update: my boss makes me wear her clothes, eat her food, and say I’m grateful for my job

Remember the letter-writer whose boss made her wear the boss’s clothes, eat the boss’s food, and say she was grateful for her job? Here’s the update.

First of all, I want to thank you and your readers for all the wonderful advice. I’m fairly new to the professional workforce and that, coupled with ADHD and anxiety led to me believing this environment was normal and I was just a failure for being overwhelmed and stressed. I am especially grateful for the readers who reached out with offers to point me in the direction of support groups for abusive bosses or offers to help me find another job. Really, it truly meant the world to me. Also, I’m not sure my mother quite believed how difficult my job situation was, but once I sent her the link to your website, she agreed that I needed to start looking for a new job.

Long story short, I quit my job.

To clear up some speculation from my original post, I worked at an Art Gallery. Apparently it is a field full of “eccentric” rich people who have enough extra money to fund artists and buy expensive art, and then run these businesses however they choose. I’ve heard stories from many of my peers working similar jobs and it has just solidified the fact that I do not belong in that field.

I stuck it out through the end of the year for one reason only. One of my job responsibilities was creating all the promotional material for the gallery, and I discovered I have a real affinity for graphic design. Along with basic print/web promotion, the gallery also self-publishes a yearly magazine and calendar. On top of that, this past summer the gallery received commission requests for two books, all for which I was the sole graphic designer. I was waiting for those two books to go to the printer, and my plan was to start looking for a job in graphic design as soon as we received the books. Once I had made that plan, I was able to compartmentalize her quirks and unreasonable requests as there was an end in sight.

There were also a few drastic changes shortly after I wrote to you. When I first sent the letter, the second assistant “Sansa,” was a mild-mannered, foreign exchange student who, more or less, went along with my boss’s demands. But she left and was replaced by “Arya,” who was much more headstrong. Arya actually spoke up and challenged my boss when she felt boss was being unreasonable and was quick to push back on decisions she didn’t agree with. Almost immediately, she and boss butted heads, continuously. These conflicts actually enabled me to kind of keep my head down and fly under the radar, while I was finishing up those design projects. Then, Arya rage quit in April. I don’t remember the exact straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was a long time coming.

Shortly after that, Boss had some personal issues that took her out of the office most days. Therefore I was able to just do my work without her breathing down my neck. I was much more efficient when I was able to just send her my work, she’d send me edits and I’d make the corrections. I think she noticed that too, because she scaled way back on micromanaging. Also, inspired by Arya, I began standing up for myself as far as the food and clothes were concerned. I’d politely decline any request I wasn’t comfortable with, and then hold firm in my refusal. She’d still accuse me of not being grateful on occasion, when that happened, I’d reaffirm that I am happy to have this opportunity and she would go mutter to herself about how nobody appreciated her.

Things improved for a little while, but in the fall, it all went downhill again.

At one point, she zeroed in on the fact that I like onion and pepper in my salad. She told me I could no longer have those with my lunch, because it wasn’t “ladylike.” I countered by brushing my teeth after eating and bringing gum, in case my breath was offensive. She still didn’t like it and used to make comments such as “nobody will want to kiss you if you eat onions.”….. Cool?

She set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.

I got yelled at for a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others. Some of the most ridiculous were:

  • Her smart TV at her home (to which I had never been) stopped working.
  • An Amazon package had not arrived yet.
  • It was raining outside.

I did make some mistakes, but I’m pretty sure it was the rain incident that made me realize I had to get out of there.

Another problem was she had not hired someone to replace Arya, as I’d been able to pick up the slack of both positions. As a professional courtesy, I did not want to leave without her hiring at least one other person. I kept asking when we were going to put up a posting for the second assistant job, she kept dodging the subject and then finally said “Well, you seem to be handling all the work fine.”

I informed her mid-November that I would be leaving at the end of the year, giving her a month’s notice. I had registered for a full-time accelerated Graphic Design Course that started in January plus I’d pick up some freelance design/photography work. She took the news surprisingly well, but spent the next month making off-handed comments about how I would regret this decision and passing up such a great opportunity, etc. With an end in sight, I was mostly able to tune it out. She put off hiring a new person until the day before my last day, and then asked me to stay another week to train them. I agreed to come back for 2 days, which was a mistake on my part, as she spent the whole time I was attempting to train the new hire interrupting me. Anyway, we parted on good terms and I was so relieved to no longer work there.

Until the next week when she emailed, offering my job back, as the new hire had abruptly quit. I agreed to help out for one day, and have declined all future offers.

As far as the Tax Issue, I took your advice and tried to address it in a completely factual way. She got defensive, claimed this was how she has always filed her taxes, and I just didn’t appreciate how hard she worked/what a good opportunity this was/etc, so I just let it go. Due to the whole Covid-19 situation, I am missing some relevant documents and have not been able to file my taxes yet, but I will be filing the complaint with the IRS.

In spite of everything, I don’t harbor any ill-will towards her. I do not believe she is a great manager, and our personalities are not a good match, but I don’t think she has bad intentions. While I am so happy to no longer be a part of that institution, I also don’t completely regret my time there. If nothing else, I gained some great items for my design portfolio and was able to practice establishing boundaries. Thanks again for running my letter, the advice and responses were invaluable and helped me change the direction of my career for the better.

{ 239 comments… read them below }

  1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    This a fascinating and positive update. Thanks for coming back with such interesting news and insight!

  2. CM*

    Rich person who owns an art gallery! I did not realize this was A Type, but your description perfectly matches someone I know, who no longer owns an art gallery but continues to make employees miserable in her post-retirement activities. I’m glad you have such a positive attitude and perspective about the whole situation, and more glad that you’re out of there!

    1. Mrs. Cary Elwes*

      It is *such* a type. I have worked exclusively in museums for my entire professional career, and it feels like there is a significant cultural divide between museums and private galleries/private collectors. There are so many stories from my colleagues who desperately wanted to work in the arts and as such put themselves in absolutely horrific and exploitative situations.

      PS. Museums are horrific and exploitative in their own way.
      PPS. I know good stories about private collectors as well, just in case I get a #notallprivateentity. There are a couple of famous collectors who I can name (but won’t, or else I WILL dox myself since my coworkers read this) that are fantastic and easygoing.

      1. Thankfully an Ex-Libris*

        If anyone here’s in the Rare Books World, the Ex Libris listserv is often a case study on how awful it can be when the world of private collectors and public institutions collide

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yuuuuup. And we don’t even deal with the really weird ones because, mercifully, we mostly get books after the owner has died and his kids don’t know what else to do with them. It’s never fun to tell somebody that most old–and very many rare–books are not actually valuable.

      2. Massmatt*

        A friend of mine from high school had a friend whose dad was a major gallery owner. Huge 4-story apartment in midtown Manhattan, several Bacon paintings in the dining room (I love Bacon, but not the artist I’d choose for a dining room) and an enormous family portrait by Botero.

        He was known in the art world as a cheat, constantly involved in lawsuits, and treating his employees like dirt. He once demanded staff come in to the gallery on Thanksgiving to meet a “very important client” that didn’t exist. Later he laughed about it and said he likes to do things like that to “keep them on their toes”.

        I know several people that graduated from top-ranked schools with MFA degrees that have had to basically pay to work in museums (as in, have a wealthy donor as patron).

        In both cases, there are so many talented people wanting to work around art that those hiring, even those with terrible reputations, can easily replace anyone who dares to complain.

        It sounds like the LW has managed to come out of this with some extremely valuable experience, and maintained a very positive attitude. Certainly she is more… charitable… to the former boss than I would be!

      3. JSPA*

        I had to go in person, with multiple notarized letters and legal documents in hand plus the threat of police backup, to reclaim the consigned paintings a trusting EU friend had sent to a highly reputed private gallery in the USA.

        After the paintings were safe, the artist posted about the experience, and the house of cards fell apart. Turns out that despite the publications and the industry contacts, the gallery owner had played quite a number of other artists in the same way, attempting to repeatedly extort payment for return shipping. There was minimal evidence of the gallery ever being open, or of the gallery owner making other attempts to sell the artworks (which graced the “gallery” portion of his private residence, viewing “by invitation only”).

