update: I want to quit … but if I leave, my project will die

Remember the letter-writer who wanted to leave her horrible, abusive job but feared a major project she’d worked on would die if she quit? Here’s the update.

Thank you for your good advice and for running my letter! This whole situation is just soaked in weirdness.

Before I give an update, I want to clarify a couple of things. Unlike what many of your commenters suggested, I was not being pushed out the door — quite the opposite! (Although I totally understand why it came across that way, and it’s not like I didn’t think the exact same thing!) Lorna has always reduced and expanded contractor hours as suits her budgetary needs, and almost always brings them back in the future for additional work. Had I been given the courtesy of a few days’ warning, I wouldn’t have brought it up at all.

I’d also like to clarify that saying someone is not a bad person doesn’t mean I think they’re a good person. Lorna was a much different person a year ago for reasons both valid and questionable. I am and always have been aware of the fact that she has very poor management and communication skills, having been in middle management under her for most of the past year.

All right, so an update to the letter:

I quit, obviously, just a few weeks after I sent the letter, because of a totally bizarre conversation over email (paraphrased here) that happened after Lorna had completely disappeared for a month:

Lorna: What are you working on?

Me: Hello, Lorna. I am working on [task we set as top priority in November for a January launch to be possible that must be done no matter what happens].

Lorna: I don’t want you working on that until I know how to do it faster. (I had been working on it, with her knowledge, for months.)

Me: This is a job that only I can do out of everyone on our team, so I’m confident that I’m working as quickly as possible on it, but please let me know your ideas when you’re ready. Is there something else you would like me to work on in the meantime?

Lorna: Have you done [lowest priority task] yet?

Me: I just want to remind you, that’s our lowest priority task. If you want me to go ahead with it, no problem, but we need to talk about whether you want [Option A] or [Option B].

I wait a week. No word. No word.

Me: Hi, Lorna, sorry to bother you, but I’m unable to work unless you answer my question about [Option A] or [Option B]. Also, I looked into [high-priority task] and I’m very concerned because [X reasons.]

I waited a week. No word. Keep in mind that her last words to me were literally a question, “Have you done [low-priority task] yet?”

I hadn’t been told to stop working, and I hadn’t been given a task. Communication back and forth with Ignatius indicated that [high-priority task] was what was to be worked on, so I reluctantly returned to it. I couldn’t contact her as she was out of the country on personal business.

So, of course, she was angry at me for doing the work that needed to be done, and I just … couldn’t anymore. She wasn’t even wrong, I had in fact gone against her wishes, but as it was work that would have had to be done exactly that way no matter what, it wasn’t as if I had wasted time. She insisted that she wanted me to remain on the project, but that she wasn’t sure when I could start work again. I really don’t think I was expected to glean that I was supposed to stop working abruptly from her asking if I had done a task yet, I’m sorry. But I just couldn’t argue anymore. How many times do you have to yell “There’s a fire!” before running to the exit to save yourself?

Unfortunately, I do not have the financial stability I had expected to have anymore due to an emergency. Losing this job has been a personal as well as a financial hardship to me in many ways. That said, I finally feel “normal” for the first time in a year, so I’m going to chase that feeling as long as I can.

I do not plan on returning if asked.

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    That sounds like a disaster – I am glad you’re out, but sorry to hear it’s such a hardship. I wish you luck in finding a new role soon!

  2. sacados*

    Oh man, congrats OP. And all I have to say is — definitely, DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, go back!
    Even a couple of months down the road, when you’re starting to question your memories and whether it was really *that bad* — Don’t let them gaslight you into going back to that swarm of evil bees!!

    1. Catalin*

      Honestly, “I do not plan on returning if asked.” is the best ending to a letter I’ve ever read on here.

  3. Not So NewReader*

    Good call, OP. To me it looked like you were going to pour your heart and soul into this project and she was going to let it die anyway. We like to think that our presence and involvement saves things and actually that is not always true.
    Prioritizing your health and well-being was The Correct Answer here.
    I wish you much luck with your job hunting. I hope you find something quicker than you dare to even hope for.

    1. OP*

      Thanks! You are absolutely right; this project was my baby and I fought so hard to keep it going through COVID, IP theft from a former employee, a burst endometrioma that managed to nudge part of my f-in’ spine out of alignment (doubly funny as Lorna once told me my pay was late because she had hurt her back… uhh?), and my partner unexpectedly transitioning…

      I mean, DUDE. I am tired. I really wanted this thing to go well.

