I found my boss’s highly critical notes about a coworker

A reader writes:

After 10 years of working together, my direct manager — our director of operations, Jessica — was let go from our company a few months ago. There were apparently some behind-the-scenes issues between herself and our CEO, Bruce (he alluded as much to me and others in conversation, I think in an attempt at transparency) that led to this result.

Bruce had the replacement for Jessica set to start less than a week after Jessica was let go (she was let go on a Tuesday, my new manager Elizabeth started the following Monday), which leads me to believe that this change was in the works for well over a month (due to the notice Elizabeth would have had to give at her previous job).

I don’t know if I can communicate how sudden Jessica’s termination was. It was a surprise to everyone but especially to Lila, who is one of Jessica’s best friends and who works as a manager. When Elizabeth first started, one of the tasks at the top of her list was meeting with the managers and department heads to get a feel for the organization … but the meeting with Lila took place after hours and from what I heard of it, it was not polite or professionally handled (I work after usual business hours and the doors to my office and the conference room were both open). Elizabeth and Bruce were quite aggressive toward Lila. Thankfully, another manager, Mandy, was also in the meeting and was able to give Lila a little support and a chance to take a breath. The meeting eventually seemed to calm down (and I closed my door once I realized what I was hearing) and I have chalked that up to Elizabeth being primed by others (possibly Bruce) to take a defensive position due to Lila’s close friendship with Jessica.

This is my conundrum. I went to our communal supply closet last evening to get some notepads. There weren’t any fresh, new ones, but I was looking for scratch paper for myself and don’t mind using up the dregs of someone else’s old notepad. I grabbed a few remnants and went back to my desk. When sorting through the notepads quickly to clean up any loose pieces, I noticed that one had writing on the second page down. I flipped the page up, intending to remove and shred whatever notes were on there.

The notes that I saw were Elizabeth’s notes from (or possibly after) that first meeting with Lila. I’m sure I won’t shock you by telling you that the notes (at a glance, once I realized what they were) were not flattering to Lila in the least. Some pertained to her work performance, but others were very crude (and inaccurate) assessments of Lila’s personality and what Elizabeth did not like about her. There was also a page after those notes with some jotted-down info from a high-level meeting that Elizabeth attended (again, at a quick glance).

I don’t know what to do now. Should I pretend I never saw the notes, shred them, and keep my mouth shut? Should I take the notepad to Elizabeth and explain how I ended up with it, allowing her to destroy the notes herself? I could even play it more as, “Funny thing, I grabbed this old notepad from the supply closet and it looks like you still have some notes on here. Did you want to check them to see if you still need them?” … But of course, she will want to know if I saw what the notes were about. It is very fortunate that I was the one who came across this information as I work at the manager level (with clearance and responsibilities to match) and previously did HR-esque work for the company.

I suppose my biggest issue here is wondering, if Elizabeth made notes like that about Lila, what kind of notes did she make about me after our first encounter? I can’t ask her that, but I worry that bringing up the Lila notes to Elizabeth will cause her to mistrust me.

To be very clear, I have no intention of telling Lila or anyone else about what I saw. Elizabeth and Lila seem to have evened out a bit and their relationship is maybe not the best in the world, but it is certainly better than when Elizabeth first started. I don’t want to cause issues or drama, I just want a good working relationship with my new boss.

First things first: the notebook. The easiest thing is to just put it back on Elizabeth’s desk when she’s not around, without any comment. Since you work after normal business hours, hopefully this will be easy to do. You don’t need to take any more responsibility for it than that — no need to shred the notes, talk to her about it, or bring it to her attention at all. Just put it back on her desk, done. (If you find it in the supply closet again after that, I’d take that as a sign that she has no interest in keeping the notes and either studiously ignore its presence in the closet or just toss those pages without comment.)

As for wondering what kind of notes Elizabeth made about you after your first encounter … On one hand, you’re probably right that Bruce (or others) primed Elizabeth to perceive Lila a certain way, and it’s understandable that she’d believe her new boss when he told her there was a problem they needed to address. But you can believe your new employer about staff dynamics and still not wholeheartedly embrace their battles as your own when you’ve haven’t had a chance to get the lay of the land for yourself.

When you combine what you overheard of that meeting with the crude assessments of Lila’s personality in the notebook … I can see why you’re concerned! In your shoes I’d be worrying that Elizabeth jumps to conclusions, finds it surprisingly easy to harshly criticize people she knows little about, and is kind of a jerk … to say nothing of her total indiscretion with a notebook containing inflammatory impressions about a staff member.

That said, if I were looking for a reason to defend Elizabeth, I’d say that sometimes people see things through the lens they’ve been given, especially when they’re brand new. If Bruce told her Lila was a problem — and if Bruce himself has been highly critical of Lila, and if Elizabeth so far likes and respects Bruce — she might have just seen what he prepped her to see. Since Elizabeth and Lila now seem to have a better relationship, it’s possible that once Elizabeth had time to form her own impressions, she realized her initial take was off-base. That’s still a problem — if nothing else it would show she’s too willing to jump to conclusions and be biased by other people — but it’s not quite as alarming.

Ultimately, this is all speculation. What matters most is what you’re seeing of Elizabeth in your own dealings with her. Are you seeing signs that she’s generally fair and reasonable and forms well-founded opinions? Or does she seem petty, overly influenced by higher-ups, quick to judge without all the facts, unfair, and/or kind of a jerk?

Of course, even if everything seems good so far, you’ve got to have some caution based on what you heard and saw. But you also don’t have all the context and you won’t necessarily benefit from drawing hard-and-fast conclusions from something you’re only seeing/hearing pieces of. Have caution, and keep this stored in your head somewhere … but put the most weight on what you see of how she’s operating now that she’s settling into her job.

(Also, there’s a whole separate question here about what happened with Jessica, and why Lila seems to be getting penalized for being the close friend of someone who was fired. It’s not the focus of your letter, but I’m curious to know whether there might have been legitimate issues with Lila in the wake of her friend’s firing, or whether all the focus on her was defensiveness from Bruce about how the firing went down, or what.)

{ 295 comments… read them below }

  1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    If she’s not aware that the notebook was in the supply closet (maybe she placed it there by accident and didn’t realise) would it suddenly appearing on her desk make her think someone had stolen it and was now pointedly returning it?

    Returning to that notebook when it hadn’t previously been there would feel to me like a message.

    It seems to me like shredding them remains the least dramatic option. I could be wrong here.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      That would would be my choice. Shred the papers, forget about them, and in the unlikely chance that Elizabeth asks about the notebook or notes, “you know nothing.”

      1. Anonym*

        Shred those notes and put the notebook back in the supply closet! Unless they all look exactly the same, I wouldn’t want to hang on to it lest it draw Elizabeth’s attention.

        1. TiredMama*

          Why shred the notes for her? Why not just put the notebook back without making any changes to it and then pretend you never saw it?

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’m uncomfortable destroying her notes as well. I also see the potential passive-aggressive message in leaving it on her desk, so I’d try to find a discreet location in her office (say, a bookshelf or filing cabinet) and leave it there.

            After that, 1 part orange triple-sec, one part pineapple rum, one part dry London gin, and repeat as necessary until I don’t recall what the notes say.*

            *51+% in jest.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              I’m assuming that for some reason Elizabeth put the notebook in the supply closet so putting the it on her desk is sending some sort of big message (assuming the Elizabeth’s name is not on the cover of the notebook).

              But those notes are unflattering and inflammatory to Lila. And unless Elizabeth marked her name on the notebook, it’s just mysterious negative notes about Lila. Shredding them is most kind if Lila. Putting them back for someone else to find negative notes about Lila is inviting drama. Shred those notes so they vanish and forget them.

              1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

                OP/LW Here – The notes were titled “Thoughts about Lila”, which I guess is a good way to make sure your thoughts are organized well – but also very incriminating if those notes are found. I want zero drama and poor Lila has been through enough. It seems like shredding and forgetting is the more prominent suggestion, so that is likely what I will need to do.

                1. cubone*

                  Thats such a weird/hilarious addition to this story to me. Even in my first 1:1’s with new employees, I can’t imagine labelling my page “thoughts about [name]”, it seems so primed for unnecessary judgements.

                  I usually try to avoid falling into the trap here of wild speculation about someone’s intent, but it’s hard for me to imagine notes titled “thoughts about Lila” that would just be “responsible, super organized, great” etc etc. It feels like she deep down wanted to write “Things I hate about Lila”

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Out of curiosity, how do you know they were Elizabeth’s notes and not someone elses?

                3. NoviceManagerGuy*

                  Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything you can do here that will help. Shred and forget.

                4. Yvette*

                  Enid,
                  I think shredding them is best. Putting them back on her desk could be interpreted as as passive aggressive gesture and invite some sort of inquiry.
                  Also, props for the best OP/LW name ever!

                5. Mary Richards*

                  I actually snorted out loud at the notes being titled “Thoughts About Lila.” Please tell me there were heart-shaped doodles in the margins, too.

                6. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

                  Detective Amy Santiago (Love me some
                  B99!) – I know that they were Elizabeth’s notes because I know the handwriting of everyone else who was in that meeting. It was not Bruce or Mandy’s handwriting and Lila would not have made those notes about herself (and also the handwriting was not hers). It was not Jessica’s handwriting either (I know hers VERY well) and I don’t think she would have ever written such a cruel assessment of Lila’s personal character so casually.

                7. GammaGirl1908*

                  Ha, I was wondering where Enid was in all of this!

                  Also, Mandy? Not Amy or Olivia or Annie or DeeDee? When did Mandy show up?

                8. GammaGirl1908*

                  Or Cara or Caroline! They’re the most likely ones to have dug around and found someone’s notes.

                9. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

                  GammaGirl – I was a fan of SVT through SVH, and also dabbled in The Unicorn Club series of books that delved into the Unicorns more deeply. Mandy was a character in the SVT world as well as heavily featured in the Unicorn Club books (and is one of my favorites, which is why I named this other manager after her. You’re right, though – I should have kept continuity purely in SVH. :)

                10. GammaGirl1908*

                  A) Ah, that makes sense. I was a little too old for SVT, so I’m an SVH purist.

                  B) I highly recommend the SVH podcast called Double Love, if you don’t already listen to it.

                11. PinaColada*

                  Shred! Shred! Shred! Shred!

                  My concern is Elizabeth will think Lila found the notes and put them on her desk, and it will start a fresh round of drama.

                12. Ellie*

                  That’s really unprofessional… why would she label something so obviously, and then be so indiscreet about it? Are you certain they were hers? She isn’t being set up in some way?

