what’s the most Machiavellian thing you’ve seen or done at work?

We need a distraction, preferably one full of intrigue and drama. So let’s talk about the most Machiavellian thing you’ve ever seen done at work — self-serving schemes or manipulation that you watched being carried out (or carried out yourself!). We’re looking for stories of underhanded machinations, double-dealing, and conniving.

Share in the comments!

{ 1,147 comments… read them below }

  1. Arjun*

    Not my story, but a favourite:
    “I was once on a US military ship, having breakfast in the wardroom (officers lounge) when the Operations Officer (OPS) walks in. This guy was the definition of NOT a morning person; he’s still half asleep, bleary eyed… basically a zombie with a bagel. He sits down across from me to eat his bagel and is just barely conscious. My back is to the outboard side of the ship, and the morning sun is blazing in one of the portholes putting a big bright-ass circle of light right on his barely conscious face. He’s squinting and chewing and basically just remembering how to be alive for today. It’s painful to watch.

    But then zombie-OPS stops chewing, slowly picks up the phone, and dials the bridge. In his well-known I’m-still-totally-asleep voice, he says ‘Heeeey. It’s OPS. Could you… shift our barpat… yeah, one six five. Thanks.’ And puts the phone down. And then he just sits there. Squinting. Waiting.

    And then, ever so slowly, I realize that that big blazing spot of sun has begun to slide off the zombie’s face and onto the wall behind him. After a moment it clears his face and he blinks slowly a few times and the brilliant beauty of what I’ve just witnessed begins to overwhelm me. By ordering the bridge to adjust the ship’s back-and-forth patrol by about 15 degrees, he’s changed our course just enough to reposition the sun off of his face. He’s literally just redirected thousands of tons of steel and hundreds of people so that he could get the sun out of his eyes while he eats his bagel. I am in awe.

    He slowly picks up his bagel and for a moment I’m terrified at the thought that his own genius may escape him, that he may never appreciate the epic brilliance of his laziness (since he’s not going to wake up for another hour). But between his next bites he pauses, looks at me, and gives me the faintest, sly grin, before returning to gnaw slowly on his zombie bagel.”

      1. Susan Kamppi*

        I work at an assisted living facility and at the time of this I was head of the housekeeping department. Coworker was so very angry about my promotion because she said she should have gotten it because she had been there longer bit she had previously held position but had been demoted before I started due to her being a horrible worker. Twice a year we get unannounced QE inspections that are very thorough and tough. Well, one day, in walks QE lady and Miss Disgruntled decides to tank us (which affects whole score for community and can mess with our bonus all employees get for high scores). She takes chemicals that are kept only in one locked location and sticks them in a cleaning closet that is only to have certain listed chemicals, unlocked another coworkers cart (keys were all the same) while she was at lunch (that is a corrective action incident because of accessible chemicals), took a very large SDS book from maintenance shop (over 100 entries for paints and chemicals) and threw away every damn page leaving an empty binder, and moved things around in cleaning closets so areas that are taped off not to be blocked (panels, eye wash stations ect) where blocked. It was so obvious sabotage because of the panic my boss had at each infraction when doing our part of inspection with corporate that we were given the chance to immediately correct (thankfully I had back up on computer for sds) but we could’ve failed horribly and she did take points off because we didn’t notice these things before she inspected. Because we couldn’t prove she did it nothing happened then but any and all trust or respect was gone. She did more sneaky crap after but we were onto her so she didn’t get too far in her plans.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      The great thing about this story is that it may be a waste of resources (I don’t know anything about ship operations), but it wasn’t mean-spirited. When I saw the topic for the day I was a little worried it would make me despair at the depths to which humanity will stoop, but this one brought a smile to my face instead. Thanks for kicking things off on such a good note!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        As long as he doesn’t head them into another ship or an island, it’s no big deal. They’re on patrol, they have a lot of ocean to cover and a lot of leeway in how they do it.

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh I love how he just came up with the right number out of his head, half zonked and eating a bagel.

    2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I’ve seen this a couple times, and I love it more each time.
      I also really want a bagel now.

            1. ThatGirl*

              Yes, but there’s barely any ghost pepper in the donut sprinkles – it’s the tiniest bit of spice.

            2. Aitch Arr*

              Google A Journey to the Center of a Spicy Dunkin’ Donut for a fun column about one man’s journey to Ghost Pepper Donut Heaven.

            3. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Nah, ghost peppers are #7 on the world’s hottest peppers list! Seriously, the Carolina Reaper has almost twice the Scoville rating.

        1. Zephy*

          What about a “party bagel” from Einstein Bros? (they’re…doughnuts, sliced and schmeared like bagels.)

    3. JM in England*

      He sounds like the same Officer of the Watch that repeatedly ordered a lighthouse to give way to a warship!

    4. Yoz*

      I’m pretty sure I saw this exact post on Reddit. You may want to cite or link the original post to give the Reddit poster recognition.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        I first heard this one 30 years ago on a naval base. It’s not new, and the reddit thread is not the first place it was posted.

    5. Donkey Hotey*

      Former Sailor here. I can testify that
      1- OPS-Os can be exactly that petty and
      2- This story has been in circulation for AT MINIMUM 30 years.
      I don’t know who this person was, but in Internet terms, he is one of the Elder Gods and should be respected as such.

        1. Matt*

          Ahhh, Skippy’s List, yes. As an aside, I’d seen various attempts to copy that format for other fields, all but one of which (that I’ve seen) were really just sad copies and imitations. But that one… I haven’t checked in a while, but it was “NNNN Things Mr. Welch is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG”. Same vein, and despite being up to maybe ~2000 when I last looked at the Livejournal pages years ago, it was amusing enough without being particularly repetitive of Skippy’s list or itself. No idea if this person really tried all these munchkin methods in real games, but I give ’em credit for at least being imaginative enough to come up with all the scenarios…

          1. PotatoEngineer*

            Skippy’s List explicitly says that the items on it were not all done by Skippy himself. I’m assuming Mr. Welch similarly hasn’t done everything himself. (And when I last read the list, I recall that you could easily bang out a dozen of those things in twenty minutes of planning. That said, 2000 is still a lot.)

      1. curly sue*

        I heard this one from a friend in the Canadian Navy about… fifteen years ago, so it’s definitely made the rounds!

    6. I Need That Pen*

      This really should be a short movie… because I could see it all in my head playing out.

    7. kiwidg1*

      My true military story:

      I worked in the command post on base. One of our jobs was to call the base commander in the middle of the night for emergencies and brief them about what was going on. In many cases, these emergencies were fairly routine, but the requirement still existed, especially if that emergency was required to be upchanneled to the next level of command.

      So, one night we made a 2am call to the commander informing them of one of these emergencies and reminding them we were going to upchannel the information to headquarters next. They didn’t have any additional input to the report, so we hung up and proceeded to send the written report up the chain.

      The next morning, the commander arrived for their daily briefing and when shown the written report, proceeded to yell about why we hadn’t notified them about this. When we showed them our log entry indicating we had called them, we were branded liars and all kinds of terrible people.

      Two nights later, the same thing happened. This time we were prepared and, after the notification was made, pulled down the audio recording of the conversation. (All communications were recorded, we just couldn’t get to it fast enough the first time.) The next morning, the commander once again tried to yell at us for being incompetent liars. We pointed to the cassette recorder sitting on the counter and recommended they play the recording in which they heard themselves responding to the notification call.

      I don’t think we even got an “I’m sorry about that” from that particular commander. But I do love telling the story.

        1. All the cats 4 me*

          Didn’t even wake up enough for ths conscious brain to register the call.

          I have done that while on 24/7 call, while sleep deprived.

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Hell, that’s how I got a roommate in the Navy. I had just come home from a 7pm – 7am watch and was exhausted. Woke up that night and went back to work for another. I come home at 7am the next day and there’s a guy in my room.
            “What are you doing in here?”
            “We talked about it yesterday, I’m your new roommate.”
            “I have no recollection of this whatsoever.”
            “You were wearing (X) and asked me (Y & Z).”
            “Sounds legit. Hi, Roomie, I’m Donkey.”

          2. Emma*

            If you wake my partner up in the night, she doesn’t even start to form memories unless she’s awake for about half an hour.

            For years one of her exes would wake up regularly with night terrors. Partner would wake up, calm her down, and they’d both go back to sleep. One day ex thanked partner for looking after her when this happened – and partner had no idea what she was talking about, and just listened in amazement as ex explained that, no, she had been doing this at least once a week the whole time they’d lived together??

        2. Bluesboy*

          My Grandad died when I was 16 in the middle of the night. My parents woke me up, explained what had happened and that they were going over to the house to be with his widow, and I was in charge of my three younger siblings until they got back. I was talking, moving around, everything.

          When they got back I had precisely zero memory of it. Nada. My suspicion is that the Commander was similar, because otherwise, as you imply, why on earth would he do it?

        3. Oska*

          I’ve dealt with surprisingly coherent sleep-zombies before (and been accused of Not Doing A Thing), so this rings true.

          The husband of one of my mother’s friend swore up and down that he usually woke up mid-shaving in the morning. No memories of getting up, going to the bathroom, doing his business and lathering up with shaving foam. Every. Day.

          1. Chevette Girl*

            My husband is bad for answering questions without actually waking up, then denyingany memory of the conversation, so now if I need to know if he’s actually coherent or just running on auto pilot, I ask him to answer an arithmetic question… he talks just fine in his sleep but has to actually be awake to do math. Only took me fifteen years to figure it out.

    8. Bibliovore*

      Not my story, but my grandfather’s, as best I remember it:

      He was drafted into the army for WWII, went through officer’s training and came out an unseasoned second lieutenant with a troop of men under his command. When he heard that their general was going to be at their base on a particular day, he decided that that would be a particularly good day for his men to be _off_ the base; the only outdoor training still available for that day was on a particular type of gun his troop had already trained on, but he signed them up anyhow and worked out how to make it still a useful learning experience by explaining how to file down part of the gun to make it a semiautomatic. So when the general’s convoy came upon them at their outdoor training, he was teaching them how to deface military property. My grandfather’s commanding officer shot dagger glares at him, the general asked some training questions that my grandfather had the brightest people in his group answer shiningly well, the convoy left to look in on other troops, and my grandfather sank down on a rock and chewed his nails to the quick, sure that he was about to be demoted back to infantry. After the general left, my grandfather was called in by his commanding officer and raked over the coals… and then, not many days later, he was promoted to first lieutenant. He figured there must be some mistake, but he was deeply relieved and didn’t look that gift horse in the mouth.

      Years later, he encountered that general’s aide de camp in an officer’s mess. The conversation came around to that earlier training day, and the aide explained what happened: When the convoy approached, my grandfather was standing under a tree. The shade apparently made the general mistake his gold bar for silver, and he asked, “How long has that man been a first lieutenant?” The question went down the line, and the answer came back: “Not very long, sir.” And then a rush promotion — in wartime — was put in for my then-errant grandfather because nobody was willing to tell the general he was incorrect.

      1. mrs__peel*

        You might enjoy a series of books by Donald Jack about a character named Bartholomew Bandy, who’s in the Canadian air force during WWI and keeps getting promoted by accident and despite complete incompetence. (The first book in the series is called “Three Cheers for Me”). They’re the funniest things I’ve ever read, and sadly not very well-known these days.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I’ve got one of my dad’s books, “You’re Stepping On My Cloak And Dagger” by Roger Hall, a WWII memoir about OSS training, which is likewise one of the funniest things I’ve ever read and no one I know has heard of it.

        2. Bibliovore*

          I’ll look those up — thank you!

          I feel obliged to add that my grandfather had a lengthy and illustrious military career, probably against all expectations of that early commanding officer. :)

    9. Rainy*

      My dad served in Vietnam as an artillery officer. He was second in command of a couple of firebases in his time, and one of the duties of the second-in-command, on one of his bases, was to mandate when the soldiers took their malaria drugs. Now, in case you weren’t aware, malaria drugs are mostly only slightly better than actually having malaria. They cause gastro symptoms. Really, really bad ones. The soldiers took their meds on Monday and were miserable and lining up for the latrines all day Mondays and Tuesdays.

      Dad–the only person on the base beside his CO (who absentmindedly swallowed whatever his aide handed him, whenever) who wasn’t under orders to take their pills on Monday–took *his* malaria pills on Thursday at breakfast, and spent the morning in the latrine in solitary splendor.

    10. agnomen*

      I have one somewhat similar to that, except it’s mine. I was in the Navy on a Destroyer. We had picked up family members in Hawaii on our way back to San Diego for a Tiger’s Cruise. We were having a sunrise breakfast. Where they serve pre-packaged breakfast sandwiches and juice on the fantail (helicopter deck) as you get to watch the sunrise. Very pretty way to start the day and way better than normal breakfast.
      One of the chiefs daughters wanted a picture of her dad with the Captain. However, the ship was in the way of the sun. So the Captain did something similar to OPS here. He had the helm change direction to get a good picture. He also did the same when we had a kite flying contest off the back of the ship during deployment. He was a great captain for a horrible ship.

  2. Mitford*

    At one of my first jobs after college, the team I was on had a truly awful boss. One of my coworkers got a hold of his resume and submitted it to a bunch of recruiters. The bad boss was gone in about three months.

          1. Brusque*

            Not neccessarily. Could be the bad boss was a bad boss due to some factor he had to endure and the hapiness from a better fitting job eliminated the bad from boss.

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      And this has a lovely moral: sometimes we’re bad employees because we’re in jobs that aren’t great for us, for whatever reason.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            I’d put this closer to true neutral, with leanings toward evil. It’s outside the box thinking, which leans chaotic, but stays within the rules, lawful.
            It gets rid of your problem through devious means, evil. But does so in a way which benefits all concerned, good.
            Conclusion: Neutral across the board. And very clever!

    2. Dancing Otter*

      They did this to the choir director at a church I used to attend. But nobody else wanted him either.

    3. Sleepless*

      I remember reading this story so long ago, it predates the Internet…I think it was in Reader’s Digest. Anyway, guy starts a new job and meets a coworker who has risen through the company incredibly fast. He asks the guy about it. Guy had, years ago, gotten the name of an awesome recruiter. He sent the recruiter his boss’ name, and boss gets hired away. Guy applies for boss’s job. Over the years, he had done this with every boss.

    4. Applejack*

      I did something similar once where I got a temp version of a job at the same time as someone else who got the full-time permanent version. She was always unhappy so I convinced her to follow her bliss, get a new job, you’re right this guy is a jerk, etc etc. I was very conveniently available to take over when she left shortly after :)

      1. Zweisatz*

        Good for you! And truly, it’s better than having somebody complain for YEARS (we have one of those).

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          I have a friend who keeps complaining about where we live. Not just the exact location, but everything about the entire region. She hates it here.
          She got a bit annoyed when I finally had it with her insulting everything I live about my home for the umpteenth time, and snapped that if she hates it so much, then leave! She’s divorced with no children, no local family, and no real career, just jobs. Except for a couple of pieces of cheap furniture she bought after her divorce, everything she owns could easily fit in her car. She could go anywhere. There is literally nothing holding her here. Most of our other friends have moved away over the years. Time to go somewhere else, if you hate it here so badly.

  3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    How about when someone else tried to be underhanded and jerky and it backfired on them? I used to work on, say, the painted crockery polishing team. One of the big big big rules for the PCPT was that if the crockery ain’t painted yet, they don’t TOUCH it. SERIOUS major no no. Then I was promoted and became a team lead for one of several crockery painting teams.

    About six months later, an unpainted sugar bowl somehow ended up in a work queue for the PCPT. The polisher who picked it up forwarded it to the PCPT manager, who forwarded it to my manager, who forwarded it to me and said “Can you paint this so they can polish it?” So I painted it all pretty with flowers and such, and replied to all of the above, “Sugar bowl is painted and ready for polishing!”

    The polisher, who was both bad at her job and also had a history of trying to get people in trouble unnecessarily, replied to me and CC’ed the PCPT team lead, manager, and director, “Really? Can I ask why you painted it? I was told that the PCPT was NEVER to touch unpainted crockery.”

    For a moment, I was taken aback, because not only had I not been a member of the PCPT team for six months at that point, but she had been party to the email chain in which I had specifically been asked to paint the damn thing. And she was STILL trying to get me in trouble with the powers that be for doing something she thought was wrong. So I replied all and said “Well, that’s true, the PCPT is never to touch unpainted crockery, but I’ve been a team lead on the coffee service painting team for six months now, and as you can see in the email chain, my manager Tangerina Wobbleworth asked me to paint this sugar bowl, which is well within the duties of my current position, so y’all could finish working with it.”

    She replied, just to me, “How was I supposed to know you left?” And that was it. (She announced her retirement about three weeks later. There’s *probably* not any correlation, but who knows. :P )

    1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      My sister works with someone like this. She thinks she is sneaky but she is totally incapable of seeing that everyone sees through her plans. She tries to get people in trouble via email callout all the time but my favorite story is the party planning committee one.

      She’s worked there for ten years, and everyone else in her department has worked there five years or less. She tried to re-institute the “Event Planning Committee” from back before anyone else worked there, and make all the people in only her department join it (all women, much younger than her). This is an office of less than ten people. She called meetings way more often than necessary and tried to make overly complex, bizarre party plans at her own whims, full of favoritism and self aggrandization.

      My sister refused to join because she has a huge workload (as this person offloads all her cases onto her) and doesn’t see the need for a committee. Tantrum. Then, when people other than her would have ideas in the committee, or disagree with her weird ideas, she quit the committee with tears and a mass email.

      So her plan was to avoid her actual work by making up these other duties and have a committee of people who enable her and enact her whims, and instead they were normal people and didn’t let her reign as Queen of Parties.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I worked with her. Except she (AH) came into my established team.
        Restructuring resulted in eliminated one position, after AH was hired. This scared the shit out of the longest tenured person (LT) in my group who thought AH had coordinated it. LT was out when the announcement was made, missed how our boss and her boss both found out the DAY IT HAPPENED. AH let her think it was all her doing for the next five years until she pissed off the wrong people and had to transfer!

      2. LunaLena*

        I have a lot of office mates like this – thinks they are sneaky and completely incapable of seeing that they’re not getting away with it – but to be fair they are also cats, so it’s less evil and more adorable.

        1. Carpe Librarium*

          My brother had a pet cockatiel who would go into ‘stealth mode’ when up to mischief. Stealth mode involving hunching down low, spreading his wings out a bit on either side, and carefully creeping along the floor/couch/bench top.
          The combination of all of these actions resulted in a very obvious movement that drew more attention than simply wandering around like normal.
          It was the bird equivalent of a pantomime villain sneaking up behind someone.

          1. Bluesboy*

            Our dog would go into the kitchen, eat his food and come back via the shortest route.

            Unless he had eaten the cat’s food. In that case, he would take the long way around, presumably so we wouldn’t know that he had come from the kitchen. Since that way made no sense, every time we saw him come in via that door we knew he had been eating the cat’s food…

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        She’s lovely, except the exact opposite of Machiavellian — if anything, she’s TOO nice and lets people get away with all manner of nonsense. :)

    2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      >She replied, just to me, “How was I supposed to know you left?”

      See, that’s the sort of thing I’d reply-all to with ‘No problem Rachel, we all make mistakes!’

      Just so all the people she’d initially looped in were wise to her and her tone.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I replied to her and to the PCPT team lead and manager, basically to that effect – didn’t see the need to clutter the director’s mailbox further – but I found out later that the manager had mentioned it to the director in person and that they were both entertained by the whiff.

    3. Anonymous271*

      In the vein of someone trying to be underhanded and it backfiring spectacularly…

      I used to work as an assistant. At one point, I was working with one of my boss’s clients and the client’s assistant. The assistant had forgotten to do something and it made what we were doing super complicated. Instead of coming clean, she decided to throw me under the bus (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was a completely inexperienced 22 year old *sarcasm). She dropped me off the email chain and complained that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to.

      Many emails go back and forth between my boss, the client and the assistant. My boss clarifies what is going on and adds me back to the email chain, assistant continues to blame me and pulls me off the email chain each time and the client is clearly just annoyed that we have to deal with this.

      Little does the assistant know, my boss and I keep a spreadsheet of every single contact with clients we have. We also include the work we’ve done on their behalf. Complete with date and time. (It’s a highly regulated field and my boss was both a micromanager and very firmly believed in CYA). So he knows with as much certainty as he can have that I’m not the one in the wrong.

      After a day or two of this nonsense, my boss decides he is done. He calls up the client, proceeds to very calmly ream out the guy about the professionalism of his staff. He listens for a moment and then tells the client that he should take his accounts elsewhere. This client was on the higher end of the spectrum and represented a decent loss of revenue. And there was absolutely no hesitation from my boss to let him go.

      The cherry on the top? My boss was the most inveterate gossip I have ever met. Almost immediately after the call with his client, he called up his 50 closest friends to tell them about what a jerk this client (and especially the assistant) had been to his assistant. All his friends are in the same field, and from what I heard, it took the client a long time to find someone willing to take his accounts.

      Still don’t know if the client ended up keeping his assistant.

    4. Stained Glass Cannon*

      Also in the vein of underhandedness backfiring spectacularly, although this is more like a long slow train wreck than a single incident.

      There was a guy in OldJob who was a real piece of work. Went around spreading vicious little (untrue) stories about anyone who had so much as a single job function in common with him – claims that they’d made some insulting remark, accusations that they’d shirked duty in small areas, the kind of unverifiable thing that subtly damages someone’s reputation. He was also the sort to suck up to the bosses, which eventually got him seconded to a manager who was stepping down and looking to train up a successor.

      Now here’s where the backfire started. This guy wasn’t up to a higher-responsibility position. Pretty much anyone who’d worked with him knew he couldn’t cut it. So when the transition period was coming to an end, and he had about a month before he’d be taking the full weight of the role, he tried to convince Manager to stay on and help him out – by offering her a subordinate position designed to shoulder the bulk of the work!

      Manager was the fire-breathing sort and this went down about as well as you might imagine. There were words exchanged. Manager left on schedule, but not before tipping off Department Boss that this guy might not be such a great fit for the role after all.

      At this point, Unsuitable Guy was in a very shaky position. Since Manager had departed, he decided to try and regain some lost ground by…wait for it…spreading stories about Manager to undermine her credibility and thereby her warning about him. Clearly Unsuitable Guy wasn’t as sneaky as he thought, because it took all of two weeks before Manager got wind of it.

      Now Manager might have left, but she still had the ear of Department Boss, who started asking questions. This opened a real can of worms. People started raising all the little incidents and allegations that they’d been dubious about before but didn’t really look into because they were so minor, and a pattern of backstabbing and undermining emerged. HR got involved and at some point so did Legal, because Unsuitable Guy had basically been defaming people on company time (although I’m not certain how much liability the company actually had for this).