        1. Marthooh*

          “Several Bacon paintings in the dining room” has me howling inside my own mind on at least three levels.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          I would say this sounds familiar and I think I know exactly the gallery you’re talking about, except that I know better than to imagine the situation is unique in the art world. :-/

    2. esra*

      Man, I want to be a rich person who owns a thing.

      That said, having worked in nonprofits, rich person who runs a nonprofit (often poorly) is definitely a recurring theme. Kudos to OP for taking their experience here and turning it into a career in design.

      1. Audiophile*

        They don’t even have to be rich. A non-rich person running a small nonprofit, often poorly, is a recurring theme. I’ve worked for a few small nonprofits that were mostly staffed by people’s friends and families, so nowhere to turn when legitimate issues popped up. I learned a lot, mostly about environments I didn’t want to work in.

        1. BeesKneeReplacement*

          It gets even worse when it is a rich person doing this because they’re funding everything so even when you have competent employees, they can’t say boo because there’s no effective check on them anywhere. If you upset them, they’ll take their toys (aka money) and go home (aka shut down the org). It’s not pretty. My friend works for an org that has been around for a long time but did very little for most of its existence because it was this exact situation. Once the rich person lost interest, the organization started doing a lot more.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Me too, so I can fire the shitty people and hire good ones and pay them well and give them all the things.

      3. Mynona*

        To clarify though, the OP worked at a commercial art gallery, not a nonprofit. The field has a pretty bad reputation.

      4. Artemesia*

        I used to run internship programs and so worked with a lot of executive directors of non-profits and a real type is the late middle age man who has probably been eased out of whatever professional role they had and then tapped to lead a local non-profit. Every one of these I dealt with — maybe half a dozen — was incompetent but also obsessive about ‘being in charge’ and respected. And they were hired by cronies on the boards and thus are allowed to run the organization into the ground unless there is a layer of competent — usually women — who are underpaid but get it done.

          1. Marthooh*

            Also depressing: FB posts like “Don’t give $$ to wasteful BigCharity with a well-paid professional staff! Give to MiniOrg whose ED works for freeeeeee!”

        1. Lily*

          I experienced this exact scenario. Micromanaging misogynist with friends on the board viewed us as his ‘harem.’ I wish I were exaggerating.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          One of our former executive directors was, not actively sexist that I know of, but uninterested in and completely neglectful of our organization, and passively did a tremendous amount of damage to our reputation and status. We’re still digging out. Our current ED is great but her first week was the week of Hurricane Harvey and now we’re all working bizarro schedules because of the pandemic. She’s earned her in-the-not-too-distant-future retirement.

        3. Kammy6707*

          Omg, I worked for a year at a non-profit and you just described the EXACT situation I worked in…down to all women leading the different departments within the organization. If the Executive Director ever had his door closed, we weren’t even allowed to knock on it, even if we had an emergency. If you did, you were toast. (I honestly think someone had been fired over this before I started.)

          However, that rule came back to bite him when a donor from a prominent area family dropped by and wanted a tour of the facility. His door was closed, so of course I didn’t knock, and he lost an opportunity to schmooze a donor due to his own tyranny. Oops.

          He still refused to own his mistake though…told me I needed to learn to be “more assertive.” Pompous jerk.

    3. Happy Pineapple*

      It is absolutely A Thing, and everything makes a lot more sense with that to put it in context. As a university and graduate student I studied and worked part-time in art curating and it is a fascinating, crazy world. It can be next to impossible to break into the field, so people absolutely expect you to put up with absolute nonsense and poverty wages because you aren’t you SO LUCKY to have this job and you should be SO GRATEFUL because ANYONE would kill to be in your shoes. I gave up on my dream career because it meant choosing between it and being able to afford food, rent, and medicine on barely minimum wages with no insurance.

      1. art*

        Solidarity. I would love to be in the career I trained for. I’ve been judged for “selling out”, but it literally was life or death for me. Health insurance, food, rent, etc. all cost money. Maybe someday I can be a clueless rich person, too, but until that happens, I need to keep myself alive first.

      2. Mrs. Cary Elwes*

        THIS. So, so much this. Curators are among the most fascination sociological phenomenon I have ever encountered. AND they can get away with most anything. Assault- physical and verbal, abusive behavior, plus unscrupulous practices in collecting and care. There are celebrities WITHIN the world of curatorial, so like, their bad behavior is excused because they’re money makers, or avant-garde, or “artists” in their own right, and you’re just like HOLY MOLASSES CAN YOU PLEASE JUST SIGN THIS LOAN FORM. Or… hey, please don’t get artwork fedexed to your mailbox? Please?

      3. KoiFeeder*

        I’m a current graduate student, in animation rather than art curating, and oh boy do I hear stories. I could never do what they do even before the part where so many employers in that area are bonkers yonkers.

      4. Tiny Soprano*

        It’s frightening what a cross-arts thing this is. It’s exactly the same in opera. I got so sick of people who paid me *once* (not very well and for essentially a skilled service) acting like they owned my ass. Then everyone acted shocked when I made a career change, citing poverty as one of the reasons. “nooooo but you’re so taaaaaaalented!” One: it’s not talent, it’s skill. Two: it doesn’t pay any bills and I’m sick of being clinically underweight because I literally can’t feed myself. /end rant.

    4. rnr*

      It perfectly matches an old boss of mine, too. I worked as a cleaner at an art gallery once upon a time and wow, the owner was… out there. He once went on a full-on tirade about a bit of lint on the carpet that the vacuum (and me, I guess) had failed to pick up. I think he would have literally rubbed my nose in it if he thought he could get away with it. If I had been more experienced at the time I would have run far away after the oddball interview, but I didn’t really know any better at the time.

      1. tetris replay*

        “He once went on a full-on tirade about a bit of lint on the carpet that the vacuum (and me, I guess) had failed to pick up.”

        I think I’ve met this person.

    5. cleo*

      Hah! Reading the original letter it reminded me a lot of my former roommate’s job at an art gallery owned by a eccentric rich person. Her boss didn’t give her handme downs but she did take her shopping.

    6. Recovering Art World Employee*

      It’s so common in the art world. It could apply to the major auction houses as well.

  3. Jedi Squirrel*

    That is the most fascinating update I have ever seen! Well done OP on getting out of there and finding your true path.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      LOL, right? I was reading along with the expected amusement and amazement, and even I burst out laughing then this particular escalation came along: “She set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.”

      LW, thank goodness you’re out of there. Block her number!

      1. Jdc*

        Yes! I was so excited that she was able to find what she really enjoyed and end up benefiting from this bad situation. Also, while never good, getting a bad working situation out of the way when you’re young and learning it’s not ok young (and perhaps when you have dependents that don’t allow you to quit easily) is ideal. She got to learn early what to avoid. I suspect we all end up in a bad working environment at some point.

      2. Batty Twerp*

        Are scones something different in the US? Why would you ever microwave one, let alone for 5 minutes?
        (I’m picturing something with jam and cream for reference)

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          I can see warming it in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds to replicate a ‘fresh from the oven’ experience, but beyond that?

          1. Sparrow*

            This is the only thing I can imagine – maybe she hit the wrong button by mistake and didn’t realize how long it was set for? …and then wandered away in the 15 seconds it was supposed to take and forgot about it until there were flames? I honestly have no idea.

            1. Rainy*

              I had a coworker misread the instructions on one of those “fresh muffin in a cup” breakfasts and nuke it for 20 minutes instead of 20 seconds.

            2. Mongrel*

              I’ve seen people not bother dialling in the correct time, just throw the item in there crank the timer to 99 and “I’ll check on it in a minute” then walk away.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                Which is how the break room at one of my former jobs ended up smelling like burnt popcorn for a month.

            3. Dust Bunny*

              I once warmed up my cat’s food for 14 minutes instead of 14 seconds. Or would have if I hadn’t realized my error and stopped in after 30 seconds or so. Which was enough to render the food completely inedible.