                  I don’t know OP, I wouldn’t want to risk putting the notepad back on her desk, in case someone saw me, or she figured out who had seen it and retaliated in some way. I’d either rip the pages out and bin them (and continue using the notepad, just as if I’d never seen them), or else send the whole notepad to HR, anonymously if possible.

              2. Former Child*

                We had a previous question worrying about a “venemous” peer at risk for being fired, and now this. It’s all a bit “soap opera” for my taste.

                AT-WORK RULES [for me] are
                1) You can’t change people.
                2) Don’t get overly emotionally invested in other people’s dramas, keep some professional detachment.
                3) Don’t gossip or make assumptions w/o knowing facts.
                4) Close “work” friends sometimes are “foxhole friends” and not as close as you think they are.
                5) If you’re a MGR. you may need to just shred the notes and forget it as a way to avoid stirring the pot. Or give the pad to Lila, as a peer, to alert her that it was found in a common area, if you want to take a risk.
                But if you’re a STAFFER you might be tempted to confide, maybe in Lila, which may or may not be a good idea. [See Rule 2.]

            2. Nicotena*

              This may be how they got in the filing cabinet in the first place! Perhaps Elizabeth left the notebook in a conference room on accident or something. But clearly she’s been without them for however long now and life has moved on. I would want to end this cycle at this point. I’m team Toss the Notes.

              1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

                OP/LW Here – some context that I didn’t mention is that with Jessica’s termination being so sudden and Elizabeth’s start date within such a short time, there was still “cleaning out” of Elizabeth’s new office for a little while after she started. It’s likely that someone was cleaning out old notepads (Jessica was famous for always grabbing fresh ones for each new project she needed to track/have meetings for) and just missed the pages where Elizabeth had flipped the pad open to jot down her notes. It seems that shredding and forgetting is the most popular of the options, so it seems likely that I will need to do that.

                1. Fran Fine*

                  Definitely do that because the alternative is embarrassing for everyone if someone else finds those notes (especially Lila – yikes!).

                2. M*

                  Given you know there’s a decent chance someone cleaning out Jessica’s things from the office grabbed this and possibly other notepads *Elizabeth* had used from her office assuming it was Jessica’s:

                  If you do want to return it, give Elizabeth the *whole* stack to sort through, and tell her why. a) there may well be other notes from Elizabeth in there you haven’t found yet, and she’s better placed to check than you are. b) it makes it very clear that you stumbled on this, realised you shouldn’t have it, and are mostly interested in minimising your exposure to information you shouldn’t see.

                  Trying to stay anonymous as Allison originally suggested makes much more sense when there’s implied carelessness on Elizabeth’s part that comes with returning it in person. “I think someone assumed this was one of Jessica’s old notepads when they were cleaning out her things, here’s the rest of the stack so you can make sure they didn’t take any other notepads from you.” has much less risk of fallout.

                3. PinaColada*

                  Yeah please don’t put them back on her desk! I’m horrified at the idea that she will blame Lila and go in on her again.

              2. Amaranth*

                +1
                Putting it on her desk makes it obvious someone identified those comments as hers, so Elizabeth might try to find out who that is in order for damage control or just because anonymously dropping them off seems really passive aggressive. It seems likely that if OP works later hours they’d be considered a possible source and it could strain their own relationship.

                Also, OP might not like how the private notes were framed, but there could actually be significant issues with Lila’s work or behavior that were shielded by her good friend. If OP is not getting called in for their own meeting, then I don’t think they need to worry about “their own” notebook.

    2. mf*

      This is what I would do: shred it and pretend I never saw it.

      I’d also start polishing my resume. Hopefully Elizabeth turns out to be a good boss but… most of the evidence seems to run contrary to that possibility.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Good point – the other thing with polishing your resume (and maybe looking at a few job options) is it can make you feel a little more in control of the situation by reminding you of other options — even if you end up staying!

      2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

        OP/LW Here – I think this is what has caused me to pause the most. I love my job, I love working for the company (even though like all companies we have some issues), and I don’t want to leave. But I know in the back of my head that it is a possibility that I will need to do so, whether by my own volition or not. And that scares the crap out of me.

        Things have seemed to even out in regards to Elizabeth. I’m hopeful for the future, but also not unprepared.

        1. JP in the heartland*

          Just curios, LW, do you work for a nonprofit? It sounds like the kind of nonprofit drama I’ve been living for the past 20 years.

          1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

            A very for-profit company! And thankfully I usually stay out of the drama – this time I really Mr. Magoo-ed my way straight into it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think shredding it would be way worse. She might be looking frantically for the notebook, so finding it on her desk would alleviate that stress– even if that comes with the stress of knowing someone probably saw her notes.

      I am an acknowledged nosy person, so I would do this: return the notebook anonymously (as Alison suggests), never speak a word, and file this away as information.

      1. foolofgrace*

        I agree with putting the notepad back on Elizabeth’s desk. She needs to know that her approach to employees is not a good look for her, which she will hopefully see when she realizes her opinions are not private.

      2. Snow globe*

        Finding the notebook on her desk with no idea who put it there would in no way alleviate her stress. Right now she can tell herself that she must have accidentally tossed it in the trash. If she sees it on her desk she knows someone saw it, but not who. That would be worse.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          It wouldn’t be great, but she would know to be more careful in the future and be assured that no one else has the notebook.

          They’re not the LW’s notes to shred. I wouldn’t take that risk.

        2. cubone*

          I’m not usually for “teaching colleagues a lesson” dramatics, but this is exactly why I like the leave it on her desk option. A reminder that leaving these types of notes around is risky is something she should realize, and the uncertainty/discomfort of not knowing who saw them is proof of that.
          And, if by some chance it’s not Elizabeth’s fault (like she trashed it and somehow it got moved from paper waste to paper scrap pile), then it shows that she needs to be more cautious and properly dispose of that kind of stuff (like shredding). That’s just me though.

          1. Lora*

            +1 not just you. I would be thoroughly weirded out to have someone re-using my notepads. Thank goodness my handwriting is mostly illegible to anyone but me….

          2. Yelm*

            Yes, and while I personally wouldn’t photocopy or take photos of the notes, there’s no way for Elizabeth to know that whoever put the notebook back did not. Maybe she’ll straighten up and fly right. It’s not a bad idea to wrong-foot her a bit, as she sounds like a bit of a liability at the moment.

        3. Artemesia*

          I’d probably either take it home and discard it in a dumpster on the way or return it to the pile of old notebooks in the supply closet and let the next person who found it deal. Putting it on her desk is a message and might spark a hunt for the person who did it. Are you sure there are not cameras in the office? And shredding it in the office seems like a risk as well.

          People are often told when hired about ‘problem employees’ and are sometimes specifically charged with managing those problems. Elizabeth may or may not be a disastrous boss; she is certainly careless about what should be confidential notes.

        4. Lizard*

          +1

          This would make me paranoid as hell, about who had read my notes and knew what I’d written.

        5. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I can’t say I’d feel too bad about her having anxiety over wondering who may have seen her nastygrams.

          As a self-admitted asshole, I would actually delight a little at the idea of her twisting in the wind about it.

          1. WellRed*

            I’m with you. Not feeling too sympathetic if Elizabeth wonders where it came from and learns prudence going forward.

          2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

            Detective Amy Santiago (Love me some
            B99! I also tried to reply this further up on your question about how I knew the notes were written by Elizabeth, but it wouldn’t let me) – I know that they were Elizabeth’s notes because I know the handwriting of everyone else who was in that meeting. It was not Bruce or Mandy’s handwriting and Lila would not have made those notes about herself (and also the handwriting was not hers). It was not Jessica’s handwriting either (I know hers VERY well) and I don’t think she would have ever written such a cruel assessment of Lila’s personal character so casually.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I figured it was something like that.

              And I also very much appreciate the SVH names :)

          3. AstralDebris*

            Me too, but on the other hand Elizabeth just started and is already throwing flags that she has poor judgment and is volatile. I’d be concerned that she’d start lashing out to punish people for her own anxiety, and then everyone in the office would be miserable. And since it sure sounds like Bruce has her back, that’s a recipe for disaster.

          4. TardyTardis*

            I’m a bad person, I’d go through those notepads in Supply to see if there were any other goodies.

        6. GothicBee*

          Agreed, I feel like shredding it (assuming the notebook isn’t otherwise identifiable) or putting the notebook back where it was found are both going to give the LW and others the most plausible deniability.

          If LW knew Elizabeth well enough to gauge her reaction, putting the notes on her desk could be a good lesson for her. But considering her behavior so far, I’d be worried that her reaction to finding the notes on her desk might be worse than just having lost them.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        Why would Elizabeth be frantically looking for a notebook that she put in the supply closet? I’d assume that was purposeful decision and not an accident.

        1. Brandine*

          OP replied elsewhere that there was still active clearing of Jessica’s stuff taking place, so it could have been relocated to the closet by someone else as part of that project.

          1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

            Yes, Bruce’s executive assistant (I guess we’ll call her Amy) was part of the clean-up process. Maybe I should talk to Amy to make sure there are no other notepads floating around with potential sensitive info still on them and shred the notes that I found. That way I can try to minimize damage without putting this directly on Elizabeth’s radar.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          And it sounds like the notes are fairly old at this point if OP says that things with Lila seem better now so I highly doubt she is actively searching for these notes. You can’t put them on her desk because she’ll know someone read them, and I think it would feel mean to put them back in the closet and know that someone else might then find them and read the notes about Lila. Tossing/shredding is the only viable option IMO

      4. Public Sector Manager*

        I agree that shredding is the worst option. I think the best option is to put it back in the supply area where the OP found it. Second best is leaving it on the boss’s desk.

    4. Holy Carp*

      Yes, I’d put the notebook back in the supply closet, as if it hadn’t been found.
      If OP left it on Elizabeth’s desk (assuming the office was unlocked to begin with), she’d wonder who’d found it and if they’d read it. Who knows what that would result in.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Are you suggesting that the OP put the notebook back in the supply closet with those notes still in there? If so, ooh, no, I don’t think so. You don’t want to put another employee in the position of seeing those notes, both for Lila’s sake and the other employee’s. Either shred the notes or put them on Elizabeth’s desk, either way without saying anything to Elizabeth. I really think those are the OP’s best options.

        Me, I’d shred them. Yes, it will give Elizabeth some uncomfortable moments, if she realizes she’s misplaced them, but finding them mysteriously appear on her desk would give her a different set of uncomfortable moments. But I can definitely see the value in putting them on her desk and why Alison suggested it.

