update: our horrible HR manager tells lies, is rude and petty, and won’t do her job

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 in upper management at a company whose new HR manager told lies, was rude and petty, and wouldn’t do her job, and where the CEO refused to act? The first update was here, and here’s the latest.

I wanted to give you one final update on this letter from 2016. A few months after my last update, the management staff decided to make one more last ditch effort before we all started searching hard for new jobs. We asked the most senior person to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the boss for the entire management team, except HR. Before, it was only senior management that met with him, and he fluffed them off. We felt a bigger show of concern might make an impression. And boy, did it! But not really the kind we wanted, unfortunately.

The boss felt ambushed by having junior members of management there, even though he was told it was the whole management team that wanted to meet with him. He was defensive and on edge from the beginning, but after a while, he lost his temper completely. He yelled and cursed at a manager, and the senior manager who arranged the meeting blew up too. It turned into a shouting match between the two of them. (This was the person who believed HR was targeting them, and apparently the relationship between this person and the boss had gotten very tense, which we didn’t know when we asked them to call the meeting.) Everyone else was deeply uncomfortable. But once the shouting stopped we emphasized the problems we were having again, and explained that we wouldn’t have taken such drastic measures as “ambushing” him if the problems were manageable without his help. He begrudgingly promised to intervene and lay down serious guidelines for HR.

Personally, I didn’t hold out much hope, considering how it all went down. But your advice worked!

I don’t know much about what action he took. As I understand it, he basically told HR to stay in their lane — and in their office. They weren’t even to walk around the other departments unless they had a reason to be there. I gather he also told her that HR couldn’t do their job if the other members of management didn’t trust them, and it was on her to fix that. But whatever he said, it made a huge difference. The HR manager is a totally new person. She stays in her lane, doesn’t say rude things, and has only caused one kooky problem that I know of since that time. (Since I know commenters will be curious, here’s the gist. We’re allowed to decorate our own work spaces as we see fit, if the decorations aren’t offensive in any way. For Black History Month, several African-American staff members brought in inspirational posters for their doors of historical African-Americans — Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc. A white employee complained about “not feeling included,” so HR came and took the posters down without consulting the people who owned them or their supervisors. The other managers quickly took action, got people their property back, clarified to everyone that decorations aren’t company-sponsored but individual, and encouraged anyone who wanted to do so to bring their own decorations, if they wanted to include themselves.)

The atmosphere throughout the company has improved so much that no one ended up leaving — except the boss, who finally retired earlier this year. The new boss is making all the members of management feel heard, and the relationships of all the managers with HR have become functional and professional.

What I learned from this is that these confrontations may be scary, but sometimes they’re necessary, and there is strength in numbers. We went into it saying “He can’t fire us all.” We came out of it all getting the jobs we loved back, free of what was making us miserable. Thanks, Alison, for the great advice!

{ 197 comments… read them below }

      1. tangerineRose*

        That was my thought too. And even though I’m white, I think of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King as heroes. They stood up, in a non-violent way, for equal treatment. I kinda figured a lot of people think of them as heroes, regardless of their skin color.

        1. Commercial Property Manager*

          Seriously! I’d want to say, “Sorry you felt excluded! Here, I have photocopied the posters, so you can put them up in your cubicle, too.”

          1. T3k*

            This! Or use a very confused and apologetic tone of “Oh, I didn’t realize that! You’re by all means free to bring your own poster of an African-American you find inspiring and put it on your door!” (giving them the benefit of the doubt here)

            1. Craig*

              I love this. It let’s them know it’s OK for them to get involved. How they can get involved.

              All though if you told me a photo of an inspiring African American. I would probably go with Elon Musk. (He was born and raised in South Africa after all)

        2. Coffee*

          Yeah, googling for a Black History Month poster, printing it, and putting it on your door is probably one of the easiest ways possible to get involved in a celebration.

      2. JSPA*

        The only vaguely positive way I can parse this is if they thought that the company was providing the posters, but only for the visibly african american people, they might have been offended that everyone else was, I dunno, presumed not to be supportive of the month??? But that sure as heck would not be addressed by removing posters. Soooo… yeah.