      1. _ID_*

        Wow – you have a full plate! Sending you positive thoughts for a great job where you are appreciated!!!

      2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Jiminy crickets that’s a lot for one person to carry!!! I hope this year brings you much better things!

    2. Observer*

      Yes to both things.

      Now that you’ve freed up all of the energy, hopefully you’ll have some bandwidth to find yourself something good.

      1. OP*

        I was planning on becoming a really intricate and generally inoffensive lawn topiary, but if that doesn’t work out, hopefully I’ll find something equally low-pressure. Thanks for your kind words!

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I wish you all success in achieving your ambition! (Also, in COMPLETELY unrelated news, I really want the name of your hairdresser.)

  4. Budgie Buddy*

    Did Lorna for real say “Stop working on the high priority task until I come up with a way to do it faster”?? Yeeesh how is this not a way to do it slower what a loon.

    Glad OP is out, even though it sounds like the circumstances aren’t great.

    It may be my not-very-neurotypical brain messing with me, but I have difficulty parsing “They’re not a bad person” outside the context of defending that person, i.e. implying that they are a good person to some degree, albeit probably not a stellar one. This language does get used a lot by posters, so I think there is a nuance I’m genuinely missing because I do have trouble understanding the tone (or all the possible tones) when it’s used.

    1. OP*

      Yes, she did! Literally no one else on the project is capable of doing the work and she had no idea what it entailed, so whatever workflow solution she came up with only would have impeded matters. It’s a shame, because if she’d let me finish that off, the project would be done by now. I’m so disappointed in that!

      I have absolutely no desire to air Lorna’a dirty laundry in public, but she truly was very different when I first started working for her. A few things happened that took her from mildly dithery to completely incoherent. I am only comfortable saying that much, though.

      1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        I was the one who wrote “this project is not going to happen,” you need to get the hell out.
        But that’s all I had to say.
        Nothing about how to do it or what to do after.
        I still don’t know what to say.
        And you don’t either.
        But you did it anyway.
        Not all heroes wear capes, OP.
        Well done, you.

          1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

            Sweet! Good luck and don’t forget to hit back on Friday Good News. I’m sure it will be soon!

    2. Batty Twerp*

      I dont know if this helps or confuses further, but I’ve sometimes found that matrix that relates to (fictional) character motivation to be useful in real life. The one that includes Lawful Good, True Neutral and Chaotic Evil. (Although I realise “Evil” is too strong a word to use for real people). Based on this update, I’d put Lorna squarely in the Chaotic Neutral box – she’s not Bad, but not Good either – and her approach is definitely Chaotic!

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I don’t think it’s too strong a word to apply to *any* people; the boss who forced somebody to put a work demand on a grave as if it were a sympathy card in order to make somebody else answer it while they were on bereavement leave seems pretty definitely evil to me. But I’ll agree that *most* people are neither in the solidly Good or the solidly Evil category; they’re just people. (I do think we’re far more willing to take somebody who’s middling with a few good qualities and call them Good than we are to take somebody who’s middling with a few evil qualities and call them Evil, and I don’t feel that’s entirely rational, even though I still do it myself. Certainly there’s a great deal less harm done by labeling somebody by a positive term that they don’t really deserve than a negative one… but it’s still equally untrue.)

        1. Wait wait wait*

          Wait can someone point me to this story about the boss who tricked a grieving employee into working? Was it on AAM?

      2. curly sue*

        To be fair, if you’re going to pull out D&D Alignment charts, the system defines ‘evil’ in that context as ‘self-serving.’ ‘Good’ is ‘does things for the benefit of others.’ It’s a fairly specific context, and makes sense within that.

        By that definition, I definitely know a few Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil people. (Those who make choices that will benefit themselves, with little to no regard for the needs of others, except in so far as those others will be helpful to one’s own goals.)

    3. Qwerty*

      I think people say “they’re not a bad person” to avoid a pile on. Lorna may have some some good qualities/skills, but management is not one of them, and the OP needed help with the work/management side of their interactions. Being a bad manager is not the same as being a bad person and the OP may have wanted to avoid a long list of comments saying how horrible Lorna is. The comment section can get pretty judgmental.

      1. OP*

        Exactly; I have no idea what she’s like in her personal life (thank god) and what I do know about it earns her sympathy from me. And I DO NOT want her sniffing this out.