        1. Forrest*

          I frankly would be OK with giving Elizabeth some uncomfortable moments. There may be legitimate times as a manager when you have to write notes which would be deeply upsetting to the person they are about (though it sounds like LW doesn’t think they fall into the “unkind but necessary” category), but OMG, you steward that information CAREFULLY and make sure it stays absolutely confidential.

          I am enjoying that this is literally the kind of drama that would make a good SVH book.

          1. Nicotena*

            I’m am positive Alison would not have suggested this course of action in order to “teach Elizabeth a lesson” or deliberately give her an uncomfortable moment. The fact that it could come across this way is why I’m Team Shred The Notes

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Alison has to be nice and diplomatic.

              The rest of us don’t.

              I’m firmly on Team Teach Elizabeth a Lesson.

                1. Despachito*

                  But are you sure that it is Elizabeth who will feel uncomfortable?

                  It means assuming she is a decent person, but is she really? We do not know for sure, and if she is vindictive, she can find a lot of ways to make LW the one who will feel uncomfortable.

                  There are situations when this would be worth taking the risk, but I do not think this one is one of these. LW has almost nothing to gain and a lot to lose.

                  I’d take the notes home and store them in a safe place (if I thought they might serve to help Lila some time in the future), or shred them if I think they don’t, and make a mental note about Elizabeth, but in both cases keep mum about it.

                  All what could possibly be gained by letting Elizabeth know (her embarassment and possible correction, but also potential retaliation) or letting Lila know (embarassment and very likely deterioration of her relationship with Elizabeth) does not, in my opinion, outweigh the drama stirring and potential (if unjust) repercussions for the OP.

          2. KayDeeAye*

            I am fine with Elizabeth having some uncomfortable moments, too. Taking notes like that is problematic in and of itself, but being careless with them is simply wrong, wrong, wrong. And stupid. This ought to be a teaching moment for her, so whatever discomfort she feels would be good for her, IMO, so long as she doesn’t find a way to blame someone else or anything like that.

          3. AnotherAlison*

            “I am enjoying that this is literally the kind of drama that would make a good SVH book.”

            +1

            Took me a few paragraphs to remember where I had seen those names (30 years later), but it was great to see it all come together.

          4. learnedthehardway*

            The problem with giving Elizabeth some uncomfortable moments – which she thoroughly deserves – is that she might think that LILA had seen the notes. I mean, if someone goes to the trouble to deliver to your desk the nasty, derogatory notes you made about a team member, odds are that person would have shown the team member in question what had been written about them.

            That would make life very uncomfortable (again) for poor Lila, who wouldn’t even know why Elizabeth was being paranoid about her.

            Better for all concerned to shred the offending material (or save it for future blackmail…)

            1. Forrest*

              I mean, I think, “what happened to those horrible personal notes I wrote, oh god, how did I lose them” and “they’ve just reappeared on my desk, where did they come from and who has read them” should BOTH be pretty uncomfortable moments for Elizabeth. But that discomfort is entirely on her and not something LW can or should attempt to alleviate!

        2. cubone*

          I’m not surprised there’s a shred vs leave on her desk debate in the comments, but putting it back in the closet seems like the worst choice by far to me! Leaving it for someone else to potentially find seems like the most opportunity for MORE drama.

          1. alienor*

            I agree with that. The next person to find the notes might not be as responsible with them as OP has been, and it sounds like Lila doesn’t need that in her life.

    5. coffeeandpearls*

      I absolutely agree that she should shred it! I think Elizabeth assumed she ripped all the pages out of the notebook that she used and returned the notepad to the supply closet. If you place it in her desk, there’s a chance that she’s going to perceive that as a message, possibly a passive aggressive one, and start a whole new drama! We can assume Lila knows the meeting didn’t go well, and the OP had already heard it wasn’t a positive meeting, so OP can move forward with that knowledge!

      1. lex talionis*

        I hope leaving sensitive material behind is not indicative of her attention to detail. Especially given her level of responsibility.

      2. meyer lemon*

        The truly passive aggressive option is to carefully remove the pages of insults and turn them into a lovely origami mobile to decorate Elizabeth’s new desk.

        1. Yelm*

          The TRULY passive aggressive move would be to photocopy the notes (outside of the office) or and return the notebook WITH the photocopies. (This is a TERRIBLE idea, FTR, but I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall when Elizabeth found them.)

      3. Nicotena*

        Yeah I’m imagining a whole follow up where Elizabeth thought the anonymous note was some kind of threat and did something like checking the security cameras or something to find OP sneaking in late at night or whatever – if this was a plot of Frasier or The Office that’s absolutely what would happen! … I watch too much TV though … :D

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Tear out the pages, use them to wrap a dead fish, leave that on Elizabeth’s desk. That is how you send a message!

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        It may be the 50 hours of Chinese wife/concubine dramas I just watched talking, but I agree.

        Ok, not really. But lol.

      2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

        OP/LW Here – Thank you for making me laugh. If only I worked near a wharf or some docks! Maybe I’ll have to settle for the severed head of a stuffed horse.

        Seriously though, it seems like shredding and forgetting is the popular answer, and it requires me to get fewer scales all over my hands. :)

    7. Annony*

      I agree. There is too much potential of it going wrong by trying to return it. I can easily see her thinking it was stolen instead of misplaced in the supply cabinet. She has already lost the notes. I would just shred them and move on.

    8. Redd*

      Dramatic or not, putting them on her desk gets the notes back to her; she may still need the information from the high-level meeting on the second page.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        That’s Elizabeth’s problem, and not a good reason for Enid to stick her head into a potential guillotine.

    9. Nicotena*

      I agree. I would get rid of the notes in the hope of quashing drama. A mysteriously appearing notebook left by an unknown person sounds like adding drama to me, assuming Elizabeth knows those notes weren’t previously on her desk. She’s going to think, who left them here? Who saw them? Did they read the incriminating material, who did they show them too, are there copies now??

    10. Lizard Breath*

      I would 100% agree. It doesn’t sound like the notes were particularly actionable and Elizabeth is likely to remember her take-homes from that contentious meeting–and it really doesn’t seem like “crude assessments of [Lila’s] personality” are key information for later anyway.

      I’d agree that having the notebook pointedly show up on her desk is likely to make it seem like someone took it deliberately. Quietly shredding the relevant pages seem like the best way to go.

    11. mreasy*

      Leaving it on her desk lets her know she’s been indiscreet and someone knows about it…I think that’s fair given the situation she’s put LW in.

    12. JB*

      Agreed. LW, I would just shred the notes. That’s what you were planning to do anyway – I think the fact of what you found them to be doesn’t change that. Unless you have good reason to believe that Elizabeth genuinely might need these notes back, shred them.

    13. quill*

      This one gets into speculation about whether Elizabeth knows she left the notebook with that anywhere. If she does, it still being in the supply closet is a pretty easy save. If she doesn’t, “oh, I must have left it on my guest chair” is still a pretty good save.

      Ultimately I don’t think OP can win by guessing Elizabeth’s mental state to preempt drama. The only way to preempt drama is to set up your personal plausible deniability scenario and stick to it.

      If you want your involvement to be “I am Jon Snow, I didn’t see it, I know nothing” then put the notebook back where you found it.

      If you want your involvement to be “I know you saw me interact with this but I am really just the lost and found here” then put it on Elizabeth’s desk. If confronted, say something like “I think you dropped this,” or “I found a notebook I didn’t recognize, is it yours?”

      Or you could always ninja it into her inbox when she’s away from her desk.

    14. Manana*

      I think there’s value in all the options:
      1) Giving the notepad back to Elizabeth directly, saying “I saw this had your handwriting and wasn’t sure if you were still using this pad”, in no way indicating that you read what was on it- Let’s her know to be more careful. May make her paranoid about you.
      2) Leaving the pad on her desk anonymously- let’s her know that she has already been careless, someone might know what she wrote, and to watch her step. May make her paranoid about her entire team.
      3) Shredding and saying nothing- gives you secret knowledge about Elizabeth, Bruce, their views of Lila, and their tactics for addressing managerial issues. This knowledge may sour you to this company particularly depending on how Elizabeth operates in the coming weeks. May potentially destroy evidence if Lila is unfairly fired or discriminated against.

      All depends on the message you want to send.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Hmmm… that is an option nobody has suggested – i.e. give the notes to Lila.

        DON’T do that….

      2. Fierce Jindo*

        Oh, the evidence angle is an interesting one. If OP has ANY reason to think discrimination might be involved, that’s important. But otherwise? I’d shred.

    15. Whatevs*

      Yes. Putting it on her desk can become a whole espionage routine especially if there are cameras around. I would shred and move on

    16. Suzy Q*

      I would keep the notes, at home. My opinion is colored by having worked at a toxic place. You never know when such info could come into play.

    17. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, just toss them. I can’t imagine why on earth she would ever put a notepad like that in the supply closet, but I think it suddenly appearing on her desk would result in the kind of wary suspicion people talk about here with regards to anonymous notes. She’ll be forever wondering who found it and she’ll know they obviously read it cause that’s the only way they would know it had her notes and therefore belonged on her desk.

  2. Van Wilder*

    My hot take: shred the page. People lose notes. Elizabeth already lost the note. That’s on her. I wouldn’t let this note continue to exist if she’s going to be so careless with it… and why remind her of her negative assessment if things have evened out with Lila?

    Omg Sweet Valley! Just got that. Well done.

    1. dogmom*

      Yes, I haven’t even read past the second graf bc I had to comment about Sweet Valley! Just had a total flashback.

    2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – Yes, Sweet Valley!

      It seems like shredding the notes is going to be the way to go. I’ll just need to forget that I saw them.

      1. Where the Orchestra?*

        I didn’t catch it at first (it’s only been 30 years since I read those books), but yes seeing SVH was a nice bright spot to the day.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m assuming that you can recognize Elizabeth’s handwriting. But maybe that set of notes was taken in a meeting Elizabeth had with Bruce, which would make it her record of Bruce’s thoughts about Lila. It could certainly explain why there was a contentious first meeting, if Elizabeth had been primed to think poorly of Lila.

        1. Despachito*

          “But maybe that set of notes was taken in a meeting Elizabeth had with Bruce, which would make it her record of Bruce’s thoughts about Lila,”

          This was what I was thinking.

      3. Cat*

        I have to say, I got so distracted in remembering the plot of those books (one came to mind with Lila being dismissive of one of Jessica’s plans and Jessica replying something like “ok well it’s not a trip on the Concorde but…” and someday if I have a daughter she’ll wonder WTH Jess was talking about.

        Also, on topic, I would either shred, or put the notebook back in Elizabeth’s office in a location where she could have arguably overlooked it (on a bookshelf? under some other papers?) so she doesn’t go on a witch hunt.