        1. Craig*

          That and they might be worried. That putting them up might be seen as cultural appropriation. As they don’t know much about the topic.

          A chat with a coworker displaying the poster would solve that.

      1. Radio Girl*

        Yes, me, too! That’s akin to the ignorant types who ask why we don’t have White Power or a White Entertainment Network.

        Threatened much?

          1. Pebbles*

            My husband and I get ION (Hallmark-lite) and he’s been recording all the Christmas movies for me. I found one that was a story of a black woman on a cruise and finds her one true love. There’s one other I haven’t watched yet, and….that’s it. Out of maybe 30 recorded movies. Haven’t seen any Asian leads at all. *sigh*

          1. selena81*

            Thanks for the clarification: i wasn’t aware MLK and Rosa Parks and Obama and Toussaint Louverture documentaries were banned 11 months of the year. Silly me.

            1. Schnookums Von Fancypants, Naughty Basic Horse*

              Tahnk you Selena, for striking a blow for the unrepresented and frequently ignored white people. I mean, I hadn’t even heard of a single famous white person until I was in my 40’s, and that’s just a tragedy. I personally blame our public school system and violent video games.

            2. ellex42*

              I am reminded of a teacher, years ago, who claimed Alexandre Dumas was not an eligible subject for a Black History Month report because he was only 1/4 black. And the argument years later with a random person on the internet who claimed that since Dumas was French, he was, naturellement, therefore 100% white.


            3. JSPA*

              Just absent, in so many markets. Nobody’s talking about Free Speech here; it doesn’t require a ban to render entire demographics invisible and silent.

              You may, instead, be in a market where you it feels to you like “minority” topic (or actors) are over-represented, compared to the viewing population, but I’d be heartily surprised if this were actually true, if you charted out minutes of screen time, number of speaking roles, number of lines for those speaking roles, etc.

    1. Seriously?!*

      I got stuck on that too. In fact, this is my first time commenting because I needed to come and express how stuck on that I am. Not just that the employee took issue with the posters, but the HR person’s response to the complaint.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to say, “But every month is white history month, Greg,” I could buy myself a decent used car.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh, I wish I was shocked by it. But the outcry over Black History Month and Pride is outlandish every single year.

    4. tink*

      I don’t see any reason white employees couldn’t have brought in a poster or book or something of a black person that’s inspired them but I definitely had the mental equivalent of several upside-down smiley faces in reaction. (I mean I’m white and I’m allowed to help pick people we feature during Black History Month at work, so I don’t see where it’d be an issue.)

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I’m willing yo bet real money that “not included” meant that there were no white people being represented during —Black history month.

        1. babblemouth*

          I wonder if they also complain about not getting a present at someone else’s birthday party…

      2. Close Bracket*

        I don’t see any reason white employees couldn’t have brought in a poster or book or something of a black person that’s inspired them

        Yeah, that was my thought, too.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s because they’re racist, it’s not because they thought they couldn’t join in and bring in their own MLK or Rosa Parks or whomever they were inspired by.

        1. Caliente*

          Exactly. I’m sure these are the type of people who find nothing inspiring about any black person.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          Dr. Mae Jemison! At the risk of giving the OP’s racist coworker a stroke, I’ve got her photo on my desktop, I’m white, and (GASP) it’s not even February!

          1. WhatsUpSusan*

            +1 billion for Dr. Jemison!

            P.S. My sister reads this blog, also admires Dr. Jemison…and now I wonder if you’re her!

          2. JSPA*

            There’s a kick-ass Octavia Butler one that says “there is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” Looking for it now.

      4. annony*

        Yeah. I’m confused on whether they “didn’t feel included” because they thought the company provided posters to the other employees or because they wanted a famous white person poster. And I’m not sure which scenario would be worse.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          These complaints are regularly accompanied by the phrase “When is White History month?!”

          They don’t feel included because it’s not about them or their race.

