my boss hired his girlfriend and we are imploding

A reader writes:

I work at a dysfunctional workplace. I will call us a media development company. It’s a high-stakes time in our work and tempers are very short.

My boss, Ron, hired his girlfriend, Zelda. By “hired,” I mean that she works for free in exchange for him supporting her with food, rent, and illegal occupancy in our country of residence. Ron does not speak English with confidence and uses Zelda as his translator.

Zelda speaks English with so much confidence that she is constantly attacking me, the only native English speaker on the project, for making what she considers mistakes. Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect, and I deeply understand that non-native English speakers often have a better grasp on what is technically correct English than native speakers do, but when someone condescendingly tells you that the word “chronological” has “nothing to do with time,” you do get a bit frustrated.

Zelda and Ron have screaming fights over Skype at each other about editing changes, while I sit there in uncomfortable silence. Zelda expect me to take her side on everything and when I don’t, she gives me the silent treatment in return. I’m also expected to soothe Ron and make him see reason when he pushes back too hard. If I fail to do this, or if he speaks to me directly, she gets sulky.

Zelda’s insistence on very small, very inconsequential changes to the script have already caused two employees on the technical side to quit, and she has alienated the entire writing team completely. Said writing team is also extremely sexist, so she and I (as the only women in the office) have a lot of ground to cover even when she isn’t screaming at them. Which she is. Constantly. Her nitpicking has delayed our product by multiple years, and my boss is running out of money. He obviously cannot manage her and prefers to type insane things at her about how she is evil and destroying his life, which only makes her anxiety worse. Obviously!

Anyway, the point of the matter is that I lost my temper with her last week after a particular heated bit of shouting and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have an explanation for why [I used a comma in a place that needed a comma], and repeatedly shouting at me to do so makes me very uncomfortable. I am going to end this call and speak to Ron directly. Thank you and have a good day.” Then I immediately called my boss and told him that I was very uncomfortable and terminated my work session early, that it was my decision to do so, and explained why. (I am technically a freelancer, so I did not violate set hours by doing this.) He was understanding and shifted things a bit so that I could work directly with the non-English writing staff. The team and I have finally found a perfectly productive level and have been working well since.

However, as I said, that was only last week, and now I have a sneaking suspicion that I myself might be causing an additional delay because of the workflow reorg. I don’t want to do this to people. I also find myself clenching my jaw at the idea of apologizing to Zelda, mainly because everything I try to plan out ends with some variation of “…but your aggressive responses make it difficult for me to do my job” and I know she will not accept that with grace. I also know her, and I’m going to have to make the first move.

I’m out of ideas to placate her, we’re out of time for clockwork precision, and I’m definitely out of objects that start with F to give. My boss won’t do anything. Do you have ANY ideas?

You can’t be more concerned about making things run smoothly than your boss, the source of these problems, is.

What you’ve described is chaos. Ron hired his girlfriend for a job she apparently isn’t good at and is passively standing by while she attacks and alienates the entire team. She screams at people! She gives people the silent treatment. She and Ron scream at each other, in front of you. He calls her evil. Two people have quit because of her.

In the middle of this, your concern is that your new workflow — arranged by Ron so you can avoid Zelda and which has been working well — might be causing some delays?

Here is what causes delays: putting combative, incompetent people in jobs they can’t do, allowing someone to scream at and berate others, having people quit because of the abuse, and generally refusing to manage.

Ron and Zelda are causing delays. You are not.

You took a problem to Ron, and he offered you a solution that gets you away from Zelda. Take that solution. If he decides later it’s delaying things too much, let him raise that. I would be surprised if he does.

Meanwhile, you do not need to apologize to Zelda. It doesn’t sound like you were at all out of line in what you said to her. (And really, the idea that you owe her an apology for ending a call when she was screaming at you but she doesn’t owe everyone else an apology for outright abuse is … no.)

If she wants to give you the silent treatment, let her; that sounds like a welcome relief. If it means you can’t move work forward, you’re not responsible for solving that problem, since you don’t have the authority to solve it. Dump it in Ron’s lap to handle: “I can’t get Zelda’s edits on the X document because she’s refusing to speak to me. I would need her edits by 5 pm Tuesday to make the deadline. Should I move forward without her?”

If you’re stuck on Skype while Ron and Zelda scream at each other, hang up. Say, “I’m not comfortable being on this call so I’m going to drop off and give the two of you privacy,” and then disconnect.

Throughout your letter, you’ve tried to take responsibility for things that you aren’t responsible for: soothing Ron, making him see reason, placating Zelda, making your writing team less sexist, not causing any hiccups in a process that’s already riddled with chaos of other people’s making, and fixing this whole situation even though the people who created it won’t. But none of that is your job. (Any chance you grew up in a tumultuous household where you tried to be the peacemaker? You’re taking on this dysfunction as your responsibility in a way that often is linked to that kind of family dynamic.)

Ultimately, the biggest problem here isn’t even Zelda. It’s that you’re working for what sounds like a sinking ship. Ron can’t run a company, his girlfriend has delayed your product by years — years! — and now the company is running out of money. Don’t stick around and wait for this to collapse further.

{ 239 comments… read them below }

  1. HannahS*

    OP, this was so stressful to read, I cannot imagine what it’s like to live it and I’m currently a junior doctor on 26 hour call on a holiday (so almost no one else is here) and also a pandemic is ongoing. Seriously, this is a garbage fire of a workplace and you should jump ship asap. A stressful workplace doesn’t have to be dysfunctional.

    1. Heidi*

      Thanks for making the point that long hours and high-stakes do not necessarily make a job toxic. The hostility and ineffective leadership are what make this job unsustainable. I’m sorry that the OP has had to put up with this and also that she feels responsible for making it work. OP did the right thing in making Ron deal with his own “employee” and refusing to manage her tantrums.

      1. charo*

        It COULD be that Ron is hoping that the change he made can help neutralize Z.’s impact — he may be flailing around trying to lessen her power. You need to hint to him very subtly that you care and have some ideas but don’t know if he would want to make changes.

        If he picks up on that, you could make suggestions, but not “fire Z.” Talk “goals” and “improvements” and not “tactics to dump Z” but he can see that on his own. “As a freelancer I can see from a different perspective” will sound aware and respectful.

        If you can’t drop a hint very carefully, don’t bother.
        And DO look for a new job.

        1. Legend of Zelda OP*

          From what I understand, it was decided to move her from a writing-related role back to her original position, which was entirely different. She mentioned to me once that she missed that role, so hopefully it will help her get to a better place emotionally. :)

          1. TardyTardis*

            Run! I was laid off from a job in an office and the boss’ daughter was kept (I know, what a shock) and I knew a lot more about that daughter than Daddy did. The office was gone in a year and a half.

  2. The IT Plebe*

    This sounds like an absolute nightmare! OP, I hope you take the advice to heart and let yourself only worry about what you can control. None of this is on you.

    Also, please give us an update whenever you can!

  3. Stephanie*

    Oh wow. This does not sound like it can be saved. I would just save your money for when (not if) this company runs out of money and has to lay you off. I would start job hunting, too, which I know is tough right now.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, this is a Monty Python “run away, run away” moment if I ever heard it.

      Start job hunting. And you’ll have some interesting answers to the “tell me about a time when…” questions during interviews.

    2. valentine*

      If OP is not working on retainer, they should (try to) get the money owed to them to date and get out. If there’s no way for them to do this (because they only get paid upon delivery and that date will never arrive, at this rate), staying means working for free while racking up a debt Ron can’t and won’t pay.

      Zelda is all kinds of awful, but it’s important that Ron, who knows her best and is possibly breaking several laws while extorting her for…well, her life, basically, her survival, set her on the business and employees. As miserable as he seems, he’s somehow reaping the greatest benefit, or he wouldn’t do it. Something to think about as OP makes decisions.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Yeah, OP, just because Ron is more pleasant to interact with doesn’t make him a good, trustworthy, or dependable person. Proceed with caution.

      2. Hosta*

        Zelda is a slave. Literally. She waits for free in exchange for food and shelter. Since she’s this guy’s ‘girlfriend’, its reasonable to assume they’re having sex. He might be allow ing her to yell at people at work – his work, not hers, she isn’t paid – but can say no when he wants to have sex, when her home and residency is on the line?

        Ron is not a good person. Get away, and get away fast. And maybe anonymously send Zelda some information on how to turn him in, so she’s more able to make the choice to do so if she wants.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I know that she’s not the one writing in for advice but I’m very surprised that Alison’s response didn’t even touch on the fact that Zelda is not being paid. Even if she somehow has complete agency in her situation, this is way beyond a case of difficult employees. This whole setup seems super sketchy. OP should definitely leave as fast as is financially feasible.

  4. juliebulie*

    I could feel my teeth grinding together as I read this. Alison is right. Do as much as you can to let Zelda be Ron’s problem, not yours. Ron needs to take responsibility for his business. That’s not something you can do for him.

    1. Media Monkey*

      i think my shoulders will take some town to come back down from around my ears. that sounds horrific OP. I hope you take alison’s advice and turn the problems back to Ron rather than taking them on yourself (and that you have other job option for when the company inevitably fails). good luck OP!

  5. Myrin*

    If any job an OP has ever written in about deserved the title of “absolute trainwreck” it would surely be this one.

    1. Artemesia*

      Like others this makes me anxious just to read. I once worked in a foreign country where a doofus kept insisting on English locutions that were not correct; now it is always possible to be wrong but I can’t remember when I was in this situation. He for example insisted we use the word ‘gentle’ instead of ‘kind’ because in his language it was ‘gentile’. Americans and I doubt Britons would every use it in the context we were working e.g. he gently assisted us on the project rather than kindly.

