my employee gave me an “it’s her or me” ultimatum

A reader writes:

I own and run a small store. Some of it is online and I have a remote employee to handle administration, IT, and our books, and I recently hired three people for our warehouse when I used to just use a shipping company.

“Miranda” has been my remote employee on the other side of the state, about three hours away. She’s been with me forever (almost four years) and I’ve never noticed how bad a job she does until my new employee came on board. “Laura” is my warehouse manager and she says that every day she has to fix Miranda’s mistakes and that if Miranda cared about the company she’d move to be closer to the warehouse and office. I’ve had such a difficult year with Covid personally and Laura has been a life-saving employee and friend, even helping me out with errands and lending me a vehicle when my husband’s car broke down. I couldn’t have made it through this year without Laura. She recommended the other two hires for the warehouse and they’re a great team since they all know each other and get along.

Miranda and Laura don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, and Miranda seems to be really negative compared to Laura. She doesn’t want to try new things and is creating limits that I don’t think we need and saying no to new procedures and processes. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know if Miranda is right or not and I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t or about our software and the business and limitations. I haven’t used our software in years and I don’t know that much about our product sourcing and things that Laura wants to change. I feel like they keep putting me in the middle and that’s really unprofessional. The other staff don’t need to talk to Miranda a lot, but they also say she’s difficult and hard to work with. It’s been a really tense few months at work and nobody’s getting along with Miranda. It feels like every day Miranda’s done something new that upsets the in-house team and she’s not even there. Laura had a good point the other day that you’d have to be abysmal at your job to cause problems when you’re not there in person.

A few months ago, I promoted Laura and gave her Miranda’s executive title, which was a demotion for Miranda. Afterwards, Miranda stopped working on certain projects and stopped helping Laura with certain aspects of the business Laura doesn’t know much about. Miranda also stopped responding to my calls and questions, and sometimes I’m waiting all evening for a response that I don’t get until the next morning. She didn’t respond to one of my questions and made me wait the whole weekend for an answer. Miranda asked me for a review of her job description and I feel like she should know what she has to do, I don’t have an updated job description for her. She and I spoke about her coming into the office three times a week for morale and she says she doesn’t want the commute and that nothing she does needs to be in the office.

I told her Miranda that the change in her title wasn’t personal, that Laura did such a great job helping me manage my life in the last year that it just seemed natural for her to be in charge. Miranda said that she felt my relationship with Laura was favoritism, which it isn’t. When I discussed this with Laura, she was so visibly upset. It was hard to see. When she calmed down, she said I need to fire Miranda because she doesn’t feel safe working with her.

I’m so confused I don’t know what to think. I left a lot of toxic jobs because I wanted my own business and camaraderie. The energy is so bad now. I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly. Should I fire this employee?

I wrote back and asked why Laura says she feels unsafe working with Miranda and also whether Miranda is supposed to work nights and weekends, given the mention of waiting for answers from her during that time:

Laura said she felt unsafe because Miranda was so limiting and negative and that if she was going to accuse me of favoritism, that she’s obviously deflecting us away from her poor performance. She said Miranda won’t show her how to do anything in the software and I don’t know how to use it, and she feels like Miranda is trying to sabotage her and the company.

Miranda’s role was always more 9-5 for things like bookkeeping, bill paying, banking, and admin, which are normal admin hours but she was always reachable before no matter what.

So … it sounds like your perspective is really skewed against Miranda and toward Laura.

Laura may have legitimate complaints about Miranda for all I know, but none of them are in this letter.

What is in this letter are a number of ways that you and Laura are off-base and being unfair to Miranda. In no particular order:

1. Laura’s claim that if Miranda cared about the company, she’d move to be closer to the office is laughable. Miranda worked remotely for years — apparently to your satisfaction — and loads of people work remotely without it having any bearing on their commitment to their jobs. Moreover, how much Miranda “cares” about the company isn’t relevant; what’s relevant is her work and whether it’s good or bad. Lots of people do a great job without caring much about their companies at a personal level, and that’s fine. Laura seems like she’s trying to stir up trouble with this one.

2. You wrote that Laura has been a “life-saving employee and friend” to you during a difficult year and helped you out in your personal life. That has nothing to do with the work she does for your company, and factoring it into your assessment of her performance is wrong and unfair. You’re setting up a situation where other employees will feel that their willingness to do you personal favors will affect how you assess and reward them.