        1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

          We don’t have a lot of men in our office, and I can’t think of any Todd-esque people who are floating around. Hopefully Todd is off living his best life far away from us! :)

    3. Nicotena*

      Plus I think the “You May Also Like” suggestions are all ones where Jessica is used as the example name haha. I don’t think the algorithm understands our process here at AAM :D

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Funny thing, one talks about a Cynthia and Jessica. Cynthia Daniel played one of the twins in a TV adaptation years ago and I did wonder, but didn’t ask, if that was a reference!

    4. NoviceManagerGuy*

      This is an important point, if things are better now it can only do harm to remind people of how they were. Like, I’m not going to remind my mom of the things we argued about when I was in high school.

  3. TimeTravlR*

    I am on Team Toss It! Just shred it, burn it, throw it away. She presumably doesn’t know where it is and LW potentially being “caught with it” could be more problematic. “I found it!” uh huh (I don’t doubt you, LW, but others might)

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, reminds me of the time I found my boss’s resume and cover letter on the printer. Just get rid of it, say nothing, make sure they can’t figure out you saw it.

      1. Firecat*

        I feel this case is a bit different.

        Unlike a resume the notebook may have other notes Elizabeth needs. It’s also possible Elizabeth didn’t place it in the supply closet to be reused.

        1. Nicotena*

          Meh, I think she probably forgot the incriminating notes were in there and thought the notebook was scrap at that point.

      2. TimeTravlR*

        In the case of my boss’s resume, I would feel totally comfortable taking it and placing it facedown on her desk and saying, “I found this on the printer.” We have a really great relationship though and she would trust me to keep her potential job seeking to myself.

    2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I personally don’t even think she knows that the notes are out there. When Jessica was suddenly terminated and Elizabeth started so shortly thereafter, there was still a lot of cleaning and organizing of Elizabeth’s new office that was happening even after she started working. It’s likely that she used an old notepad of Jessica’s for her notes and then when that notepad was cleaned the pages got missed. It seems that shredding and forgetting is the idea with the most traction, so that is likely what I will have to do.

  4. NYWeasel*

    When my horribly toxic boss got demoted and a new manager assigned, she walked in to the department taking Toxie at face value. It took about 2 months before she realized that Toxie was misrepresenting me but once that happened, she became my biggest cheerleader. Elizabeth might have started feeling negative based on what she might have been told but it’s totally possible she’s changed her view now.

    1. Glorified Data Entry*

      This happened to me too! CEO hired a new director for my department after overseeing it himself for several months. During that time, my relationship with him and another senior person soured significantly (poor communication during the pandemic being a major reason). New director came down hard on me when she started and it took weeks and a few heart-to-hearts to get her to understand my team’s perspective and the reasons for our low morale. Now she’s my biggest cheerleader too!

    2. Samantha*

      I’ve been in that situation! I worked for a bank as a sr. teller years ago. A “mean girl” decided she didn’t like me assigning her tasks and turned a majority of the workforce against me. Months later, mean girl was gone but a few of her friends remained. One of them came up to me and apologized. She said she was told a lot of things about me that turned out not to be true and she was sorry for her behavior leading up to our conversation. I’ll give her credit; it takes a lot for someone to apologize like that!

    3. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I’m so sorry that you went through that, even for a short time. I have seen improvements with Elizabeth, and I’m hoping that things will keep getting better as we all learn each other’s communication styles and personalities. This discovery gave me pause because my anxiety decided to imagine what her page of notes looked like after meeting with me – and my anxiety knows all of my worst flaws and fears better than any boss could.

      I think her first few days were spent playing defense – it’s hard to come into an established company where really your job has only been done by one person before you, and I’m sure she was primed by Bruce with all the reasons why Jessica did not work out in that position. Now I get the feeling that Elizabeth is trying to find a true perspective on the employees and all of the inter-personal dynamics instead of relying on what she was told – and I hope that leads to good things.

      1. Where the Orchestra?*

        Echoing your hope OP, and huge thumbs up for your grace and understanding for Elizabeth and the difficulties she may be facing.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is why I disagree with putting the notes back on her desk. If you just shred them and forget them, she will likely assume they were thrown away, if she even remembers them. I think, since you know the current situation better than we do, your initial instinct to shred was correct.

        I would NOT put the notebook back in the closet with the notes in it.

    4. boo bot*

      Yeah, I wondered if the notes weren’t necessarily even Elizabeth’s impressions of Lila from the conversation, but stuff Bruce had told her beforehand.

  5. DrSalty*

    Just toss it. Am I reading it right that you dig it out of the trash? Don’t put it back on her desk, that’s weirdly passive aggressive. It sounds like she discarded it, you should do that too.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m also a little unclear, but I imagine there is a communal pile of notebooks/notepads for people to grab….and for some reason a partially used one ended up back in that pile.

      (That’s happened before at my work, but usually the old notes would have already been torn out and shredded.)

    2. CTT*

      I’m guessing LW’s office has a system similar to mine – if you find a blank but half-used notebook left behind in a conference room, it goes into a pile in the supply room that people can grab. I always use those instead of a new one because it feels less wasteful (and I get the thrill of using up a notebook way quicker than with a new one (yes I do lead an exciting life!)). Theoretically it should be checked for any notes inside, but that doesn’t always happen.

      1. Heidi*

        I figured that Elizabeth didn’t want anyone to see what she was writing during the meeting, so she left the top page blank and wrote on the second page using the top page as a shield. But afterwards, since there was nothing on the top page, it was mistaken for a completely blank notebook and it got shuffled into the communal office supply closet. Assuming that there isn’t a reason that Elizabeth would need those notes now (it sounds like some time has passed), I think that OP could just shred them. Pretend they were harmless doodles.

        1. chai latte*

          that’s a very good guess as to what happened

          i leave my front pages blank all the time

    3. KayDeeAye*

      No, I don’t think the OP dug it out of the trash. (?!?) She found a slightly used notebook in the supply closet, but when she went to use it, she found it contained some personnel-related TNT. We put our slightly used notebooks back in the supply closet around here, too, although I don’t think anybody’s ever been careless enough to leave explosive notes in one.

    4. Spencer Hastings*

      I interpreted it to mean that there were partially-used notebooks in the supply closet where notebooks would normally be, like on the shelves or whatever. I don’t see that happen where I work (I use up nearly every side of every page of my note pads), but it sounds like the norm where the LW is.

    5. Firecat*

      I don’t think it’s PA to put the notebook on her desk at all. It’s feasible the notebook was left in a conference room or any number of places before getting set in the supply closet.

      Although I also would feel fine going in during business hours with the notebook and saying – I found this in the supply closet and noticed this has some of your notes in it. Do you need it back?

      Just don’t make a big deal of it. I’ve found layoff paperwork and similar that I have non chalantly returned and pret need not to see. Its gone over fine each time.

      1. Yvette*

        But unless it had her name on it, how would anyone know to return it to Elizabeth unless they knew it was hers? Leaving it anonymously one her desk could be interpreted by her as someone saying “I know something I am not supposed to know…”

    6. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I did NOT dig it out of the trash (regardless of what my name here might imply) – our communal supply closet has a section where gently used folders and the remains of old notepads exist so they can be used up and that paper not wasted. I grabbed a few notepads from that section.

      1. DrSalty*

        Ok great. Trash was the wrong word, I meant more like “communal notebook discard pile.”

        1. Yvette*

          But she didn’t “dig it out” which implies that she knew of its existence and went looking for it. She needed pads, they did not have to be a new, and the “gently used communal pile” is there for everyone.

    1. SweetTooth*

      Love to see it!!!! I am way more versed in SVH than Game of Thrones or some of the other references people make with their naming :)

    2. not all karens*

      Yes, I am absolutely here for the SVH references. Just need Enid and Todd to show up as drippy HR reps and we’ll be all set.

      1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

        OP/LW Here – I’m casting myself as the drippy Enid, which is not too far off my actual personality. :) But hey, we need a few Enids around or the work doesn’t get done, right?!

    3. Salsa Verde*

      Yes!! Came here to say, thanks for the Sweet Valley High references! Of course Bruce is the defensive boss!

      1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

        OP/LW Here – I was also a fan of the short-lived Unicorn Club series that followed the members of the Unicorn Club – and Mandy was a prominent character in those books, as well as being a presence in the SVT books.

        1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

          I never read the Unicorn Club series! As an adult, I find myself thinking “wrinkles add character” and picturing tennis shoes dyed with purple Kool-Aid more often than one might think likely.

    4. SV fan*

      Once I caught on to the names I stopped reading to check the comments to see if anyone else picked up on it too. I think this is my favourite name reference!

      1. Littorally*

        Thank you. This whole “never worry what other people think about you!” self-help pabulum is so divorced from reality. There are many, many situations in which other people’s opinions of you are of material importance. Bosses, coworkers whose assistance you need or want, medical professionals, and god help you if you’re ever in court….

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          For real! One of the reasons I left my previous job is because my boss told me on more than one occasion that my grand-boss (a co-owner of the company) didn’t like me. What possible future could I have at a company where the co-owner doesn’t like me? What people think of you ABSOLUTELY matters.

      2. Where the Orchestra?*

        So much this! If they have the power to fire you or get you raises, it helps to know what they think of you. Because if there are a bunch of misconceptions, if you don’t know about them how can you fix them?

      3. WendyRoo*

        If anyone’s livelihood is at stake, it sounds like it’s Lila’s, not the OP. If that’s how you feel, why not share the notes with Lila? It just doesn’t sound like the boss has any issue with OP, I don’t think there’s any reason to be concerned if they already have a good working relationship.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I think it is her business in this case, since it’s her boss and could affect her job. In an ideal world, managers would be straightforward about communicating issues, but that is very often not the case. If this manager dislikes OP, she might wonder if her job is at risk.

    2. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings.*

      You’re right…what they think is none of your business. No one is entitled to anyone’s personal thoughts.

      But what they share – intentionally or not – absolutely can be.

    3. Artemesia*

      That applies at the sorority, but pretty much nowhere else. The teacher’s view of me as a parent can affect my child. The doctor’s view that I am just another hysterical woman when I raise a concern, can mean I die of something diagnosed too late. My boss’s view of me will affect my job security and my pay and promotions.

    4. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I understand where you are coming from in regard to social situations.

      If we are talking about someone who is in an authoritative position, then I think it is an important aspect to think about. I’m not saying that I want to see the notes Elizabeth has written about me – quite the opposite. Seeing what I did caused me to imagine the horrible things she could have written about me (my anxiety knows all my worst flaws and was very glad to help by supplying them for my imaginary list) and I didn’t like that feeling.