      Unsuitable Guy had his promotion withdrawn shortly after that, and left the company. To put the cherry on the cake, Manager, who had/has a considerable number of industry connections, apparently took the story around the industry with her and got him blacklisted in several other places.

      When I think about this affair I feel rather sad, because Unsuitable Guy put a lot of people in very difficult positions who didn’t have the clout to defend themselves against him. It took a fairly senior person with connections to finally deal with him, and even that only happened because he grossly overestimated his influence over her. But yeah, good backfire is good backfire.

  4. Anon-for-Now*

    My former employer didn’t want to pay us for helping them plan for the company’s future, so they made meetings that would have a big impact on our jobs optional, scheduled them from 7am-9pm and the first hour was unpaid.

    It was a small company, so I emailed the owner and said, “Hey, I’m sure you don’t intend this, but it looks bad, like you’re trying to get us to work for free”

    He said, “Oh, well I guess I am :)”

      1. Anon-for-Now*

        I mean, aside from a general atmosphere of distrusting the leadership… no.

        I don’t think anyone else was as put out by it as I was, but the year I left I was one of 7 from an office of 30, so… I think it was a slow burn.

      2. Sally Forth*

        I worked in the office supplies business. I was only 25 ish and one of 3 female sales people on a team of 25. One of our older sales managers often passed off my ideas and new product info as his own. Part of this was because one of our biggest suppliers was my account so I often got to see stuff before it was released. No company secrets, just a nice little turn in their new products area from time to time.

        He was off the day before a big sales meeting. I got samples of a new product (think neon Post It’s instead of yellow) and made sure everyone had the sample and the product info in their mail slot. Then the day of the meeting, I verbally told him about the new product and gave him a sample. When our sales meeting started and he was highlighting new products, he gave us a real “hush hush” insider look at the new product. Everyone laughed and said they had theirs already. .

      1. The Starsong Princess*

        This one is one is small potatoes compared to some but it is manipulation that worked for me. I am a very pale person and usually wear make up including lipstick. Otherwise, I look like something that was ordered and didn’t come. So some years ago, I had this boss, a nice motherly woman. Whenever I wanted an afternoon off, I’d wear a beige shirt, which washed me out, and toned down the makeup, removing the lipstick entirely. She would exclaim that I was unwell and practically force me to take off sick (paid) for the afternoon. I would say I was fine but she would insist. Worked every time.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            I had a green turtleneck that did the same thing. I liked that turtleneck because it went well with one of my suits but had the effect of washing me out entirely. So many people said I looked sick. Finally I quit wearing it most of the time except for one or two days in the wintertime when I really needed to take a mental health day – – and was sent home for being sick.

        1. RB*

          Ha ha ha, I have used this tactic. Sometime just leaving off the mascara is enough to do the trick. And toning down the blush and lipstick.

        2. Turtlewings*

          This is brilliantly manipulative and also, “I look like something that was ordered and didn’t come” is amazing.

        3. Catty*

          I used to do something similar in high school. I was generally a good student but sometimes I didn’t get a paper done on time and needed an extra day. It wasn’t considered late if you had an excuse absence.

          I have very dark circles under my eyes even when I’m well-rested. It runs in my family. So on those days I wouldn’t wear concealer and I looked soooooo sickly. Then I’d tell some teacher in a morning class that I felt sick and would go to the nurse who would send me home. They never suspected me because I was otherwise a model student and I didn’t do it often enough to become a pattern.

    1. Friendly Comp Manager*

      That’s illegal in most cases, but it’s your former employer so — good riddance to them.

  5. Ben&Jerrys4Life*

    At my first office job, while I was also a poor broke college student, I may have started a rumor (or two) that I had heard we were having an ice cream party that day. The rumor would go around until someone in management would usually run out and get ice cream and toppings since they assumed someone else had forgot to. In retrospect I realize we were all a food motivated group, and that my attempts to be sneaky were probably a lot less subtle than I thought.

    1. Anon-for-Now*

      haha! People used to do this at my old office as well. It happened all summer, no one was really fooled. But we did eat a lot of ice cream.

    2. Belle of the Midwest*

      I love this so much. That kind of cleverness is an essential skill in many occupations.

    3. Lily C*

      My law firm had official Ice Cream Wednesdays for a few years because the senior partner wanted ice cream, but felt bad about sending a file clerk out to buy just it for him, so he’d give the clerk a stack of cash and have him clean out the freezer bin of ice cream bars and mini ice cream cups at the corner store. The year that April Fool’s was on a Wednesday, there was an announcement that the ice cream was canceled, and you could hear the ripple of disappointment through the office as the email hit everyone’s inboxes. We were all very sad when the store closed a year later and Ice Cream Wednesday really did end.

      1. sharpshooter*

        This reminds me of a place I worked that had some sort of breakfast pastry brought in every Friday. Bagels on the first week of the pay period and donuts on the second week, aka payday. One payday, bagels were delivered instead of donuts. An office wide email had to be sent out to clarify that yes, it was still payday, despite there being bagels in the office.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        That reminds me of my first senior partner, who was gently harmless (think: pootling to work in a Vantage, napping on his desk).

        Very occasionally the ice cream van (truck) would show up in our car park, whereupon he would spring into action, and send out his secretary with a fistful of cash, to treat everyone in the building.

        Best 99 I’ve ever tasted, paid for by the boss just because.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          pootling to work in a Vantage

          I have no idea what this means, and this post is the first thing when I google!

          1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

            (not the OP but British so can try to translate)
            Effectively ”driving along in a car”:
            pootling is a great word that sort of represents the image of someone driving somewhat slowly down a road, steady but sort of…slightly shaking rocking side to side but still driving! Like it’s getting there.
            a vantage is an Aston Martin (which is a classic luxury british car manufacturer) vantage (search for ‘vintage Aston Martin Vantage’) as I am fairly sure the OP means that one

            1. TechWorker*

              This might be the original meaning (I don’t know!) but it also gets used (at least by some people I know) to mean more generally ‘driving slowly’. One can also pootle on a bike :)

            2. peep*

              I love ‘pootling’! I’ve never seen it though, I must adopt it. I use ‘tootling’ a lot — in my mind, it’s like “industriously but slowly making your way somewhere” or alternately “going somewhere with intention but also making a few detours as you walk ooh what’s that in the window, shiny, oh must carry on”.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  In my part of the world we say pottering, but it’s for pedestrians. Like, Where’s Dad? – oh he’ll be pottering about in the garden shed this time of day.
                  Pootling is like motorised pottering :-)

            3. Mongrel*

              I’ve always regarded Pootling as shambling but in a tweed jacket.
              It’s a phrase you associate with retired gentlemen who still get up at the crack of dawn and have a lovingly used office shirt and trousers that’s solely a gardening ‘uniform’, and they spend a lot of time in the garden& shed.

                1. IT Squirrel*

                  This is more pottering (about) to me, especially in the garden or house – pootling always brings to mind being in transport of some description like a car or a bicycle!

        2. fustian*

          Now you’ve made me crave a 99. In Canada in October the closest I’ll get is a slightly-stale flake bar.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I used to work in a place where a donor who owned a food company gave us an ice cream machine. It dispensed drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches, etc. all for FREE.

    4. WFH with Cat*


      I bet your colleagues loved your for it and never ratted you out because … ice cream!

      1. Hedwig*

        A Vantage is a type of Aston Martin, versions of which have around since the 1950s. Pootling is driving in a leisurely manner. A 99 is a classic type of ice cream cone in UK, with a chocolate bar called a Cadbury’s Flake stuck in it. I hope this helps!

          1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

            No, originally, it only cost a few pence (maybe about 10p? Less than 20, anyway). I’m old enough to remember the days when it was an urban myth that ice cream sellers in popular tourist spots would rip off foreign tourists by charging them 99p for a 99 Flake.

    5. Tillamook*

      This reminds me of something I did at my old job. Every month they had a birthday/service anniversary celebration for the office. A few years ago, I had a manager with an annoying habit of scheduling meetings with no notice and always at the worst times. I’d already missed the celebration during my birthday month and sure enough, a meeting got scheduled at the same time as the celebration during my anniversary month. I had a coworker go to the celebration and text me a picture of the desserts (a huge assortment of ice cream). I picked out what I wanted and a few minutes later, he walked into the conference room, dropped off my ice cream, and walked back out like it was totally normal to deliver ice cream during a meeting.

    6. Michaela*

      I sort of did this at an old job – we were a satellite office and they’d given mints, a cookie, and swag after a new project at head office and we didn’t get anything.

      I replied to a yammer on our lack of inclusion, and I got a response that they were planning something special later. Next week there was a gelato truck, which was better than a cookie. Since we were in financial trouble, the gelato truck also caught a lot of commentary for being a waste of money later, but I was still proud I made it happen.

      1. LR*

        At my former workplace, goals were met one year and staff were rewarded with an “ice cream social” – a low productivity afternoon, with an ice cream sundae bar in a conference room, I think there was even some theme decor, at the home office. My satellite office had just as many staff (but no management) and we got zilch. We were told they were “working out the logistics”.

        A week later we got an email that there were ice cream sandwiches in the break room freezer. They were cheapo store brand and there weren’t nearly enough. Turns out mgmt had sent one staff a $10 check (the max allowed for incidental expenses) and told her to “do the best she could”… For about 40 people.

        But at least it was good for a few laughs!

        1. Admininja*

          You have a great attitude about that. I didn’t see so much humor when it was my office being underfunded in the holiday party department. 150-person company spread out nationally over 30ish offices with everything from 50 people (HQ) to 1-man shows. Mine was the largest on the east coast at about a dozen people, third largest in the company. The Big Wigs sent out a message that poor financial performance meant no fancy holiday parties- do your best with minimal budgets. Our office had a small, on-site celebration with sandwiches, soda, & cheap decor. Post-holiday, we found out all east coast offices had been given the same budget. We were the only office with more than 4 staff, so we were the only ones that couldn’t go out for a fancy dinner & drinks. We also found out that the second largest office in the country – with maybe 5 more people- & HQ had thrown nice parties. I. Was. Pissed. The next year, when the holiday party budgets were being set, I led the charge for determining a per-person budget & distributing the funds by headcount. It wasn’t popular at first, but a number of people hopped on board when I described how the third-largest office had celebrated the prior year.

  6. No Tribble At All*

    We work very closely with our hardware supplier, which is located in a different country. Most of the other company’s employees speak that country’s language (say, Klingon) natively and only rarely speak English. In meetings, they’ll debate among themselves in Klingon before giving a (usually shorter and vaguer) answer in English. One of my coworkers didn’t mention he spoke Klingon for FIVE YEARS so they’d speak freely around him. He’d go to meetings, sit there with a vague smile, and while they told us they hadn’t narrowed down the problem yet, he’d know that they were discussing which particular circuit.

    1. Not really a waitress*

      That you use Klingon as your language example makes this even better. Cause I am envisioning Klingons in a meeting

          1. Blue Eagle*

            Or what about the episode of Frasier where he promises to go to a Star Trek convention and buy something for one of his staff at the radio station in exchange for the staff person teaching him to say a piece for his son’s bar mitzvah in Hebrew. But then forgets to go to the convention so the staff person teaches him how to say the piece in Klingon. And the only person who knows what Frasier is saying at the Bar Mitzvah is a teenager – – – who then tells Frasier that what he said was beautiful!

    2. Captain Kirk*

      And if Klingons are involved, they’d better *hope* there are no Tribbles!

      Great synergy between comment and username!

    3. Chinook*

      I had a version of this happen to me. Leader of my choir was fluent in English and Klingon as was our Bishop but no one else in our group was until I cam along. My last name was very Terrian by marriage, but my mother is Klingon, so I grew up with it even though I rarely spoke.

      Anyway, there was a fancy ceremony we were doing with the bishop that required once a year songs that we needed to practice along with lots of solos which are usually split among choir members. When asked if we would have a final rehearsal the day of, she offered to ask the bishop, which she did in Klingon. He said yes and gave a time to be there. He walked away and she tuned to us and said, so he couldn’t hear, that we were good to go and we could meet right before the ceremony.

      I looked her straight in the eye and said loud enough for the bishop to hear that she must have misunderstood because the bishop clearly said we were to meet him 4 hours earlier. She did the fish mouth thing and asked how I knew that. I replied in perfect Klingon, just because I don’t look like it or have a Klingon name, doesn’t mean I haven’t learned it from my mother and grandmother from birth. She quietly backpedaled and we all got our practice and shared parts. :)

      The others later told me that they thought she had been doing the mistranslations in the past but had no proof because they only spoke English and didn’t have the courage to call her out because she was one mean Klingon.

      1. Portabella*

        I’m curious, why would the choir leader mistranslate though? Was she trying to look good to the bishop and and stay in power? Was the bishop ever annoyed with the rest of the choir because of the perceived problems, that were actually caused by the choir leader’s mistranslations?

        1. Chinook*

          She was power hungry and excellent at the kiss up, push down. Add to that the power imbalance in this community where English was the majority but Klingon considered more important as they were also bilingual.

          She so missed being able to call the shots and use her maneuvering that she actually pushed our church to go from having bilingual services to separate English and Klingon ones even though only 2 families ever attended the Klingon services.

          As for the leader, she only took charge for the flashy events and left the mundane, weekly stuff to me because who wants to do repetitive stuff and, after all, I was the one who started the choir. I let her have the flashy glory because that was not why I was doing it. But, after the incident with the bishop, she maneuvered me out by hiring a Klingon piano player to organize the music for both services without telling anyone. She had him start on a weekend I was out of the province and told everybody that I had been transferred. She was believed because a friend emailed me saying that she was sorry that she didn’t get a chance to say good bye. I showed up at the next service, announced to everyone that I didn’t move but I am obviously not welcome there, turned around and left. Yes, I was a overdramatic, but this move cut me to the core and I ended up not attending church again for over 5 years due to her backstabbing.

          As for the bishop. he was only there a couple of times a year and would have had no idea about how common her underhandedness was. I do know that she never pulled that type of mistranslating stunt with us again, so I can only assume he talked to her in private.

          1. Portabella*

            I’m so sorry! That is awful. Although I think your exit was perfectly calibrated to the situation and not overly dramatic at all.

            1. jcarnall*

              Many, many, many years ago I was working for a telecomms company in the technical writing department, and the new manager hated me.

              (She had been asked a question in a meeting in her first month on the job that she didn’t know the answer to, and so she blew the senior manager off with “well, we haven’t figured that out yet”, and foolish me pipes up with chapter and verse – We’ll do this, this, and this. As near as I can figure out, her hatred of me dated from that meeting.)

              I had been the unofficial team-lead (that is, doing the work without the pay or job title) on the project that senior manager had asked about for about two years before new manager arrived.

              Fast-forward a year, during which she had written me up , denied me a promotion – someone else got the official team-lead job – told me I was incompetent, moved me off work I had been doing for years on to new work I wasn’t nearly as experienced in, and also refused me training that all the rest of the team were getting.

              Naturally I was job-hunting, but not fast enough. I applied for a sideways transfer, which was easy enough to get – the company had high turnover and was constantly understaffed – and on the day I got notice from Personnel that as of Monday I would start in my new role at the completely-different department in another building, I also got a faux-sympathetic email from manager, saying, more or less:

              “How do you want to handle your departure – shall I tell them, or will you, or would you rather just slip away and I’ll let them know on Monday?”

              I emailed back to thank her and tell her I would rather be the one to tell them, and got another faux-sympathetic note to say I should handle it as I thought best.

              I’d booked Friday as PTO, and so on Thursday, I arrived with a bag full of pastries, which I put in the department kitchenette. About ten am I sent an all-team email to say I was starting in the Llama Department on Monday, Friday was my day off, so today was my last day, and I would miss them all and there were pastries in the kitchen, love from me.

              I think New Manager had convinced herself everyone in the department hated me as much as she did. Suddenly my desk was surrounded by people who hadn’t risked saying hello to me in months, saying how much they’d miss me, how great I’d been, what a contribution I’d made, all of us happily eating delicious pastries and chatting, while New Manager GLARED from her corner.

              That went on til lunchtime, and basically I spent the afternoon deleting old emails and cleaning up my desk. I knew I’d be going through a standard four week training process in the internal transfer, which would leave me lots of time for job hunting and phone interviews, and sure enough, before the four weeks were up, I had a much better job offer elsewhere and was gone.

      2. Elf*

        vImughlaH! (I can tranlsate!)

        tlhIngan vIrurbe’, ‘ej tlhIngan pong vIghajbe’, ‘ach reH jIyIntaHvIS tlhIngan Hol wIjatlh SoSwI’ SoSnI’wI’ jIH je
        just because I don’t look like it or have a Klingon name, doesn’t mean I haven’t learned it from my mother and grandmother from birth.

        1. Nynaeve*

          mughwI’pu’ DIlop! tlhIngan Hol DaquvmoH {{{:-)

          (We celebrate translators! You honor the Klingon language.)

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My partner is Klingon, I have picked up bits of it without ever properly learning it.
        He asked me what sort of car he should buy after crashing ours. I said something smaller, because it’s hard to find parking spots for the size we had. He came back with a car that was even bigger. I called him out on it but he maintained that it was the same size.
        Later on we went to dinner with a Klingon-English couple. The Klingon husband asked mine a question in Klingon. I understood the words big, new car and how much, so when my partner answered “20 centimetres” I immediately piped up with “I knew the car was bigger”. My partner looked at me in shock at being caught out in his lie, and we got a smaller car shortly afterwards.

    4. JMR*

      How did it eventually come to light? It must have been hilarious when they all realized what was going on.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        He has asked us to keep it quiet! I found out when I heard one of his post-meetings debriefing. Although we’ve since hired more Klingons on our team (guess we’re the Next Generation?) so there’s no point for them to have sidebar conversations anymore.

    5. SweetestCin*

      Ah. The faces made when I answered a question in a language that does not even come close to matching my red hair and blue eyes.

  7. Reality Check*

    I was once a reservationist for a limousine company. The drivers were all men, office staff nearly all women. Our office manager, Jane, had a crush on one of the drivers, Mario. She fired any woman that Mario showed interest in. When Mario asked me out for a date in the Big City, he had to check the driving schedules for everyone so that we would not be spotted together, which would have cost me my job. And there we were tip toeing around like teenagers instead of the adults we were. We got away with it. ;) Not Machiavellian, but definitely intrigue!

    1. Funfetti*

      That is a cute story- very classic romcom which makes it event more fun!
      Except for Jane – Jane sucks.

      1. Katrinka*

        Every good romcom needs a Jane, who gets outmaneuvered and then ends up with the guy who washes the limos and has been in love with her for over ten years.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Woah that’s really messed up of Jane. How many women lost their jobs because some random dude maybe was interested in them?

      1. Reality Check*

        I just realized I never answered your question. At least 2 or 3 women were fired before me for this.

  8. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    This is probably the closest I came.

    My boss sucked and wasn’t going to change. And according to my supervisor, things had been getting progressively worse. We decided we needed to get out of there. So, we made A Plan. Specifically, at my one year mark, I’d start interviewing. Once I had an offer on the table, supervisor would start interviewing.

    But interviewing requires dressing up, and Boss was the sort to make passive-aggressive comments about that. (It was a very casual office – jeans and T-shirts.) So supervisor and I planned for that, too. We decided that twice a week, starting immediately, we would dress up. Suits one day, blouse and skirt or button down and slacks the other day. General comments about how nice we looked would get a cheerful “Thank you!” in reply. Actual questions about why we were dressed up would be met with something about how looking our best would inspire us to do our best work. Sure enough, we got the expected comments and questions. And after about a month, we’d completely normalized the fact that sometimes, the two of us dressed up to come to the office.

    (We never got to implement the rest of the plan. We both got laid off after I’d worked there about nine months.)

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I knew a programming team that used “Tuesday Tie Day” to similar effect. I never thought of it as Machiavellian, though!

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        The Machiavellian bit was really the misdirection around why we were dressing up, more so than the dressing up itself. (It helped that my then supervisor and I are both the sort of people for whom it’s entirely in character to dress up at a casual office.)

        1. JustaTech*

          I’ve done this as well, partly because I thought I would need to interview soon, and partly because I wanted to try and dress a little nicer (dress for the job you want, but not as Batman).
          On at least one occasion I called it “laundry day”, because in college anyone who was dressed up was assumed to be out of other clean clothing.

          Then again I had a VP ask me if I was interviewing because of my outfit. I was wearing fuchsia tights, a knee-length denim skirt, a matching fuchsia shirt (from H&M) and a blazer made of sweatshirt material. Basically my regular work clothes except a skirt and tights. I don’t know what kind of job one would interview for in a denim skirt, but not anything I’ve ever done!

          1. Atlantian*

            One year I dressed way up to attend my son’s end of year school program. The staff at the school doesn’t like me or my husband very much because we’re not the quiet, go along types, and have had cause to question their policies several times over the years, so I always try to look my best when I have to go up there and be seen by people. Kind of remind them that I’m actually a professional, respected person in my field with places to be and not their typical stay-at-home mom type who shows up to these things in athleisure and curlers (yes, I have seen this). Anyway, I requested the morning off, and then came in to work all done up like I had not been at the school play, but was at an interview all morning and my boss practically had a heart attack. Didn’t help at all when I had to send him one of those ‘Hey, we need to talk. Can you find some time in your calendar and send me a meeting maker for 30 minutes sometime this afternoon?” a couple of days later. You should have seen his face!

            1. TechWorker*

              Obviously a side point but your derision towards stay at home mums here is… a little harsh!

              1. Gumby*

                Yes, and I am not sure if I am more disturbed by the implication that stay-at-home parents are slobs, apparently have nothing scheduled and no where to be all day, and are not respected, OR the sense that any questioning of school policies should be taken more seriously because the questioner has a paid job and is willing to throw on a suit.

                1. Veruca*

                  I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I couldn’t understand the big words, but yes, there was a tinge of contempt.

                2. Bluesboy*

                  100% agree about the implication towards stay at home parents. Rightly or wrongly though, wearing a suit does make people take you more seriously in many contexts. So I can understand why you might want to dress up for some kind of occasion with people that you sometimes clash with.

                  But yes, the attitude towards stay at home parents is…unfortunate.

          2. mourning mammoths*

            I had my college advisor ask me once if I had been at a job interview that day. I was wearing a sweater and green corduroys. Confusion ensued. Looking back, maybe I was a sloppier dresser in college than I realised.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      That is excellent! My church is downtown. I used to work about half a mile away from it. Once I had an interview with another firm downtown, so I dropped my suit off at my church that morning. Then when I went out for my vaguely specified appointment, I walked back to the church and changed in the bathroom, reversing the process after the interview.