            4. TardyTardis*

              Given I underestimated the power of the work microwave compared to one I have at home, and was forever after not allowed to have popcorn at work, I actually feel some sympathy here.

        2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          I can see someone sticking one in for five SECONDS just to take the chill off, but no one should microwave a scone for 5 minutes…

          1. Cute Li'l UFO*

            Short of a frozen entree or a potato, FIVE MINUTES?!

            Keep declining the future offers. Run away and never look back!

            1. Kathlynn (canada)*

              If I’m microwaving a large amount of left overs or food with large chunks of meat, it’s 5 minutes. otherwise a dish is 2 or 3 minutes. there’s a couple of “just warming it it/melting the cheese” that’s 30s- one min.

          2. StrangerThanFiction*

            Done it with cheese on toast, though that’s because the appliance had a grill mode and I pressed the wrong button. I’m usually OK eating things that go a bit awry in the preparation, but by the time this had finished it didn’t look as if it belonged on the same planet as, let alone inside, me.

        3. Rainy*

          Like that, but no jam and cream, just a sweet baking-powder dough with some flavours and maybe an icing drizzle.

        4. Pennyworth*

          Two of my early microwave experiences were cooking a sausage for much too long and trying to cook meringues. After five minutes the sausage was an shrunken rock-hard lump in a lake of grease. The meringues were fascinating – as they heated they gently expanded, paused, then slowly collapsed. They kept on ‘breathing’ in and out for as long as we kept the microwave going. When we took them out they were firm and rubbery.

          1. Lizzo*

            Both of these things seem like home science experiments that are appropriate for the pandemic. :-D

            1. Long Time Lurker Infrequent Poster*

              What is this, Richard Hammond’s Blast Lab: Quarantine Edition?

          2. TardyTardis*

            You should see what happens to a bar of Ivory Soap (available at Mr. Lamb’s Science Corner, but click on the videos tab, YouTube only shows like four videos on the front page).

        5. Minimal Pear*

          In my experience, UK scones are closer to what we would call a “biscuit” in the US. They’re generally flaky and fairly plain in flavor, so that you can put lots of other stuff on them. US “scones” are somewhat similar in basic texture but they usually have stuff in them–dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc. They also often have a sugary glaze on top. You could cut them open and put butter on if you really wanted to, but they’re usually eaten as-is. They can be a little annoying to chew when cold, so I can see warming them up for a minute or so, but five minutes is ridiculous regardless of US/UK scone terminology differences.
          (I am a linguist who loves to cook and bake, and I lived in the UK for a bit, so this is something I think about way too much haha.)

          1. asterisk*

            Unless you’re in Utah, and then “Scones” are puffy, deep-fried dough kind of like beignets or sopapillas. You eat them with whipped honey butter. They’re yum, but not really anything like a scone anywhere else in the world.

          2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

            Buttered scones and tea are a particular favorite of English lumberjacks. :-D

        6. allathian*

          American scones contain more butter and less flour than British ones do. American scones also often contain dried fruits or chocolate, etc. (like cupcakes) while British ones are usually plain. That’s because British scones are usually served with butter or clotted cream and jam. British scones are similar to a kind of American quick bread called biscuits, usually served with savory dishes, although biscuits in the UK are what Americans call cookies. Granted, I suppose these days they can be called cookies in the UK, too, especially in places like Subway (at least they’re called cookies in Scandinavia). Confusing, huh?

          1. Eulerian*

            In the UK a cookie is a subset of biscuit. Chocolate chip cookies, for example.

          2. Warm Weighty Wrists*

            My favorite way to start a kerfuffle in England is to innocently ask whether the jam or clotted cream should go on the scone first. Then I sit back with my tasty treat and watch the beginning of the new civil war.

        7. Amethystmoon*

          5 minutes should only be for totally frozen leftovers that you have not defrosted first. Other things should be way less then 5 minutes.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            And in the UK, you can have cheese scones, if you prefer something savoury.

  4. Hills to Die on*

    Ah, I worked for a rich person who owns an interior design business, and they sound a lot a like in many ways. It sounds like you did a good job detaching from the irrational comments and expectations (By the way, please make it stop raining here; I would like the weather to be about 10 degrees warmer kthanks). Congratulations on moving forward with the graphic design!

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I thought “rich, eccentric, art gallery” was a movie trope that exaggerated minor quirks, but TIL they are real! Good for you, LW!

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

      I thought the “eccentric rich musician” was a torpe as well until I met one, who even bragged about his sex life in front of his daughter and her friends (!!!!). I still don’t know how he managed to attend rehearsals between the parties and court hearings from his never ending list of exes. BTW, I’m no critic, but a MIDI file had more soul than his recordings.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It’s not. My mom was the project manager for our church, part of which was funded by the local art community since it functions as a gallery of sorts. Mom is not quite the last word in no-nonsense but she’s pretty far out there. The combination was interesting.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I completely disagree.

    Your boss has bad intentions. Very bad intentions, especially on the tax part. She committed a crime that resulted in her conveniently avoiding paying payroll taxes? She is really trying to say that’s how she has always done it so that’s okay?

    Luckily the IRS doesn’t care about intent.

    I wonder what happens after you file an IRS complaint about it.

    1. The Original K.*

      And I would also note that Boss’s intentions don’t really matter – the outcome does, and the outcome was that she was terrorizing the OP.

      1. Mama Bear*

        She might not be serial killer material, but even Al Capone got jailed for tax evasion. Glad OP got the portfolio material and got out. I’m curious about how things will go with the IRS.

      2. Salty*

        This is really what stuck out to me. I think that sometimes we tell ourselves that someone had “good intentions” as a way of justifying a sunk cost to ourselves. Otherwise it would be, “I knowingly stayed in this crappy situation with this crappy person.”

    2. Patricia*

      Yeah I’m there are bad intentions all over those letters. I hope she gets fined heavily for not doing the taxes correctly (the boss not the employee)

      It’s good that OP got out of there but I still see a severe lack of boundaries. But as long as you are out that’s good.

    3. Mayati*

      Yeah, and as for mistreating employees, willful ignorance of the fact that other people deserve respect is a very bad state of mind — just because someone isn’t twirling their mustache and plotting to methodically abuse their workers doesn’t make them any better to work for. A huge number of abusive and manipulative people “don’t mean to be abusive or manipulative,” so much as they’re impulsive, lack emotional control, and take their distress or anger out on people over whom they have power simply because it’s their default mode of navigating the world. If your boss’s state of mind is that it’s okay to take advantage of people without thinking too hard about it, that’s a “bad intention.” The difference between that and purposefully setting out to take advantage of people is essentially meaningless when you’re on the receiving end of poor treatment. And the more we define abuse as deliberate and conscious, the less abuse we recognize.

      1. Boop*

        Where is the “like” button?!?! Excellent comment – I think that sometimes people think that there have to be “bad intentions” to be able to take speak up about bad actions/abuse. Not true!

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        If your boss’s state of mind is that it’s okay to take advantage of people without thinking too hard about it, that’s a “bad intention.” The difference between that and purposefully setting out to take advantage of people is essentially meaningless when you’re on the receiving end of poor treatment. And the more we define abuse as deliberate and conscious, the less abuse we recognize.

        Repeated for emphasis. Thanks for articulating it so well, Mayati.

      3. Indigo a la mode*

        This is a great comment and I want to add to the first part of it, about intent. I don’t mean to derail, but I’ve been increasingly frustrated by (other, not AAM) advice columnists declaring to victims of abuse that their abuser is doing it because they want to terrorize their victim and like the feeling. I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, and I know he didn’t want to hurt me. He wanted to be right and taken care of and agreed with, and that manifested in controlling ways – he didn’t set out to abuse me. But he did hurt me. But he wasn’t an evil, malicious person. And so it was hard to me to justify leaving because he wasn’t a clear-cut, wife-beating monster.

