my boss tapes people’s mouths shut during meetings

A reader writes:

I recently started my first “real” job in a small office (eight people). We have strategy meetings every morning for about 30-45 minutes. My boss is REALLY intolerant of bad ideas. She keeps a tape dispenser on the table by her chair and whenever someone suggests something that she thinks is dumb, she will peel off a piece of masking tape and pass it to them, at which point they are required to put it over their mouths so they cannot contribute any more “bad” ideas for the rest of the meeting.

Needless to say, the first time I saw this, I was shocked! But my coworkers don’t seem too bothered by it. Or maybe they just don’t want to complain, I’m not sure. My boss can be kinda scary.

My issue with this is that enforcement of the rule seems arbitrary. It depends entirely on her mood. Some days, no one will “get taped,” but other days, if she is feeling particularly sour most of us, if not everyone, will end up “taped” and the meeting is just her dictating to us!

Is this normal? I’m thinking not. But does that make it inherently bad? Is there something I should do? Other than this idiosyncrasy, it is mostly a great job and she is, for the most part, a good boss.

No, this is not normal. If this is real, it’s one of the weirdest, most outrageous things I’ve heard in 13 years of writing this site. It’s abusive. And she is not a good boss. There’s no way that someone who thinks it’s appropriate to tape people’s mouths shut — daily, no less! — is managing effectively outside of this. It’s not possible.

And that’s just based on the taping! That’s before we even get into how ineffective it is to tell people their ideas are bad and try to shame them for it … at a meeting designed to generate ideas, of all things.

Your boss has something seriously wrong with her.

Ideally you’d talk to your coworkers and try to generate support for everyone refusing to go along with this, starting today. But as a new and junior person there, you might not have the capital or influence to do that (particularly among a group where apparently no one saw fit to shut down this insanity long ago). So you might end up going it alone, but the next time it happens you’re 100% entitled to say, “I’m not going to actually tape my mouth shut.” You could add, “I won’t contribute for the rest of the meeting if you don’t want me to, but I’m not taping my mouth shut.”

I don’t typically tell people to leave their jobs based on one anecdote, but you should leave this job. It’s going to seriously mess up your head and warp your understanding of professional norms.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 725 comments… read them below }

      1. boo bot*

        I actually think this is worse, because it’s so normalized into the workday. Stuff that’s really over the top (like a dunce cap parade) is easy to see as abnormal, but when you’ve got a whole group of people just calmly putting tape over their mouths, it feels more like you’ve stepped into a parallel dimension where… people just put tape over their mouths.

        I’m a day late and commenting anyway because I want the OP to leave this place so much. Even when you think you’re going into a place like this with your eyes open, it will still mess with your head. Leave now. This is terrible. Don’t put tape over your mouth.

        1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

          I think this is worse because it requires the employees to participate in the ritual of their own humiliation.

        1. tinyhipsterboy*

          Eh, it’s masking tape, which is made to come off easily without damage; I have particularly hairy arms and I’ve never had pain when masking tape ends up on them. To be fair, if someone has extra sensitive skin or the boss decides they want to use a different kid of tape, that’s another story. (This is condescending and absolutely outrageous in the first place, to be clear! What the actual hell is going through the boss’s mind?)

          1. Aposiopetic*

            It’s potentially allergenic–which admittedly seems like such a minuscule concern compared to how absolutely off the wall inappropriate this whole thing is to being with. Most masking tapes (and many other tapes!) use rubber-based adhesives and cause allergenic reactions in people with latex allergies. I’m horrified imagining the damage that taping my MOUTH would do, yikes on bikes!

      2. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        My first and immediate thought is that you should quit this job on the spot.

        This is not normal, your boss is not normal and if you stay here, you run the risk of becoming immune to this lunacy and absorbing the erroneous idea that this is normal professional conduct.

        Just when I thought I’ve heard it all…I haven’t.

    1. RC Rascal*

      I think Tape Boss and Dunce Cap Boss need to get together and go bowling.

      On the other hand, if they were to get together they might just come up with some more really bad ideas.

        1. Fellow Boot Fancier*

          Locked in one of those escape rooms. Just the two of them. With a week’s supply of tape and dunce caps. ……oh, and cc tv with sound for us to watch

          1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Are you suggesting we Skype in to watch them work their way out of there, ‘mentoring’ as necessary?

              1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

                I am having WAY too much fun enjoying your imaginary AAM escape room. Could the challenges be:
                – Filling in a Guacamole Bob expense report
                – Deciphering the sense in ISSUES THAT ARE BOTHERING ME
                – Finding a liver
                – Rearranging the 6 tubs of butter in the fridge
                – Locating the source of the quacking

                1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

                  Gargh! My eye initially skipped over the word “boss” in your sentence there Nina Bee! The horrors!!!

                2. Berkeleyfarm*

                  I had to look several of them up (since I’ve been a sporadic AAM visitor till fairly recently) and, um, wow.

                  I do remember the liver one from a “worst of …” roundup.

        2. Meetkat*

          Alison is so right on with this. This behaviour is not normal and is abusive. The fact that the other employees seem fine with it shows they too have been there too long and have a warped vision of a respectful workplace. You sound young to me with a world of opportunities out there if there is no HR to report this too start looking for another job. In the end it may save you a lot on therapy bills. One other point, I wonder if those who have their mouths taped and see nothing wrong with it, I wonder how they are dealing with their interactions I their personal lives. One would think that one would refuse to tape their mouth shut by a life partner and consider that abuse , but to accept from your boss???

      1. Jay*

        I have to disagree with you there.
        I believe that we, as a species, have an obligation to ensure that Tape Boss and Dunce Cap Boss never have the chance to meet, mate, and produce offspring.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Eh, that just strikes me as a silly prank from a frat-bro type who’s been smoking too much weed and watching too many episodes of Billy On The Street or something similar. It’s not cruel like taping people’s mouths closed or making them wear dunce caps while marching around the office.

          1. Agile Phalanges*

            Mules are sterile. Jack asses (male donkeys) are able to reproduce JUST fine, unfortunately. :-)

      2. Sally*

        (On a side note, I love that someone else applies that movie quote to real life! No one ever gets it!)

    2. Morticia*

      Speaking of bad ideas, maybe hand the tape back to her, since asking employees to tape their mouths shut is the worst idea of all? (Maybe we could also tape dunce cap boss, and make them both wear one as well).

    3. charo*

      I’m curious how this boss would respond if you secretly video her and she gets in legal trouble for this. It can’t be legal and if it’s ignored by the government it would still be a good civil lawsuit. How NUTS is she? What would she do if confronted legally?

  1. animaniactoo*

    OP, seriously, this is so demoralizing and abusive that I would rather couchsurf with a mere dufflebag of possessions while I job hunted rather than work for someone who does this. I would literally sell almost everything I own to get down to that and have some living money while I searched.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I was turning away as the page was loading and whipped my head back around in complete disbelief – I was sure I had read it wrong!

      2. somecajunqueen*

        Yup. I’m literally just staring slack-jawed at my screen. This is so beyond the pale that I am struggling to understand how anyone at this office has justified this. Everyone here has Stockholm Syndrome. I hope OP gets out FAST. This is NUTS.

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I got my mouth taped shut at camp once. I never really questioned the memory, but is it still super bad to happen to children? We were probably around 12 or 13. Would most people be upset these days if it was done to a kid? For context they wanted us to sit quietly doing nothing and saying nothing, and we were talking quietly, so I guess we were breaking rules – but were not being wild.

      1. Anonys*

        Would be a serious problem even if a child was behaving appallingly – it’s abusive, both psychologically and physically. People below have pointed out how it’s a choking hazard, some people are allergic, some people have really congested noses and wouldn’t be able to breathe.

        1. passerby*


          Even if it wasn’t otherwise “painful,” it’s a messed up thing to do any kid for any reason. It’s not a healthy way to handle discipline or conflict as the adult(s) in charge.

        2. TomorrowTheWorld*

          I had this done to me in nursery school because the teacher felt I was being too noisy for a girl.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Every time I think I am getting used to being angry about females being silenced, I learn something new. That is awful, TTW. Horrible.

            1. TomorrowTheWorld*

              At the time, I thought it was funny. 10 years later, not so much! 50 years later and I want to hunt her down and have a little chat. Her, me, and some duct tape.

            1. TomorrowTheWorld*

              My mother was beyond rage. It never happened again, no matter how boisterous my behaviour. Thinking about all those little incidents in a girl’s life really makes me feel tired.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. I fortunately don’t remember much about my abusive second grade teacher, but I don’t think she used tape…

            That’s so screwed up I just cringe

      2. Zennish*

        IMHO, it’s abusive, degrading and traumatizing no matter what the age. There is no situation where it’s acceptable for an authority figure to humiliate someone, trying to maintain discipline through shame and fear. If someone is this heedless of basic human dignity, they definitely shouldn’t be supervising employees, or students, or campers, or anybody.

      3. iglwif*

        Yes, this is SUPER BAD to do to anybody, of any age.

        I would actually say it’s worse to do it to kids because they have less of a “what is normal” baseline and are in a more vulnerable position. (For the record, if I heard of this happening to my kid or a kid at her camp / in her class, I would be UP IN ARMS about it.)

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Yes, OP at least can leave her job; a kid usually doesn’t have much power to decide if she’s going to leave a summer camp.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        Hugely problematic at any age. I can’t get enough air through my nose for comfort (lifetime of allergies…). I would flat out panic if someone tried to tape my mouth.

      5. James*

        I went to a Roman Catholic grade school. Nuns, priest was the superintendent, bishop regularly checked in, rulers were still used to discipline children (though not frequently, and only with parental consent), etc.

        The strictest, most sadistic nun would NEVER have done this to a child. Anyone who did would literally have been run out of town–we ran a few priests and town council members out of the town for less.

        1. valentine*

          only with parental consent
          This makes it worse, not better, and hitting is worse than taping or forcing children to sit on their hands.

          1. Avasarala*

            Yeah, taping is bad but let’s not lose perspective here. It’s not parent-sanctioned corporal punishment.

      6. KoiFeeder*

        Why would it be less bad to duct tape a child’s mouth? Children can’t defend themselves, or leave!

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Religious camp? I went to a Quaker school, and even the preschoolers had to be quiet during silent meeting.

          Although I never got my mouth taped shut!

    2. Anonys*

      Also, imagine accidentally walking past the conference room with 7 people taped up and the boss lecturing them – I honestly would be likely to think I was witnessing a bizarre kidnapping and call the cops.

      As a general rule, if your meetings could legitimately be mistaken for a hostage situation, you should probably get out while you can.

      I do admit that the visual made me laugh, as abusive as it is. Would make a great script for a sketch comedy.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        “As a general rule, if your meetings could legitimately be mistaken for a hostage situation, you should probably get out while you can.”

        I never thought this would have to be written out.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          “As a general rule, if your meetings could legitimately be mistaken for a hostage situation, you should probably get out while you can.”

          This sentence is pure gold.

      2. linger*

        “Imagine accidentally walking past the conference room with 7 people taped up…”
        Possibly even worse would be the matter-of-fact explanation:
        “Oh, that happens every day, it’s just our Duck Tape Club.”

    3. Wendy Darling*

      My boss did something significantly less bad to me and I silently closed my work laptop (remote worker) at lunchtime on Friday, started my weekend early, spent the weekend carefully considering my options, and quit first thing Monday morning.

      It took me a year to find a new job and I pillaged my savings but it was worth it.

      (Also as a hideous bonus I am actually allergic to adhesive so having my mouth taped shut would give me blisters.)

  2. Butterfly Counter*


    A substitute teacher at my junior high got fired because he taped students’ mouths shut when they were talking when they shouldn’t be during class. I believe that is the correct response to that behavior.

    Is this something you can take to your grandboss or HR?

    1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      She said it’s an 8-person office, which I read as a small organization. My bet is that this has gone on this long because OP’s boss is THE boss.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Ah. For some reason I was reading that as a team within a larger organization. I think your interpretation must be right or something would have changed LONG ago.

        Run away, OP!

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, very often when a boss does horrendously inappropriate things it’s because there’s no one above them to tell them no.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        (For context, I am trying very hard to pretend that there were not, in fact, two instances where substitute teachers in 2000-something got fired for restraining their students and taping their mouths shut.)

        1. I'm that person*

          I googled “Teacher taping students mouths shut” (actually google filled it in at “Teacher taping…”) and I found instances of teachers doing this in Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina, and California. And that was just in 2019. Going back a few years adds Texas and Colorado

            1. Bill the Book*

              My dad once facepalmed so hard he broke his glasses. (This was 30+years ago, I can’t remember why he facepalmed now).

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I am deeply disappointed in my beautiful state that it was included in this despicable list (Texas).

            1. K*

              We no longer live in TX, but when my daughter was a kindergartner, paddling was allowed. She’s only 14 now, so it wasn’t that long ago. I wrote in giant letters in the handbook acknowledgement form “I do not consent to having my child paddled.” This was not a rural school, we lived in Fort Worth.

              They used it too.

              1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

                When I started reading this I thought you meant that children were allowed to paddle… in a paddling pool.

          2. someone anon*

            “Teachers taping” could have another very disturbing completion. One of my elementary school teachers went around videotaping “kids’ most embarrassing moments” on a multiday school trip, for a compilation she’d later show the class. She tried to videotape me crying, then threatened to videotape me naked – with the clear implication that it would be on the compilation – because I was taking too long getting dressed after a shower. She actually barged into the bathroom, ripped the towel off me and said “I’ve seen a naked child before,” and pointed the camera at me.

            No adult I told believed me. The teacher later received a statewide award for her teaching, then was promoted to principal.

            My family eventually decided that maaaaybe they believed me, but I was a difficult child with behavior problems so it was totally understandable.

            She retired a few years ago. I considered naming her on Twitter at the height of the #metoo hashtag, but I am afraid to open up my life to scrutiny, so I stayed silent.

            1. sequined histories*

              I am so sorry this happened to you. There is something so deeply wrong with that person, and how terrible that even your family wasn’t a safe harbor for you.
              The implications of your story are chilling. That person should have had no authority over other human beings, much less children.

              1. someone anon*

                @sequined histories: yeah, my mother worked at the school and worked with this teacher-turned principal for years, both before and after the incident. Mom would tell me *all the time* about what a wonderful boss this woman was, even after I’d repeatedly told her how angry I was, how scared and humiliated and violated I felt. Like, I understand and accept that it’s possible she’s awesome for adults to work with, or at least that she was nice to my mom. As I recall, she was sickeningly sweet to adults. But she should never have gone near children – and, although my relationship with my mom is generally good and pretty close, that is the one way in which my mom has betrayed me over and over again.

                Sorry, the AAM comments section of an unrelated article is not the place for this.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Many child abusers are master manipulators who endear themselves to adults who are attached to the children around them. It’s a useful tactic that allows them to abuse children more effectively because it tends to keep them above suspicion.

                  “But she’s so nice! And you know how kids are always making things up …”

                  Do what you can to forgive your mom (if that’s important to you, it doesn’t have to be), she got played the same way millions of other parents get played by someone who abuses their kid. It’s awful and it is so, so common.

                  I’m sorry for what happened to you and I hope you’re okay.

                2. someone anon*

                  @Ego Chamber: I understand the “kids are always making things up” bit, but I’ve told my mom about this numerous times *as an adult* and she still reacts with something like “well, maybe she did it, but you were so difficult it was the only option she had.”

                  But then, maybe parents still see their 30-something offspring as kids who make things up, idk.

                3. Oranges*

                  Another view: your mom’s ego needs to have this be “not a big deal” even though it clearly is. If it is a big deal then she’s spent years working and praising a person who traumatized her offspring. Only “bad” moms do that.

                  In this instance her ego is more important to her than your pain. She’s rationalizing it every which way she can. This is not okay for her to do. I’m sorry that she’s failed you regarding this.

            2. Harper the Other One*

              Oh, someone anon, I am so sorry. That is awful and there is NOTHING you could have done that deserved that.

            3. KoiFeeder*

              That is so beyond the pale that I am feeling murderous, and I spent entire school days locked in a closet at one point. This should never have happened to you and it’s horrific that it did.

              1. someone anon*

                ENTIRE SCHOOL DAYS?! Yeah, “murderous” is a good description of the way I feel at hearing that. That is utterly terrifying. I’m so sorry you were placed in the care of people who never, ever should have been teaching.

                One of my good friends was abused by her teachers for years; she and her parents reported it but the school systems always, always sided with the teachers and her parents ended up threatening lawsuits. I think there’s a mostly unacknowledged epidemic of abuse by teachers out there, much like what we’ve learned about priests but not exclusively sexual abuse. Maybe one of these days there will be a similar reckoning.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  The closet never threatened to videotape me naked!

                  And my particular nature meant that I was happier being there than I would’ve been going on a field trip with an abusive teacher and classmates that didn’t know any better than to mimic her. I’d smuggle in a few books and a flashlight and I was pretty set. Used to scare the hell out of administrative staff who didn’t know I was in there and needed to get supplies.