    4. AB*

      I think often there’s a tendency to see “good person” and “bad person” in very black and white terms, when really what I am getting from OP is that Lorna is a person who has some non ideal or toxic for OP traits, particularly as a manager of OP’s work. The reality may be that socially Lorna is perfectly fine or at least a neutral person with pros and cons. Lorna may even be perfectly fine as a coworker! But sometimes people can be perfectly nice coworkers or friends/acquaintances and be very bad managers. It sounds like traits that used be non ideal have become more of a problem for OP though and its understandable why OP might say that Lorna isn’t a bad person outside of defending her.

      1. OP*

        Okay, I’ve decided that Current Lorna is definitely Lawful Evil. Original Lorna was way more Lawful Neutral.

        1. AB*

          Op, I am so glad for you that you are out of that situation. I hope you’re able to find other positions that let you do work you like and care about, without a boss that puts up barriers to you being able to do your work properly. You deserve to be treated well by your employer and with respect for your expertise.

          That said, that’s a pretty big shift in like a year and I’m glad you’re getting out NOW versus thinking you should suffer through it to finish the project. I saw your update to the update and I think you’ve made the right decision to just say no to further work on the project or ever with Lorna. I hope that for her own sake Lorna gets some help for whatever emotional/life baggage she’s accumulated that contributed to that shift but at the end of the day, you aren’t responsible for that. You’ve simply now acquired knowledge that a Lorna is not a good type of manager for you to work under, and in interviewing for future work might be able to find a way to include what you need from a future manager to succeed.

          1. OP*

            Yeah, this has definitely been a learning experience! I’d be grateful for it but I’m not quite there yet. Hopefully soon! :D

    5. princessbuttercup*

      Gonna get really philosophical on this one, but I think when people repeat “they’re not a bad person”, it’s more defending …. themselves than the person in question. It’s a way of saying “I’m not the kind of person who lacks empathy/makes snap judgements/hold grudges”. I have no proof, but my gut is that it’s often people with high degrees of emotional intelligence (or empathy, or highly sensitive person, whatever your preference is) who are really struggling to communicate the empathy they want to hold for people, with the negative impacts they’re experiencing as a result of that persons behaviour. It is definitely a bit of “this person isn’t ALL bad”, but yeah, I really think the statement “they’re not a bad person” is just how many people who WANT to be kind and understanding communicate the frustration they’re having to deal with.

      My example for this is I have a new boss who is very not good at management and I keep complaining to my partner, but opening or closing with: “she’s not a bad person!”

      What I mean by this is my boss has some positive qualities: she is kind, thoughtful, easy to talk to about interpersonal conflicts, and she is dealing with a very tough WFH situation. But .. she’s just not a good manager (and I’m pretty confident it’s not just a “nobody is really doing good at anything in a pandemic context” issue). She refuses to reprioritize when new info/work arises. She will flip flop on her words the moment someone questions her choices. She is willing to acknowledge in private someone’s bad behaviour, but enables and indulges it in public.

      When I say “she’s not a bad person but .. [list of above complaints]”, my (also not-very-neurotypical) partner always comes back with: “but she’s not a good boss. She’s not managing well and it’s impacting you. How can you defend that she’s a good person?” He doesn’t mean that she’s absolutely straight up evil, but I think his take is that if someone is bad at their job, won’t admit or ask for help and it causes harm to others … what’s so wrong with saying they’re a bad person? But what I think I’ve come to realize I’m really saying when I say “shes not a bad person” is “I want to have empathy for her human experiences. I value empathy and compassion and it is frustrating me that I feel like I have to put aside my compassion and judge this person harshly because they’re making my life very, very hard”. Of course these things aren’t at odds – setting boundaries, acknowledging impact, holding people accountable is NOT at odds with empathy or compassion. But a lot of us have to learn that through experience over time and I think this phrase is a way of trying to work out that challenge in our minds.

      Or this makes no sense at all and I’m totally overthinking it. :)

      1. OP*

        I don’t mean to be rude by giving a short response to what you’ve written here, but I simply do not think she is a bad person at heart for several reasons. I’m not comfortable with giving more details.

        1. princessbuttercup*

          I understand. My comment didn’t suggest you do think she’s a bad person at heart though. I was suggesting a potential way of understanding why some people express a “good/bad” dichotomy that can be confusing or seem at odds to a hyper-rational or neurodivergent person. That’s all.

