updates: the mooching boss, the self-sabotaging friend, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss mooches off me while I’m living paycheck to paycheck

I wrote to you a few months ago about my boss who was stealing my lunch and treating me like her servant.

She continued her behavior, even escalating to the point that it really affected the way I interacted with her, I could no longer respect her at all. Again, she demanded half my lunch, but I put my foot down and she pitched a fit! She called me selfish, she said nobody needed that much food and that I was eating too much. I stood my ground and she slinked away to the cafeteria, grumbling the rest of the day. On two occasions, she called me from the parking lot, demanding that I move my car so she could take my spot because it was close to the building.

After reading your Very Reasonable advice, and the Very Reasonable advice in the comments, I started to realize that none of the advice would work AT ALL, and that my workplace was, in fact, severely dysfunctional. This was confirmed when I showed a coworker my letter in your column and she agreed, none of the Very Reasonable advice would do.

This manager also hired a friend of hers and then proceeded to shower her with blatant, over the top favoritism. This coworker did very little work, essentially made her own schedule, and treated me, in particular, terribly, openly, in front of my manager. We also had to share an office, and she was not good at sharing space with others. I allowed her to make me miserable. For these reasons, I started applying to other jobs. I interviewed for a position, knocked the interview out of the park, really connected with the hiring managers, and prepared to give my notice. I was VERY excited about this new job opportunity. When I received the call that they had chosen another candidate for the position, I was devastated.

So it went on. There was the weird, strained relationship with my manager. The coworker that made me angry and miserable on a daily basis. Then my job duties changed due to Covid-19, which brought on very high levels of stress and anxiety that felt like a weeks long panic attack. I was crying everyday, wondering how I was going to get through each day without walking out.

Then, I received a call from the hiring manager that I had interviewed with a few weeks prior. She said they made a mistake when they hired someone else, and will I please still take the position! Weight lifted! Clouds parted! Fast forward 6 weeks, I have been at my new job for a month. I have my own office with a comfy chair. My superiors treat me with respect and kindness, praise my work and are always ready to help teach me. The company does truly good work for the community. The job is challenging yet not overwhelming, which has given me a sense of accomplishment. I love my new job. Everyday feels like delicious Revenge and I just laugh about those six miserable years.

Thank you for taking the time to give your advice. It didn’t help in that workplace, but it did help me to realize I needed to get out.

2. Furloughed and can’t use vacation time (#5 at the link)

When I was furloughed I saw writing on the wall and started sending out some applications that very day. The next day I had a great conversation with a recruiter, and we set up an in person interview for the next week. I used advice from your column to push back a little on scheduling – I’m working part time, and I had exactly half of the work week free and clear for the interview (which I had given them), and when they offered me two times that I was supposed to be at work I felt confident in saying “hey, there are 20 hours that I *don’t* need to take time off for, and I’m only getting half pay here, let’s find a time that’s good for everyone” (more professionally, of course). They were fine about it.

The interview on Tuesday went well, and because I wondered about this ahead of time I’ll tell you how my COVID time in person interview went – I wore a (boring, disposable surgical-style) mask into the building, we basically bowed at each other and joked that we’d usually shake hands, and sat at opposite ends of a conference table for the interview itself. We removed our masks for the conference table part, and there was a bottle of hand sanitizer for each of us at the table which we all used periodically. Then for the tour of the building we masked up again and I followed a few feet behind.

I had a followup phone call with another person on Wednesday, and I heard nothing on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, I got a phone call from my boss telling me that the federal money finally came in, but she won’t be able to keep me on after it runs out in June. We decided we’d talk again Monday and decide next steps. I called my recruiter, said that things were changing at my old job and if she had any clarity to offer me it would be helpful in planning, and she told me they wanted to move forward! I called my old boss back, asked for my vacation payout and told her I had a job lead and asked for a reference (which she was happy to give). She promised my vacation pay with the next payroll.

And Monday, I had a job offer, for more money than I was making before, at a job I think I’m going to love! I start June 1. Thank you so much for all the advice you give in your blog – it really helped me be strategic and calm through this whole messy time.