3. Miranda might be wrong in saying no to new procedures and processes — but you acknowledge that you don’t know if she’s right or what your software’s limitations are. You can’t hold this against her until you figure that out. Right now you could be wrongly penalizing her for accurately reporting on what your software can and cannot do.

4. It’s not unprofessional for Laura and Miranda to put you in the middle when they can’t resolve conflicts. You’re their boss; if they can’t resolve something between the two of them, they have to bring it to you.

In fact, you need to more actively manage your staff. With a staff this small, you need to be involved enough that you can tell who’s right and who’s wrong; right now you’re guessing based on who you like more, and that isn’t an okay way to do it. Similarly, if Miranda really was doing a bad job this whole time, you should have been involved enough to pick up on that — it shouldn’t only have come to light when Laura came on board. Frankly, I think it’s very likely that Miranda hasn’t been doing a bad job, but either way that’s something you need to know! You can’t be so hands-off that you’re stuck relying on other people to tell you.

5. Laura did not have a good point when she said that an employee would have to be abysmal at their job to cause problems when they’re not there in person. Anyone, regardless of location, can cause problems at their job. This sounds like Laura is just stirring the pot and looking for ways to criticize Miranda — and she’s getting traction with you even though she’s wrong.

6. In light of all of the above, look at these two statements next to each other and see if you see anything suspicious:
“Laura recommended the other two hires for the warehouse … they all know each other and get along.”
“The other staff don’t need to talk to Miranda a lot, but they also say she’s difficult and hard to work with.”

It’s very likely that the other staff are criticizing Miranda because they’re friends with Laura and she’s campaigning to push Miranda out.

7. Since Miranda’s job is 9-5, she’s not doing something wrong by “making you wait” for an answer in the evening or over a weekend. It’s very normal to have to wait until the next business day to get a reply from an employee, even if they were more responsive in their off-hours in the past. And given that you demoted Miranda, I’d assume she’s deliberately and rightly choosing to set some boundaries on her time because of that.

8. Let’s talk about that demotion. Here’s how that looks from Miranda’s perspective: She’s been with you forever, understood that she was doing a good job up until now, and then Laura showed up, got in your good graces by doing you personal favors outside of work, started trash-talking Miranda, and suddenly you’ve demoted Miranda and given her job to Laura. Miranda responded very reasonably by asking to talk about her job description since her title was taken away and given to Laura … and you don’t feel you need to bother because she should “just know.”

No wonder Miranda is declining to help Laura with things Laura doesn’t know much about! She probably feels that if Laura deserves her title, those are things she should be able to do without Miranda’s help.

9. You told Miranda that she was demoted because “Laura did such a great job helping me manage my life in the last year” — !!! You are explicitly saying that you demoted Miranda because someone else did personal favors for you. That’s pretty terrible. It’s the literal definition of unfair favoritism and she’s right to call it that.

10. Then there’s Laura’s claim that she feels “unsafe” working with Miranda, a claim that she doesn’t seem to have backed up by anything real. Miranda isn’t making anyone unsafe by anything you’ve described here. In fact, it’s the opposite — Laura is making Miranda unsafe, by actively campaigning for her to lose her job.

This is a mess, and you’re seeing it all through a very dirty lens.

I will tell you this with certainty: Laura is not trustworthy. The staff she brought with her may or may not be poisoned by her, but she definitely is poison.

I can’t unravel the whole thing in the space I have here, but you said you want someone to tell you what to do, so here goes: if Laura has given you an “it’s me or Miranda” ultimatum, take her up on it — and pick Miranda.

(I’m pretty sure you won’t want to do that because Laura has been a friend to you. That’s a sign that your personal feelings are blinding you and you’re not positioned to manage any of these people effectively, unfortunately.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 1,177 comments… read them below }

  1. MechE*

    “I own and run a small store.”
    “I feel like they keep putting me in the middle and that’s really unprofessional”

    You are the owner and operator. You are supposed to be in the middle.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes. You’re also supposed to understand your business functions and have an objective view of the contributions your employees are making. You have no idea what Miranda does? If her positions are correct? Where you source your products? Miranda has been singlehandedly running your business for years and you are doing a pretty awful job recognizing that. Laura snuck in and took over, and you let her. You didn’t know if Miranad was doing a good job so I’m pretty sure you also don’t know if Laura is doing a good job – you just like her. And she’s taking you for a ride.

