundaries or what reasonable expectations are in workplace settings. We’ve lost a lot of good employees because of bad reactions when they’ve set reasonable boundaries… and had exploitative employees really put us in a tight spot because they have taken advantage.

    2. Agirlhasnoname

      Fantastic comment. I have had a lot of therapy in my adult life largely to develop the boundaries, modalities, coping strategies, etc that were so different growing up in poverty. At first I wrote “skewed” but the fact is, it takes a different set of *everything* to survive in a corporate office place vs a rural trailer park. I often feel like an immigrant, especially on those rare occasions (like college graduation) when my old and new lives mingle.

      For context, my first therapist asked me to read “the glass castle” and I couldn’t finish it because it hit much too close to home.

    1. OP #1/ I Work on a Hellmouth

      We did. Our boss was very angry, but I honestly wouldn’t have been comfortable with giving him a ride alone BEFORE the porn revelation.

      1. irene adler

        Wow to that.
        If she’s so interested in providing porno guy with transportation, they why doesn’t she provide it herself?

        (There’s an old adage that a boss shouldn’t ask a report to do anything she wouldn’t do herself. Guess boss isn’t aware of this adage.)

  25. Pile of Squirrels in a Trenchcoat

    Actually Free Meerkats, but that name seemed appropriate for today.

    When I rented, I mostly had good luck with management and other tenants. Except for this one large complex in Mukilteo (that’s as descriptive as I’ll get) where both sides were crackers. We couldn’t get them to do anything about the couple above us who let their toddler sit on their deck sans diaper and do her business, which dripped and dropped onto our patio (we were at ground level.) Talking directly to them didn’t accomplish anything.

    Then there were the pool parties including illegal fireworks (right outside our bedroom window) that went on to the wee hours, even though the pool “closed” at 10PM. We figured out that was happening because it was the resident manager having the parties; since her dad owned the complex, nothing was done.

    The weekday a large percentage of the cars parked in the complex were towed. They issued new parking permits and didn’t bother to tell half the buildings. And we had to pay to get our car out of impound, no admission of responsibility.

    There was the tenant who dug through the dumpsters and took things he could “fix” back to his apartment. But nothing ever came back out fixed. Or the one who farmed worms on his deck.

    Adding my name to those who would buy the book.

  26. animaniactoo

    …she became very angry… with everyone except the porn watching dude. Who she still seems to be planning to hire on permanently

    .

    EvilMe™ is off the clock now and would like to note that this is clearly because those were his instructional videos. She’s expecting a vast improvement in his skills for their next session.

  27. Sail On, Sailor

    OP #2: While I agree with the other commenters above who wrote about professional boundaries and the fact that no one will ever love your company the way you do, I just want to say that I think you were a very generous person to give those perks to your employees.

    And if I were going through a health issue and you gave me two additional weeks (!) of paid sick leave, I would have thanked you to your face, written you a heartfelt thank-you note, and praised you up and down to the other employees.

  28. Ladyphoenix

    LW #1: A dude who watches porn at loud volume WANTS people to hear and know he is sexually aroused.

    And that is a man who is very, VERY dangerous… because he is testing boundaries and see what else he can do to vulnerable potential victims.

    Beon your guard, and your manager better pray he doesn’t do anything to warrant a sexual harassment/assault case because SHE WILL BE PENALIZED.

    1. Nerdy Library Clerk

      And there’s a good bet that it will be on tape, thanks to her bonkers recording devices everywhere.

  29. Wintermute

    OP2– you live in your body, so your concerns and your life is basically all your think about. Other people have their own lives, their own emotional and practical concerns, their own whole inner life. Other people will never think about you as much as you think about you.

    Realizing that was revolutionary for me at work because I was always really anxious, and I would catch myself, “wait, there are a billion things going on in their own work and lives right now, the fact they are whispering does not mean it’s about you, that’s probably thing number 2,561 down their list of things they’re worried about right now, especially if you have no reason to suspect otherwise!”

    Because when you’re anxious or insecure, and I think that’s a bit of what you’re feeling, you tend to look inwards, “what can *I* do”, “what did I cause?” “how can I change this?” It’s a natural impulse but it also leads you astray because it’s a fundamentally solipsistic way of looking at the world, assuming that you have agency over everything and will be able to affect every outcome.