        As you say, lack of bad intent doesn’t lessen the impact of abusive behaviors. But I think people are more willing to recognize and leave toxic situations when they *don’t* first have to villainize and condemn a person they liked/respected/loved. I think it’s really important to see that 1) it’s okay to not view this influential part of your life as deliberately evil AND ALSO that 2) nonetheless, you should not and do not have to put up with someone mistreating you.

        Hopefully that makes sense.

        1. Mayati*

          It makes total sense. The abusers in my family don’t think of themselves as abusers, because they don’t meeeeeeean to abuse others, and they’re generally good people outside of that one aspect of their lives. They hurt others because they’re desperate to relieve their own inner pain and discomfort. And when they do acknowledge that they’ve been abusive, instead of taking meaningful and sustained action to never do that again, they vocalize their shame to get comfort from others (including their abuse targets). The one abusive boss I had was the same. None of these people were absolute monsters or even close, so they had armies of people who stuck by them — including some victims who were unwilling or unable to see the extent of the problem because their abusers were “good people.”

      4. JSPA*

        Culpable negligence may garner a charge of manslaughter rather than murder, but the outcome for the person on the other end is the same.

      5. StrangerThanFiction*

        Agree, except I think everyone is still cutting this boss too much slack. The thing that still sticks in my mind from the original is when the OP had to go to the emergency room and wasn’t able to let boss know (because they were concussed). When they came back to the office, boss literally posted her job in front of her and had her finger hovering over ‘Send’ until OP begged satisfactorily.
        That’s not the entitled obliviousness that comes from privilege, that’s deliberately targeted micro-sadism Because I Can and Because Your Distress Makes Me Happy. Whatever the underlying situation that facilitates it, it is the mark of a Bad Person.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This. That was over the line from “thoughtless default mode” to “active antagonism”.

          1. NopeNopeNope*

            Between that and the outright insane “build and plan the employees’ wardrobes and meals without their consent and even against active repeatdd herbal and non-verbal non-consent turning them into living barbie dolls for your own playtime” behavior (that just seeeeriously freaked me out), we are WELL into “Cruella de Ville called, she said to tell you you’re a horrible garbage human being and she doesn’t want to hang out with you anymore” territory.

    4. The Engineer*

      The local labor department will likely also have an interest in the situation.

      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        Yeah I would report her to both the IRS and the state labor board. She needs to provide you with proper tax documentation and pay you as a w2 employee, and fulfill her employment tax responsibilities. She is 100% trying to stick OP with the bag for some costs, and it is definitely bad intentioned.

        1. JSPA*

          Plus (though this year, of all years, the filing and payment schedule and resulting enforcement are less predictable than ever before):

          If nobody (neither OP or the employer) ever paid the taxes, and OP stuck around with incorrect or incomplete tax documents, that’s potentially going to be painful for OP, if they don’t move on that filing.

          Sure, you have three years to RE-file, and get back money that you put in, to make up for what boss should have done. But leaving those taxes unpaid is something quite different. OP, it’s MUCH better to have the IRs on her ass than on yours, and it will be one or the other, if you didn’t pay the taxes she should have paid. Please make it happen.

    5. bluephone*

      Yeah, this boss is NOT a good person by any metric, at all, ever. She’s actually actively terrible.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Thank you!

        I reacted very strongly to that line because my very first boss was also terrible but she was syrupy sweet all the time. She never raised her voice or snapped.

        But she terrorized us in the same way this boss did. One of the worst things she ever did was ask my fellow interns to do my homework for me so I could work more unpaid hours for her. Yeah that happened. I reported her ass to the internship program for that.

        I feel for it because I assumed that all bad managers announce themselves that way during the first encounter.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Now I’m wondering if the replacement employee who “rage quit” did a very logical “no I won’t work under those conditions” over being paid as a consultant not a full-time employee. Because if I got wind of that, I sure would have.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Yep. We obviously don’t know anything about the other employee, but I would bet a large sum of money that her quitting was entirely justified. I expect she saw exactly what was going on, and decided to GTFO as soon as possible.

    7. designbot*

      I could see how someone might not think she has bad intentions because she’s not going around purposely trying to harm people… but I’m also just not convinced she’s ever thought about another person besides herself. Ever.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I had a boss who was the nicest guy ever on the surface.

        But he was the least self-aware person I’d ever met. He would stand me up 90% of the time. He’d agree to meet me somewhere before an event, and then he’d forget. I was always late because I was waiting for him in his office only to find out he’d already grabbed a cab and left 20 minutes ago or he decided to go straight from home to an event without telling me.

        Whenever I’d ask him about it, he would sincerely say he forgot and then sincerely apologize. And then he would do it again and again and again.

        As my coworker once snapped in a meeting, “Instead of apologizing for the same things over and over, don’t repeat actions you have to apologize for!”

        But, yes, the nicest guy who will let a door slam in your face because he forgot you were there even though you’re talking to him.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Ugh. That reminds me of a woman I knew and was briefly friends with a long time ago – she had very little consideration for the time, energy, or feelings of those who were “below” her in the hierarchy or who she felt “had to” put up with her because faaaaamily or close friends “do that for each other.” (Funny, she never had that punctuality or forgetfulness issue with bosses or doctors or others who “outranked” her…) She was exhausting and unrewarding to be around. We stopped being friends in short order, because she was just an endless energy and time suck and could not be relied on.

    8. Terrysg*

      Why would she assume her taxes (as an owner and employer) are calculated the same way as your taxes?

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The IRS does care about intent though, they are often all about good-faith efforts. They use that a lot to give warnings instead of actually putting penalties in place.

      The IRS will also get their money, even if they have to get it from the OP in the end.

      That aside, she really should be reported. They MIGHT do something but I wouldn’t hold my breathe. I’ve seen too many people get away with this kind of bullshit over the years to have much faith in the system ever really catching up to them, not quickly at least.

      The state should care though, she’s failing to pay all their assorted payroll taxes and that really does hurt their revenue! I would also encourage reporting her to the local DOR but they also are often toothless and suck at checking in on businesses as well. But in this case, they may be interested that she’s not contributing to their various tax buckets.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        From what I understand, the state is far quicker to go after people for unpaid taxes than the feds are (Al Capone notwithstanding). It depends on their funding and how much they care (some states are, to put it kindly, more honest and less corrupt than others).

        If the IRS is stretched too thin to nail Ex-Boss (and these days I can see how that would happen) the state might not be. Drop a dime on her.

    10. Thornus*

      The IRS does care about intent some though. I had to file a Form SS-8 about a misclassification issue a while back. The IRS determined I was an employee, but the employer likely did not have to pay back taxes, penalties, or interest. There’s a quirk in the tax code called Section 530 of the… 1978? tax bill (it’s not actually 26 USC 530, it’s a footnote in 26 USC 3401). Without getting into the weeds, it essentially allows a one-time get out of jail free card if an employer misclassified workers. Part of the test looks at why the employer misclassified – whether there was a reasonable basis for the misclassification. That factor is construed liberally in favor of the employer.

    11. lazy intellectual*

      The OP sounds veeeery patient. The fact that she agreed to stay an additional 2 days to train the new hire??? I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have even done this for my former manager who wasn’t as bad as this one.

  7. CatCat*

    The list of “reasons my boss yelled at me” reminds me of the various captioned photos of “reasons my toddler is crying” I’ve seen on the internet.

    Adorable/hilarious in a toddler. Embarrassing/pathetic in an adult.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I just googled “reasons my toddler is crying” and my week is made. Thank you!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          *I LOST IT* at “….because I wouldn’t let him push the button on the cat…the one under his tail”.

          1. Bowserkitty*

            thank god I have to wear a mask at work because it hides the majority of my facial reactions, like uncontrollable silent laughter!

          2. Grapey*

            My mom would’ve said “go ahead, try it” and let the rules come from the cat, not her LOL

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        My favorite was either “Robots don’t have dads.” or “I wouldn’t let him drink the canola oil.”

        1. Jdc*

          Oh those are good ones. My favorite is “he’s upset we are leaving the house. We aren’t leaving the house.”

      2. Forrest*

        As a parent of a 2yo, a running “hashtag reasons my two year old crying” commentary is one of the ways I stay sane. Even moreso under lockdown.