3. My friend is sabotaging her career

It has been a few years since I wrote in and am long overdue in sending an update. My friend, Jane, who was very frustrated that I was promoted and she was passed over at the time has since been promoted into the job that I had and she love it. I have also moved on to a new higher level position.

After reading your feedback and all of the comments (thank you everyone!) I took Jane out after work and had a heart to heart. I was empathetic of her feelings but said my piece and explained that she was damaging her reputation and self-sabotaging her chances for a promotion in the future. She initially pushed back hard. Over the course of several weeks every time she would start complaining I would let her knew I understood the frustration but then would either pivoted the conversation to a different topic (did you see that movie? how are the kids doing? whatever happened to that TPS report?) or disengaged so that I was not creating an environment where she could continue to vent. And that worked. I know she was still hurt and frustrated but she eventually stopped the the continuous complaining. When that happened people stopped focusing on her “bad attitude” and seeing her great work. So when I got my new promotion (yay!) she was the obvious back fill.

So thank you for the advice. You helped save my friendship and helped me guide a great employee so that she could fulfill her potential.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Clorinda*

    Mooching Boss update made my day. Congratulations!
    I feel a little sorry for the woman who is now obviously starving to death, poor thing . . .

      1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        What she’s hungry for is someone to bully, and eventually she’ll find someone if she hasn’t already. That’s not the LW’s problem, but it sucks when someone like that is allowed to run rampant.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          OMG! I just can’t even with that boss. It’s some of the worst workplace bullying I’ve heard.

        2. TardyTardis*

          What do you bet she’s already picked out her next victim? Who know, that person who was her favorite might have ended up with her turn in the well.

    1. Hope*

      Indeed! Thanks for the great news LW1 / Mooching Boss-Haver, and the delicious come-uppance! And yes – please do tell us what she said.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      She has her friend who also made the OP miserable to bully and mooch off now. The mooching boss needs a target and her friend is probably next. Karma.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I’m so glad it worked out for you! Your former boss is a pathetic nut bag. Let her and her little friend continue to create bad karma for themselves while you bask in your new job. Good for you!

  2. Oogie*

    Wow. Lot of twists and turns in that moocher boss update. Glad you got out. Leaving a toxic workplace resets your soul like nothing else.

  3. PivotPivot*

    The only thing I want to know for Moocher boss update. What happened when OP said they were leaving? If moocher boss pitched a fit for not sharing a sandwich, I can imagine that she wasn’t too happy about OP leaving.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      “You MUST stay here to do my work and pay for my lunch. Resignation denied.”

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        She ripped herself in half like at the end of Rumpelstiltskin.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed, would love to know how the resignation conversation went. And if the boss was even crazier in their last two weeks.

    3. KuklaRed*

      Yes, exactly this! I was dying to know how it went when she gave notice. We need… the rest of the story.

    4. Jemima Bond*

      I would like an account of the whole giving notice/leaving scenes.
      I’m hoping for either the BullyBoss trashing he office while LW skips out à la Morcambe and Wise, or maybe a Disney version where LW’s joy radiates from her so the little birds and bunnies come out of the trees and help her clear her desk, put on her coat etc. And BullyBoss puffs up with rage at being thwarted that she bursts, like the bird when Princess Fiona sings to it.

  4. ProcheinAmy*

    I had my popcorn ready to see how the giving notice went for the mooching boss. Details jot needed, but I bet is was awkward! Congratulations on finding a better job!!!!

          1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

            And if there wasn’t any in the office, she’d have made you go to the store and buy some (out of your own pocket, of course).

  5. Phony Genius*

    For #1, the the writer’s new company said that they made a mistake in hiring the other person. That’s an unusual thing to share when offering a job. It must have been really bad. Did they hire the old boss’s twin or something?

    1. aiya*

      I had the same thought. I am so glad to hear that everything worked out for OP, but I can’t help but wonder how the company made this mistake…. Maybe OP and the wrong hire had similar names, kind of like in the Mindy Project?

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I’m thinking more like the person they offered the job to flaked and never started.