  30. Peridot

    I had to decline going alone into the woods next to the property with an irate resident with a Unibomber vibe who wanted to show me the specific individual squirrel that he claims was harassing him two years ago and has returned in order to vandalize his new vehicle

    I am sorry I find this so funny. A little sorry, a lot funny.

  31. Snow Drift

    #1 in addition to practicing delivering your resignation, I suggest reviewing how to kill a Turok-Han.

  32. Not A Manager

    LW2 – You might want to consider some therapy for yourself. You mentioned in your first letter that you had some issues in your family of origin, that caused you to want to have a certain kind of work relationship with your employees. Of course we all learn moral lessons in our childhood, and “I want to be a good employer” is a great lesson to learn. But it seems like you’re bringing a bit more baggage to these interactions than you might imagine. I think you could really benefit from exploring what is prompting you to be so overly generous (even against your own immediate best interests, let alone the interest of the ongoing relationship). And I think you could benefit from really thinking about what you’re expecting from your employees in return.

    To be honest, your employees’ behavior, as you describe it, sounds angry and passive-aggressive. While some people are just jerks no matter what you do, I think it’s possible that something about how you interact with your employees might, paradoxically, be making them uncomfortable and even angry.

    I don’t think that shifting your attitude to “fine! I’ll just take my ball and go home then” is going to solve this issue.

  33. OP2

    OP2 here. Thanks for posting my letter. I was tired/annoyed when I sent it my update and didn’t communicate my thoughts very well.

    To be clear, I don’t expect eternal loyalty and gratitude for offering extra perks to employees. Nor do I think it’s realistic to hope employees will treat my business like it’s their own. But it’s been pretty crappy to have people take advantage of all the benefits then end the employment relationship on bad terms – eg complaining about low pay after receiving thousands of dollars of personal travel perks or tuition fees, stealing from the business then taking me to court for wrongful termination, etc. It’s not something I expect after going out of my way to support them.

    I still want to have a good relationship with the people I work with. But I realize adding all these extra financial/practical support brings in a level of expectation that people will at least not cause harm to my business. Since I have been proven wrong on so many occasions I prefer to redirect my resources to those who do not have a professional relationship with me.

    1. Not A Manager

      I’m sorry that happened to you. Looking back, and putting aside your own generosity, do you think that any of them gave you some reason to think they might not be good, trustworthy employees at any time earlier in their employment? Are you so focused on being kind that you’re missing signs that someone isn’t a good employee?

      1. Zillah

        This is a really good point. Some benefits shouldn’t be about meritocracy, but some definitely should be, and it seems like the OP may have been giving them out based as much on people’s situations as their performance – which I think absolutely does make it more likely that people will take advantage.

    2. Any mouse

      Just because you offer travel perks or pay for tuition doesn’t mean you are paying people adequately. Those perks aren’t regular pay so they can’t be used for bills or groceries etc.

      If your employees are regularly complaining about being underpaid maybe you should look into paying them more and cut back on the perks.

      1. OP2

        I can appreciate that, but I know what the industry average is and as a policy I pay quite a bit above that; not just as a matter of being “nice” but as a sensible retention strategy. One lesson I learned is that for some people any wage you offer is never good enough and they always want more.

    3. Ann O.

      I agree that the specific examples you gave were all of people behaving in an unusually self-centered way. I don’t know the specifics of your small business and what type of norms there really are or aren’t, but I think it’s reasonable to expect that treating other people with kindness and compassion will be returned with some basic courtesy as well. It’s hard when that doesn’t happen.

      But you can’t control other people, so I think your approach is the one to take at this point.

    4. Zillah

      OP, this comment really brings a couple things to mind for me.

      1) I think that the more we put ourselves out for people, the more we expect in return. That’s not a criticism; it’s just how a lot of us operate, and I’d argue that it can often be a healthy way to operate. I think it can often be helpful, though, to figure out your baseline and work from there. What do you expect in return? (Not what have you gotten from some people – what do you expect?) Is that expectation reasonable? If so, what lines need to be drawn in terms of what you’re putting out to maintain that?