      2. Budgie Buddy*

        Princess buttercup – this makes sense, I have also wondered if there was a defensive aspect to it. The OP writing in doesn’t want to sound like they’re just a negative person in general, even though they have an issue in one area.

        It may be my writer brain that weighs the concrete heavily against the abstract, but the phrase always sounds hollow. A “But they’re a good person really!” followed by detailed paragraphs of bad stuff that person did can come off as weirdly patronizing to me, at least in text format, even if that wasn’t the writer’s intention.

        1. princessbuttercup*

          Thanks! I probably should have used language other than “defending”.. in retrospect, “defence” isn’t quite the right word to me. More like “making sense of”. Like it’s a placeholder phrase to express a discomfort with the complexity of wanting to express empathy and frustration at the same time. Probably should workshop this philosophical thesis a bit more, it’s definitely not perfect lol. Just meant to be one way of understanding.

          My partner says the EXACT same thing about the phrase when it’s followed with [list of complaints about the person], so it’s interesting to hear someone else express that concrete vs abstract tension! It’s definitely more of a challenge in writing than verbally, where I think tone and body language will express lot.

      3. Ellie*

        Some people really do have very good qualities and very bad qualities though. I know several people who are complete scatter brains and extremely moody, and will yell and scream and behave terribly on occasion. One of them is in the process of donating her kidney to a friend and the other one was an absolute rock when it came to supporting someone at work who was going through a health crisis. And both of them are an awful lot of fun to hang out with, and will do anything to help you out, provided you catch them on a good day. Some people are good people, but you just can’t deal with their drama.

        1. princessbuttercup*

          I feel like we’re saying the same thing. Some people have good qualities, which people want to express empathy for, and bad qualities, which we also want to express frustration about. I didn’t mean it the phrase “they’re not a bad person but” has NO grounding in reality and is just the speaker’s own “issues”, but that it’s a shorthand for processing exactly what you said: that people can be have “good and bad” qualities, and are generally multi-faceted.

    6. Laure001*

      Budgie Buddy, for me it’s related to being active in good and evil. A good person actively tries to do good. A bad person actively screws up people if it’s in their interest.
      Someone who is “not a bad person” will not willingly, consciously act in an evil way. But that doesn’t mean she’s actively trying to do good either.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          That was my ex-boss. He was secretive and paranoid and tried to drag everyone in the department into his fantasies. He was a total slob, we couldn’t even find a place to stand in his office because of all the stuff on the floor. He smelled like an outhouse full of decaying skunk corpses. He’d play people against each other, eavesdrop on other department heads, and try to use that information to make himself look good. Plus so many other horrible behaviors. But he was also funny, generous, and kind (when he thought about it), and full of knowledge about the job that he willingly shared – except for parts he’d intentionally hold back. It was like working for a very smelly Dr. Jekyll and Ghandi, with no average Mr. Hyde in between.

    7. JSPA*

      I take it to mean they’re not cruel / sadistic / intentionally abusive / knowingly gaslighting. However, they are [pick one or more]: a total mess themselves / overstretched / not competent at their job / completely lacking the ability to notice, judge and adjust their own behavior / have been manipulated into misunderstanding a situation / are forced by circumstance to do something distasteful or lose their own job / immature / suffering a breakdown / rendered useless by seeing their plans go up in flames / otherwise impossible to work with in ways that they seemingly have no ability to fix.”

      Rescuers are taught that drowning people, by default, will grab at a rescuer in a way that’s likely to drown both people. It’s not a rational choice. It’s a terrible reflex. Some bad bosses are drowning, thus dangerous, without being evil.

      A situation can become completely dehumanizing and impossible–a boss can become de-facto abusive–in the same way that a drowning person grabs at their would-be rescuer. You don’t have to hate them for it, if you see how they got where they are, and feel sympathy for that. You can decline to deal with the fallout and drop them like the hot potato they are, without hate, anger or vilification.

      Drawing that distinction is not a defense of their ACTIONS. What they’re doing is BAD. It’s strictly a refusal to get caught up in labeling them “evil” for it.

    8. Anonbeth*

      This is a little simplistic after everyone else’s philosophical responses, but I was taught that descriptors are ranked in this order (best to worst):
      -not bad
      -not good

      So “not bad” doesn’t equal “good”–it’s a way of saying somewhere in between.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        The upper Midwest version of your scale goes:

        heckuva good guy
        not too bad of a guy
        pretty good guy
        could be nicer, the guy
        not too nice of a guy
        not the best guy

  5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Crazy to the last drop, eh? Congratulations on your freedom. Don’t look back!