      2. juliebulie*

        I got the impression that by “mistake” they meant they made the wrong decision. Not like when you’re at the supermarket and you look at one thing but grab another.

        1. Sharikacat*

          That’s the exact impression I got as well. OP wasn’t their first choice, but the first choice turned out to not be the best pick. Allison has mentioned before that there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s possible that two candidates can both be excellent choices for a role, and I hope that OP doesn’t think otherwise once they are fully removed from the Very Bad workplace of the moocher boss.

          1. MissDisplaced*

            True. It may not have even been a bad thing. People accept and then decline job offers for all sorts of reasons. OP said it had only ‘been a few weeks’ so it’s more likely the first choice may have never started working there.

        2. Budgie Buddy*

          This is also how I read it. They may not have used the word “mistake” in their communications with OP either. The original phrasing could have gotten lost in translation a bit as OP is trying to condense the full story for this blog.

  6. virago*

    I am glad to read all of these, but especially “My friend is sabotaging her career.” It’s not easy to share negative feedback with a friend, let alone when you work together!

    The OP did Jane a favor by persisting with the “don’t engage with the complaining” approach in the face of (totally expected) initial pushback from Jane. Now Jane *doesn’t* have a “bad attitude” reputation among their co-workers, and she *does* have a more responsible position.

  7. EPLawyer*

    1. Sometimes the best advice you get here is GET OUT NOW. So glad you found a place you love. Living well IS the best revenge. How you stood that place for SIX YEARS I do not understand. Well I do. Sometimes we just get … used to it.

    2. glad you managed to find a place so quickly. I’m sure the anxiety about what would happen next was overwhelming.

    3. YAAAY. Glad you were able to help your friend while maintaining professionalism so as not to damage your own reputation.

    1. Minocho*

      I had a terrible grandboss (who owned the company) at a job. He did the servant thing with technical personnel, and had us work out of the garage of the converted house, while creative personnel were allowed to work in the house. One poor coworker was so beaten down, emotionally, that the boss would demand he come to the office early to wash his car – and the coworker would. There were many shenanigans, I could go on forever. After almost a year, I started job searching, once I determined that my position wasn’t safe. I gave my notice, and he tried to both cajole and intimidate me in the same meeting to stay. I stood firm and finished out my two weeks notice professionally.

      Seven years later I had a new job downtown, and the company offered a discount on a very nice gym membership. It’s a pretty fancy place, but as it’s a five minute walk from the office and my commute is now an hour long, it’s a good option for me. While leaving from my lunch workout one day, I see the owner of the old place. He looked at me, and the disgust and surprise on his face was a picture.

      I took the greatest pleasure in walking up with a big smile on my face and talking with him about how nice it was to see after all this time, and how wonderful my life in the city has been. I didn’t have to say a single mean, angry, resentful or resentful thing, I just was perfectly happy and pleasant. And I found it so satisfying.

  8. Roja*

    Now those are the wholesome happy endings we all love to read! A very hearty congrats to all the LWs. So glad things worked out for you all!

  9. Lizard*

    What a good set of updates! The original mooching boss story made me so angry. Too bad she didn’t get her comeuppance but the mental image of her standing forlornly in front of two slices of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a knife in the mornings is very gratifying.

  10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m extra today, so I’m tearing up for #1. I’m so glad you’re out of there and you’ve found a new job. This job will be one you can rejuvenate and bounce back. I’m relieved you had the good luck when interviewing and for a fast ejection as soon as you were told this was a Bad Place and wasn’t going to change. I’m sorry they made you so miserable.

  11. drpuma*

    Refreshing my memory for the circumstances around update 2 (yay for you and congratulations on your new job!) has me VERY curious what happened to the first LW on that original post. I’d love an update from that OP who was told not to correct their older colleagues!

    1. KuklaRed*

      Me too! I AM the older coworker at pretty much every place I work now (I’m 62 but won the genetic lottery and most people have no idea how old I am unless I tell them) but I am also very tech savvy. I’ve been in the tech field for (gulp) almost 40 years. But I would NEVER think that someone was insulting me by using the language the OP described. If I’m doing something wrong, tell me! I can’t imagine how thin the skin of those 2 people is if they can’t handle cogent instructions.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Thirded. I would love to know what happened to the “wrecking duo” from that first letter in update two. I just couldn’t believe that they could get away with so much carnage without consequences.

