update: my coworker is blaming someone else for an anonymous complaint I made

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

Remember the letter-writer who made an anonymous complaint about a coworker’s racist comment and the coworker blamed someone else for it? (#2 at the link) Here’s the update.

I wrote to you in September looking for some advice regarding a racist coworker I had anonymously complained about.

Thank you to you and your readers for your advice; I did end up calling the whistleblower line again. They promised me that they would take the issue seriously and follow up with the manager of the department instead of my individual manager.

Almost immediately, Jane quieted down. However, about a week later, our entire team was pulled into a meeting and my manager angrily told us that someone had been ‘stubbornly’ making ‘aggressive’ anonymous complaints about our team and that he couldn’t address individual issues unless we came to him personally.

At the start of November, I noticed that I could no longer see Jane’s comments in our team’s shift discussions on social media. She had blocked me along with about two thirds of the team, and word got back to us from other teams that she was publicly posting inflammatory comments about the blocked team members now that we couldn’t see them. Around the same time, our manager went on sick leave and nobody was put in place to cover him; the lack of any visible management seemed to make Jane bolder and she began openly making racist comments and pointed comments towards Sarah again.

In December, both Sarah and one of Jane’s friends, Anne, applied for a promotion to a management role. Sarah got it but had to work out a month’s notice period in our team until they replaced her. Jane and friends made a big show of ‘freezing’ Sarah out, and when she wasn’t around telling everyone that she had ‘stolen’ Anne’s job. This went on for a week or so while we tried to arrange our formal Christmas night out. When discussing the menu, Jane lamented that there was no chicken and someone pointed out that chicken was available on the halal section of the menu. Jane loudly proclaimed that she wasn’t going to eat ‘Muslim food’ and overhearing this, Sarah said “Wow. You know you sound really racist when you say stuff like that, right?”

Jane went crazy. She started screaming in Sarah’s face that she better stop calling her a racist, called her a b*tch, and threw a notebook across the room, while Sarah stood her ground and stayed perfectly calm. It was mayhem. After a few minutes, it calmed down and management from other teams started taking people into rooms individually to find out what had just happened. When I was called in, I mentioned the way Jane and her friends had been reacting to Sarah’s promotion.

Jane was told to go home for the day and in the end, she never came back. A few days later it was announced that she had handed in her notice effective immediately (I assume to prevent getting fired). I think her friends must have received stern warnings because their behaviour towards Sarah stopped immediately. Another management position came up and Anne put herself forward again; when she didn’t get that one either, she quit. I think she realised she’s burned her bridges here.

When my manager returned from sick leave in January, he told us he had secured a position elsewhere in the company and would be leaving at the start of February. It’s early days, but his replacement seems wonderful so far; she’s very supportive and the atmosphere in our team has already improved. However, my time in the team has left a sour taste in my mouth and as things become more professional I can see that I’ve let my anxiety and the toxic atmosphere make me a less than ideal employee (sometimes becoming tearful, making some mistakes in my work, and taking more sick leave than is ideal). I feel like the best thing all round is a fresh start elsewhere, so I’m still job hunting.

{ 118 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    When you say “you know, that sounds really racist” and they hear “you are a racist!” because they know they are.

    Tough situation LW.

        1. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

          It’s usually my first instinct, because any reaction will further fuel their rage.

        2. J.B.*

          It can often come with disassociation from repeated trauma. Not the best way to acquire it, practicing compartmentalization maybe wouldn’t hurt.

    1. Baja*

      Right? Wouldn’t most people be appalled and apologetic and I don’t even know what the reaction would be or what to say except OMG OMG.

  2. Laura H.*

    OP, none of this is your fault! I can’t say I wouldn’t feel the same way, but you did what you were supposed to do!

    The fact that your coworkers were so awful about it is on them. Not on you.

    I’m somewhat appalled at your manager- pressuring someone who made an anonymous complaint through the proper chem meal to discard that anonymity that protects them is shameful.

        1. Ugh*

          Nah, pretty sure it’s JK Rowling herself that’s Dolores Umbridge at this point, especially now that she’s switched to making transphobic tweets herself instead of just liking those of other people.