      These are difficult times, but I would be spending maximum time searching for another gig and when you find one, jump. I understand your trying to ‘save the project’ — I have been in similar situations, but when the boss isn’t interested in saving it, do what you can without engaging your sense of responsibility for things for which you are not responsible.

      1. Helena1*

        Gently assisting you on the project sounds like what you do with a three year old, so they don’t notice (and think they’ve done it all themselves). Really not what you want to convey.

        I also have a French colleague who put in writing that a patient was taking “her husband’s corpse” to their home country. False friends, people!

          1. Helena1*

            Oh she actually ^was^ repatriating his body for the funeral, but I wouldn’t refer to somebody’s recently deceased husband as ‘a corpse’, in a letter addressed to them. I would say something like “sadly due to return to Othercountry for her husband’s funeral next week”.

            So maybe not a false friend as such, but definitely a word with a significantly harsher connotation in English than in French.

      2. PeanutButter*

        This reminds me of a scientific collaboration I did (I was the data monkey) with two labs, one in France and one in India. I spent much of the time translating from English to English between the two lab groups. XD

        1. Hobbit*

          I worked with an instructor that taught English as a second language. She said she could tell what your native language was based on your English grammer mistakes. It had to do with how the native language was structured.

          1. Rex Jacobus*

            I taught English in Czech back in the 90s. While my Czech grammar was never great it improved when I started to notice the mistakes my students made and reverse engineer my Czech.

          2. Junior Assistant Peon*

            I can often make a good guess with broken English on the Internet. Not necessarily the specific language, but there are certain grammatical errors you see from speakers of Slavic languages, Asian languages, etc.

          3. allathian*

            Yes, this. I work as a translator and proofreader, which includes proofreading English texts written by Finnish speakers. This works because I can catch quite a few grammar and syntax errors that are typical for Finnish speakers. Don’t ask me to proofread texts written in English by non-Finns, though. If I don’t understand their native language at native or near-native level, I can’t catch their errors reliably.

            1. Bluesboy*

              I find this interesting, because for me it’s the opposite. I speak fluent Italian, and I have heard and read the typical Italian mistakes so many times now that they almost feel ‘normal’ to me – so I can easily miss them.

              Whereas mistakes made by someone of a different language stand out for me in the text, so I pick up on them straight away.

              1. allathian*

                That’s a fair point. Finnish is very different from most Indo-European languages in that there are no prepositions, the language uses cases instead (15, compare German with three, nominative, dative and accusative). So using the wrong preposition is very common, people frequently get “to” and “at” mixed up. There’s also no simple future tense, so when Finns write in English they typically use a going to + present tense construction, even when the simple future tense would work better. Finnish also lacks definite and indefinite articles, so mistakes with articles are very common.

                I used to be pretty fluent in both Spanish and French, and both are much closer to English in grammar terms than Finnish is.

            2. TardyTardis*

              I sometimes beta fanfiction writers, for some of whom English is their third language or so. This helps me when I write fictional English speakers for whom English is their third language or so, etc.

  6. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, job search, find other clients, whatever. Get out of there.

    And also – you really need to reset your normal meter. This is abuse, and it appears to have screwed with your head. Therapy might be a good idea.

    1. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. It’s become so normalized to have shouting matches at work, be expected to apologize for doing your job, and be expected to soothe people who cause you problems in the first place that you probably do need to reset what’s “normal” in your head. OP, you’re a freelancer. Freelance somewhere else. You know that he’s running out of money, so don’t wait until it’s gone. That’s the FIRST of many reasons you should be looking to get out of that project. You do not owe them your sanity or loyalty. When you care more than the boss does, there is no way you can fix it. It’s like driving a car with three flat tires.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Yes, getting out is the important thing right now. Focus your energy on getting other clients and looking for other jobs. It can be hard in the current economy, but that’s even more reason to start as soon as possible. Read the Friday positive news for some inspiration, if you haven’t yet.

      You dealt very professionally with Zelda’s yelling. It’s entirely reasonable to not stay and listen to a yelling co-worker.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Nobody said that, but we’ve seen plenty of examples here of people having their perspective skewed by bad workplaces in ways they can’t always see from the inside. I think I’m A Little Teapot was just trying to remind you of that possibility so you could take steps to avoid it.

      2. Helena1*

        Your question is “should I apologise?”, not “I’ve dusted off my CV, how little notice can I reasonably give these tossers?” That implies you’ve normalised the behaviour at least to some degree. If Zelda had started off like this on your first day there, you would have turned and walked straight back out again.

      3. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

        I’ve been in a toxic, mom and pop type small business, and it took me months of being out of that job to realize how toxic it was. If I knew then how unhealthy I’d become from job residue, I would have left sooner. OP, if you have writing skills, there is a lot of remote stuff out there. Check the jobs board at Media Bistro. I really hope you find a way out soon!

      4. JSPA*

        You’re implying
        a) that you’re staying for the near future
        b) that you bear some duty the the company
        c) that you remain in some way invested in them doing the right thing
        d) that Zelda’s incompetence and cruelty is yours to manage
        e) that there’s an excuse for a workplace being terribly sexist, and employing only two women (one of them unpaid) and actually, above all,
        f) that you could somehow look unprofessional for knocking off a little early in the face of mounting abuse–when most people watching the movie of your life are yelling, “no, get out! get out while you can!”
        f) that you’re boss’s exploitation of someone who is both GF and unpaid worker is something that basically “is terrible, but that’s what it is,” as opposed to being, well, not quite human trafficking or slavery, but some cousin to both or either. It’s at minimum a tax violation (barter transaction not taxed) a massive wage / employment violation, and (which matters least to me, but not to the authorities, and thus presumably not to Zelda) an immigration violation.

        Legally-speaking, if boss and Zelda are not happy with each other, they have mutual extortion to fall back upon. She’s at risk of immigration jail and deportation, he’s at risk of imprisonment for all of the above. I get that in all sorts of circumstances, one can say, “not my rodeo, not my cattle,” and focus on doing one’s own job competently. But there’s almost certainly no level of competence on your part that has the power to save this company, or even keep it above ground long enough for you to put a successful project launch on your resumé, or even get you a good reference (from whom? Not either of the main characters in the drama, nor presumably the super-sexist engineering team).

        And your question is about how you can give more of an F— about the job (or the interpersonal drama or the demands). That’s pretty clearly the wrong question. Missing the right question is a “forest for the trees” warning sign.

        Nothing about this says, “maybe it’ll all end well.” Most things I can visualize as plausible outcomes require (literal) trigger warnings.

        You need to give so much less of an F about the business, and so much more of an F to doing almost anything, almost anywhere else. And I’m usually pretty quick to say, “at least you know the devil you know.” Not, “grab for a different gold ring.” But you’re acting like both you and Zelda are indentured in some way. She, frighteningly enough, apparently may be; you’re not.

        1. Legend of Zelda OP*

          *sigh* *cracks fingers*

          a) I did not imply it, I outright said it: I am staying for the foreseeable future because this project means more to me than being yelled at. Don’t like the choice I made based on my needs, wants, and future goals, none of which you know anything about? Sorry about that.
          b) Not exactly sure what this means? The only duties I “bear” the company are to write and edit other written work. Now, do I feel that I have a responsibility towards the company itself? I do not.
          c) I am invested in this project being a success. That’s it.
          d) I don’t believe this, but I am the only one who has had any success with her up to this point, so I do try to mitigate some of the shouting and general bad feelings. I am sure I will be told I need therapy for this, but eh.
          e) I did not at any point say this and I genuinely am angered that you think I did. Absolute bunk.
          f) I don’t really care about looking unprofessional, but I’d rather not burn any bridges until I have decided to do so.
          apparently another f?) These people are both EU citizens and we live in the EU, for one thing, so it’s not a trafficking operation. My god, I never said anything you’re accusing me of here!

          Be self-righteous if you must, but please stop projecting opinions onto me that I do not and have never held (and have NEVER indicated I have done so!) I never asked how to give more of an F about the business! I said I felt the opposite way!

          I’m done with this. What nonsense.

          1. Anonys*

            I’m curious what you mean by “illegal occupancy in our country of residence”? I also took this to mean that Zelda was in your country illegally, ie an illegal immigrant.

            What Zelda is doing to you and the other staff is abusive and there is absolutely no excuse for it, but I do feel bad that she is working for her boyfriend and not being paid. imo your boss is the ultimate bad guy here and deserves to get in serious legal trouble for this.

            1. Legend of Zelda OP*

              She is not 100% legal, in that officially she is still a resident of the last country she lived in, and does not have working or full living rights, but because of how the EU works she’s not “illegal” so much as “if anyone asks, you better say you’re mid-process and move on it.” That’s totally fair; sorry for the confusion.

              1. Legend of Zelda OP*

                Oh, but Ron could still get in huge trouble, and this is clearly a liability issue anywhere.

            2. pancakes*

              I don’t think the letter writer or anyone else should take it upon themselves to enforce immigration / visa violations, or suspected violations. Vigilanteism is particularly unjustifiable regarding those: The offense isn’t one that in itself imminently threatens anyone’s safety, the perception of violation is prone to bigotry, and it’s nearly impossible to know the facts of the circumstances, given how much depends on documentation rather than, say, the appearance of circumstantial evidence, or the presence or absence of a state of mind. Likewise tax violations.

              That said it is of course very exploitative for this woman to be working without pay, but she and the letter writer don’t have the sort of relationship where it would be comfortable to, say, give her a print-out of an article about her legal rights, or a pamphlet from a victims’ rights advocate. The letter writer needs to find a new job and get away from both of these people.