            4. Newbie101*

              That is horrendous and I am so sorry you had to experience that.

              I am so grateful she retired and hope beyond hope that this was the only incident that ever happened.

              Internet hugs

              1. someone anon*

                Unfortunately, she spent the whole class trip – several days – with her camcorder, seeking to record “embarrassing moments” to show everyone. This was her idea of fun. I remember her laughing about it and expressing regret that she hadn’t captured some events that had happened when she wasn’t present. So no, I wasn’t her only victim, and I don’t even know what she did to other kids.

            5. Vicky Austin*

              That’s just horrible! I, too, was a problem child (until I was diagnosed with ADHD and properly treated) and there were incidents where my parents wouldn’t believe me when I got in trouble for what someone else was responsible for; but nothing like THIS ever happened to me!

          3. Cog in the Machine*

            If this blog was about bad teachers/school staff, the comments would need to be closed before they crashed the site. Everybody I know has at least one story.
            I never knew anyonw who taped mouths shut, but one of the bad principals that sticks out was the guy who had a closet-sized room between two classrooms with one-way glass into each classroom. There were also paddles sitting against each window. It was weird when I was a kid, and it’s horrifying now.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Okay, that is some horror movie shit right there. There’s no good or even just not deeply discomforting explanation for that one.

            2. Vicky Austin*

              My horror story is the science teacher who yelled at me and another student and called us dummies because we were the only students who hadn’t finished an in-class test, and he wanted to go have his lunch. That’s a horrible thing to do to anyone, but it was even worse for me and the other student; considering we both had learning disabilities and were on IEP’s that stated we were allowed to have extended time on in-class tests. The teacher, of course, knew about our disabilities, but that didn’t stop him.

          4. PH*

            Years ago I had been told by a parent of it happening in Connecticut to her child, together with being exiled to the coat room. I was incredulous. It was never in the news.

        2. former educator*

          I used to teach preschool. One of my coworkers was fired because she was tired of always having to tie the kids’ shoes all day so she duct taped them. Parents and administrators were not pleased.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            … that actually sounds kind of genius to me. But then again, there’s reasons I don’t have (or spend any time around) children. :)

              1. KoiFeeder*

                Constriction. Velcro shoes are designed to make it difficult to cut off circulation in the feet. Lace shoes aren’t designed that way, so duct taping a lace shoe shut risks that (although it’s a very minor risk; it’s only because children are involved that I’d call that a problem, because kids can’t necessarily undo the tape themselves or communicate to an adult that there’s a problem).

                Also, YMMV, but it’s probably worth mentioning to the parents if the shoes are untied so often that it causes a problem, like if the kid keeps tripping or something.

                1. Vicky Austin*

                  Eh, my shoelaces frequently come untied, but it’s not as big a deal as it would be for preschoolers who haven’t yet learned to tie their own shoes.

              2. passerby*

                Well velcro is built into the shoes, duct tape is not. It’s also not meant to used on clothes or shoes. At a bare minimum, it can easily damage the shoes and laces (and it’s one thing if damage of a kid’s stuff was unavoidable because of a one time accident but different when it’s completely a teacher’s fault for multiple kids’ stuff). Also it’s probably not great in general for a teacher of toddlers to get tired of something fairly mundane and to be expected.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  Honestly, at this point my bar is so low I’m just glad she wasn’t actively taking away their shoes if they came untied too often.

            1. J Kate*

              Hikers do it all the time. But there’s a legitimate reason there.
              Just because you’re tired of tying kids’ shoes – not so much.

              BTW do y’all think we’ll see this individual on worst bosses list?

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            They literally have devices to put on shoe laces to avoid having to retie them…but of course that’s not as cheap as duct tape, I guess…

          3. CatMintCat*

            I teach six year olds if I had a dollar for every shoelace I’ve tied over the years I could retire a very wealthy woman. It’s just part of the deal.

    2. M*

      The sad part about this is if this was a non substitute teacher but one with tenure they would probably still be there. I have family in public education and the stories about excellent teachers but also horrible teachers who can’t get fired because of the union. Some of the stories are worse than anything I have ever read here. Ugh.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        My elementary school principal (who was great) ended up paying a bad teacher to stay home. He desperately wanted her out of the classroom, but the union protected her from being fired.

        1. sequined histories*

          I know people say this type of stuff, but, honestly I don’t know where these districts are. In my experience, it’s pretty easy to make a teacher’s job so unbearable that she just quits. I teach at the best school in my district and we can’t even hang on to a lot of people we want to retain.

          1. sequined histories*

            FWIW it’s been my observation that nepotism and cronyism (rather the union) are responsible for seemingly unfirable sad sacks and nut jobs in my public school system. They can’t be fired because they Know The Right People.
            If you suck and they document that consistently, they can strip you of tenure and fire you. In fact, when they come into your room and write down what everyone is saying and doing, if they just make stuff up whole cloth, you really have no recourse even though you’re allowed a rebuttal.

          2. TardyTardis*

            You can always do the right documentation to fire a teacher who needs it (reminds me of the special ed teacher that the union simply said ‘get a lawyer’ to, when she a) delegated a student to go fetch her pain meds from the pharmacy and b) shared them around).

  3. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. This boss will wear down your self-esteem, and is giving everyone terrible ideas about how to treat others.

    Run away, fast.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Alison always says “toxic places will warp your sense of workplace norms.” This is the perfect example. Everyone else goes along with it so OP thinks they should do. Even starts rationalizing that it’s not great but how bad of an idea is it really? Spoiler: It’s really really really really really bad.

      Get out of there NOW. This is your first job. What you learn there can warp you forever.

      1. Goliath Corp.*

        I heard a phrase recently called the “broken stair.” A bunch of people live in a house and they all know the stair is broken and that they should skip it, to the point that no one really thinks about the broken stair anymore. But then someone new comes in and breaks their damn leg on a stair that should have been fixed years ago.

        1. Red Wheelbarrow*

          Yes! The “broken stair” concept is originally from a terrific column in the Pervocracy website. (The website deals with sexual content and is often NSFW, though the essay is not.) The original author used it to describe the way abusers sometimes remain active in the BDSM community, but it’s been broadened to apply to many other situations.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          It’s funny because this is exactly my dad’s philosophy on home repair (“just use this not-at-all-intuitive workaround, I’ll fix it later!”) and I ended up mildly injured the day after I came home for college on break. Something broke while I was gone, I didn’t know the current workaround, I ended up with an urgent care visit.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            My parents’ dishwasher door has a broken spring. Its job was to let the door open slowly or stay partly open, so it now comes crashing down when you open it. And it turns out dishwasher doors are HEAVY! I got a few barked shins from it and even now often have a near-miss when I go home to visit.

            1. whingedrinking*

              I had a similar incident with a bus bike rack once. When I took my bike off and went to fold it up, my grip slipped and the whole thing came crashing down on my knee (pro tip: they are NOT supposed to do that). Few things in my life have ever hurt so much and despite my howl of pain, the driver didn’t even ask me if I was okay. These days I would call the city’s transit to complain but I was young and figured that even though I was limping, I hadn’t broken anything so it couldn’t be too bad. I had a bruise the size of a grapefruit afterward, too.

            2. Possibly Enough Detail to be Identified?*

              If you want a less extreme/painful example of how “normal” can be warped – our house is “smart”; we have sensors linked to the lights so that at night movement turns the light on in the hall and stairs. Over the dark winter evenings, I visited my folks. Their house is not “smart”. Apparently, neither is their daughter – I walked out of the well-lit living room, into the hall where I stood like a total lemon in the darkness for several moments, having completely forgotten how to operate a light switch!

              Normal is yesterday and last week and last month taken together. The longer you leave it, the more normal this behaviour will become. This is *not* normal, OP, and you need to get out before you forget how to operate the lights.

              1. Róisín*

                I’ve had a smart speaker for 6 months. I stayed with a partner last night and this morning I had to stop myself from asking Google what the temperature was when I woke up. Normal is just the things you’re used to, and that happens SCARY FAST.

      2. Veronica Mars*

        And its not just that you learn that things are ok that aren’t. Its that you start to act that way too. Even if you try your very very best to act the exact opposite of her, chances are you will pick up bad habits that will hurt your career down the road when you do them in normal jobs.

        I say this from experience. In my first job, every decision was made in a high-stakes debate-to-the-death angry round table. Now I have to work very very hard not to offend people when I speak, because merely “asserting myself enough to be heard” in my old job is my new normal job’s “behaving aggressively” or “not being open to new ideas.”

          1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

            That’s a fascinating clip, such an interesting way to think about workplace behaviour. Thanks for sharing!

        1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          Yup. In my first job out of college, my direct superior would greet ANY questions that weren’t absolutely essential to the performance of my job duties as “nosiness,” even if they weren’t being asked of her but polite interest in how my role affected others’ jobs and act threatened like I was trying to take her job, often literally screaming to the point where my ears hurt. (You will be shocked to learn she was embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the company.) To this day, I have to force myself to ask questions that aren’t strictly “necessary.” I’m sure it comes off as lazy and self-absorbed, but in my head, I’m still literally being screamed at for taking an interest, twenty years later.

        2. EinJungerLudendorff*

          Yeah, you can’t fight it all the time. And when you stop, it starts worming its way into your brain.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have this problem. In a couple $ToxicJob situations, I had to become the brass balls broad just to keep from being walked on. Now, every time I advocate for something I’m “pushy” and “aggressive”. It doesn’t help that men still get a pass for this. If I push back like I’m used to on some of the brain dead fads that are being pushed, I’m supposedly “averse to change”, and responsibilities get taken away. Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell what is sexism (that is there) or bad tape from toxic workplaces.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I mean … when people call you “too blunt” instead of “leadership material” that is 90% to do with what’s in your pants and very little to do with what you actually said or how you said it. If you’re behaving at the same level as the men in the room and still getting slapped with the newspaper while they’re getting “good boys,” that’s sexism. (I obviously don’t have a solution but I wanted to validate that you’re not damaged for wanting to self-advocate.)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Thank you.

              The men don’t see it, but I see it all over, even from guys who say they are “not sexist”.

              And yes, I get called “too blunt” and “aggressive” a lot. I can say the same things as a guy, they get attaboys or a pass, I get “talked to”.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*


        It reminds me of the LW who bit a coworker and no one thought it was odd.

        Run away, OP!

        1. Observer*

          Yes. And they followed up and insisted that it really, really wasn’t so bad, and they know that their friends in other jobs are just as toxic and there really, really is no good reason to start looking.

            1. Short on sleep*

              I didn’t catch the update to that letter – was it in the comments? I was hoping at the time that we would get an update but that doesn’t like a happy end. :/

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                I honestly don’t remember. I’ve been here long enough and read through so many archives that it all kind of blends together in my head. But I do recall that there was some sort of update where she says she’s made her peace with the place.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  OK now after scrolling through the comments on that letter I’m starting to question my memory…maybe I mixed that one up with another one.

              2. Pilcrow*

                I’ll post a link in a reply. It was on December 11, 2017 .

                This quote from the end of the update sums it up the terrible dichotomy the OP set up in her mind (die of boredom “normal” office or bite your coworkers “exciting” office).
                “In the long run, yeah, maybe this is warping my perception of normal. But everyone I talk to with a “normal” office job seems to hate it. They go in, stare at four walls for eight hours, barely talk to anyone, and then go home to complain about how much their work sucks. Do I wish my office manager would quit? Of course. But I’m not crying myself to sleep over his behavior. I put up with it and the trade off is an active, interesting office culture where we get drinks, have fun, tell jokes, the pay is good, the benefits amazing, and the work interesting. “

                1. Happily self employed*

                  My friends don’t “stare at four walls all day” and I didn’t when I was still working. Of course, my local friends are mostly engineers and my online friends include an ER doctor, so ymmv.

      4. iglwif*

        Yes, and it doesn’t always take very long for the warping to happen!

        I had 15+ good years at OldJob, then my long-time boss retired and instead of quitting like I’d originally planned, I took a promotion. I stayed in that job less than a year and a half, but by the time I left I had developed habits that I’m still working to overcome, such as panicking whenever my boss asks to talk to me, questioning and second-guessing every decision I make, and being afraid to voice (reasonable, politely worded) disagreement in meetings. These and other reactions developed as survival mechanisms but are deeply maladaptive in any reasonable, healthy workplace, including where I work now…

        1. Employee of the Bearimy*

          I was fired from a toxic job after only two months, and even in that short time frame I learned several bad habits about interacting with my superiors. It was lucky that I wasn’t there longer, honestly.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        I worked for a toxic boss for three years. It was sort of interesting as an intellectual challenge to figure out what parts I would have to unlearn once I got a better job. Some of the stuff I had to unlearn was cited in toxic boss’s subsequent disbarment proceedings, so it is a good thing I had worked through that.

      6. yala*

        I feel like only a few months of this would have someone to the point where they practically never offer up any suggestions or ideas in group meetings.

        Like, just. What a horrible way to manage. What an excellent way to make sure nobody ever feels safe or comfortable coming up with new solutions.

  4. Free Meercats*

    A 30-45 minute strategy meeting every morning? Even without the tape crap, that shouldn’t be necessary.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Yeah a strategy is a long-term thing that is worked out in meeting spread across months.

      What are you strategizing today that you didn’t yesterday and won’t tomorrow?

      1. Antilles*

        The length is the real key here.
        You could make an argument for a daily touch-base meeting to discuss short-term needs and help coordinate with others. So it’s not really ‘strategizing’ as much as ‘staying on track and coordinating’…but if you’re meeting daily, that sort of thing should be like 5 minutes, maybe 10 on rare occasions.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My department does like a 10-minute meeting once a week. If something big comes up, sure, we’ll call an additional meeting, but since we’re all adults and functional in our jobs, 10 minutes on Monday morning is generally plenty.

          I’d say this boss is a control freak but I think we’ve long overshot that definition.

        2. LizB*

          Yeah, isn’t the point of a daily stand-up – that it should only go as long as the team is willing to literally stand around to meet?

        3. iglwif*

          Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with a daily check-in! But 30-45 minutes isn’t a check-in, it’s a roadblock.

    2. Veronica Mars*

      I mean, I know the tape thing is outrageous or whatever. But I was genuinely more perplexed by the 30-45 minute DAILY strategy meeting. What possible reason could there be for hosting a daily meeting to solicit ideas from people… who’s ideas you think are stupid?? I am verklempt.

      1. TootsNYC*

        no wonder people are coming up with “bad” ideas–some of them probably are bad, but you can’t come up with new ones every day! Not even every week. there just aren’t that many ideas.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, if you’re being expected to come up with new, bright, shiny, workable ideas EVERY DAY, I have questions about that. What do you need these ideas for? I can’t even think of a field where you’d need new ideas and new solutions to problems every single day. Most jobs are about going in and doing your routines and getting the work done, and you’ll have an idea brainstorming meeting two or three times a year at most if your processes aren’t working and you need to make a change, or your business is looking into updating or adding services. Brainstorming strategy meetings shouldn’t be a daily thing. I can think of zero reasons for a business to need this.

          1. Veronica Mars*

            My job title literally has “continuous improvement” in it… and even I am not expected to come up with ideas on a weekly or even monthly basis.

            1. Chuck Finley*

              Horror story about continuous improvement. I work for a manufacturing facility. The production manager made it mandatory that all everyone introduce something like 10 continuous improvement changes every quarter. Thing is, each change was made without regard for the rest of the process. So we had stuff breaking downstream. We had people deliberately making problems just so they could meet their change quota.

              And if, by some miracle, the perfect process was achieved, it would get changed with the next round of “improvements.”

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Improving the perfect process is akin to giving it 110%. Only slackers are satisfied with perfection.

              2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

                That sounds like a nightmare! Innovation for its own sake without regard to like, what’s actually good, is ridiculous

        2. Antilles*

          Not even every week. there just aren’t that many ideas.
          I once worked with a guy who had gotten some bad advice along the line that you should show up to every weekly meeting with three new ideas. Even ones where he barely knew the project or was only a small piece, he’d come in with his three ideas.
          It was *exhausting* because no, it’s not really possible to have that many good ideas…after he’d run out of his stock of actually decent ideas (like two weeks), every following weekly meeting he’d bring three ideas that were either completely unrealistic within budget/time/client constraints, things we’d previously considered and discarded, or incredibly dumb. He justified it as ‘presenting options’ and ‘outside the box thinking’, but the rest of us hated it to the point we eventually stopped inviting him to meetings.

        1. selena81*


          I am picturing a business that has been failing for quit some time, with a deeply frustrated owner/manager who thinks that landing on ‘the right idea’ will miraculously save them.

          I hope OP can get out very very soon: i am convinced there must be a whole lot more issues that OP isn’t aware of because it’s their first real job.