  12. Chuckles*

    I find it so interesting that the majority of these updates end with the OP quitting and getting a GREAT NEW JOB!.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it makes sense that the people who end up in that scenario are more likely to write in with updates since they have good news to share.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Yes, the ones still working at the Hellmouth are probably still looking for an escape!

  13. Girl727*

    OP of Mooching Boss here. My boss knew I was unhappy and applying to other jobs, so it was not a surprise when I gave my notice and she acted happy for me. But she did act very hurt on my last day when I was not emotional or sad about leaving. She gushed about how much she loved me and would miss me, and I could not muster the energy to return the sentiment. I did make it very clear that her blatant favoritism for her friend was one of the reasons I wanted to leave, but she didn’t take that seriously and chose to believe it was all for other reasons.
    As for the other job making a mistake with their initial new hire, she basically struggled with the job for a few weeks and then flaked. There were two people making the hiring decision and one fought for me and the other fought for the flake. Their reasoning just came down to availability and money. The flake did not have a job and thus required no two week notice, and she accepted their first offer on pay. Once they realized she was a mistake, they were happy to wait the two weeks and to pay what I was asking, which was only slightly more. And the hiring manager that fought for me clearly felt vindicated!
    I still love my job. The company seems to be one of the best I have worked for in that they take care of their employees. I never dread going to work in the morning. I enjoy the peace and quiet, broken up by occasional fits of laughter with my coworkers. And I still smile when I think of some of the terrible ex-coworkers who are still stuck in that swirling vortex of toxicity and dysfunction.

    1. WellRed*

      Do you mean they weren’t initially willing to wait for you to give notice? Glad you are happy now and away from that nutty boss.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Sounds like it’s not that they were necessarily unwilling to wait but figured when deciding between two candidates that both seemed good, being available immediately was something that weighed the decision in her favor.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      So happy you got away from that moocher. What a bully.

      The new company’s hiring decision rationale is interesting. It sounds like maybe they thought they needed to fill it very fast, or maybe they thought it would be good to help someone unemployed first. At least they realized the mistake quickly. I hope that was just a weird fluke on their part.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        It sounds like they seemed equal in pretty much every way, but LW needed to give two weeks’ notice and Flakey could start immediately. So they went with filling the position immediately. With equal candidates, I’d probably do the same.

    3. KuklaRed*

      Yay! So so happy for you! Work stress is a killer and it can destroy everything good in your life. I’ve been there. So glad you got out of there and left her sitting in a pile of dropped items no one will pick up.

    4. I am Jack's Something-or-Other*

      She gushed about how much she *loves* you? How gross and out of touch. Anyway, thanks for an awesome update and congrats!

  14. BigHairNoHeart*

    OP #1, I’m so happy for you! I really relate to what you said about the advice being reasonable, but knowing it wouldn’t work. I was in the same boat just a year ago. I wrote into the Friday open threads a few times about my horrible boss and got some solid advice, but I knew my boss would have a fit and hold it against me if I ever tried any of it. Unreasonable bosses don’t respond well to employees advocating for themselves in reasonable ways, and you’ll drive yourself up the wall trying to find the One Perfect Phrase or Action that they might respond well to (because there isn’t one). Glad to hear you’re working with reasonable people now (I am too). It’s so freeing.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Oh boy is that ever true. Sometimes the more calm and reasonable you are, the more angry and unreasonable they become.
      It really makes me wonder how they became managers or moved up in an organization? But I suspect that many of them start their own businesses precisely because of this reason.

    2. Girl727*

      “Unreasonable bosses don’t respond well to employees advocating for themselves in reasonable ways, and you’ll drive yourself up the wall trying to find the One Perfect Phrase or Action that they might respond well to (because there isn’t one).”

  15. LifeBeforeCorona*

    The Mooching Boss is the best update so far. I would love to know the reaction of the mooching boss when the OP gave her notice. I’m betting that her favourite is now guarding her food!

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