              1. Anonys*

                I agree. I wasn’t trying to say anyone should contact the authorities about her immigration status – people are not illegal. What I’m concerned about is that she is working for her boyfriend (bad in and off itself) without pay (definitely illegal). On top of that, as OP says, she doesn’t actually have the right to work in her country so she likely doesn’t have many other options other than working for a boyfriend who calls her evil.

                I don’t think this excuses any of the abuse Zelda has unleashed on OP and others and it’s certainly not OPs responsibility to do anything here, but imo there is a good chance Zelda herself is in an abusive situation.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Your actions said it. You should be long gone by now. Instead you got tripped up by that “if only” thinking.
        If only I was away from her…
        If only I just talked to Ron…
        If only Ron would do something here…

        BTDT, OP, so I know how it goes. They ought to teach us in kindergarten to watch out for how many times we say “if only”. We say it too much and we are actually trying to remake reality.

        1. Legend of Zelda OP*

          I…don’t see how I’ve said this, either here or in my personal life, but thank you for assuming my thoughts.

  7. NGL*

    YEARS?! That’s what made my eyebrows jump to the top of my head. A product delay of YEARS over scriptwriting?

    This is so out of your hands, OP.

    1. Lilyp*

      Yesssss that is just ??????????? Has Ron been paying salaries and business expenses out of pocket for years to fund this with no revenue? Or do you make money on other projects and it’s just this one that’s Zelda’s pet that’s so delayed?

      1. Lilyp*

        I don’t even know if you should think of this as working at a real business op (since that would assume a product and revenue and etc), it sounds more like this guy is paying you out of pocket to be his girlfriend’s emotional chew toy!

    2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      The OP spoke of a “media company” but this makes me wonder if it’s something like video games, where “script” changes could mean line re-recordings and possibly even changes to the environment. I could easily see that causing years of delay if the problem is something like “now we need two voice actors back in the booth and someone needs to redo this cutscene to add smoke effects” or whatnot.

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        At this point I’m tempted to believe OP has been working on the development of a certain space simulator whose name is a synonym of Sun Inhabitant.

        Seriously now, this sounds like an incredibly toxic work environment, both from Ron and Zelda’s shenanigans, and the sexist team. This isn’t normal, and it’s not your fault in any way. It really seems you’d be better off looking for another job as soon as possible. Wishing you the best, OP.

        1. Legend of Zelda OP*

          Do you have stairs in your house?

          And, no, definitely not working on Star Citizen!

          1. pamela voorhees*

            They are protected, they actually only use ladders. Or are they stepladders?

            (I apologize for derailing, I couldn’t stop myself from making a Phoenix Wright joke. I’ll show myself out.)

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        That was my thought as well. Being done in a non-native-english speaking country or with a large crew of non-native-english developers sounds right.

      3. pamela voorhees*

        Video game production companies have notoriously difficult cultures, which could make this situation even more complicated if Zelda/Ron/etc. see their behavior as totally normal or even tame for their particular industry — which makes Alison’s advice is even more important, because no, this isn’t normal or acceptable, and no, it isn’t your fault. Even if other people are behaving worse, it doesn’t make them okay by comparison (not that you sound like you believe that, OP! But it’s important to keep in mind.)

      4. Lorac*

        This absolutely screams game development to me. Sounds like they’re translating/localizing from another language to English. Year long delays sounds like a DLC based type of game.

    3. Legend of Zelda OP*

      It’s been delayed since before I worked there, actually. I’ve only been on the project for about a year and had no idea we were delayed until recently because my boss is SUPER SECRETS MAN sitting on a pile of grumpy secrets.

  8. Even In an Emergency*

    Ahhh! Ahh!! no no no no no no! OP, please start looking for other opportunities!!!

  9. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Since you’re a freelancer, you could easily “fire” the client, let this train wreck itself without you, and save your own sanity.

  10. LTL*

    Run OP, don’t walk. And in the mean time, try to remind yourself that none of these guys are your problem.

  11. ceiswyn*

    You do not have the power to singlehandedly steer this Titanic away from its iceberg. All you can do is get your own lifeboat launched before it hits.

    If this were a relationship, it would be an emotionally abusive one. It being a workplace does not improve matters. Did I mention, get out?

    1. Observer*

      Well, it is an emotionally abusive relationship. The OP is being sucked into one of the more toxic relationships I’ve seen.

      OP, this is another good reason for you to look for a new job. You REALLY do not need to be in the middle of this horror show.

  12. Jaybeetee*

    I’m so glad Alison answered as she did, with an emphasis that This Really Isn’t Your Responsibility.

    You’re in an abusive work situation, and this is a big part of how abuse works. Up is down, left is right, there’s some set of rules that would sound absolutely nutty to an outsider, but you end up twisting yourself into a pretzel making it work when none of it makes sense in the first place. They’ve taught you it’s somehow your job to manage their relationship and moods, that you should apologize for getting screamed at, that if this crashes and burns around you, you should have done more. Ron and Zelda are the ones running the ship, and they’re loons, and they’re the ones burning it down. It’s not your fault, or your responsibility. But if they keep the crises coming, you’ll be too busy to realize that.

    I recommend googling an article entitled “Sick Systems”, by Issendei. It discusses this idea from an interpersonal and a professional perspective, as well as the moment you start waking up and going, “This is insane. I’m doing this why?”

    1. many bells down*

      I just want to come in to second your recommendation of Issendai. Their treatise on estranged parents’ forums has been immensely helpful to me.

    2. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Yeah, I had the same thought about Sick Systems. OP, your workplace is full of bees! Start disengaging as much as you can (like someone else suggested, therapy might be helpful here), and start job hunting immediately. Run, don’t walk!

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Bees, wasps and murder hornets!
        OP, this is unsustainable – get out. Please! We all need to see the update (preferably before December) that you escaped and are now working somewhere sane!

    3. Exhausted Educator Was Exhausted*

      Holy crap. This article reminded me so much of a previous workplace that my stomach began to tie itself into knots. I had to stop reading about 2/3 of the way through.

  13. That'll happen*

    OP, your response to being yelled at was not losing your temper. You had a perfectly reasonable reaction to being yelled at, and you ended the call, as is your right. As Alison has said many times, it is fine to walk away from a situation where someone is yelling at you. You are in such an unprofessional, toxic workplace that somehow you think that politely standing up for yourself is worthy of an apology. Please get out ASAP.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s a skill all adults should have, just in case. Like last week’s letter where someone got screamed at for 75 minutes.

        1. MassMatt*

          The amazing thing about that letter was it was both the LW and the LW’s BOSS, the screamer’s superior, who… did nothing!

          1. Observer*

            Well, the LW’s Boss is a piece of work, so I’m not surprised at ANY sub-par behavior on his part.

      2. IrishMN*

        I agree! I was surprised and saddened that LW thought that what she said was inappropriate. It was completely appropriate, and probably far more polite than most of us would have been in a situation described as losing one’s temper.

    1. Legend of Zelda OP*

      Well, it’s not that so much that I am completely deluded and think she deserves an apology because of my behavior as that I would 100% have to apologize in order to work with her again, which as far as I knew at the time would be required of me going forward, but I get where you’re coming from.

      1. Observer*

        But why is that your problem?

        I could see you deciding that you want to continue to work there for the time being and this is what it’s going to take. But why on earth would you actually try to craft a *real* apology? Of COURSE you can’t come up with anything – her behavior way beyond out of line.

        “I’m sorry you were offended” (“Because you act like a total jerk when you get mad” inside your head) is about as far as I would plan out.

        I’m glad it’s off the table for now.

    2. Nicholas C Kiddle*

      It reminded me of the bit in Busman’s Honeymoon where Lord Peter apologises to his new wife for his bad temper and she replies, “I’ve seen tempers in comparison with which you’d call that a burst of heavenly harmony.” OP, it seems to me that you were very reasonably assertive in the face of enormous provocation. I wish I could handle myself that well when I haven’t lost my temper.

        1. Lena Clare*

          From Captain Awkward’s blog, a house full of evil bees. It’s in the glossary if you search for it there :)

  14. Working Hypothesis*

    Do freelance clients qualify for the Worst Boss awards? Because I think we’ve got a candidate if they do.

    OP, you’re a freelancer. Go seek other clients. Go seek other clients that will let you walk away from this dumpster fire and not look back. It is not your problem to solve, and it is not a problem you CAN solve, and it will only come down on your head when it collapses if you’re still there by that time.

    Please don’t still be there by that time.

    Good luck to you.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, definitely. OP, you say you’re “technically” a freelancer. Is Ron paying you? Seriously, are you getting your money?

      Based on your description, Ron sounds as though he’s going to be bankrupt soon, and you’ll be well down among the unsecured creditors. You need to be getting out NOW.

      1. JSPA*

        ooh, I missed that. He may be misclassifying OP as well, leaving her due a big pile of money.

  15. Observer*

    OP. firstly, I’m going to TOTALLY agree with all the people who say that this is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Also, that you don’t owe anyone any apologies nor did you behave badly.

    If you want to “apologize” because it might make your life easier, do so, but this is the PERFECTLY IDEAL place for a non-apology apology. “I’m sorry you were upset”. Which is kind of true – you are sorry because it lead to her acting like a total jerk. But, do NOT try to craft a genuine apology, as it’s just not possible. You can’t apologize for breathing air in the proximity of another person, which is pretty much what you did “wrong”.

    Regardless of “apology” (or lack thereof), please take Alison’s advice and do NOT rejigger the workflow. Even if you are technically slowing things down, it’s not your responsibility. It’s Ron’s. Also, given Zelda’s behavior, any time you bypass her it must save enough time to totally outweigh any theoretical added time else where.