          1. D'Arcy*

            There were strong hints of transphobia even as far back as the original book series. Read the physical descriptions of Rita Skeeter from the point of view of *knowing* that Rowling is a transphobic bigot.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      The only time I’ve seen a manager give the “you should bring your issues directly to me” speech and it went well was when the manager addressed the anonymous complaint immediately (by firing a habitual harasser with like a year’s worth of buried complaints against him—the manager was new, the dude was being protected by previous manager but copies of the complaints existed) and then following that action up by telling us all she was with us. If you do the speech but don’t address the issue, it doesn’t work (aaand then I go call the hotline again and report that nonsense too; I think if I worked at LW’s company I’d never get anything done except calling the hotline -_-).

  3. Quake Johnson*

    In a way this is a good update since all the awful people are gone, but on the flip side I feel like no one really faced the consequences they deserved.

  4. J.B.*

    I hope that the manager who reamed you (anonymously) out in a meeting leaves the company completely, because he not only did absolutely nothing to stop this but lashed out!

    1. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

      I was lectured once by a boss for going to HR regarding a sexual harassment compliant instead of her. I did that because she WITNESSED some of the events and did nothing. No one cared.

      1. West*

        I once went to HR over some of my coworkers saying some extremely homophobic stuff in front of me (I was very in the closet at that job) and my boss got mad at me because “going to HR about stuff like that could ruin someone’s career.” …???? Good??? That’s when I knew she would never have my back at that job and I started looking for new employment.

        1. nonee*

          I brought up some homophobic jokes a senior manager had made to my manager, and she told me that maybe I was just too sensitive for the workplace. Any workplace.

        2. Nanani*

          IF (big IF) their career got ruined, it will be because they were being a bigot and not because the bigotry was reported.

          This is classic victim-blaming logic-fail. I’m glad you got out.

      2. Rob aka Mediancat*

        Their reasoning, of course, is that you shouldn’t do that because It Makes Them Look Bad. Not because they had any intent of handling it in any real way themselves. You denied them the chance to sweep it under the rug, and now people know about, and It’s All Your Fault!

  5. Bookworm*

    OP: I’m sorry the result was mixed (at best?) but thank you for speaking up anyway. It sounds like it’s a bad place all around, so I hope you find something new, soon!!!!

  6. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — This sounds like a decent outcome, and suggests that not all the managers at your company are as crappy as your (now-ex) boss. But I can see how you’d feel burned by the whole situation. Best of luck in your job search!

  7. MOAS*

    not eating “muslim food”….

    I wonder what it’s like to go through life with 2 brain cells and being a bully.

    1. Tiny Soprano*

      I wonder what it’s like to go through life without ever experiencing the culinary delight that is the Halal Snack Pack.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Delight me, please. I’ve eaten some halal food, of course (I’m an omnivore from New York City), but what’s in the snack pack?

        1. Valkyrie*

          A Halal Snack Pack is doner kebab meat on top of hot chips (fries). You can add sauces, toppings, whatever you like, just like you would a kebab
          I’m not 100% certain but I think the term originated in Australia. It is a time honoured tradition to grab a snack pack with your mates on the way home

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            It is indeed an Aussie thing. Mention getting a ‘HSP’ and everyone knows you’re getting chippy, meaty, garlicky goodness that is good for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

          2. Lehigh*

            Thank you for explaining. Never having heard of it, the term “Snack Pack” summoned the image of some type of lunchable for me…

        2. MOAS*

          That sounds amazing. <3

          Being Muslim I’m familiar with the concept of halal food. It wasn’t until My first job that I realized most non-Muslims just think of halal as the stuff sold on carts in NYC. What annoyed me was that they didn’t care to be corrected. *eye roll*

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I wonder if this person has ever flown with an Arab airline, cause most of them have kosher and halal dishes.

      1. Alli525*

        People who are that committed to racism probably aren’t going to fly with an Arab airline, and in fact would loudly tell everyone in earshot that they won’t fly with that airline because “they’d probably fly it into a skyscraper.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          would loudly tell everyone in earshot that they won’t fly with that airline because “they’d probably fly it into a skyscraper.”