  6. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Just came here before I finished reading to say I now will always use the phrase,”soaked in weirdness”.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I’m screenshotting (is this a verb now?) this for the wholesome goodness that made my day though I’m sorry your financial situation is still so, so hard. I am sitting here in Germany wishing you the best of luck in finding a better situation and am so proud of you for leaving! Viel Lieb!!

      2. MikeN*

        Me too. I can’t wait to use “soaked in weirdness” in my next email. This is the best website ever.

    1. Quill*

      It’s the most benign thing to be soaked in out of everything the commentariat has read about since 2019

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Hahahaha!! I truly hope someone will use these archives for a Netflix series one day. It would be the best thriller, comedy, everything!!

  7. Working Hypothesis*

    OP, congratulations on getting out of there, and good luck finding something better! I’m sorry to hear the emergency made things hard for you and hope you will be okay.

    1. OP*

      Thanks a lot! I will be okay. At this point, I’m actually grateful for the respite because I spent most of this year working 8 AM to 8 PM and I’m zooooooooooooooooooped.

  8. Observer*

    OP, do you write? You have a real capability with words – some of the expressions you’ve used are just wonderful.

    1. OP*

      Wow, that makes me feel really good! Thank you!

      I do write; I’m not really published anywhere but I’m working on several comedy projects at once.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I can totally buy you as a comedy writer. I’m still giggling about your lawn topiary ambition from up in the comment stream somewhere. :D

      2. the cat's ass*

        I’m glad to hear that, because despite the awful circumstances at your (yay!)former job, you are really really funny. Glad youre out of there, and onto the next thing!

  9. OP*

    Hi, all!

    I sent a second update to Alison literally the second she let me know she’d posted my first update, so with her permission, here it is!

    Lorna sent me a text message last week asking when I would be available for a conference call. No “hello” or anything. When I asked her what the call would be about, she said it was about the “essence” of our product so that a promotional video could be made. There was no offer of compensation for my time or any details given, nor was there any acknowledgement of or apology for the issues that lead to my quitting. I declined to join the call (and pointed her towards some resources, to boot).

    It remains to be seen if this will happen again. She’s very much a “one rejection and all ties are cut” kind of person, but I also am very aware that she doesn’t understand the project or how our product works, so I anticipate hearing from her again in the future. I hope not, however.

    Like, can you not even say “hello” to the person you… did that to? Dang.

    1. Myrin*

      Your “hello” point reminds me of my sister’s former boss. At the time, I was casually mentioning in a sub-clause how my boss always individually greets every person she meets during her first morning round, which my sister answered with “Oh man, Ms. Godewold doesn’t even greet me when we’re the only two people around at six in the morning and she has to walk past my waiting self to unlock the front door!”. That person is a former boss for a reason, and my boss during that time is now also my sister’s boss (and enthusiastically greets her, too)!

      1. OP*

        I have a really strong response to not doing, like, basic social niceties (I am on the spectrum and if I have to friggin’ remember social graces every time, so should everyone else, goshdarnit!)

        But I just feel that given everything that happened, messaging me out of nowhere (on my PHONE. Ugh, send an email!) and just being like “When are you available?” was really… rude. I don’t know, it just made me laugh and shake my head.

        1. mcfizzle*

          I take it as proof that absolutely nothing has changed. I mean, not that I would’ve really thought there would be improvement, but all the more proof you’ve made the right choice. I really hope everything works out soon for you – I personally would love to see that update too!

        2. allathian*

          Ouch, I’m so sorry. How about just blocking her number? It’s a bit drastic, but it may be what it takes to get her out of your life.

    2. MsSolo*

      There’s an element of Lorna that reminds me of certain colleagues who love to send you emails saying “I urgently need to know X”, and when you ask “this year’s X or last year’s?” they never reply. Was it urgent? Did they find an answer elsewhere? Have they been beamed up by aliens? Who knows!

      I can also imagine such colleagues responding to someone quitting by essentially ignoring that fact, because it’s not the answer they were expecting, so therefore if they just ignore it for long enough they can go back to the way things were before. Which in this case means sending you questions and ignoring any follow up from you anyway.