    Last but not least. Start saving every penny you can and start looking for a job. Start looking TODAY.

  16. Lilyp*

    I will say, and this isn’t any excuse for Zelda’s terrible and abusive behavior towards the OP, but it sounds like Ron is taking advantage of her and I suspect their personal relationship is also deeply unhealthy. But again OP, that’s not your problem to fix and you couldn’t even if you tried. Put all your energy here into trying to find other work and let all these problems fall into Ron, where they belong.

    Also… it’s telling that you included the caveat about non-native speakers learning technical grammar because in a normal letter that would indeed have become a Debate in the comments, but this letter is full of so so many bees that it’s not anybody’s priority. Really, even if Zelda *was* 100% correct in all her edits and you were being a terrible condescending asshole questioning her, the way she’s treating you would still be unacceptable!

    1. Mazzy*

      I was thinking the same thing about the language part, but since a 100 comment thread didn’t start on it, I did actually think it’s important to note that that’s not a reason to accept someone nitpicking you to death. I speak a second language and have been to other countries and have spoken partial English there since people like to practice on you, and what I found was that some non-native speakers would know the meaning of a couple of obscure words, or would prefer British English, which sounded wrong or off to Americans (think “switch on” vs. “turn on”), and they’d definitely know grammar terms like phrasal verb or past perfect tense. But when it came to actually speaking, they’d cede to the native English speaker!

      So her nitpicking language is just that, nitpicking.

      1. valentine*

        that’s not a reason to accept someone nitpicking you to death.
        I think OP just wants to avoid more/louder yelling. If they say Zelda’s wrong, to just Zelda, separately to Ron, or to both of them together, Zelda will yell at them, and in the last case, Ron and Zelda will yell at each other while OP feels like their captive audience.

        If a translator is just ignorant of and not curious about simple etymology (or Greek mythology), what can you even say? (Apart from using the word chronology ASAP.)

    2. Legend of Zelda OP*

      I stand by that statement; I have worked in international education for over a decade as an EFL specialist and it’s almost always true in my experience. That’s why sometimes you get yelled at for not being able to explain the subjunctive function colon bricketybrack tense in 10 seconds or less to a kindergartner who can’t speak their own language yet. :D

      1. Anonymous Overseas*

        I feel your pain.
        I’ve done writing work as the only native English speaker in an EU company, and got terrific pushback with all sorts of false friends from the local language.
        My best weapons were (as mentioned below) having a printed version of the Chicago Manual of Style on hand, and constantly pulling up the Webster website among others.

        However, if Zelda is that unreasonable, it might be difficult to convince her with anything. Then avoiding contact, using your workflow, and no, not apologizing might be your best move. Anything to remove yourself from the cray-cray, especially if you want to stay in the company.

        A personal anecdote:
        A developer team lead didn’t get along with me, and his attitude filtered into the entire team. Long story short, I was cut out of communication.
        One day, my then supervisor told me the team was complaining of my “poor English they had to fix”. I immediately offered to pull up my last 20 changes in the version control system. Which we did on the spot. Aside from typos and the occasional incorrect fact the team had supplied to translate, there was nothing.
        My superior wandered off bemused, the situation stayed the same, and I changed teams within the company after additional, more serious incidents.

  17. fat scientist*

    The OP clearly has larger issues here but the point about the native/non-native English speaker technical vs “intuitive” knowledge of English is something I’ve run up against. In my old job I was the only native English speaker so I was always asked to edit things. Editing wasn’t my job but it was actually really nice, I got more insight into the projects everyone was doing and I provided content-related as well as English input. However, my boss (a non-native speaker) would call me into her office to go over the edits sometimes and ask me to explain some of them and sometimes it was really hard! I’m not a grammar expert, I don’t always know WHY something is necessarily grammatically correct, just that it is. Also, once she tried to argue that “human subjects” and “human objects” were functionally the same thing and either should be able to be used and it was very difficult for me to find the right words to convince her otherwise.

    1. Tau*

      I have played token quasi-native speaker ever since my classmates got me to read over their English homework for them after my family moved back to Germany from the US. This is such a problem, and I always try to make sure people understand that I will not be able to explain *why* something should be this way, I can only explain *that* it should be this way. That’s how untrained native language intuition WORKS – if you want an actual explanation, hire an English teacher.

      (I actually do have a pretty good grasp on English grammar thanks to being dropped in six years of EFL classes when I already spoke the language fluently and developing an interest in linguistics in self-defense, but it really drove home that the way native speakers learn a language is nothing at all like the way foreign learners do it.)

      1. Artemesia*

        I spent a year in a German Gymnasium and had similar experiences; the English teacher would ask me to phrase things and that was fine, but when he would ask me to explain my word choice, I often could not do it — I was 16 and had some grasp of grammar rules but so many things were ‘just the way it sounds right.’

      2. Anonymous at a University*

        Honestly, if someone’s determined to be a jerk and/or ignore you, it’s not going to make a difference. I have an English degree, can explain the grammatical nuts and bolts if someone asks me, and have a lot of freshman teaching and tutoring experience. I also mostly teach and work with native English speakers. I have still had people get extremely upset at me when I was explaining something like the difference between “lie” and “lay,” or the rules of apostrophes (dear God, apostrophes), or that “child” does not pluralize as “childs,” because, “Well, that’s not the way I say it, though,” or “If that rule existed, my high school teachers would have taught it to me,” or my absolute favorite, “It sounds the same as [random other word,] so why do I need to change it?”

        OP, Zelda is a jerk. If it wasn’t the nitpicking about language, it would be something else, and it sounds like it’s a ton of something elses. Get out of there.

        1. Not So NewReader*


          If the plural of “goose” is “geese”, then why isn’t the plural of “caboose”, “cabeese”?

          Ans. Because we haven’t fix it yet. Check back in a 100 years. Maybe we will get it.

      3. Student*

        My favorite instance of an English-German translation issue, and associated resistance to correction on the part of the non-native speaker, happened when I was interning briefing in Germany for a summer.

        A German colleague was telling me in English about some local insect pests that give you a rash. He was telling me about a local home remedy that repelled the insects in question. The home remedy involved rubbing some local plant seeds on your nose, to keep the pests away from the face. He offered to rub some seed on my nose to demonstrate its effectiveness.

        Fine, right?

        The only problem was, throughout this discussion, he swapped the word for plant seeds with the word for animal “seed”.

        When I finally figured out exactly what had gone wrong in translation and politely corrected him, he was adamant that the word he’d been using was accurate for both plants and animals. I had to be very firm when telling him no, they are not freely interchangeable. And I very nearly slapped him before I figured it out.

        1. Tau*

          Oh my god. That is both amazing and terrible. Mostly terrible. And… oh, crud, the German word for both is clearly cognate to and most similar to the English word for the animal, I never even realised that. That is a way easier mistake to make than it should be.

          My native speaker powers have managed to prevent not one but two unintentional sexual references going out in high-level external-facing publications that really shouldn’t have them, but at least when I told people “you cannot use this word in this context. under no circumstances. say literally anything else.” they listened.

        2. J. f.*

          A close friend from the UK went around her US office the first week of work asking if anyone had any rubbers. (It’s slang for condoms here. It wasn’t that kind of office.)

    2. WellRed*

      In my college tutoring center, I had to try and explain its vs it’s to a non native speaker. I could probably do it now, but I struggled at the time.

      1. PollyQ*

        Here’s the secret trick: possessive pronouns don’t use apostrophes*: his, hers, theirs, yours. ‘Its’ follows the same rule.

        * At least not in modern usage.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We were told to check, can the words “it is” be used instead? If no, then NO apostrophe. If yes, then use the apostrophe.
          Possessive pronouns already show possession so no apostrophes. It was one of the few rules I actually retained from the get-go.

        2. Media Monkey*

          my english teacher at school used to put up on the board


          If they aren’t right in the context, neither is it’s.

    3. IrishMN*

      I know that my mom once had a manager who didn’t speak English as their first language, and I believe they learned English in a UK style. In my mom’s review, she said that my mom did a “fine” job. Now, this person meant this as a high compliment (I hear someone with a Bristish accent saying, “Very fine, very fine indeed!”). However, to most who speak American English, it comes across as “Eh, fine.” My mom did address this with her, but talk about awkward. There really are nuances of language that are cultural. I have been told that in other English-speaking countries, “lovely” is sort of like how we use “fine,” so I try to avoid it.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah. But Zelda actually doesn’t know English very well at all, never mind nuances. I mean in what English speaking country can you say that chronological does not have anything to do with time?

      2. Helena1*

        Funnily enough given your username, it sounds really Irish to me! “Oh you did a fine job there, Sinead!”

      3. Not So NewReader*


        I made a call today. The lady I called asked if I was “lovely [boss’ name]”. I guess I was tired because this hit me as really funny. So I said I was the less than lovely subordinate and gave my name.

        My boss is lovely, she really is. But it’s so unusual to hear a stranger say “lovely” about anyone and I just started giggling.

    4. Amy Sly*

      This is the reason I think everyone (at bare minimum, those on an academics heavy track) should take a foreign language. Sure, being able to speak a foreign language is nice, but the biggest advantage is that you end up learning about your own language’s grammar. Latin and Greek, in particular, have so many rules on declension and conjugation that by the time you can work through all the forms any particular noun, adjective, or verb can take, you’ve covered an enormous number of grammar rules.

    5. Koala dreams*

      It’s normal for native speakers to rely on their feelings and intuition about language (the “Sprachgefühl”, to use a German expression), and not know the rules consciously. In fact, some things are hard even for linguists to explain. Language doesn’t always follow simple rules. Non-native speakers are perhaps more likely to have learnt the rules explicitly, but that doesn’t mean we always apply them correctly.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes indeed. I’ve a Polish friend in a sister company in Warsaw who often asks me to look over his presentations in English. His English is technically correct but sometimes not idiomatic so I will make suggestions but I can’t always explain why I’d change a word or use a certain construction.