      1. Katrinka*

        I once had an interview that was on the other side of the parking garage from my then employer. Dress code for my office was jeans and a nice shirt. So at my lunch time, I went to my car, changed from jeans into a skirt, threw on a blazer and went to the interview. Then I reversed it when the interview was over. Boss never knew.

        1. Just a person*

          I used the restroom of the fast food place across the parking lot from the office to change clothes for an interview.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      I also work in a casual-dress department; my excuse as a single woman was always “well, I have a doctor’s appointment today and you never know if the doc or other medical staff will be cute!” And then the one day I actually did have a doctor’s appt (i.e. not an interview) but decided not to dress up because it was too cold out… I had the hottest dental hygienist I’ve ever met. At least that bolstered the strength of my excuse when I came back to complain about my rotten luck!

    4. learnedthehardway*

      When I worked in a business casual office, and was interviewing, I would leave my suit at the dry cleaners, with instructions to press it, for retrieval later in the day. I’d then go to the cleaners, change in their change room, leave my other clothes to be pressed (if during the day) or take them with me in my oversize purse, and go to the interview.

      It cost me a few bucks to do this every time, but I always looked very sharp, and the dry cleaning staff got a kick out of helping me prepare.

      It worked, too – my employer had no idea I was thinking of leaving before I put my notice in.

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

      I used to go to the opera back when I worked at Big City, since both my previous jobs there were at a walking distance. So, if I showed up dressing more formal than usual, I could just say “tonight is opera night” and no one would ask further questions.

    6. Kate H*

      This is genius. My boss and I should do this starting immediately.

      I’m working from home, and last week I had a video interview that was directly before a Very Important meeting. For context, our Head Boss is obsessive about us being on video during meetings, but no one else in the company cares if we do audio or video. I try to avoid it as much as possible because my workspace has a lot of weird lighting in the background and there’s nothing I can do to change it short of completely moving my entire workspace to the other side of the room.

      Anyway, I wore a dress to the interview that thankfully ended with enough time for me to quickly change into my sweatshirt (fully within the dress code whether I’m in the office or WFH). I didn’t turn on my camera right away but Head Boss immediately messaged me saying that I should turn it on. It was such a relief to know that no one was going to look at me and put 2 and 2 together.

      1. Katrinka*

        If this happens again, you can always say that you and your partner have decided to have a “date night” at home and dress up like you would in the before times. Or that you and friends are having a virtual happy hour and have agreed to dress up for it.

    7. Popcorn Burner*

      This is exactly why I started wearing blazers instead of sweaters to my old job. Makes it way easier to interview on your lunch break without raising any red flags.

    8. tex*

      I also started a Suit-up Wednesday at my old office, and my coworkers and I would occasionally take our staggered lunches 30 minutes apart, to normalize us being gone at different times and wearing suits, so that whenever someone would interview it wouldn’t be quite so glaring.

    9. SOUPervisor*

      I started a new office job when I was dead broke and I did my best but my clothes were pretty obviously cheap or a step down in casualness from most. A couple of months in a non-work friend hosted a clothing swap for a bunch of folks and someone my size brought in a bunch of business/business casual clothing so I walked home with six or seven new outfits and slowly started working them into my work wardrobe. A bit later I was telling my coworker about how great this clothing swap had been and my manager, walking past, says “oh thank god, I thought you were interviewing.” Hadn’t even occurred to me how it would have looked to him.

      (Five years later I’m still at that company)

  9. Iseult1980*

    Alan. Alan is a physics professor at Very Mediocre University, and one of the most unpleasant people I’ve come across. I don’t know if he’s Machiavellian as such, but would probably like to think that he is a strategic genius. He is not, which is why he’s at Mediocre university. Some of Alan’s greatest hits:
    – Borrowing his boss’s car on two separate occasions, and crashing it on both occasions (once by forgetting to put the handbrake on when parking it on a slope.)
    – Informing the parents of his female PhD student, at her graduation, that women are not really cut out for physics. She’s now a professor at a much, much better university.
    – Inviting (impoverished) PhD students out (as a group), ordering the most expensive things on the menu, announcing that the bill will be split equally.
    He was my ex-boss’s professor. Ex-boss also dreams of describing himself as Machiavellian, but his schemes are limited to measuring his and his rivals offices, and boasting about how he has the bigger, corner office for months. (It’s in the corner of a hallway. That’s not what corner office means. It was thirty centimeters bigger.) Ex-boss is also now at Mediocre university.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Someone should’ve put him on the menu. The group probably would’ve gotten food poisoning, but who doesn’t love liver and chianti?

    2. kittymommy*

      Ex-boss also dreams of describing himself as Machiavellian, but his schemes are limited to measuring his and his rivals offices, and boasting about how he has the bigger, corner office for months. (It’s in the corner of a hallway. That’s not what corner office means. It was thirty centimeters bigger.)

      Snort. My 12 year old self is hysterically laughing…

    3. Artemesia*

      when I was a grad student there was a professor who did this at conferences – he would organize dinner of profs and grad students; we would order light because we were poor — he would grandly offer to buy the wine. The bill would come wine and all and be split evenly even his promise of paying for the wine forgotten. A fellow grad student and I were tired of it but we needed to be at these dinners so we decided to go ahead and order like they did. So we ordered appetizer, drinks, nice main, dessert — just as the profs always did. I remember the first time we did this, the jackass who organized these things actually said something like ‘Wow, this bill is much higher than usual’. Ya think?

      1. SallyJ*

        I am 36 years old. I have only one real hard and fast rule – never ever let anyone try to convince me to split even. Ever.

        Every other self-imposed “rule” I can be flexible. Not this.


        1. FrenchCusser*

          Yeah. You either pay for your own or pick up the check.

          There are no other hospitable options.

          1. Jackalope*

            If it’s with a group of friends it can be an easier way to split the bill, but everyone has to be on the same page. I’ve done that at times with friends who have done this for a long time, and when we’re eating at a restaurant where all of the main entrees are, say, $13-$16, splitting it evenly is going to mean everyone is paying about the same amount, and if we go out often enough it means that we all over time pay more or less the right amount. Not something I’d recommend for uneven authority situations for the reasons mentioned earlier, but it’s faster and easier in situations like this. (It also helps that no one gets super expensive drinks and that if there’s an appetizer or something we all share it.)

            1. Christina*

              I did this once with a group of friends who are all foodies and 10 of us went to an amazing restaurant to order the incredible set menu for the table served family style, so it was presumed that we would split the check evenly. We each ordered a cocktail, and then a few bottles of wine for the table. When it came time to split the bill, one person paid and then said what we all owed (upwards of $50/person, which was an insane deal for the amount and quality of the meal). Two of the group said “well, we didn’t drink any wine, so don’t include that in our portion.” The guy who paid did the math and it was literally under $5 difference for each of them.

              We still laugh about that. They haven’t been invited to a big group dinner since.

              1. Zombeyonce*

                As someone that doesn’t drink but likes to go out with friends that do, I don’t know the difference between a bottle of wine that costs $10 and one that costs $50 just from looking, so I highly doubt the people that didn’t drink had any idea how much the alcohol amount came to. Since they weren’t drinking, they probably weren’t looking at the wine menu to see how much each bottle was as it was ordered. It seems perfectly reasonable that they ask for the wine not to be included in their part of the bill, as it could easily have been way more than $5. The fact that not only have they been excluded from all group dinners for this but also that you all laugh about them behind their back says a lot about you and your friends, and nothing positive.

                1. I never remember my username*

                  Plus it adds up to be a lot over time if they’re footing the bill for your alcohol every time you go out together.

                2. AntsOnMyTable*

                  And it makes me wonder – what if they had ordered a dessert or two for only them and then expected everyone else to pay because it was “under $5 difference” would the group feel the same?

                  As, essentially, a teetotaler it would frustrate me to expect to contribute. I can take one bite only of an appetizer and I won’t mind helping pay for it but please don’t make me pay for your wine.

                3. Alice's Rabbit*

                  I would agree. Excluding the designated driver because they don’t want to pay for your booze seems shortsighted, to me. Mocking them for it is just downright rude.

            2. Berkeleyfarm*

              Yeah, if things are pretty even in the long term, this is good. I have a long term friend group where it is pretty turnabout is fair play.

              But in this case where people use it to subsidize a nicer meal, it’s not good. I ended up dropping a social group because they liked going out and getting all the trimmings and I had less money and was ordering less. It was one way and I didn’t like them well enough to subsidize them.

              It’s 100% inappropriate for power-imbalance like grad students and profs.

          2. cat lady*

            Not wanting to do the more complicated math. I do split checks evenly when it’s with a very good friend, and it’s just the two of us. Also, it almost always favors the other person because I’m vegetarian so my meals are almost always cheaper than my omnivorous friends’ meals. (though I literally can’t remember the last time I went out to eat with a friend thanks to COVID)

            1. Elenna*

              This kind of thing makes me happy that where I live (Toronto) the default is that restaurants are able to give everyone separate bills.

          3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            I do it if I’m with a good friend or two and we get an appetizer for the table. But if like I get an expensive cocktail I’ll pay for that separately, or I’ll cover the app and she’ll cover the tip for both of us.

          4. Eisbaer*

            If there were a lot of shared items (appetizers, bottles of wine, etc.) and you can tell by eyeballing it that everyone’s bill would be similar within a few dollars, I’d rather not do the extra math and make the server do more work.

            1. Paulina*

              I’m familiar with it not being more work to split the check appropriately, though, or at least it looks that way to me as a customer. The restaurants I (normally) frequent have systems that are set up to remember orders for each guest, which is known when you order and also needed when you receive your food. These days they can easily split costs between subsets of the guests at the table, as well. Everyone gets their own bill and can pay by card, and there’s no excuse for stiffing the server on their tip. And if the server doesn’t know you expect to pay together until the end, all that information about who-had-what is already kept track of.

          5. LizM*

            I split it evenly with certain friends. We eat out together enough that we figure it all evens out in the end. If one of us were drinking and the other weren’t, the person who was drinking will usually offer to cover the tip.

          6. gbca*

            If you have conscientious friends with similar habits, it works out just fine. Back when I went out with friends frequently, we nearly always split the bill evenly, and it only was off by a few dollars here or there. And if someone ordered something particularly expensive or an extra item that the others didn’t, they pitched in their share. No complicated math and no one getting screwed.

          7. Me*

            I have a friend who I often go out to a tapas place with (or, well, we did in the before times), and we always split all the food items — we decide on them together and then each eat half. Sure, we order different drinks, but the meal is expensive enough that we’ll just split the bill and then figure out whose drink was more expensive — and that person will pay a bigger share of the tip, which always covers the difference. Makes it easier on the servers to just split 50/50.

          8. Middle Aged Lady*

            It worked well for a group of 10 of is dining out frequently on a trip to France. Wine was cheaper than soft drinks anyway, and we ate out often so it came out even. Whoever was low on cash would pay with a credit card, and the rest of us would give that person cash. I have never had friends or associates who used it to get a better meal cheap themselves. My profs were generous and my friends are honorable. A few people in the past have tried the ‘expense it to their company and us give them cash’ but I refused.

          9. c-*

            Depends on culture: mine tends towards going Dutch, because people usually order everything to share. If there’s a notable deviation (i.e. only 2 people out of 10 order dessert), it will be covered by those who ordered the expensive thing.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is a good rule, along with pick a restaurant the lowest-paid person in the group can afford. We actually walked out of a restaurant in a prominent London museum because several people in our group would have struggled with the bill. Splitting was out of the question.

      2. Bluesboy*

        Same. I would go out, order a salad and water because I was skint. Others would order steak and wine and then split the bill. I realised that if I started ordering steak and wine too, given that I was already subsidising everyone elses that it would only really cost me about an extra €2…so why not?

        I also remember a big meal out once in a Chinese/Japanese restaurant. Most of us were skint, so we ordered from the Chinese menu. At the end the bill arrived, say something like €30 each. Most of us didn’t have change, so we put in two 20s or a 50, expecting change.

        Except that a group who had arrived late ordered from the Japanese menu, insisted on splitting, and then when the bill arrived, announced they didn’t have cash so would put the meal on their card, picked up the cash, went and paid and left without coming back to the table with the change! So not only did they eat the most expensive food, but they actually made a profit on the meal!

    4. Esmeralda*

      I had a grandboss who was Very Mediocre. He deeply desired an office with windows = major status symbol. Alas, his office was in the basement and was never ever going to go any higher. Fortunately for him, he had a nice budget. Which he used to by very very very nice wall to wall, floor to ceiling drapes. Which of course were never open.

      Visitors would be confused. “Aren’t we in the basement?” “Yes [long pause], yes we are”

        1. PsyDuk*

          I worked in IT for a police department when GPS was first becoming available in police radios and was friendly with a gossipy officer. One day he was in my office and I mentioned to him that the new radios the department was ordering had GPS (they didn’t). I asked him not to mention our conversation to anyone because the officers weren’t supposed to know. In less than a day all of the officers were convinced that they were going to be secretly tracked using the new radios. Command’s denials and past actions reenforced the officers’ belief in the rumour. I denied all knowledge when the assistant chief asked me about it and the officer I told thought I did him a favor and never told anyone the information came from me.

      1. LunaLena*

        I have a fake window in my basement office. It’s basically a print of a window frame that opens out into space and a star destroyer. Before COVID hit, I was scheming to put an actual window frame around it to enhance the illusion.

        1. Bryce*

          I started getting mildly claustrophobic after moving to The City so as a gift my mom took a photo of the landscape where I grew up and had it made into a large poster. Unimpeded view across the desert and mesas for about 50 miles. I’ve got it on a well-lit wall as a backup window for when the local weather is more gloomy.

      2. Emma*

        I love that! My office is split over the ground floor and the basement. I work on the ground floor, but (pre-event) sometimes had to work downstairs for a couple of hours, where I would sit next to someone who was always saying she wished she had a view.

        I was very sympathetic, because I also hated working downstairs (in the hole, as I called it), largely because the artificial lights make my brain itch. So I spent a fair bit of time trying to persuade my colleague to buy a rectangular SAD light, paint a window on it and hang it on the wall by her desk.

        I genuinely think it would have been great, but I eventually dropped it because she was getting more and more miserable about the environment, and I didn’t want to contribute to that.

  10. rita*

    This will probably be quite mild, but I’m still salty about it to this day.

    I had been at a new job for about three weeks and was starting to do some basic tasks. One of them was to proofread text written by others and bring up any issues in a spreadsheet, where you wrote your name, where the issue is, and what the issue is. My colleagues seemed a bit competitive about who found more issues with the text, but it looked like it was in good nature.

    While proofreading, I found a term used in a way that I found weird, but I didn’t want to add it to the spreadsheet without being sure, so I brought it up to my “mentor” (the woman who was assigned to help me for the first few weeks). She said it was correct, and not to worry about it.

    Next thing I know, she added it to the spreadsheet under her own name. It turned out to be extremely wrong, extremely hard to catch, and she got tons of praise for it. I never trusted her again after that – over the next few years I learned that she was known for going behind everyone’s back and doing anything required to climb the ranks despite not being very good at her job. Infuriatingly enough, she left for a better job shortly after, and her reputation with the higher ups was undamaged.

    1. Fiona*

      Oof that would have driven me nuts!!! If you hadn’t been so new, I would have loved if you could write an email to her like “Hi Mentor – when I originally brought up X, you said it was fine. But now I see that you’ve entered it into the spreadsheet on your end and marked it as incorrect. I want to make sure I understand the process here, so can you explain that discrepancy to me? Thank you!” :) :) :) :) :)

      I know it wouldn’t change anything but I would want her to know that you know!!!!!

      1. Darcy Pennell*

        With someone that underhanded, I’d be worried that if I called her out she would hold it against me later. It sounds infuriating, sure, but better than her deciding she has a score to settle.

    2. Quill*

      You really learned a great lesson about her with this though, imagine if it had been something that could have harmed your career that she threw you under the bus for.

    3. SD*

      As a parent advocate for special education, I spent many, many, many hours researching and reconciling current federal and state special education laws to replace the outdated material being used by our Special Ed. consortium of school districts. It was accurate, thorough, and easy to read and use. The consortium liked it because they didn’t have to pay staff to do the same job. One of the consortium coordinators signed up to teach a special ed class at a local for-profit university and asked if she could refer to my material. Sure! That’s why I wrote it. I was fine with it until I found out that she was using my work as the framework for her class and passing it off as her own, as in literally using my pages. “Salty” doesn’t really describe how I felt about that. All she had to do was ask and credit me for my work, but no.

  11. Retail Not Retail*

    This is very small but it was satisfying anyway. My supervisor was trying to follow our boss’s instructions in breaking up a task fairly between the 3 of us to do after this other task that is not fun.

    I said hey this is confusing – one person should do the second task while the other 2 do the first one and then join them! He said okay you do it. The guy who hates the first task never said a word because he’s too lazy to volunteer even for a better task.

    Another day we were dividing something up and I was like okay I’ll do this half because I know that guy will dilly dally on making decisions.

    1. JustaTech*

      I have totally volunteered for a slightly difficult/unpleasant task because I knew that the other tasks being handed out, while individually less difficult, would be torturous to do repeat 50+ times, while I would have to do the harder thing only 25 times.
      My boss wasn’t paying attention and got stuck putting a tube in a machine and taking it out again for 5 solid hours. Another guy on the team, when he realized he’d gotten stuck with 3+ hours with his face in the microscope said “This is a stupid study design.” To the study designer’s face. In a meeting where we all had been assigned a boring and repetitive task.

      1. Liz*

        I did this once with working my PT retail job on Black Friday. Our previous manager had scheduled the same shifts forever, usually opening to late afternoon, and then late afternoon until closing, but our new manager scheduled differently, which actually made more sense and we had coverage when needed, pretty much all of the time.

        Knowing how she did things, I asked two questions: what time did we open on BF, and how long were the shifts going to be? She said 7am, so I knew openers would have to start at 6, and probably 5 or 6 hours. So I asked to be scheduled to open, knowing that not too many people would. And it paid off; i was scheduled 6-11:30am, and at 11:35 a co-worker came to tell me manager said to clock out and go home! So while I did end up having to work, i was done before noon.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          Oh man we FOUGHT over working thanksgiving at the grocery store because it is so chill and everyone feels sorry for you so there’s free food at work and leftovers at home. It was like a reward for surviving the day before.

          1. Liz*

            We weren’t open on Thanksgiving, and the previous year, they mistakenly didn’t put me on the schedule for black friday, then called to say oops, we need you. Sorry, i have plans. i really didn’t but not my problem. hahahahah they had enough coverage

            1. hamburke*

              I took a seasonal retail job from the week of black Friday to, I was told, Jan 6. That’s fine – husband’s work holiday party is Jan 7. Turns out the interviewer told me the wrong date – job actually goes to Jan 8 for inventory and Jan 7 is an all hands until it’s done day. I tried to reason with the manager – that I needed to leave by 3 to get ready (I don’t need that much time to get ready but it was a buffer), that I was told this job ended 1/6 so I didn’t bring it up until I saw the schedule – but it was a no-go. I went to HR, told them what happened and asked to be dismissed on the day that originally was agreed to. That went fine and I remained eligible for rehire, but the manager was MAD. Sorry, not sorry.

  12. singularity*

    I was in a job where my direct supervisor had less experience than me doing the same job before he went back to school, got a degree and was promoted due only to the degree. He was very condescending and snide and whenever we interact he would constantly make digs at me for not having an advanced degree. Perhaps it’s not machiavellian, but he would nit-pick at me about small things that he would let skate by for others, so one day, I got this little noisemaker and stuck it to the back of a file cabinet in his office. It would randomly make squeaks and beeps at irregular intervals. It was rather amusing to watch him have a man-baby tantrum trying to find the source of the noise.

    1. The New Normal*

      As a prank my co-worker put one of those cricket chirp noisemakers in our boss’s office. It was awesome. LOL

      1. Wendy*

        My brother and his friend made one of those and hid it in my bedroom, except they made it so it only worked in the dark. I’d turn the light on to find the cricket and it would stop.

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      ThinkGeek had the wonderful Annoy-o-tron. A little device that could be hidden just about anywhere that would emit a random noise at random intervals. Some victims got SO VERY upset when they couldn’t find it. (And yes, one version even had the mosquito tone.)

      A former coworker stuck a security tag under the door sensor (turning it off as he did so) on his last day, where it couldn’t be seen. Then he left. Someone noticed the sensor was off, and turned it back on.. Took the managers quite a while to figure out what the heck happened.

        1. river*

          I read that. I don’t understand why they pranked him. “He was a great guy who would always go out of his way for everyone” … so they punish him? ?

          1. Randomity*

            I think because he pranked everyone himself. I do think they should have fessed up though, once you’ve got someone that angry and frustrated you’ve officially gone Too Far.

      1. MNdragonlady*

        We have a couple Annoy-a-trons. One of our kids hid one in a classroom as a senior prank (high school). It would meow every so often. The particular placement meant it sounded like a cat was stuck in the drop ceiling. The teacher spent a _very_ long time looking for this cat. There was a ladder in the classroom for searching the ceiling, and they even got a school administrator up on the school roof looking around. The device was retrieved surreptitiously by friends while teacher was out of the classroom and returned to us intact.

        Best part: the story grew with each telling around the school, and by the end of the day at least one student claimed to have *seen* said cat in a hallway. Ah, the power of suggestion.

    3. The Rural Juror*

      I wonder if someone has done that to us…there’s a random beep in our office and no one has been able figure out where it’s coming from. It sounds like a surge protector…but it’s not coming from the area where the surge protectors are… That or we have a ghost. Happy Halloween!

      1. Katrinka*

        If you have a smoke or CO detector, check that. Our CO detector started beeping at the three year mark, when it was time to replaced it. We checked all the smoke alarms and changed all the batteries. The random beep still kept going. It took us three days to figure out it was the CO detector.