          I would consider this a stretch, but I had a similar experience with a former coworker. I reconnected with a former work friend on social media back in the early Facebook days, and she told me she was newly single and actively looking. I thought of an ex-coworker from a different job, who was also single and looking, and was going to be in the area during the next long weekend (say, Memorial day weekend). I asked them both if they’d be interested in me playing matchmaker and they both said sure! Then she looked at his FB page. He was a London-born man of Indian heritage. This woman, who’d been my work friend and who I’d never expected to hear this from, messages me back and says “I saw his profile photo, he looks like a terrorist.”

          My response to her was that there had been a sudden change of plans – my friend had just messaged me to say he wouldn’t be in the area on Memorial day after all. Sorry that their meeting fell through! Then messaged him to also say that the meeting had fallen through. No way in heck was I going to expose my friend to that. I had not realized up till that point that there are people walking among us who actually say/think this. Was shocked.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            That’s always the worst, when you figure out someone you know and thought better of reveals themselves to be a bigot. I also had a similar experience after I connected with a former coworker on Facebook. She made a post that used the n-word and it was the fastest I’ve ever hit the un-friend button.

    3. MatKnifeNinja*

      It’s wonderful. You don’t know enough care.

      That horrible, racist person didn’t go home and quietly reflect on what a crap human they are, and figure out how to change.

      They rage posted on social media to like minded folk. Got positive fuzzies back.

      I have relatives like the two brain cell bully. They have no problems sleeping at night.

    4. Shadowbelle*

      A colleague recently made an annoyed remark about our employer “bending over backwards” for Hindus. Totally baffled me, as I have worked with Hindus for decades and they don’t seem to ask or need or require any backwards-bending from management. I first thought Colleague was getting Hindus and Muslims mixed up, because management does keep a small conference room regularly booked for the Muslim prayer times, and then it occurred to me that Colleague might be griping about accommodations being made for vegetarians.

      As if the only vegetarians at the company were Hindus.

    5. Delphine*

      some of those folks show up in our comments here whenever there’s a food accomodations question, we could ask them

  8. Inigo Montoya*

    Get out OP. Your management is actively TERRIBLE for not firing Jane on the spot and having security escort her from the building after the screaming and throwing stuff incident. The fact that they waited long enough to let her resign is unconscionable. A workplace respecting and securing your physical safety is the absolute bare minimum you should expect.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nah, they sent her home for the day and she never returned. Most workplaces won’t fire someone on the spot without first doing at least a short investigation — which is generally a good thing because stories can get twisted, there can be extenuating circumstances (for example, what if Jane had been bullied and finally reached her breaking point — they need to know context like that), etc. They handled it swiftly, and the OP doesn’t need to quit over that.

        1. MK*

          You know how you find out evidence? By doing an investigation. What you get by swooping in, believing who you want to believe based on your bias, and acting on the spur of the moment, is injustice.

          1. Lunita*

            Didn’t they have evidence prior from the complaints about her and the chats? This should have sealed it.

            1. MK*

              A complaint is not evidence, and I don’t think they had copies of snapchats. But it’s not as if they did nothing, they got the manager to address the situation. If the company made a mistake was in trusting the manager to handle the issue, but it’s not so simple to find the line between trusting middle managers to do their job and leaving them completely unsupervised.

              1. JJ Bittenbinder*

                Thank you for presenting this so reasonably. I’ve long since left any sort of employee relations position, but complaints about Three people told you Brianna was a bully and it took WEEKS to fire her! were quite common. I reckon the people making the complaints wouldn’t like to be disciplined or fired without due process.

        2. NerdyKris*

          Aside from what MK said, it’s also not a simple matter to fire someone on the spot in a larger company. It needs to be coordinated between several different departments. Company property has to be retrieved, computer and security access needs to be terminated (which are often different departments), and you generally want to avoid escalating a situation. By having them go home, you have breathing room to make sure the situation is definitely as it appeared and you have time to contact the required departments to make sure they can’t access systems afterwards. And that they can’t, for instance, smash their laptop that has all the work you need on it.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            To add to what NerdyKris posted, in some states, you’d have to hand the person their final paycheck upon termination.