    3. Well Then*

      Seriously, I can’t imagine this meeting is productive even without abusive practices by the boss. How much effective strategizing can you do in a mandatory daily meeting? That is overkill. “Strategy” suggests long-term, big-picture planning; if it needs to be reinvented every day, it’s not a strategy, it’s a waste of time.

      If this is a very metrics/results-driven job, like sales, a daily standup should be sufficient. And I still question the efficacy of forcing people to constantly generate new ideas, at risk of being publicly shamed – and forced to tape their own mouths shut and then sit there in a meeting like that! Truly, this is so, so horrible. OP, don’t think for a second that it’s okay or reasonable – please quit as soon as you possibly can.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        If it’s taking more than 10 minutes, its not a scrum. Sorry not sorry. But it drives me insane when people use great concepts really, really terribly and it gives the concepts a bad name. Also, scrums are for identifying blockers, not for solutioning, so theoretically no one should ever have a bad idea at one of them.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        My husband had a boss who would do a “stand-up”/scrum – but it could literally go on for an hour or more (sometimes over 2 hours) while he rambled on and on, repeated himself, etc. I would have gone insane.

    4. Alton*

      Maybe stategy meeting overload is why people are having so many “bad” ideas. They have no time to develop them!

        1. Antilles*

          Especially since in the vast majority of cases, the idea itself is not the important part; it’s the implementation of the idea. Amazon wasn’t the first to invent online purchases, Google isn’t the only search engine, Walmart didn’t come up with some brilliant insight in realizing that customers like to save money, Apple didn’t invent the smartphone…but each of these companies is wildly successful because of the way they executed the very simple underlying concept.

    5. tink*

      we have staff meetings 1-2 times a month with a similar number of people and rarely go over 45 minutes unless there is a LOT upcoming or being passed on from upper management (we’re a branch of a larger group). i cannot fathom being forced to sit through that every day.

    6. James*

      The OP doesn’t say what field they’re in. In construction and related industries this is pretty normal–you use the time for the mandatory safety briefing, review the plan for the day, assign tasks, etc. One client I worked for has the field crews do stretches at the end of it, randomly assigning folks to lead the stretching (we all HATED it). 45 minutes is a bit long, 30 minutes is about right for the morning meeting.

      I’m not saying it’s ideal, but it’s not something that would raise eyebrows.

      1. Allypopx*

        The context makes these seem more like brainstorming sessions? Or something else that requires group input, as opposed to laying out the agenda for the day or relaying information.

        Also I’m not terribly inclined to be generous with this boss and her tactics. But you’re right, some places it wouldn’t be out of place.

        1. James*

          These are mandatory safety meetings. OSHA and really every construction company require them. And any sane construction manager will use them to assign tasks, relay any useful/required info, etc. You’ve gotta have the meeting, so make it worth having, is the idea. They’re used for a lot of things, really, but the mandatory part is safety.

          And I fully agree that the boss doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. I’m just saying this one issue is one behavior I don’t think is necessarily egregious.

          1. Allypopx*

            Gotcha, that’s outside my wheelhouse. My organization tries (fails, but tries) to make meetings as quick and painless as possible so this every day definitely strikes me as daunting. But I can see it if there’s a need.

            1. James*

              I should be clear: This only happens on field efforts (a general term for construction sites, sampling activities, and the like). In the office the idea of a weekly meeting would be seen as overbearing. Monthly meetings are tolerated if there’s food involved. Office staff take the view that we’ve paid our dues, we’ve done the daily meeting thing, and we’re mature enough to know our job and to do it without someone breathing down our necks.

              If the OP is in an office, and not somewhere that includes excavators and explosives, daily meetings are freaking insane!

              1. SweetestCin*

                There was an attempt made by a GC for whom I worked to institute daily Stretch and Flex at the OFFICE. Where we were required to dress as if we were in an OFFICE meeting clients, because we did. I looked at the folks (Safety Jerk and minions) in charge, informed them that I do not wear appropriate workout wear to the office for such, and would not be participating in this activity in business attire including heels. Safety Jerk attempted to bully me into it by saying I was going to “get fat”; I just looked at him funny and reminded him that I regularly race distance and I preferred to keep my professional life separate from my personal/athletic life.

                1. James*

                  Oh wow….

                  As the resident Safety Jerk on my jobsite, I cannot imagine doing this. The biggest safety hazard in pretty much any company, in pretty much any situation is slips/trips/falls–and doing stretches in heels is just BEGGING for a recordable. Every year my company has multiple recordable injuries from inappropriate footwear (not heels, but same concept) and walking in offices (sometimes in heels). My superiors would go ballistic if I even suggested this.

                  It’s also way over the line to bully someone or tell them they’re going to “get fat”. Our job is to make sure that the workplace is safe, and (mostly, in my opinion) to protect the company from liability that arises from workplace injuries. (Yeah, I’m a cynic….) Imposing our views of wellness on others is just…No!! Even without bullying this is harassment. If you’re too heavy for a fall harness yeah, that falls under my jurisdiction, but other than that your life is your life, you live it your way.

                  I think a lot of people get into safety because it’s a power trip. It’s hard to say no to the safety officer, and a certain sort of person enjoys that. And they expand their domain as much as possible, until someone tells them “You’re freaking nuts, what are you thinking?” In my case I drew the short straw (I’m qualified, but so are several other people), and I try my best to keep my focus on what will objectively make the work safer, then on what will protect the company from liability (again, cynic here).

                  I may steal the “Safety Jerk” title. :) The folks I work with tend to have a rather twisted sense of humor, and they’d enjoy it!

                2. SweetestCin*

                  I’d add that “Safety Jerk” doesn’t apply to all Safety Representatives, just this particular one. And he truly WAS one. I evaluate that one a case by case. Current Safety Representative has title of “Awesome Safety Guy” because he actually got me proper fitting PPE.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            Yeah, but you’re not using the mandatory safety meeting to brainstorm ideas. The OP’s boss is definitely doing that.

      2. Lilyp*

        Yeah I could kind of see it in a “strategy for the day” sense in a fast-paced rapidly-changing maybe for a political campaign or a movie set or a newsroom. But that’s still a long daily meeting!

      3. Gumby*

        randomly assigning folks to lead the stretching

        Oh, I could put an end to that right quick. I am very flexible due to a several years of gymnastics and some dancing and some yoga. My stretching routine *starts* with full splits. (Well, it would if I were leading stretches in a *work* meeting for a job that wasn’t at a literal circus where flexibility is a job requirement. I assume. I have never actually worked for a literal circus so…)

    7. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      That caught my attention too! Clearly not a functional place in any way, shape, or form.

  5. revueller*

    My jaw dropped at the title of this. I’m at a loss here.

    Say no to the tape and get out ASAP.

    1. Myrin*

      See, you obviously need to learn from this boss and keep tape by your side so that you can immediately fasten your dropped jaw!

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I would preemptively tape my mouth shut at the start of every meeting and never suggest anything.

        I doubt anyone in that meeting actually says anything any more, unless yelled at to, and then they get taped.

    2. Giant Squid*

      Same, I was like “What, she records their mouths? That’s weird, I guess to watch later and be able to read the lips?”. I had to re-read a few times to actually accept it.

    3. Magoo*

      I am alone in my office and just said “what” out loud at the header alone, and the actual letter just…noooo

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I think I just shook my head in disgust. The stuff people have to put up with, I swear. Ugh.

    4. Mimmy*

      Yup, mine’s still on the floor as well. OP, this is most definitely NOT normal, even if everything else about your job is fine.

    5. Mockingjay*

      I only just read this as I was in an all-day, incredibly banal and inefficient meeting. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad.

      As the Mandalorian might say, “OP, this is NOT the way.”

    1. AnonEMoose*

      This. This is so not normal. Get out…start looking for another job and get out. This is abusive and not even in the same universe as ok.

      I get the frustration of hearing ideas that aren’t feasible, are so lacking in clue that you don’t even know where to begin explaining how lacking in contact with reality it is. I’ve mentioned that I volunteer for a local science fiction convention. In that context, it’s not uncommon for me to hear ideas from well-meaning people who just have No Idea why it’s not even remotely in the realm of possibility, or the same ideas over and over again from different people.

      And no matter how tired and frustrated or overwhelmed I am, I don’t snap at them or tell them that their idea is awful. I hear them out, at the very least. Because, even though the idea they’re currently suggesting won’t work or isn’t something we’re interested in doing for any number of reasons…that doesn’t mean their next idea won’t be a good one, and I want them to feel like they can and should propose those ideas.

      1. Vemasi*

        When I was reading this, it reminded me of the logic puzzle that goes something like “The king wanted more girls to be born in his kingdom, so he passed a law that all families that had boys could not have any more children,” or alternately “In a country where everyone wants a son, families that get a boy stop having children, while families with girls have more until they get a boy.” Probably these would result in different numbers, but the generally accepted answer is that it would have no effect on the ratio of males to females, since each birth is not dependent on the one that came before.

        If someone is totally clueless about their job, you should probably fire them. Given that all the people on this team are not fired, let’s assume they are pretty good at their job and have at least average ideas for strategy. By silencing someone after one “bad” (subjective) idea, you don’t get to hear any of their other ideas. And actually, since this isn’t births, probably their next idea would have been better, as it is informed by your feedback on their first idea. Also, the incentives are probably totally messed up by this practice.

        This is all aside from it being a totally dysfunctional and abusive thing to do in itself. Often dysfunctional and abusive people use the excuse that their approach might not be popular but it gets results, so in a “devil’s advocate” kind of way my brain always goes to evaluating the effectiveness of abusive tactics, just to show the hypocrisy.

        1. TootsNYC*


          Next meeting, one of you bring a roll of masking tape.
          After she hands a piece to one person, then the malicious compliance kicks in. One at a time, you all provide really stupid ideas. If SHE doesn’t hand the next bad-idea-giver a piece of tape, you tear one off of your own roll and hand it to them, saying, “Wow, that’s a really stupid idea. Here.” And you just go around the room, one at a time, giving really stupid ideas and hanging out pieces of tape. Don’t even give her room to respond.

          When you’re all taped, you sit and look at her expectantly.

    2. Old Med Tech*

      Run far – run fast. I do not know if there are health considerations (allergies to tape ect.), but this sounds dangerous as well as humiliating.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        You can have allergies to tape adhesive – phlebotomists will often ask you before they tape the cotton wool over the puncture site after a blood draw. You can also have a messed up nose like me and not be able to breathe effectively through it.

    3. EinJungerLudendorff*

      Your boss is an evil clown.
      Get out before they twist your sense of what is normal and reasonable even more.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Here’s another reason to speak up:

    When the science teacher was doing this at my high school, she got in big trouble because taping someone’s mouth shut is a choking hazard. Lawsuit anyone?

    1. WellRed*

      We had a sad case where a foster parent (Who was a caseworker for the state!) tape up a four year old. That child died. Granted, it was not scotch tape.
      God, OP, your boss is an ass! I keep saying it.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      And on a much milder level, some peoples’ skin doesn’t tolerate adhesives well. I have to be careful how long I wear adhesive bandages, especially in areas like the inside of my elbows or other such areas, because my skin will be unhappy about the adhesive before very long.

      1. Goldfinch*

        Do you remember the viral tweet about the girl just coming from a dental appointment who gave a macabre bloody grin to the guys who told her to smile?

        I’m imagining trying to tear tape off my Retin-A-using face..this boss would get quite a show.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is definitely me with surgical or medical tape. I have to ask for paper tape when I give blood or get blood drawn. Or I just bring my own band-aid.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      This is masking tape, which is a little lighter, but I know that duct tape can tear up your lips when removed, and if it’s put on too tightly it’ll cause bruising.

    4. fogharty*

      I bet the manager thinks that wouldn’t apply, since she is not physically taping their mouths, but just passing them the tape and making the employees do it themselves.

      Not mitigating in any way! Just trying to get into Taper’s head. It’s scary in here.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Colds and allergies happen. If someone’s nose is congested and they’re being told to tape their mouth shut, that’s going to be a problem.

    6. Anonys*

      Ooooh so true, only just considering how many ways this is dangerous! I have some chronic ENT issues, so often can’t breathe through my nose at all. If someone taped my mouth shut on a bad day, I would run out oxygen.

  7. Psykins*

    Just when I think not much can surprise me, the headline alone caused me to make this face:


        1. 404UsernameNotFound*

          Totally off-topic, but that’s a regular part of my vocabulary!
          (Returning to on-topic, it was also my reaction to this awful, awful situation – please, OP, get out now or preferably yesterday!)

    1. Fall of the House of Gushers*

      My friends and I are sending each other videos of our reactions while we read it. Amazing.

    2. Snarflepants*

      “Whut?” was my verbal response to the article title.

      My facial expression was probably the same ‘_____’

      OP, this tape thing is not normal.

  8. WellRed*

    Of course it’s inherently bad! It’s kind of abusive. It’s bizarre and insane and the reason your coworkers seem OK with this is because their sense of what’s normal in the workplace has been completely warped. Your boss is an ass! Get out, get out, get out!
    (Also, a strategy meeting every day seems excessive.)
    Also, I wonder if tape boss started out her career at dunce cap company.

  9. Hell in a Teacup*

    I did a quick google search and adhesive allergies are a thing.

    Just wanted to add an extra layer of “not okay” to the story

    1. many bells down*

      It’s true. It’s in my medical chart. That paper tape they’ll use after you have blood drawn? Rips my skin off and leaves me with hives. Hell, I had surgery 2 weeks ago and I still have marks from some of the tape.

      1. 3DogNight*

        Same! I can’t wear bandaids or medical tape. I have to use the stuff that self-sticks (vet tape, I call it).

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          That stuff is standard issue at the lab where I get most of my blood work done. It’s great, because bandaids do bad things for me (particularly in bendy parts like elbows, where blood draws tend to happen).

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          I can wear bandaids just fine, but the stuff they used on me after open heart surgery a year ago literally took part of my skin off.

          It’s pretty crazy to have your sternum sawd in half and what hurts is the skin damage from the danged adhesive tape. O_O

          1. EngineerMom*

            I’m pretty sensitive to different tapes (paper tape damages my skin, bandaids tend to rip it, etc.), and I’ve found the only one that doesn’t rip my skin off is this blue tape, Nexcare for sensitive skin. I don’t even wear bandaids any more – just some guaze plus the blue tape. It’s expensive, but worth it! I even bring it with me when I get blood drawn or when I donate blood.

    2. Sharrbe*

      Or even just a simple case of winter dry lips – pulling tape off of them is painful! I know from wrapping gifts and foolishly putting the tape pieces on my lip.

    3. RoseMai*

      Yes, I’m allergic to adhesives. My skin gets red and puffy in the exact shape of the band-aid or whatever it is. I might use that as a reason to say no to the tape, but realistically I’d just quit and put all my efforts into finding a new job!

    4. AnonEMoose*

      Yep – I’m not to the point where I get hives, but my skin will get red, irritated, and itchy after more than a day or so with a bandaid on. Especially in more sensitive areas like the insides of my elbows.

    5. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      And I recently found out I had one after using a couple of different bandaids. So I don’t know which it was. (I haven’t reacted to them before. But It was red after I took the last bandaid off for almost a week.). I *think* it was the water proof one I wore because I do a lot of cleaning at work, and was going to wash dishes that night too. (about a month ago I had a small surgery done near my elbow due to being clumsy, and now have a 2cm long scar on my arm.)

      1. Leslie Knope*

        I use sports tape quite a bit with an on-going knee issue. I was using the regular kind, then got annoyed that it would peel up so I went up to the waterproof 7-day adhesive tape…bad idea. I taped my knee for a volleyball game on Wednesday, then removed it so I could wear a skirt to a wedding on Saturday. The adhesive hadn’t broken down yet and I ended up with red marks everywhere where the tape had been. I wore a long dress to that wedding instead!

    6. Art3mis*

      Also allergic to adhesives. I got a bad scratch at a friend’s house recently and flat out refused a band-aid, not worth it.

    7. Alton*

      I have a pretty bad scar on my knee from a nasty fall I had last year…and a scar right beside it from where I reacted badly to an adhesive bandage that I wore after said fall.

    8. Yamikuronue*

      I just discovered I have one of those when taking a medicine in patch-based form left me itchy as hell and swelling up. That would be awful to have on your lips, lips are way more sensitive than stomach or thighs where the patch went!

    9. Bagpuss*

      Yup, I get hives from sticking plaster (bandaids). I’m usually OK with the hypoallergenic kind, but I am also aware that it is possible to go from ‘mild hives’ to ‘full on anaphylaxis’ with no warning (been there, done that, got the t-shirt)

    10. Phony Genius*

      I count it as physical abuse, based on the pain of taking it off later. That should be legally actionable in most jurisdictions. (But consult your local lawyer.)

    11. Combinatorialist*

      To all the people commenting about being unable to wear bandaids, I had the same reaction due to a latex allergy. Buying the bandaids labelled latex-free might help you (as there are times when a bandaid is a big quality of life improvement). If it does, beware that latex is in all sorts of hidden things, including many adhesives.