  13. Karma Queen*

    back in his 20’s, husband worked in a very male dominated, unionized industry. As a supervisor, there were a lot of regulations about how they could and couldn’t interact with union employees. One day, a frustrated union employee came to my husband to say that he was being sexually harrassed by the lone female supervisor. He said that they’d had a secret affair, that it was over, but that now she wouldn’t leave him alone. She was calling him at all hours of night and sending nudes taken from the workplace bathroom while he was at work. Following the chain of command, my husband reported it to the site manager. The site manager laughed about a female sexually harrassing a male and went to talk to her. This talk included telling her that my husband was the person who had told him about the complaint. She then went up to my husband and told him that she was going to get him fired. It turns out that my husband had sent a NSFW joke to one of his buddies at work who had forwarded it on, and she ended up with it. She’d been saving it in case she needed it. She filed a complaint with the site manager. Since this was my husband’s first time getting in trouble for anything, the site manager and district manager agreed to suspend him for 3 days and send him to sensitivity training. This wasn’t good enough, so she then went to the corporate office. The corporate office fired him. I don’t 100% blame them, but when he mentioned the sexual harrassment complaint and that this was how it all started, they said that they could no longer do anything about it without it looking like retaliation.
    Husband found a much better job that paid much better at a competitor, but we had an uneasy 2 months while he was unemployed.
    Fast forward 7 years: I was now working at the corporate office of the company that had fired my husband. Weird, I know. I was doing very, very well and had been promoted several times. The female supervisor who had gotten my husband fired wanted to work at the corporate office. The role meant that she’d be reporting to someone who reported to me. I told my VP that I absolutely could not work with her as I didn’t feel that she could be trusted. He knew my history, my work ethic, and my judgement. They didn’t give her the job, and she ended up quitting. Since then (it’s a small industry), she’s bounced around from unsatisfying job to unsatisfying job.

    1. Hmmm*

      Don’t love this one… a woman goes through a bad breakup, raises concerns about a sexist joke in her male-dominated industry, and then YEARS later loses out on a promotion because of it?

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Well, considering that she was vindictive about the complaint against HER for sexual harassment after the bad breakup, and got the person who was responsible for reporting it to management FIRED for simply doing their job, I think it’s entirely reasonable that she live in the consequences of her decisions. Esp. when the consequences are really well deserved – I mean, she did get someone fired and presumably was harassing a direct report, and she didn’t seem to face any consequences at the time.

        1. Mongrel*

          And from the wording she’d received a forwarded copy of the joke (it wasn’t sent to her from husband), whether that was a complaint or just another appended name to a “LOL! funny” mail, and then sat on it.
          If it was a complaint from a subordinate it should have been acted on immediately and if it wasn’t then it was knowingly held as retribution\blackmail material.

        2. JSPA*

          Complaints should be taken seriously and investigated, regardless of gender(s) involved. Not presumed true in every detail. Nor laughed off.

          Sure, now, with social media, the manager would have been wise to insist that the investigation take place, to clear her name. But years ago, “It’s true, and I’m using attack as the best defense, so I’m getting you fired” and “It’s BS, I’m presuming you’re in on the harassment so I’m getting you fired” are fairly equally things someone female and accused in a managerial position could have done.

      2. Double A*

        No. Someone who was sexually harassing a coworker but blackmailed her way out of it didn’t get a promotion years later because of it.

        (I do not doubt this woman experienced a ton of sexism in her job, and that the husband’s joke was inappropriate and should have been dealt with. However, she did this in reaction to being accused of sexual harassment. Flip the genders, and it’s clear how not okay her behavior was.)

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        That’s one read, but you left out the parts about harassing a subordinate for ending an affair that it sounds like it may have violated workplace rules in the first place, sending nudes to your ex-lover from the company bathroom, and not reporting the sexist joke until it’s useful as blackmail to keep yourself out of trouble – none of which demonstrate good judgment. I’d take a hard pass on having her in my reporting structure, too, even if I was unrelated to anyone involved. To say nothing of the challenge of having to coach or discipline this employee in the future, lest she claim that any negative feedback was a result of her getting the boss’s husband fired – too much risk all around.

      4. Willow*

        Did you miss the part where she was sexually harassing someone? And retaliated against the person who reported it?

      5. AnonForNow*

        Woman continued to harass her ex after a bad breakup, had saved a NSFW email “for later in case she needed it” and used it when she was called out for her own bad behavior, escalated her complaint until her reporter was fired, and not-that-many-years-later loses out on a promotion. I’m okay with it.

      6. SallyJ*

        I agree. I don’t like this one either. She was accused of dating and sexually harassing a subordinate. And when confronted with it, took her “revenge”. But that is a very one sided story coming from OPs husband’s perspective.

        Having worked in a male dominated environment in Toxic Masculinity Town, I know how this goes. Dude doesn’t like reporting to a woman – makes up some crap. Someone-dude then “takes it seriously”, except that someone-dude has been know to make the work place just as toxic as well. Corporate, in Bigger Less Toxic Town, is so tired of it this behavior by men, they make an example out of someone-dude to show the rest they have had enough.

        Again, this may not be the case, but in my experience I have only ever seen ONE woman harass a man and it was over a break up. Almost every man I have encountered has sexually harassed a woman. So I apologize if my assumptions here don’t match with what is portrayed. I mean, just IMAGINE what that lone lady supervisor had to experience in her life working in that environment. And IMAGINE if your husband bent that truth a little? And now IMAGINE how your husband, who was fired BTW for inappropriate emails being sent, found another job that paid him So Much More – where as she quit and can’t find one decent job.

        I am just not feeling good about this.

        1. anon73*

          You are assuming way too much here, and just because you’ve only seen a woman sexually harass a man once doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen more often. You’re biased based on your experience and it’s showing. Not believing that this story is true is no different than the numerous people who question a woman when she’s in the same situation.

        2. AntsOnMyTable*

          I am on the fence too just because it is all so third hand. It sounds like the OP’s husband didn’t see any evidence just was told and reported it (as he should). We all know how “crazy ex-girlfriend” is a thing that some guys like to say when it is isn’t true – remember that guy who felt his girlfriend was over the top by contacting his family to make sure he wasn’t dead when he ghosted on her even though they lived together. It does seem a little odd that she would keep an email on the off chance that she can go after people although not improbable. And if the complaints weren’t true I could see her thinking “you are reporting me for this baseless rumor than fine I will be by the book and report you too.”

          It does not sound like she made up things about the husband. And we have no idea how bad the joke was or how often she had experienced things like that or how often the husband was party to it. Not getting in trouble before is not the same as not being complicit.

          It sounds like she didn’t have other issues at the workplace since she was still there and the OP’s boss didn’t seem to have any qualms until this was brought up.

          I also don’t feel like we are “not believing the victim” since this is so far removed from the actual complaint. It could have gone down exactly as it is presented or, in a very macho business with only one female supervisor, lies or exaggerations were said about her, NSFW jokes were common and she finally got sick of it and reported it since it was the same people were saying stuff about her. Then one of the people causing the problems downplayed things to his wife since it cost him his job, and in the future this woman was penalized.

      7. PersistentCat*

        The retaliation for the good-faith sexual harassment report is the issue at hand, not a bad break up. Any one can break up with a co-worker and struggle with it. Doesn’t give you the right to cross the harassment line and send your co-worker inappropriate texts, then retaliate against the former-affair-co-worker’s supervisor for following their sexual harassment reporting policy in good faith…Now, even if the ex was making everything up, that still doesn’t negate the good faith aspect of KarmaQueen’s husband’s report, and he still doesn’t deserve that kind of retaliation.

      8. JerryTerryLarryGary*

        A supervisor dates someone below them, harasses them at work when it ends, and then goes after the person who reported it? Not a good look.

    2. Karma Duchess*

      I have one of these too. Doesn’t feel Machiavellian, it’s just standard karma, but it was very satisfying.

      I worked for Creative Company A for more than a decade. At one point, it hired a couple of young creatives, Cersei and Tommen, to handle one area of the business. Cersei was one of the smartest, most ambitious people I’ve ever worked with, but she was young and female in a company run by older men and a few swaggering bros, none of whom seemed to remotely actually understand the creative side of the business — they just knew it was a product they could sell. So they didn’t do much to support people like Cersei, who had a lot of good creative ideas for new initiatives, but just clearly wasn’t one of Them.

      We became friends, but I didn’t work with her much directly, so I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten for her until she left the company. At which point she told me the real deal with Ramsay, the new bro they’d hired to help promote her area. Ramsay belittled her in meetings, gaslit her in private, and encouraged her to come up with new ideas, which he presented to the higher-ups as his own, then left her to implement. He also schmoozed the bro side of the company until they put him in charge of her area — which they didn’t tell her about. She found out from him when she was bringing up suggestions in a meeting and he condescendingly told her he was in charge now and they wouldn’t be doing any of that stuff.

      Meanwhile, he dumped every aspect of his job that he considered “boring” or “beneath him” onto Tommen, doubling his workload. On the rare occasions I had to work with Ramsay, he struck me as a sleazeball salesman type, gladhanding and friendly and talking a good game, but always angling to get something useful out of you, and never actually contributing much.

      Cersei quit and went on to start her own successful creative business. I quit because similar stuff was going on in my area, with a different schmoozy bro, and I went to Creative Company B. Months later, it turned out Ramsay had been fired from Company A (I always wondered if it was because without Cersei to mine for ideas, it was clear he had none of his own) and applied to Company B, where he was their top pick for a similar high-level promotions job based on his resume and how well he interviewed. The CEO came to me asking what it had been like to work with Ramsay in the past, and it was my pleasure to give him an earful, and offer to put him in touch with Cersei and Tommen if he needed more specifics.

      He thanked me for my candor. Ramsay didn’t get the job. He did go on to get a ridiculous plum job in a tangentially related creative industry, presumably by leveraging the good name of Company A — but then we heard he’d gotten let go from that as well, maybe five months later (and after moving cross-country for that job). I always wondered if he eventually either grew up and started actually doing work himself, or found a set of underlings he could reliably steal from without consequence, or stopped being able to get jobs based on his work history, when it became clear that he never stayed anywhere long after eeling his way into a new gig.

  14. NW Mossy*

    Oh, a chance to share my favorite #sorrynotsorry moment at work, wherein I intentionally set bait for someone and they take it.

    Years ago, I interviewed for a management position at work. I had a first-round interview with the hiring director and a colleague of hers, but ultimately didn’t get moved forward to the second round with the senior director. It was disappointing to learn that I didn’t get the job, but not crushing by any means.

    A few days after the “it’s not you” meeting, I get a call from Lucinda. Lucinda works in another part of the division, and I know her slightly – enough to say hello in the elevator, but that’s about it. Wondering why she’d be calling me, I answer.

    She immediately asks, “I heard you interviewed for that management job – is that true?” I’m wary, since I’d not told anyone I was applying other than my own boss, so someone who shouldn’t have blabbed to her. Ultimately seeing no harm in admitting that I had but wasn’t selected, I answer truthfully.

    And then we get to the point of Lucinda’s call. She’d also been passed over, which she found unjust considering that she had prior management experience. She felt that the entire interview process was unfair and was clearly trying to see if I felt similarly and would join her in a campaign to protest the results. In particular, she felt like rounds of interviews and only some people moving on was offensive – why, I couldn’t say.

    At this point it’s clear that Lucinda’s a bit unhinged about a completely normal and inoffensive situation. I know I want no part of whatever it is she’s up to. I also spot the opportunity to lay a trap, and forgive me, but I couldn’t help but take it. In my calmest voice, I tell her, “Wow, it seems like you’re pretty upset about this. Maybe you should give some feedback to [hiring director] and [senior director] about the process.” Now, I know full well that this not a done thing in our org, so only someone who was really off the deep end would take this suggestion.

    And, dear reader, she did. I later learned that after our conversation, she wrote up a diatribe cc’ed to a significant percentage of upper leadership about how they’re terrible at hiring. If my memory’s right, the leader who told me the story said something like “we already thought she was nuts based on her original interview, and all she did was prove us right.” Needless to say, she’s not been thought of as management material since.

    1. Ali G*

      Hmm…so she had “previous” management experience, but currently wasn’t a manager and was passed over for a management position? Yes, definitely something nefarious going on here /s

      1. NW Mossy*

        I make no claim to the moral high ground in this story – I knew at the time that what I was doing wasn’t kind. After that call, we never spoke about this again, so I have no insight into what ultimately prompted her to decide to follow the suggestion.

        As to why, I think it was probably out of frustration and pettiness on my part. We’d barely spoken before, and it felt presumptuous to me that she was looking to me specifically for some combination of moral support, shared indignation, and pitchfork protest just because we’d both experienced the same outcome (not getting the job). I’ll own that one of my pet peeves is being told how to feel, and she hit that nerve pretty squarely.

        1. Threeve*

          It also sounds like her diatribe would have come out in some way sooner or later, and it wouldn’t have taken much for her to feel entitled to add your name to it. If someone’s going to make a scene, I want them to do it before they manage to make me an unwilling co-star.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Just a thought (based on my thought): to save others from having to deal with crazy?

    2. Nonya*

      This feels…unnecessarily unkind. Was she extremely misguided? Yes. But no need to lay a trap for a woman who did nothing to you. This moment doesn’t appear to be some sort of justice, and I hope that no one intentionally lays a “trap”, or goads you in the future when they disagree with your position.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Can we all agree not to try to shame any commenters when they tell a story about themselves that specifically answers Alison’s call for “stories of underhanded machinations, double-dealing, and conniving”?

        1. Public Sector Manager*

          I disagree. Machiavelli always had a point–whether it’s to stay in power or win a political argument. You’d undermine someone to get ahead. This post is nothing of the sort. It’s being unkind for the sake of being unkind. And both the OP and their management were mocking someone for what could be a mental health issue.

        2. anon73*

          I agree with Public Sector Manager. The OP admitted barely knowing this person so her trap laying was completely unnecessary and mean, and benefitted her in no way other than to be mildly entertained at someone else’s expense.

      2. Myrin*

        I mean, I get what you’re saying, but I also don’t find this story particularly heinous or even really trap-lay-y?
        One, because it seems like even if someone had just very off-handedly said “Ugh, I don’t know, Lucinda, just go contact the directors about it or something!” to get her off their back, she would’ve reacted the exact same way.
        And two, because Lucinda had every opportunity to… simply not take this “advice”. Or at least write a calm, professional, and rational email instead of a “diatrebe”.
        Like, I get that Mossy nudged her in that direction but also, this was really her own doing.

        1. Mongrel*

          Agreed, it seems like Lucinda has some boundry issues and that can make it hard to sort out correct behavior for a situation (especially on the fly). I wouldn’t blame anyone for a hasty “How do I get rid of the crazy person” plan that involves redirecting them to *anyone* else.

      3. JSPA*

        Being seen for who you are is only a problem if your career goals and “who you are” are in deep conflict.

        It’s arguably kind to anyone she might have ended up managing, and kind to her, in the sense that she doesn’t have the minimal human insight needed to be a functional manager.

        Sure, we’re on a site where being a manager seems like a default career progression, but plenty of people have posted explaining how badly management fits them, and how much better they are as an excellent independent contributor. If we assume that management is the only way to succeed, we set everyone up for either disappointment or we drive the Peter Principle in its relentless churning.

      4. Xena*

        This is a pretty mild ‘trap’. Her suggestions seem quite bonkers—how does she expect the interview process to go? Does she want the hiring manager to secretly stalk all the candidates and then offer the position to one at a time? Or offer high level positions to all the candidates? OP suggested a perfectly normal response to a grievance; talk to the person in charge about the grievance to see if there’s a good way to make it right. I wouldn’t have wanted to tell Lucinda to her face that she was suggesting something crazy either.

  15. Chris C.*

    I had an internship at a very large, very old engineering firm. They were going through their first layoffs, ever. A well-liked senior employee had already arranged their next job, but didn’t get laid off — so they attempted to be just annoying enough to get their valuable pink slip (with generous severance!).

    One day in the cafeteria they sat down with the interns, and tried to get them to form a union. There had been no previous talk of unionizing (and the engineering interns were all well paid and quite happy, and had zero interest in this) — but the paperwork workload any talk of unionizing puts on management was huge.

    1. BeenThere*

      HAhahA. I’m trying to picture how this conversation goes , “ Hello young folks, who would like to join a cool group I’m starting”

    2. JustaTech*

      That’s so weird! Anytime my company has had layoffs people are allowed to volunteer. I know several people who were on their way out anyway who volunteered for the layoff to both get themselves a sweet severance and to protect their coworkers.

      One time it happened by accident: a coworker was literally getting ready to send her resignation letter to her boss when she was called in to a meeting with HR to get laid off. I don’t know what the severance was, but it must have been pretty good because I could hear her giggling in sheer glee two floors up the stairwell.

      1. Budgieman*

        Similar story, though cutting it even more fine.
        When working for a corporate, I walked into my bosses’ office with my resignation letter in hand, and said “I need a word”.
        The boss took one look at me and said “Don’t tell me anything that can’t wait a couple of days”, so I turned around and walked out.
        The next day I was called back into his office and retrenched.
        Boss told me later that HO were demanding retrenchments to save costs, but if someone left voluntarily, that made no difference, and that someone else would have to go regardless. My resignation would have meant he lost two people, not one…and this way he didn’t have someone else unhappy as a result.
        He had done a mad scramble that night to change paperwork before it went out, as I wasn’t the one due to be on the chopping block.
        Needless to say, both we were both happy with the result :)

        1. Certaintroublemaker*

          Wow, that’s crazy they would have made him be down two people!

          I called my boss at home one night because I’d gotten an offer I really wanted to take, but I felt terrible because they wanted me to start in one week, not two. She just told me that if it was best for my future, I should go. At the moment I felt a little puzzled that she didn’t say any of the niceties about how she would be sorry to see me go, but I found out later she’d been told that day she would need to lay somebody off and my news had been a huge relief for her. No way would the company have made her lay off an additional person, though.

      2. Katrinka*

        It depends. Sometimes they’re getting rid of a specific division or a specific job title, so asking for volunteers wouldn’t really help with that goal.

      3. SusanIvanova*

        During one of the early tech booms – before they were called dot-com, because that didn’t exist yet – I worked at a company that was going down while the rest of Silicon Valley was going up.

        Upper Manglement decided that one project should be axed, two of the three engineers laid off with nice severance, and the third kept for maintenance engineering. (The mindset of a good maintenance engineer and a good development engineer are diametrically opposite. Neither would switch jobs willingly.)

        Sales freaked. They’d just started a major push for that project, the customers loved it, and it was being killed? Inconceivable!

        So the two engineers were hired back but kept their sweet severance package. The third asked if he could have any sort of bonus too, to make up for it. Gosh no, he should feel lucky to just have a job!

        Tech boom, remember. He had a new job lined up in a matter of days.

        1. JustaTech*

          Oh, we had that too at one point: we went bankrupt and got bought by Evil Corp. One of Evil Corp’s big things was to start by chopping out any department they didn’t think you needed. So things like HR, legal, finance, purchasing, all of those people were sacked. Then they decided that there was no way, in the 21st century, that any company needed a “scheduling” department, so they sacked all of those people too.

          Except that we make a medical treatment that has a terrifyingly short shelf life where often you have to coordinate upwards of 30 people over a week to get the treatment to the patient. Not quite organ donation, but close. It’s *incredibly* complicated. It is as automated as it can be, which isn’t very because you have to adjust, on the fly, for things like weather all over the country.

          So Evil Corp had to hire all of those people back and let them keep their severance. Several people walked away over the whole thing and then Evil Corp had to scramble to find people who could do the job. (This is just part of the reason I call them Evil Corp.)

          1. lb*

            The only way this could get better is if Evil Corp got hit with a bunch of breach of contract suits as a result of not delivering on the product, and they’d fired all the lawyers who’d negotiated the deals.

      4. Mike S.*

        At my last job, I had a coworker who had another job lined up, and management knew it. Half the department was laid off, but she kept her job.

    3. Swiper*

      I love this. Similarly, I was once using intermittent FMLA, and long story short, my employer was annoyed by it and retaliating against me whenever and however possible while I was dealing with my health issue. Eventually they used this as a reason to demote me from an exempt management position into an hourly individual contributor role. The first thing I did was share my salary with my coworkers, offered to set up a way for others to share theirs anonymously if they wanted tl and asked if anyone was interested in unionizing. I was quickly reinstated into my former position. I’m sure it was entirely unrelated.

      1. JSPA*

        love this (and it’s always nice to know there are people in management who are union-appreciative).

  16. emily*

    i am a UX designer, and was working on designing a new checkout flow for a large e-commerce site. I strongly wanted to implement a 1-page checkout, but the Product Manager thought we should go with a 3-step one. This was a very waterfall, backwards company. After I updated my designs and prototypes to compromise for what the Product person wanted, I presented them in a formal meeting with the VP of Product (her boss). After I went through the designs, he unabashedly criticized me, saying I wasn’t thinking big enough, and basically we needed to implement a 1-page checkout. The Product manager immediately took his side, acting as if what I presented was not her idea, and piled on with the criticism. I was shocked and livid. Typing up this story gives me the creeps.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      I would have had a very hard time keeping my tongue in that situation. “Oh wow Product Manager – I feel terrible. I thought you said your idea for the three-page process was more in line with our company culture. I must have misunderstood! Mr. VP, now that I understand the confusion I’d love to show you the original one-page design plan.”

      Talk about being thrown under the bus! So sorry this happened to you.

    2. Anon-for-Now*

      Ugh! That’s infuriating.

      I had a manager who would think I’d done my assignments wrong, tell me to make another option to present, then present that option to her manager. I found out later that if the manager rejected it, she would then pull out my first design and say, “I wondered if that was wrong, so I also had her design this.”

    3. Birdie*

      Oooof, yeah, I’ll be honest…I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist saying something like, “I would be happy to show you my original 1-page design. It is still rough, as I set it aside when the decision was made to focus on this version, but I was able to create a framework I was very satisfied with and can easily expand upon now, if you agree.” But I really dislike jerks who throw subordinates under the bus and would’ve been looking to get away from that supervisor anyway.

  17. RealPerson01*

    I’m not terribly proud of this, but it worked out in the long run for almost everyone.

    A company I had been at for about 2 years had promoted my previous (pretty awesome) manager and he moved to a different province. They hired a new manager to take his place, this guy was likable but had a terrible work ethic, would roll in at 10 am leave at 4, would spend the rest of the day browsing the web, this was a retail store/shop and we only had 4 employees (including him), we had a few large jobs going on that were a multi-week project, I spent somewhere around 15 days working 14-16 hours while the manager barely showed up for 5.

    At the same time, my fiance at the time was trying to find a teaching job and was looking in some cities a few hours away. We had been contemplating moving to a different city and since my job wasn’t going well it wouldn’t have been too terrible to quit. I really like the company and My grandboss and I got along extremely well.

    There was one day had I been texting with grandboss about the job we were working on just before I was taking off for the weekend to look at houses in the new city. I was exceptionally grumpy about my boss cutting out while I stayed late to complete all the work. I staged a “whoops wrong person text” to my grandboss that read as it should have went to my fiance along the lines of “I’m sick of *boss* cutting out early while I stay late to deal with his mess, lets pull the trigger on *city* and go look at houses this week” my grandboss replied with I’m guessing that wasn’t for me sounds like we need to talk.