      I don’t want my boss to think I’m useless at my job and a drain to be around. This could cause issues for myself and my co-workers because it would change the way she treats me. If my boss does think those things, then I should probably move on to a different job/company (which is not my goal here, I love the company and my job and have been here for close to a third of my life). I feel that her opinion of me is important for navigating a professional relationship, but I am also not entitled to her coming out and telling me what she thinks of me.

      1. Wendyroo*

        Has she ever given you a reason to think that she believes you’re useless or a drain to be around? If that’s the case I can totally understand your worries, but I wouldn’t assume that just because she had a problem with Lila she also has a problem with you.

        1. Observer*

          This is true. But that doesn’t change the simple fact that the opinion of one’s boss IS an employee’s business. Big time.

        2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

          I hope Elizabeth doesn’t think those things about me – I was using that as an example of information that would affect my job and life.

          Thank you for your response, though! I mentioned elsewhere that I think when Elizabeth started she might have felt she needed to play defense a bit (she was coming in to such an established role, she was primed with information from only one source) and now that she is getting the lay of the land she is getting a truer perspective of things. I’m hopeful. :)

  6. Sleepytime Tea*

    I was guilty by association once, like Lila. A good friend of mine was fired (and for what we all knew were BS reasons) and my boss apparently thought I would take it personally and take a stand over it. At one point she confessed to me she thought I’d quit over it. All that to say I feel for Lila in this situation. I wasn’t treated very well for awhile and it took work on my part to be in good graces again.

    I actually agree that the best thing to do would be toss the pages in question and leave it be. Elizabeth could find it weird this notepad just sprung up on her desk again, and while she wouldn’t know who put it there it just seems… odd. Easiest thing to do is toss the notes and, as Alison said, keep an eye on her behaviors to get a feel for who she is. I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Drama stirring bosses tend to expect drama from others. It doesn’t occur bro them that someone else could handle themselves professionally.

      The one to be wary of IMO is Bruce. In order to have filled the position so quickly he did a search behind Jessica’s back. Does he know Elizabeth through his network? If not he likely hired a search firm to find her. I’ve been a part of these kinds of searches before — in my experience companies that do this are usually land mines.

      1. Where the Orchestra?*

        That is my concern as well – what is going thru Bruce’s mind, and what does he think of everybody else. If everyone really was caught by surprise when Jessica was let go and the new employee started just a week later, then how does everybody else get along with Bruce (because hiring a replacement before getting rid the current employee may well be his operating method).

    2. hbc*

      I’ve also seen it where it’s not so much guilt-by-association, but Bruce thinking that Lila sucks and firing Jessica for not coming down on Lila as hard as he thinks is appropriate. For example, if Lila is responsible for scheduling production and everything is late, Bruce might think she’s failing at her job, but Jessica might know that something(s) out of Lila’s control makes it impossible to be on-time. Elizabeth comes in ready to knock production into shape and gradually discovers it’s not so simple.

    3. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I’m sorry that happened to you, that sucks. I realized while reading you comment that I had a similar experience at a retail job (my department manager was fired and the upper level management expected the employees of the department to riot or something, I guess, but we mostly just wanted to keep our jobs) and it colored the way upper level management saw us for a while.

      It seems like shredding and forgetting is going to be the way to go.

  7. Lucious*

    Shred it and pretend it never happened.

    When managerial politics veers into “Game of Thrones” complexity, there are no winners and many losers. Elizabeth may not even be the author of those “notes”! Whatever transpired between the CEO, Jessica’s departure, and Elizabeth’s arrival is the business of those parties- and no one else’s, including the LWs.

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I know the notes were written by Elizabeth because of the handwriting, but as was pointed out below – those notes may have been from a previous conversation with Bruce. The notes were titled “Thoughts About Lila”, so I know I was correct in my assessment of that.

      I agree that what happened between Jessica and Bruce is not my business. I only know anything about it because Bruce himself has told me under the impression of providing transparency.

      I also agree that these notes are not my business – but that does not negate the fact that I saw them and have to decide what I need to mentally do with that information.

      The comments are leaning heavily on the shredding and forgetting side, so that is likely what I am going to do. I think I mostly was considering giving the notes back to Elizabeth so that she was aware the notes ended up in the supply closet for literally anyone to happen upon and that we need to make sure none of the other “cleaned” notepads she might have tossed in there had any sensitive info. I did go through the remaining notepads in the cabinet on my own and found one other note from at least five years ago (one of Jessica’s, loose and stuck between pages) about someone who hasn’t worked for us in a long time. That note I shredded as it is not relevant to the company as it exists in 2021.

      1. Andy*

        If those notes as based on what Bruce said, it is still best for Lila to leave.

        Personally I think there are enough flags in this situation to keep CV polished and be ready to leave.

  8. Totalanon*

    I’m team put the notepad back and not shred the notes. It’s not your job to cover up inflammatory notes, and if Elizabeth ever went looking for these notes and couldn’t find them, that could have its own repercussions (though unlikely it would be traced back to the LW). I’d want to leave as little “finger prints” on this as possible. Putting it back is the easiest way.

    1. mf*

      “It’s not your job to cover up inflammatory notes”

      Agree with this. Sounds like OP wants to minimize drama, which I can sympathize with, but I don’t think they’re morally or ethically obligated to protect Elizabeth from the fallout if these notes were found by someone else.

    2. LizABit*

      What if another employee finds it, though? That seems crueler than just shredding the notes, especially if it’s Lila who finds it.

  9. Michelle Smith*

    I guess you all are better people than me, because I would have given it straight to Lila.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Since things seem to be on a much more even keel now, all that would do is stir up a lot of needless drama. SMDH.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I actually kind of think Lila should know. She probably suspects that her job is at risk, but might not know the severity of it. Lila might appreciate the info so she can look for other options just in case. It’s not OP’s responsibility to do that though, and it could stir up more drama. It really depends on Lila, who only OP knows.

      1. Observer*

        Lila knows perfectly well that Elizabeth came in with some very negative impressions. If the first meeting had been cordial and friendly, the information here would be useful. But it wasn’t. In fact it was SO unfriendly that the OP could hear what was going on from down the hall.

        Why stir the pot?

        1. Where the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – I think the only thing that would come from Lila being given the notes would be a ton of unproductive pot-stirring. I applaud the desire to not stir the pot more, and to tamp down drama.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I don’t know that I’d give it to Lila, but I’d consider documenting the pages, perhaps with photos since they’re date-stamped. If things go really south between Elizabeth and Lila, or the company begins doing something adverse to Lila, those notes are potentially important pieces of information.

      1. chai latte*

        +1

        documenting doesn’t mean you ever HAVE to use it

        but you will have it if it ever becomes relevant

    4. Observer*

      I guess you all are better people than me, because I would have given it straight to Lila.

      Why would you do something so mean? Look, Lila *KNOWS* that she had a rocky start, so there is nothing actionable here. Best case, it’s just going to be hurtful and mortifying. Who does that to their friend?

    5. Tara*

      I’m probably a drama queen, but I would have been leaving them on Lila’s desk after hours, not Elizabeth’s.

        1. Andy*

          Make Lila find new job pronto. Instead of Lila maybe hoping it will get better. Best bet is Lila will be set up to loose by Bruce going forward.

    6. Pants*

      +1
      But instead of giving it to Lila, I’d make a copy of the notes and put them on Elizabeth’s desk. Perhaps with a typed note saying “You left this in a notebook found in the supply closet.” Then I’d take home the original for safekeeping. After taking a photo. And then I’d put my resume out there.

      But I’m a vengeful person.

      1. Observer*

        The OP says that the notes are “crude” and “inaccurate”. What is there that you can use for “vengeance”? And what are you getting revenge for?

        1. Andy*

          If I read it right, the vengeance is in messing with Elizabeth head. She won’t know who has seen that.

          Not saying I like the idea. Probably would backslash against Lila and plus is quite manipulative.

      2. Pumpkin215*

        I kind of don’t hate this idea.

        Look, I know it isn’t the “correct” or even the “right” thing to do. But I’m one of those people that looks out for #1. The only thing I’d suggest is putting a copy on Elizabeth’s AND Lila’s desk. Would that cause problems? Sure would.

        But you can bet if there was a notebook out there with “Thoughts about Pumpkin215” that contained crude and inaccurate information, I’d like to get my hands on it.

        I’m also a vengeful person and Elizabeth is not to be trusted. Maybe the relationship with Lila has evolved since the “note taking incident”. In which case, she should probably apologize for it. Maybe things are very on the surface and not as good as they seem. There is one way to find out.

        Sometimes you got lob that grenade and see where it lands….

        1. Pants*

          I don’t know that I’d put it on Lila’s desk though. It would hurt her feelings. Just Elizabeth’s to mess with her head, so she knows that someone out there saw her contribution to the Burn Book. Maybe she’d then apologise to Lila for being such a Mean Girl.

          I’m mixing references, sorry.

    7. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I don’t want to cause any drama and poor Lila has been through enough. It seems like she and Elizabeth are finally at a good point (Lila’s work-life balance has improved with Elizabeth’s support and Lila seems to feel heard) and this would absolutely ruin all of the work they have both done to get to this point.

      Also, I like Lila. I would not want to hurt her. I’ve worked with her almost as long as I’ve been at the company and I know how much seeing those notes would crush her.

      1. row row row your boat*

        Enid the NotePad Goblin, I have been impressed by your maturity in the comments.

        I don’t believe much good would come from this information being left lying around anywhere, especially since things are on the up and up between two of the relevant parties, but dang, this would have eaten me up inside to come across. You have my empathy.

        In my current role, I came across a steno pad of notes that my boss had written about my predecessor during several coaching conversations before they were let go and I was hired. Not quite the same situation because the notes weren’t vicious and pointed, but I also destroyed the notes and filed the information away in my head that my boss was slightly careless with information that I would normally consider personal.

        I’m sorry you have this information about your boss. I’ve been there. It’s hard.

        1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

          Thank you for this comment – I really appreciate it. I personally would have never thought or written those kind of things about any of my co-workers, no matter how frustrated with them I might get – and I think that’s what stopped me in my tracks.

          My big takeaway at this moment is exactly what you said – Elizabeth is not overly careful with personal and sensitive info and I need to be aware of that.

      2. Wisteria*

        Seeing those notes *could* crush her, or they could contain essential information that she needs to know in order to salvage her reputation with Elizabeth and build a relationship. The only way to find out would be if you have a close relationship with Lila, of the kind where she would share with you how things are going with Elizabeth.