        1. R*

          Well, you know, owners are really hardworking which is why they get paid much more than employees usually.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          I would guess that OP does a lot of the day to day customer service/front end work for the store. This is extrapolating, but if OP was previously in retail I can definitely see them getting frustrated with that environment and thinking “how hard can it be to run a store?”…. and just not understanding the scale of the back end stuff.

        3. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          I assume OP is “working” 4 hour work weeks. Maybe less. This is irrespective of the amount of time OP is spending in the office vibing and whatever. At the rate they’re going, they’ll be back to working 40 hours for someone else soon enough.

        4. Your local password resetter*

          She’s presumably running the actual store. Miranda does the online stuff and a lot of the admin, and Laura and co do the warehouse, but OP didnt mention anyone to actually run the front end.
          So we can probably assume thats what she does all day.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            So…the position that’s easiest to hire for and requires the least internal business knowledge.

            1. Rose*

              As someone who has worked in supply chain and front end retail roles, this is ridiculous. Without knowing more about the business there’s no way to know if this is true. Running the actual store is a lot more than a minimum wage cashier role.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                I have run stores, you’re right, I’m not saying it’s an unskilled job. But this is the Letter Writer’s business and *running a business* is a whole lot more than the front end sales/merchandising. You worked in supply chain so you knew where your stuff got sourced, right? OP doesn’t know that. OP runs sales but doesn’t know the software that tracks how the business is doing. The OP is avoiding actually running the business by doing the part they think is fun.

              2. Worldwalker*

                I think what’s telling is that the OP doesn’t actually know what their essential software does, nor how to use it. Nor, apparently, much else about what goes on in the back end (suppliers?!?!?) but the software part is the key.

                The OP was the person who paid for the software. Even if Miranda advised it, the OP still wrote the check. (or clicked the “buy now”) How do you own something that essential for your business and *n0t know how to use it*? What was the OP planning to do if Miranda got run over by a bus? Or quit to go work for a less toxic boss?

                The OP doesn’t have to be an expert with whatver it is, but they should darn well know enough about it to fill in if Miranda isn’t there to do it. This is not Walmart — this is a place with a grand total of four employees, plus the owner. And used to get by with one. It’s incumbent upon the owner to know every bit of that business, inside and out, because they *can’t* just transfer someone from the Peoria store; the only emergency backup system they have is *them*.

                1. Redd*

                  I’m curious whether Miranda has been able to take vacations in the past, given that she seems to be the only one with answers and it’s apparently a big deal if she isn’t reachable on nights and weekends.

                2. Ryan*

                  Certainly what strikes me is that OP doesn’t seem to have the capacity to independently evaluate performance. Like if Laura is picking out serious and substantive issues (which are what?) then how come these weren’t noticed before when there was no one to double check? Was the business idea so overwhelmingly successful at idiot proofed that it was able to grow enough to quadruple the employee count?

      1. Guin*

        The OP is “managing” her company into the ground. How can she not know what her employee is doing? This whole situation is mind-boggling. I hope Miranda leaves and gets a good job with a company that is managed by professionals.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I’m a knitter and have seen soooo many in the knitting world open a store because they could be around yarn all day. They tend to last aout 3 years until the seed money runs out. It’s amazing how many people go into business without a plan.

          1. R*

            “You mean I have to sell the yarn?? And the buy more yarn and sell THAT yarn??!! And I have to do that EVERY DAY??!! For as long as the business is open??!!??”

            1. Lexie*

              “And I have to pay taxes? And I have to collect and remit sales tax to the state? I need worker’s comp insurance for my employees?”

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                “I have to pay my employees?? And minimum wage employees often leave for greener pastures, leaving me with high turnover!?!? But they get to be around yarn all day! Isn’t that payment enough??”

            2. Katrinka*

              And good yarn, even at wholesale prices, is THAT expensive? But animal farming isn’t really WORK, All the farmers have to do is feed and play with the sheep (or alpacas or rabbits or whatever)!

            3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              Not to mention keeping up with current trends and having a good idea of what will sell in the future. Plus, the best yarn stores I’ve seen have offered classes in a variety of yarn-related crafts (knitting, crocheting, weaving, sometimes even hand-spinning) and have a space where yarn-crafters can come in with their projects, sit and chat, get advice and help and connect with other crafters. That means running classes yourself and/or hiring teachers to do it (which means ensuring that their IRS and SS paperwork is in order), providing that space for the crafters to gather, etc. Enjoying a hobby is NOT the same as running a business!

              1. Nic*

                From what I’ve seen of yarn shops, it’s often running classes and clubs that makes the difference as to whether it’s a workable business or not.