    At this point, i wasn’t even concerned with whether I would get fired. Grandboss and I had a call and I told him the whole story of what was going on and he said ok can you give me the weekend to sort things out? I agreed, and still took the weekend and looked at houses.

    The following Monday, He offered me the manager job to keep me on, told me it would take a few weeks to get sorted but to hang tight.

    Everything turned out well except for the boss. I stayed with the company for another 5 years and received another promotion after that. I’m not proud of the way i handled it, but for how that company was ran it was far from the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen there.

    1. Anonym*

      Eh, the method may have been “sneaky” but your grandboss needed to know. Ultimately, you did right by the company, which they clearly appreciated!

    2. SeluciaMD*

      I think that is actually a pretty genius move! While actually a calculated move, the grand-boss seeing it that way made it appear as an unfiltered, uncalculated message sent to him by mistake which very likely gave your complaint more weight – and your note about looking to move gave the situation more urgency. You didn’t have to issue anything that looked like an ultimatum and you never formally complained about your boss in a way that might have looked like sour grapes. And yet! Seriously genius! KUDOS.

    3. 867-5309*

      Is there a reason you could not have talked to the grand boss directly about it, since obviously he seemed receptive to your feedback?

      1. RealPerson01*

        Looking back it with more maturity, I definitely could have just talked to him, It would have came to the same conclusion. I didn’t ask for the manager position, it wasn’t even a discussion when we chatted after the text, so he had obviously seen me as somewhat of a leader in that location before.

    4. Human Embodiment of the 100 Emoji*

      I’ve done something very similar recently. I had a coworker who would frequently spend hours almost every day sleeping in his office, with the door open for everyone to see because our boss worked elsewhere and no one in the office had authority over him. He would also frequently just not show up on days he thought the rest of us would be working in the field. Multiple former co-workers had made complaints to my boss about this guy, to no avail (boss even renewed his contract twice! The poor mgmt is a whole ‘ nother issue lol).

      So every time he didn’t show up to the office, I would text my boss “Is co-worker sick? I haven’t seen him all day and he didn’t mention being off today” This was especially effective when we came back into the office after quarantine, since you can’t just claim to be sick for a day anymore. Unfortunately, he never got fired >_< (I'm leaving this dept, can you tell why?) but he didn't get his contract renewed and told us when he left that he didn't have a job lined up, so I like to think he got at least some comeuppance.

  18. Definitely hiding my identity on this one*

    There was a secretary in the department where I was temping who had to know everything, and she was desperate to find out what I had in the one drawer I kept locked in my cubicle (spoiler alert – I kept my shoes there and changed into them when I had to dress for a bad weather commute).

    When I went on vacation, she manufactured an emergency – a missing document, and she’d looked everywhere – EVERYWHERE – except MY locked drawer. On the strength of that claim she got facilities to unlock it so she could search.

    I’d emptied it out and taken my shoes home before I left for the holiday. ;)

    She had to tell me about it when I returned because everyone had seen facilities come and unlock my desk. I asked her what had happened in the matter of her incredibly important missing document, and she mumbled something and walked away.

    1. GoryDetails*

      I love this one! Low stakes, nobody’s career gets ruined or anything, but a charming little comeuppance for the curious one.

    2. Beany*

      That’s great!

      If only you’d known beforehand, you could have left a very visible card for her, saying “: Well now you know what’s in this drawer. Hope you didn’t have to manufacture a crisis to find out!”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Oh yeah!
        When I first came to Paris I worked as an au pair. The family had a flat on the fifth floor and I had a bedroom on the sixth floor. On a couple of occasions I got the impression that the mother would sneak up to my room and search for stuff, but I had no proof.
        Then one day she accused me of stealing. I had indeed taken a bottle of milk – but then again food and board were part of my salary. I was going to use the milk to make yoghurt for my breakfast, to eat in my room instead of eating with the family because I hated the woman so much. I just left a note in my room, to say that I was perfectly entitled to take a bottle of milk from her kitchen and that snooping in my bedroom was way out of line. She couldn’t complain about my note or “prove” that I had “stolen” the milk without revealing that she had been snooping, so it was all good. If ever she hadn’t been snooping, then she wouldn’t ever get accused of it.

        Similarly, our neighbour installed a camera in his garden, he says to be able to see if there are burglars. However it really looks like he can spy on us in our garden from the direction it’s pointing. So I stick my middle finger up as I walk down the path. If he can’t see me, there’s no harm done. And if he sees me, he can’t complain about me being rude without revealing that he’s spying on me.

  19. Girasol*

    Our department’s employee satisfaction survey was startlingly poorer than the company average. I was assigned on the employee committee that always follows one of those surveys to address the issues. The department head called me into his office for a one-on-one chat. He asked me if you could assess satisfaction objectively and answered his own question by assuring me that of course, you could not. Satisfaction is an emotional perspective, not a logical one. Therefore all the employees who thought that they were dissatisfied, well, they were acting on mere baseless opinions. In short, they were wrong. He was glad he could clear that up for me, he said, and patted my knee for good measure. (Resignation statistics are pretty objective, though. His team’s were also startlingly higher than every other department’s, and HR saw to it that he was fired within the year.)

    1. Elle Woods*

      Sounds like a place I used to work. They had five analysts, a manager, and a director; the director ultimately reported to the EVP of finance. In the two years I was there, they cycled through three full sets of analysts (including me). My manager was horribly inept–could barely use Excel but worked in finance–and was having an affair with the director. Shortly after I left for a different company, a new EVP was hired. Within her first two weeks on the job, she terminated my old manager and reassigned my old director to a different part of the company. From what former colleagues tell me, things are much more stable and less stressful now. (Still doesn’t make me want to go back there.)

      1. DJ*

        >and was having an affair with the director.

        Geez, I wonder if that would explain our head of accounts payables. She has the highest turnover in the company and doesn’t seem to understand online ordering. I wish I as joking but we had to explain to her that all our vendors work like Amazon. She was confused by that.

    2. Joanna*

      Our managers have to review the employee survey ratings with us. My old, toxic boss would spend the entire meeting telling us why the ratings we submitted were incorrect. He’d also explain that the scores were not valid because we were probably just in a bad mood when willed filled out the survey. I was extremely happy when he retired.

    3. Funk*

      How very NXVIM! “if you don’t like me doing something, you just need to work on your emotions until you are ok with it!”

      1. Zona the Great*

        lol! So Apt. When Alison Mack first visits him at the Volleyball game and she cries when he asks her why art is so important to her….that’s the point I would have cackle-laughed and walked away. “Because I’m rich, bitch!”

    4. Dragon_Dreamer*

      Reminds me of all the customer surveys I had to encourage folks to do. ONLY the highest score EVER actually counts. Even a 4.9999 average is BAD in customer service. I had HUNDREDS, if not a couple thousand “5” surveys over my 10.5 year stint. And the lie they used to “fire” me? That I had gotten a 1, with a customer supposedly claiming that they had overheard me being rude to another customer on the phone. On a day I didn’t even work! (But I was re-hireable! It was proven to be fabricated during the unemployment hearings. Real reason: I was a full time non-manager and thus was too expensive to keep. Despite being number 2 in sales nationwide. To say they regret firing me would be an understatement, as both stores I worked at are now shuttered. Sales plummeted.)

    5. K*

      Worked at an org with terrible manager who had 2+ full teams quit under them (myself included, 6 months into the position). When 360 reviews/surveys were coming up, a few of us went to upper management since there was no HR and voiced concerns about not being able to answer honestly about Manager for fear of retaliation. We asked for advice on how to best give honest feedback, came up with a game plan with upper management’s help, and went back to the team to share what we were told. We strategized as a group on how to word things more objectively and take emotion out of it and folks responded to the review/survey more candidly. Upon review, upper management decided that we all did it wrong and completely scrapped the feedback.

      That organization still employs Manager and still has a revolving door of staff.

    6. Pennalynn Lott*

      At the company I left at the beginning of this year, there were quarterly employee satisfaction surveys. Because I interned there before I started full-time, I got to witness my department head (a Sr VP) respond to four progressively-negative surveys. She had been hired on just 3-4 months before the start of my internship and she is a harsh, fault-finding, never-praise-anyone kind of a person.

      After each round of negative survey results, she would create yet another team of managers and staff who were supposed to sit down and come up with ways to counteract the bad results. Since *she* was the reason for the unhappiness, there was nothing we could actually do (so we created a bunch of buzzwordy PowerPoint decks).

      Finally, after the fourth quarterly results came out, she held a department-wide meeting. Her answer to the escalating negativity/unhappiness? “If you don’t want to be on this team then get out.”

      So I found another job and quit. As did a little over half the department.

    7. Fred*

      I had a big boss who told me, quite seriously, that he knew morale wasn’t bad (as an employee survey had shown) because he’d gone around and asked people and everyone he spoke to personally said morale was just! fine!

      Now he works in politics. Le sigh.

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        This one made me legit laugh out loud! I can only imagine how those conversations went.

    8. Katniss Evergreen*

      That’s effing disgusting. I made a face reading “He was glad he could clear that up for me, he said, and patted my knee for good measure.”

  20. Arya Parya*

    My very first job out of university was in the IT department of pretty large company. The department was a lot of fun, think the IT crowd.

    Our network admin had been there forever (and still works there 12 odd years later). He had been trying to get rid of all the fax machines for a couple of years already when I started working there, but there was still one left. A few people insisted they still needed it.

    After another meeting where this one fax machine came up and being told that the fax machine could not go, he had enough. Once everyone was gone, he unplugged it.

    About half a year later, he brought up the machine again. “No”, people said, “the machine cannot go. We use it quite often.” “How is it possible then”, our netwerk admin asked, “that none of you have plugged it back in?”

    And that was the day he was finally rid of the last fax machine.

    1. Thistle Whistle*

      An ex-boss was p*ssed at the Finance director and decided to turn off his access to the finance system for a day.

      And forgot about it.

      For 14 months. The director never noticed.

    2. Portabella*

      Love it! Sometimes “unplug it and see who screams” is the best approach to decommissioning something that should have been ditched a long time ago. I work in IT at a state university and we have soooo many things that people INSIST cannot be decommed, removed, or retired in any way.

      1. Jackalope*

        And it’s also helpful because conversely if everyone had noticed on Day 1, then it would have been a sign that they were right and still needed it. So either way it’s a win.

      2. Marzipan Dragon*

        Also at a state university with deeply inbred hoarding issues. I had a typewriter in my office that they wouldn’t let me throw out. It had been in my first office when I started to use for that one professor who wouldn’t use a computer. He’s been gone 15 years now and it hadn’t been used by anyone else but I had to move the darn thing from office to office with me “in case it’s needed.” I was finally able to get rid of it three years ago when I was able to point out that it was now unusable because it had sat so long that all the carbon had flaked off the ribbon and there was no way to purchase a new ribbon.

          1. Paulina*

            Oh yes. Home to many professors who amass a big collection of books in their office, hoarded for themselves alone until the moment they retire, when they suddenly expect that the library and current students will want all the books.

            1. Ponytail*

              Bonus points if the ‘donation’ includes many library books that the professor had insisted, at the time, he had returned, and which were taken off the system.

              Has happened to me more than once, in different institutes.

            2. LibStaff*

              As the gift liaison at a state university, I can confirm your story… with the fiery anger of 1,000 suns! The only positive to come from the virus situation was to say that we are no longer accepting physical donations!!

          2. My Dear Wormwood*

            Hooooooo boy. Let me tell you about the time in the 00s that we cleaned out all cupboards and freezers in our long running lab.

            There were magazines from the 80s. There were mercury themometers. There was a stack of DDT-impregnated papers – the safety officer looked like we’d asked him to dispose of a bomb when we asked what to do with them. We were more concerned about the biocontainment level 3 pathogen we found in one of the feezers that we were categorically NOT supposed to handle in level 2 lab. We must have acquired it back when it was a too-new-to-be-categorised emerging pathogen, but I guess before it was investigated as a potential biological weapon.

        1. Rainy*

          When I was in undergrad, I worked in my department office, doing filing, mail, book orders, answering the phone, that sort of thing. I also made syllabi (this was a million years ago). Mostly, making syllabi was just copying them, as my profs were generally a good sort and would create the document themselves with greater or lesser degrees of pain and then pass them off to me, and I’d check enrollment and put a stack of nice clean stapled syllabi in their mailbox.

          We had a professor who was too good (or something) to do his own syllabi, so he would hand me a yellowing copy of a prior year’s (or sometimes decade’s) syllabus with some chickenscratch emendations, and tell me to type it up for him. I checked with my boss, as nobody else made me do that, and she took one look at the name and said “oh god, just do it so he shuts up”. So I did: I typed it all up fresh, no misspellings or anything, in Microsoft Word, and printed out a copy for his approval and stuck it in his box.

          He then complained because I hadn’t typed it. Turns out there was a very old typewriter in one corner of the office and he wanted me to use it, because he didn’t trust technology.

          I checked the typewriter, changed the font to Courier, and printed it again.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Sigh. I advocate for this approach a lot, but no one ever lets me have any fun with it.

        I did have an IT person do something like this to me once – cut my access to a restricted server during a late Friday night maintenance window because they were convinced that it was no longer needed and wanted to see how long it took for us to realize it was gone. (This was dumb – they could have easily looked at transaction logs or file modification dates and see that there was tons of recent usage.) Turns out, we had an urgent business need for the server over the weekend, and the IT person was the lucky on-call who had to come back into the office on a weekend to get my access restored.

        1. Portabella*

          I work on the database team, and we usually do check the logs/audit tables to see if anyone has accessed something before retiring it…but there’s always a few people who have some random task they only do like, once or twice a year (or every couple of years!) that they need access for, and they’ll come out of the woodwork even if you think you’ve check back far enough, or blasted enough emails out to campus to catch them.

      4. Liz*

        This reminds me of a series of books we used to pay for and get, which were nothing more than a federal agency’s orders. In the pre-electronic era, we needed them. But when you can bring them up in seconds online, no. I was responsible for our “library” and had asked my then director several times if we could cancel the subscription. He kept saying no that we “might” need them. We had no room on the shelves for them, and one day I was kind of bemoaning the fact to the EA to our VP. who also supported my director. SHE cancelled the subscription as she paid the bill, and no one was the wiser. Director never missed them.

      5. Cedrus Libani*

        On the flip side…as a former “pet techie” in a biology department, I can assure you that there’s equipment that is older than most of the grad students, is absolutely dependent on software / tech configurations that are older than most of the undergrads, and will break when you look at it funny. Bringing that up to modern IT standards is just not happening.

        For example, in my last job, IT insisted that all computers be connected to the network and have automatic push upgrades. When they started prowling around, looking for contraband computers…for our ultra-fiddly workhorse instrument, I hid the real computer in a cabinet, put a dummy computer next to it, and set the dummy up so its only job was to sync data from the real computer and put it on the network. My boss thought I was being paranoid. Not long after, IT pushed an upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, which would have turned that instrument into a $500K paperweight. (Someone learned this the hard way, but it wasn’t us. We did get to buy some hard-to-find spare parts as a result…)

        Same workplace had an early 2000s Mac in a dusty corner, because it was the only working computer anyone could find with a browser that could still support the ancient EH&S website. The entire department took their yearly safety training on that computer. IT was eyeing that one as contraband too, but we pointed out why it was there, and they sheepishly let it stay…might still be there.

        1. Certaintroublemaker*

          Yeah, I work for central IT at a Tier 1 research institution. There’s a lot of very expensive equipment run by computers on XP or older. Every time Microsoft declares another OS sunsetted, we just ask anyone who can’t upgrade for critical infrastructure reasons to establish a mitigation—usually take it off the network and sneaker net your data over.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Orly Airport had to ground all the planes for a few hours back in 2015 because a Windows 3.1 computer running a critical task had crashed.

        3. coldbrewraktajino*

          I worked IT in college in the early 2000s. One of the profs had a setup that relied on an Apple. Not a Mac. An Apple.

          My boss had worked there since he was a student in the early 90s, and was the only person who knew how to work on this machine. He was always after her to upgrade it, but since everything else would need to be replaced….she’s probably still running it today.

        4. Mike S.*

          I work for a hospital. Doing that sort of thing can void the warrantee on expensive medical equipment where the PC’s running XP. While central IT’s really gung ho on doing upgrades, if people have an issue, they’ll work things out.

      6. TiffIf*

        Earlier this week some of our automation started to fail unexpectedly; poking in the logs I found out it was an error connecting to a specific SMTP server. Found out that IT ops had decommissioned that servers and didn’t notice we still had active traffic on it. We had used it the day before. If they had actually informed us we would have switched to a different SMTP prior to decommissioning but nobody thought to tell anyone in our department.

    3. Dragon_Dreamer*

      Alternate (and more fun) solution: Deploy an etherkiller. Half ethernet cable, half power cable. Nothing that gets plugged in ever works again.

      Variations exist for pretty much every single device. Fax machine would probably be a phone line. Use a 220 volt outlet for even more fun!

      (I have never used mine on anything but my OWN devices that were already retired. I have had to refuse a few professor requests to use it on equipment at one of my previous schools.)

    4. Taura*

      This isn’t my story, but from one of my coworkers who retired a few years ago. Back in the beginning of our department, there was a certain database that served EVERYONE, 24/7, and needed regular updates so the info would be as up-to-the-minute as possible. Since everyone needed it, and needed the info, no one liked to be kicked off for maintenance. On the other hand, when the maintenance DIDN’T get done, the info wouldn’t be up to date, and people would complain about not having accurate info to use. They tried changing the update times first – first thing in the morning, last thing at night, even on the weekend – but people still complained about getting kicked off, no matter the time. The machine this database was on though, was kept in a fairly high-traffic and narrow hallway, so the solution they hit upon in the end was to “trip” over the cord to the machine and unplug it (happened completely by accident as well on occasion) and then since the database was down anyway, they’d go ahead and put the update online. The coworker that told me this story said he’d never been happier than when they’d gotten the tech upgrades that made all that mostly unnecessary.

      1. Rainy*

        I had a job when I was a kid doing data entry after a warehouse fire to make sure the company knew exactly what had been in it when it burned, for the insurance claim. I “found” a bunch of stuff that had been thought destroyed in the inventory control system but had to go through again and re-check because it turned out, one of the sales guys at the store I was working out of liked to come in at 7am, pull up one file at random on the computer in his office so it would look like he was working, and then, leaving it open, play solitaire until the owner came in around 10:30. This messed up the backups. The guy responsible for DOING the backups came in at 8, and he and the sales guy had been in a silent, passive-aggressive war for years during which the sales guy refused to stop and the backup guy refused to do the backup at any other time.

    5. ginger ale for all*

      I work in an academic library in the government documents department. We have in our collection beta tapes, vhs cassettes, floppy disks, etc and we have faculty who need to use them for their research. The information is often only on these resources. The hoops our IT department have to go through to get this information when we don’t have the machinery that can process these older forms on information storage are mind boggling. We do not pay them enough or give them enough staff and they still come through for us.

    6. Faxer*

      FWIW, the IRS only accepts certain documents via fax or snail mail. I am the only person at my job who still uses a fax machine — mostly for submitting 8233 forms. Granted it’s not on a regular basis, but it’s certainly more convenient and faster than going to the post office and having to wait in line to mail it certified return receipt.

      1. Me*

        Yeah, we have a fax machine at the library I work at and honestly most people would be surprised at the number of requests we get to use it.

    7. Anonymous Hippo*

      I do this with reports I don’t think anyone is still using anymore. I’ll go ahead and complete them just in case and then “forget” to send them out for a couple months. If no one hollers, they get cut.

  21. Salad Daisy*

    I once worked as the office manager for a company which had a call center of about a dozen employees. One day the VP came in and called everyone into the conference room and announced the company was moving from the East Coast to California and everyone except me and my admin were to leave immediately. He then produced some empty boxes that he had purchased at Walnut for people to pack their belongings in. This was their severance package. My admin and I were told we needed to stay for a few weeks to pack up the office and send everything to the new facility in California. But I was so upset, flustered, etc. that I inadvertently (or vertently, if there is such a word) sent everything, dozens of huge boxes, etc. to the VP’s condo instead! And he did not even own a truck or SUV, just a BMW convertible. Good luck to him moving all those boxes!

    1. Happy Pineapple*

      This reminds me of an old boss I used to have. He would ship lots of personal mail to the office because he said he didn’t want it getting stolen from his house (despite his wife working from home). One time he ordered six large, heavy bar stools for his house and they sat in our conference room for weeks because he couldn’t figure out how to get to home in his tiny convertible.

  22. Kowalski! Options!*

    Years ago, I told the story about working for a major media outlet in Canada, reporting to two bosses who were romantically involved with each other, but I don’t think I ever talked about how that story ended…

    After I managed to get packaged out of the place, I took a few months off to travel, then started work at another (better) company a few months after. In Canada, we used to have a satirical magazine that took great pleasure in revealing the foibles of the chattering classes in both the media and government worlds. Well, one day about six months after I left, I get a call at work from my Dad (who never phoned): “Buy the latest copy of [magazine], and turn to page X”. Got up, went down to the corner store near the office. Bought magazine.

    Cue image of someone with three huge exclamation marks over their hair, which is standing on end: The Dangerous Liaison Bosses had decided to have a getaway in Paris, and I don’t remember if they were doing it on the company’s dime, or if they had lied about sick leave, or what. (By the time I left the company, it was an open secret that they were an item, but She-Boss had already parted ways with the company.) He-Boss gets summoned to a high-level meeting back in Toronto. He-Boss panics, says that he can’t return right away. Something has happened to his father, who’s a politically active academic in his home country, and He-Boss had to go to Paris to find him. Cue C-suite editor, who think he’s got a hot story of political intrigue on his hands and starts things rolling to run with an exclusive.

    Long story short: no one had absconded with anyone, He-Boss got caught out in the lie, and ended up coming clean and leaving the company a few weeks after. He-Boss then worked some contacts and got a job in Paris, and stayed there for a few years while things cooled off. She-Boss took a job with another prestigious firm, but didn’t last more than six months. I have no idea where she is, but, in a weird turn of fate, He-Boss is now with an organization that is marginally involved with the organization that I work for.

    Life is weird.

    1. Scrooge McDunk*

      For the first paragraph or so I got really excited thinking you worked for Peter Mansbridge and Wendy Mesley. And now I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out who it is…

  23. Anon for this*

    A colleague and chair of a search committee approached me privately about concerns they had about a candidate. They persuaded me that these were valid concerns and asked me to bring it up at our meeting. I did so. After I said my piece, the search committee chair defended the candidate, minimized the arguments I had made about the candidate, and hung me out to dry.