        When I first read the headline, my knee jerk reaction was “tell your coworker, it would be a kindness to let her know that a manager thinks poorly of her.” If Bruce hadn’t been part of the Lila pile on, it would have been appropriate to bring Elizabeth’s incorrect assessments of Lila to his attention, too. I don’t mean that in a pot-stirring way, but in the sense that a manager should know if someone under them has the wrong impression bc the wrong impression will impact how that direct report views and treats the person, and that is especially true when the direct report is themself a manager and the person in question is their direct report.

        I had a manager once tell me he didn’t like interacting with me. Everyone I told about it was horrified that he would say that, but I took it as useful information and asked HR to help mediate so I could find out what was going on bc I wanted to repair that relationship. If he hadn’t told me, I would never have known there was a problem, and the opportunity to repair it would not have been there.

    8. yala*

      I feel like I might’ve hung onto it in case there were future shenanigans, or possibly just given it to HR. It feels relevant that the new manager has such an immediate personal dislike of one of her reports, and could impact the workplace.

      But probably it wouldn’t do anything.

      In terms of the whole “document everything” I just don’t think I would’ve destroyed them.

  10. PegS*

    Yeah, this is one of those very rare times I disagree with the advice. You *could* put it on Elizabeth’s desk, but then you’re sending a message that an anonymous person found and read those notes, and wants Elizabeth to know it.

    If you don’t want to make her worried I’d just shred those notes and put the notebook back in the supply closet.

    1. KK*

      I agree 110%. Especially since things (seemingly at least) have mostly blown over. Alison could be right and she could not care but I wouldn’t roll those dice.

    2. Observer*

      Well, actually, it is worthwhile for Elizabeth to realize that her notes were floating around where they could be seen by a number of people.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes but why should OP be the one to teach her that lesson? Also it seems like Elizabeth might be able to figure out who put it on her desk if OP works later than she does. Explaining why she did so might get really uncomfortable.

        1. Observer*

          If the OP thinks that Elilzabeth is likely to figure out who did this and that she might also hold it against whoever found it, then I agree. Just shred it. Otherwise, it’s better for Elizabeth to know – not just for Elizabeth but for everyone else.

    3. A Person*

      Or maybe shred the notes and use the rest of the pages, because it’s just a pad of paper?

    4. Jessica*

      Exactly. I am always and forever anti-anonymous letter, and leaving the notepad on Elizabeth’s desk is a very anonymous-lettery thing to do. I think there’s some case to be made for
      — Give it to Elizabeth directly (if you want to call her out on her indiscretion)
      — Give it to someone above her (if you want to complain about Elizabeth)
      — Keep or photograph it (if you want to have ammunition to share with Lila if something really unjustified and awful happens to her)
      as well as, of course, Shred it and never speak of it again.

      But whatever you do, I would not do the anonymous desk drop. I’m really surprised that Alison would suggest that. That’s a power move that has the effect of telling Elizabeth “someone here knows your secrets but you don’t know who it might be,” and I think that’s crossing the line into actively evil behavior.

    5. Rav*

      I wouldn’t suggest putting them front and center, daring anyone to look at them. I would suggest looking for a messy section, and putting it on the bottom. So it looks less suspicious.

    1. Pants*

      Maybe Elizabeth hates Lila for being best friends with Jessica, who stole Todd from Elizabeth.

      1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

        OP/LW Here – I was tempted to use the name Todd, but Bruce is a better fit for our CEO. I would have thrown Winston in there as well, but I guess there are not enough men involved in this issue.

        1. Pants*

          OMG, I hope you keep that name forever!! And yes, Bruce is a better name for any CEO, I’d bet.

          I aged out of the series before it was finished but I saw some grumbling about how it ended so I went and read a synopsis. Then I laughed because fans were so angry about it that “Francine Pascal” had to write a new end scene and post it online.

  11. ENFP in Texas*

    Shred it and don’t mention it again. I wouldn’t return the notebook to Elizabeth’s desk, because that’s not where you found it in the first place. That’s opening up a can of worms that should remain sealed.

  12. Teapot Repair Technician*

    Accidentally overhearing the meeting, then accidentally retrieving the discarded notebook, then accidentally reading the first page, then accidentally reading the second page…. What a string of unfortunate accidents!

    I concur with others; shred the notes. As tempting as it is to become involved, recognize that you currently possess the gift of being uninvolved.

  13. Firecat*

    Since you mention “not minding paper dregs” did you perchance get this from a paper waste bin in the supply closet? If yes then you should just return it there and not grab items from the bin anymore. (I have a few colleagues who think each notebook should be front/back 100% full and have pulled some of my notebooks from shred bins before. They are in the shred bin precisely because they contain business sensitive information.)

    If it was on a shelf for use in the supply closet I agree with Alison it should be returned.

    1. An Admin*

      Yikes! Our shred bins are locked with just a slit at the top to slide papers through. I can’t imagine shred bins that you could pull papers back out of!

      1. Firecat*

        So were ours but my coworker who was like this had a key.

        We also had non secure shred bins but it still irked me that they would pull out “good paper”. Maybe I don’t want someone having access to my notes about my performance reviews even if I don’t think it’s Iron Mountain level secret business information?

    2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – Regardless of what my name here implies, I’m not rooting around in the trash or shred bins (ours are locked and HIPAA compliant) for dregs of notepads. I was going to take a nice, shiny new one if one had been available – but through some weird sort of kismet I ended up Mr. Magoo-ing my way into seeing those notes. Part of me wishes that I never saw them and the other part of me is glad that I was the one who found them. Another person who had no context might have been walking around the office showing the notes to everyone and causing more drama for poor Lila, who just wants to do her job and do it well.

      1. Firecat*

        Just go to Elizabeth in person and say – hey I found this notepads for reuse section and noticed it had some of your notes. Do you need it?

        No need to secretly put it back. If you really want to you can shred them yourselves or toss the notebook.

        This sort of stuff happens a lot.

        1. Carol*

          Hard disagree with that–she’d have to admit she read the notes to conclude they were Elizabeth’s, and then Elizabeth could easily suspect her of bad motives. Then Elizabeth is on notice for LW in a way she wasn’t before. LW would officially insert herself into drama that has nothing to do with her.

  14. NYC Taxi*

    Shred the notebook and move on. Watch your own back with the new supervisor and let Lila handle her own problems.

  15. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Putting the notebook on Elizabeth’s desk will introduce mystery, drama, and intrigue into a situation that’s already a little charged. Better to shred the paper and move on.

  16. cubone*

    I liked the “leave it on her desk” advice. I know some people are reading it as too passive aggressive, but I think it’s a decently non dramatic way of communicating to Elizabeth that this notebook was left in a shared space (who knows if she lost it or trashed it and it ended up there through no fault of her own, or if she’s just that cavalier about sensitive paperwork!)

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Amy might well have shared the notes for drama purposes, while someone like Todd or Enid might have been more likely to want to spare Lila’s feelings, so I’m going with one of them.

  17. Mental Lentil*

    FYI, OP did not say she dug this out of the trash. It was in a “communal supply closet” (which to my mind would be an odd place to put a trash can).

    I think Alison advices setting it on her desk because Elizabeth may be wondering what happened to it, or that she thought she had thrown it out but hadn’t actually done so. Yes, you could just shred it (hell, take it and all the other contracts to a country road, throw them in a pile, and set the whole thing on fire), but Elizabeth probably shouldn’t be taking notes of this nature about a report, and if she is, she needs to be aware that she needs to keep that notebook more secure.

  18. Rebecca*

    I would definitely NOT put this back on Elizabeth’s desk! It’s not like she couldn’t put 2 and 2 together and narrow it down to who might have done that after hours, especially if the OP is the only one working late and it appears on her desk between the time Elizabeth left the office and returned the next day. I’m in the get rid of the notes and use the rest of the notepad for scratch paper camp, and say nothing to anyone. If anything, you have valuable information about this manager at least. If she knows what the OP read, things may go sideways for the OP.

    A few years ago, I inherited a new office and desk from a team lead who was fired. No one had cleaned it out. There were stacks of mortgage payment notices from her bank, medical EOB’s, and some notepads in plain view when I started opening drawers. I turned over the bank statements and EOB’s to my manager, I didn’t want to deal with them, and kept the notepads for scratch paper. She had been promoted to team lead and had promptly started what we would have called a slam book in high school. Some of those people were still working in the office. I kept that to myself, have never told anyone what I read, and realized my company promotes people without regard to management ability, but I sort of knew that beforehand.

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – If you mean that I should leave the notes in that notepad, I don’t agree with that. My first thought upon discovering the notes (after the shock had worn off) was that it was a good thing I was the person who found them. I previously did HR-esque work and am at the management level without any direct reports, so I knew that I would need to be discreet no matter what I decided to do. Someone else seeing those notes without any context might have been walking around the office trying to figure out who wrote them – causing much more drama once people realized what it was.

      If you mean shredding and forgetting the notes and putting the very generic Staples brand notepad back in the closet, I don’t disagree, but I would likely keep the notepad. I still need to jot down my notes on something. It seems like shredding and forgetting has a lot of traction here in the comments and so I may end up doing that.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, I agree with you completely – do NOT put the untouched notepad back. Either shred the notes first or put it on Elizabeth’s desk.

  19. EvilQueenRegina*

    I’m on Team Shred. The risk of putting the notes back in the supply cupboard is that they might then be found by Lila, or someone who would show them to her / circulate them more widely. Leaving them on Elizabeth’s desk opens up the drama of her realising someone else read that – as above said, she might tie it to OP, or might wrongly suspect someone else. If she worries about what might have happened to the notes, well, she can consider it a lesson to dispose of such notes confidentially in future and not create a situation where they could fall into the wrong hands.

  20. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

    Is it possible that Elizabeth took those notes from a prior meeting with Bruce and simply took his assessments on the pad into this meeting? Likely.
    However, they came to be; shred them.
    Like Alison says, just file in your head for future reference and keep an eye out.
    Since you weren’t in a contentious meeting after hours, I wouldn’t worry too much.

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – That is something I did not consider, and you could very well be right.

      Yes, it seems that shredding and forgetting is the most popular option here, with the added note of basically keeping my head on an swivel. Thankfully, I can do that!

  21. MK*

    This, and its other side “I don’t care what other people think of me”. Possibly some people don’t care what everyone thinks, but almost everyone cares about what some people think.

  22. CatPerson*

    If you normally work late and others don’t, then if the notes show up in the morning she’ll know it was you who left them. She will also know that you read them since you ascertained that they were hers. I would not return the notes. She lost them, they don’t exist for you yet.