          2. original bob*

            Yep. I’ve seen the same thing happen with archery, gun and bike stores. People who like the hobby get wind of how much cash goes the store per month and think ” I HAVE TO GET IN ON THAT!!” not realizing how much of that cash flow goes to distributors.

            1. Mongrel*

              I remember an interview with a person who worked with the UK Lottery company, specifically a counselor for the “You’re a Multi-Millionaire, now what?” winners.
              Their first piece of advice was always “Never buy a Pub or Restaurant, even if you know what you’re doing they’re money pits”. Most people seem to think that it’s just having a pint and socializing or because they had a successful dinner party for 8 that it “can’t be that hard”

              1. Jasper*

                You could be a silent partner with someone who knows what they’re doing, as long as you’re aware that most likely you will never see that money again. But that might be worth it to be having that pint and socializing to you!

          3. Woah*

            you have the knitting shops in my area down to a T. One pops up once or twice a decade, lasts 1-3 years, then closes with much gnashing of teeth. Pre pandemic, one had an intense and overly complicated scheduling system for their “knitting area” because they didnt want it to “get too crowded.” I never saw anyone in it…just complete lack of business sense.

            1. Ermintrude*

              All of this is why I don’t run stalls at open markets and fêtes, or anything online already, let alone a retail store. I’ve found out I do not have resources or finances enough, enthusiasm will not make that materialise.

        2. Old Med Tech*

          That is what I hope for Miranda also. Leave this sinking ship of a business and find a better job. Team Miranda.

      2. Yvette*

        “”And she’s taking you for a ride.” Laura is literally taking her for a ride “…lending me a vehicle when my husband’s car broke down.”

        I see someone who is blatantly currying favor.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes OP you should not have *let* Laura do you any favors aside from maybe giving you one ride when you’re really in a jam. It’s super inappropriate and even though Laura is using it to get favoritism, the dynamics for her are still bad if she ever did want to scale back or say no to something. You and she need some professional boundaries.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Lol, and one always end up wondering- how did she end up around there at such a perfect time? Sugar in the engine perhaps? #crazyconspiracytheories #donttakemeseriously

        3. Salymander*

          Yep. I think Captain Awkward calls it Favor Sharking. The Favor Sharker will offer to do a favor for someone who has something the Shark wants. Then, the Shark leverages the target’s gratitude so that the target feels like they need to give the Shark what they want. Very manipulative. A lot of abusers and other assorted predatory creeps do this with disastrous results for the people they target. I think this is also an example of Forced Teaming. It is hard to turn someone down after they create a bond with you by doing you favors.

          This situation seems like it will end badly for the OP in the long run. Laura is being all charming and helpful as a *manipulation tactic*.

      3. Happy Pirate*

        I also start to wonder if the OP needed three warehouse staff or did Laura just convince her to hire her friends?

        1. Jasper*

          I have serious doubts whether OP needed even one warehouse staff. I wonder if one of the things Miranda was warning about was that the new private warehouse was costing her double what the old services company used to charge.

      4. HD*

        Absolutely. You cannot be this passive and run a business. It’s going to get taken over from under you. You’ll drive away good employees and be left with snakes.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          I was shocked at “It’s so unprofessional for them to ask me to solve their differences.”

          …N-no it isn’t. That’s literally what a manager does? These are professional/workplace differences. This isn’t “Miranda likes decaf and Laura likes regular, so how do I resolve it?” or “Sometimes Miranda leaves a dirty mug in the sink and only washes it at the end of the day and Laura likes them done right away.”

      5. Laura*

        It’s so strange to me that neither LW or Laura know how to use the software that Miranda is using, but they have both decided she is lying/being resistant to change when she tells them it has limitations.

        I don’t think Miranda is being negative, I think she’s trying to tell the truth and LW and Laura just don’t want to hear it.

      6. Amaranth*

        Yeah, I was just gesturing speechlessly at the screen when I read the owner doesn’t know where their own business sources anything. Miranda has apparently been keeping the business running all this time, so the real question is, does it make money? Because that’s in large part due to Miranda. Laura feels like doing favors means she should be in charge. That kind of entitlement – and some past warehouse experiences – does make me wonder if that entitlement also leads Laura and her pals helping themselves to product when they are having their mean girls gossip sessions at the warehouse.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Mmm, helping themselves to product. Spending a lot of time gossiping instead of getting the work done. I remember a Queen Bees group at ex job. That sort of thing happened a lot.