  10. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    It’s honestly scary to me that your coworkers seem fine with this happening.

    1. Not Me*

      Right?! Or that anyone has to question whether this is ok or not. It’s clearly not ok or normal.

    2. Chris*

      I think that the coworkers have their minds completely warped that this is how Corporate America normally is. It is not. Which is why I would advise OP to quit before he/she falls into the trap before it is too late.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        OP, what are the relative ages and experience levels of your coworkers? Is everybody newish to the workforce? Is this most of your coworkers’ first professional job?

        Because this kind of boss strikes me as somebody who seeks out inexperienced workers who will believe her tactics are just the way the working world functions.

        1. Chris*

          @Librarian of SHIELD – You read my mind exactly. This is why I would advise for OP to leave ASAP.

          @OP – In fact, I know of a college student I previously worked with (let’s call her Lisa) who didn’t really know the working world since she was still in college. Lisa was literally was in tears when she was out of the office because our boss (let’s call her Elizabeth) was a narcissistic bully who acted like she was 12 years old and would have fits if she didn’t get her way. How bad was Elizabeth? Let’s just say 13 different people, including myself, quit in less than 2 years under Elizabeth. One quit after only 3 days, and another one quit after only 4 short hours (yes, that’s HOURS, not DAYS). That’s how bad our boss was. I lasted 1.5 months there and actually lasted the second longest of all the people who worked that position. The lady I replaced was there for 8 months and in all honesty I don’t know how she lasted that long.

          The sad part? Lisa had no experience since she was still in college and thought that all bosses acted that way and that she thought she had to put up with that kind of torture until the day she will retire. I suspected that she was scared to graduate because of that. Me and the other lady convinced her that this wasn’t typical and there are plenty of bosses who are really nice. Fast forward to today, Lisa is happily employed at a large company with a nice boss.

          The point of my story is that it’s bosses like OP’s tend to pray on inexperienced individuals and try to convince them that this is normal so they wouldn’t leave because everywhere is no different. It certainly happened to my former coworker. I can only hope it doesn’t happen to you, OP.

        2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          My thoughts too. Boss is deliberately seeking easy prey to fuel her insane power trip.

    3. CheeryO*

      Right? Obviously this is an ongoing thing, but I think the first time someone handed me a piece of masking tape for my mouth, I would react as if it were a joke, and I’m totally someone who typically goes with the flow and is slow to raise a stink. That’s just so utterly bizarre and abusive.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I’m aware that research shows that, when faced with a bizarre / abusive / harassing type situation, we often don’t react with backbone we imagine ourselves having. But honestly I can’t imagine a world where I actually put tape over my own mouth. At any age.

        1. Skeptical Squirrel*

          So true. Even off comments catch me off guard to where I am basically speechless because I am still processing the fact that anyone would say something like that.

    4. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      YES! There are 7 other people in this office who are just like “welp. Taped again, must be a rough Tuesday!”

      I feel awful, other people in OP’s office, but you all are going to need workplace rehab, because when you finally break free, you’re going to be in for a dramatic culture shock.

      And OP, I’m so sorry, but you need to bail ASAP. Like, hit the big red button, put on your parachute, call in your favors and prepare for some credit card living, you need out of this job.

    5. wittyrepartee*

      I keep on wondering if it started as some sort of joke? And they don’t realize how intimidating it is to newbies?

      1. Short on sleep*

        Yes, that’s what I’m thinking as well.
        Honestly, this could have happened at a previous company I worked at. The first time it would have been a joke and neither the boss nor the co-workers would have meant anything by it, then it would be an insider to lighten the mood when morale started dipping, and when the resentment started setting it, the “joke” would have suddenly been a passive-aggressive powerplay that neither side was able to to put a stop to in fear of “losing”.

        This is definitely worth switching jobs for, OP. Get out as soon as you can, places like that really do a number on you.

  11. Sharrbe*

    Oh God, run, run away as fast as you can. And if you can do it without retribution or bad references, tell your crazy boss exactly why you quit. She needs to hear that this is not ok. She has a workforce of enablers and its not healthy. If this was happening to children inside a family, CPS would need to be involved. The fact that this is happening to adults in a workplace is disturbing.

      1. Jay*

        You know, I remember reading, way back in the 90’s when I was just starting out and dinosaurs ruled the earth, that quite a lot of major companies were caught taking out huge insurance policies on low level, minimum wage, employees. Meaning that these people were literally worth more dead than alive to their employers. They called them “Dead Peasant Policies”. I can’t help but wonder what part of that companys’ bottom line comes from stress related heart attacks……….

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Yep, I recall that. I think it’s still legal in some states.

          1. Happily self employed*

            Someone like ProPublica should see if Amazon warehouses do this. Especially in the summer in places like Nevada…

    1. some dude*

      Totally. And even if she gets fired, she’ll just turn up in some random Sith planet you never even knew was a thing because it has NEVER been mentioned before, and she’ll be like this undead Sith zombie god with a whole fleet of starships and it’s just going to be a whole mess to defeat her at that point.

  12. AndersonDarling*

    What the freaking, freak, frock??
    This goes to show how easy it is to abuse people who are new to the working world. An experienced worker would have immediately known this is outrageous and it needs to stop, but newbes will question it and assume it is okay because everyone else is going along with it. It’s so incredibly sad that there are are managers in the world that think this is appropriate. Even sadder that there are companies that employ them.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      This is why some companies only hire RCGs and other new to the workforce people – they can get away with practices, procedures and work rules that anyone who has been around a while knows are abusive, unsafe, or recipes for burnout. (Lots of high tech startups fall into this classification.)

  13. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “Strategy meetings” every morning for 30-45 minutes, with the entire office participating, is already a bad sign.

    Maybe if your office is the command staff for the 82nd Airborne Division in the middle of WWII, then this meeting would make sense. Maybe.

    The taping just takes it from bad management to megalomania.

    1. Sara without an H*

      There is, indeed, no way that an eight-person office needs a daily strategy meeting. The OP’s boss calls these meetings because they give her an opportunity to exercise power over her staff.

      That the OP’s co-workers aren’t shocked by this is evidence that the boil-the-frog-slowly myth reflects a truth of human psychology.

      And I sincerely hope that the OP takes Alison’s advice and gets out before these people warp her permanently.

      1. sequined histories*

        “ The OP’s boss calls these meetings because they give her an opportunity to exercise power over her staff.”
        This times a thousand.
        Whatever the stated goals of this organization, the boss is not engaging in this behavior in pursuit of those goals. She derives some twisted gratification from treating her subordinates in this way. Most people—and most bosses, even most bad bosses—wouldn’t dream of behaving like this.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If a person needs to change their strategy every day then they don’t know wth they are doing.

      But nothing says “I don’t know how to manage” like taping people’s mouths. Boss Jane Clueless.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I had this boss who did the same with the daily “strategy” meetings. He also took apart the website every week one whole summer. He was also verbally abusive.

  14. Hold That Thought*

    OP, if you are male, grow a beard. If not, urge your male coworkers to do so.

    I have a full beard. Taping it would be very ineffective!

    1. HailRobonia*

      tape + beard hair = ouch! (I know it’s just masking tape… but I wouldn’t be surprised if this lunatic upgraded to duct tape)

    2. SufferinSuccotash*

      I, a Greek woman, will participate in the Facial Hair Growth For Saner Meetings movement. Solidarity.

      1. Ophelia*

        I wouldn’t be able to participate naturally, but by god, I’d wear a fake beard and moustache the minute I decided to leave and/or found a new job.

    3. Jay*

      As the Boss walks in, now sporting actual, visible devil horns, and brandishes a brand new red Swingline stapler.
      “Problem Solved!”

  15. missannethrope*

    Sounds like an episode of The Office, and not in a good way. OP, you in danger, girl! Get out of there fast!

    1. pentamom*

      Seriously. Every time I convince myself that Dwight Schrute could not be a real person, one of these AAM stories comes along.

      1. Hell in a Teacup*

        This sounds more like something Michael would do and then be told he couldn’t do. Then he’d apologize by taping his whole face and Dwight would follow suit.

        He’d also hire Tape Face for the office party.

        1. pentamom*

          It sounds like something Michael would be dumb enough to do, but not mean enough to do. He wants people to like him. Dwight’s meaner and more power hungry.

          Well, unless it was Toby. Michael would do it to Toby.

    1. AJ*

      Why are you looking to leave your job? “The place I’m looking to leave was physically abusive and I’m not comfortable staying there.” Anyone but a (another?) psycho will let that one lie and move on with no more questions! Please leave OP, good luck.

      1. TootsNYC*

        people always suggest this sort of thing, but if I can be practical for a moment: don’t.

        Don’t say anything that directs the interviewer’s attention away from your skills and what you bring to the table for the future of her company.

        Don’t throw in drama, no matter how good it seems to make you look. It’s a terrible distraction, and it won’t help you.

        So say, “I’m looking for someplace that does more hands-on work and spends less time in meetings.” Or, “it’s turned out that this isn’t a particularly good fit; I’m looking for a place where ideas are welcome and people’s participation is encouraged. And hopefully a larger, more professional place without the quirks that can become ingrained at smaller companies.”

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Sadly you cannot do this. Here we’re looking for this kind of thing, between our collective knowledge of abusive environments and “getting to old for this Sh*t status” but still, even with that knowledge, you still don’t outwardly share this information in an interview.

        It’s still “it wasn’t a good fit.” fall back and age old “Don’t speak ill of your former employer to your prospective new employer.”

        1. AJ*

          I respect the opinions but is there no room for leaving a job that is abusing you?! Especially if you haven’t been there long and just need to jump now!

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            You can absolutely leave an abusive workplace. What they’re saying is, you can’t talk about your workplace being the cause of your exit in interviews.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Well, you can–you can say “I’m looking for a place that’s larger and has more cohesive processes.”

              “I’m looking for a place with a good balance between productive work and productive meetings.”

              Just don’t bring the drama.

              1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

                “I’m looking for a collaborative workplace where innovation, lateral thinking and open communication are encouraged. I see those as important cultural elements for both my job satisfaction and security, as to have sustainable success these days businesses need to be highly adaptive.”

                “Great, ok! And what are some of the ways you think employers and employees can work together to create that environment?”

                “…uhhh..” *don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it*

          2. TootsNYC*

            We didn’t say “don’t leave”!!!

            We said, “don’t bring up this awfulness during the interview.”

          3. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

            There really isn’t. No. From a prospective employer’s perspective it’s very unlikely that they’re just going to think “seems legit” based on one person’s recounting.

            More likely, they’re going to assume that the candidate didn’t get along with their manager and labelled perfectly normal management as “abusive” due to the conflict. Because we hear that sort of thing all the time. Very (very) rarely does an employee say “I’m being abused/harassed/bullied” and it turns out to be a legitimate case of abusive behavior like this.

      3. LJay*

        I would not let that one lie with no further questions and I don’t think I’m a psychopath.

        The reality is that most workplaces are not physically abusive, and categorizing your workplace as that without further details is not going to make me just nod my head and go “oh, that makes sense” and move on.

        Because maybe the workplace is fine and my interviewee categorizes having to lift 50 lbs as physically abusive. Or someone bumped into them in the hallway one time and knocked their coffee over onto them or something. Or nothing at all happened.

        If they explained, “My boss made me tape my mouth shut during meetings if she didn’t like my responses” that would make sense to me why they wanted to leave. But just dropping “physically abusive” without further elaboration would absolutely lead to further questions. (And the story is so over the top that even when elaborated on it would make me a bit curious. If they made another seemingly outlandish claim during the interview process it would make me concerned about whether they were telling the truth or not.)

        I’d go with, “Not the right fit” or “Personality conflict between me and my boss,” or even just, “My boss is rude and hostile to me and my coworkers on a regular basis.”

        1. AJ*

          Ok so maybe my phrasing wasn’t great, but it seems like “my boss taped my and everyone else’s mouth” isn’t badmouthing an employer and the candidate shouldn’t be punished for just saying that!

          1. valentine*

            You don’t want it turned around on you: “Why did you participate, and for so long?”

            It would seem that the first person obeyed and the rest fell like dominoes. It’s amazing that she put together a group where no one’s willing to walk, or even to push back, over it.

          2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            Yeah but you also don’t want to derail things by sharing something so outrageous that it becomes the focus of the interview. And you don’t want to be remembered as the “masking tape candidate” instead of the “candidate with the superior spreadsheet skills”.

  16. Jam Today*

    WHAT on earth?
    You should watch the movie ‘Swimming With Sharks’ then go find another job.

  17. HailRobonia*

    The only people who should have their mouths tapes shut are the ones who make negative comments about someone’s cancer surgery.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      As a cancer survivor, I approve this message.

      I actually had someone say maybe the treatment would help me lose weight (I didn’t need chemo).

      1. Leela*

        my chemo causes weight gain too! I’ve gotten many comments that the chemo will help me lose weight and people are sooOOooOO jealous I get to just lose it for free (30+ pounds of weight gain is very common for this form of chemo)

        1. Senor Montoya*

          For free [insert eyeroll emoji]. I mean, that’s not the worst of it, but do these coldhearted dimwits have any idea how much cancer treatment costs?????

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Apparently not. My coworker’s treatments ran into the six figures and she almost lost her house because of it.

      2. Secret Identity*

        Wow. I am just stunned. I’ve been watching a friend and co-worker go through cancer with chemo and radiation. It’s been horrible. I would never even think to say something like that to her. I just…can’t.
        So sorry you went through that and had to listen to crap like that.

      3. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Ah yes, the ever popular infuse poison into your veins that cause you to feel like your skin is on fire, throw up constantly, develop painful sores in your mouth, develop thrush on your tongue diet. It’s right there behind Jenny Craig.

        /my aunt died from metastatic breast cancer and these were all her symptoms from the chemo she took.

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          I should say, my comment sounds like I’m anti-chemo…I am not. My aunt’s life was extended 10 years past her initial prognosis because of the chemo, it was just a miserable experience for her.

      4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        So many people said things like this to my uncle when he was dying of pancreatic cancer. He did comment a few times that he kind of enjoyed being able to wear clothes that he hadn’t fit into for decades, but it was clearly a case of desperately looking for any kind of positive to the situation. I thought it was appalling.

    2. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      Or folks who tell me how lucky I am to have the “good” kind of breast cancer.

  18. Jean*

    This whole thing is outrageous. Your boss is using (i.e. wasting) almost an hour of your team’s time EVERY SINGLE DAY to act like a psycho and bask in the sound of her own voice. Get the hell out of there asap.

    1. Just J.*

      This. This. This.

      Daily meetings of this length + taping (OMG!!!!) + no else saying anything = TOXIC

      In the word of Captain Awkward: Here there be Bees.

      Your boss is not a good boss.

      What she is doing is abuse.

      I concur with everyone else: Get out now.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Normally, I’m not on board with early call-outs for that, because then we end up with about 400 bajillion. But in this case, I gotta agree with you.

        1. Reality.Bites*

          There’s a kind of hood worn in bondage play – I’m not familiar with the correct term, but I’ve seen pictures of them, that cuts off your vision and hearing as well, so perhaps some enterprising office supply company will stock them as meeting tools.

      1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        Perhaps there could be a tiered system for categorizing bad bosses. This way one could express one’s level of outrage without making predictions as to the likely performance of future contenders for the title:

        Level 1 – Minor problem with an otherwise good boss
        Level 2 – A boss with a problem that should be addressed, but not bad enough to leave over
        Level 3 – Serious abuse and/or dysfunction

        This boss is Level 3 for sure.

        1. animaniactoo*


          Level 1 – Minor problem with an otherwise good boss
          Level 2 – A boss with a problem that should be addressed, but not bad enough to leave over
          Level 3 — A boss who isn’t great but is survivable if you change your perspective on what you’re going to be able to do and you don’t have a lot of other options right now.
          Level 4 – Start job hunting immediately, this is not going to get better and it’s not survivable.
          Level 5 – Serious abuse and/or dysfunction, consider quitting without something else lined up.

          I consider this about a 4.5.

          1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

            I like the additions.

            I bet if we heard more about this boss, we’d move the marker to a firm Level 5.

            1. Parcae*

              Personally, I map bad bosses/workplaces on two axes: Danger and Shock. A safety violation in a factory might be very dangerous but common, so it ranks high on Danger but low on Shock. Conversely, Guacamole Bob was merely outrageous; high on Shock, but low on Danger.

              Taping your employees’ mouths is really high on Shock (who does that???) but only moderate on Danger– it’s psychologically damaging, but we’ve seen worse here. The Bad Boss winners are usually super high on danger, but my very favorite *stories* are the purely shocking ones.

              1. RC Rascal*

                I like your analysis.

                The Commentariat frequently congregates around the bosses that are high on Shock, but when it comes to actual voting, Danger wins.

              2. PrettySticks*

                You know those writing prompts where you’re given the first line, and then you write the rest of the story? I highly suggest “Guacamole Bob was high on shock, but low on danger.”