      2) It sounds like you’ve repeatedly ended up with people who are committing theft or quitting with no notice or generally acting unprofessionally. Maybe that’s just bad luck; I don’t know. However, it seems like along with taking a look at how much you’re emotionally investing in your employees, it might be worth looking at your hiring practices and seeing whether you’re really screening people well. You’ve come across as someone who has a lot of empathy for other people, and I’m a little concerned that that may be leading you to be a little less selective in both hiring and giving out perks than might be ideal.

      1. Jaybeetee

        I wonder this too – if OP2 is hiring hard-luck cases or similar, trying to help people out, and then getting screwed over. Yes, running a business entails a certain amount of BS from staff/in general, but she seems to have experienced more than usual, and it makes me wonder who she’s hiring (or if it really is just catastrophically bad luck). I would suggest though, letting go of complaints about being underpaid if she knows what she pays is good for that region/industry – frankly, everyone everywhere feels underpaid, everyone everywhere complains about being underpaid even if they’re not. No need to take that kind of grumbling personally.

    5. CM

      I wonder if having generous benefits and policies, rather than extending generosity to individual people, might serve you better. You might attract better employees by having generous benefits and policies, and they would be aware that they only get those things by doing their job well and keeping it. It sounds like you’ve been individually generous to people, and I think you’re right — often this kind of kindness and generosity is taken advantage of. Your story about the employee who talked behind your back about sick leave reminded me of stories I’ve heard people tell about siblings or other family members, like, “I’ve been letting my sister live with me while she didn’t have anyplace else to go, and now she expects me to pay all her bills and take care of her kid too!” You’re getting into these relationships with your employees where they are expecting more and more of you and resenting you even when you’re helping them out. If instead you’re acting in accordance with a written policy that’s consistent for everyone, I think you’d be more likely to get the results you’re looking for.

    6. Gymmie

      OP2 I came to say that that person you gave the extra weeks to is ridiculous. It made me so mad for you. My good friend, another manager got into trouble for being flexible with people. The people he was helping were the ones who complained becausee of one reason or another. So now no one gets any flexibility. People in general can be so terrible.

    7. Lucille2

      I can see a little of myself in your letters. I, too, came from meager beginnings and have worked for more than my fair share of abusive bosses and tyrants. Having been a manager myself, I understand too well what it means to feel you need to be the boss you never had and offer up an extra hand to those who need it. However, I have learned some hard lessons along the way. What I’ve learned, and continue to work on, is that the extra generosity should be the exception, not the rule. When it is the rule, by some, you are viewed as the greatest boss. By others, a pushover. And the ones who view you as a pushover, risk ruining your good graces for everyone else. Don’t let that happen.

      The best bosses I’ve had have been clear and firm on their expectations – and those expectations are reasonable. It’s important as employees to understand what is expected of you to do the job well. The best bosses also hold bad employees accountable for their actions, and realize that since one bad employee can bring down the whole team, it’s important to handle that for the best interests of the company and the team. I’ve had a lot of bosses who will stick to policy and never flex to allow an employee to work through some personal issues. A good employee will understand that and respect it, but may have to make some hard choices to accommodate their own needs.

      I hope this doesn’t leave you jaded. But your comments suggest that your flexibility and extra accommodation is imbalanced and you’ve become too emotionally invested in being your employees’ favorite boss. You may have had too many employees who have taken advantage. No need to swing completely in the opposite direction, but you need to correct that balance and take a step back emotionally.

    8. Observer

      Keep paying people fairly and treating people respectfully. But ALSO rethink your hiring practices and only go the extra mile for people who show some ability to appreciate it. You, and everyone else, will be much happier.

  34. Coder von Frankenstein

    LW1: You will make it out of there. I don’t know if your financial situation can accommodate a couple of weeks off before starting a new job, but if it can, I highly recommend it – give yourself time to decompress and reset your sense of what’s normal. Also to run in slow motion through a meadow, waving your arms in the air, while blissful music plays in the background.

    And then come tell us about it, because the news that you escaped is going to make several hundred people cheer for you.