          If they felt left out because they wanted a poster too and thought the company provided them, the normal response would be “Hey where can I get a Rosa Parks poster? Those are super cool.”

          1. selena81*

            I’m pretty sure they don’t feel included because of the ‘so you can have vanilla *and* chocolate ice-cream while i can only have vanilla’ phenomenon that is a natural consequence of celebrating any kind of ‘special but not secluded group’

            1. Marthooh*

              “Nobody ever mentions that Rosa Parks actually forced a white person to sit at the back of that bus! Who’s the reeeeal racist here?” /sarcasm

            2. Blueberry*

              This metaphor could be extended into a tale about a child who never got ice cream all summer and another child, who was given ice cream every day in the summer, who upon seeing the first child being given ice cream on the last day of summer immediately screams in jealousy and smacks it out of their hand.

              But honestly, I’m tired, I was enjoying this thread full of comments from people who understand, and I know that I’m not going to be able to convince you that Black people’s achievements are worthy of regard (although I do appreciate your bit of Google-fu upthread. Four names dropped! One from outside the US!) . Good luck next February.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      Seriously. How racist do you have to be to weaponize inclusion language to object to a picture of MLK, Jr. in a black coworker’s space?

      1. Nancy Pelosi*

        “I’m feeling excluded that Jane is celebrating her birthday today. All birthdays matter.”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Except for that letter-writer who had the temerity to be born on February 29 in a Leap Year. That birthday only matters every 4 years.

          1. yala*

            Lord, I only just saw that letter today, and I am still flabbergasted. My gast has been flabbered.

            Was there ever a follow-up?

              1. selena81*

                horrible manager doubled down on all the ‘obviously she only has a birthday once every 4 years, why do you stupid people not understand that’

            1. Lance*

              The follow-up was ‘we hear you, but we’re doing nothing wrong here and she doesn’t have a birthday these years, so we’re going to keep on as we’ve been doing’.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Yeah, the update was basically “You guys just don’t understand how right I am to deny that my employee has a birthday when it’s not a leap year!”

            3. Bowserkitty*

              God, I had to refresh myself on that one. I’d love a further update after the one where OP dug in their heels…

            1. WellRed*

              Yes at the point of the update, I think I questioned the op about why she hated this employee so much.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I didn’t make it to a mental rant – my brain just went *fzzt* and couldn’t compute

    6. WellRed*

      Astounding, both the employee and the HR response. Which makes me think even less of this HR then I already did.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      From elsewhere in the internet, apropos here: “As an old person, I have learned that people are mostly terrible.”

    8. A*

      And not only being ignorant enough to have that feeling/thought…. but also the lack of filter to share it. What… I… Can’t… I. Don’t. Understand.

      1. yala*

        Oh, no, let’s be perfectly realistic here–this isn’t about a lack of filter. This was a deliberate antagonistic action.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I definitely don’t doubt that the person who complained knew or at least expected that HR would take the posters down.

    9. Environmental Compliance*

      Yeah, my eye started twitching and I had to take a reading break after rereading it a couple times to make sure I had actually read what I read.

      I just…..do not understand what convoluted logic someone has to follow to get to that point. The painful clueless irony of But I, the Majority, Don’t Have a Month!

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      And that HR was like, “Nope, take the posters down!” instead of… nearly any other option.

      1. Kendra*

        Seriously, that’s the part that takes it past, “you work with a jerk,” all the way to Crazytown.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah – it doesn’t really shock me that some random jackass would make such a complaint somewhere (I mean, it’s *bad*, but it doesn’t surprise me hugely that there is such a person). It IS pretty shocking that an HR department would handle it that way.

    11. Honoria Glossop*

      My read was that the white employee believed that the company provided other employees with these decorations, based on ethnicity, which would be offensive. The clarification that these were personal decorations and encouragement for all to participate solved the issue. Let’s not assume racism by default.

      1. Fikly*

        Why not? If the majority of the time an action would be because of x motive, assuming that motive when that action is observed is not unreasonable.