              3. Gidget*

                This is a really elegant way of stating this. Pretty sure this should be made into an infographic.

              4. Not So NewReader*

                I read where some victims of abuse believe that the physical injury is small compared to the psychological injury.

                I’d rate this boss pretty high on the danger list because already we can see that employees have adapted and consider her mental abuse normal. This is going to take a bit for them to unlearn.

          2. Matilda Jefferies*

            I like this, although I would put OP’s boss straight into level 5 for outright abuse.

            OP, for context: of all the terrible bosses we’ve read about here, there are really only a handful that I would put into a level 5. They are:

            “Dunce cap” boss:

            “Couples therapy with my dad” boss:

            “Wear my clothes/ eat my food/ beg for your job” boss:

            Terrible bosses are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. But there’s “just regular” terrible and then there’s “GTFO RIGHT NOW” terrible – the bosses who deliberately and repeatedly abuse their power and humiliate their employees. The good news is that the GTFO bosses are pretty rare. The bad news is that you seem to be working for one at the moment. But the good news again is that you wrote in and asked for help, so now you know just how awful this person is, and you can make a plan to get out.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I don’t care how early in the year it is, there’s no way this one is not making the finals! What the actual F?!

    3. Campfire Raccoon*

      We’ve reached Cersei Level 4, people. Make sure you secure your own oxygen mask before you help others.

  19. SaffyTaffy*

    I mostly just want to know WHAT is wrong with this person. What does this get classified as by a therapist? If she were forced to justify herself, and really be introspective, what would she say?

    1. RC Rascal*

      She would pretend it was a joke and everyone was having fun.

      Or, she would pretend the victim made the entire thing up and is lying because they don’t like her personally.

    2. Lucia Pacciola*

      I want to know what is wrong with the other six employees. I really hope LW updates us, and that the update includes the backstory from the other employees about why they’re going along with it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think she’d get classified as an a$$.

      If she had to explain she’d probably shrug and say, “It worked. They stopped talking.”

  20. SaraV*

    I heard a record scratch when I read the title of this post.

    Devil on my shoulder is saying to try to tape your boss’s mouth shut the next time they come up with a ludicrous idea.

    But that whole “higher road”, “don’t stoop to their level”, blah blah blah…

    1. Nea*

      Yeah, I would have a hard time restraining myself from handing it right back and saying “Tape your hand down because this is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

    2. Annonymous*

      More like, don’t buy into the warped workplace culture, because that’s how you end up biting co-workers (letter linked in the related posts).

  21. Close Bracket*

    But my coworkers don’t seem too bothered by it. Or maybe they just don’t want to complain, I’m not sure.

    I’m guessing the first time you saw it, you were a combination of shocked into silence and feeling like you were too new to speak up when you first saw it, and now it feels like the time to say something has passed? That’s how everyone feels. Think hard about what you want to say and what you can reasonably accomplish by saying (hint: you will not be able to stop your boss from doing this), then practice your script until you can say the whole thing in the mirror. Then speak up during the meeting. Expect the boss to respond poorly.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      The behavior is being normalized. That’s what is happening. That’s why your coworkers aren’t saying anything.

      This is not normal. This is all kinds of crazy. There are three giant red flags in your first paragraph alone (in order of appearance: strategy meetings every day for 30-45 minutes, boss is intolerant of what she considers to be bad ideas; forces employees to tape their mouths shut). Fourth red flag: your coworkers aren’t saying anything. Fifth: you admit your boss is “kinda scary.” Finally you say that this is all “arbitrary.” I think the word you are looking for is mercurial, and not in like a good way.

      Get out. Get out now.

  22. CatCat*

    Get out. You have an amazing explanation for why you’re looking so soon. No one reasonable will hold it against you for looking to leave this position quickly.

    Your boss is a NUT.

    1. Nea*

      If OP has been there for a month or less, I’m not sure they even have to admit they worked there in the first place.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I said this above: Don’t give this as your reason for leaving.

      It distracts the interviewer from you and your contributions to the future, and it focuses them on the “OMG! What?!”

      it doesn’t matter that no one would blame you, etc. It’s too dramatic, and it might even make people look at you side-eye. It would me. I’d think, “do they just thrive on drama?” Sure, leave, but I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time talking about this outrageous thing.

      (Of course, I never ask people why they want to leave; for some reason, they don’t like that job, and they’re interested in the one I’m interviewing for. I really don’t care what their reason is, but it’s often very obvious. I have asked a few times, when someone was clearly interviewing for a lateral move–and it’s been instructive both times. But this level of drama? All I’d need to hear is, “I’m uncomfortable with my boss’s approach to meetings and managing her staff. She’s more punitive than needs to be, in my opinion.” The two answers I got were both “I’m frustrated with my boss because I don’t think he makes good decisions, and I want to work somewhere that either I get to make the decisions, or I’m comfortable with them.” I hired one woman, and told the other that she needed to move up, not over–and she did eventually. )

    3. Sara without an H*

      OP, since this is your first job, and since you’ve been there only a short time, just don’t add this company (“Cesspit & Sludge”) to your resume. Pretend it never happened. Quit. Restart your job search, read the AAM archives for advice, and start over.

      Your tape-wielding boss is unlikely to be a good reference, anyway.

  23. IHerdCatsForFood*

    I almost fell out of my chair reading this. Seriously consider getting a new job before you’ve internalized this behavior as acceptable. 30-45 daily “strategy meetings”, the boss’s intolerance for an open exchange of ideas, then denying people’s agency by physically silencing them with a piece of tape things are signs of a very toxic work environment.

  24. Extensions Denied*

    De-lurking for this.
    LW, I’m catching a lot of similarities in your letter to a toxic boss we just got rid of, and who we are still healing from. In particular, “can be kind of scary.” Dollars to donuts because you’re new, you haven’t seen the worst of it, it’s behind closed doors. Ours was a “good boss otherwise” till they weren’t; you got on their bad side for whatever reason, or they needed a scapegoat, and you got yelled at or lectured, name-calling, gaslighting, or once the quiet intense scary voice.
    Even if the tape thing is all there is, that tells me your boss isn’t willing to listen if she thinks she’s in the right. *Run*, don’t walk.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This sounds like my toxic boss *shudder*

      Even after they left [ran away really because they were losing their shirt with a dying business], the one former coworker that I’m friends with still struggles with coming to terms with how awful he was. Because he was good to her…she never had the chance to get on his bad side, but she saw it happen time and time again. So she knows but at the same time…still feels an odd sense of loyalty to him.

      Thankfully she’s finally left that place and is healing herself, which she deserves greatly. Even after that POS left, they still kept in contact to hear about the business and how things were going, so she still had that tie that couldn’t be severed until she finally quit.

      1. Extensions Denied*

        I had to check for a second if you were writing about me!
        I was a “golden child”, so I really only got a few lectures, or name-calling/other insults that honestly went over my head, because ASD. And this boss gave me a lot, professionally, and materially. But I could hear the yelling, and we had more than one person specifically point to them as the reason they left. (Thankfully, we’re a smaller department in a larger org, so the people who were bearing the brunt of it were able to band together and descend on HR. Doesn’t look like LW has that option.)
        The only thing that helped me mentally reframe it was drawing (limited) comparisons to folks I know, who have parents with BPD. Yes, you owe them a lot, and yes, they’ve done good things, and yes, they may even care about you, and at the same time, none of that gives them the right to do what they’ve been doing.
        It’s a process. We’re *still* getting reality checks with our new boss. She told us specifically she wouldn’t have believed what was going on till she got snapped at in her first leadership meeting. But for most of us, it’s our first “professional” job too, so we’re unlearning bad habits and resetting our normal meters. (You mean I *don’t* have to CC the boss on every step of every project so they can jump in and provide “corrections”?) Goes to show what kind of damage a boss like that can do…I wonder if the other folks in LW’s office were the same way.

        1. Lying Over the Ocean*

          I’ve been workfriends with the golden child while being the exact opposite of that. It’s pretty rough to hear “well, Boss is really great at x, y, and z, even if there’s sometimes yelling/pounding on the table/insults when you do something wrong” for years…when I’m the person who gets yelled at, whom the table-pounding is directed at, and who is the recipient of the insults. Yeah, there’s great stuff in there too, but I’m not sure it’s worth the abuse.

          These days, though, Boss is pretty disengaged, so the great stuff happens less and less (though the yelling is still happening on the regular). There’s a running theory about Boss moving on to Greener PasturesTM.

          But hey, at least there’s no tape!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Are you looking yet? Your situation sounds worth leaving too. They let that person tromping over staff for years, the next one could be someone he trained.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The problem with my former boss was that us Golden Children would quickly find our ways to the sh*t list over the most random things…I realized at the end that he was paranoid [and possibly self medicating]. So once he decided you had wronged him, it was hell to pay.

          Only he didn’t scream. He was just a piece of trash and would fire people for things that’s illegal to fire them for [such as getting hurt on the job]. He was that unhinged.

          All my colleagues knew what I was doing to keep everything afloat and as soon as I fell into his bad POV, I was given lectures about keeping up with impossible amounts of work.

          He was also absolutely shocked when I quit before he could fire me, lmao. That guy.

          But his constant piling and giving tasks to people who weren’t technically skilled [yet] for it did indeed pay off to people. But really you have to look at it and say “This dude didn’t trust in me, he was just such a loose cannon he threw huge marketing projects at an office assistant who was thankfully able to catch it and run like the wind.”

      2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I worked at a tiny, dysfunctional company with a monster boss who owned the company. Everyone else was an actual sibling of the owner and when she shouted at them they just shouted back. So obviously, I was the Official Scapegoat whenever one was needed. Which turned out to be more and more often.

        Then they hired someone into a support / admin role. She was an old friend of Monster Boss; they had lost contact at some point. She believed all the BS about me because surely her old friend was a nice, reasonable person and not an abusive boss with anger issues?

        And socially, MB was a fun and interesting person. I guess that eating pizza and drinking wine didn’t trigger her rage in the same way as, say, someone disagreeing with her in a meeting or asking for clarification on a work task.

        Then I left (by this time starting to doubt my sanity and competence) and they needed a new Official Scapegoat…

        That poor admin finally saw what was really going on. She contacted me about 6 months later to say that she had left the company AND taken MB to court and been awarded significant compensation (my country has very strong labour laws).

        I think she also apologised to me for not believing me.

        Last I heard, MB’s lovely and very easy going spouse had left her. I felt sad for both of them but not surprised.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Good bosses are not psychotic. Do not rationalize that they are somewhat reasonable at other times into the belief that they are a good boss. Good bosses encourage people and help them achieve their work goals commensurate with the company goals (god that sounded like Biz speak but you know what I mean).
      Good bosses do not attack ideas based on their mood that day. AND THEY DO NOT TAPE THEIR EMPLOYEE’S MOUTHS SHUT.

      1. Extensions Denied*

        That’s why I used quotation marks….like LW I genuinely thought mine was a “good boss” for a very long time.

    3. Quill*

      As someone who was the new recent grad at Toxic Job (Pig lab from hell) OP, just fucking leave before you have to put this on your resume and use it as a reference.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Definitely. If you’ve only been there a couple of months, you can leave it off entirely.

  25. Djuna*

    Small office, probably no HR, despotic manager, daily meeting of epic length where said manager forces people to tape their own mouths shut (for extra humiliation)—it’s a perfect storm of terrible.

    Run, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and hide the tape dispenser on your way out.

    1. 3DogNight*

      YES! Stay late on your last day and throw away every roll of tape in the building. But go, today.

      1. Quill*

        This is a “quit without notice” situation.

        As in, the minute you get your next paycheck, just never go back and block this person forever.

        1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          I once worked at a place where a previous employee had waited till the boss was in a meeting, scribbled “I quit” on a note, left it on a keyboard and walked out, never to be heard from again.
          …few months later I found out why.

  26. Anonymouse*

    THIS IS NUTS AND BANANAS! Like a good afternoon snack from Trader Joe’s. 2020 sure is a doozy, saw at least 3 bosses now that’d definitely be in the running for Worst Boss of 2020 and we’re only 1 month in.

    OP, your boss is insane and abusive. Ran for the hills ASAP. Don’t wait until she shows her other “idiosyncrasies”.

    1. Quill*

      Especially as a recent grad / new to the workforce, get the heck out before you start having to rely on employment for healthcare, or have to talk about this job in interviews…

      Like, I stuck it out through a very Bad Boss at 24 but he just yelled at us, in lieu of taping our mouths shut or anything else trunchbull levels of cartoonish despotism…

    1. pamela voorhees*

      +100, but also adding that the only change you will ever see is them getting worse. This will not get better, and if it “feels” like it’s getting better / easier to deal with / etc., that’s a sign that you have stayed here too long and your norms have been warped. Please don’t let that happen and get out of there as soon as you can.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. Abusers and bullies like this don’t get better, they ramp up the abuse. It’s like boiling a frog.

        If you feel like you are walking on eggshells for your job Get. Out. Now.

  27. animaniactoo*

    Thinking about it more, this reminds me of back in the beginning of my job when I had a manager who I yelled at/got forceful with and she was new to the job and was in the wrong about what she was trying to do. I went later to apologize and she waved me off and I thought “cool”.

    It was not cool. She had a lot of good qualities and she was an interesting person, but she was also the most-boundary stomping disaster of a manager that I’ve ever had. Over time, the issues kept devolving until the mess was so big that it was completely unsupportable.

    While you’re coming from the direction of “this one thing”, I would say that you’re in the same place – you know this is off, but you don’t realize how bad it’s going to get. And it is going to get bad, because I have never ever seen this kind of thing (in the years since) get better.

    1. Hmmm*

      Having worked in extremely toxic/dysfunctional places my bet is that this company has a rotating door of just starting out professionals like the LW. They know it isn’t alright but don’t have the experience to gauge just how egregious and abusive the actions of the manager are. These employees then “stick it out” to try to get experience on their resumes or they listen to terrible advice from older relatives about not wanting to look like a job hopper.

      LW, in addition to looking for another job, please be sure to invest as little emotional energy as you possibly can into this company. Take care of your mental well being first and foremost.

  28. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    I am adding nothing to these comments but I am compelled to agree with everyone who is saying, “Get. Out. Now.” Your colleagues may have become inured to this abuse, but you must not.

  29. TypityTypeType*

    LW, people walk off jobs over crap like this.

    The fact that your “scary” boss has got an office full of people so cowed she can get away with this shows what kind of a manager she really is. And these people still speak up with ideas … knowing she might order them to *tape their mouths shut.* That is really, really messed up.

    People do not treat each other this way.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I would. I’m sorry, you want me to do what with this? Oh. Ohhhh, ohohoho, no, no that’s not going to happen. You have my address, please mail my final check and aside from that never contact me again.

      Like, there just is no coming back from that. The kind of person who thinks this is okay is not the kind of person you ever want to work with, much less work for.

  30. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    8 people? Is she also the owner by chance, this reeks of “owner tyrant” story to me. I have ran across very briefly a few of those who are just absolute pieces of utter trash.

    The workers deal with it because they are victims of abuse and many people fall victim to abuse by people who have absolute power over their lives [in this case, their paychecks.] They’re willing to take the public humiliation because they have fear in their hearts.

    This is some Stockholm Syndrome stuff at play. They identify with their captor.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This, exactly.

      I left my previous firm, a tiny 5 person operation, because the boss was involved in illegal dealings of a very dangerous nature but I should have realised sooner because some of his behaviour was really offensive but nobody else complained.

      For instance: slapping staff on the back of their heads when they messed up, telling staff they wouldn’t get paid if they ever said he was wrong, using meetings to spout off his white supremacy views in detail..I only got out of any of this because I was the only woman and he believed women were delicate and less intelligent.

      I’m really really glad he’s in prison these days.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        These people tend to employ a lot of people who are either new to the workforce [Hi, OP!] or people who struggle to find employment elsewhere, who are just trying their hardest to survive [they often hire a lot of undocumented immigrants, who are known to be easily abused given their vulnerability. Former convicts. Source for the places that help develop mentally delayed folks get work…halfway houses…I think most get the picture here.]

        They’re not above taking advantage of the disadvantaged to get their dirty work done.

        This is where you can’t always rely on the turnover rate to give you a sign either. These people will sink with the ship.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Or the fear of another recession…that holds so many people into place.

            Or that age old “Devil you know vs devil you don’t”. The cycle of abuse =(

            1. it's me*

              The toxic boss I had when I first got out of college borderline celebrated 9/11 (I can’t remember specific details, however) because it meant the economy would tank and we’d be stuck in our jobs (in our department specifically we were hired because she thought we were all timid and fearful of being yelled at. Yada yada yada I was fired for insubordination).

        1. TootsNYC*

          right! If this is the only job you can get due to your criminal record, lack of documentation, etc., you’ll stay because you don’t think you can get a different job (you may not be wrong).

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Omg, he was slapping employees? Like, actually walking up to them and physically making bodily contact with his hand?!