  35. zaracat

    #2 I think many commenters have been overly harsh with the LW. The things she was doing were exceptionally kind and generous and I can understand why she would feel let down that they did not get the response she was expecting, even if this was based on a misjudgement of business norms on her part. I don’t know that “losing respect” or thinking the LW is too much of an easy touch as a boss is the issue, I think it is more that people are often intensely uncomfortable with feeling indebted, especially if they haven’t asked to be put in that position (even when it is entirely well intentioned it can feel like “favour sharking”).

    I’ve been on the opposite end of this type of situation, where I was going above and beyond because I felt “looked after” by my boss’s secretary (who was the one who booked my freelance work) and the changeover to a new secretary who did not do this was a harsh reality check for me and a reminder that this was a strictly business arrangement, and that ultimately the boss was going to make decisions that benefited him and not me. It took a while and a lot of (silent) resentment on my part for it all to settle down. I can empathise with the LW and understand that it might take a while to settle in to having new boundaries and to let go of what has happened already that cannot be changed.

    1. zaracat

      Oh, and I completely understand being pissed off by Sarah’s behaviour, and I would definitely want to address that.

    2. OP2

      Thank you for the confirmation I’m not crazy to hope for some level of appreciation. You don’t have to work with me for 20 years and write me a thank you note every third Thursday, but geez, just don’t complain about the benefits you took enthusiastically or do shady things that impair my ability to operate my business. That is all.

      1. Zillah

        I think the thing is, though, that the behaviors you’re describing are problems no matter what! It’s not about perks – while I understand that that’s salt in the wound for you, behavior like stealing from you is problematic no matter what benefits you’re giving them, and if that’s a problem you’re regularly having, the answer isn’t just to scale back some of their benefits – it’s to find a way to avoid hiring people like that in the future.

  36. AnonyNurse

    OP1: In all seriousness, you should look at starting a Patreon or similar. I don’t know how high Allison’s readership is, but I imagine a bunch of us would be willing to pay $5-$10/month to get to read more of your stories. And would be even more delighted if they were in the past tense. It might allow you to leave before you get a regular full time gig — maybe you can do something PT, retail or restaurants, etc. 100 readers @ $10/month would add up and your readership would expand beyond people from AAM pretty quickly I’d think. You’re a fun writer with an ability to make the most upsetting, gross situations seem entertaining somehow.

    1. Nerdy Library Clerk

      And I don’t think there’s any reason you couldn’t publish the collection as a book once you’ve escaped. I know other people have done similar things. But, yeah, Property Managing on the Hellmouth would definitely be worth a Patreon subscription!

      Heck, being able to share the nightmare might even make it easier to get through until you land that escape job!

  37. Not Australian

    Re #3 – as part of a reorganisation we acquired a member of staff who came complete with 150 boxes of (useless for our purposes) envelopes. It turned out she’d been doing the stationery ordering for her department and had regularly turned in exactly the same order every time – inherited from the previous occupant of her desk – and hadn’t ever queried whether the items were being used or not. Also, there was no way of returning anything to stores once it had been withdrawn. [It was a major hospital complex so there is a certain logic to that.] When I left, those 150 boxes of envelopes were still sitting there waiting for someone to think of a way of using them.

    1. Recent Anon Lurker

      Could they be donated to a pre-school/kindergarten for the kids to use at an art or writing center? Then the kids could create “Mail” for mom and dad?

  38. babblemouth

    LW1: take lots of notes. After you leave the job, write it all up and pitch to a studio it as a sitcom.
    You should get *something* out of that nightmare…

  39. ISuckAtUserNames

    LW #1, I hope you get out very quickly! In the meantime, though, might I suggest blowing off some steam in the Friday open threads with “This week in the Hellmouth?”

    1. OP #1/I work on the Hellmouth

      I guess I could—I’ve popped up with Hellmouth stuff in them from time to time, but I worried about boring/annoying people by doing it too much. Even when I whittle stuff down there’s just… a lot.

      1. Michaela Westen

        I think you should do anything that makes you feel better/stronger/more in charge. So if it makes you feel better go ahead! If people get bored they don’t have to read it. :)

      2. Chilly Delta Life

        Oh please do this! I think most of the comments here today prove it would be well received. It has a kind of Welcome to Nightvale appeal to it.

      3. Observer

        Well, you do it like “This week in small town news room”. (By the way, if you haven’t read those, mostly they are hysterical.)