        Likewise when I write in French my word choice is occasionally incorrect or outdated.

      2. I can only speak Japanese*

        English adjective order comes to mind. “Cute little yellow shoes” sounds right, but “yellow little cute shoes” sounds (and is, apparently) wrong.

        And even after over twenty years of learning and using English, I have yet to find an explanation for why “I am ” cannot be abbreviate to “I’m” when saying “I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”

        1. allathian*

          That last is easy. You sound it out, because there is a minor emphasis on the word.
          “I can’t tell you how sorry I’m not” works, because the emphasis is on “not”. It’s unlikely anyone would say that, unless they’re being sarcastic.

          1. I can only speak Japanese*

            That makes sense to me, thank you! It doesn’t seem like a clear rule though, so someone like Zelda might argue anyway.

        2. Hapax Legomenon*

          That concept sent me to Google for twenty minutes, and I couldn’t find a satisfying answer. But most of what I found placed the blame on the word that normally follows the verb getting moved to a position in front of the verb, which blocks auxiliary verbs from contracting. Negative contractions play by different rules though.

    6. Just some internet rando*

      Lol! Human objects! If she pushed back I would be tempted to just say “okay” and let it stand.

    7. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      I have whats sounds like a similar role to OP minus the craziness.

      One tip I have when I need to correct/be firm on a particular point of grammar (and like OP I cant explain why as a native speaker), I lean towards explaining gun its colloquial English or the tone of voice a client/audience requires. Seems to side step some issues where I am but I am totally with Alison start looking now, this sounds so stressful and even if you don’t find anything for a while, the act of looking itself will feel empowering – you have options and you deserve better. Good luck OP, we’re all behind you.

      1. Myrin*

        I think you’re misunderstanding – I’m quite sure fat scientist meant it in the sense of “the language/grammar thing is clearly not the main issue of this letter/the situation”.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I’m fairly sure they meant “the OP is dealing with larger issues in this workplace,” rather than as a criticism of you.

    8. TL -*

      I recently had to explain to a non-native speaker that you couldn’t use the phrase “permanent solution” to refer to people, even if it was in a positive manner – the phrase was “we need a permanent solution for people with this disease, not just chronic treatment.”

      On the second round, they hadn’t edited it (I just flagged it the first time and said, this isn’t a good phrase, please use something else), so I had to spell out the reference they were unintentionally making, in great detail, which was fun.

      1. allathian*

        How did they react to your explanation?

        I actually have something similar, years ago I edited a text that said something like “The final solution we selected was…” and I got some pushback on why I wanted to change that. Granted, the text had nothing to do with people, so the association wasn’t obvious.

  18. Drew*

    The entire letter, my brain was thinking “GTFO with all due speed.” This company is broken and the only person who can repair it doesn’t seem to see the problem. The ship is going down and it’s time to get into the lifeboat (which is ideally a much better ship, not just dingy like the one you work for now).

    Seriously, nothing in your letter is your problem to solve. The one situation you’re thinking you should apologize for is a situation you handled perfectly: “I won’t be treated like this, so I’m done with this conversation” is completely professional.

    But, seriously, get out. You deserve better,

  19. Jack Dedham*

    OP, this is a basic missing stair issue. Y’all have stepped over the missing stair for years. Your boss hasn’t had to deal with it because y’all work around it. Make him deal with the missing stair. Make him fix the stair so you can do your job. Your boss needs to want this project to succeed too, and to take steps to make it happen.

    1. Observer*

      The OP can’t make her boss do anything. She shouldn’t even try.

      Instead, she should protect herself and look for a job at a place that doesn’t consider abuse to be the normal way to operate.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        You’re right. She can’t make the boss do anything, but she can make sure that he’s aware of what’s not being done. So, “Zelda yells at me, I’m not putting up with it. If she yells again I’ll walk us both into your office and you can handle it.” Boss probably won’t do bupkiss, but LW has handed over the problem rather than just stepping over the missing stair.

        1. Observer*

          Except that boss KNOWS that Zelda yells at her. And Boss also gets into these shouting matches in front of the OP.

          OP has done the only thing she can – she’s told Ron that she’s had enough and he shifted her to a different workflow. If that affects workflow or efficiency, that’s going to be Ron’s problem. The OP should not bring it up, and if Ron brings it up, she should not volunteer to fix or change anything. If he asks her to start working with Zelda again, THAT is when she brings it up to him (again.)

    2. IrishMN*

      The boss is a missing stair and Zelda is a rusty nail poking out from the wall that jabs you every time you have to step over the missing stair.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Actually, I’m thinking the boss is the missing stair in this analogy. Adding together: circumventing the law, hiring his girlfriend (not ethical!), paying his girlfriend entirely in kind instead of in money, having arguments with the girlfriend in front of staff, ignoring sexism and work flow issues, and the mismanagement of money. Some of the problems are related to Zelda, yes, but it’s the boss that choose to hire his girlfriend (or get together with his worst employee, I guess).

        1. valentine*

          He also chose to skimp on a translator, in favor of more control over Zelda, so I’m not even sure he wants the business to do well, versus merely exist.

        2. JSPA*

          Zelda is verbally abusive and incompetent. Boss is cheap, at least a couple of flavors of criminal, quite possibly a higher category of abusive, certainly unable or unwilling to manage, and he’s the person with all the power. Boss is almost certainly the root problem. (For him not to be, there needs to be some complex back story of extortion or third parties. OP has not mentioned it, so I’m assuming it’s not there.)

    4. char*

      The whole damn staircase is missing and OP has gotten used to metaphorically clambering up nearby shelving units to get to the second floor instead.

  20. WellRed*

    OP, this was so stressful to read. Please take Alison’s advice to heart, don’t apologize to Zelda and do get out. You are a freelancer and the boss is running out of money. Are you currently paid up to date? When the money runs out and the project goes belly up you will not get paid.

  21. CheeseToastie*

    I agree that you should find a new job. But in the meantime, get that money. Who cares about the product and delays and Ron’s feelings. Just do your work in a manner that keeps you sane, and log off.

  22. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Number 18 in the important things I’ve learnt at work:

    When you realise you’re swimming in a sewage works it’s better to get out than to try and bail out the poop.

  23. Bob*

    “Don’t stick around and wait for this to collapse further.”
    Exactly this. This is a job, not a company you own and certainly not your first born child.
    Your there to do what you were hired for in exchange for money. If they could get someone else to do your job for half the money you would be replaced by the end of the day.
    Your loyalty to them is to do what your paid for. Not manage or rescue someone else’s failing asset, failing because of their own incompetence and poor choices. What your doing is not that far off from someone who enables a drug addict.
    Detach from your one sided marriage to these people and this company. Easier said then done, but you will have to accept they are not your blood family.
    Find another job and remember that your an employee paid to do the job description only, not give up your life and sanity to save people from themselves.

  24. Kate H*

    I’ve never been less prepared to read a question based on the headline. My eyebrows may have disappeared into space.

    OP, start looking for the escape hatch today! If there is literally anything else that you could be doing, please be doing it.

  25. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    OP, no.
    You did nothing wrong. You can apologize anyway. But that will change nothing. Remind yourself why you pay your own taxes, do your own billing, dealing with all the added work of being a freelancer: because you don’t have to live with this bullshit.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Adding, if you apologize now, OP, that will lower the bar even more and you will find yourself apologizing for saying “good morning” or answering questions correctly.
      Get out while you still have some recall of what normal is.

  26. MissDisplaced*

    Oh god OP, seriously just RUN. Run so far away!
    I worked at a small dysfunctional place like this a few years ago where the owner and chief “marketing” person were a couple (though not married so her husband still had to pay her alimony). They acted similar in nitpicking over very minor things like word choice, and insisted I was wrong if I corrected what they wrote, which was horrible conspiracy laden stuff. Vendors never wanted to work with us because the owner would get mad about the work he screwed up by constantly making changes and delaying, and then would refuse to pay for.

    It’s really best to get out now if you can. Working here will mess with your mind and professional norms.

  27. Michael Jackson's Nose*

    What’s with all the poasters suggesting that OP go to therapy? It’s not just in this thread, but apparently A Thing on this bort.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Because the OP thinks that being abused like that is normal, and doesn’t see how dysfunctional it is to expect an apology for (calmly!) ending a conversation when someone is being verbally abusive. Those are issues that usually come from growing up with abuse, and a therapist is an effective way to gain a new, more healthy perspective on these behaviors and our reactions to them.

      1. Michael Jackson's Nose*

        But OP didn’t say it’s. Indeed, OP opened with, “I work at a dysfunctional workplace.”

        Frankly, it’s offensive to suggest that OP is something that’s broken and needs to be fixed. Let’s leave mental health advice to the professionals.

        1. Kella*

          Uhhh suggesting therapy is not suggesting that OP is broken and needs to be fixed. Alison is always warning folks who’ve been in toxic work situations for long periods of time that they’ll need to work on readjusting their norms or else they’ll end up with the same problems, because places like this can really reprogram your brain. So even if OP conceptually understands that this is dysfunctional, therapy probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Suggesting therapy is essentially suggesting that they seek out additional support for what sounds like a traumatizing experience.

        2. Actual Vampire*

          Frankly, it’s offensive to suggest that OP is something that’s broken and needs to be fixed.

          Well, you’re right, that is an offensive way to describe therapy.

        3. Observer*

          Way to stigmatize therapy. It’s offensive and inaccurate.