  23. Database Developer Dude*

    Honestly, I’d shred the notes and never speak of it again. This is a minefield you do not want to walk into.

  24. Chris too*

    Wow! I ran this past my SO just to see if we were on the same page ( and we are.) Firstly I’d tend to agree with Alison’s kind way of looking at the situation. Most people are decent enough. Hopefully this has all blown over now that Elizabeth knows Lila. However, I wouldn’t risk it. I’d bring my own stamp and envelope from home, using no company resources, and mail the thing to myself, and leave it sealed in the envelope once I got it. I wouldn’t say anything to anybody, and I don’t think I would judge Elizabeth harshly for it as Alison is probably right. Hopefully everything would be fine, but if Lila got fired in some spectacularly unfair way next month, and found it worthwhile to get a lawyer, she might find this helpful. Can you tell I’ve worked in a real Game of Thrones environment? People were sidling up to me in the washroom and asking me to pass on to others that they’d like to be subpoenaed as a witness in court, that sort of level…

    1. Firecat*

      Why on earth would you mail this to yourself instead of:

      Throwing it away
      Shredding it
      Or I dunno simply going to Elizabeth and say – hey I found this and it has some notes of yours in it. Do you want it back?

      There is really no need for all this weird secrecy and tiptoeing around the fact you found a sensitive document. If it was discovered I had mailed work items to myself for no apparent business reason that would get some serious side eye.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I like this idea a lot.

      The idea of shredding such inflammatory notes seems unwise to me. OP thinks things have improved with Elizabeth and Lila, but if they are wrong or if something blows up spectacularly in the future, they could be important.

      1. Observer*

        Why?

        Based on the description of the notes and the situation, I cannot think of any scenario where these notes could actually be useful to anyone.

        It’s far more unwise to keep inflammatory notes in the hope that they might prove to be a smoking gun. There’s no way that it going to happen, even if Lila gets fired with no notice for no better reason than she was friends with Jessica or even just because Elizabeth or Brad are jerks.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Because if Elizabeth treats Lila poorly, it could help Lila with a wrongful termination claim or unemployment.

    3. Observer*

      I’d bring my own stamp and envelope from home, using no company resources, and mail the thing to myself, and leave it sealed in the envelope once I got it. I wouldn’t say anything to anybody, **snip** but if Lila got fired in some spectacularly unfair way next month, and found it worthwhile to get a lawyer, she might find this helpful.

      This is all very dramatic. But what on earth do you think a lawyer would be able to do with notes that are “crude” and “inaccurate” in places?

  25. That One Person*

    Recently was rehired to my old job and ran across a similar thing in my ex-supervisor’s desk when clearing it out wherein she’d kept notes on my old coworker and myself. Luckily nothing derogatory and for mine I recalled some of those talks we had so I didn’t feel hurt (commended myself for how little I had since I tend to be more critical of myself), but ultimately both of our notes ended up in the trash. To be fair I don’t exactly fear any repercussions since I know she’s not being invited back, but was interesting for a spot of insight.

    That said I think these notes should be treated similarly. If shredding is an option I’d definitely go with that just to avoid any potential hazards of accidental discovery since it sounds like things are getting better. Placing the notebook on her desk strikes me as a good method to make Elizabeth feel threatened and make her suspicious of everyone. It’s unfortunate the way she was introduced to Lila and I’m with many others that she may have been lead to the reaction she had – not saying it was right, but sometimes if people are given the expectation that an employee is problematic then that’s the first perception they go in with – but there’s no need to stoke the fires further. Unless you like drama, but I think that’d be unfair to Lila the most.

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – No desire for drama and poor Lila has been through enough – she doesn’t need to hear anything about this. It’s fortunate that I was the person who found the notes (previously did HR type work, on a management level but without direct reports) as I’m not sure what could have happened if someone else found them without any context. It likely would have kicked up a lot of drama. Thank you for sharing your story – it makes me feel less like this is a weird cosmic thing that could only ever happen to accident-prone me. It seems like shredding and forgetting is the biggest contender here, which I think is what I’m going to have to do.

  26. staceyizme*

    Not a very tight ship, there, by all indications from your narrative, OP. Rudeness, carelessness and an excess of ego all seem in play with leadership. (I mean, who writes down what they dislike about a new colleague and makes it personal, crude and accessible?) It seems to me that the further away you stay from this mess, the better. I don’t know if it’s worth staying a whole new job’s worth of distance away, but it couldn’t hurt to polish up your LinkedIn profile, network well and quietly do a little looking.

  27. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — I won’t get into the question of what to do with the inflammatory notes, since that’s been thoroughly covered upstream. But I would like to comment a bit on building a working relationship with your new manager, Elizabeth.

    You imply that you work “after usual business hours.” Do you get regular check-ins with Elizabeth? Does she have an opportunity to see and evaluate your work? If these things aren’t happening, you need to build some channels so that she knows what you’re doing and how well — otherwise, she may rely on other people’s assessment of you.

    And frankly, in your position, I might not be job-hunting right now, but I’d certainly be cleaning up my resume and references just in case. I agree with Alison that you need to concentrate now on observing how Elizabeth manages, but if fast firings are typical of your organization, it wouldn’t hurt to start developing a Plan B.

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I work after usual business hours (part of my duties don’t start until most people are done for the day/out of our system) but my usual schedule does overlap with normal business hours. And my schedule is flexible, meaning I can come in early if needed to attend a meeting or work on a time-sensitive project or help put out a metaphorical fire.

      I’ve been trying to keep my communication channel with Elizabeth open, and I’ve been working one some things she has specifically assigned me/asked me to handle. I’m hopeful that I’ll win her over with my work ethic. She is focusing right now on evaluating lots of aspects of the business and getting her the data for analysis in my job – which means I’ve been a busy little worker bee. :)

      1. Sara without an H*

        OK, that sounds reassuring. Maybe Bruce just got her off to a bad start? But it sounds like you’re handling it well. Best of luck to you!

      2. Wisteria*

        Honestly, I would be working to build an image of myself to avoid anything Elizabeth said about Lila. You have been blessed with tactical information. You know Elizabeth’s trigger points. If you won’t use that information to benefit Lila, use it to benefit yourself (to be clear, since that could be misinterpreted, the benefit is knowing how not to be a person Elizabeth hates, not how to set her off).

  28. S*

    I’d pull out and shred the Lila notes and then leave the notebook with the high-level meeting notes on Elizabeth’s desk. She’s most likely to assume that she removed the Lila notes herself prior to recycling the notebook. Then, if she asks where the notebook came from, you can say that you found it in the supply closet, saw meeting notes and stuck it on her desk. There’s no reason for her to think you saw the Lila notes. Much less drama-producing and prevents the loss of notes that might be business-sensitive. (Presumably the Lila notes aren’t–I mean, she can probably remember her judgmental opinions just fine, and if not, all the better.)

  29. Too Much Drama*

    I hope you like this job if you plan on staying there. I would not stay in this environment. Reading through this post and taking it completely at face value, it reads like a bunch of drama that no one needs in their life. Don’t know about you, OP, but I don’t have enough time or patience to deal with that stuff. There are lots of jobs where you can work with normal, professional, well-adjusted people.

  30. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

    OP/LW Here – I wanted to say that (I think) Lila was being penalized for her friendship with Jessica, mostly. From what I was seeing/hearing/reading, Jessica had taken over some duties that Bruce and Elizabeth felt should be resting squarely on Lila’s shoulders … but completely disregarding that we used to have two or three people in the same position as Lila, and Lila was now the one and only person doing the work of two or three. It made sense that some of the tasks that could be done at a slightly higher level were taken off her plate to allow Lila to get her day-to-day work completed.

    When Lila started at our company (not too long – maybe a year or so – after I started) she was in an entry-level position. She slowly worked her way up into the management position that she holds – and she is great at her job. It requires juggling a lot of tasks and a lot of inter-personal relationships and she excels at those things. Lila’s biggest issue seems to be overly emotionally investing in her employees and the providers/clients that we service, and that is something she has been working on – especially since her initial meeting with Elizabeth.

    Everything has evened out, it seems. I’m hopeful that going forward things will continue to get better. Also, it seems like the comments are leaning heavily toward “shredding and forgetting”, so that is something I am considering. Thanks!

    1. Liara*

      I’m very impressed you only took “quick glances” at the pages. I admit, I would definitely have read them. (Not shared them! But I know I couldn’t possibly have resisted the temptation.)

  31. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    Are there cameras in your office? If so I would not leave the notebook anonymously as there is a way for her to find out who it was and this could potentially place a target on your back. Call me paranoid but I have worked with bosses like you described and this is exactly what happens.

  32. Ollie*

    Rip the page out and take it home in case there are any further issues with Elizabeth and Lila. Then the next time no one is in the office go look through the rest of the used notebooks.

  33. e271828*

    Does no one read Harriet the Spy any more?

    Elizabeth was extremely careless with sensitive material. Shred the notes, put the notebook back in circulation one way or another, and let her sweat it if she realizes she can’t find her slams.

    Does a good manager calls someone on the carpet immediately, even if the hiring manager told them bad things about that person? You should be reserved and professional around Elizabeth, going forward.

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – Maybe I should have used Harriet the Spy as my name source, since multiple people have pointed to HtS’s core lesson here. I suppose the big difference is that Harriet was writing her blunt and honest thoughts about her peers, not her direct reports that she just met.

      Thankfully I do my best to be reserved and professional in my office life (trying to work on seeming more approachable – which I feel like I am, but I guess I put off a very serious vibe) so I’m hopeful.

  34. Happy*

    I’m really surprised by the suggestion to leave the notebook on Elizabeth’s desk, since that sounds to me 100% equivalent to leaving an anonymous note saying, “Someone else found this notebook, read your critical assessment of Lila, and figured out that it was yours. You should be more careful.”

    1. MassMatt*

      I was surprised by that advice as well, for exactly that reason.

      I found the letter hard to follow, both because of the many people and personalities mentioned and the… complicated?… relationships among them. I also don’t understand why LW wants to get involved in all this drama. Someone was let go. Sometimes this is unfair. Sometimes this is sudden. Sometimes there are issues with the performance of person that was let go you are not aware of. Sometimes there are personality clashes. Sometimes people write notes that are not flattering, or unfair. Yes, it was dumb for the manager to leave the notes in a supply cupboard for anyone to see.

      But why is any of this LW’s business? The letter reads like the breathless narration of a soap opera. Unless you have real evidence that the firing was illegal, I would shred the notes and never mention them. If what you have learned about the managers involved is truly terrible, look for another job. Don’t get involved in this sort of drama unless you just love drama, in which case… be prepared for drama.