  9. Prof. Space Cadet*

    I agree with Alison. I’ve seen or heard of enough cases of people being “fired on the spot” unjustly (whether in my own life or in Askamanager posts) that I think it’s best to err on the side of a short investigation.

    1. Prof. Space Cadet*

      Sorry. Looks like my comment didn’t go under the right thread. I’m replying to Alison above.

  10. Pieska Boryska*

    No wonder Jane was so bold, with management backing her. I hope OP finds an awesome new job fast.

  11. Agatha_31*

    Hey op, does your workplace have eap benefits? Might be worth looking into that while you’re looking. Best of luck to you – remember, you did speak up several times, and that would help by giving the company a record of the ongoing behaviour. You helped to fix this awful situation and make a better workplace for everyone.

    1. Scotty_Smalls*

      Yes go to EAP and get some counseling so that you don’t bring workplace PTSD to the next job. And of financially possible give yourself some time in between your end date and start date.

  12. Saielna*

    I faced a similar situation about a year ago, with a high ranking executive making multiple transphobic comments. After I used the confidential reporting system, I was frozen out from essential meetings and my work suffered as a result (I was head of IT, and not being kept in the loop about desired upgrades, events that I’d need to be available for, etc.)

    I wanted out after that, so I get it, LW. Sometimes a fresh start is the only viable option for you (regardless of how others might view it). Try to take this as a learning point though. Recognize the bad habits and coping mechanisms, make yourself aware of them (I literally wrote mine down in a small journal I still keep with me at my new job).

    I’m glad it worked out okay for Sara, but honestly appalled that a manager was allowed to continue on in their role after the serious mishandling of the initial complaints.

    Good luck!

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Most of them are like that. At a call center I used to work at, the anonymous complaint hotline would send the recordings of the complaints to the relevant manager and most of the managers would listen to the complaints together and try to decide who the “snitch” was. (It was a call center, remember? All the managers listened to our calls regularly, for quality. They knew our voices.)

  13. Kimmybear*

    OP…good for you for reporting the various issues, taking care of yourself by treating your anxiety, and figuring out that the toxic environment isn’t good for you. Don’t blame yourself but do figure out (perhaps with a therapist) whether staying in the current (improved) environment or finding a new (unknown) environment is better for you.

  14. CouldntPickAUsername*

    you know what the best surefire method for not being accused of racism is?
    not being racist.

    anyways, good riddance to that trash.

    1. EEOC Counselor*

      This isn’t actually true. People are sometimes accused of being racist when they have done nothing to indicate that they are. Sometimes when someone is passed over for a promotion, it is because they are a minority. Sometimes, though, it is because there was a better candidate, and the fact that the person who was passed over is a minority had nothing to do with it. Filing a complaint that your boss is racist when there is ample documentation that the quality of your work is low doesn’t automatically make your boss racist. There are slackers in all genders and ethnicities.

      1. Lunita*

        There are slackers in all but how large is the problem of false accusations of racism versus actual racism and systemic racism? The former pales in comparison with the latter.

        1. EEOC Counselor*

          Of course the former pales in comparison to the latter. I wasn’t saying, or even implying, that the problem of false accusations is anywhere as large as the problem of discrimination. I’m reacting to the statement that a “surefire method” is not to be racist. To me, the term “surefire” means that it’s a guarantee, not that it’s rare. I pointed out that sometimes people who aren’t racist get accused of it and gave one example of how that can occur. I never said it was common.

          I feel like the comment in response to my comment is an example of what is being discussed on this site recently, that the person who responded to me didn’t read the comments carefully enough to comprehend that the original comment used the term “surefire” and I was responding to that. The numbers of times that people are posting a rebuttal for something that wasn’t even said is on the rise.

        2. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I handled many a complaint of discrimination (usually race, but sometimes age, disability or religious) in my previous employee relations job and, in 9 years there, none of them were substantiated.

          Does that mean it doesn’t happen? Of course not. Does that mean it didn’t happen there, ever? Also no. But we had a strong history of racial, ethnic, gender, age and sexual orientation diversity at all levels of leadership, so it was fairly unlikely that there was rampant discrimination.