          On top of that, if OP lets Laura think she’s in charge and can bully someone out/whisper in the boss’s ear to get someone out, that sets a reeeeeaaally ugly precedence.

          Laura tells her friends “Be nice to me, or I can get you fired with a click of my fingers!” because she can. That’s probably not a road they want to go down.

      7. TardyTardis*

        I was almost a Miranda, till Bigger Boss stepped in and smacked Laura around, much to the consternation of the OP at my ExJob. My Laura thought she was my new supervisor, even though I had to take over much of her work because she wasn’t up to speed yet. But my OP thought the sun rose and set of her Laura; she was so nice and organized birthday parties and was so very sociable! Again, I had to take over some of Laura’s work because she was so busy pointing out my mistakes and everyone else’s (but her errors somehow didn’t matter).

        My Laura didn’t stay there all that long once Bigger Boss stepped in. It was after that when my Op ended with fewer and fewer people to supervise, till she had only one.

    2. fish*

      This really jumped out to me: “I wanted my own business and camaraderie. The energy is so bad now.” These aren’t bad things to want, but it seems like the LW is mainly there for fun and good vibes, and is treating this like something that should mainly fulfill their emotional and social needs, not a business.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This sounds so much like “I love food so I opened a restaurant! I got a space, hired a chef and a GM and that’s all I need to do!”
        If it was that easy to run a business, we would all quit our jobs and do it.

                1. Katrinka*

                  I have heard stories of worse, but none of them had the sheer cojones to appear on TV behaving like that and thinking somehow that they were great business people and managers.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Yeah, because so many of the would-be restaurateurs in Kitchen Nightmares said and did *exactly* that. And crashed and burned. (or fed Gordon Ramsay a bad shrimp)

        1. NerdyKris*

          There’s so many Bar Rescue episodes that start off with “I wanted a place to drink with my friends so I bought a bar!” and now they aren’t making money because all the drinks are comped and no actual customers are coming in.

          1. GreenDoor*

            NerdyKris, you forgot the part about how “I hired my best friend to be the manager even though he has no management experience and he brought on his fiance to be the head bartender even though she can’t tell a mimosa from a Manhattan.” Same thing here. OP let the new employee pick the other new employees.

          2. quill*

            Kitchen nightmares / bar rescue / any similar show drinking game.

            Owner has no prior experience hiring, managing, working in some essential aspect of the job.
            Owner doesn’t have any idea what is going on with their budget and / or product flow because they don’t do back of house stuff.
            Owner relies on employees to be available whenever, and also hires via their personal connections.
            Drama ensues because the position of “owner’s best bud” and “most competent professional” are treated equally when advising the owner on business decisions.

            Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m awash in tea from playing along with this letter, let me know if they fail health inspection. :)

            1. Katrinka*

              Also see: Tabitha Takes Over (or whatever the exact title is). She is pretty much the Gordon Ramsey of the salon world.

              1. Former Employee*

                I can’t believe I forgot that show, which I haven’t seen in ages. I loved it!

                The first time I saw Tabitha, I thought that the show was aptly named.

        2. Clisby*

          +100.

          I love books, so obviously I should open a bookstore. I know nothing at all about running any retail establishment.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I know a hell of a lot about running a retail establishment, which is why my “I should quit teaching and just open a bookstore/coffeeshop for all my weirdos” idea is going to stay an idea, and I’m never going to actually do it.

            1. Shenandoah*

              Absolutely same. There are some many ideas that I’ve had that have all come back to “oh, that’s actually retail and I hated every second of retail.”

              1. bluephone*

                LOL, same. I love fountain pens and stationery items and used to hear, regularly, that I should open my own stationery store.
                1) the ship for sustainable brick-and-mortar fountain pen/stationery stores sailed a long time ago, sank, and will likely never be brought up to the surface
                2) There is so much more to retail than just liking to write with pretty pens, I have no desire to attend business school (or a head for it if I did) or all the other things that go into a successful retail operation.
                3) sometimes the fastest/best way to kill your love for a hobby is to try and make a career out of it

                1. Mel2*

                  I enjoy making lots of crafts to give out as gifts to friends and family. Every so often someone will suggest I sell what I make, which I respond with a hearty “Definitely not!” I get enjoyment making things for others, but if I had to put a pricetag on my time I’d have to charging a tiny amount for my labor in order for the items to be priced to sell. Plus I do not want the pressure and expectations that come with selling crafts.