    2. AAMfan*

      I was going to say this but I was pretty sure someone would beat me to it!!! That toddler thing is hilarious. Less amusing when it’s your boss…

    3. Amethystmoon*

      I once got yelled at by a manager who disagreed with what my boss told me to do. I was following orders. She decided to be verbally abusive to me in front of everyone within hearing distance and mocked me for crying. I’m still there 2 years later. She got fired for apparently a different incident, but still, I love it when Karma wins.

  8. an infinite number of monkeys*

    Your boss yelled at you because
    – It was raining outside.

    See, there’s your problem. Your boss is actually a cat.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Aha, that explains the onions comment. “I cannot sit in her lap and have her giving me scritches after she’s been eating onions!”

    2. Ama*

      We had a pair of dogs when I was growing up and the family joke was that the older dog (who though half the younger dog’s size was definitely the Alpha) blamed the younger dog for everything he didn’t like. And yes, on multiple occasions, he did go outside when it was raining, come back in and growl at the younger dog as if it was his fault he got wet.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Unsurprisingly, it’s also a thing for cats. My big cat will sometimes just walk up and smack the smaller one for no reason.

          (They’re cool. Smaller one is not actually afraid and they’ve never used claws. But the bigger one definitely runs the show.)

    3. Rainy*

      Or a dachshund.

      There’s a great dachshund-owner version of the shouting woman/white cat meme with a dachsie photoshopped in over the cat where the woman is screaming “You’re supposed to be housebroken!” and the dachshund is saying “YOU KNOW THE RULES CHANGE WHEN IT RAINS”.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Or a bulldog.

        Ours gets shirty with us if it’s raining at the exact time she has pre-planned her walk should occur. Surely the sky should know this was The Appointed Time at which she specifically would like her walk today, and now her whole week is ruined, and it’s our fault because we should have informed the sky this was not an appropriate time to rain, and it should have had the courtesy to wait. And no she does not want her walk at 5:20, she wanted it specifically at 4:12.
        She’s such a micromanager.

  9. Banana Stand*

    I love the 5-minute microwaved scone. She sounds Lucille Bluth-level out of touch. “I mean, it’s one banana, Michael. What would it cost, ten dollars?”

    1. Daniel*

      I came to specifically ask if it was bad that I laughed at the scone fire.

      OP, it sounds like you were able to get away from some bananacrackers crazy AND land in a place where you are happy, so I am glad you were able to write in with an update as positive as this one.

      1. Box of Kittens*

        Same – this whole update was amazing to read but the 5-minute microwave scone was what made me laugh out loud. Omg.

        1. Bostonian*

          Yup. I am dead. I’m pretty sure the neighbors heard me bust out when I read that one.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Lived in a dorm building with this person in college – she used the fire alarm as her cooking timer. Yes, she pissed the whole building off because every time the alarm would go off the whole dorm had to evacuate – no matter what time of day or night it was (and yes we did have the obligatory naked dude with hair full of shampoo every time – alternating gender floors).
          She was evicted after one semester – in 16 weeks she set off EIGHT alarms.

          (No she was not my roommate – she lived on the third floor, I lived on the first floor. However I was friends with her roommate, and apparently she was a nightmare in many ways, not just with the microwave fires,)

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I was at college with someone who thought bumpers were parking aids. Like analogue reversing sensors.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              I live in the northeast where cars are parked pretty tight and had the opposite problem where I gently gently tapped a beater’s bumper while parallel parking and had a whole house of bros got out to insist I’d ruined their car. Yes, that rust stained indent was definitely from me.

          2. GreyjoyGardens*

            Oh god, even in the days before smart phones, timers cost, what, $5 at Target or the cookware section at the grocery store! Using the building fire alarm as her personal timer – I can’t even. She sounds like she was “badly brought up” as Mary Poppins would say.

          3. Sandangel*

            My family calls that the Smoke Detector School of Cooking. Though 8 times in 16 weeks is really impressive!

          4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            So my favorite “cooking” story from her was the week of finals – Tuesday night/Wednesday morning she decided she need a pot of rice to help her pull an all nighter – at Three AM. I don’t know how she got into the community kitchen for her floor – supposedly her key was deactivated for all community kitchens after fire alarm number four – but she put a pot of water and rice on to boil, then went back to her room for something – during the process she decided she just HAD TO GO TO WALMART! With the pot of rice still boiling away on the stove, at three in the morning.

            To the folks above me – this all happened 20 years ago – so pre-smartphone. But yeah – she was really not liked in the building, and housing did try and stop the cooking using the fire alarm as my timer, but she somehow did keep getting access to the community kitchen (super basic microwave and stovetop – no oven, they didn’t trust 18-19 year olds with an oven for some reason). Supposedly they reprogrammed the electronic lock to not recognize her key, but she just kept getting in there.

            1. Amethystmoon*

              Holy cow. I guess I am the opposite. I’ve been through a real fire and lost everything. It’s not fun. I am ultra paranoid about cooking things that will set off my alarm. I look up smoke points of oils. I boil or braise things a lot. I set my Alexa timer halfway through to check. My fire alarm is very annoying, highly sensitive, and hard to turn off.

          5. Dust Bunny*

            I went to a college where the North Campus dorms were connected by a covered walkway, so if the alarm went off in one dorm it also went off in the dorms on either side. And two of those dorms shared a basement, which created a chain of like five dorms linked by fire alarms.

            I lived in that basement for about 0.3 semesters before changing rooms with a friend who didn’t want to be with the hippies on South Campus. OMG SO MANY FIRE ALARMS.

          6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I can’t help but laugh as I remember getting my bacon rolls on fire during the Cookery Practical exam at school. The whole school had to evacuate in the midst of exams. But my teacher was thrilled to finally be able to use her fire blanket, so I got an A.
            (I haven’t ever set anything else on fire in my life, promise)

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes indeedy that was the antidote for this week. It’s been a long week, and it’s only Tuesday. (News on Friday I’m sure.)

    2. Sparky*

      I also laughed at this, as it was nonchalantly buried in the middle. No onions, but burn the gallery down heating a scone. I hadn’t thought of Lucille Bluth but I do like that character. I wish I could answer questions with,”I don’t understand the question and I refuse to answer” but no one would know I was quoting her.

      Thanks OP for the update, good luck with the graphics program, and I’m glad you’re out of there!

    3. Goliath Corp.*

      ahaha I work in the arts and Lucille Bluth is everywhere (but much less charming)

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      Those who haven’t had these bosses either, zany tv characters are a great way of describing them.

      Even cartoon characters and villains had to be patterned after some incredibly offensive but real folk.

    5. Sharpie*

      The scone part reminded me of an army colleague of mine who microwaved a ready meal.

      For half an hour.

      Yes, it was just as disastrous as that sounds!

    6. NapkinThief*

      I actually also did this exact thing once, with a biscuit – set it for 5 minutes, but the time didn’t finish because it burst into flames first.

      I was 7.

  10. Observer*

    I just want to point out that your former boss is not just “not a great manager.” She is a TERRIBLE manager, and I’m not even sure that she’s a great person.

    I don’t think you should regret it – you didn’t do anything wrong. But, it is important to understand just how out of line her behavior is. If you ever see anything resembling her behavior, RUN. It’s not just a red flag – it’s a whole May Day parade, to use someone else’s phrase.

    1. pope suburban*

      Yeah, I found this update a little dismaying for that reason. The boss was not a normal or decent person, and continuing to indulge her was unnecessary and would not have been rude/unprofessional. I hope OP’s next job is somewhere healthy that allows her to continue resetting her expectations and workplace norms.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah, it’s not normal to come back and help after leaving a job just because their new hire quit, and that’s even with good/normal employers. Don’t think that’s a standard expectation, and definitely don’t do anything to cover for this woman again.

    2. SansaStark*

      Totally agree with all these points. This line really jumped out at me – “I got yelled at for a variety of reasons, some more legitimate than others.”