      2. Anonapots*

        That’s very kind of you, I think, but racism is 99.9% of the time what’s at the root of stupidity like this. My read was that by telling the person the company doesn’t provide the decoration, they were pointing out there was nothing stopping the complainer from getting their own decorations, not that they honestly thought the company bought the posters.

      3. Leap Year Conspiracy*

        There’s still racism at play in that scenario even if the white person’s intent wasn’t as far as “white history” month. Why didn’t the white employee ask their black co-workers about the posters, engage in open communication? The clarification on the decorations could have come from their co-workers directly. Instead they ran to a power structure (HR/Management).

      4. WellRed*

        And yet, other cube decorations presumably have gone unchallenged. It’s just a coincidence that these particular decorations caused a …misunderstanding? Yeah, no. No need to twist so hard to find an alternate explanation when it’s so obviously racism.

      5. OP HERE*

        I’m not ruling out that the complaint was rooted in racism, because I think most of my white coworkers, even if they thought it *was* company provided decor, would not make that complaint. They’d realize that feeling ‘not included’ for once is kind of an accidental lesson in the Black experience.

        But yes, you’re correct that I was giving the person the benefit of the doubt because I have no clear evidence either way. In favor of the employee not being racist is the fact that we have a couple employees that go out of their way to provide everyone who wants them with holiday decorations for their workspaces, so someone might have wondered why everyone didn’t get decorations this time. But either way, it was a really weird initial response from HR.

        1. Perpal*

          Wasn’t this the lady who lied a whole bunch in the past too? Are you sure the employee who “complained” wasn’t… her?

      6. somanyquestions*

        That’s not what they assumed. Seriously, don’t pretend this isn’t real. It’s offensive to minimize this sort of thing.

      7. JediSquirrel*

        Let’s not assume racism by default.

        Sorry, but racism is the default setting for the United States. If you need general evidence, please read any history book not written by an old white guy. If you need specific evidence, please just look at 2016-present.

        Please stop giving these knuckleheads a pass.

      8. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Again, I think being called on behaviour that comes off as racist (which this does, even if that wasn’t the intent) is hugely valuable in making those of us in the dominant culture reflect on how we are affecting others and what we need to do better. Plus, it’s not hard to express a desire for posters of admirable people in a non-racist way.
        True example from my office
        Co-worker: I just ordered these really cool Famous Women in Science posters.
        Me: Oh, I saw them on line! I really want some for the class.
        Co-worker: Actually, I ordered two sets so we can share.
        Me: That’s fantastic! Thank you! Dibs on Mae Jemison and Rosalind Franklin!

      9. Avasarala*

        Why would it even be offensive for the company to provide the decorations? All that comes to my mind is tokenism, but that doesn’t align with the “not included” remark. It would be similarly weird for a white employee to complain that the company was providing Black History Month decorations to black employees but not white ones. That still smacks of “why can’t this celebration of someone else’s culture be more about me”.

        1. MayLou*

          There are some people who think, or claim to think, that any mention of ethnicity or skin colour is racist. It’s racist to offer makeup to suit different tones. It’s racist to specialise in dressing black hair. It’s racist to say “white” instead of “pigmentally challenged”. It’s racist to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep. They’re just trying to muddy the issue so that the entire concept of racism sounds ridiculous, so that they can carry on bigotting.

        2. Juli G.*

          I don’t agree that it would weird to be agitated by only black employees receiving decorations, if the decorations are educational posters. I actually think it’s much more inclusive to create allies. If my company provided that to just black employees, I wouldn’t complain but I would ask if I could have one too. Similar to how the LGBTQ+ group gave me some of their support/awareness information.

          It’s a semantics though because regardless, this situation was totally bungled.

      10. yala*

        No, I’m sorry. This isn’t assuming “racism by default.” This is being able to recognize dogwhistles, and patterns racist and “ironic racist” trolls use with the whole weaponizing inclusive language specifically to attack any show of diversity or progressive ideals.

        It’s not default. But complaining because they felt “left out” of Black History Month…I’m sorry, there is no way that’s in good faith. It was an effort to take something away from people.