          I don’t know that the OP needs therapy. But the idea that therapy is only for “broken” things (not even people!) that need to be fixed is inaccurate, offensive and extremely problematic.

        4. OyHiOh*

          Therapy =/= “broken”

          Therapy = tools exist to help with a variety of thinking/feeling/believing situations we find ourselves in and a good therapist can help a person learn how to use those tools.

          Traditional therapy isn’t right or helpful for everyone but it’s useful enough in enough situations to say “you might find therapy helpful” without trying to diagnose by saying why *I* think therapy might be useful for you.

        1. Artemesia*

          We all read the letter. She takes responsibility for productivity in an abusive environment where delays are in no way her fault or responsibility and wonders if she should apologize for her entirely professional response. Her sense of normal is ‘broken’ — and no wonder given what she is swimming in. This is likely to mess with her head even after she leaves the place.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes, her perception of her options and her reaction to this kind of toxic workplace indicate that for whatever reason (she may have grown up in a dysfunctional family like Alison said, or just spending too long in this hellhole workplace) something has wildly warped her perceptions of normal. She knows that her workplace is bad, but she seems to think it’s her problem to fix Ron and Zelda’s issues and the work problems caused by them, or that disengaging from someone yelling at her was inappropriate when actually it’s exactly what she should do. Therapy can be a good way to help reorient your perspective and help you to see what options you really do have.

            1. Legend of Zelda OP*

              But where did I say it was normal? At what point did I not submit this letter to an advice column, asking for help with my abnormal situation? Did I not seek help?

              1. TL -*

                It’s not about asking for help – it’s that you’re both accepting the responsibility and accepting the situation.

                “normal” in this case translates to “I would neither accept responsibility for this behavior nor to continue working in this toxic environment.”

                Saying that you see this is bad is like someone who spends a party telling you how their spouse drives drunk all the time and how scary and bad it is, and then at the end of the party, you see them getting into the car their drunk spouse is driving. For as much as they say the behavior is bad, they’re still accepting both the behavior and the risk to themselves.

                1. LTL*

                  You all are ascribing a sort of “it’s okay for me to take this” attitude to the letter that’s not really there.

                2. TL -*

                  To be fair, this is with the context that this is a side job for the OP (provided in a comment), not their main source of income.

      2. Legend of Zelda OP*

        No, I did not say that at any point. You are being very presumptuous and the bad kind of dramatic, like teenage-breakup-at-a-McDonald’s dramatic. Please calm down.

        1. JSPA*

          You may be shooting the messenger, here.

          We’re presuming only that

          a) you didn’t lie to us in the description and

          b) you’re still willingly there, and worrying about looking professional to…whom, exactly? This pair of complete ass clowns?

          Could be we are missing information.

          If the pay is excellent, the location perfect, the field is known for warped norms, so that a differeent gig might be just as bad, or you have no other options for some other personal reason that’s got you stuck there (visa issues, staying near family in a small town where this is a large employer, about to become vested in some plan that you’ll take with you when the company implodes) or you’re gathering life experience for a future book? Fine. But that’s relevant information that’s missing.

          If both A and B are true, and there’s no other really massive side issue we’re missing, it’s not that people are over-reacting, it’s that you are under-reacting. Not compared to some prescriptive “normal”–people have very different levels of stress response, and quite a bit of that is genetic / innate. But compared to a statistical norm, finding this upsetting but not something for a contractor to fire a client over, is several standard deviations from the mean.

          People who have choices–by a very large margin!–don’t put up with this crap.

        2. I can only speak Japanese*

          I don’t think anyone in this thread is being very dramatic, and certainly no comment warrants “calm down” response in my eyes.

          You were so calm and professional in your last conversation with Zelda, while still standing up for yourself, and I thought that was awesome. But you categorizing your response as inappropriate to yourself (when it wasn’t) but finding comments here overly dramatic does make it seem like your perceptions may have been somewhat warped by your workplace. I’ve been there – my parents were toxic, former bosses and coworkers were toxic, and it’s really hard to get over that if you’ve been raised to accept it.

          We are all hoping you can get out of there soon if that’s what you want (and it sounds like you do), but those of us who have experienced toxic workplaces have also often had lingering effects that carried over to our new jobs, where suddenly we had no idea what professional behavior was. (I know I was SUPER defensive even when people tried to give me advice.) We don’t want that to happen to you.

          1. D*

            I agree with this. There are several very defensive comments by OP in response to gentle and well-meaning comments. I get the feeling that OP has had to defend herself so much that she’s having a difficult time shutting it off.

            The biggest example is whenever someone suggests that she has “normalized” the situation.

            Her response has been “Where did I say this was normal?” Or, “How presumptuous!”

            But the fact remains that OP has allowed this to become her “normal” by accepting unprofessional behavior. OP, I get that you recognize this as dysfunctional, but it has, unfortunately, become your normal, as in: this is the behavior you expect every day. You have allowed it to become normal by not creating and maintaining firm and healthy boundaries.

            For example, regardless of how sulky boss becomes after a screaming match OP has witnessed, she should refrain entirely from soothing him. Even if it’s tense or awkward the whole day. That discomfort will eventually evaporate, and the sooner OP establishes her boundaries, the sooner they will start to withdraw their expectations.

            Another example would be remaining in the room while they argue in the first place. When any screaming begins in that office, OP should politely excuse herself and not tolerate such poor behavior. If anyone tries to confront her about it later, she should similarly shut down any of that noise. Example:

            “OP, it was unprofessional of you to leave a meeting in progress.”

            “The meeting was disrupted by a couple’s dispute, but if you’d like to carry on now, I’m available.”

            Similarly, as Alison pointed out, OP shouldn’t apologize just to placate Zelda. If it means working through their boss, then that’s what she should do. Apologizing to Zelda is allowing her to continue to maintain a status quo where she behaves poorly without needing to accept responsibility for said behaviors.

            1. Legend of Zelda OP*

              I said one person was presumptuous, because I thought they were being presumptuous. Good grief.

              It is not my normal. I have stated that things have gotten worse over time and I was attempting to do some damage control. Not agreeing with negative comments about myself from uninformed persons is hardly a fault and definitely doesn’t negate the fact that I recognized a sick situation and asked for assistance. If I appear defensive, I think it’s more due to the fact that I’m not eating your well-meaning advice politely with a knife and fork, but pointing out logical issues with it. I understand this is frustrating.

              Let me cut you off before you say “But you said you should apologize, so it’s normal to you!” That’s a very silly statement and I’m tired of reading it, frankly. I said the onus was on me to smooth things over because she has crazy in her brain.

              Okay, now I’m really done.

              1. D*

                You appear defensive because you are not simply correcting the record, but using hostile language to do so. From calling people presumptuous and rude to your apparent disdain for therapy.

                You could simply ignore anything that you view as inapplicable. We’re all internet strangers here. You don’t need to defend your reputation with us.

                But even if you thought that setting the record straight would help you get better advice, saying things like, “Where did I say that?” or “Let me cut you off before you say this silly thing!” do come off as rather hostile.

                Ignoring misdirected internet advice or replying to it with a civil tone is not the same thing as “eating it with a knife and fork.”

                If you disagree, fine. Just recognize that no one here is trying to be offensive.

            2. pancakes*

              Speculating that someone probably grew up with abuse isn’t particularly gentle, or necessary.

              1. I can only speak Japanese*

                Neither D nor I are doing that though? We are talking about work place abuse, and I said that my OWN abusive upbringing made me an easy target for workplace abusers as well as gave me a hard time figuring out how to react and where to draw the line. OP seems to know that she doesn’t want to be yelled at by people at work, which is great.
                Now she just has to figure out whether to quit this job (which she says she can afford to) or stay because she cares about the product, but draw some boundaries. It sucks if you want a project to succeed but everyone else just causes drama, and getting out isn’t easy, so I hope she comes up with a solution she can be satisfied with.

            3. MCMonkeyBean*

              I’ve never seen an OP so defensive on a post where they are clearly in the right. It’s very odd.

    2. valentine*

      In this case, if you feel physically stuck receiving abuse, especially when there’s (from the outside) a lower-escalation simple solution like leaving a call, you possibly can’t get to the root of that on your own, and a therapist can give you tools to do that, as well as to work out the best way for you to exit abusive interactions.

    3. JSPA*

      Therapy can be for tuneups and adjustments, not only for fixing some sort of deep structural issue or gaping hole.

      I’m still in the mood for car analogies, so,

      it’s the mental equivalent of getting your tires rotated and balanced, fluids topped up, new brake pads and a steering alignment. You’ve been driving over a lot of ruts, and in extreme temperatures, and long hours, and with sketchy no-name gas, and maybe someone’s let some air out of your tires. Good time to check, once you have a moment.

      Sure, you can wait until the brakes grab and scream, and you have to pump the pedal to get them to grab at all, and then get in an actual accident. But it’s a lot easier to do a little maintenance work in advance.

  28. Butterfly Counter*

    Honestly, this is way more about the boss than it is about Zelda. He’s not paying her for work. While it doesn’t sound as though he’s using force, fraud, or coercion, what he is doing is uncomfortably close to human trafficking. At the very least, I’m not surprised that someone who hasn’t been hired nor is earning a paycheck for her work is acting unprofessionally. He’s made the decision to cut corners on hiring a real interpreter in order to have his girlfriend around. He’s the one who can fix this in a variety of ways (hiring an interpreter and letting his gf just be his gf, figuring out immigration for her, etc.) and it’s on him to do it. He’s not swept up in this situation, he’s creating it in a very deliberate manner.

    Zelda sounds like a pill, but she’s not the one responsible for everything going wrong, so lay this all at the feet of the one in charge and make him the person responsible for fixing it.