                2. FrenchCusser*

                  Ditto. I knit very well – but people have no idea how much time it takes to, say, knit a sweater.

                  Someone once offered me $50 for a double knitted scarf that I spent about 160 hours working on.

                  You do the math.

                  Now, if I could DESIGN knitwear, that might be a doable income stream.

                3. Crafter*

                  Sometimes people see something I’m making and ask if they can buy one. If I have the time to do it, I’ll tell them I just want them to make a donation to a local org I work with and they can decide what’s fair.

                4. Splendid Colors*

                  +1000

                  I could probably pay off my credit cards if I had a dollar for every time someone told me to “open my own store” to sell the gift items I make. They have NO IDEA how expensive it is to rent retail space anywhere that could get foot traffic–I have no illusions about being able to generate enough in sales when I’m not part of a craft fair funneling my target market to my doorstep to pay for rent, let alone other costs.

                  And retail is extremely exhausting for me–masking is so much effort that I can’t spare enough bandwidth to, say, watch for a “friend” of the buyer stuffing merch into their pockets. (This has happened at multiple events.)

                  “You can work while you watch the store!” Sure, for all the assembly and back-office stuff… but it’s literally illegal in my city to have a laser cutter in a retail shop (zoning issues) so I’d have to either run the laser all night somewhere else or pay someone to run the shop.

                5. Aerin*

                  I have an Etsy shop primarily so I can keep my crafting output from piling up and taking over my house, and because I occasionally get interesting custom requests. It’s not much of a side hustle, considering I stopped getting funds disbursed for 18 months (the credit card I had on file to pay my fees expired so they were being paid out of the balance) and I didn’t even *notice* until I started poking randomly in my shop settings.

                6. KHRose*

                  I love baking and I had a knack for making pretty cakes, to the point where I was offered a decorating job in a bakery (which I turned down because that’s a massive amount of time on my feet and my back doesn’t like it). For a few years baking cakes was my side hustle, but dealing with some Instagram moms and one absolute bridezilla made me so upset that I sat down, figured out how much I was making per hour for my side hustle, and realized immediately that the stress wasn’t fucking worth it.

                  I didn’t bake for six months after and didn’t make a cake for nearly a year because having the side hustle left such a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t imagine how shitty it would be to be that burnt out on a hobby but have to keep doing it because that’s not just your source of income, that’s your business and you’re going to lose a lot of money if you just walk away.

                7. Not So NewReader*

                  If business school is anything like the undergrad biz courses, don’t bother with it. It will not show you anything you can use in running a small business. Think: Back yard garden vs. corporate farm. It’s two very different things.

                8. Reluctant Manager*

                  Knitting for someone is like sleeping with someone. If you feel like it, you’ll do it for free. If you don’t feel like it, they can’t afford it.

                9. Sopranohannah*

                  My usual “can I buy a sweater from you?” Conversation goes something like this:

                  “Sure, I can make you one for $3500.”
                  “Why so high?”
                  “Because that’s what I’d make at my real job for the same amount of time.”

                  You can tell a lot of people have never considered how much effort goes into hand made items.

                10. MissBaudelaire*

                  Reminds me of all the Youtubers I see who are Youtubing as a hobby, take off, it’s a job and suddenly “Oh wow, this is a job. And to stay relevant and make my money, I have to do this every single day. And it takes all day. And there’s editing and everything else.” and they burn out.

                  All that stuff is fun to do, do it for fun! I once heard “The best way to be happy is to find what you love to do and trick someone into paying you to do it.” and that’s just not going to work for most people.

            2. knitcrazybooknut*

              People used to look at my book collection and say I should open a bookstore. The reason I have these books is because I like owning them. I also know that as soon as you turn an interest into a business, it becomes transactional and you learn about the business side of your interest. Your interest doesn’t get deeper and more indulged; it gets sidelined.

              1. Robin Ellacott*

                You’d be like Aziraphale in Good Omens, who has a bookstore and actively discourages anyone from buying any books because he wants to hoard them all.

                I find the idea quite relatable.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Adding your interest gets diluted and then it finally vanishes.

                One problem with taking an interest into business is that you find out what that arena REALLY is about.

            3. Worldwalker*

              Yep. I love books. I have also run a store. I know if I were to open a bookstore, within a year I would never want to look at a book again. I would hate books, and ate my life.

            4. pandop*

              This is why Mum and I love ‘The Hotel Inspector’ – my parents ran a Guest House while I was growing up, and there’s a reason why I have a nice normal, salaried job …

              1. wittyrepartee*

                I have a friend whose parents own a restaurant. She won’t even date anyone in the restaurant business.