    12. Quill*

      I feel like that’s… a certain level of kooky where she was looking for an excuse to excercise her power again.

    13. Pants*

      Yeeeeeeeeeeeah, that’s…. well, um. Maybe that guy would be better off applying for one of the frequently rotating positions in a certain house in DC that happens to also be white.

    14. wittyrepartee*

      Yeah. Me too. And I’m like… not someone whose group is typically included in Black History Month.

    15. LokiMonster5000*

      Me. Too. My white ass would have wanted to post quotes from Black thinkers on how to be a good ally. That “left out” employee needed a talking to about not everything being about them, not tacit approval from HR.

    16. post-traumatic micromanagement disorder*

      me too! White people who used to run 100% of things are “oppressed” when they only run 90% of things now. Quelle Horreur!

      1. JediSquirrel*

        Exactly. When you’re used to getting the entire cake, sharing even a small portion of it feels like oppression. It’s ridiculous.

    17. hunto*

      Totally! I actually find that whole incident, and HR’s involvement, a lot more egregious than “kooky”. People made complaints that, to be realistic and candid, stem from white supremacy (The logic seems to be, “I am unused to seeing people of colour in places of prominence in my office and it makes me uncomfortable”), and HR’s response was to… act on their complaints without speaking to the black employees whatsoever?

      I work in a helping profession in a not-for-profit and this would be a really big deal in my workplace.

  1. Lucky black cat*

    Maybe this is just a British thing but ‘fluffed them off’ is a pretty unfortunate phrase with a very sexual meaning, just FYI.

    1. Lucky black cat*

      Wasn’t expecting that to post! Thought it would get caught in the filter and flag it for AAM

      1. PollyQ*

        I think it must be mostly a British thing, because I can’t recall even hearing the phrase, let alone knowing that it was off-color.

        1. Works in IT*

          You mean the coworker who kept saying “I can’t tell if you sound too snarky in your email, people tell me I’m too fluffy” meant something completely different?

          Suddenly I have no idea what he meant by that.

    2. Cake Wad*

      Yikes. The first thing I noticed too. OP, you may want to use “brushed them off” in the future. :)

  2. CM*

    “These confrontations may be scary, but sometimes they’re necessary” — such a great lesson, and the more you practice the scary confrontation, the more confident you become. I would be proud if I were this OP for doing something difficult and professionally risky that had positive results for everyone.

  3. LCH*

    happy that things turned around, but just reread original letter and can’t believe the HR manager is still there after so many lies.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      I agree. I hope OP is keeping an eye on her. It’s great that she seems to be behaving herself now, but it’s very rare for someone that toxic to really, permanently change.

      On the plus side, the CEO who was shielding her is gone, so if she starts backsliding, there can be consequences.

      1. selena81*

        it is certainly difficult to break patterns, but it also sounds like this was the first time in her life anybody straight-up told her ‘this is YOUR problem and YOU fix it’ as opposed to weaseling around the problems and letting her blame co-workers

    2. Heidi*

      Agreed. Given the update, I thought this was going to end in a mass resignation by half the company. Good for them for fighting back and turning it around! Then again, the HR manager might just be doing a better job of hiding her schemes.

  4. Clorinda*

    Can she really, truly, permanently change, though, or is that fundamental to who she is? I don’t know; if that were my workplace, I’d be quietly but steadily looking for options elsewhere. Natural-born jerks have a high recidivism rate.

      1. Four lights*

        Yeah. Sometimes people need to be called on their BS. The fact that the entire management team had a problem with her may have given her a wake up call.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      True. However her job was probably threatened.

      Like all bullies/abusers she can control herself if it’s in her own interest.

      She’s of course the same person she always was. People don’t change like that…especially that fast.

      She is on her “best behavior” right now. Why? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Job security most likely.

    2. Amy Sly*

      She doesn’t have to change who she is; she just has to be terrified enough of the consequences to behave. If the boss (rightly) decided to blame her for degenerating the work environment to the point of having a shouting match with another member of management, he may have made the point that her behavior was unacceptable in terms clear enough to get through to her. (I wouldn’t recommend shouting at subordinates, but clue-by-fours sometimes have to hurt.