        Most people will get it after a couple of weeks, and will either read or skip. Those that don’t see the pattern obviously aren’t such heavy readers to get bored by it.

  40. Michaela Westen

    #1, I’m glad you’re working on getting out of there and seeing some movement. I hope you get a much better job soon!
    I remember in your original post I said it sounds like your background check people aren’t doing their job. In fact, I don’t see how they could be doing anything. I know there’s probably not much you can do about this, but just having it in mind might help keep you a little safer.
    Also, is your boss sleeping with porn-watching dude? Or has some other personal relationship with him? Is he selling her drugs or something like that?
    I always try to find ways to help, so… is there a manager above your boss you or someone could contact about the craziness?
    Good luck! I’ll be thinking of you. :)

    1. OP #1/I work on the Hellmouth

      Thanks for the kind thoughts! I’m hopeful for a Hellmouth exit in the new year.

      Manager and porn dude definitely don’t have any kind of affair or drug connection—my boss just thinks that the porn witness made it up (because she doesn’t like the porn witness), and also because porn dude is the first person from the temp agency to show up, do his job, and not quit/no show within the first week. I also think she feels like she’s being Kind Caring Benevolent Benefactor Who is Going to Change His Life By Bringing Him On Full Time. She has constructed a whole narrative wherein he is the upstanding, hard working, underprivileged person and she is the great woman giving him a hand up.

      As far as going above her—my boss seems to have the regional manager wrapped around her finger AND I also now know the she goes after people who have complained about her or (in her eyes) with frivolous lawsuits and creepy acts of revenge. Since I wouldn’t want to stay even if she was gone (because Hellmouth), I think my best course of action is to keep my head down and work towards exiting ASAP.

      1. knitcrazybooknut

        Apropos of nothing, I just started rewatching Buffy this week. I must have seen this update coming!

  41. Michaela Westen

    “she’s being Kind Caring Benevolent Benefactor Who is Going to Change His Life By Bringing Him On Full Time. She has constructed a whole narrative wherein he is the upstanding, hard working, underprivileged person and she is the great woman giving him a hand up.”
    Oh, people who do that are the worst! They don’t live in the real world. That explains a lot!
    Good luck again!

  42. AFPM

    Too bad the OP#1 update didn’t come in earlier, or her boss could be included in the Worst Boss of 2018. Alison, when does eligibility start for 2019?

  43. Technical Manager

    OP#2, I think you are taking the wrong message away here. You can be generous and care about your employees, but generosity that comes with strings attached isn’t generous at all. If you do something kind for someone and then, in your own mind, you feel this person should be indebted to you, you haven’t given them a favor, you’ve given them an obligation, and in many ways that’s worse than doing nothing.

    I’m not a business owner, just a manager, but I’ve bent the rules for my employees at times; as one example, I gave extra time off (and other support) to an employee who had a loved one fall victim to a violent crime. That person did actually end up resigning not too long after, and I wasn’t emotionally hurt by that because I never felt that the extra time off was an obligation, it was simply the right thing to do, and one I would have done unquestioningly even if I had known he would leave.

    Genuine concern for your employees means that you will be sad when they leave, but you can also be happy for them as they move to the next phase of their lives, too. I do want to retain my good employees, but at the same time, if one of my employees finds a great opportunity that they can’t pass up, I would never want them to sacrifice their career growth out of a sense of debt to me or our company.

    On “Sarah” – did she actually ask for more time off, or did you come up with that without confirming that was what she really wanted? My own boss has four magic words that she uses in tough situations – “What do you need?” She doesn’t try to solve my problems for me, but she always listens when I ask for help and she’s gone above and beyond to make some of those requests happen, too. If Sarah explicitly asked for some extra time off, and then complained about you for giving it, that’s on her for being a jerk, but if Sarah merely mentioned she had a problem and you came up with a “solution” that didn’t align with what she wanted, that’s on you for doing too much talking and too little listening.

  44. Girl friday

    I just had a question, I hope someone sees this. Isn’t a two-way microphone like a Charlie’s Angels speaker? Or the same thing as the receptionist used on The Bob Newhart Show? I would think that might be fairly normal for people in a workplace to communicate with their subordinates that way.

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