          2. mulberry*

            I was a student library worker in college and the number of people we lost every year who wanted to work in a library because “I like reading” was truly astounding. Like, the job is not sitting around reading for a 4-hour shift.

            1. becca*

              I run the circulation desk at an academic library and don’t hire people if their answer to “Why do you want to work in a library?” is “I love books! And libraries are so quiet!” You can say those things, but unless you follow it up with something about “And I would like to help people find the books that they’re looking for” (or anything about customer service), I’m not going to hire you because I’m pretty sure you don’t know what the job is.

        3. Medusa*

          Yeah, I’m guessing that Miranda is the one who has kept the business successful (I’m assuming, otherwise they would’ve shut down) for the past four years and now she’s being punished for it because the owner wanted a new best friend.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            I found it especially concerning that the OP doesn’t even seem to know what Miranda does; if she doesn’t have a good handle on that, how can she evaluate her work? How can she tell if Miranda is or is not doing a good job if she has such a poor grasp of what her job actually entails?

        4. Lauren*

          Miranda should just open her own business, since OPs will quickly die without her there. Let’s see how that friend is when she realizes the business isn’t profitable anymore and they are all out of a job or OP needs to delay payroll. I legit want Miranda to quit and let this dumpster fire be consumed ASAP.

      2. Lynca*

        I’m very concerned that OP’s sole reason to trust Laura is that she “managed my life for me so it seems natural she should be in charge.” That seems like a cry for help to me. OP are you okay because you should not be letting an employee (any employee) run your life.

        I get that life is hard. I’ve had things go on in my life that absolutely had me curled up on the floor crying and wishing for someone to fix everything. But this is not a normal employer/employee relationship. You state you left a lot of toxic jobs and you wanted this to be better. What is going on is toxic to this business and needs to be addressed.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I mean, running a business is not for people who want other people to tell them what to do and how to run their lives? It’s for people who want to be the ones running things and telling other people what their role is in contributing to that. At some point, when your business has scaled up enough, then you can have people who tell you what to do about certain things — but in the initial, early days of your business, you have to know enough yourself that you can shape what your employees do. Unless you’re just the capital-provider, I guess; but then if your accountant knows everything and you know nothing, that seems like it’s setting yourself up to get taken advantage of if they so choose.

          1. Properlike*

            THIS. I was scrolling through simply to get to this point.

            Not everyone is take-charge or cut out for telling others what to do, or for strategizing, or for delegating. (“Delegating” as in having the macro view of your company and being able to empower other competent people to do their part of the tasks of keeping said company up and running.) That’s okay! She needs a Life Coach on the outside, not in her warehouse telling the owner how to run her own business.

            Such a complete mess all around.

        2. Salsa Verde*

          Yes, are you OK is a good question for the OP to think about. This letter really does sound like a cry for help, in fact, OP says: I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly.

          Perhaps owning your own business is not a good fit for you? Not in a derogatory way, I don’t think it’s for me either – I do not want that much responsibility and it sounds like you don’t either. Maybe you should think about getting out of business for yourself? Or selling the business to someone else and just working as an employee in the part you do like? Or appoint someone manager and just be a silent owner?

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Oh, same. I loved working in independent specialty bookstores when they were a thing (RIP, alas!). But there is not enough money in this world or the next, for me to take over running the entire business. No way, nope, never in a million years. Some people are just not cut out for entrepreneurship, and I am definitely one of them.

            1. KHRose*

              I think this is why a lot of people get pulled into MLMs. They give the illusion of being a “business owner” (or bossbabe or whatever you want to call it) but they have already established the brand and the supply line so a lot of the guess work is gone. You “own a business” AND have someone telling you what to do to run it and a supply line in place.

              Too bad they’re scams, but I can see the appeal of having the title without the actual responsibility.

              1. anonymous 5*

                I must admit, I wondered for a moment when reading the letter whether this is actually just an MLM.

            2. SwiftSunrise*

              HARD SAME. I currently work in an indie bookstore, and I enjoy it, but uh … running it? NOPE. Which is a problem, because my boss is in his 80s, and there’s not really anyone to take over after him.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Got to admit this is where my mind first went too. I mean, there are people who literally kept me alive last year but I don’t work with them and if I did I certainly wouldn’t give them payrises/promotions because of it.