        Hells nah. Something like that would have landed me in jail myself – nobody puts their damn hands on me and gets away with it.

        That said, this

        I’m really really glad he’s in prison these days.

        is a fitting end for someone so deserving.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


          I’ve seen places where a lot of things will fly but not hitting someone. Nobody will accept being hit, they will destroy the place and nobody is going to jump in to break that up.

          I’m sure he’s getting slapped around plenty in prison though.

    2. Quill*

      Pig lab from hell (my toxic job of 2 years that is, unfortunately, half of my actual resume in terms of “time actually employed” at this point) was like this.

      Owner was a bannannas man for whom facts were optional. Everyone got crazier the longer they stayed there. Recent grads preferred because anyone without student loans or with any idea what a functional laboratory was like would have run for the hills.

  31. anon4this*

    “Sorry, I’m allergic to tape. Is there anything else here appropriate to gag me with?” or just (anonymously) print out the numerous articles you will no doubt fine on teachers being fired for doing this behavior to students and leave on your boss’s desk.
    This is beyond the pale.

    1. nutella fitzgerald*

      LMAO yes. And haul out a backpack of various gags that you brought from home. “It’s fine, I brought enough to share.”

      1. Curmudgeon in California*


        Leave a catalog for professional gags on her desk? /s

        (no, she might get ideas…)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Next holiday season, I vote for someone bringing in personalized gags for everyone. I mean if you’re going to stay that is…please don’t stay but if you’re going to stay…

      1. TootsNYC*

        Get everyone their own roll of washi tape, in personalized colors. Bring them along, and when she tries to hand you a piece of her masking tape, get out your own.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Naaaa, now OP really has something here. “Hey, Boss, I wrote in to AAM about you and now millions of people world wide think you are a jerk. MILLIONS of people, boss. I think you might break a record here.”

      It is my fervent hope that one lone voice in the wilderness says, “You know I read something funny/odd on the internet the other day. Someone wrote in about a boss who tapes people’s mouths, JUST LIKE WHAT YOU DO TO US, Boss. And you know what? Hundreds of people said this is wrong. Hundreds! But even worse, Alison did not like you.”

  32. Chris*

    Leave immediately if you are able! If not, start looking for a new job immediately and quit. Your boss does not even deserve two weeks’ notice; she would probably tape your mouth for that too. This is not normal and is totally unprofessional and abusive. I have heard of bad bosses, but this just takes it down to another level.

  33. Matilda Jefferies*


    Sorry for the yelling! But my jaw actually did drop when I read the headline – and I’ve been reading AAM for years, long enough that most letters don’t really surprise me any more. But this…holy crap, OP. Please get out of there as soon as you can, and keep us posted!

  34. nutella fitzgerald*

    I wish someone would give me a piece of tape and tell me to put it over my mouth. I really do. Try it and see what happens.

      1. The Original K.*

        Mine too. Like Cedric the Entertainer in The Original Kings of Comedy. “I wish a motherf*cker would …”

  35. UbiCaritas*

    “They are required to put it over their mouths” – if someone refuses, what happens? Does she have a tantrum? Make them sit in the corner (with the dunce cap, of course?) Does she put it on herself?

    It’s difficult (understatement of the year!) for me to imagine this as a successful company. I really understand the desire to stay, at least for a while, but I’d GET OUT. There’s an excellent reason why people are advising you to RUN. And I’m really sorry, but you got this job, you will find another one.

    1. SunnySideUp*

      You raise a good point: if she runs the business this way, it cna’t possibly be effective/successful for the long term.

      OP, I’m sorry this happened your first time in a real job, but please… DO NOT STAY THERE.

    2. Just some internet rando*

      I had the same thought. What would happen if you said no?

      I think its worth trying. When she needs a “new idea” you could introduce “I have a new idea. How about if we dont tape people’e mouths shut?”

    3. misspiggy*

      It would be ideal if ‘what will happen?’ is getting fired. That gets OP out of the job quickly. OP can push for unemployment on the basis of how egregious the situation was. As the boss would be unusable as a reference anyway, OP can leave the job off her resume and restart the job search. Done and dusted!

  36. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Tomorrow morning:

    All employees troop into the conference room. Each has their own tape dispenser.
    Boss sits down, calls meeting to order.

    Boss: “So, what ideas have we come up with?”
    Employees: “We think the idea of having a strategy meeting every single morning is the dumbest thing we’ve ever heard.”

    Each employee pulls a piece of tape and passes it down to Boss.

    Employees leave conference room, collects their box of things, and leaves the building, having left their resignation letters on their desks.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh, I think we can do more here.

      s/Buy individual rolls of tape on those little clear plastic dispensers. Attach them to the end of sturdy wires and put them in vases. Distribute the bouquets to everyone’s desks.
      Use rolls of tape with or without the clear dispensers to create jewelry. These could be pins or could be hung from necklaces.
      Bring her rolls of tape for Christmas or other special occasions. Or you could string rolls of tape and make festive decorations for the workplace.

      When she questions this, tell her that you all realize your leader is very fond of tape so you are doing this to honor her and her unique style of leadership. Tell her you will always remember her and her tape.

      OP, when you hand in your resignation letter, be sure to cover it with tape. /s

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        You could make her a Valentine’s gift out of red duct tape. Like a notepad folio.

        If you were twisted like he you could make a ball gag… /s

      2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        Not So New Reader: you’re supposed to take the tab of acid AFTER you watch Martha Stewart.

        (Better yet, forget both and instead just bliss out to Bob Ross.)

  37. CC*

    My mind immediately went to Shawn from The Good Place, and how he would cocoon people who said things he didn’t like.

  38. Leslie Knope*

    I am at a loss.

    I agree that you should take a stand, but I don’t think you need to wait until you are personally asked to put tape on your mouth. The next time she asks someone, you could say “We should not be ordering employees to put tape on their mouths. It’s not appropriate for the workplace, and it could be a health and choking hazard. We could be creating real liability issues for the company.” If she pushes back (or if the other employee chooses to do it), if it was me, I would excuse myself and walk straight to HR/the grand boss/or any other manager higher up the chain than TapeBoss and say “There’s something really problematic happening that you need to know about right away.” You might consider pointing out to them that not only is this a potential health/safety issue, to the extent there’s some kind of pattern in who she orders to put tape on their mouth (i.e. it’s always women or members of a protected class), this has the potential to be a legal issue. In my experience, that approach can sometimes create urgency in HR folks/managers when needed.

    I’m only recommending this scorched-earth approach because you really should be quitting that job as soon as possible anyway, so I don’t think you should worry too much about getting pushed out. I know it’s probably much easier for someone more seasoned in their career to take a stand in this manner, but this is so outrageous, and it sounds like your new coworkers have had their sense of appropriate workplace behavior warped by this woman, and as a new employee, you can maybe inject some common sense into the situation.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        Haha, honestly that is as good advice as any. It may be that this person really needs the job, in which case it is hard to think about just quitting, but I can’t imagine staying at a place like that after seeing that.

  39. Quill*


    (did not make it past the headline, and I definitely don’t need to.)

  40. Campfire Raccoon*

    This is abuse. This woman is an abuser. Your coworkers have normalized this behavior and allowed this abuse to happen.

    Get out. Get out now.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      I agree. Also, I’ve got to wonder, how many states have laws against bullying in the workplace? This is totally a form of bullying, if not a form of assault. If your co-workers honestly had a choice, how many of them would submit to this? Is there a decent HR department, or is this one of those little companies where the only functional HR department might consist of one or two people? If there is a decent HR department, I would suggest banding together as a team and going there.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Zero states. California has a workplace bullying law for employers with 50+ employees but it doesn’t include a private right of action, just requires training.

        A 8-person company won’t have an HR dept.

        1. Anonymouse*

          Seeing an employment lawyer may still be good. Some states (I.e., California) have a policy by which a company can be held liable for an employee’s tortious conduct if they failed to investigate/discipline appropriately upon report. So, a boss or other employee who commits assault, or some other tort (civil wrong) against someone could end up putting the company at risk. Here, I would have to do some thinking about what kind of tort the taping might be—but with a creative lawyer, there may be ways to get at bullying, even if it is not discriminatory bullying.

          1. Anonymouse*

            Even if the boss “is” the company, if it is incorporated/an LLC, what have you, you might be able to get at assets by suing the company and not just a manager/owner.

            This is not legal advice.

  41. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    My boss is REALLY intolerant of bad ideas.

    Uh, no. No she’s not. Her idea of taping people’s mouths in meetings is by far the worst I’ve heard of in a long time, and she seems pretty tolerant of that one!

    I *really really really* hope you have a way of leaving asap with nothing lined up. Like, giving notice as soon as you read these comments. This is bonkers.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I had to read the first line twice because I assumed I had missed something. What’s more tolerant of a bad idea than actually executing one this abysmal?

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “Uh, no. No she’s not. Her idea of taping people’s mouths in meetings is by far the worst I’ve heard of in a long time, and she seems pretty tolerant of that one!”

      Ding ding ding ding ding!!!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This is a person who should not even be in charge of her own self, never mind be in charge of other people.

  42. Exit stage left*

    Do you have any options whatsoever? Can you try to find temp work to tide you over? This is so egregious that I agree with other commenters who’ve said to skip the two weeks notice. If you’re able to, you’d even be justified ghosting them, imo.

      1. Quill*

        Not most managers, anyway. Customers might but you don’t have to avoid reporting them to the police so they’ll sign your paycheck.

  43. Jekyllandjavert*

    You should bring a spray bottle with water in it. Next time your boss tries to get you to tape your mouth shut, spray her and say “No!”

    1. eshrai*

      I actually laughed out loud at this one. I would love to see this in action…but seriously OP…don’t do this lol.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      This made me chuckle. It’s how I handle my cats when they are having a fight.

      Have your resignation letter ready if you do this.

  44. C in the Hood*

    Get out, don’t even put this job on your resume. Don’t even look back except when you may be called upon to tell a story at happy hour.

  45. Archaeopteryx*

    This boss sounds like Michael Scott when he watched the Devil Wears Prada and took it too much to heart. Run!

    1. Ani*

      THIS!!! It DOES seem like the boss wants to be witty somehow, or has made some sort of misplaced attempt at running a creepy pre-school.

  46. Nicki Name*


    OP, this is not even on the same planet as normal. I know it sucks to have to gear up for a job hunt again, but take Alison’s advice!

  47. irene adler.*

    That tape dispenser ought to just disappear one morning.

    What kind of strategy meeting is this where folks cannot bring forth ideas -good or bad- to discover better ways of doing things?
    If the boss ends up dictating to the “taped” audience, I would daresay this is more of a “bullying” session than a “bull” session.
    Just dummy up until escape is at hand. Then hand the boss the preemptive tape as you give notice. Cuz you know she’ll just say the wrong thing when you go.

  48. iglwif*


    OP, there are very, VERY few circumstances where I would suggest leaving without finding a new job first, but this might just be one of them! Not just because your boss is an abusive wackaloon with no boundaries, but because her wackaloon, abusive “management style” has already eroded your sense of right and wrong to the point where you are considering that this behaviour might just possibly be OK, and that has the potential to be really damaging for you in the long run.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Repeat after me.
      “On a bad day, this boss will not give me a good reference.”
      “On a good day, this boss might give me a good reference.”
      Leave while you can keep it off your resume.

  49. Fikly*

    Next time your boss hands you the tape, hand it back to her and instruct her to tape her mouth shut, because that’s how terrible her idea that you need to tape your mouth shut is.

  50. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    Question 1: Is this normal? NO
    Question 2: But does that make it inherently bad? No.
    The fact that is not normal does not make it inherently bad.
    What makes it inherently bad is that the concept and execution of this concept is inherently bad.
    Humiliating people is inherently bad. Abusing power is inherently bad. Giving in to one’s own bad humor/mood is inherently bad.
    Humiliating people who work for you because you are in a bad mood is inherently bad.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      PS: Your boss has her own company because nobody would hire her/keep her. She has a staff to do the work because clients are repulsed by her. What is the average age and duration of employment at this hell hole of dysfunction?

        1. pamela voorhees*

          (that sounded sarcastic when I read it back and I want you to know that’s not my intention, I am 100% behind what you said and think you are totally correct)

    2. SunnySideUp*

      Humiliating people who work for you because you are in a bad mood is inherently bad.

      Or any mood. Humiliating people is BAD.

  51. Ani*

    Ha! About five years ago we had a complaint about one of the children’s singing-time leaders at church bringing a repurposed Windex bottle (filled with blue Gatorade apparently) to Sunday school and making the children open their mouths so she could give them a shot of “Better Singing Juice” when they forgot a verse to a song. The 3 year olds loved this, the older kids not so much. The teacher had found said idea on Pinterest and couldn’t understand why the parents of a child visiting for the first time were horrified to find their child singing “Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam” and getting a nice spray of window cleaner to the back of the throat. My guess is OP’s boss thinks she’s being sit-commy and cute.

    1. bluephone*

      Jesus Christ, everything about that is awful. I didn’t sing in choir until I was 8 but Child Me was enough of an overwrought hypochondriac to *know*–beyond the shadow of a doubt–that there was no way in Hell that Windex bottle was “washed out” well enough.
      I also didn’t start drinking Gatorade until I started running a few years ago (AS AN ADULT) and only then because I was training for longer races. I hate it though and avoid it whenever possible–especially the freakish colors like blue.
      Please tell me that teacher was fired and every parent pulled their kid out of that choir because seriously, WTEF.

    2. James*

      If your boss is getting ideas for management from Pinterest or sitcoms it’s probably time to find a new job.

      Don’t get me wrong, I get doing silly things with very young kids (I have 3 myself). After preschool, though…and you can get clean, food-grade spray bottles for like $1 at Walmart!

    3. Just some internet rando*

      What a good idea! Lets teach little kids that its a good idea to drink from a Windex bottle. (Wins award for biggest idiot ever).

    4. Campfire Raccoon*

      Sweet heyzues – how many of those kids went home and tried to drink windex? I… I’ve stalled.

    5. Berkeleyfarm*

      Yeah, boy, someone was in their personal Pinterest bubble. I am purposely NOT going to mention this story to my friend who does help run the children’s choir at our church (and has kids of her own).

      In my denomination there must be two adults with the chirren at any time, and I hope this would prevent such shenanigans from happening (although note comment about “bubble”, sometimes these people do find enablers).

  52. Adereterial*

    It’s times like this when I wish we could post gifs as comments. Because I have the ‘run away!’ scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail running in my head now, and it perfectly sums up my thought on this.

    Run. Don’t walk. Run. As fast as your legs will carry you.

    1. Scott*

      Mine would be the gif of Kramer suddenly turning around and nervously speedwalking away, checking over his shoulder about a dozen times, then breaking out into a full sprint to disappear around the corner.

      Get out while you can leave this place off your resume!!

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Mine would be “white guy blinking,” lol. It kills me every time I see it because it’s my face almost all the time when someone says or does something stupid.

    3. NW Mossy*

      I will happily supply the auditory accompaniment of coconuts clapped together to simulate hoofbeats.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      The gif with the toddler than runs up, looks, then runs away with a “noooooo” look on his face.

  53. OlympiasEpiriot*


    *insert all running-for-your-life gifs here*

  54. Lils*

    I had a grandboss who did this sort of thing–would stick a band-aid to your head to remind you that you’d done something so stupid that she was going to smack you upside your head. You had to wear the band-aid all day. It will not get better–runnnn.

    1. Granny K*

      I’d use said bandaid to tape the “I Quit” sign to his door. Seriously, how do these sickos get to be in charge of anything?

  55. Tessa Ryan*

    I have a habit of reading some of the crazier posts from this site to my coworker so we can both boggle at the insanity of them, and I have to say my jaw honestly dropped at this. Just when I think a post tops all others in terms of WTF, a new one comes along to blow my mind!! RUN, OP. Run like Doctor Who, far far far away from this place.

  56. Anon for this of course*

    Um, am I the only one who thought this sounded like the beginning of a bondage fantasy fiction? Perhaps I am overly influenced by my recent viewing of the Big Willie’s Pizza Delivery skit on SNL. Just what kind of a business is she running?
    Refuse to gag yourself, at least without some signal to use in lieu of a safeword. What, you weren’t seeking that kind of advice?

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      It sounds like a totally appropriate conversation at this work place.
      Abandon all social norms ye who enter here.

    2. Queer Earthling*

      You are not the first, but I’m an adult blogger, so this could literally happen at my job (with my consent, with my partner).

      Tip: If it looks like something that could happen at my job, there’s a good chance it’s not appropriate for yours.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      Did E Edward Grey open a new branch law firm?
      Are there red Sharpies and manual typewriters?
      Is Maggie Gyllenhall in charge of the typing pool?

  57. Keymaster of Gozer*

    She sounds like an adult version of the kids at school who’d hold your head underwater in the pool and just say it was ‘playing’.

    Because I bet she’d claim that if confronted on her ludicrous actions. “It’s just a bit of fun! I don’t put the tape on myself!”.