    I knew this person was a narcissist. I just never realized how much of a narcissist. I decided they had given me a gift by showing me who they were and since then have stayed the hell away.

    1. Dreama*

      What a total s**t. Not you, the committee chair. Jeez. Hoe do people like that look at themselves in the mirror?

    2. Anonymath*

      Ah, I had one of those!

      Colleague and I are on a P&T committee. I noticed the candidate up for promotion lightly plagiarized a couple of his publications. The colleague also noticed and we discussed how to deal with bringing it to the committee, as the committee chair had strongly stated they would only write positive things about the candidate (which was against policy of writing a balanced letter). Colleague and I both agreed we would raise the issue at the next meeting anyways.

      Guess who doesn’t show up to the next meeting? Yup, that colleague. Meanwhile, I go on with our plan of bringing up the issue, only to get yelled at by the committee chair. Colleague who chickened out “had an emergency” but still managed to email the committee stating how wonderful the candidate’s research was, hanging me out to dry.

  24. Archie Goodwin*

    I’m not Machiavellian in the least, but I’m reminded of a Soviet joke my mother told me.

    This fellow – subject of the joke – is out and about one day, and finds he really needs to use the facilities. Fortunately, he’s downtown, so the public bathroom he has available to him is in pretty good shape, by local standards. He goes in, and there sits the attendant, Marivanna – he pays her, does his business, and goes on his merry way.

    Well, this place is pretty close to his office, so it becomes part of his regular route. And while he doesn’t get particularly friendly with Marivanna, he does get to know her a bit…until one day he walks in there and she’s nowhere to be found. He asks the new attendant: nothing. No news. No idea what happened to her. Oh, well – such is life, and he shrugs and moves on.

    A few months later, our hero finds himself out past the back of beyond, way at the back of the suburbs. Industrial wasteland, pollution everywhere, one step away from hell, that sort of thing. And wouldn’t you know it, he needs to find a place again. Nothing for it. So he finds a public facility, and this one is as horrible as the last was nice – doors off the hinges, dust and filth caked everywhere, a broken window. The light doesn’t even work. Alas…there is no other choice. So he makes his way into the dingy, dark vestibule and knocks on the table. The back door opens, and in shuffles – Marivanna!

    “Why, Marivanna!” says the customer. “I haven’t seen you in months! What happened – why are you here, now, and not in downtown Leningrad?”

    Marivanna starts to cry. “Oh, intrigue!” she wails. “Intrigue!”


    Whenever my mother tells me about the latest petty drama in the HOA, or something equally inconsequential, I just pull a face at her and wail, “Intrigue, intrigue!”

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        It’s Soviet humor. Not funny but true. :-)

        The joke is that there was intrigue in EVERYTHING, even in the way in which people got jobs as public bathroom attendants. So she lost her cushy, plum post because someone intrigued against her, not because of any mundane reason. Just a comment on the way society worked.

        1. Catherine*

          I didn’t know that meaning of intrigue, I guess! “Intrigued against her” means… reported her to Soviet authorities?

          1. Wintermute*

            Well for cushy aparatchik jobs it was all about who you knew and who they knew. The Party gave out these positions and many people in the politbureau had their own internal clients (in the roman patron/client sense). Many purges happened when one group gained ascendency over the other and promptly sent all the clients and beneficiaries of the ousted power figure to the gulags.

            So the joke here is that she had her “good” bathroom attendant job because she was allied with some faction of the communist party locally that was in turn allied to a more powerful figure. And when that powerful figure lost the high graces of the committee as a whole or the premier then she was dismissed from her “prestigious” post and relegated to a much less important one, just like a scientist, general or other elite would be.

            The humor is in the idea that even bathroom attendants are reliant on the patronage system, it’s not just military command officers, university chairs and other elites.

      2. Pepperbar*

        I think the joke is that under the Soviet regime, even lowly bathroom attendants were not exempt from drama, intrigue, and workplace politics. Soviet humour tended to be a couple standard deviations to the dark and ironic side of the bell curve.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          Yep, that’s it, basically.

          When I use the punchline today it’s in similar circumstances – sort of as a comment on, “these people don’t have anything better to do than stir a very small, very useless pot.”

      3. SubjectAvocado*

        I think it’s about how even in occupations like bathroom attendant, there is a degree of intrigue and politicking.

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Not exactly on-topic, but the bathroom attendant thing reminded me of this:

      My dad is Austrian, and my mom is American. When I was very little, my parents went on vacation to Vienna with my mom’s parents. My mom and grandma are out when they have to stop and use the public bathroom. My dad hands them some schillings and waits outside.

      They come back a minute later and ask for more money, because apparently the attendant said they weren’t paying the correct fee.

      My dad walks up to the attendant and starts to talk to him in High German (i.e. very properly with no dialect). The attendant repeats his claim that the fee is so many schillings and my mom and grandma need to pay more. Then my dad says, in extremely thick local dialect, the equivalent of, “Cut the bullshit, dude, we both know that’s not true,” and the guy literally picked up his little desk and took the toilet paper off the roller and bolted.

      1. Jay*

        My mother worked for the French Embassy in NYC after college. She was already fluent in French when she started, and after five years she was pretty much bilingual. That’s when my parents took their first trip to Europe. They got in a cab in Paris, gave the address, and the driver took off in the wrong direction. My mother proceeded to chew him out in very idiomatic and somewhat obscene French. He made a U-turn, took them immediately to their destination, and became their personal cab driver for the next week.

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          My Canadian ex’s dad is from Paris and the whole family has stories about Parisians trying to take advantage of the Obviously-Not-Parisians.

          Spoiler: those trying to put one over on Ex’s family weren’t successful

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I actually have a story about a True Parisian who got ripped off by a taxi. He was coming to my place and I had told him there was a metro station not too far off that he could get to direct from his place, without having to change trains. It wasn’t the closest station but only a ten-minute walk. Well, he got majorly lost somehow and asked a taxi driver the way. The guy told him to hop in, and took him by way of the Eiffel Tower (right the other side of town to me). It cost him 50 francs (yes it’s an old story) whereas the distance he probably needed to go would barely have cost more than the minimum charge. We teased him mercilessly about that!

            Otherwise, taxi drivers are no worse in Paris than elsewhere. There are more stories of tourists getting ripped off in Paris simply because there are more tourists in Paris, pre-Covid it was the city attracting the most tourists worldwide.

      2. Riversong*

        Off topic (so feel free to ignore or delete)
        Are paid public restrooms with attendants a thing? How does that work? Where is it common?
        (I have not yet travelled much out of the US but I hope to at some point, so I would like to be aware!)

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          They are pretty common in France (attendants there are usually intimidating old ladies) and other European countries. I’m from the UK and you will sometimes get this type of bathroom there too, usually in stations for some reason.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            My brother always used to moan about how expensive it was to “spend a penny” in railway loos :-)

        2. ginger ale for all*

          In the Before Times (precovid), I would go out to night clubs. The nicer ones in town have them and they sit in the bathroom and offer you nice lotion, make up retouches, soap, towels, whatever. I thought it was just a nice service until I found out that the nicer clubs really hire them to keep drug deals, furtive sex, overly drunk people getting out of control from happening in the bathrooms. So now when I go, I always tip twice as much as I did before that knowledge because I do not want to have that happening while I am there.

        3. TechWorker*

          I’ve encountered it in Italy, where the restroom attendant was frankly one of the most terrifying people I ever met. I made multiple mistakes – I stood too far forwards in the queue, misunderstood what she said when she wanted to clean the cubicle first and finally offended her by not using paper towel to dry my hands (you know the very rough towel that doesn’t do much?). Being gestured and shouted at in a language you don’t speak is always fun :)

          1. Carpe Librarium*

            Tell the people in your life that you love them, because life is short. Better yet, scream it at them in Finnish, because life is also confusing and terrifying.

        4. Paulina*

          At the last one I remember (in Germany I think), I paid a small amount (as posted) to the (male) attendant on entry, who then escorted me to a stall, ensured it was clean, and then left me to it. Sinks were ready for use as I left, which was an improvement over the first one I remember: that earlier one has separate charges for using the toilet and using the sink, which meant the second payment had to be made with unclean hands, and made me wonder how many people skipped the handwashing stage to save money and time.

        5. All the cats 4 me*

          Yes, and I prefer them over the alternative. Even when it is confusing, at least the bathroom is clean when there is an attendant.

        6. Zooey*

          They used to be fairly common in Europe but less so now. I think the last place I used one was in Greece. There tend to be two approaches- some have a set fee, others are staffed and you just basically tip. Sometimes the attendant has the toilet paper and you have to pay for them to hand it over.

          I don’t know of any country where they’re still the default now (others may know better) so it’s more just a thing you have to be generally prepared for. When travelling I still like to make sure I have some change ASAP on arrival for stuff like this.

      3. peep*

        Oh my gosh. Shades of memory of my family’s first trip to Europe in 2001… This was pre-euro currency by a few years, so we were in Munich and took a day trip to Salzburg. We got off the train (my mom didn’t want to use the train bathroom once we pulled into the station, I think it wasn’t allowed anyway) and went to find the station bathroom for my mom. The attendant must have been helping someone else, and we also had never seen an attended bathroom in our lives, so my mom just went straight to a stall and did her business. I was worried though because the way the bathrooms worked was that the attendant had to unlock it for you to let you in — if you went in yourself, then the door would lock itself with an inch open, and you couldn’t get out either! So my mom was locked in, the attendant came over and got mad at us (I was 15 and completely confused) and eventually I understood we needed to pay her…. but of course we had no schillings, we’d just arrived for the day! So I had to run out to find my dad, who got some money out of an ATM at the station. Then the attendant was mad because we only had large bills (like the equivalent of $20 for a $1 fee?) but like come on lady, I have no control over this! lol. So she yelled at my mom and let her out and gave us change and kept yelling at us. Then my dad freaked out thinking the ATM ate his card, so had to ask the newsstand person to open it for him, and it turned out he’d put it in his wallet and forgotten it. What a day…. I enjoyed Salzburg though. :P

  25. Dorothy*

    well this is a small thing but one I am kind of proud of…we were at a conference in another state and after a long day charter buses took us from the hotel to a restaurant. We had a large room to ourselves and after a several course dinner the drinks continued to flow. The buses were not supposed to take us back to the hotel until the event planner called them. I was tired and ready to leave. Four drinks in and I could tell the event planner was planning to stay a while as were most of the group and the restaurant was not closing anytime soon. So, I got the number of the charter buses and quietly called them and told them we were ready to go. The buses showed up and the event planner just said “well I guess it’s time to go”. Nobody ever knew any different.

      1. JustaTech*

        This is why these kinds of events need to have staggered buses back to the hotel. I’ve never experienced the divide between introverts and extroverts as strongly as at conferences. You’ve been in intense presentations all day (freezing your tail off) and then it’s time for the socializing part (an equally important part of any conference) and you’ve got to keep your game face on for another 5 hours. While drinking.
        It is exhausting. It’s exhausting for the extroverts, let alone for the introverts who need some re-change time.

        Smart event planners recognize that not everyone is up to hours of this stuff and have buses back to the hotel at staggered times.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I’m fairly extrovert but after a full day of conference and being sociable and lively I start to run out of energy and want a hot bath and my bed.

          The best conference dinners I’ve been to are either walking distance from the hotel (in which case you can get back easily) or have staggered buses back. The worst one has to have been in Rome a number of years ago. We got taken for a 6 course seafood banquet the other side of the city and it dragged on, and on. I don’t eat shellfish or crustaceans so had spent half the time pushing the food around my plate. By about 11pm I was barely awake and starving and we were still on course 4. I’m afraid I made my excuses pleading a headache, and got a taxi back. I asked him to drop me off outside McDonalds opposite my hotel. So I sat there late at night in a reasonably posh frock eating a Big Mac. Ah the glamour!

          1. JustaTech*

            I wish I’d been brave enough to call a Lyft, but it was my first conference for this company and I really wanted to make a good impression. Oh, and there had been crashers who may have threatened violence on the previous day, so it did feel safer staying with the group in case the crashers were waiting outside the hotel.
            I was so tired by the time the conference was over I just kind of cried the whole flight home. (Quietly, didn’t want to upset the people sitting around me.)

        2. M*

          I used to be quite active in a student-level competitive event, and good enough that I was regularly involved in running the big international events for it. Literally the first due-diligence question I used to ask when checking over the local committee’s plans was “are you staggering buses after night events?”. I used to be amazed at how many otherwise extremely competent people just hadn’t even *considered* the possibility that people would want them to do that, until I realised that the kind of people who take jobs (volunteer or otherwise) running social events tend to… really enjoy social events.

          Anyway, it’s a basic “am I competently organising this transport-dependent event?” question. If people are dependent on you for transport, you organise transport to meet their needs.

      2. Jackalope*

        Given that it had been a several course meal and multiple drinks had already happened, it was likely that hours had gone by already. It seems reasonable to want to leave a work event after a few hours. (That being said, as others pointed out staggered bus departures would probably have been the best idea here.)

      3. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Sounds like it! Go Dorothy — I’m one who would have cheered when the bus rolled up.

      4. CeeBee*

        exactly what I was thinking – so I guess very machiavellian – but I wouldn’t be “proud”

      5. Ally McBeal*

        I’m convinced that I’m a good event planner (used to do it for fun, then for a living, and then back to fun again before Covid hit) BECAUSE I’m an introvert. Any event needs to have a place for attendees to escape – I called it a “quiet room” – AND a way out of the venue altogether.

        Also, Dorothy didn’t have the venue kick them out – anyone who really wanted to keep the party going could have called a cab. But others are correct that a staggered bus system would have been best.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Hostage-taking at social events is the worst. Given the use of plural “buses,” the organizer could have arranged for two shifts: an early bus after dessert, and a late bus for the people who wanted to close the bar. I am an early riser. I would be asleep in my seat after the second round of drinks.

  26. Definitely Staying Anon*

    I worked for a NCAA Division I Athletics program in the business office from mid-90s to mid-2010s. What many people don’t realize is that while coaching staff are considered Faculty and administrators are University administrators as well, most staff (business office, equipment room, marketing, events, etc.) are not University employees. Many Universities set up an auxiliary corporation to cover those individuals. It’s a very standard case of a University claiming an employee when it benefits them and not when it can cause them liability.

    In the 2008 recession, both the University and the auxiliary corp were put on a furlough amounting to 8% of salary. For the 2009-2010 academic year, the University returned to normal pay. The auxiliary corp, led by the Athletic Director – a University employee, promptly instilled a 10% salary reduction. This was not to admin or coaching staff (including our head football coach, who was – quite literally – the highest paid public employee in the state). This was to guys in the equipment room washing jock straps and jerseys and socks… the sports information staff who keep track of all of the stats involved in a team and slip those numbers to the press box during an event… the event staff themselves, setting up the facilities for a game, including painting the field, cleaning stadiums, setting up turnstiles, etc. This 10% salary reduction was the saving the aux corp about $375,000 that fiscal year. The Athletic Director was adamant that the reduction be that much. He wasn’t willing to reduce it to 7% or 5%. It had to be 10%.

    And at the end of the year, per the terms of his contract, he earned a $250,000 bonus from the aux corp for having closed the fiscal year $100,000 under budget. When he came to pick up that check, he was giddy with excitement because he was going to pay off his house completely… after taking an extensive vacation. He bragged about this to employees he forced into a salary reduction so he could get a bonus. It came as no surprise that he was out of a job 2 years later.

      1. bleh*

        Yes, that whole calling the coaching staff “faculty” is one way Unis inflate faculty to student ratio. They also use it to claim that Faculty cost so much and hide the costs of athletics. It’s gross.

        1. Profe*

          Wow, I didn’t know that, and it’s so dirty! I did my masters at a big SEC football school and found the culture just ludicrous.

    1. JustaTech*

      Ugh, that’s horrible.
      I had a grad school classmate who was one of the football coaches at BigStateU, who was in grad school because you had to be a student to be an assistant coach, and was paid so little he lived in the head coach’s office. Like, in the stadium. The newly renovated, beautiful stadium.

    2. SeluciaMD*

      This is so gross. SO GROSS. It blows my mind that NO ONE bothered to ask how he came in so far under budget. Was there no audit?!? This is shameful.

      1. Helen J*

        Agreed. Some coaches get paid millions of dollars a year and I imagine Athletic Directors get paid pretty much the same but the ones doing the real work get a salary reduction so he can pay off his house early. I would have gone to jail because I would have used that check to give him a million papercuts.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My brother-in-law worked in athletics at a similar level as an athletic trainer (ie, the guy who runs out on the field to tape the quarter back’s ankle). He’d work from 5am to 11pm most of the year and was paid so little that his children qualified for free and reduced lunch at school. College sports are a very, very shady business.

    4. Riversong*

      Reminds me how glad I am that both my high school and college got rid of their football teams!

    5. Boof*

      GFC glad with covid salary reductions my uni did a top down approach; the tp took 20% reduction, then it was 10% for over 100k, and no one under 100k had a reduction

    6. Scarlett10is*

      This is one of the grossest things I have read about an abuse of power by a coach in while. Utterly digusting. Also thanks for the info; had no idea coaches were called faculty.

    7. Tiffany Hashish*

      Sounds like the same kind of rules for that Alabama sheriff years ago who converted the unspent annual jail budget to salary. Kept under the budget by overcrowding and underfeeding inmates.


  27. Tasha*

    “Jane” was new to the company (and the industry) in a new, important role. She wanted the analysts who worked under “Bob” to report to her. She lined up three other managers to support her idea of reorganization, then invited Bob to a meeting with all of them and told him “this is what’s going to happen.” So it did and all eight experienced analysts (including me) ending up leaving over the next six months.

    Jane wasn’t promoted to an officer position when she thought she should be so she threatened to quit unless the board promoted her off cycle, so they did.

    She was originally reporting to “Guy” whom she didn’t get along with so again she threatened to quit unless her reporting relationship was changed to “Sue.” Which it was.

    The kicker? Eighteen months after this drama and disruption she walked away for “a once in a lifetime” opportunity elsewhere.

    1. Sparrow*

      Wait, why did everyone just go along with these things? Was her position high enough that people had no choice but to listen to her demands or was there something else going on?

      1. Tasha*

        She brought a new skill set that the company thought they needed. Also she was charismatic (I used the word “seductive” once in reference to her, but I didn’t mean it in a sexual way.)

  28. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    I knew my horrible boss wanted to move on and exactly what types of jobs she was interested in, so whenever I would get a suitable job posting I’d send it out as a BCC to her, but write as if there were multiple recipients with a message like:
    “Hey all, my friend just forwarded me this. $Organization is looking for someone for this job. Can you pass it out to your networks? It sounds like a cool opportunity”

    She left for one of the jobs

    1. BlueCollar Schemer*

      About, oh, 30 years ago, I was on a manufacturing team that worked swing shift. We all knew that we were underpaid, but the industry did allow for an ok hourly wage (just not what we were worth), and we were all college students, so … we just agreed that this was a college job, and shrugged.

      But then Monica was hired. She was a full blown diva, always causing some kind of drama/trouble – one day, she had our entire department shut down for a three hour anti-harrassment meeting becuase “Manuel didn’t say hi to me at the start of the shift.”

      The next week, my wife pointed out that a new company in our area was hiring for my exact specialty, and at a wage that was significantly higher than what I was making. I knew that there was no way that a company doing the same things as my company could survive paying more than we got – the economics just didn’t work out.

      So I took the paper into work that afternoon, and told everyone about the ad – and then told everyone except Monica that the company couldn’t possibly last.

      Yep, she took the bait, interviewed over there, quit my company, and we all sighed a big sigh of relief. And the other company went bankrupt in 4 months.


  29. NotMonkeyNotMyCircus*

    I was the sole female in a high level meeting with all men. We were discussing a really important unprecedented case that was being prosecuted. The department that I worked for was promised a copy of the transcript of a confession, in order to complete a damage assessment. As the meeting was concluding the older gentleman chairing it was providing me a package of documents that he urgently needed my department to review, but absent the confession transcript my department needed. They were holding onto it really tight. But we needed it to do our jobs. He fluffed it off, saying that his boss wasn’t in yet and so wasn’t able to sign off on releasing it, and why don’t I just head out with these and he will let me know about the transcript. Very patronizing tone and all. I took out my blackberry and looked at him and said, he was in luck because I had no other meetings for the morning, and had no problem in waiting for his boss to come in that morning and sign it off. There was a pause, as he looked at me with these really tiny angry eyes. At that point, I suggested that perhaps, his paralegal could begin making a copy of the transcript and get it ready to go, so that when his boss came in and signed it off, I would be ready to leave and tackle review of those other documents I know were pressing to him. No worries about the delay I have emails I could respond to while I wait. The FBI guy at the table, does a face plant into his hands shaking his head while smirking. Basically the chair of the meeting got called out on the BS he was trying to dish out and I put him in a corner. After several seconds, he sighed and directed his paralegal to get the package ready that I needed and go find his boss to sign off on it. Miraculously, his boss was able to be found, and I got what I needed for my department.

      1. katie_jones*

        This was accidentally me, age 22, interviewing for my first non-internship job. It was a full-day interview/experience (teaching job at a private school), and I’d met with all various middle management, but the principal was busy. I didn’t know much about interviewing, but it was my last meeting of the day and I knew I wouldn’t get hired without meeting with the principal so I told his assistant that I would wait, no problem, and I sat down in a chair in the hall. After about ten minutes, the assistant came out to gently let me know he would be busy the rest of the day and NO REALLY YOU SHOULD GO NOW, but we’ll let you know when you can come back to meet him.

        Fun fact: I got the job, and little did I know that the secretary knew one of my references personally and had just called the reference to say “WTF is this kid doing”. Thank goodness that reference loved me and was able to put a super positive spin on my behavior!!

    1. kitryan*

      I pulled an ‘I’ll wait’ to get the management company of the condo building I’d moved out of to stop sending me the HOA bills. They had processed and approved the sale themselves for the building but they’d sent me the monthly bill for over 4 months, (I’d emailed them to correct it each time). Their offices were near my office so I parked myself in the waiting room until they prepared and signed a document stating that they were aware I had sold the unit in question and was no longer responsible for the payments as of [sale date].
      I had to do the same thing earlier to get my moving security deposit back.
      Later, I was viewing possible new places and one had a management notice on the front door, with this company’s logo. I turned right around and didn’t even bother looking at the apt.

      1. M*

        Unlikely, sounds like this was the law firm prosecuting a case, not a party to it.

        Reading between the lines, sounds like either a) handing over the document just wasn’t a priority for them, and they didn’t particularly care that it was holding up another team; or b) they were using it as internal-politics-leverage: you do the work we need from you before we give you the document you need from us.