      There is no legitimate reason for one adult to yell at another adult in the workplace. None. I’ve made huuuuuuuuge mistakes at work. I’ve seen people make horrifyingly embarrassing mistakes or costly errors, but yelling at the employee is not an acceptable reaction.

      No need to regret working there and it’s smart to take what you can from each opportunity, but I hope it does provide some context and build that “gut instinct” if things like this pop up in future workplaces because so much of this is downright abusive and beyond just having a weird and quirky boss.

      1. Quill*

        It can take multiple jobs to heal from a toxic boss.

        Job #1 after pig lab from hell: I was afraid of everything and it’s mother outside of the lab. Had memory problems. Discovered that I had to unlearn half the procedures that I did in pig lab because that was not industry standard.

        Job #2 newly on the correct dose of anti anxiety meds, 10 months after firing, went in with the “I am an adult and they will treat me as such,” still got steamrollered a few times by the world’s most obnoxious fellow lab associate. She jumped ship after about three months, during which I made multiple kinds of fool of myself, but despite memory problems did OK work? Contract was renewed but then project was cancelled.

        Job #3 I’ve been there almost a year and apparently I exist on a sliding scale somewhere between “above average” and “rockstar” depending on the project and my outside knowledge. In a field that’s only tangentially related and I can do remotely.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          … sorry, but … pig lab? Requesting elaboration on Friday’s open thread.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I think a lot of people, I don’t know if the OP is one of them, but this is what I’ve seen, learn this from their families of origin. Dad yelled all the time so they think yelling is normal. Parents screaming at the kids because their horrible, horrible children drove them to it. Teachers yelling at kids (though that’s far less tolerated these days). People all too often learn terrible behavior is OK from being in terrible families. Thankfully, it’s a lesson that one can unlearn, and that many times all it takes is talking to other people and reading columns like AAM and a few years experience in the work force and “hey, this isn’t normal, I deserve better” – a light dawns.

        There are also fields where yelling and dysfunctional behavior is more normalized, either because it’s perceived as low-status churn-and-burn work (retail, call center) or it’s a “glamor” industry or niche with far more people who want to work there than there are jobs for them, so employees get treated as disposable because there’s always another person willing to put up with it.

      3. CircleBack*

        Yes I have *never* been yelled at while at work (in terms of voices raised well above normal levels – I think some people especially younger can sometimes use it as shorthand for “very strongly chastized/reprimanded”).
        The only times people should be yelling at coworkers at work are:
        “Your shirt is on fire!!!”
        “Stop the forklift you’re about to crush Jimmy!!!”
        “Someone call an ambulance!!!”
        And even then, someone might apologize to you for yelling/screaming even in these instances.

    3. Tanya Myers*

      Me too. I’m just concerned for the OP moving forward with employment and still putting up with more than is acceptable. This person is really awful.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      This. I am trilled you got out OP, but please know that nothing about this situation was okay. I hope you will work at places that will help you reset your idea of what is acceptable and what is crazysauce. This whole shebang was the latter.

    5. Champagne Cocktail*

      I would say the boss is not a great, good, or even decent human being. She has no management skills at all and is trying to do it by force of personality alone.

      I also get a huge sense of entitlement from the former boss. If anyone tells you that you should be grateful for the job, that’s a red flag and time to GTFO

    6. lazy intellectual*

      I think the OP has some form of stockholm syndrome. She will realize this a few months after she is moved on.

      I once had a horrible roommate who I didn’t realize was as horrible as she was until after I moved out.

  11. The Original K.*

    This update was a journey! I said, out loud, “Oh thank God!” when I saw that you quit, and then doubled over laughing when I read “she set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.”

    I think it’s so great that you were able to take away some tangible positives from your time there, but overall I’m just so glad you’re free!

  12. bunniferous*

    I am sure somewhere out there there are rich people who are not eccentric, but I have not met any yet.

    1. TiffIf*

      I mean, harmless eccentric is fun, but I don’t call bat crap crazy and manipulative and dishonest “eccentric.”

    2. Sled dog mama*

      I have come to the conclusion that if someone is rich and not eccentric they do everything in their power to ensure no one knows about their money. Because of this we see rich = eccentric, when in reality it’s “has money and wants people to know” = eccentric.

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

      I’ve met both sides. Most of the good ones prefer to be low profile.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – this is my experience with non-eccentric rich people. They are so low key you have no clue they are rich. I think it’s part of how they stay successfully rich. Course these were all people who worked really hard to get to the top and knew it could all go away just as fast.

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

        I only realised they were rich was when they vagely mentioned they had a house at the historic part of town, which means they come from a traditional family or they’re super rich to afford a heavy mantainance property.

  13. Amanda*

    LW, it sounds like you still haven’t fully realized how NOT NOTMAL this place was.

    I hope you eventually understand this goes far beyond bizarre, and realize none of this was on you. Getting out of this situation was not ungrateful, disloyal, unethical, or anythig else your old boss might have tried to make you believe.

  14. Kettricken Farseer*

    OP – I’m glad you got out of there. Ex-boss was incredibly manipulative and I hope you see that clearly and understand that good bosses don’t manipulate, they don’t lie, they don’t try to make you feel responsible for a company you don’t own.

  15. WhoKnows*

    OP, I am not Catholic or religious in any way, but the amount of things you have found the inner strength to make peace with and let go…you might qualify for sainthood. It’s a freakin miracle that you didn’t lose your temper or your mind.

    1. Bostonian*

      I was also really taken aback (in a good way!) at how positive OP’s attitude was towards everything given the level of bananacrackers crazy that she had to endure.

      1. flartymcbubbles*

        Seriously; this gallery owner has no idea what she’s lost. OP, you sound like an extremely professional person.

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          Yes. Your next workplace and boss will be amazingly lucky to have you.

  16. juliebulie*

    “nobody will want to kiss you if you eat onions”
    Just curious, was she worried that you wouldn’t be able to kiss someone after lunch at work?

    I’m glad you’re out of there. The good news is, it’s doubtful that you’ll ever encounter anyone like that again. (knocking on wood just in case)

    1. SweetestCin*

      I wound up cracking up over this one as
      1. Spouse and I will look at each other over things like, say, Coney Dogs, and say “You ARE putting onions on that, right? Because I’m totally getting mega onions….”
      2. One of my first bosses taught us that it was meeting preparedness was essential, and that that included putting listerine strips in your briefcase/purse/portfolio. Because at some point, you would have a business lunch at an Italian restaurant with one client, and then a back-to-back with another client who hadn’t consumed garlic. (She was a wonderful boss and made sure that all of us rough around the edges interns were carefully polished for the professional aspects of our field in a kind, caring, and almost motherly but not smotherly way.)

      I’m really glad she’s out of there, because yes, bananacrackers.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        My husband has referred to the practice of both of us eating food with garlic or onions in it as “mutually assured destruction.”

    2. designbot*

      yeah my instinctive response would’ve been “great, I don’t want to kiss anyone at work!”

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

      The sarcastic savage in me would be dying to say “why? Do you want a smooch?”. But that would mean burning bridges, which in this case is not a bad idea.

    4. Phony Genius*

      My response: “I’m sorry, is that one of my work assignments?”*

      *Do not use this if there is any possibility of an affirmative response.

  17. Kella*

    OP, I’m really glad that you got out of there *and* that you trusted your instincts and followed the timeline that felt right to you.

    I do want to emphasize, though, the importance of pursuing the taxes issue with the IRS. This person is avoiding her financial responsibilities as a business owner and putting them onto individual employees without their prior knowledge, which is both illegal and unethical. She will continue doing that until she faces consequences.

    I also really hope you got paid for that extra time you stayed to train etc. Her pushing you to stay longer when she had so much notice to hire someone else, and her pushing you to come back to your job because her new hire had quit were both examples of terrible boundaries on her part and it would’ve been totally reasonable for you to say no. Again, her being able to lean on your flexibility means she doesn’t have to face the consequences of her actions, which means she’ll keep treating people like that.

    I’m not trying to lecture you. As a fellow generous, thoughtful person that gives way too much of myself, I wanted to reflect for you why being generous to toxic people can actually cause more harm in the long run, and not just to you. It’s not your responsibility to fix her and it’s really really not your responsibility to help her out of the hole she dug for herself.

