update: my boss is rude to waitstaff

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 boss was rude to waitstaff? Here’s the update.

I wrote not too long ago about my previous Executive Director being rude to waitstaff when we went out to lunch. A few people in the comments asked for an update to my work life since I left that job, so I wanted to provide a little more detail about the awful place I was in and where I am now. I realize this is lengthy, so feel free to stow it away if it’s a little too long! It helped me just to write it out.

My previous job was with a nonprofit that was notorious for being in trouble. For finances, for programs, for staff drama, for publicity issues. The staff turnover in every department was ridiculous and had I known about their history of screwing over their staff (long hours, poor pay, ridiculous expectations, incredible mismanagement), I would have never taken the job. In the two years I was there, I had 4-5 different job titles. Instead of allocating more funds to appropriate staffing, the nonprofit continued to funnel funds into programs, doing way more than was financially responsible and allowing the staff to suffer because of it. I had 6-7 different desks in my time, always being moved not long after I finally felt settled into my work station. And ALWAYS because someone higher-up decided they needed the desk I was at specifically because theirs wasn’t good enough.

I had no less than six supervisors in my time there, starting with a programs supervisor, then the ED themselves, then our marketing manager (the one person there who I respected) then a new development director who did not last, then a second development director who, again, did not last, then a third development director who had been promoted and was now my supervisor despite me being there longer and having more experience in all aspects of the organization. I didn’t go for that position because I never considered myself much of a fundraiser, but I definitely expected someone to be placed over me who knew what they were doing. (My new supervisor had no applicable work experience and no track record of fundraising.)

In the last three months I was there, due to COVID, they bumped me down to part time and I lost one of my primary responsibilities that I’d had for more than a year. I said fine. I took the bump down graciously despite it putting me in an incredibly terrible financial situation. I stuck it out until they realized they needed my expertise in a few key areas and brought me back up to full time to assist the program side with some shortfalls, but not at my regular salary. I said sure. I had no choice. But by then, I was already job searching. My supervisor began to then pile on their new responsibilities onto me, adding more and more to my job description. These, in particular, were all things that they had been promoted to manage. I constantly asked to make sure that this was correct, given that I was supposed to have my responsibilities scaled back to fit my lower salary. I brought up the issue several times to the ED to no avail. Throughout this time, my supervisor did several cruel things to me, including:

  • Before COVID hit, I went on vacation. They waited until I was gone (having prepped the entire team for a month before my departure with everything they would need during my absence) to send me a lengthy, rude email that stated that our intern was saying I wasn’t working during work hours, that I was watching Netflix (Netflix was blocked on our Wifi), that I gave them permission to do something that I absolutely did not give them permission to do, etc. etc. I was infuriated and responded back in length. My supervisor apologized after that, knowing that they were in the wrong as they had no proof to back up any of the intern’s claims. The intern had been in trouble for various things before this point and did not have a good track record.
  • They did not inform my ED about several deadlines that I reported to them about and then blamed me when they were missed.
  • When we moved to work-from-home, they asked me to do a to-do list at the beginning of each day, check in with them at 10am each day via Zoom, and at the end of the day, send them a list of things I achieved. At some point, they wanted the number of minutes spent on each task. It got ridiculous.
  • They continuously took credit for funds I raised with my own connections
  • They revoked a day off that I had requested so I could get a crown put in after delaying for more than a month after a painful root canal because they “needed me and the dentist can wait.”
  • And when I finally found a new job and was finishing my last week there (I only gave one week notice because I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted), I left my laptop at our office and informed them that I would finish the rest of my tasks from my home computer, as it was all primarily done through Google Suite and I had no need for any files at that point. They decided to lie to our ED, state that I had left the computer, and walked off the job entirely. I arrived to drop off more items to our office the day that my supervisor said “let’s make this your last day” and informed my ED otherwise. But at that point, I didn’t care what happened. I was more than happy to leave early. As far as I know, my supervisor is still employed there and never faced any negative repercussions.

I took three weeks off in between jobs for a rigorous decompression, rid all social media of any connection to my previous workplace (aside from the marketing manager who I am still friends with as we both left the org at the same time, thankfully!), and have not looked back.

The job took an extreme toll on my health, causing several injuries that I needed treatment for, a number of panic attacks after the work day, and even a call to a crisis help line at one point.

I’m happy to say that since then, I’ve found a new technical, back-end position in education. My salary is a little less than it was before, but the trade off is so worth it. I get gratuitous time off, as I don’t work during common student holidays, plus vacation and sick days, and state personal leave. I also have great, affordable benefits. The best part of it, however, is the people. My supervisor is an INCREDIBLE person and I mesh so well with them. We work incredibly well together, they trust me to get my work done and provide me with lots of freedom during my work day. We’re coming to our office and are not work-from-home at the moment, but I feel very safe, even then. My days off are not questioned in the least, as long as I fill out the required paperwork. I’m able to take on fun projects in between my more mundane work and am allowed to listen to music, podcasts, or even have a show on in the background as long as the work is getting done. There’s an incredible amount of trust between me, my supervisor, and even my supervisor’s boss. Everyone in our department is incredibly sweet, even on days when we may be a little pressed for time due to a situation that arises. And the best part of all is that there is a formal process for issues that may come up in between individuals here, unlike my previous organization where there was absolutely no HR to speak of whatsoever. (When asked about it, my ED said ‘we can make a fake email address and just have staff send grievances there’). There is also upward mobility and I plan on looking into what other opportunities I may have once I’ve been in this position for two years or so.