  30. Jenny Islander*

    Let me set the scene: This was back when a 56k modem was Teh Awesome. I was the only employee in a home office. There was one computer. It…did not have a 56k modem.

    My boss was also Teh Awesome, at least in his own mind, because he had been in the military and in law enforcement before starting his then-current career in financial planning, while I had only, y’know, lived my life, so obvs. he knew all and I knew naught. Bless his heart.

    So I got to work one morning and saw him still at the workstation, which he normally vacated before my start time. He was squinting aggrievedly at the screen while repeatedly clicking something.

    “What’s up?” I asked.

    “Oh, I can’t get this attachment to open,” he grumbled. “I’ve been clicking it for 10 minutes.”

    I peered over his shoulder at the company Hotmail account. I didn’t recognize the name of the sender. “Who’s this from.”

    “I don’t know,” he said, “but it’s obviously something very important.” The name of the attachment was “Important Documents.”

    Folks, I could have calmly and gently explained what he had done to himself, and run our up-to-date copy of Norton (updated regularly via CD-ROM). But months of being little-ladied and you-don’t-know-about-real-lifed were bubbling behind my eyes. “Oh dear,” I said, fluttering in distress. “Oh dear. Oh, Mr. M—–, I think you’ve picked up a virus. Every time you clicked it it downloaded a copy. But don’t worry. I think we can catch it in time.”

    And I sat down at the workstation, and started Norton….the free online version that they used to offer, where they scanned your entire computer remotely for you.

    At 28k.

    And then I went home, because obvs. I couldn’t get anything done when the virus scan was running, which was going to take at least five hours. Did I mention that I was a salaried employee?

    To his credit, he never did that again.

    1. JustaTech*

      At least he never did it again!
      I have had to do so many “Internet safety” trainings because some bigwig was too busy to actually *look* at the attachment they were opening and we’d get yet another virus. Or ransomware’d. That happened twice.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ahhhhh flashbacks to when I had free college internet over my landline. Those were the days.

      2. All the cats 4 me*

        I took the trouble to learn how to shut off that bl**dy annoying sound. It was blissful!

    2. Rachel in NYC*

      Oh the dial up days…

      My father was the tech person in our house. When I was a little kid and the internet was still relatively new and shiny (think Netscape days), my dad got tired of my constant questions about whether to say yes or no to questions the computer ‘asked me.’ So he told me to ‘just answer yes.’

      You can imagine all of the crap I downloaded because I always said yes.

      After several years of this, my father got mad one day at some junk that had been downloaded and asked ‘why the h-ll I had said ‘yes’ to downloading it.

      I responded- he told me to always agree with the computer.

      [He did stop yelling after that. And I learned to read the computer prompts.]

    3. JanetM*

      Not Machiavellian, but one of my favorites, which this brought to mind. I will present it in dialog form.

      It was 5:30 pm on a Friday, 20-some years ago. The phone in our training lab rang. Like an idiot, I answered it.

      Me: [Group name], this is Janet.

      Caller: I have problem with my email.

      Me: Well, the Help Desk is closed, but I’m happy to see if I can help you.

      Caller: It won’t open the thing.

      Me: Your email program won’t open?

      Caller: No, it won’t open the thing.

      Me: So you can run the program but it won’t open email?

      Caller: NO! It won’t open the thing with the email!

      Me: Oh, it won’t open an attachment! Okay, what usually happens when you try to open a file that’s been attached to an email?

      Caller: I click on the thing, and the thing opens it.

      Me, thinking but not saying: Oh my ghod, your computer is a swamp.

      Me: Right. Okay, what kind of file is it?

      Caller: How should I know?

      Me: Does it have a name with a some letters, a period, and three more letters?

      Caller: How should I know?

      Me, grasping at straws here: What email program do you use?

      Caller: A MODEM, STUPID!

      Me, suddenly losing all interest in helping; I’m sorry, you’re right, I’m not able to help you. The Help Desk will re-open at 9am on Monday. Their number is [number]. Goodbye. [click]

      1. Katniss Evergreen*

        What a jerk! Glad you got off the call – nothing you can do for people who are like this to someone who’s just trying to help.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Very early on , in my career – as I stated in another post, I was a network operator – responsible for around 200 terminals in 120 offices.

        One morning I get a call “my computer isn’t running.” OK, I look at my network and see that her terminal’s had no activity for the day. So I attempt to restart it, it conks out.

        Me: “OK, can you flick the control unit off and on”
        Her: “my manager told me never to touch that”
        Me: “It’s OK, I’m trying to get you running. You’re not working as it is, so let’s try that.”

        (restart fails)

        Me: “OK what do the lights say on your modem?” (then dialog explaining what the modem is)
        Her : “no lights on it”.
        Me: “OK is there any electricity coming out of the outlet? Do you have something like a radio or pencil sharpener you can check???”
        Her : “I, uh, don’t know if we can do that.”
        Me: “OK, check to see if everything’s plugged in”
        Her “I can’t see back there”
        Me: “Why not?”
        Her = “Our electricity is out due to the storm…” (groan)

        I had another office where the manager had a metal-lined room built, put the modem and control unit in the “secret room”, with the computer terminal and keyboard outside of it. They called – I asked to reset the equipment – and she couldn’t do it. “All that’s in the secret room. And the manager has the key.”

        Me: “well get the key and call me back!”
        Her: “(boss) is on vacation. He won’t be back for two weeks, he took the key with him.”

        “There are six million cases in the naked city. You have just seen two of them.”

  31. Genius with Food Additives*

    I fully expect this to be eclipsed by others but here’s a few: at my first job, marketing was the gatekeeper of moving projects forward. Depending on who your lead was, this could be fine or painful as they would be finicky and need to feel like they were having input. So sometimes we’d have sample A and sample B out for approval that were actually both the same thing.
    -Used to work at a candy company and people would get very entranced by when we’d have melted chocolate liquor in the lab (this is just cocoa solids and cocoa fat, so extremely bitter, but looks gorgeous). They’d ask to try it and we would absolutely let them.
    -This might be the worst, but we interviewed someone once who worked for a pet food company and when new people from other depts came to see R&D, they would pretty much insist they needed to try the product “because everyone else had.” Just kibble, but still. :-D

    1. LPUK*

      I used to work at a pet food factory and at the daily QA huddle ( I was sent along to give a Sales debrief ), several of the factory hpguys got spoons out and tasted the canned pet food. Luckily they didn’t make me do it

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I attended a survivalist panel at a nerd con once where they put up a bunch of cans with no labels, as they might present themselves in a post-disaster foraging situation. Several people were asked to pick a can, open it, and then they had to taste the contents.
        One poor person who fortunately had an excellent sense of humor got the dog food can.

        The panelist informed us that pet food is perfectly edible for humans, if somewhat unpalatable. “In a post-apocalypse scenario, you eat what you can get, for energy” he declared. The dog food taster said it wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. The one who got Spaghettios said they felt bad, lol.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I mean, I wouldn’t give my pet anything that would be inedible to a human!

          When my husband was in high school, he worked at a pet store that kept dog treats at the register so they could give treats to dogs who came shopping with their owners. Whenever someone would start questioning him about the quality of the dog treats, he’d say, “Oh, they’re very high quality. And delicious! See?” and take a bite of one. It always threw them way off!

          1. Wintermute*

            There’s a reason that “eating your own dogfood” has become a term in the tech world. It comes from a pet food company where the owner would literally eat their own dog food to prove it was safe and healthful. In IT terms it means you use your own products you develop in-house. Nothing causes customers to get VERY worried than learning Microsoft uses Apache, not Microsoft IIS, to serve up their homepage…

  32. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I worked for a woman who was scattered, immature, unprofessional… it was a little weird. She got promoted over someone else in the department and there was a TON of tension, and she decided she was going to be the “OMG AWESOME BOSS” and totally loose and friendly with everyone. I liked her at first and then I realized that she was really inappropriate much of the time and had no idea how to be a good boss, she just liked being in charge.

    We got a new SVP of the department we supported. The relationship is a little confusing in my industry, but basically we all had a dotted line to this very important, revenue-generating department. If they didn’t like our work, we were in big trouble. The new SVP was a great guy, really nice, really great at his job, but very tough. In his first month, he told everyone on the floor that he expected them to be at their desks by 9:30 (we had a start time of 9am) unless they had client meetings or appointments. He started putting Post-It Notes on the doors of the worst offenders. This was before people teleworked regularly and right at the point when Blackberries were becoming popular.

    My boss was NEVER in the office before 10am. She moved 10 blocks away and still sauntered in late. New SVP didn’t like that. I’m pretty sure he spoke to her about it. She would come in “early” a few days and then back to 10am. So one day he came over looking for her, I said, “She’s not in yet, can I help you with something?” and he decided to give me– the most junior person– a very simple request, which I did for him. She reamed me out for sending him something without running it by her, I told her I had run it by someone else who had approved it and he wanted it within the hour, so I felt like my hands were tied.

    She made me feel terrible about it for months (I left at the first opportunity and stayed with my next team for 8 years), and I thought this guy HATED me and thought I was an idiot. I learned a few years later that no, he liked me well enough. Turns out that what I had done for him was perfectly fine, but he used it as a way to say that when he needed information from her, he expected to find her, and if her calendar said she was there he expected her to be there, and since she wasn’t, he was going to find a way to bust her. There was a lot of tension between them– besides that incident, she had a crush on his predecessor and was angry that guy hadn’t taken her with him to another team– and she eventually quit the business altogether.

    1. triplehiccup*

      Kinda crummy of him to use you like that. Surely he could’ve made his point without making you a target for her ire.

  33. Artemesia*

    I used this technique twice. I was a member of the decision making council for an organization and a couple of other leaders were planning to implement a policy that some of us deeply opposed. I got together with 3 other people on the 14 person council and we planned how to proceed. Basically we decided we would wait until someone in the group raised any objection or alternative or concern about the policy and then one of us would jump in an say in full concern troll seriousness ‘I think what ‘distinguished elder statesman’ just said really identifies a possible concern with ‘bad idea’ — I hadn’t thought of it before, but I think this is a great insight.’ Then another in the group would jump in an in all innocence build on that and the third person.

    We rolled that meeting and stopped the policy from going forward and the ‘distinguished elder statesman’ was self congratulating and being congratulated for his brilliance when it was done.

    1. JessicaTate*

      OMG, that totally reminds me of my own Machiavellian moment! I was on a small non-profit board at the same time as my then-boyfriend George [we were both qualified, strictly professional, and most people didn’t know we were together]. Anyway, there was this push from the board president to change the bylaws, one of which would bypass term limits and keep him president for a much longer period of time. It had no rationale and was a massive change to “solve” a non-problem. But much of the board were people who were extremely passive and just voted “yes” on whatever was presented.

      George and I were in agreement that this was at best unnecessary, and at worst a power grab by a poor leader. So, we plotted our arguments on the travel to the meeting (in another city), including what he was best suited to raise and what I was best suited to raise. We’d sit on opposite sides of the room, so the voices were literally coming from everywhere. Then, walking over to the Big Board Meeting, we casually sidled up to an elder board member and started chatting about the “big vote” that day and subtly noted how this proposal was going to mean Elder Guy was going to have to do a lot more work, etc. etc. By the time we got off the elevator at the meeting, he was like, “This is a terrible idea!” And our coalition of dissent was formed. Much like you, we chose our moment and the bylaw change did not pass.

  34. Cat in the Office*

    In my previous job, I made a request–the kind of thing that had to go above my supervisors approval, and was time sensitive in that I needed an answer within a month. It needed, in fact, my great-grand boss’s (GGB) approval. My supervisor signed off, and my grand boss (GB) said he supported my request and would be meeting with the GG boss in two days and would ask for his approval then. A week passes, no word. I check in with GB and he says that he brought it up but there wasn’t time to discuss it at that meeting, and he would bring it up later that week, don’t worry. Another week, no word, I message again, he says that he’s still working on GGB and trying to secure approval. Another week passes, no word. The deadline is now very close. I email my GB, and get a message saying he’s on leave for a week and won’t be checking email. I decide to email GGB myself–we’ve worked together for 10 years, and are on a first name basis, but I was trying to follow proper procedure. Before GGB emails me back, GB emails from on leave (a one line email!) to say that GGB denied my request, sorry. But then!! GGB emails himself, says that GB has NEVER MENTIONED THIS REQUEST TO HIM AND HE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT IT. GGB was so annoyed at being thrown under the bus that he granted my request immediately and directed GB to do everything necessary to make it happen.

    I left that job a few months later, and just found out that GGB fired GB about a year later. Obviously not because of this, but I have to imagine there was some erosion of trust…

      1. Cat in the Office*

        He refused to engage with me on anything the rest of the time he was there! I got what I wanted, so I was able to avoid him. He was a truly awful boss–a clear case of someone being promoted beyond his capacity. Here’s my favorite example: In a quarterly meeting with our unit soon after he started he said ‘I welcome feedback! Please don’t hesitate!’ Well, someone apparently told him that the previous boss had usually talked a lot less in these big meetings, just sort of setting the stage and inviting discussion; GB instead used it like a briefing room to tell us stuff our supervisors had already relayed from their weekly meetings with him. He showed up to the next quarterly unit meeting alternatively fuming and pouting, saying things like ‘I’m only going to talk about this one thing because SOME OF YOU think I talk too much.’ Someone asked him a question about an initiative and he said ‘well that was item 2 on my agenda, but you guys don’t want to hear about my agenda, so I’ll probably just go back to my office and sit there while you all have your meeting’. This is a grown man in his 50s by the way. He threatened to go back to his office 4 times in 20 minutes, basically begging all of us to ask him to stay. None of us did, but he never actually left to go back to his office.

  35. Hummer on the Hill*

    Not too evil, just stupid. I was a team lead at a large technology company. Two testers: Bill and Ted. Bill decided he deserved a high-end car, so went shopping. The dealer said he could get a really good interest rate if he could validate a certain level of income. So he got his buddy Ted to write a letter on company stationery claiming to be Bill’s manager, and validating the high income. The car dealership did its due diligence, and discovered the fraud. Outcome: no car, two testers on the job market with no good answer to the question “Why did you leave your last job?” (I reported to their boss’s boss, so he told me.)

  36. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

    I’m sure this will be low-stakes relative to others’ stories, but at the small non-profit where I used to work, we would get gifts around the holidays (candy, cookies, popcorn, etc.) from our various vendors.

    On more than one occasion, the executive director would commandeer these gifts before they ever got to the staff, and regift them for her own family members.

    1. NYWeasel*

      I worked for a large media company that had a rule that gift baskets were collected and then raffled off across the whole company. It made sense, bc for every VP getting 20-30 luxury gift baskets that they really didn’t need, there was a hardworking team that wasn’t getting recognized. But in practice it meant that we would “win” baskets with iPod-shaped holes in the middle (bc the VPs grabbed anything of value before sharing) or rotting fruit bc the basket arrived four weeks before the drawing!

      1. Happy Days*

        We had one VP keep a basket and then ‘donate’ it to the team after he had taken anything of value, i.e. movie tickets, pens, chocolates, etc. out of it. By the time we received it it was rotting fruit and stale popcorn and maybe a package of nuts and he acted like he had shelled out a bunch of money for it but we knew it came from the client. It sat in our area Thursday and Friday with no one going near it and then we shut down for end of year, came back to a pissed off VP. Apparently, one of the team members had returned the basket to him and left it in his office for 10 days. The smell was horrible and fruit flies had formed. No one ever claimed responsibility.

    2. Artemesia*

      I have never understood this. It is such an easy cost free way to curry good will in staff. My husband’s small law firm used to get lots of gift basket at holidays. The stuff was always broken down and laid out on a table in the file room and people took ‘their share’. Some clients sent things directly to our home, but everything that came into the office was shared. Stealing cookies in front of staff when you have the high salary is such a great way to make everyone hate you. And it costs you nothing to let them take these little treats home.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “I have never understood this. It is such an easy cost free way to curry good will in staff.”
        Yes, but this requires the ability to think beyond “Ooh! Shiny!”

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          Or “me! me! me!”

          To those people the staff (peons) didn’t matter, so if it was regifted, they could look generous to someone they actually cared about.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is how my firm handled it, too. In November/December, the kitchens were flush with goodie basket items – a lot of it was consumed in the office as snacks during the day, but anything left on Friday was fair game for anyone to take home.

        1. TeapotNinja*

          I used to sit right next to a kitchen at a company who used to get a ton of gift baskets during the holiday season.

          I thought it was great. 20 pounds later I had a different opinion.

      3. Lily C*

        As we head into the holiday season, I’m already missing my access to the gift-basket bounty in the firm’s lunch room. Another in-office perk lost to mandatory work at home.

    3. JustaTech*

      At my company we had a vendor that two groups in the same over-arching department worked with to order a specialty item. The kind of thing that takes a lot of scheduling and so both my group and the other group talked to this vendor quite a bit.
      After a couple of years of working with these folks I get an email in January asking how we liked the box of chocolates? “What box of chocolates?” “We sent you a box of chocolates for the holiday, didn’t you get them?”
      So I checked with our shipping guy, who told me yes, there had been a box from the vendor addressed to the head of the *other* group, Carl. So I go ask one of my peer’s in Carl’s group about the chocolates. “What chocolates?”

      Turns out Carl took the whole box for himself and didn’t even share with his team! And it’s not like we weren’t on good terms with him and his team. He claimed that since they were addressed to him they must have been for him and not for everyone. And that the same thing had happened to the box of chocolates the previous two years as well!

    4. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I worked for a company where the primary job of the administrative assistant was to use the company credit card to buy gifts for the CEO’s kids.

  37. SlightlySnarky*

    I worked as a compliance attorney for a heavily regulated teapot manufacturer. The teapots division head, Cersei, was known for her aggressive and scheming. She could be juvenile at times. I was in her division’s office one time and she hid under her desk when she saw me headed to her office to discuss a matter with her. Her team hated her and thought she was a joke, so they were always more than happy to fill me in on her shennanigans. (Including letting me know that she was under the desk for twenty minutes while I was looking for her. Really?)

    One time, the operations manager, Jamie, had given me a head’s up that certain required testing wasn’t being performed and that Cersei had put an end to the new process which would have implemented the testing properly. I spoke with her and she told me she didn’t think it was a priority. I gave my boss, the Chief Compliance Officer, a head’s up and she was going to address it with the President of the business unit, who was Cersei’s boss.

    Later that week, we had a meeting with our outside counsel to discuss a regulatory action against the company on a separate, but related, matter. At one point, the attorney said, “Well, this point should be good because you’re doing the required testing?” Cersei immediately chimed in with “We do ALL the testing ALL the time.” I discreetly wrote “Not True” on my notepad and passed it to the CCO. She nodded. During a break, the CCO and I pulled our attorney aside and explained that Cersei had misspoke.

    During the same break, Cersei made a beeline for Jamie, who wasn’t in the meeting with the attorney. She asked him, “Are we doing the required Teapot Testing?” He said, “No, we’re not. You told us not to proceed with the plan.” She said, “Oh, ok. I wanted to be sure because SlightlySnarky [me] just told us in the meeting with the attorney that we’re doing all the testing all the time.” (She came back to the meeting, but did not clarify her original statement, even though she literally just confirmed it was inaccurate.)

    Jamie called me after the meeting and was very confused why I would have said such a thing. He knew that I knew the testing wasn’t being done. Cersei was trying to set it up that I was the one who lied and she was the one who found the problem and fixed it. Fortunately, it was pretty clear what she was trying to do. But I lay awake many nights wondering what other manipulations she HAD gotten away with.

    1. Indy Dem*

      Just to clarify – was the operations manager and the teapots division head secretly sleeping together and had several children unbeknownst to the teapots division head’s husband?

      1. SlightlySnarky*

        Lol, no, but that was a rumor to that effect about her and the President. In reality, she hated him too. The operations manager was eventually laid off and she left the company for another opportunity.

  38. Cupid*

    Ill add my story to the mix. Not too long ago I had a miscarriage an as a result I had issues with depression. I informed my boss of all my issues through out the entire period of my short pregnancy (we knew from the beginning that a miscarriage was likely) and the complications due to the miscarriage. I made sure to explain that due to my depression I was having problems with my workload. I was told that I had the same workload as everyone else amd I needed to deal with it (thats a quote). Boss proceeds to document every mistake I made for weeks. After a couple weeks I get called into a surprise meeting with Boss, Big Boss and the Bigger Boss. Boss has a document roughly 10 pages long with every error I had made since my pregnancy started. Boss went on to explain that he/she didnt understand why I was having problems and it couldn’t continue. When Boss was done Big Boss and Bigver Boss asked me why I was having issues. So I explained the miscarriage, the complications. And that I had explained all of this to Boss and the dates I told Boss what was going on. I offered to show proof of my miscarriage. Boss’ face was red and very angry. Big Boss and Bigger Boss were shocked. They told me how sorry they were for my situation and told me to let them know if I needed anything. I was then dismissed from the meeting. Boss was not. My desk is across from Boss’s. I stayed at work for another 1.5 hours and Boss still had not come down when I left for the day.

      1. Cupid*

        They have not. Though it was the cause for me looking and finding another job. When I left I made sure to tell everyone who’d listen why I was leaving. Former Boss is not at all liked at that company. Why they are allowed to stay I dont know. Im not sure they realize that what they did was an ADA violation. And they are the ones that documented everything.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Not only heartless, but looks to me like a fairly straightforward violation of the law – she was likely protected under both pregnancy-discrimination and disability laws! I would have screamed at Boss for hours too.

      1. Cupid*

        Tthe next day all of a sudden they were concerned for my mental and physical health and did I need anything???? None of my work was taken from me though when I asked. So I started looking for a new job.

  39. Lucy*

    I had a summer job in a doctor’s office during college, just filing and making copies and whatever needed to be done. The office manager wanted me to file invoices, and this was her system: She’d sit in her office chair, pick up an invoice, hand it to me and tell me what file it went into, and I would sit on the floor (because the file drawer was the bottom drawer) and file them. It was ridiculous, but it was impossible for me to file them myself because her system made no sense – things weren’t filed by vendor or date or doctor, but by some subject scheme that only made sense in her mind. I hated it, it made no sense, she could have done it 5 times faster by herself. So I started putting things in the wrong files on purpose. After about 2 weeks of this, she never asked me to help her file again.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I had a boss who would pull invoices out of files and stick them back in haphazardly and then blame it on me when no one could find them. He sucked.

      1. Mongrel*

        I have a constant battle with my partner on this when tidying up.
        I try to have a, somewhat, logical place to put things and to make sure things go in or near the correct place. My partner tends to gather stuff up in a pile and cram it into the first place where it looks like it fits.