      1. sacados*

        That’s true, but it’s still kind of baffling. The original letter said that this person, while with many years of experience, had left most of her other jobs after only like 2 years. Which implies that maybe she’d been fired for acting up before, and so therefore why would the threat of being fired now actually spark change when it never did then?
        Although I suppose it’s possible she left those other jobs first, sort of a writing on the wall I can tell they’re gonna fire me so I’ll find a new position and give notice before they can.

        Either way, awesome update/ending to a truly crazypants bananas story! And as other people have pointed out, the new CEO helps things a lot. Presumably even if HR lady does backslide and start acting up again, this new boss will actually take action.

        1. selena81*

          Perhaps cowardly former CEOs fed her the idea that she only really had a problem with one staff-member (such as the almost-fired person who arranged the Big Confrontation in this letter). And it was a wake-up call to be told that *everybody* hates her.

          It is not at all uncommon for bullies to think of themselves as the bullied party. And to think of their bullying as self-defense.

    3. MicrobioChic*

      The CEO retiring gives me a lot of hope about this actually. Ideally if she starts up again the new boss will shut it down/deal with her quickly.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Eh, people change. It’s more unusual not to. (People’s view is that they have changed in the past 10 years but are now locked in and not going to change any more–at 20, at 50, all ages. Then they redo the test in a decade and gosh darn it changed again.)

      Sometimes people get the metaphorical cod to the head that makes them realize “Oh. If it’s this or my job, I guess I can mature right out of this.”

      Plus what Amy said about her coworkers not caring who she is deep down as a person, but about her actions that affect them.

      1. selena81*

        This lady needed a slap in the face, but i think that in general the best way to turn people over to your point of view is to not use a narrative of ‘you are wrong, now join me’ but of ‘you were okay all along, but i can help you be even better’

      2. Amy Sly*

        Yep. She doesn’t have to become a good person; she just has to pretend to be a professional one 40 hours a week.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Some of the best advice I ever received on managing people was “employees can think whatever they want as long as their behavior is right.” The point was that while managers may be deeply interested in what their employees are thinking, we’re not psychologists. An employee’s work persona can be completely fake but also completely fine if their behavior’s lined up to the organization’s expectations and standards.

      That said, I’ve definitely seen over time that people can shift their work persona in responsive to tough feedback. For some, taking on that feedback and starting to make change becomes a virtuous circle – they start getting better responses from others and being more effective, and the positive reinforcement feeds further behavioral improvement. They gradually start to see that being pleasant and professional is a much easier path for getting where they want to go.

      1. selena81*

        Some of the best advice I ever received on managing people was “employees can think whatever they want as long as their behavior is right.”

        This is my view on any kind of behavior. Due to painful personal experiences i have a pretty deep hatred for the kind of psychologists who insists that a perfectly functional kid will inevitably become a criminal while a criminal kid will certainly become a well-adjusted adult, based on nothing more then their self-ascribed mind-reading powers (as in: both kids filled out a questionnaire).
        It should be all about *actions*: if you are not bothering anyone you have the right to be left in peace. And there is no such thing as a criminal profiler: criminals have life-styles and motivations that are as varied as the lives and motivations of normal people.

    6. A*

      “Can she really, truly, permanently change, though, or is that fundamental to who she is?”

      Agreed that OP needs to be on the lookout. That being said, I don’t think changing your work persona is the same as changing your full blown personality etc. It’s just a façade that is put on for a certain number of hours a week, much easier to change/overhaul than who you actually are when on your own time.

    7. 2 Cents*

      Yeah, I don’t think she’s really changed. Maybe just gotten a lot better at hiding what she’s doing OR is biding her time with this new CEO.

      I think the old CEO was in the dunk cost fallacy and refusal to admit he’d made a bad hire.

      OP, glad things are better, but I’d still be looking.