Alison, it’s been such a remarkable turnaround and every day I’m thankful for this new job that’s allowed me to strike an incredibly healthy balance between my work and my home life. I have more time to pursue fun freelance projects, play video games, or just nap at home. I’ve had time to meet new online friends who I’ve been talking to regularly. I have more time to spend with my family and my partner, when we can do so safely. Most of all, I feel appreciated in my workplace and like I contribute to something more than just someone’s ego. I no longer have panic attacks, am not visiting the doctor frequently, and can sleep so much better at night.

I also want to thank you and your blog for helping me advocate for myself when I felt like I had nowhere else to go. Your advice over the last year has kept me sane and taught me a lot of things, and I still read your blog every day. I knew it would get better for me, I just didn’t know how long it would take. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel! And I hope that anyone else in a similar situation can find their way out very soon.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Wow, you landed on your feet and know now that you can handle anything thrown at you. Good luck for 2021! I don’t wish ill but I hope your Old Workplace self-implodes, it sounds like they are headed that way.

  2. Sophie1*

    That’s so great to hear! I’m always so uplifted by stories of people finding a good work places after terrible ones. When you are in the terrible workplace it can feel like a tunnel with no light at the end.

  3. Goldenrod*

    I love this update! I am so happy for you. So glad you got out of that toxic environment and found a workplace more deserving of you. :)

  4. Miss Muffet*

    I love the updates where people are finding new workplaces that are actually healthy! Everyone deserves to have bosses that they mesh with, and pay and benefits and time off that are generous, and fun projects to spice up their days. May we all find this in the new year, if we haven’t already! Cheers!

  5. _ID_*

    So glad for you!!! And good for you for recognizing the mental toll that this awful place exacted on you – and addressing it!

    As an aside – I’m a board member at a non-profit and I would want to know ASAP if our organization was being run like this. At a minimum, the “fake email to HR” is a big red flag. Do you feel comfortable sending a letter about these issues to your Board Chair?

    Congrats again – glad you are in a role where you are appreciated!

  6. InternetCatLady*

    So happy for you! I too left a toxic workplace similar to yours. Literally gave me panic attacks and nervous breakdowns on the train, on a weekly basis.

    It is so, so, so heartening to read stories like these. There are some really messed up workplaces out there, but reading a story like this reminds me that it can get better. :)

    I hope your new job is everything and more for you!

  7. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’ve been at the ‘phone calls to crisis helplines’ stage due to an amazingly toxic workplace but I didn’t have your strength of will at the time to say ‘screw this’ and leave.

    I know you already know this, but saying it for others: please preserve your mental health. No job is worth actually losing your mind over.

    I’m so, so very glad you got out. They sound like a place that actually encouraged treating the staff as subhuman.

  8. MissDisplaced*

    Any company that tries to tell you “We need you and the dentist can wait!” is a bad company indeed.
    Putting off serious dental work is a health threat you can potentially die from if an infection develops. Temp crowns aren’t made to last more than a month or so and can start to get loose.

    1. Lemon, it's Wednesday*

      They tell you after a root canal that you HAVE to see the dentist within a month or it can mess up all the work they put into your root canal. It is not something that can be put off.
      That is super messed up that they were forced to wait to get critical care.

      Glad you’re out of there OP!

  9. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Wow… I’m so glad you got off that roller coaster. Heck, that’s a roller coaster where you can’t even scream. (See link in reply after it gets through moderation.)

  10. Observer*

    Well, well, well, a dysfunctional work place! Whoda think it?! /sarc

    OP, the snark is not for you but your (fortunately FORMER) workplace.

    If it’s any comfort to you, know that the casual cruelty and massive stupidity and incompetence will come back to bite them.

    In the meantime, I’m glad you are in a place that treats you well.

  11. I edit everything*

    Holy cow. No wonder you didn’t have the oomph to speak up at the restaurant. It wasn’t that you chickened out, it was that you were so emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted that it took every ounce of will and energy just to exist at work. I’m so glad you’re out, and I hope the place disintegrates rapidly. No one deserves to work in that kind of atmosphere.

  12. Mimmy*

    Updates like these give me hope that there are good employers where people mesh well with their coworkers and feel valued by supervisors and managers. It seems that those kinds of jobs are hard to come by.

  13. A Nonprofit Peon*

    I want with all of my heart to know the name of this organization so that I can avoid it – I thought we worked at the same place for a minute, until the details changed. So glad you got out!

  14. Exhausted Trope*

    This is SO great to hear! I love stories about escaping from hell-holes. They make me feel like my job’s not so bad in comparison. As in this:”… ED said ‘we can make a fake email address and just have staff send grievances there. ’”
    I think that I vomited a little when I read that.
    Congrats, OP, on a successful escape!

  15. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

    I’m so glad you and the marketing manager got out of there. Well done OP.

  16. Des*

    Holy crap you have survived some awful management. Kudos to you OP for moving on. Best of luck in this new year.

  17. Ryan Howard's White Suit*

    I’m so glad things worked our for the OP and I REALLY need to know if this was a Planned Parenthood affiliate.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Hi there! Letter Writer here. The org is not affiliated with Planned Parenthood and doesn’t serve that audience.

Comments are closed.