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      Yes! This!

      Her working for free in exchange for not being ratted out to immigration authorities is just…I would neither be surprised nor blame her if this was deliberate sabotage.

      Even without the immigration angle, this seems like financial abuse: “supporting” her instead of paying her so she doesn’t have the option of leaving him.

      I’m trying and failing to figure out how this isn’t slavery.

    2. Sara without an H*

      That was my thought, too. I agree Zelda is a PITA, but Ron is — something better described on a police blotter. OP, please reexamine your loyalty to Ron. He’s not just a bad businessman, he’s a bad human being. Do you want to keep working for someone like that?

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think that this is about loyalty per se. But, OP, it is completely true that Ron is NOT someone who I have any sympathy for, in the least bit. Because he IS being exploitative.

        This is yet ANOTHER reason for you to start looking for a new position ASAP. This whole mess is likely to explode or implode (or both) no matter what you do or don’t do. And even if it doesn’t do you REALLY want to work for a slime ball, IN the slime pit? Leaving without something lined up may not be an option. But starting to look IS an option.

  29. SunnySideUp*

    My only advice, to add to others’, is this: when one of them screams on a call, say, “I will not take part in calls where people scream at each other. I’m hanging up now.” Then do so. Rinse, repeat. At the very least, you save yourself a bit of angst, and signal that you are NOT having it.

  30. I Need That Pen*

    If, “Just Quit!” were that easy, that’s exactly what I would tell you to do. I hope one day that it does become that easy, and that you do, because if there were ever a situation where the last resort was the only resort, your letter is it. I need an antacid just reading it and I would send them to you in bulk if I could.

    Sometimes losing your temper at people, as much as we try to refrain, and don’t mean to, and all the other things we try to do to avoid that is the ONLY way you are going to get their attention. I don’t mean full on meltdown rage beyond control, but the time I did it to my boss she sat up and realized that a) I wasn’t going to be easy to abuse and b) she was abusive.

    Please find your dream job because this is an epic nightmare. Good luck OP.

  31. Rectilinear Propagation*

    Say, “I’m not comfortable being on this call so I’m going to drop off and give the two of you privacy,” and then disconnect.

    Can LW also tell her boss that she’ll be doing this going forward so she can just hang up the next time this happens? It would save her from trying to get a word in edgewise to announce she’s leaving the call. Arguably, she shouldn’t care if she has to talk over them but I get the feeling it would bother her to leave the call if they don’t know she’s doing so. (She described telling the girlfriend she was uncomfortable as “losing her temper” so I’m guessing it might be difficult for her to talk over a conversation.)

    Forewarning her boss and just bailing as needed may be easier. I don’t think most bosses would go for that but this guy doesn’t want to manage, so…

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Toddlers can understand sentences like “please use your words” while they themselves are screaming. It’s okay to say “I’m going to hang up now” and then do it. LW, don’t wait for a chance to say something and hang up, just do it. (I’ve seen that response make people realize that they’re being inappropriate.) And if they get angry at you, it’s because they’re embarrassed.

  32. CW*

    I agree with Alison. Zelda isn’t the problem. The problem is Ron. He can’t run company and now it is losing money. And he “hired” Zelda and refuses to let her go despite her nasty personality? Sounds like the company is sinking faster than the Titanic. Start looking for another job quickly and leave as soon as you get an offer. This is beyond a toxic environment and it is not worth your mental health.

  33. Janie*

    OP, I once worked in a place where I was also the only native English speaker (and the only one with a law degree), and I had to spend HOURS arguing with the other staff about things like 1) yes, the word “English” has a capitalized E at the beginning, I know that you don’t capitalize “ingles” in Spanish but that’s how it is in English, 2) yes, I know how to properly cite to legal authority because I WENT TO SCHOOL FOR THAT, 3) no, it is not good, persuasive writing to add the word “absolutely” into every other sentence, 4) no, you cannot clean my desk while I am literally sitting at it (whole other bucket of worms). The only solution is to get out ASAP before your brain starts to think that this is a normal working environment.

  34. cmcinnyc*

    Hiring a boyfriend/girlfriend is always, ALWAYS one of the horsemen of the apocalypse so I would be job hunting. I have been in the workforce long enough to see many scenarios. I have seen businesses survive hiring spouses, divorce of the founding couple, hiring of children, hiring of extended family. The one thing that almost always announces the eventual swift dissolution of a business is the boyfriend/girlfriend. Why, I do not know (I have theories).

  35. Jen P*

    Well, the comment about if you were the peacemaker in a tumultuous household, hit a bit close to home. I cannot save everyone at work, it’s not my job to save everyone at work, and yet… I need to remind myself of this often. I especially When I don’t stand up for myself to keep the peace. Especially in a pandemic. Thank you for the reminder.

  36. Just some internet rando*

    Everyone is telling you to run. And you should.

    But also you should assume this business is collapsing whether you run or not… so start looking now. Whether you stay or go, you wont be employed here much longer.

  37. Archaeopteryx*

    I would just add, that if Ron is doing this much in competent, shady, illegal stuff in the first place, don’t assume that there’s not a whole lot of other fraud and miss management going on that you don’t know about. The more you can disconnect your finances from this place and then get out of there the better.

  38. PollyQ*

    All of the details of this story that make it interesting are very nearly irrelevant compared to the most serious issue: The company is running out of money.

    Even if everyone in the organization were very stable geniuses who were delightful to work with, the advice would still be the same: intensively job-hunt, because this job isn’t going to be around much longer.

    1. Observer*

      Well, actually those details ARE relevant. Because they indicate how Ron is likely to handle to end of the company, and it also indicates that the financial situation is highly, highly unlikely to get better.

  39. Brooks Brothers Stan*

    I have nothing more to add but the fact my toucans have gone extinct from reading this.

  40. Legend of Zelda OP*

    Hi, all OP. First of all, thanks to everyone for their responses. Alison, you said exactly what I wanted to hear and I’m so relieved. It was, for the most part, incredibly cathartic. I appreciate all your advice and concern.

    I do actually have something of an update, but I want to clarify two things first:
    1. I don’t think this behavior is normal. I don’t think this is normal, common, healthy, or fine. That’s why I wrote to an advice column asking for advice! Please, keep your comments about my needing therapy to yourselves. I would really appreciate it. Thanks.
    2. Despite the roadblocks, we are at the end of the project. This is my side hustle and this money goes towards savings; I have another full-time job and do not rely on this. I do want to see this project out because I care deeply about it, but I am prepared to leave if necessary. Currently, I am being paid on time and in full.

    Okay, so, an update:
    My boss agreed that he and I could finish out the week together. We worked well for a couple days, then he canceled my next two scheduled workdays. I was really worried, and that’s when (and why) I wrote the letter, because I really thought this was a result of me putting my foot down and I hated the idea that my not working might pause anyone else’s workflow, which can and does happen in our industry. However, it turns out he’d injured himself and simply wasn’t able to work. I actually ended up getting the week off, which gave me some much-needed space.

    I have since worked with a different team member and he and I are meshing well. The more toxic members of the writing team are still being kept away from both Zelda and myself, which is good.

    I’ve been very calm, friendly, and my usual self with everyone since then, but I have had no contact with Zelda. At the time of the blowup, despite the issues I had with her aggression, I did consider her a friend and was very hurt by the sudden rise in hostility. For those of you who pointed out that their relationship seems unhealthy, YES, and I have seen a deterioration in her over the past few months as a result. So while I don’t excuse her hostility, I don’t hate her for it- she is in a bad situation, and she clearly has anxiety problems.

    Anyways, as it stands, I am being paid and I am finally able to do my work without hindrance, so I’m happy to say I turned in what my boss thought was a week’s worth of work in about nine hours last Friday. I have not heard from Zelda and don’t expect to. She and I are not working together anymore and from what I’ve heard, she has been moved back into her original “role” as a result of the issues.

    Again, this is not right, and I’m aware of that. I feel okay with this job suddenly ending, and if I were to not be paid, that would be the end of it immediately. I do have issues with taking on responsibility for other people’s emotions for the reason Alison hypothesized, but I don’t feel responsible for her behavior.

    Also, I have no idea what all this bee and toucan stuff is? Toucans are cute, though!

    1. Sara without an H*

      Hello, Legend of Zelda OP (love that name!). Thanks for supplying some context. I’m reassured to know that you’re being paid, and that the situation seems to be stable, for now.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      “Bees” are a metaphor from a different advice column, Captain Awkward.

      It’s a metaphor for a dysfunctional relationship: imagine someone is living in what seems like a nice house, except that someone is keeping bees inside the house. When the non-beekeeper objects to living in a house full of bees, and wants them gone, at least relocated to the back yard, the other person argues that “the bees are harmless” and “bees are good, they provide honey” and “you’re overreacting, what do you mean bee stings can be dangerous?”

      In this metaphor, it doesn’t matter whether these are in fact evil bees–what matters is that they’re causing a problem, and someone is being told that they shouldn’t mind, therefore no, their partner isn’t going to change anything and why can’t they be happy with these pretty insects that help pollinate the vegetable garden.

    3. TL -*

      I would suggest that being able to verbalize something isn’t okay, but still choosing to spend a great deal of time in an incredibly toxic environment, dealing with stressful people and taking on more and more of the responsibility for their emotional management, is showing a great deal of dissonance between your words and your actions. Ron and Zelda’s behavior isn’t “not okay” – it’s completely unacceptable, but you are accepting it.

      Suggesting therapy to someone isn’t an insult; it’s saying there are better tools for dealing with life than the ones you are currently using and you should explore them. This is an unacceptable situation and there are better tools for dealing with it than the ones you are currently using.