    1. OP*

      OP Here!

      Yes I got paid for the extra work, and I have my complaint ready to file with the IRS. I’m waiting on another tax document from some freelance work before I can file my taxes and I plan on submitting them at the same time.

      Oh believe me, I recognize that towards the end I was being taken advantage of. But after Arya stormed off, my boss (almost gleefully) told me a story about how she torpedoed a former employee on a reference check because the employee quit instead of working Christmas. It sucked having to tough it out, but I was not in a position financially to be without an income at that point. I don’t ever plan on using her as a reference, but I thought it best not to burn bridges.

      1. sacados*

        I was so glad to get this update and I’m thrilled that you seem to be heading into a wonderful new career path (hope your course is going well!)
        I agree with a lot of the comments above that you are still being far more forgiving of your former boss than she deserves but it looks like your strategy paid off. Good luck with the IRS claim! And hopefully your next boss/workplace will be functional and rewarding!
        (Also side note, if you ever think a future employer might contact this boss you definitely want to give them a heads up and — calmly, factually– explain that you parted on bad terms and this person can’t necessarily be trusted to give an accurate reference)

      2. Thornus*

        So you have Form SS-8 and/or 8919 prepared? Just want to make sure you have those ducks in a row as I’ve dealt with it before, and worker misclassification is a big sore spot of mine.

      3. LunaLena*

        Congrats on finding a new career path! As a fellow graphic designer, I’m glad you got out of there with a new passion and a great portfolio! I had a similar career path – my degree is actually completely unrelated to graphic design, but I stumbled into a design job and realized that this was indeed what I wanted to do, and then went back to school for an accelerated course in digital design while working part-time – and having that portfolio has been far more important than either of my degrees. It can be a tough field to break into, but having actual proof of your work will help you go a long way. I strongly recommend printing inexpensive but high quality copies of the books/magazine/calendar for yourself, if you don’t have copies already and you have permission to do so – I’ve found that many employers are especially impressed if you bring in a tangible finished product that you can hand them to look at, plus color on glossy paper looks waaaay cooler than a PDF or regular printed pages.

        Anyways, good luck and hope your next boss is much saner! :)

  18. Jennifer Juniper*

    Good job on escaping, OP! I hope Anna Wintour back there doesn’t have your current contact info.

  19. Bostonian*

    I’m pretty sure I voted for this boss in last year’s worst boss poll. I am really impressed with OP for recognizing what parts of the job she wants to pursue, leveraging the learned skills to get freelance work, and overall having a positive attitude about everything. Suffice to say, I am beyond pleased with this update!

  20. mjd*

    What a great update! So happy for OP. You handled everything so well and should be really proud! Best of luck in your new career path.

  21. Jam Today*

    This is a great update and someday will make an excellent screenplay if you are so inclined.

    The scone fire made me laugh and reminded me of a previous job where first our toaster oven and then our toaster were taken away from us after people set our kitchen on fire twice after:

    * Putting a plastic-wrapped slice of pizza in the toaster oven
    * Trying to make a “grilled cheese” in a vertical toaster

    The punchline was that my floor was populated by Very Smart People – MIT, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, etc. but apparently thermoplastic nature of cheese coupled with an exposed heating element wasn’t covered in Physics for Brain Geniuses at whatever smartypants school they went to.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There is currently a very large sign on my building full of very smart people (or at least there was B-CV): “Do not put croissants in the toaster”.
      It’s a single-slice toaster y’all. I can’t even figure out how one would fit if it was cut in half.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re too busy thinking BIG thoughts to remember the little ones, like how toasters work and how fires get started ;)

      I have had doctors, literal doctors who save lives and engineers who build Very-Important-Things who need to be told how to use the copy machine. “JAMMED?! JAAAAAAAAAAMMED?! WHY!?!!!!!!! HOW?!” and a couple will actually start tearing up and questioning everything in life. When I’m like “It shows you where the jam is…follow the prompts.” “THESE PROMPTS MAY AS WELL BE IN WINGDINGS, I CANNOT SPEAK WINGDINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I SPEAK 3 LANGUAGES AND THESE DONT SEEM TO BE IN ANY OF THEM!”

      I find it cute because if I didn’t, I’d be long gone LOL.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I saw a pic taken by a copier service tech who was called out because the copier wasn’t making copies. “Is there paper in it?”

        Yep, a whole ream of paper. Still in the package.

        I guess nobody told somebody that you needed to take the paper out of the package before you put it in the copier.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          But, but, but — fairies do that? Elves, surely!

          (I’m reminded of the imps running the iconographs in Ankh-Morpork.)

        2. Sharpie*

          Many moons ago, I was a computer tech in the British army, and I will forever remember the printer that was brought in to us that wasn’t printing though it made Al the right noises and did all the right things.

          The user hadn’t taken those teeny tiny plastic strips off the ink cartridges. You know, the ones that stop ink leaking everywhere before a cartridge is installed in the printer.

          1. Quill*

            At least those are small and easily overlooked.

            I once spent a day fixing a printer, was just about to run the last test to make sure it would actually print on wifi, and a coworker swanned in to make a copy, then yelled at me about how come it took me all day to press a single button.

      2. Liz*

        I’m sure this is a thing! I have a postgrad degree but zero common sense. It took me two and a half years to learn how to drive (admittedly in my 30s, because that makes it harder) and my instructor said academics are the WORST people to teach because we overthink everything and miss the obvious.

        We had a similar incident to the scone thing at my workplace. Colleague was having a flapjack which suggested you could microwave it in the packet for 10-15 seconds to warm it up. He put it in the microwave, switched it on, then got distracted by a customer immediately afterwards, totally forgot about said flapjack, and wandered off. It caught fire. We had to evacuate the building and call the fire brigade. The smell of burning plastic lingered for a week.

    3. Amy Sly*

      Can’t remember the title, but the Car Talk guys have a memoir where they discuss being in their first apartment after college with several roommates, all of whom also graduated from MIT. And they couldn’t figure out if it was safe to stand on a metal chair to change a light bulb, or if that would get you electrocuted.

  22. Gallery Mouse*

    OF COURSE they are an art gallery owner. Hahaha!

    Congrats on getting the heck out of there with your sanity intact and so glad to hear you found something you love to do. I hope that someday someone puts together a fun tell-all about all the kooks that run these places. Some are okay, some are great, but most of them are banana crackers crazy and it’s just a matter of time before the law and reality catch up to them.

    1. gallery toxique*

      Yes, that made everything “click” for me. Ohhhh. Especially the clothes. I imagine this narcissistic image conscious art-edgy middle aged woman who thinks it’s her professional business to molding the image of her staff, who cannot conceive that her imposed gifts of her style to her younger staff aren’t wanted nor appreciated. I wrote more down thread about some wackadoo art gallery disfunction.

  23. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Good for you! You are waaaaayyyyy nicer and patient than I could ever be! I especially appreciate that you gave yourself a deadline to get out of there and stuck to it. It’s amazing how much easier things get in a bad job when you tell yourself “this is my deadline and I’m leaving.”

  24. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP I’m happy for you. May your designs all be beautiful — and your paycheck above average!

  25. Lindsay Geee*

    If possible, definitely get in touch with Arya and see if she had similar problems with her taxes. I would imagine that two complaints are better than one, especially since you can both corroborate each other’s employee status from working together.

  26. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I had already thought this sounded like a “small artist kind of setup” and I wasn’t far off, worse, she’s not even the artist, she’s just a gallery owner though.

    You did good. These things can pay off in the end, with that experience you very smartly collected up and then bounced as soon as you had enough to pad your resume with!