    Leave now. Before she decides to escalate her actions.

    1. iglwif*

      Because I bet she’d claim that if confronted on her ludicrous actions. “It’s just a bit of fun! I don’t put the tape on myself!”.

      And she would think that makes it better, when in fact it makes it worse: Her staff are so afraid of her, and/or their judgement has been so warped by her “management style”, that they’re willing to do it to themselves.

      After all, if making people tape their mouths shut is how she behaves on a regular day, who knows what might happen if someone made her mad?

  58. TootsNYC*

    don’t say “I’m not going to contribute for the rest of the meeting.”

    Say, “I won’t give you anymore ideas for the rest of the meeting.”

    Because holy cow, she’s losing out on ideas!

    And print out some story about brainstorming that says, “when you are brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea, and even bad ideas are worth exploring because sometimes they lead to really good ideas.”

  59. Laura H.*

    The only good thing is that boss isn’t directly taping the employees’ lips closed. Still not great. Dust off the resume.

  60. RS*

    If nothing else can be done yet, get all your coworkers to join you in taping all your mouths as you walk in. There’s no reason to participate in these meetings if your participation is actively not wanted.

    1. XtinaLyn*

      “If nothing else can be done yet, get all your coworkers to join you in taping all your mouths as you walk in.”

      I’m going to counter your suggestion, and say, “If nothing else can be done yet, get all your coworkers to join you in taping all your mouths as you walk OUT.”

  61. SubwayFan*

    Get out. But please first have one more meeting where if you are handed tape, you can say, “Um, thanks,” and then tape it to the table or a random piece of paper. Or sell this story to a sitcom.

  62. Anon2*

    I know it’s a small company, but is there someone higher than the boss/who does HR tasks she can talk to? If answer no, time to leave, if answer yes, tiny chance they complain and boss is fired and they can stay.

  63. iglwif*

    Even just having a 30- to 45-minute “strategy” meeting EVERY DAY suggests that this is not going to be a successful business. Add in this horrific and bizarre mouth-taping thing and it just sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen.

    1. Jubilance*

      That stood out to me too. “Strategy” and “30-45min daily meetings” do not go together. Sounds like the boss does not actually know what that word means. It’s probably on her calendar as “time to berate my team”.

    2. ArtK*

      I’d like to hear from the LW about what sorts of things get discussed. What is the expected outcome for the meetings? Do they discuss status? If new ideas are expected at each meeting, how are things prioritized? Do they drop everything and work on something new?

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      > Add in this horrific and bizarre mouth-taping thing and it just sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen.

      That should read “train wreck in progress”, IMO

  64. Fireworks*

    From the headline alone, all I could hear in my head was Joey from friends telling this boss:

    “Over the line? You’re so far past the line that you can’t even see the line! The line is a dot to you!”

  65. The Original K.*

    This is not normal and you should leave as soon as you can, with no notice. Register with all the temp agencies where you are; if you have a car, maybe drive for Uber and Lyft and/or do courier work just to tide you over, but you should not stay in your current job a second longer than you have to, because your boss is an abusive lunatic.

  66. tinybutfierce*

    My jaw literally dropped reading this. OP, please find another job if you’re able. This is just so absurdly beyond the pale of “okay” or “normal”.

  67. Ms.Vader*

    So, start job searching and leave this off your resume. This is important because what you have to do is the next time the tape comes out, when your boss says or does something stupid, hand her the tape and tell her to follow suit. It is only fair. Probably wait till your last day to do that.

  68. Mop.*

    I know that huge corporations aren’t perfect, but these letters often make me glad that I work for one. And that we have guidelines and policies and escalation paths. And no sink-peeing, mouth-taping managers.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yet huge corporations still have these kind of people within them. People still keep their heads down and take abuse every single day, despite having guidelines and policies.

      Look at all those places with corrupt and inept people everywhere, including HR and C-Suite.

      1. Allypopx*

        Mhm. And badly written policies and overly tedious and redundant escalation paths can make it very difficult to a) report things, b) get things that are reported addressed, and c) get someone removed from any position ever, even if things like this are happening.

        Systems of all shapes and sizes have ways that they fail.

  69. Beth*

    Holy fork, we already have a winner for the Worst Boss of 2020. I hope. The thought that someone could outdo this monster is the only thing more terrible than the letter.

  70. blink14*

    No. NO. This wrong on a variety of levels, and neither you or your co-workers have to do this. Who does she think she is?!

    Next time it happens, take a stand. And start looking for a new job immediately!

  71. almost empty nester*

    Not a small chance in hell would I ever allow my boss to tell me to actually place a piece of tape on my face. Not ever. In fact the look on my face would probably give away the fact that there’s not one thing ever that would entice me to actually put tape on my face. Nope.

  72. QuinleyThorne*

    OP, leave yesterday. I’m serious.

    When interviewing, telling the interviewer it “was not the right culture fit for me” is absolutely sufficient.

  73. 3DogNight*

    “My issue with this is that enforcement of the rule seems arbitrary” You have already normalized this behavior. You need to get out. Your issue should be that it happens, period. As others have noted, this is abuse. Consult an attorney, certainly, but get out.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah there is no “enforcement” of this rule that is not cruel and malicious, even if it was somehow (I have no idea how) applied fairly.

  74. Betsy Bobbins*

    You know what stops the flow of good ideas coming? Shaming someone for a “bad idea”. Who’s going to suggest something really unique and edgy if they run the risk of having to do something humiliating. This system encourages safe and boring ideas, nothing cool or interesting will come from these meetings, but maybe that is her intent.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I assume she doesn’t actually want any ideas at all. Which makes you wonder why she bothers to have daily meetings asking for what she doesn’t want.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Probably she read in some “How to Manage Like A Pro” book that the “daily strategy meeting” was how all the unicorns did it and were successful, so she’s cargo-culting it with her own bizarre twist.

  75. Senor Montoya*

    While you are looking for a new job, OP, I would not offer any ideas whatsoever in these so-called strategy meetings. If you are forced to say something, I advise having several of your boss’s own ideas ready to go: “I really like your X idea, Karen, it solve the Y problem”

    And do NOT put tape on your mouth.

    Be aware that not taping your mouth may get you fired, because your boss is both a terrible boss and a terrible person.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This is where I’m at – I wouldn’t participate at all in these meetings. She could go and kick rocks.

  76. Observer*

    My issue with this is that enforcement of the rule seems arbitrary.

    That is actually the LEAST of your problems. The fact that you think that being consistent and “fair” about this would somehow make it ok worries me. Would you be ok if she actually slapped people? But did it “consistently and fairly”? Or used a well known slur?

    Is this normal? I’m thinking not. But does that make it inherently bad?

    Someone else addressed this better than I could. I just want to reiterate that this is NOT normal. And it is absolutely terrible regardless.

    Other than this idiosyncrasy, it is mostly a great job and she is, for the most part, a good boss.

    No, she is not a good boss in any respect. Even if it were “just” about the taping, it would be a problem – this is abuse plain and simple and an abuser is BY DEFINITION *not* a good boss! But it’s not just that. Look at what you’ve described:

    DAILY meetings that run 35-40 minutes
    “Really intolerant” of “bad” idea
    Let’s her mood unduly affect her behavior (ie gets even MORE abusive when she’s in a bad mood)
    Is “kind of scary”

    Every single one of these is bad on its own. Together?

    Please find yourself a new job NOW. If it is at all possible, quite right away.

    1. Viette*

      Yeah, the “this is mostly a great job and she is mostly a good boss” part reminds me of nothing more than friends in college telling me why their crappy boyfriend/girlfriend was mostly good. No! Their standards were bad, and I was always struggling to keep myself from saying, “why are you telling me this is normal? Are you seriously implying that you think *I* would/should put up with that?” OP’s standards are currently not up to par, and she can’t let this cement them. This is not mostly a good job! This is not mostly a good boss! OP is telling herself that because OP doesn’t know what a good boss is like, because she has never had one.

      Not to be mean, but OP: do you seriously think the rest of us are out here putting up with sh*t like this on the day to day? We are not! Leave and find a good boss and learn what that’s like.

    1. Allypopx*

      I feel like I’ve never seen Alison write “if this is real” in a letter before, but I see how this is one we’d all just like to pretend is not real.


      I believe it. I feel like I know this personality type and I can see this happening. Especially if the team is mostly young/inexperienced and there’s a lot of turnover.

  77. Dee Ann*

    “She keeps a tape dispenser on the table by her chair and whenever someone suggests something that she thinks is dumb, she will peel off a piece of masking tape and pass it to them, at which point they are required to put it over their mouths so they cannot contribute any more “bad” ideas for the rest of the meeting.” If the tape is passed to you, wad it up and get up and throw it in the trash without saying a word, looking her straight in the eye the whole time. And when you leave (not if, you need to leave ASAP), Glassdoor is made for things like this.

  78. Zap R.*

    I have to assume you are trolling for the sake of my own sanity but on the off-chance this is true, HOLY CANNOLI THIS IS NOT NORMAL AND YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THERE.

  79. Fiddlesticks*

    And I think we found our 2020 Worst Boss of the Year… and it’s only February 4!!

    Wow, just wow.

  80. Jubilance*

    OP, I know this is your first “real” job…but you need to get out of there, and fast. That is dysfunction with a capital D.

  81. RB*

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have another contender! You know, for worst boss of the year list. There was a real doozy back in January, but I forget the details. When I saw this headline, I was hoping it was going to be duct tape because that would be truly awful but this is still on that same level of awful, just not as injurious.

  82. Third or Nothing!*

    Ah, yet another instance where I wish I had the ability to insert a gif, because words cannot accurately convey my reaction.

    So please imagine the Tracy Morgan gif where he is emphatically saying “no” multiple times while sitting in a car.

  83. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    What I don’t understand is how are people still getting their mouths taped? After the first time it happened to me I would never again open my mouth to propose ANY idea! That’s what happens when you punish people (or animals) for good faith trying—they eventually just shut down altogether. I can’t believe some people still bang their head against the wall and keep trying.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      See “otherwise a good boss” like most abusers they switch between abuse and extra nice. Sane people have scripts for “be nice to people who are nice to me”, “people are more good than bad”, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” and “everyone has bad moods once in a while.” Abusers take advantage of those scripts, as long as they are nice sometimes they know we will have difficulty defining them as a “bad person.”

    2. Naomi*

      It wouldn’t help. I had a teacher once who got annoyed at students who gave wrong answers in class. Naturally we stopped volunteering answers, so then the teacher got angry at everyone for not participating. You can’t win.

  84. Buttons*

    This is one of the most shocking things I have ever heard a boss do. If she was attempting to hand me a piece of tape I would refuse to put it on. A teacher wouldn’t get away with doing this to a child in school I certainly will not allow someone to tell me I can’t speak. JFC this is awful. Get out of there.

  85. Oh No She Di'int*

    LW, I couldn’t help but notice that the reason you brought this situation up was not that this outrageous practice is occurring, but simply that it’s being enforced arbitrarily. I’m sure that Alison’s response and all the comments have made it abundantly clear that the arbritrariness is not the issue here; it’s obviously the fact that it’s happening at all.

    This makes me think that a lot of other bizarre and abusive practices may be going on and that your sense of what’s normal in a work environment may already be warped–both for you and your coworkers. Not only should you get out of this environment, but I hope that you are not set up for a different form of abuse in some other workplace. Note that WHEREVER you work, you have an inalienable right to your dignity and safety.

  86. AnonyMouse*

    Cosigning on anyone recommending that this be a Worst Boss contender for the year.

    To the OP:
    you are working in a toxic work environment if this is somehow “normalized” in your workplace. Get out of there quickly before you let something like this warp your perception of what is normal in the workplace.
    Someone who should have left a lot of toxic workplaces sooner than I did and is now dealing with the repercussions of that…

  87. RCB*

    This is where being new comes in handy, you can totally play dumb while really making a point. If you are ever asked to duct tape your mouth you’d reply, shocked “Oh! This is really a thing? I assumed by the sheer stupidity of the idea that you were all just joking because obviously this is WAY outside the norms of acceptability and of course I am not going to duct tape my mouth shut!” and just sit there in the awkward silence that follows to demonstrate that you are dead serious. Let her try to discipline or fire you for not letting you duct tape your mouth shut, she’ll have fun defending that position.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      If she’s the owner of the company, she won’t have to defend that decision to anyone but herself.

  88. ChemistryChick*

    What in the actual seven levels of h-e-double hockey sticks.

    Adding to the “this is not normal in any way, shape, or form, get out now” responses. Your boss is awful.

  89. Allypopx*

    OP: I don’t know if you’re reading the comments and I’m sure this response is overwhelming! But we’d love an update, when you have one. Good luck! First jobs are hard – landing in this kind of situation is even harder. Someday this will be a hilarious/horrifying anecdote you tell at parties.

  90. bluephone*

    See this is absolutely one of those “companies” that should be sold off, broken into smaller pieces, sold off again, and the boss should be legally banned from ever owning a company/having people work for them again. Jesus H. McGee

  91. RB*

    I’m good at making up excuses on the spot, so I might have said something like, Oh, my lips are really chapped today so I’m not going to do that, or Oh, I just put on lipstick and I don’t want it smeared all over the place. But when you’re flabbergasted and reacting in the moment, it’s hard to do that.

    1. Allypopx*

      I would definitely be like “I don’t want to mess up my lipstick” when I’m clearly not wearing lipstick. Fight ridiculous with ridiculous.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        Alternatively, I have some very purple lipstick from a Yzma costume that would fit the ridiculous theme quite nicely.

      2. rigger42*

        I feel like someone needs to say ‘this is crazy…you know this is humiliating and shuts down ANY suggestions, right?’ To see if anyone else stands up to her as well, or she just has a meltdown. Of course, you have to be prepared for firing, but I don’t think that’s a negative.

  92. Matt*

    What the actual heck? Yeah, this is beyond ridiculous. If you haven’t gone to HR over this, totally do that, and get ready to get out of there ASAP.

    1. NW Mossy*

      Or this other classic from Alison’s roundup of quitting stories:

      “he found a memo on his chair saying something like ‘I’d like to remind y’all that technically your working hours are 8-5, and that you really should be here as close to that as possible blah blah blah.’ He raised his elegant eyebrows, said in a not overly loud but very clear tone of voice, ‘Oh, I can’t deal with that,’ delicately put the memo back on the chair, and walked out, never to be seen again.”

      1. RB*

        Oh, yes, that was my favorite from the list of quitting stories. There is just something so satisfying about it. That and the one that involved setting fire to documents out in the woods. Good times!

  93. Budgie Buddy*

    Glances down at Toxic Workplace Bingo Card
    So we’ve got:
    – new to the workforce
    – Daily Meetings
    – it’s just “idiosyncrasies”
    – everyone else seems “fine with it”
    – my problem this “feels arbitrary”
    – other than that “a great workplace”
    – boss is “kinda scary”

    Yup that looks like a bingo! OP, you are officially justified in finding this situation toxic.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, there are so many reed flags here. You are not crazy OP. This is messed up. Get out.

  94. Chronic Overthinker*

    Yikes! When i saw the headline I made this face. O.o

    OP this is not normal procedure for a professional office, no matter how innocent it might seem. Just because no one has spoken up doesn’t mean it is permissible. Do yourself a favor and find another job. Even if the money is good; this is a toxic environment.

  95. Prefers to nap with cats*

    GET OUT NOW!!!! OMFG you should all just up and leave immediately. This is crushing treatment – no one deserves this.

  96. Anya the Demon*

    Oh wow. This is seriously twisted and NOT normal at all. Please start looking for another job. Any manager who thinks this is acceptable and funny is not a good person, and this is a very dysfunctional work environment.

  97. TeapotNinja*

    Steal the tape before the next meeting.

    Or stay late one evening, steal the tape, and tape her office shut.

    1. PMP*

      How about, stay late one night until everyone has left, spend the night covering everything in her office in masking tape. write “this job was a bad idea” in Sharpie on the tape and don’t ever come back?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        That….would actually be the most amazing quitting story. Seriously. It would be legendary in that field when word got out.

  98. Jedi Squirrel*

    it is mostly a great job and she is, for the most part, a good boss

    This one line is in complete opposition to everything else LW wrote in their letter. This is NOT a great job and LW’s boss is NOT a great boss. This organization is a dumpster fire and the boss is a tyrant.

    I have never wanted to burn a place to the ground so badly. Everything here is just wrong.

  99. AKchic*

    Time for protesting. Bring a sharpie and write on the tape before covering your mouth. “This is A B U S I V E” or any kind of resistance slogan. Even “juvenile and pointless”.

    I know we’re not supposed to automatically say “run”, but seriously, run.

  100. A_Jessica*

    Start job hunting yesterday.
    Once you have an offer you have an option to start protesting because what are they going to do fire you?
    (I wouldn’t worry about a reference from the person taping peoples mouths shut.)
    or you can just bail, and frankly between You, Me, & the wall I wouldn’t give two weeks I’d just email my resignation starting that day.