          In this case, the employee was clearly racist and the manager, too. But I agree with EEOC Counselor that many, many people will look for external reasons such as discrimination for not being promoted, rather than being self-reflective about what they are (or aren’t) contributing.

          1. rosanna w.r.*

            Has it, perhaps, occurred to either of you that POC in your employ suffering from low-grade racist radiation may suffer in their work as a result? Or that, perhaps, if accusations of workplace or personal racism are levelled against you the correct response is to genuinely consider if intentional/unlearned racist responses to the employee are happening? Or simply that the employee has the PTSD symptoms common with racial abuse & finds nowhere on the team to support or understand that?

            Of course not. Your company was “diverse”. There’s no way a company who hired lots of different people could then mistreat their marginalized members. It’s literally never happened. After nine years of closing down complaints, it’s highly unlikely that valid complaints simply stopped coming to you as the victims in your employ earmarked you as unsafe to confide in.

            Original comment was right. The surefire way to not be accused of racism is to not be racist. And the surefire way to not be racist, instead of declaring yourself so, is to dedicate real time and energy into understanding microaggressions, macroaggressions, racist propaganda you grew up with, and structural violence – essentially, unlearning the racist thoughts we all were conditioned with as we grew up.

            Or maybe all of the complaints about harrassment you ever dealt with were just from jealous slackers. That seems plausible too.

            @ Allison sorry if this reads harshly, but any discussion that treats “false accusations” (be it about racism, sexual assault, or any other bigotry) as if they were a tangible risk to good honest (white, male, etc) people pushes me IMMEDIATELY out of my polite zone.

            1. rosanna w.r.*

              I know any hypothetical replies to this will be 100% offended puffing and 0% introspection, so I won’t be checking back on this. Ta!

            2. JJ Bittenbinder*

              Thank you for this. I know you’ve said you won’t be checking back because you expect defensive retorts, but you’ve given me what I deserve and need to hear and I am very much taking your comments seriously as I examine my behavior.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I only ever had one person try to come at me with a false accusation. It was very vague and the person seemed kind of not stable to begin with. I avoided her after. Thankfully she didn’t appear to report whatever wild insinuation popped into her head, because I never got in trouble on that account. I would say this is something that happens extremely rarely. But agree with others that, even if it’s 0.01% of all cases, that’s already not “surefire”.

    2. Ashley*

      I really think it is all in how you react and move forward. If I say something racist completely unintentionally, and someone says “Hey, that’s actually pretty racist.” my immediate reaction would be “Oh my gosh!! I’m so sorry” and attempt to learn from it. If someone’s reaction to being told something they’ve said is racist is to immediately lose it, shout and throw things, there’s definitely something to the accusation.

  15. Nanobots*

    OP and Sarah handled this well. I’m glad racists and racist enablers are gone so that the organization can move forward.

  16. Dragon_dreamer*

    I learned not to call the anonymous ethics line at my old job after I got written up for doing so. (This was over 10 years ago.)

    My manager made me take an unsigned credit card without ID and I complained that she’d threatened my job over it. This was back when some credit cards had photos… I didn’t think the very nervous *young* white girl looked *anything* liked the elderly Asian man in the photo on the card.

    I later found out that other people had gotten fired after calling the ethics line. It was after that when I started documenting *anything* suspicious for if they ever let me go.

    1. AuroraLight37*

      Good grief. What is the point of having an ethics line if they use it as a weapon against people who are doing what they’re supposed to by calling in violations? I suppose it’s for cosmetic reasons, so they could pretend that they take things seriously.

  17. Betty*

    LW, I hope when you do go that you tell Sarah how much she kicks butt! What a gal! I have serious respect for her and am glad she got that promotion. She deserves it.

  18. Argh!*

    I have found the same has happened to me. I’m not the same person I used to be, and not in a good way. The stress and drama of my workplace really took a toll on me. Even if I can escape, I worry that I’ll bring that with me. My current strategy is to detach, not care what goes on, and work on doing a great job and applying for other positions. I barely speak to any of the people in my 1/4 of the organization.