      1. R*

        I don’t think you understood the letter. The notes were not about the individual that was terminated.

        1. MassMatt*

          No, I did understand understand that. IMO it’s all the more reason the LW should stay out of it. The LW went into great detail about someone’s firing and the circumstances around it, how sudden it was, etc. If you know the termination was illegal, then act. If it was simply handled poorly, rethink whether you want to work there. If NOTA, the notes about the 3rd party are neither here nor there.

          1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

            OP/LW Here – Just another quick clarification. The firing of Jessica was not my concern, the aggressive behavior towards her close friend who is still an employee wasn’t really my concern, until I found the written notes.

            I’ve never said anything about Jessica’s firing being illegal. I’m not sure where those lines got crossed, but it’s not the truth.

            The firing was sudden. Put yourself in Lila’s shoes (or actually, the shoes of all the employees at my office) – on Tuesday the second in command of your company is let go, with a quick e-mail out on Wednesday that states their replacement will be starting the following Monday. Everyone was terrified that if the second in command was fired so abruptly – all of our jobs were in jeopardy (I didn’t mention in my original letter the context that my company did layoffs and some partial layoffs during the pandemic, so any change like that had people panicked).

            Lila comes in for her meeting, ready to try and impress her new immediate supervisor. She is instantly berated and not given a chance to explain herself. When she left that initial meeting she was in tears.

            Now, things have moved on. Elizabeth seems to have evened out and gained her own perspective and opinions on things. I’m not as worried that I’ll be fired with no notice. Then I found that paper with those cruel and malicious comments about Lila on it, left out in a communal area where anyone could have found them.

            I’m trying to stay out of it. This is above my pay grade – but there is no HR to go to and my immediate supervisors are Elizabeth and Bruce. I can’t talk to anyone at my office about it because I don’t want to start any drama. I simply wanted some guidance to make sure I wasn’t making the entirely wrong choice.

            I guess I need to stop engaging with this comment thread. I’ve decided the path I’m going to take and it will remove me from the situation.

            Thanks.

      2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

        OP/LW Here – I’m sorry that the original letter was rambly/hard to follow, but I wanted to clear something up – the notes I found in my Mr. Magoo-style way were about Lila who is still employed by my company.

        I have the background about Jessica being fired simply to set up why I felt Lila was possibly being pre-judged and to explain why we now were dealing with Elizabeth, the brand new manager.

        Those notes were made upon the first ever meeting that Lila had with her brand new direct supervisor, and they were vicious and cruel. If it was a meeting to fire someone, I would expect the notes to not be overly polite, but at least professional in their assessment.

        Also, I DON’T want drama. I want to continue on with my work the same as I was before – but now I have information about my new boss that I did not ask for and the knowledge that she may have made similar assessments of me on our first meeting.

        I am hopeful that things will work well in the future. I strive to keep my head down and show my value through work ethic and level head. I apologize for the lack of soap opera, but unfortunately my life is boring – and I prefer it that way.

    2. Elemele*

      Exactly. It is sending a message “I am watching you”. This isn’t a telenovela, it might create unnecessary drama for all involved. While the management doesn’t look good from the description, we don’t know what truly had happened behind the scenes, and OP absolutely isn’t in a place to tech anybody a lesson.

  35. Carol*

    Mmmm…I started out on team “anonymously leave on desk,” but now I’m on team “shred and forget,” since everything else seems likely to stir up drama.

    Elizabeth deserves to know she left really sensitive stuff laying around, but I wouldn’t want her trying to guess/being suspicious of who saw the notes after that, based on how poorly she handled relationships in the beginning.

    1. yala*

      Ok, for some reason, the first sentence blurred for me, and I was thinking you were suggesting that OP just anonymously leave…some… of the notes on the desk.

      Like ransomers sending in bits.

      That would be a terrible idea, but it would be kinda funny

  36. StudentA*

    Have not had a chance to read all the comments, but LW, this Elizabeth person has horrible judgment! Unless this was just a fluke! But from the way she laid into someone she barely knew, took sides, then wrote a freakin’ diary entry, labelled it, and stuck it in a communal place, she’s a doozy! Oh, and OF COURSE they’re “ok” now, because she was so clueless in the first place when she disparaged her to begin with!

    OP, do not trust this Elizabeth!

  37. JustKnope*

    Leaving the notebook on Elizabeth’s desk feels similar to an anonymous note in that it will probably cause Elizabeth to panic a bit and not know who may have seen those notes! I would highly recommend the shred it route that the other commenters are also recommending, especially since you comment that the relationship between them seems to have calmed down a bit.

  38. stradbaldwingirl*

    I just want to know what Todd thinks about this situation.

    Seriously, though, OP, I wish you all the best with this. I also vote for shredding.

  39. Essess*

    Personally, if I had a friend in the HR department I would take the notebook to them. I would play dumb and simply state that I’d found the notebook in the community supply room, but it appears to have inflammatory comments about a coworker that must have been written by someone in the office and you wanted to make sure HR was aware of it in case that coworker was being bullied or harassed by someone in the office.

    1. Poodle Mom*

      This seems like a good idea. I scowled through all the “shred it!” and “leave it on her desk anonymously!” comments, but couldn’t put my finger on why. This solution would preserve the notes in case they’re needed, let Elizabeth know that her sloppily handled shit-writing was seen, and also protect the OP from retaliation (assuming HR didn’t tell Elizabeth who found the notes).

    2. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – I think you’ve touched on the core issue here.

      This decision feels like it should fall above my pay grade – but my direct bosses are Elizabeth and then Bruce. We don’t have formal HR (though I’ve had the discussion with Bruce that we need even a part time person for these kind of reasons) and the person who handles payroll is not equipped for these kind of discussions/decisions.

      The thought I have been having is in regards to Amy, Bruce’s Executive Assistant. She was overseeing most of the cleaning efforts in Jessica’s old/Elizabeth’s new office and she would probably be the best person to bring this to. Amy is not gossipy, she is very practical and a lot of her job requires an enormous deal of discretion.

      I will likely bring this to her attention (without disclosing the content of the notes) and see what she thinks I should do. Amy should be able to tell me if there are any other potentially compromised notebooks that were “cleaned” and chucked into a cabinet (I checked the ones currently in the cabinet and only found one other very old note that was trapped between pages), and she might be my way to deal with this more indirectly. Amy has likely heard whatever discussions those notes were in reference to and she might feel able to address this with Elizabeth in a way that will be more productive.

      Thank you for this – I think that will be my best first step.

  40. Shuriken2021*

    Honestly, I’m a bit shocked by all the “shred them” comments.

    Shredding your boss’ work notes without their knowledge and thus permission is such an ethical violation, I think y’all are getting a bit too much into the emotional drama of this story.

    It’s not the OP’s decision to destroy evidence (the notes could conceivably be useful to Lila/ be considered a risk for Elizabeth’s own evaluation as an employee), destroy official work documents like an employee’s evaluation by boss Elizabeth (even if objectively unfair), or destroy evidence/work documents so other coworkers don’t find them.
    Not to mention the potential legal troubles OP could get into if Elizabeth very much did not forget about these notes. OP would have to lie in some capacity if she were ever asked about anything about this, which she very well could be, because she has access to that drawer.

    Honestly, an overreach like that should be considered a possible fireable offence under any circumstances. You don’t mess with boss’ paperwork.

  41. Shuriken2021*

    Apologies for possible double post. First time commenter, long time reader. Am unfamiliar with the system. Got a spam notice after not entering the correct year, then a duplicate comment info after correcting that. Am a bit confused, tbh.

  42. Shuriken2021*

    Honestly, I’m a bit shocked by all the “shred them” comments.

    Shredding your boss’ work notes without their knowledge and thus permission is such an ethical violation, I think y’all are getting a bit too much into the emotional drama of this story.

    It’s not the OP’s decision to destroy evidence (the notes could conceivably be useful to Lila/ be considered a risk for Elizabeth’s own evaluation as an employee), destroy official work documents like an employee’s evaluation by boss Elizabeth (even if objectively unfair), or destroy evidence/work documents so other coworkers don’t find them.
    Not to mention the potential legal troubles OP could get into if Elizabeth very much did not forget about these notes. OP would have to lie in some capacity if she were ever asked about anything about this, which she very well could be, because she has access to that drawer.

    TBH, an overreach like that should be considered a possible fireable offence under any circumstances. You don’t mess with boss’ paperwork.

  43. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    I think this is strange advice. What possible good could come out of preserving these notes? I don’t see anything. What bad thing could possibly happen if the notes are destroyed and forgotten? Again, I don’t see anything. If Elizabeth still feels the same way about Lila, she doesn’t need notes to remind her. If she has changed her opinions about Lila, then she doesn’t need to be reminded about how she used to feel, and Lila doesn’t need to be reminded (or maybe learn for the first time) either. How many people have typed some thought into twitter 10+ years ago that they would never think today after learning a few things, but now they can’t escape from it because it is preserved. They are treated like “you thought this once, so you must still think that way”. I say destroy the notes and forget about them.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Anybody, but especially a manager, needs to take better care of such notes and not be careless/stupid enough to chuck them where anyone could find them. Not everyone is as discreet as OP, so this could be a serious blunder on Elizabeth’s part.

      Of course, it’s possible Elizabeth wanted them to be found…

    1. Enid the NotePad Goblin*

      OP/LW Here – Yes, Sweet Valley! (Mandy is a character that featured in the SVT and The Unicorn Club books, but she’s one of my favorites so I wanted to include her)

      1. hayling*

        Wow, bringing me back, I also read SVT the Unicorn Club books, but not much SVH. I recognized the names immediately!

  44. Stephanie*

    OP, I couldn’t help but notice the fake names that you chose for your co-workers. You must be a fan of Sweet Valley High! I read all those books as a kid and was tickled to see the character names show up in your post.
    Oh and good luck with “Elizabeth”; hope everything works out ok!

  45. Beany*

    My inclination is also to shred, but I didn’t see that OP has access to Elizabeth’s office after hours, in which case “leave it on her desk” isn’t really an option anyway.

  46. Lost n' Found*

    Leave the notebook on her desk. It was misplaced and someone found it and brought it back. Don’t need to say you read it.

  47. Raida*

    Honestly, she’s responsible for making those notes and losing them so I’d leave the notebook on her desk with a note on it
    “Found this in the stationary cupboard.
    If you’re going to make drivel like these notes about your personal opinion of people,
    be professional about cleaning up after yourself.
    This would have been very damaging if Lila had been the one to find it or someone had passed it along to her, or HR.
    I have given it back to you and told nobody. You’re welcome.”

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