        1. LunaLena*

          Oooooh, can I steal this to make a t-shirt design? :D (serious question; I make and sell t-shirt designs as a side gig)

  5. Julian*

    I would like to point out that it really is something for a work situation IMPROVING to mean white people taking down posters commemorating black people during Black History Month.


    1. Myrin*

      That’s not the HR manager’s improvement but, au contraire, the “one kooky problem” OP knows of since managements intervention with the big boss.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Yeah, the HR manager continues to be sketchy as hell if her solution to one white employee’s “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?” moment is to take down all the Black History Month decorations (that didn’t even belong to the company!).

      1. Auntie Social*

        I bet her first instinct was to give the white person a long white robe and hood. Hey, it’s traditional!!

  6. BradC*

    Wow, I’m kind of shocked that it worked. My impression from the original post (and first update) was that this HR manager was irredeemable.

    Personally, I don’t think I could ever let go of my suspicion and distrust, based on the history.

    1. bluephone*

      My interpretation: the HR manager and CEO (or whomever was protecting them) are still sleeping together but just finally decided to pretend like they’re not when they’re at the office.
      And/or the CEO now has enough blackmail on the HR manager to counteract whatever previous blackmail she’d had so now they’re both in a stalemate and refuse to find new jobs elsewhere.

      Christ on a cracker, how do shoddy businesses like this stay in business

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Literally came here to see if anyone suggested that the CEO and HR manager were sleeping together because that was my first thought.

        It is good that things have largely improved though.

      2. your favorite person*

        REALLY? I’m guessing it’s just that the CEO is really conflict adverse and didn’t want to deal with the notoriously difficult employee. It might also make a difference if the CEO was the one who hired them, because sometimes the hiring manager doesn’t like to admit when they made a bad hire.

        Again, jumping to conclusions like this often scare away OP’s from sending in updates.

        1. Fikly*

          Conflict averse but also completely illogical, because why avoid conflict with one person when it’s putting you in direct conflict with many?

          1. Kendra*

            In my (thankfully limited) experience with this type of person, they’re very rarely anything but perfectly professional and devoted to the company if they’re anywhere near their boss. I’m guessing that the HR manager put on a very good face whenever the CEO was around, and fed him enough plausible doubt about what people were saying about her that he put down most of it to “personality conflicts” or something. Being conflict averse + being fed lies = big trouble.

            1. Windchime*

              Yes, that’s been my experience too. The most toxic boss I ever had was sweet as pie to the CIO and to HR, but was a nasty, cruel liar to everyone else. She would shock other managers by throwing her employees under the bus on a regular basis. It took a similar gang of employees going to the head of HR to finally make them understand the damage she was doing because she had a professional demeanor and acted OK to their faces.

            2. selena81*

              People who aren’t able to tune-it-down never make it through the application proces, simple as that. They exist, but they live on the street or with relatives willing to accept the abuse.

  7. Trek*

    I would not be able to forgive and forget to easily. I would stop talking in her presence and give her an icy stare every time I saw her. Make her life miserable for awhile or at least make sure she knows we know she’s terrible.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That reflects on you, while the jerk shrugs this off as another example of how unprofessional you are.

    2. Lance*

      That doesn’t get you anything, though. Making her deal with actual, real consequences for her behavior from the top is a far, far more practical resolution, rather than risking a targer being painted on your back.

  8. AppleStan*

    Not much to say, OP, except congratulations on having a much better work environment, and sorry it took 3 years for it get where it always should have been in the first place.

    I never really truly understood how just ONE person can ruin an entire organization until I started reading AAM.

    It makes me so cautions in hiring…we are stupidly short-staffed in particular support area, but someone who is just a warm body will do more harm than good.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      They can only tank a company if their manager allows it. Ultimately as long as a healthy organization is willing to terminate those who are threatening it don’t try to find the perfect perfect candidates.

      1. Amy Sly*

        It’s like AIDS. AIDS doesn’t kill you; the everyday bugs that you would be able to otherwise fight kill you because AIDS destroys your immune system. Likewise, one crazy person can’t kill an organization if it has a healthy management structure to get rid of problem employees.