  19. Tink*

    To Alison: on occasion you have interviewed people who have interesting/ unusual professions. I would be very interested in an interview with someone who handles an anonymous tip line for commercial business. Specifically training, professional judgement, guidelines , and process. And if geography plays a part.

    Love this blog, my insomnia go to
    Have a healthy New Year

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      It would be interesting to read, and especially interesting to get the interviewee’s take on this situation and the way it was handled. In the original letter, the LW says:

      My employer has a dedicated whistleblower line and I decided to call them and anonymously report this incident. They were appalled and agreed that this needed to be acted on, and said they would forward my complaint to HR.

      I’m unpleasantly surprised by the whistleblower line staff’s reaction. My training has been that it’s critical for those staff to remain neutral, factual and unbiased. For them to indicate to the LW that they were “appalled” shows that they were none of these things and that they were assuming that the accused was guilty when there had been no investigation yet and when guilt or innocence is not theirs to determine.

      I don’t think this whistleblower line is any good at all.

      1. Wintermute*

        uh, you’re reading a lot into “appalled” unless they literally said the words “I am appalled”. But it’s just as likely they said something perfectly appropriate, which indicated that if true the situation would be appalling and they would be forwarding the information to the proper people to investigate.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Exactly. People hear what they want to hear. I’ve taken supervisor calls for credit cards where a caller says the person they were just talking to promised to waive a late fee and then changed their mind and when I listened to call the caller says “I paid on time but got charged a late fee!” and the CSR says “That doesn’t sound right. Let me check and see exactly what happened” and what happened is the caller paid late.

      2. Precious Wentletrap*

        The staffer may also be trained similar to how mental health listening/crisis line volunteers are trained, where an empathetic response to the caller is important regardless of any action required behind the scenes. People like to be validated.

    2. Wander*

      Yes Alison! Maybe next open thread we can post a to see if any readers are in or know someone in the industry willing to be interviewed.

  20. Len F*

    Isn’t it fascinating how upset racist people get when you tell them that they’re racist? You’d expect them to own it, right?…

    1. Cathie from Canada*

      Its because they don’t think they are racist at all — because “RACISTS are AWFUL PEOPLE but in my case there are PERFECTLY GOOD REASONS why I don’t like THOSE people!” And they also sincerely believe that “EVERYBODY SECRETLY AGREES WITH ME but POLITICAL CORRECTNESS prevents those other cowardly people from openly agreeing with me. Only I have the COURAGE to TELL THE TRUTH so how dare you call me RACIST!!!”
      One of the “tells” is when you hear someone say “Now, you know this is true ….” or words to that effect. Racists think of themselves as brave, noble truth-tellers.

      1. JediSquirrel*

        Very true. Most people who are racist think the only racists wear white hoods and burn torches. They don’t view themselves as racist, only superior.

        Also, apparently tiki torches don’t count as an actual torch.

        1. Mongrel*

          There’s a very good You Tube series on the Innuendo Studios channel called “The Alt Right Playbook” that touches on this subject. That episode is called How to Radicalize a Normie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P55t6eryY3g) and it delves into the “I can’t be a racist because…” mindset very well.

          The whole series is worth a watch if you have the time though

          1. Oranges*

            I love this series. I second this recommendation.

            I also like how his views evolve. Like minorities told him that when he “wins” an online argument with a bigot. They sometimes will retaliate against the minority. So he changed his recommendation not to focus on “winning” but on refuting the racist thing to the audience.

  21. RedinSC*

    Wow, LW, I’m glad there are some positive changes, but I’m sorry you’re still so stressed out there. I wish you all the luck in your job search and I hope you find a new, wonderful position in the new year.

  22. Perpal*

    technically that was more anti-muslim than racist I think but still protected and redic. Why not eat halal food don’t you want to eat quality meat?

    1. London Lass*

      That’s a fine line considering how common it is for Islamophobic abuse to be directed at people based on how they look, including Sikhs, Hindus, Christian Arabs, etc. Clearly in the minds of many, “Muslim” identity has a racial component.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Add in times where Sikhs have been targeted by anti-Muslim violence to understand the connection.
        I have a Lebanese motherinlaw and if i mentioned that would get questions about marrying a Muslim. Despite his Irish name. Come to think of it, those questions stopped after violence against Syria’s Catholics hit the news.