    3. Nanani*

      OP, I’m glad you quit.
      Now burn the bridge. Cut the strings.
      Do not give her a second more of your time without pay!!

    4. Wombats and Tequila*

      I wonder if Lorna wasn’t using you as a scapegoat to keep up a front for whatever shenanigans she, or she and Ignatius, were pulling.

      I worked for a place that was bizarrely counterproductive in everything they did. I quit because they couldn’t seem to pay me on time. I had to physically go there on April 14 to get my W-2 and stand in a room that looked like an IED full of random paperwork had gone off in it, and stand there, arms folded, with an expression like one of those Easter Island heads, and wait for an hour while the flustered office manager conjured it up. I’m pretty sure the whole thing was a front for money laundering.

      My point being, maybe Lorna and Ignatius weren’t trying to do whatever they were claiming to do at all.

      I hope the one-rejection-and-all-ties-are-cut proves true in your case and that you are recovering your personal life and family relationships. It made me so sad to read that.

      1. OP*

        Nah, she’s the CEO and answers to no one.

        Lorna also did not pay me on time for six months. I’m still waiting for my last scanty paycheck to come in- five days late already.

        If she thinks I don’t have a lawyer, she’s dead wrong…

    5. Tuesday*

      When are you available for a conference call? How about, “When you’re able to speak rationally… oh wait, guess that means never.”

      1. OP*

        I literally didn’t answer her for six hours because because every time I picked up my phone, my fingers blazed out “Whenever you’re willing to treat me like a human being.” Except not as polite.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I’m glad you didn’t answer this. Not because she deserves better from you — she doesn’t — but because if you’d answered that and she grasped that the only way to make you do additional, probably uncompensated work for her was to be polite, she might have chosen to be polite. And then you’d have been stuck doing the work — which you absolutely should not do for a price so low as the basic decent treatment to which you’re properly entitled anyhow.

    6. Momma Bear*

      So there you have your answer as to whether or not Lorna got the hint. She did not, she has no qualms in identifying your expertise at her convenience….I am glad you declined and will continue to do so if she calls again. It’s hard to see something you put your heart into fail for no fault of your own, but…Lorna wasn’t going to let you do it fully and right so let her simmer in the stew of her own making. You are not at her beck and call anymore. Congrats!

    7. Working Hypothesis*

      Wow, aside from being a real jerk, Lorna has absolutely no sense of rational self-interest, does she?!? What on earth could make somebody who’s already quit out of exasperation take on an extra, unpaid project for the same person who drove them to resign? Gee, I know! Let’s be rude and demanding about it! I bet that’ll get them interested.

  10. Nanani*

    Were you a contractor though?
    That line about changing contractor hours doesn’t really match up with other things you said in this letter and the last one.

    If you were an employee misclassed as a contractor, you might be looking at tax complications unless it gets cleared up with the relevant offices real soon.

    1. Mike on the Mic*

      I was thinking the same thing. Was OP on payroll or freelancing? If they were freelancing, was there anything stopping OP from looking for/taking other work during the slow periods?

      1. OP*

        I was a contractor/freelancer, but I had no contract after the first six months. This is not standard. I have written more contracts for her than I’ve signed. Ask me about the law degree I super do not have!

        When I asked her for a new contract, she said “Sure, no problem, remind me tomorrow.”
        When I reminded her the next day, she said, “Contract, what is a contract? I give you a contract today, I fire you tomorrow!” Then she blinked at me. I just… gave up.

    2. saassy*

      OP may have fallen into the weird twilight zone that is tech startup contractors who are basically FTE. I’ve noticed this is much more a thing in tech – especially at startups, especially at remote-first or remote-only startups. Every. Single. Person. short of the founders ends up being on contract whether they should or not and it’s the default, because they didn’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with payroll/taxes/other countries’ laws early on and they’re not bothering now.

      I’ve had two offers in the last two months, both contract. It’s been a bit maddening.

  11. Message in a Bottle*

    OP, good luck and don’t get sucked back in. This is a tough time to be out of work, I am in a similar position, but you have your sanity back and that’s priceless.

    1. OP*

      You’re going to be fine and I bet whatever job you get next will be eleven herbs and spices of excellent!

  12. Risk Manager*

    Well done! I wish I had the bravery you have had here in this situation. I hope you get the opportunity to rest.