  101. whoknows*

    Can this not be classified as abuse? Isn’t this harassment? It’s severe and pervasive, isn’t it? This is insane.

  102. Salsa Your Face*

    Beyond everything else that’s incredibly, disgustingly wrong here, the boss’s entire ideology around “bad ideas” is massively messed up. When you start shutting down creativity like that, no one is going to speak up unless they’re absolutely certain that their idea will be received well, which means you only end up with stale old ideas that have been used a thousand times before. You MUST let bad ideas into the mix if you’re going to get to anything new. Consider everything, then keep what works, get rid of what doesn’t, and tweak the details as needed. The ideas are just ideas. Their existence isn’t hurting anyone.

    1. Sacred Ground*

      Also, I’m pretty sure it’s pointless to expect everyone to come up with a good new idea every day.

  103. Mill Miker*

    I have a sore spot for any time management starts implying staff need to “Sit down, shut up, and do as their told”, but this goes beyond “Implying” and straight to “So explicit if physically manifests as a living metaphor”

    Not normal, not good.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Me too.

      Disagreement when in the planning/strategizing phase is essential for thinking things through – I’m talking about pro/con lists, stuff like that.

      I actually get nervous when my management says “Just do X”, without a reason given or opportunity to ask questions. I make a lousy mushroom.

  104. Coffee Owlccountant*

    HOLY FORK. I saw the headline and then closed my eyes and opened them again and it was still the same headline and my withered soul died a little more.

    OP, this is not normal and it is NOT okay and this is NOT your first “real job”. If you are able to (and we fully understand that sometimes you are not able to), absolutely quit immediately, leave this off your resume entirely, and start over. The likelihood that you are going to develop really bad ideas about what the relationship between bosses and employees should be and bad habits due to going into work AFRAID OF YOUR BOSS every day way, way, way outstrips any potential gains you might find working for this boss.

    There are better jobs and better humans out there, OP. Leave this one in your fabulous dust. We’re rooting for you!

  105. Run Away!!*

    OP, run. If it is possible to leave without something lined up, do it. You are a recent graduate and the resume gap would be acceptable.

    I worked at a non-profit right after college where the Executive Director/founder of the organization was extremely verbally abusive and narcissistic. Her partner was basically second in command, and another relative of hers worked as a staff member (he engaged in harassment towards women, cursing coworkers out in front of clients, using homophobic slurs etc). While she did not tape our mouths shut, I could see her thinking it was an effective strategy for managing her employees. She did constantly shut us down, scream at us, accuse us of not caring about the clients (who were frankly the only reason most of us stayed there in the first place) and blamed all of the dysfunction on us rather than management and the org’s leadership.

    I stayed on because I cared about the clients, I wanted to work in the specific field, and probably because I was in some level of denial and planned to stay as long as I needed to in order to get a better job elsewhere in the field. But none of these reasons were worth my literal sanity and sense of self. I still have intense anxiety and distress over what I went through at the job.

    Also, at least in non-profits, I see a strong correlation between abusive EDs and unethical/at the very least shady behavior. There are ways that they made me do my job that felt uncomfortable at the time and in retrospect were terrible practices. When someone prioritizes the power that they have in their organization over fostering a mutually supportive environment where employees are able to grow and succeed, their desire for power and recognition over quality and relationships will seep into the actual services the organization performs.

    It seems like LW’s work is very different from my old job in terms of the environment and industry, but when a boss throws basic human decency out the window and governs through humiliation, I am wondering what the organization’s reputation is and what other inappropriate practices are accepted as the norm there. I found out when issues became apparent at my job that although my boss seemed accomplished in the field, the organization had a reputation for dysfunction and the boss specifically was known as a cruel authoritarian, so think about how that reputation might affect you by extension if you stay there too long. As Alison said here, you are learning bad habits and at the very least, a workplace where sharing ideas is so strongly discouraged does not bode well in the long run. Good luck.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I had a verbally abusive boss like this too. But verbal trash talk is a long way in my mind from physically touching or applying something on the body like this.

      1. Run Away!!*

        Oh of course, I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear from my comment! My intention was more that my experience with a verbally abusive boss was so awful and had a lasting impact so in this taping situation, which is clearly even more extreme, the impacts on the LW will likely be even worse.

    2. Jan*

      Ah yes, that “I’m the only one who cares” type of boss. I’ve worked for someone like that, and frankly people like that are just hypocrites. They lecture you about “kindness” and “humanity” but don’t practise what they preach by being kind or humanitarian to you!

  106. Meepmeep*

    I’d take out my phone and snap some pix next time Boss asked anyone to do this. Then forward the pix to an employment lawyer. I’m sure any employment lawyer would thank you profusely for bringing them such a juicy case.

  107. Colorado*

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this at your first job out of college! This is so not normal and me in my crusty, late 40’s would seriously look this person in the eye and say a big “f*ck you” to them and walk out the door. Do not tolerate this kind of bullshit.

  108. Keyboard Cowboy*

    How does this even start? I’m trying to imagine the inception of this behavior and not coming up with much. The most plausible think I could think of was a sort of sarcasm-filled interaction:

    Employee: “Hah, well, why don’t we just shut off the gravity then?”
    Boss, rolling their eyes: “Ohhhh my goddd stop!” *hands a piece of tape*

    But I don’t see how it’s possible for that to transition into…this?!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      She’s not using force, they can get up and walk away technically. If she was holding them down and doing it, that’s assault.

      This is degrading, being degrading sadly isn’t illegal unless it’s linked to discrimination. Which this is an equal opportunity jerk situation it sounds like, she’s a tyrant to everyone.

  109. Falling Diphthong*

    Humans can truly adapt to just about anything and come to see it as the norm.

    Previously best exemplified with the “Everyone thinks it’s normal that I bit the office manager” letter.

  110. Nee Attitude*

    A boss like this makes it very easy for someone to eventually see their coworkers as enemies. There’s a reason why this boss has persisted in these abusive rituals for so long; they work to keep people loyal to the boss and disloyal to each other. If the boss can convince you to tape your mouth shut when you have a “bad idea“, that’s gonna make it much easier in the future to convince you to do even more outlandish/self-destructive things. This is how abusers operate.

  111. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Make sure to write a Glassdoor review after you leave (or maybe even before), and include everything you wrote here.

    1. Run Away!!*

      Yes this is a good idea though because there are 8 employees I would be concerned about a defamation lawsuit (I’m not saying it would be a legitimate case because she literally did make them put tape on their mouths). I would wait until some time passes after the OP leaves and then make sure the review is factual without exaggeration- for example, “during our daily meetings, the boss instructed everyone who suggested an idea that she disagreed with to put tape on their mouth which the other employees would comply with. This discouraged me from sharing ideas and creating a hostile power dynamic between the boss and employees. Additionally…”

      I wrote a negative review 6 months after I left my job, and fortunately by that time a number of other coworkers who left or were fired shared similar experiences on Glassdoor. At the time I was hired, there was only one negative review and it essentially stated, “the executive directive is completely crazy” and didn’t go into any specifics so it seemed like it could have come from a disgruntled ex employee who had personal beef with her. So specifics are helpful to everyone, and I would frankly want to know specifically that the boss forced employees to put tape over their mouths during meetings because that is just so beyond the pale or normal behavior that I can’t imagine how you’d convey the severity of the boss’ inappropriate behavior without stating directly what she did.

  112. CommanderBanana*

    I’d be so tempted to slowly eat the tape while making eye contact with her the entire time.

    Quit. This is bananacakes.

  113. Jenna*

    I don’t know if this has been suggested already but in the meantime, before you quit, would it be an idea to smear lots of creme on your lips? It should make the tape very hard to stick to your lips. Alternatively, make little sculptures with the tape, you know, make a circle with the first one, then presumeably you get handed another one which you then stick to the first one and so on. (Maybe even use your coworkers’ pieces when/if they get handed your way)

  114. Sleve McDichael*

    If it’s a first job, do you have an employment gap before it? Because if so, you can leave it off your resume if you fear a bad reference. Heck, even if you had other jobs, if you were in retail or something before this a gap would still be ok. Or if you’ve only been there a couple of months. Don’t stay for fear of your reference. Good luck and best wishes in your escape!

  115. the Viking Diva*

    Alison, I bow to your ability to title a post. Not a whiff of exaggeration is needed; with pure – dare I say *perfect* – factual accuracy, you allow the outrageousness of the letter writer’s situation to speak for itself. You are the doyenne of deadpan, the sultan of subtlety, the overlord of understatement. All props!

  116. MissDisplaced*

    Getting taped is terrible and not normal OP!
    I’ve never, in all my 30+ years of working had this kind of thing happen (and believe me, I’ve worked at some pretty effdup places). I simply cannot understand why no one has stood up to this kind of treatment? Because there is like NO way I would allow someone to touch me or tape my mouth shut in punishment—I think I’d hit her.

    When I first read the title, I thought perhaps this was a voluntary thing to concentrate and/or some weird type of problem solving exercise (which would still be demeaning but maybe serves as a learning function—maybe). But done as punishment? Nope!

  117. Granny K*

    Is there ever a situation where ghosting a job is justified? I think this letter answers that question.

  118. Someone*

    It’s a little early in the year for the worst boss of 2020 to be picked isnt it? Maybe we should make an exception…

  119. L.T.*

    I read the caption as her actually taking the tape and putting it on your coworkers’ faces herself, rather than handing it to them and expecting them to tape their own mouths shut. Either way, WTF.

    I wouldn’t say this is the WORST boss we’ve seen on AAM, but let’s start up the roster for WEIRDEST bosses of 2020!

  120. Curmudgeon in California*

    When you are ready to leave, and your boss has one of those meetings and hands you a piece of tape, tape your resignation letter to the wall and walk out of the meeting.

    Seriously, that is disturbing.

  121. Not So NewReader*

    Please send us an update, OP. If she thinks it’s okay to expose a new person to this, there are other things going on also. For your own well-being, just leave.

    1. RB*

      Yeah, I sorta felt like this year was getting off to an ominous start when we had the dunce cap letter and the “I want my employee to adopt a less ethnic-sounding name” both in the same month.

  122. Autumn*

    Yeah, not normal or appropriate to do to anyone.

    What is with control freaks and taping mouths? When I was in a daycare as a kid, the tornado siren went off and the lady running the daycare taped all of our mouths before having us move to shelter. I distinctly remember the shiver of “this ain’t right” and feeling she was dangerous/not to be trusted after that. I got the same vibe reading about your boss (if she does that with “dumb ideas”, what will she do if a whistle needs blown on a problem? Even aside from killing creativity to build upon a “dumb idea” that’s just a really dangerous censorship mindset for a leader) but I’m old enough now to have the vocabulary to say “this is not ok, and I will not accept this”

  123. Brazilian Hobbit*

    Whaaat! I had to pick up my jaw off the floor before typing this. This is so NOT NORMAL and NOT OKAY. I’m with Alison, I can’t possibly imagine this person being a good manager outside this bizarre, outrageous and humiliating habit. What happens if you don’t put on the tape? This is… nope, I’m out of words. Seriously, someone needs to put a stop to that, hopefully as a group. Is there HR? Someone above her? I know people don’t like going to HR, but it’s in their best interest to stop this madness before someone files a lawsuit, or something of the sort. I mean, that’s not why this has to stop, but this angle might work with them. I would hope people would push back as a group, because this is so completely out of any possible norm. I can’t, I don’t even know what to say.

  124. From That Guy*

    I cannot say it strongly enough, leave that job now. Do not go back in. If you have enough money for next months rent, your car payment and groceries, do not go back in. What us old timers are saying is that you will pick up habits that become ingrained. You are dealing with a seriously deranged individual who will suck the life out of you. GTFO NOW!

    Good luck and best wishes.

  125. CM*

    I agree that the OP should leave this situation, but I also think the OP should publicly resist it, for the sake of the coworkers who aren’t speaking up. Even if all that happens is that they watch the OP tell the boss this is stupid before the OP gets fired, at least they know that people coming in from the outside don’t support what’s happening or think that it’s normal or okay.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I agree. But it can be hard to be the ONLY one who stands up or pushes back and says something.

      You have to be ready to leave that instant.

    1. Elan Morin Tedronai*

      When I see a post like this, I always try to respond as though it’s real for these reasons:
      1) Calling the post out as fake will only cause momentary disappointment to a troll, but if it’s a real case on the other end I might cause long-term damage, especially if this person is at the end of their rope;

      2) Instead of using mental energy in analysing whether or not an account is fake, I can use the same mental energy in trying to find a way to help this person out, or applying Alison’s and the commentariot’s strategies to my own situation, should I need to;

      3) Fact is always stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense. – paraphrased from Mark Twain.

  126. Cats and dogs*

    Can you just not speak at all in these meetings while you job search every waking non-work minute?

  127. Random IT Guy*

    This is so extremely bizarre, that I almost need this to be fake.
    A ‘what if’ scenario or someone just making up bad ideas to test ‘exit strategies’..

    So, please tell me – this is one of those, right?
    I`m not sure people like that should be out unsupervised, and have any kind of power at all.

  128. JM in England*

    Late to the party but remember reading a few years back about a teacher who got disciplined then fired afterr taping shut the mouths of their entire class when they wouldn’t stop talking….

  129. Doctor Schmoctor*

    If this happened to me, I would look at her and say “are you insane?” I would probably do that if it happened to someone else. And when she fires me, I will gladly leave, and share the whole story on twitter.

  130. SlenderFluid*

    Ah, just saw this was posted yesterday, and I was about to say ‘Welcome back, WTF Wednesday!’ That having been said, it’s got the legs to carry itself over at least into the next day.
    I had a teacher who used to do this when anyone was persistently noisy, but that was back in the 1960s and we were about 8, and thought it was great fun. I think 50-odd years ago is about where it belongs, if ever, and only then if you’re happy to give the message that you don’t regard those you’re dealing with as people.

  131. Melanie*

    Quite early in the year, but I think we already have our worst boss of 2020! This is totally crazy and, as Allison alluded to, borderline abusive. No, not borderline. Absolutely abusive. If my boss approached me with tape to put over my mouth, I would get up and walk out to prevent myself from slapping it out of his/her hand.

  132. Chigrrl*

    Maybe the OP who can’t keep her child quiet should try the tape on the mouth approach.

    But seriously, the people who think that childcare is something that is ok to do during the workday are the ones who ruin remote working for everyone. There is no possible way to watch a child and not be distracted from your PAYING job. This has happened at several of my jobs and remote working was restricted for all because of parents combining childcare with their workday. If the child is disturbing the call audience, it is certainly going to disturb OP when she should be doing work related tasks. It’s not about mitigating noise, it’s about expecting employees to be “present” when they are supposed to be.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      One, not really relevant to /this/ letter. Two, probably don’t make that suggestion even as a joke.

  133. Database Developer Dude*

    She passes them a piece of tape, and they ‘re ‘required’ to cover their mouths? Uh, yeah. NO is a complete sentence.

    That boss deserves a pile on.

  134. WantonSeedStitch*

    Boy, it seems really early in the year to already have a contender for Worst Boss of the Year. I wonder if the OP and their team also get penalized at review time if they don’t speak up and contribute enough ideas proactively.

  135. Jessica Ganschen*

    This is the kind of stuff that my physically/emotionally abusive mother would do to me and my siblings when we were children. It’s definitely equally unacceptable coming from your boss in a work environment.

  136. DarnTheMan*

    OP, if I didn’t know any better, I would say you work for my former toxic!job. My time there (after the first few months of being the boss’ darling) started with one of my bosses yanking my pen out of my hands in team meetings because she didn’t like that I took so many notes and ended with gaslighting, verbal abuse and near constant panic attacks. I’m not normally one to advocate for leaving a job without something else lined up but especially since you’re so early in your career – if taping mouths shut is an accepted office norm, I’d say get out now and don’t look back.

  137. SleepyBri*

    This is wild. Not normal behavior and you should see this as the biggest red flag ever. Like, banner sized. Or bigger even.

  138. Anonny*

    I assumed this was gonna be boss putting duct tape over peoples’ mouths, but the fact that they put a bit of masking tape over their mouth when instructed is just… creepy. Like one of the things in the setup phase of a mindf*ck horror film.

  139. Hedgehug*

    Your coworkers have Stockholm Syndrome. This behaviour seems insane and inappropriate to you, because it is, and you have not numbed yourself to it yet.
    Start a revolution, save your coworkers, then get out of the burning building with a smile on your face.

  140. Jaymo2000*

    At this point there are almost 700 comments, so I’m sure I’m not adding new. I worked for a company that was not very forward thinking, and for a boss who didn’t really like ideas that weren’t his. But even there, he followed well-developed brain-storming procedures—no idea is a bad idea, don’t censor yourself or others, etc. I can’t say how poorly this boss behaved.

  141. Ya Snooze Ya Lose*

    I think I would pull out my phone and film this, then head to the police department and file assault charges.

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