      2. mixed race tale*

        Add racially mixed people. After 9-11 my son was getting frozen out at his job until a co-worker came over and with great hesitation tried to get into a conversation with him about what country he was from in the middle east, and my son started roaring with laughter, and said he was a “good old American mixed kid with a black daddy and a white mama” and the guy clapped his back and then throughout the day all of his co-workers who had been freezing him out made a point of being nice to him. He said it was the only time in his life he got such nice treatment for being mixed race. (And both he and I would have stood up and supported any employee who had been middle eastern.)

        1. Observer*

          This is a perfect example of why “shock comedy” can sometimes be useful. This story is really funny, but it’s also horrifying.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I know an Iranian guy who constantly has strangers speaking to him in Spanish because he looks Latino.

  23. Observer*

    OP, whatever you do, give yourself some time. If you find a new job you like, see if you can take a couple of weeks in between to decompress.

    Beyond that, it looks like the overall outcome was mostly good. And while I agree with the poster that pointed out that the hotline folks should have been much more neutral in their response, I think that it’s clear that they DID honor the confidentiality, which is a decent starting point.

    I do very much hope that your former manager never manages people again. That’s just appalling.

  24. JediSquirrel*

    Sarah sounds wonderful, OP sounds wonderful, Jane and her gang sound like a train wreck. Glad this turned out well for Sarah.

  25. Aphrodite*

    OP, I wonder if time might heal things for you at your current workplace.

    I’m not saying to stop job hunting but that awfulness you feel right now and the effects (tears, sick leave) that it’s having may only be temporary. Each day you may be healing more. Look if you feel that’s right but maybe don’t close the door on staying because the changes may be good. Only you can know. Whatever you choose, I applaud your courage and convictions.

  26. Arctic*

    It’s a good thing a lot of racists are so stupid. Because for so many companies it takes this level of behavior to act.

    1. Observer*

      Well, considering just how stupid racism is, it’s really not so surprising.

      I remember reading an article trying to make the claim that (overt) racism in most hiring really shouldn’t be a thing because hiring that way works against their own self interest. There are a number of problems with that thesis. A major one being that people who really buy into that kind of thing rarely recognize the problem it poses to them. (Interestingly, the author of the article was black, and I believe and economist.)

      1. Former Employee*

        The person who wrote the article probably fell for the same logic that many intelligent, educated people do, which is that it makes no sense for someone to do something that goes against their own interests.

        However, when you consider how many farmers voted for the current occupant of the White House, it becomes somewhat clearer.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I have a theory that anyone who thinks everyone acts in their own best interests all the time is probably on the wrong side of Dunning Kruger Effect. Most of us were raised in capitalism, it’s an entire system based on tricking people into acting against their own interests and then profiting from it.

  27. ShortT*

    I occasionally hear antisemitic comments. I have a very Greek last name, so, not knowing my story, one would tend to think that I’m not Jewish. The shock, backtracking, and apologize when I say that I am… Oh, boy. I don’t accept such apologies because the people are only shamed of being called out, not because they accept being wrong.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m Jewish, but I pass (blonde hair, blue eyes). I got that in my home country all.the.time. People would look at me and think I was safe for them to share their ridiculous antisemitic drivel with, NOPE!

    2. ellex42*

      I get anti-semitic comments occasionally as well. I have a very German last name, and get a remarkable number of people who assume, with no actual evidence, that I’m Jewish, even though I don’t have a traditionally German-Jewish last name.

      Then there are the people who assume that I’m as anti-semitic as they are…also because of my very German last name. Apparently someone in my family MUST have been a member of the Nazi party, even though I live in Pennsylvania Dutch country which is full of people descended from German immigrants considerably pre-WWII…like my German ancestor who came over in 1832.

      Seriously tempted to change my name to Jones.

  28. Oranges*

    Don’t blame yourself for reacting humanly to an awful situation. Your mental health was under stress and you needed more time to recover and coping strategies.

    You are not to blame for needing these things. Just like if you were exposed to radioactivity you wouldn’t be to blame for the physical effects.

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