    1. OP*

      Thank you very much! I am positive that you’re as brave as you need to be, but never forget to champion yourself. I KNOW IT’S IRONIC!

  13. Cj*

    I’m confused (just as you probably were). You weren’t working fast enough on a task, so nobody was working on it at all? And how could you get faster at it without working on it and gaining experience doing it?

    I would take “have you finished task x yet?” to mean I should finish it, but she still should have gotten back to you. Especially since it sounds like you weren’t working on anything, and I’m assuming not getting paid.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think people like Lorna enjoy being vague like that and not responding on purpose so they cannot be blamed for anything later.

      1. OP*

        Without exposing her identity, I can say this is the case and it is something I have experienced before working in her home country.

    2. OP*

      Okay, your interpretation makes more sense than the actual situation!

      It’s not that I wasn’t working fast enough, it was the following scenario:

      1. A junior team member submits their work.
      2. I return their work proofread and with any editing or changes needed to be done in color-coded notes.
      3. The changes are ignored.
      4. I am put in a client- or hiree-facing scenario outside of my job description in which I am expected to explain any errors.
      5. I ask why changes have not been made.
      6. Ignatius straight-up goddamn lies.
      7. Lorna believes Ignatius without confirming with anyone else and does not communicate.
      8. I am left scrambling frantically in the dark while everything burns around me.
      9. Lorna screams at me because changes have not been made yet.

      As for “Have you finished Task X yet?” I wouldn’t have questioned it if doing it at that point in the project wouldn’t have been the hugest waste of time and money possible. As project manager, I felt part of my job was watching out for bottlenecks like that.

    3. Lucy*

      It sounds to me like Lorna wanted the OP to work on Task X, and Lorna saw Task X as the priotiy, but the OP felt it was lower priority so wasn’t answering Lorna. I bet there was a lot of frustration on both sides.

      1. OP*

        Well, no, sorry. We’d agreed that it was the lowest priority task months before this happened, and as I said, I mentioned it to her in my response as well.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        The letter reads to me more like, let’s say they’re building a house (I’m not guessing at OP’s work, just making an analogy). OP has been working on getting the electrical done and inspected so they can close the walls and such. A few months ago, Lorna agreed that was necessary next steps. And that, say, ordering window treatments should be done just about last. Now, she’s asking why OP hasn’t purchased and hung window treatments, in those rooms whose walls aren’t even drywalled yet.

  14. Secretary*

    OP, this is so extremely on the level of unreasonable and out of norm!!! Good for you for getting out of there. I feel like we’re going to get another update from you soon at a reasonable job and it will feel like heaven on earth to you!! Seriously, this was bad.

    1. OP*

      I really appreciate your saying that because I feel like I have been locked in a nightmare closet all year where up was down and black was assdhjshfklsdhfdlfhd.

  15. Bookworm*

    I’m so sorry OP, but your peace of mind may be better off for it. I wish it had worked out better and wish you the best of luck.

  16. Akcipitrokulo*


    You escaped. Maybe you’d have liked a bit more in a stash before jumping over the wall… but you are out! :)

  17. Sun Tzu*

    Congratulations on taking the decision of leaving, OP!
    You made the right call.
    Dysfunctional workplaces have the property of warping your common sense (Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps?) so you get used to horrible things and abusive behaviors. It takes effort to get away from them. But you feel better immediately!
    As someone who has been on a lot of toxic/sloppy/weird/unorganized jobs, I feel happy for you, even if I don’t know you. :)

  18. The Bean*

    OP was a contractor right? I’m used to working for clients and billing them based on hours worked, and It sounds like the amount of time she was spending on the “important” project was not cost-effective (as in, they needed to find someone faster and/or cheaper to do it). This happens sometimes in my field, where if it is small task, it makes sense to have a more expensive person who is already familiar with the matter just do it, because they don’t need to get up to speed. But if it is a 20 hour to 500 hour task, you need to get cheaper contractors to come in and churn it out. Continuing to work on something after the client tells you that you are taking too much time and asks you to go “pencils down” on it is a big no-no, and at best you won’t get paid for all that time. Even if you know it needs to get done and there is an external deadline to meet.

  19. EmmaPoet*

    Going by the Thumper rule of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything,” I will just say that it sounds like you made the healthiest decision for yourself and I wish you all good things in future.

    Also, block Lorna on any form of contact and symbolically torch something that reminds you of her to remove all the awfulness, then toast marshmallows.

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