    2. selena81*

      Don’t wait forever for The Perfect Candidate: even if he exists you probably won’t recognize him. What all those stories have in common besides the horror-employee is a manager who does not want to address the problem.

      I think ‘open hiring’ is a good practice that should be used more (but i am biased: i am terrible at ‘selling myself’ in a cover letter and an interview).
      However in the long run that requires a willingness to fire people who consistently show up drunk or late or fail in other ways: a willingness to fire up to 50% of your candidates (that’s the number i read from that brownies-baking company)

  9. Not my monkeys, not my circus*

    About that poster being taken down, is it certain that “one white employee” actually complained, or is it possible that she was the “one white employee” and used it as cover to take down the poster. In this day and age it has become so common to hear people say “I heard this horrible thing that was said….” and then says the horrible thing as a way to cover for not actually being accused of being the person to say the horrible thing themselves. ie. the President….many people think….blah blah blah

    1. Nancy Pelosi*

      Definitely cannot rule out HR lady being the white person in question. We have established she will lie repeatedly.

      1. Secret Identity*

        Well, hello there Ms. Pelosi. I’m amazed you have time to come here and comment – you’ve been very busy lately!

    2. Kendra*

      This was my thought, too; or she just had the thought that “a hypothetical person might possibly be offended by this; I must Take Action!!” And then when people pointed out that she was being terrible, she made up a fictional complainer to take the heat off of herself.

  10. Nancy Pelosi*

    I read the original letter and first update. Anyone else thinking that the CEO and HR lady are sleeping together? No, just me? I will see my way out then…..

    1. Leslie Knope*

      It was definitely I thought I had! The situation sounded similar to what happened to my poor sister-in-law at a former job. Her manager was HORRIBLE and highly incompetent. This woman was the head of accounting for an organization that contracted with the military. Millions of dollars in taxpayer money went through their department. She had no clue how to manage the department, was condescending to the employees, messed up their schedules in retaliation for pushback, and was highly inappropriate in many ways. Because of military and government bureaucracy, plus the discovery that that the she was having an affair with the grand boss (which is how she got the position despite being under qualified), my SIL and her coworkers felt helpless. The boss actually tried to sabotage my SIL’s attempt to move departments, but luckily it didn’t work and my SIL was able to move into a new position elsewhere. She felt so incredibly relieved after that – she was a lot more fun at dinner, let me tell ya!

    2. tangerineRose*

      It makes me wonder, too.

      Taking down the posters, for example, just seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen, and the news and public opinion would NOT be kind.

    3. OP HERE*

      I can say with relative certainty that’s not the case. I think it was just a case of not wanting to admit to the bad hire.

  11. Spidey Cents & Sensibility*

    Lucky black cat – This is not just a British phrase, it implies a job in the pron
    (sic) on purpose, industry. Urban dictionary will get you the meaning. Iirc, people believe this a better sub. for the “F” word. It is not. lol

    1. OP HERE*

      For some reason I couldn’t reply to Lucky Black Cat, but I can to you. Here it means to treat something dismissively, like it has as much weight as a bit of fluffy cotton blowing in the wind, as opposed to brush off, which means to active avoidance, like when a date gives you the brush-off.

      1. Sunny-dee*

        Do you mean “sloughed off”? I’ve never heard the term “fluffed off” nor the definition you’re using, but sloughed off has a similar meaning.

  12. ElizabethJane*

    I’m sorry. The white people did what now? Seriously fellow white people – can we just not? Just once.

    1. Quill*

      They hired that HR lady, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had hired someone else with that same willful lack of self awareness

    2. Pants*

      White people gonna white.

      (I say this as a fellow white person who is continuously cringing at white people whiting.)

  13. Professor Space Cadet*

    I’m glad things seem to be improving, but if I were management, I would have terminated her on the spot for the Black History Month drama. As in “you’ve got 15 minutes to clear your desk, security will walk you out of the building, you are now persona non grata on these premises.”

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