    I agree, she doesn’t seem evil by any means. Just out of touch and obnoxious. “Nobody will want to kiss you”, bullshit, my partner and I both eat some stank ass things and we aren’t worried about it. I’m not looking for randoms to wanna come makeout, Boss.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      It’s amazing what people will come up with to justify their opinions. “I don’t like onions on salad, so they are OBJECTIVELY RONG and if you don’t believe me, I’ll keep justifying how correct I am until you stop disagreeing with me.” I just love that OP took to brushing her teeth after lunch.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        LOL, that’s a good point. I hated onions for the majority of my life, only recently are they edible to me. But I still cannot believe the level of “personal victimization by the onions” so many people out there can have.

        I know people who will eat onions like apples. I want to sit them in a room with this lady, muahaha.

  27. Assistant Manager*


    I also worked for a rich (okay, upper middle class) lady who had no business managing people, but in the food industry. She would openly admit that she hated managing people, but she didn’t want to give up control and allow someone else to do it while spending her time on big picture things. She was also a big time micromanager, but she also hated conflict, which led to things like me getting into a screaming match with a chef because of his incessant bullying. (Thanks to Facebook, I was reminded that this was 2 years ago. He wound up leaving about two months later and I put in my notice two weeks after he left.)

    My current job isn’t perfect, but I’m so much happier and better off than i was back then. I’ve learned so much more and grown immensely as a manager, and now when I tell stories about my old job, I often catch myself realizing just how wildly out of touch things were there. So glad to gear that you’re out of there and using what you learned to keep growing professionally!

  28. chickaletta*

    You showed her a lot of kindness. I hope that she has shown appreciation for you, and hopefully realizes how lenient you were with her craziness given that she can’t seem to keep other employees around. Doubtful, but I still hope.

    For what it’s worth, my first job out of college was a gallery job as well. I was fired after 9/11 because the owner was scared of low sales that year, and well, plus I was a terrible salesperson. She made me thank her for the job (which she fired me from ) on my last day there. She also had some weird eccentricities.

    The art business is crazy from the inside.

    1. Youth*

      Yes to the kindness. I just saw Knives Out last night and for some reason that’s where my mind jumped during the update. The OP showed a lot of patience that the entitled-acting boss didn’t deserve.

  29. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    OP, I’m so glad you got out of there. Of note, your boss would make an amazing book character.

  30. MissDisplaced*

    Good Gravy! She sounds like a real kook!
    Maybe not intentionally horrible, but so neurotic and needy. Perhaps she does get on with the artists and rich people though?
    I’m glad you got out of this dysfunctional situation and best of luck with your future graphic design studies.

  31. Elizabeth West*

    All I could think of while reading this update was that Netflix movie Velvet Buzzsaw. I’m so glad the OP got out of that horrible environment and away from her abusive boss.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      It made me think of Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Prada book kicking off because the Harry Potter book hadn’t been delivered.

  32. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’m happy that you’re able to put a positive spin on that situation, but I’m also concerned that you’re brushing former boss’s behavior under the rug and will make similar mistakes with others in the future. Your former boss is a bully. She wanted to control you, and when you didn’t comply, tried to make you feel bad for not appreciating her and the opportunity she was providing to you. Her intentions were bad, and even if they weren’t, her treatment of you make those intentions irrelevant. Continue to look at the positives that came out of this job, but for your own sake, don’t excuse her behavior.

    1. Frankie*

      Yeah, this boss plays dumb as a deflection and uses guilt as a way to control people. That’s malicious.

      I’m a bit susceptible to these things, too, in the workplace, so I really have to remind myself not to scramble to please people who will resort to “no one appreciates me” or “you should be grateful” to get their way. Not one of the people who has done this with me has ever had my interests in their mind. They’re just trying to set things up to benefit themselves.

    2. SunnySideUp*

      I’m right there with you. If I were OP’s age, I might also attribute kinder qualities than what really exists, but…

      OP, there was no kindness or good intention AT ALL from your former boss. She had no business managing others and obviously no intention of learning how.

      Best of luck on a career in design!

  33. gallery toxique*

    I’m sure there are plenty of galleries that interact with their artists and clients with utmost professionalism. That said, as most of the ones I had encountered – it was a playground for inappropriate behavior. Some had dysfunction manifest like pettiness, flakiness, chronically poor communication, inexperienced owners/directors with an over abundance of confidence, but with money (from their wealthy families, usually not from art sales) to burn.

    Then there was the one where the owners, an outwardly successful and wealthy couple- would sexualize their younger female staff and the struggling artists they claimed to support (often with seemingly spontaneous thousands dollars out of their pocket in personal “grants” and gifts-saying they believed in their talents and wanted to help them succeed.) Then dramatically turn on them with no warning , and triangulate (for their amusement) them against new artists/staff/friends that they chose to “help”. Despite having a huge family bankroll, they eventually went out of business, as their behavior created a black hole, and I guess even family wealth had it’s limits. They divorced, and the sadistic husband is now in federal prison for a life+ sentence. He apparently pulled his manipulative game playing and abuse with an underaged teen (a student in a new business he started-), while grooming a even younger girl. Their parents found out and went after him legally with a determined fury.

    With all that is going wrong in the world, it always gives me peace that in this case, justice was perfectly served.

  34. Miss Vicki*

    Letter Writer, you are a really nice person. You seem to be able to describe something COMPLETELY absurd with a lot of generosity and no ill will (more than I can say for myself had I been in your shoes!). You gave more than you needed to and you seem to be able to walk away from this with a clear conscience. Good for you. And good luck with your program!

  35. Kris10*

    OP, I don’t want to be a downer but the IRS problem is your biggest issue. You are probably going to owe roughly 15% of your income from this job in social security and medicare taxes no matter what. I’m glad you quit this horrible job though!

  36. spegasi*

    Once OP said this was an art gallery everything made sense. I work in one currently and quarantine has been a good break from my boss. At least until she started calling me all day asking for things that are either done or not doable at the moment. Or to create an online exhibition over two days from scratch, only to have her decide that she would rather use a fancier platform. I’M FINE.

    But yeah, crazy rich people.

  37. Marie*

    This is one of my favorite updates ever. I’m so happy for you that you found your talent and joy!

  38. Granny K*

    “She set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.”
    For the win! I swear this boss is gunning for Worst Boss of 2020. I know it’s only May but she has my vote.

    Congrats on the new opportunities and standing up for yourself. Onward!

  39. Bowserkitty*

    Thank you so much for this update!!! I was hoping we would hear from you again. Glad you got out of there.

  40. Lauren Conrad*

    I’m glad you finally got out. I think that this letter speaks volumes to how much a person will not know what is normal vs unacceptable in the working world until they’ve had their first job. And so many bosses take full advantage of that, which is horrible. And yet, society’s definition of normal vs unacceptable changes constantly. Around the 1920s, Americans decided that having children work 12 hour days in factories was unacceptable, but Bangladesh does not agree and American companies take full advantage of that fact. A few years ago, rich kids slaving away at unpaid labor in fashion and media industries was considered normal and acceptable. It kind of is and isn’t at this point. It definetly still is in the non-profit sector. Anyway, so glad you got out. I also think your boss must have some kind of mental illness. I’m not mocking mentally ill people. I’m completely serious. Like, I would be honestly curious to see what her diagnosis would be in a doctors office. I think it would be great if she consulted a professional psychologist, but I doubt she will. It’s one thing if you know you’re a jerk, but it sounds like she’s more delusional than in denial.

  41. WoodswomanWrites*

    OP, it’s great to hear that you have left that awful job. It is not an accident that your former manager classified you as a contractor. Given how you have described her, when the IRS comes after her to correctly inquire about her illegally not classifying you as an employee, I would be surprised if she doesn’t reach out to you to back down. It sounds like you are still cutting her slack for completely unreasonable behavior. Do not let her talk you into letting it go, or apologizing for the IRS’s response, etc. Don’t let her back in your life in any fashion. You absolutely deserve to be paid appropriately, no matter how she responds.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      If they had started a fire by microwaving a scone for 5 minutes, I’d allow it.

  42. Ellie May*

    LW sounds very patient and thoughtful and tolerant. (my head screams: BOUNDARIES!!)

    But really, this would have been the end for me: “She set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.”

  43. BenAdminGeek*

    “She set the gallery on fire by trying to microwave a scone for 5 minutes.”


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