        1. spiralingsnails*

          Mongrel: You might enjoy exploring the Clutterbug organization system. It talks about the fact that there are different kinds of organizing styles that different people gravitate towards, and gives advice on how to compromise to create a system that works for both partners.

          1. Mongrel*

            I had a quick look at the website and, unfortunately, found it really annoying.
            When I want to answer the first five questions in their identification quiz with multiple answers, at least one was “all of the above, depending what room I’m in, what I’m doing and is it a new item or an old one?” (Old means it has a place, new means I have to find a place for it)

            1. NothingIsLittle*

              I find the website pretty clunky too, especially the quiz. It’s odd because she explains quite often in her videos that you can have multiple organization styles depending on the area or items you’re organizing, but that’s not really reflected in the website.

              Essentially, the idea is that you have a preference for visual or hidden (ie you feel anxious if you can’t see your things vs you feel anxious if you can see your things) and macro or micro (ie you’d rather dump things into big categories and spend more time finding them vs you’d rather sort things into small categories and spend more time putting them away). If you want the space to stay clean, you need to create systems that will accommodate the visual macro organizer (butterfly) without overburdening the hidden micro organizer (cricket).

              Big tip is to use clear bins without lids, since you can see what’s in them and dump stuff, but it’s still contained.

  40. WonderWoman*

    Not particularly Machiavellian, but here goes. . . I left a negative (but honest) review on a former employer’s Glassdoor page after signing a severance contract that stipulated I wouldn’t post anything negative about them on the internet.

  41. fposte*

    Oh, I just realized I have one (though it could equally be passive-aggressive, I suppose). At a prestigious university with some old (for the region) architecture, a senior professor retired, leaving vacant a beautiful, movie-worthy office of good size with a lovely view. And Professor Pushing very much wanted that office. However, Professor Pushing was a generally annoying person who was comparatively junior in status, and the school very much did not want to give over a highly desirable office for the rest of Professor Pushing’s doubtless very long academic life. Rather than outright say “Professor Pushing, you are not worthy,” the powers that be looked to Professor Content, an established scholar and nice person who was happily ensconced in a less elevated office. They told Professor Content that since he was worthy of the Office of Greatness he would, like it or not, have to move to it so that Professor Pushing’s ambitions would be thwarted without anyone having to tell him directly that he was not worthy.

    1. Scarlett10is*

      The politics of academia are something really something. Love how this particular it was a great result! :-D

  42. Jenny F. Scientist*

    I once baited an unpleasant co-worker into having a temper tantrum and kicking my desk in front of three other co-workers. Then I pretended to cry. (He had been, like, kicking my desk in private for weeks. I was pretty fed up.)

  43. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    My mom is a retired teacher and tended to notice when her 14-18 year old students liked each other, even if they denied it.

    She would make up her seating chart and put such couples next to each other whenever possible.

    Two marriages have resulted.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That’s sweet; +1 to your mother. Hopefully they are and remain happy marriages!

    2. The New Normal*

      As a high school employee, I make sure to listen to the kids’ gossip. I have a few kids who specifically come keep me up to date. And then the teachers all gather and gossip some more. So yes, we ALL KNOW who has a crush on each other and you can totally tell a teacher’s stance based on seating charts and partner work. Some teachers intentionally separate the pairs because they don’t want to get involved in the drama while others hope to make a match.

      1. NeonFireworks*

        Oh geez, just realized my [foreign language] teacher in 10th grade probably knew exactly which classmate I had a crush on…though I was too much of a coward for that to make a difference! Oh well.

        1. Jay*

          My 11th grade French teacher disliked me because she hated my boyfriend. He almost got her fired at one point. His first language is French and he overheard her saying something very derogatory about another student and responded in French so she knew he’d heard. He’d graduated by the time I had to deal with her, but it was a small school and everyone knew we were dating. She gave me a very hard time. I got As anyway and that just pissed her off.

          One day I missed an exam because of a field trip. She told me to come to her office at 3:00 PM to take the makeup. I arrived. She was not there. She showed up at 3:45 and told me I had to finish by 4:00 PM because she had to leave, and it was my fault for not having my priorities straight. I finished the exam. I got a 98. She HATED me after that.

      2. curly sue*

        I have sudden clarity regarding an intriguing pattern in my 13-year-old’s recent partner assignments… Nice. (Yes, I will keep my mouth shut. 13 is a rough age without parental crush interrogation.)

      3. Ally McBeal*

        And then there’s Level 10 of this: At the K-12 school where I attended high school — a private, church-affiliated evangelical school in the South, so somewhat incestuous and chock full of passive-aggressive gossip hounds — the teachers occasionally took sides in breakups! I don’t think there was ever an instance where a student was treated *badly* because of a breakup, but we all knew which teachers supported Jane (the youth pastor’s daughter) vs John (the third grade teacher’s son) when their 7-month romance went south.

      4. nm*

        Is this why my high school physics teacher always sat me and my crush together…
        It’s been about 10 years so I wonder what that boy is up to these days!

    3. zebra*

      My high school Spanish teacher DEFINITELY did this and seated one of the hottest guys in school in between my friend and me. Sadly no marriages resulted, but it was such a fun year.

    4. KateM*

      When I was in middle school, teachers liked to make chatterboxes to change seats so boys were sitting with girls (we were at “ew, not going to talk with someone of opposite sex” phase). The ONE time the seat change would have caused me to sit with my crush, he was not at school this day.

      1. Paulina*

        Near the end of high school, our History teacher had the bright idea of seating everyone in alphabetical order, to break up chatting groups. (He knew us all well by this point, so it wasn’t to learn names.) However, this arrangement put some close friends next to each other, because back on the first day of our first year at that school, our English teacher had assigned seats the same way so that was who’d we’d first met.

    5. Elenna*

      Eight-year-old me really thought I was keeping my giant crush on a classmate secret, but I mentioned it to my parents a few months ago and they were like “yeah, we totally knew and so did your teachers” lol. This puts a whole new spin on that one time they asked my crush to go over the math problems with me – I thought it was just because we were the first two finished!
      (Unfortunately nothing came of it as eight year old me had no social skills whatsoever, but it was at least a fun memory.)

    6. triplehiccup*

      Sweet, and in keeping with Machiavelli’s time period! I taught high school for 5 years and that never would have occurred to me.

  44. Soprani*

    Early on in my career I took a job an office manager that required one to be alone in the office 90% of the work week. The role became available because the former office manager took advantage of little supervision – she was almost never available when someone called the office, was spotted several times escorting someone into a room of a nearby seedy motel, neighboring businesses complained that she entertained scketchy non-business looking personages at the office and they had loud arguments, she borrowed money from coworkers and never paid them back, she shipped a large package to family halfway around the world on the company account and refused to repay the hefty shipping fee, and was consistently 2 hours late to the office for a job that had receptionist duties. She managed to stay in that role for 3 years. She was fired in a blaze of glory which everyone referenced with raised brows, but specific details were never shared
    I was a golden angel of dependability in comparison which made it very easy for me to perform well beyond expectations the entire time I had that job.

    1. Bryce*

      Nothing that sordid, but one place I worked had a 9/80 schedule where you got every other Friday off. Ideally that was supposed to mean the whole place was running at half-staff each Friday, but the work different departments were doing was so mingled that if your co-workers weren’t there there was little you could do. We estimate only 25% of the people were there any given Friday.

      It eventually ended, and rumor goes that happened because some bigwig was visiting, walked into HR (or some similar always-needed department) and there was basically just a tumbleweed roaming the halls.

  45. Seal*

    I’ve posted this story here before, but it still makes me laugh. Early in my career, there was an administrative assistant in another department that drove everyone in our library nuts. She was not very good at her job, more than a little dense, and very nosy about what was going on in other departments, especially about things that had nothing whatsoever to do with her. My department had a large recycle bin that was regularly used by other departments. One day we saw this woman digging around in the recycle bin, but everyone assumed she had accidentally thrown something in that she didn’t mean to recycle. But then we saw her doing the same thing the next day, and the day after that, until she was coming around every single day to rummage around in the recycle bin. I finally asked her way she was looking for and she said, “nothing – I’m just looking”. By this point, my colleague and I were fed up with this woman’s weird new hobby and seeing her backside sticking up out of the bin for a good 10-15 minutes a day while she mined the depths. So my colleague wrote a note to me that said “I caught the administrative assistant digging through the recycle bin again – do you think we should tell her boss?”, crumpled it up, and stuck it a few layers down in the recycle bin. The recycle bin diving stopped a day or so later, but the administrative assistant gave us both dirty looks for at least a month afterwards. Totally worth it.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      I love this story! Pretty wholesome all things considered and a good reminder that if you are gonna dig you better be prepared for what you might find. :)

  46. HatRacks*

    I had a coworker who didn’t like that she didn’t report directly to our boss, but rather the second in command. Evil coworker went through three different bosses and treated them all terribly, but the worst was what she did to her second boss, while the boss was still very new in her job.

    I found out from a coworker in a different department that evil coworker was emailing her friends in the company and sending them samples of her new boss’s writing (part of new boss’s job was writing/editing) and then trashing the writing and asking them to share with their coworkers…etc. At that point, she had a LOT of friends at work. She was very charismatic and fun to work with, until she decided she didn’t like you.

    When I brought this up to our main boss and HR (I don’t know why I didn’t reach out the person she was maligning directly…) they were both like…”eh? shrug.” and never spoke to evil coworker.

    Unfortunately she ran her second boss off after a few months and I really regret not doing something more.

    In good news though, evil coworker eventually got found out for who she really was…an unstable, drama-manufacturing pain-in-the-ass. She didn’t get fired like she ought have (HR was scared of her), but towards the end of her tenure, people in other offices would come up to me and others in our office and exclaim “why does she still work for you guys?” Not great for our reputation as an office, but really validating after years of feeling like I was the crazy one who knew who she really was.

  47. Ali G*

    After working professionally for about 3 years, I finally had to give in and get a work phone. Since my previous phone number was out of state, I got a new one with a local area code.
    Almost immediately, I started getting calls at all hours of the day and night from people who didn’t speak English (I am in the US) trying to access the conference line. This went on for week.
    Finally I picked up and someone spoke English. Turns out someone made a typo in an email announcing a new conference service, for a large international company you have all heard of. I told this guy to fix it and he had the gall to be like, well it’s not my job etc. So I said I am done being nice.
    Once I was in the car with my BF driving and I got a call from some guy looking to be connected to the conference. Me: “Sure Hold.” BF: turns up death metal and we leave the phone on speaker.
    Next time I got a call and my response” “Change of plans we need you at HQ on Monday. If you aren’t here by 9 am (this person was in Asia) Monday morning, you are off the project.”
    A lot of times I would just tell them to hold and hang up on them. Sometimes, if they spoke English, I would just curse them out.
    Etc, etc.
    Calls stopped shortly thereafter.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Growing up, my friends down the street were one digit off of a local pizza joint. They found it was easier to just take the order and hang up; if they tried to explain it was a wrong number then people got argumentative.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This happened to me when my landline was one digit off the local Child Support Enforcement office. I tried to tell people they had the wrong number, but some of them would insist no, they’d dialed it correctly. When I finally ditched it for cell only, I told the phone company about the situation and they retired my old number so it wouldn’t happen to anyone else.

        1. Emma*

          I was once working a public event doing outreach for a sexual health clinic, wearing a nice turquoise branded t-shirt that said “ask me about STIs!” on the back.

          A woman stopped me to say that she worked for an office of the university, and their phone number was one digit away from ours. She explained that they often got calls from people trying to reach the clinic, and many of them would immediately launch into a detailed description of their symptoms, without stopping long enough to be told that this is not the person they should be giving this information to.

          I started saying something sympathetic, because anyone who has worked reception in sexual health is very familiar with this phenomenon. But then she looked me in the eye and told me this was very disruptive and she expected us to put a stop to it.

          I just blinked at her and said “well, I’ll certainly pass that on” then went back to our tent where the manager and I cracked up laughing over it. To this day I have no idea what she thought we could do!

      2. Bryce*

        My home number growing up was one off from the local elementary school. On snow days we’d just start answering the phone with “[lastname] residence, this is [name], school’s delayed 2 hours today, what can I do for you?” It was a small town so all neighbors, nobody worth getting mad at.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My childhood home phone was typo’d on the promo material for a local restaurant’s second location. The Friday night we figured out what happened, she called and asked to talk with the manager. He told her to change our number! We’d been in the house for 30 years (with the clunky old AT&T phone in the kitchen if any proof were needed.) More specifics I could not get, just “He was very unpleasant.”
      I took several reservations that night.
      Next morning walking the dog, she stopped past the owner’s house, chitchatted about their families, asked about the new business, heard about chaos the night before…claimed that she had grounded me for what I had done and told him WHY I’d done it. He was mortified & had the marketing materials changed. No idea if the manager changed or not, because gift certificates were sent to us by the owner. Nice guy…

  48. Dr. KMnO4*

    My graduate advisor was (probably still is) an extreme micromanager. She was firmly against flexible schedules and working from home, even though our research didn’t generally require us to follow a 9-5 schedule, or even be in the office at all. In my 3rd year of grad school I was entering and analyzing a lot of data, while also stuck in a tiny office with two other people, on a hallway with many noisy research groups. We weren’t allowed to shut the door to block out the noise from the hall and one of my officemates received frequent social visits from her boyfriend. To avoid all the distractions I began spending more time in the library in the building next door. I always left a note on my desk letting people know where I was, and I frequently checked my email so if I needed to come back I could. In one of our weekly meetings my boss told me I needed to spend more time in the office. Not because I wasn’t getting enough work done (I asked), but because I wasn’t “present” enough. When I asked how much time I was allowed to spend in the library she said, “I don’t want to tell you my expectations because then you’ll just meet them, not exceed them”. I replied, “How can I exceed your expectations if I don’t know what they are?” She finally told me what she wanted, but that conversation irritated me so much that I decided to do everything I could to get around her expectations in ways she couldn’t push back on.

    Things I did:
    -Mentored a HS teacher in our discipline through a formal program. That meant I had to go to said teacher’s classroom quite often, which I interpreted as “once a week”. My boss couldn’t complain about the time away from the office because it was “Service to the Community”, which is very important in academia and a separate section on my CV. (I’d wanted to participate in this program anyways, but the conversation really motivated me to make it happen.)
    -Took classes in other disciplines related to my dissertation. It helped me come up with new theories for my dissertation as well as helped me foster interdisciplinary connections.
    -I had joined a therapy group for grad students. In previous semesters I’d indicated that I was only available after 4 pm. After the conversation I decided that I was available at any point in the workday. My boss didn’t want to risk an HR nightmare by trying to tell me not to take care of my mental health needs.

  49. LindenTree*

    I have never breathed a word about this before. But make no mistake I regret nothing.

    Years ago, I worked as an admin assistant at a very high-powered, stuffy firm in Manhattan. There was this guy – let’s call him Kavanaugh – who fancied himself the young genius in the office. He was young for a vice president, sure, and could be charming. But he also treated any admin who wasn’t a comely young woman like dirt, talked relentless shit about his “know-nothing” bosses, and never let an opportunity pass to drop the name of his ivy-league school and brand-new VIP father-in-law.

    Also, one night after work he cornered me, stuck his tongue down my throat and then had the temerity to be annoyed when I scrambled away from him and fled.

    (Pause to say: yeah, I know I should have reported him. But I know a lot of things I didn’t know when I was 25.)

    Kavanaugh was also a huge sports fan. Rabid, insane, fan. And every year one of his favorite sporting events is held in NYC, and one of the firm’s clients had made a habit of gifting Kavanaugh ultra-exclusive access to this event. This access was arranged daily – a messenger would arrive with a slim envelope containing that day’s passes. Kavanaugh had been out of the country for work trip and had missed most of the event, the envelopes piling up on his desk. (Because would he allow his assistant to folow common practice and give the tickets to anyone else to use? He would not.) But he returned in time for for the final day of the event, and had planned to use that day’s passes to take his father-in-law and two “young ladies” to the stadium. He was clearly only at his desk that morning to take delivery of that envelope.

    Which is why I intercepted it. And put in my purse. And then spent the rest of my day helping him try to track it down, calling the client, scouring the mailroom, visiting the building’s security office to (pretend to) review camera footage as Kavanaugh became angrier and sweatier. When I left work that night I dropped it in a trash can and bought myself a cocktail.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      That is a lovely bit of karma – and yet, not nearly horrible enough to compensate for what a terrible person that guy is. Still, I tip my hat to you! Hit ’em where it hurts!

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Haha the only thing that could have made this better was if you used those VIP passes to take yourself to the sporting event. But really, brava!

      1. Lizzo*

        Even better, show up to the event, stand outside, and hand them out to the first deserving family of four you see as an “upgrade”.

  50. KH*

    Not really too bad, but…
    We had a bit of an Army-Navy rivalry where I worked. One of the directors would constantly try to hide “Go Army” stuff in plain sight on my cubicle. One time, I came in to find a small flag hanging off my cubicle. I took it and rolled it up. I then went into his office while he wasn’t there and dropped it behind one of his pictures on his bookshelf. He came back, and asked where it was. I cheerfully replied, “I put it back in your office.”
    The best part was he never found it in the next year that we worked together. Every so often he would ask for it back, and I would reply it was in his office. The last day I was in that department, I walked in while he was there, went to the bookshelf, and pulled the flag out from the exact place I had put it before. It was never moved. (Obviously, it had been dusted, but I think the cleaning crew just thought it was supposed to be there.) I handed it to him and said I told him it was in the office. He had to admit I was right.

    1. Meirai*

      Oh, I have something like this! Both I and the team I manage are allowed to decorate our work areas a bit (so long as it’s not NSFW or otherwise derogatory), and we’re also required to keep our own areas clean. So one day I joked that I would check on how thorough their efforts to clean were by leaving some of the trinkets on my desk in various out-of-the-way corners to see if they found them while they were cleaning. We all chuckled about the “test”, I admitted I probably wouldn’t actually do it, and we moved on with the day.

      Of course, the next morning I come in to discover that all of the trinkets on my desk were gone. I spent the next three days trying to find all of the hiding spots in my office that my subordinates had used (I did ultimately find all of them without help), and ruefully admitted to them that they had gotten the better of me this time.

      1. Lizzo*

        Did you look in the locked cabinet? (See comment above about the woman whose colleagued staged an emergency so that maintenance would open the woman’s locked cabinet where she kept…her shoes.)

  51. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I badly want to contribute, and I’m very subversive if you unpack everything I manage to slip past the radar, but I have a very hard time finding things that qualify as Machiavellian.

    Trust that I’m enjoying reading every other reply, though!

    1. AGD*

      Me too. I once spotted an opportunity and pulled a few strings to connect someone with something good that they deserved and otherwise weren’t going to get – then feigned total surprise and denied I’d had anything to do with it. That’s as close as I get.

  52. Derailer*

    I work project management at a llama farm. My group focuses on raising and caring for the animals. Every year we have a multiple day audit into all of our business processes and policies. The auditor, on the other hand, comes from llama breeding. He understands the basics of our work, but doesn’t always understand the details. We are a high performing team and we always do very well on the audit, which makes the auditor uncomfortable. He’s a bit over confident about how much his knowledge of llama breeding translates into animal care, and will pick up on small details that he thinks are wrong and spend a large amount of time trying to tell us why it’s wrong. However, we are the experts and end up spending a lot of time explaining to him why we are correct. It’s exhausting.

    After several years coordinating and leading our team, I realized that he’s actually just very extroverted and loves to talk about things he’s knowledgeable about. I mean, he really loves to talk. So now, any time I can tell he’s about to go down a rabbit hole, I just start talking about a non-work-related topic I know he’s interested in, and he goes down that rabbit hole instead, leaving my team free to do actual work instead of pulling them in to explain why he’s wrong. We get more work done and he gets to bloviate to his heart’s desire. Win/Win.

    I’ve moved on from this responsibility, and I’ve made sure to pass this knowledge on to my replacement.

    1. I Love Llamas*

      Many years ago, I was the admin for a firm that was audited each year on behalf of a publicly traded client. I quickly learned that since we were in a really “fun” city, the very young, inexperienced auditors were always interested in recommendations on where to go. I would send them out on the town each evening to some really great clubs and the next morning they would drag their sorry butts in later and later as the week wore on. My boss loved this.

    2. Quinalla*

      I have 100% deflected talkers from someone who needed to get their work done once I was done with mine at a site. And yes, get them talking about something unrelated so they don’t nitpick things that are good to go for sure!

  53. Text Crawler*

    I’ll see if I can tell this story in a way that does it justice.

    My grandparents started a local newspaper in the 70s and my dad grew up working for it- as a paper boy, then an errand boy, and then once he graduated college, as the man in charge of expanding the newspaper to neighboring cities. His first step was expanding to Metropolis. He borrowed money from his mom via her accountant and started organizing.

    The paper was almost breaking even when he got an angry call from her. “WHAT THE **** HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH ALL THIS MONEY?” He drove home to explain everything in person- his budget, his revenue, and his plan. But his mom insisted that he had borrowed millions more than he had. He had to return to Metropolis that week, but the calls kept coming. My grandma was certain that my dad was actively stealing money from her and lying about it. Large sums of her money kept disappearing.

    This lasted months. My mom almost got scared off- she wasn’t sure about marrying a man who got into regular screaming matches with his mother.

    Finally, my dad did some snooping and learned the truth. My grandma’s accountant was the thief and the liar. He got law enforcement involved, who figured out the whole story. The accountant had stolen millions of dollars, blaming the withdrawals on my dad, and spent it on fancy art with his boyfriend. He was certain that the art would be an investment, and he could sell it later and pay back the money plus extra for himself. Law enforcement held an auction to recoup some of the money. The art was not an investment. My dad got front row seats at the auction and watched as all the art sold for a tiny fraction of what the accountant paid for them.

    My dad’s relationship with his mom never recovered. When the newspaper industry fell apart in the mid 00s and my grandma went bankrupt, he tried to buy his hometown newspaper from her. She couldn’t stop him from bidding, but she telephoned every major newspaper in the country and invited them to bid in order to raise the price and stop my dad from winning.

    1. Artemesia*

      My husband prosecuted someone who stole the 401 Ks he ws supposed to invest from social workers, teachers etc and bought ‘art’ as an investment. They also were only able to recoup a fraction of what he had paid as they attempted to restore the funds to these hard working people who had been shafted. FWIW the theft was quite visible to the bank — he was diverting 401K funds from these 401K accounts to his personal account, but the bank was not held responsible — such is the weakening of laws that protect people from the predations of large corporations.