      1. LTL*

        While suggesting therapy isn’t an insult, it can certainly be an overstep.

        I don’t see where OP is choosing to accept what’s happening. People try to be very black and white when it comes to toxic relationships but that’s not how things work. OP isn’t hanging around for fun, OP is being paid. She actually seems to have a decent sense of what’s going on around her and what her options are.

        “there are better tools for dealing with it than the ones you are currently using”
        And this is incredibly unkind. I’m sure you didn’t mean it to be but you’re extrapolating a lot of the OP’s life from this one letter. We don’t know what tools the LW is or isn’t using, forget being qualified to make final judgements on it. I suggest that we take her at her word.

        1. TL -*

          I don’t mean it as incredibly unkind, but one of the tools that the OP is using is taking on responsibility for the way other people manage their emotions. That… is not a good tool. There are better ones out there. A generally effective way to get those tools is through therapy. Not the only way, and the OP is not mandated to do it, but that is the impression that I get from the comments.

          1. Legend of Zelda OP*

            Your assumptions are incorrect. Honestly, I’m worried about how thoroughly you responded to every single comment here saying I needed therapy. Pot, kettle?

            1. TL -*

              I’m in therapy currently, though not for workplace issues. I also take a daily medication to manage an extremely mild but chronic illness.

              It’s about the same thing to me.

            2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              You are reacting as though suggesting therapy is an insult. And now you are trying to throw the insult back in TL’s face.

              I was raised with the same attitude to therapy, so I understand completely why you are so defensive. It was used as a threat/insult in my house growing up. You are coming from a place, I assume, where therapy is for people who are either weak or crazy.

              That is not how everyone views therapy, and for a great many people, it is something helpful that you can do for self improvement or to work out ways to deal with a difficult situation. It is a very normal, even a casual thing, in a lot of regions and cultures.

              Nobody is saying you are crazy. Or weak. Or too fucked up to function. Or out of touch with reality. They are just trying to help by telling you about something that works for a great many people. You don’t have to do it, same as you don’t have to take any of the advice people have been giving you.

              1. Legend of Zelda OP*

                I wish you had enforced my very calm and rather polite request that people stop telling me I needed therapy. Why didn’t you?

                It is far more insulting to be constantly told you need therapy because some concern troll on the internet takes umbrage with you base don fairly scanty details.

                I’m sorry, but I do not think it is appropriate. How do you know I’m not already in therapy? How do you know the person you are speaking to does not have some trauma related to similar treatment in your past? This poster is literally replying to every comment in this thread to tell me I need therapy. THAT is why I found it insulting. It saddens me that no one can apparently understand this.

                (And, yeah, being constantly bullied that I “need therapy” for asking to be taken to the doctor or for getting a poor grade was a way I was abused in my home. So this actually really sucks for me, is not fair, and you can bet your contemptuous boots that my [real! didn’t mention it because of how hateful this experience was! therapist will hear about it!)


                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Because suggesting therapy isn’t an insult. I’m sorry it tapped into something abusive from your past, but no one here could have known about that, and it’s a normal and reasonable thing for people to suggest otherwise. It’s something that comes up in a range of situations and isn’t meant to suggest anyone is broken.

                  I also just searched for the word “therapy” on this page and found it in only two comments, other than in the discussion about whether or not it was reasonable to suggest.

                  This is a group of strangers trying to offer helpful suggestions but if you don’t find them helpful, there’s absolutely no requirement to continue reading comments!

    4. Observer*

      I am VERY glad that this is not your primary income! I’m also glad that you have other work so this lunatic has less of a chance of tarnishing your

    5. squidarms*

      Sounds like this ship has been sinking since before you boarded. I am VERY glad to hear that this isn’t your primary income source and that you’ll be free soon. Best of luck to you.

    6. allathian*

      Thanks for the clarification, and good luck.
      I’m very glad for your sake that this project isn’t your only source of income. I hope the people you work with at your other job are more professional.

    7. Van Wilder*

      I agree that a lot of commenters tend to overstep and presume they know your mental state. But you sound very defensive about therapy.

  41. Janet*

    This reminds me of the time I argued with a Chinese coworker about an English word. He was stubborn about it, and much more senior, so he got it his way. We used a synonym of the word he thought meant something else. However, he was a good coworker, and the whole thing was slightly amusing.

    Zelda and Ron sound nutty.

    1. Quill*

      I had a minute where both I and a coworker forgot the English word for a centrifuge while in the lab.

      She came up with the chinese word, I, embarassingly, came up with “The tilt-o-hurl for cell samples.”

      1. TL -*

        Today I said “the overcast-y-ness is coming” to my boss. (I meant, cloud cover is predicted.)

        I am a native English speaker. In communications!

      2. Rex Jacobus*

        (Background: the Czech for ‘possible’ and ‘maybe’ are very close)

        I had a side gig in Czech one time working for a mate who had been hired to quickly throw together kitchen and bar for a jazz club. He spoke English and some Czech. The club owner spoke Czech and a little English. A Czech jazz musician who spoke decent English was drafted in to help but he was so wimpy/ non-confrontational that he would deliberately mistranslate things so as not to make anyone mad.

        When it finally all came to a head, much shouting occurred in a mixture of languages. At one point the Czech owner was yelling in English, “THIS IS NOT MAYBE!” So my mate (from NY) starts shouting back, “YOU’RE RIGHT IT’S NOT MAYBE AND I’LL TELL YOU WHAT’S GODDAMMED NOT MAYBE ABOUT IT!” To this day I will tell him what is goddammed not maybe about something.

  42. Anon for this one*

    supporting her with food, rent, and illegal occupancy in our country of residence

    I skimmed the answer and didn’t read most of the comments I’ve gotta admit, but what I take from this is that he is providing her with a job (for visa reasons?), subsidising her financially (“supporting her with food, rent” — rent, so I presume they don’t live together?) And I guess this is in an English-speaking country so Zelda is acting as a translator of sorts and wielding power in the meantime! And I’m inferring that the authorities don’t know that she is his girlfriend but rather it’s been presented as a “employment visa” sort of situation.

    Based on all of the above I think there isn’t any kind of “interpersonal” way you can resolve this, but it ought to be presented to whatever immigration authorities are in force in your locale.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Hmm, yeah… watching a crying Zelda being hauled away to a detainment center by authorities, not knowing her fate, her rights, or if she’ll be able to return to her home again. That will teach her for being a nightmare coworker.

      1. Anon for this one*

        I can’t quite tell if you are being snarky as I’ve had a hell of a day, but “that will teach her” sort of seems to me that you are.
        I’m not suggesting it as “petty revenge” for being a difficult coworker, of course we all have to deal with difficult people all the time, and I know how it is with immigration issues (not the ‘enforcement’ angle in my case, but with applying for visas and such like) — but rather because it seems that through her behaviour it’s now come to OPs attention that there is some kind of “string pulling” going on, I won’t say corruption exactly but it doesn’t seem so far from it in spirit, to the harm of the legitimate interests of the company (Ron is ‘just’ a manager, not the owner or a stakeholder in the company).

        It’s bad all round if people get the idea that they can reside in a country illegally, get given jobs and positions of power by people turning a “blind eye”. Which is what happens over time if nothing gets done about people cheating the system..

        I’m aware that this may not be a popular view (especially on this site which seems to trend towards ‘liberal’, permissive points of view in general) hence going ‘Anon for this one’ but I still think it is a valid point of view.

  43. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, and I have only one small idea for arguments like the one over the, and chronological might be avoided in the future. Get your boss to agree to use something like the Chicago manual style, or the AP style guide, or Microsoft if you are in tech.
    Then the authority says so–not you.
    But really? Get out of there. This sounds too stressful for words. Especially as a freelancer–they’re a customer. Find a better one!

  44. lazy intellectual*

    I know this is totally not the point of the letter, but uhhh what does Ron see in this woman?

    I really hope LW internalizes Alison’s answer. She seems to have been gaslit, or at least normalized abuse to the point that she takes responsibility for things other people screw up. Also, she will very likely be out of a job very soon, so I hope she gets outta there ASAP.

  45. Bowserkitty*

    OP, I sympathize especially with the English stuff and having to explain your reasoning as the only native speaker. I work as a translator and am the only native-speaker on staff but that doesn’t stop my boss, who has a high level of English, from questioning the littlest things that make perfect sense with nuance/implications/context and being convinced his English is better than mine. Grammatically, perhaps it is. But there are just some learned phrases from school that you will NEVER see in written English….

    Good luck.

    1. allathian*

      Uugh. I’m very happy that I get very little pushback like this from my internal clients. My employer hired me to translate and proofread and generally they trust my expertise. Almost without exception, they also welcome feedback on the source text, because if a translator thinks a text is ambiguous or unclear, then the ordinary reader will probably also think so. I’m just glad I work in a field where clarity and unambiguity are required and wanted. Very rarely do I get pushback from the author saying that the ambiguity is intentional. In 13 years at my current job, I can count the occasions when that’s happened on the fingers of one hand, and I’ve translated thousands of pages.

  46. Astra Nomical*

    If your boss is running out of money and you’re technically freelancing, you need to secure another contract ASAP.

  47. Bippity*

    I might be totally off, but is this “media development” film, by any chance? Like, Ron is developing/financing an independent feature film? I’m a professional screenwriter so I might be seeing things that aren’t there. Just curious.

  48. LongTimeLurkerInfrequentPoster*

    Welcome to this episode of AskAManager where WfH stands not for “Work from Home” but “What (in) the Fresh Hell”.


  49. Luna*

    Jesus Christ, I would say burn this bridge and frolic to greener pastures. How stressful to simply read, let alone live in this situation!

Comments are closed.