update: my abusive boss was fired after I complained about her — what do I say to coworkers?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose abusive boss was fired after the letter-writer complained about her? Here’s the update.

It’s been over 6 months since Hedra suddenly quit. There’s no dramatic news in this long letter, but I am doing much better and you helped make that happen.

1. Some commenters anticipated this, but there wasn’t as much curiosity as I feared. I later learned that Hedra’s boss (“Jared” the DH) told his directs something to the effect of “a bad thing happened to Allie, so be nice, and no, I can’t tell you what.”

2. Jared is…not a good grandboss. I met with him long before going to HR. Within moments he called me “infantile” and in need of “fixing,” saying he’d heard an earful from Hedra. For context, I’m old enough to have college-age kids and was considered high-value in previous roles. A week later, he put me on PIP with an absurd condition.

3. Hedra wasn’t as bad as I thought…she was much worse. The actions she punished me for (like reaching out to internal SMEs) turned out to be essential to my role, so I think it was sabotage. I‘ve also realized that Hedra was a bit of a BS artist who was missing a lot of the required knowledge and skills. I noticed some of those big gaps early on, but didn’t realize what they meant. And yes, her previous reports complained on their way out so she and Jared had multiple chances to fix her behavior.

4. It’s not just me, Jared’s department has culture and performance issues. The home office has sent in a strong people manager, Cecil, under Jared. I was reporting to Jared but now report to Cecil. Post-Hedra, HR was supposed to move me away from Jared but this didn’t happen. (I don’t know why.)

5. I’ve learned that recovering from workplace PTSD is like escaping from Shawshank: You need time and pressure. At first, I had to push constantly at the PTSD telling me, “If you do this, bad things will happen just like before, it’s too late to catch up anyway, you’re well and truly f***ed here.” Dozens of times a day, I‘d tell myself, “I’m going to take a moment to feel what I feel, then do what the job needs me to do.” Slowly, my brain learned that I could talk to anyone, make decisions and small mistakes, crack jokes, and attract positive feedback without being hammered by ugly insults and threats. When Cecil arrived, he saw me as valuable rather than trouble and was kind about my skittishness. That’s helped a lot. But months later, I still need to talk myself off the ledge at times. I remind myself this is normal. After all, I was on a greased rail to being terminated with bad reference, and I have three people relying on my income. Going to work every day just to be blocked and humiliated all day, knowing she was just waiting out the clock…it was hell. So I remind myself it’s okay to not be 100% okay.

6. But I am doing better. I blew past the targets Hedra missed, and also shared a very visible award for a collaboration. And best of all, I’ve been told by people in other departments that I am great to work with, and lower-ranking employees in my department say that they appreciate how approachable I am. That’s why, for now, my place is here. I can help make the products better, and I can make this workplace better.

Update to the update:

Well, you must be magic. This time, it’s Jared. He was likely sacked because his reason for quitting is ridiculous. They announced it internally a few hours after I emailed you.

It’s uncanny. (I know there are perfectly rational explanations…but you’ve also brought good luck to a lot of people.)

{ 43 comments… read them below }

  1. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

    Also, is Hedra’s name Allie? Re: “a bad thing happened to Allie, so be nice, and no, I can’t tell you what.”

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I think LW’s name is Allie, so Jared meant, “be nice to Allie because of what Hedra did to them,” so people aren’t asking about what Hedra did.

      1. KateM*

        I read it as “be nice to Allie because Hedra was not – and see what happened to Hedra”. I guess I’m just evil?

  2. OwlEditor*

    Wait, what was Jared’s reason for quitting? You can’t say it’s ridiculous and not say why! ;)

    1. Anonariffic*

      I’m envisioning one of those generic “retiring to spend more time with his family” resignation announcements, the sort used by every politician who’s ever gotten into trouble, and after it comes out the people in the office are standing around the water cooler (or zoom call, as the case may be) going, Jared? From our department? Wasn’t he just going on about his great no-strings bachelor lifestyle at the holiday party? I’m pretty sure I heard him telling Fergus that marriage and kids were for suckers, right before he went back to bragging about his new convertible…

    2. Hear-Hear*

      I agree with the Owl Editor. People who post here really don’t need to be so obscure. It’s not as if every time we post about our job site, an alert is generated and disseminated to those whose personal and immediate interests are most germane. It’s the STORIES, not the specifics, that make AAM helpful to us regular readers.

      So, OP, elaborate!

      1. Mel_05*

        Eh, I’ve never been recognized on here, but I’ve had multiple acquaintances recognize my comments on other websites and I totally get why people would be wary of revealing too much.

    3. Allie*

      See below (“Appalachian”). And yeah, I’m more comfortable not sharing the exact reason. But I nominate “Least Convincing Reasons for Quitting” as a 2021 thread.

  3. ampersand*

    Awww, this warms my heart. It sounds like things are considerably better and LW is processing feelings (this is so important!) and generally feeling okay about being at work.

    Also, the update to the update is perfect.

      1. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

        I’ve got to ask because I can’t seem to find a satisfactory google result – what do you mean by “glass bowls” in this context?
        (I tried every possible combination of search terms, but, presumably, it being this close to Christmas, all I got were gift-giving options – there are some very pretty bowls on the internet!)

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It rhymes strongly with another insult, as “DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified” said. And it comes from the Carolyn Hax chats (from a chatter, actually). And the concept of doing something AT a person comes from Captain Awkward.

        2. Sara without an H*

          “Glass bowls” is an expression popularized by syndicated advice columnist Carolyn Hax. It is a euphemism for a crude expression rhyming with it which most American newspapers will not publish.

  4. Bob*

    Glad both the witches are gone.

    That said don’t be afraid to get some counselling to deal with the fallout from this. Sometimes when you think you have forgotten its actually affecting you behind the scenes. It might be very helpful to talk to someone and get the lingering traumas dealt with even if you feel you its not absolutely necessary and can handle it otherwise.
    PTSD does not easily vanish on its own, no matter how much we think it has.

    1. cleo*


      I highly recommend working with a trauma informed therapist – that’s the technical term for someone who specializes in treating PTSD using insights from neuroscience and neuropsychology.

    2. Allie*

      I entered therapy the same time I filed a formal complaint, for both my own well-being and for extra legal protection. The doctor’s notes (plural because I also developed a serious physical condition as a result of Hedra’s actions) may have helped HR take the complaint more seriously.

      On a side note, my elderly, seen-it-all psychiatrist cheerfully said, “She’s probably a psychopath” after listening to me describe her behavior.

      1. allathian*

        Glad that both of your tormentors are gone and that you’re getting the help you need. Good luck with your continuing recovery.

  5. the V of E*

    This is one of the update letters that make me wonder if all of the principals are AAM regular readers. For the sake of the world, I hope so.

  6. Allie*

    Hi, the LW here. Thank you for all the comments so far! I’d rather not divulge the exact stated reason for Jared’s departure, except to say it’s in the ballpark of “I always wanted to walk the Appalachian Trail.”

    1. Elle*

      Lol that screams “Resign or be fired.” To quote one of my past managers, “No one leaves to pursue other opportunities on a Tuesday.” Good riddance to him! Glad this all is working out for you.

  7. That_guy*

    I hope someone at this company realizes how much of an asset you are and either
    A) You get Hedra’s old position as they move her replacement into Jared’s job) (assuming this person is decent.
    – or –
    B) You skip right up to Jared’s job.

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