          It’s human to want to thank someone for going above and beyond for you in a crisis. It’s good adulting to know what kind of appreciation is acceptable, and it’s also good professionalism to know where the limits are at work.

          It can be a long slog to learn those limits and even longer to put them into practice- took me decades and I’m still working on it! – but OP: take a step back, separate the personal from the professional.

        4. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes and OP you left a toxic situation only to create one. You have the power in this situation, so the toxicity is coming from you and you are responsible to stop it.

          1. Effective Immediately*

            Definitely made me pause and wonder what–and who–exactly was toxic about those past jobs, and what that actually means.

        5. FYI*

          It’s like a Lifetime movie. “I invited this person into my world, and they managed everything, and now I feel groggy all the time and can’t find my husband.”

        6. Littorally*

          Yeah, the more I think about it, the more it bothers me. I know we’re all dumping on the OP here for bad management, but I wonder if there’s some level of love-bombing or similar going on from Laura here.

          1. ElephantNoises*

            I also wonder how much of a problrm is Laura vs the OP. Many people feel absolutely indebted to their jobs and bosses. The business doesnt seem like it has good boundaries. Is it equally possiblr that OP may have put non work related problrms to her new employee who then felt obligated to step up and do what her boss needed?

            It doesnt make the treatment of Miranda any better, but these all sound like problrms that stemmed from initial poor boundaries and work expectations. Laura could have been just trying to survive and play with the rules OP has inadvertently set.

            1. ElephantNoises*

              Laura sounds pretty awful for sure. But all we have is OP’s view, and I don’t trust that she is a reliable narrator. Laura is likely a part of the problem, but OP has caused numerous problems by her lack of management.

        7. Not So NewReader*

          Laura reminds me of an invasive weed. She takes over everything. Then she brings in her friends knowing she will have more control (pull/cred/power) than you do, OP.

          Have you had your books audited by an outside professional? If no, then it might be time.

      3. onco fonco*

        That jumped out at me, too. LW, you don’t seem to me like you want to run a business. You don’t know what’s going on in your business, and when people bring you problems you don’t want to deal with it. It seems like your idea was to be your own boss because it would be more fun, and… that’s the extent of your plan? If anything in adult life actually works like that, please point me at it because I definitely haven’t encountered it so far.

        Can you put yourself in Miranda’s shoes just for a minute? How would you feel if a former boss of yours did to you what you and Laura are doing to Miranda?

        1. FrenchCusser*

          Especially since it seems that Miranda’s the one who’s kept the place afloat for the past 4 years.

          I’d be literally jumping up and down and protesting (and looking for another job) is I were Miranda.

          1. Worldwalker*

            If Miranda is smart, she’s reading this right now, during a break from reading all of Alison’s advice on how to get a new — and better — job.

            1. Good Vibes Steve*

              I highly suspect Miranda has been dusting her CV for a while now and has a foot out of the door. This situation will solve itself for OP, and then they’ll find out the hard way just how much Miranda was doing.

          2. Splendid Colors*

            I identify so much with Miranda. I can easily see myself as the person who Got Stuff Done and wasn’t afraid to point out what our software couldn’t do–but didn’t have the political savvy to keep from getting pushed out by a brown-nosing weasel who ganged up on me with her clique. I’m glad Alison sees that Laura is the problem.

            1. onco fonco*

              It worries me so much that LW is so focused on ‘camaraderie’ and that’s the whole reason she likes Laura and her little gang – because they get on well together (of course they do, they were all friends before) and so when they’re at work, it LOOKS like what LW pictured when she first thought of owning her own business. And Miranda keeps saying unfun things like no we can’t do that, and no that’s not how this works, and what do you mean you’re demoting me, and OK so what’s my new job supposed to look like – and she cannot win, because LW has no comprehension of what performance looks like in any of these roles. They just like it when people make them feel good. To the extent that they thought it would be reasonable for Miranda to drive 18 hours every week to spend 3 days in the office purely for ‘morale’. Whose morale? Not Miranda’s, that’s for sure. It’s to stop the loudest complaints from the most popular kids, so that LW can get back to feeling nice and comfortable.

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                You’re right. It is a bit like LW is saying “Miranda is really harshing my vibe, so it’s cool to make her do all the work in the background with none of the credit, right?”

              2. Effective Immediately*

                These are the kinds of bosses I find it most difficult to work for. I’ve been in the position of having a boss whose assessment of my work was solely predicated on how good I made him feel about himself, and it’s just grotesque to me. No matter how objectively successful I was at my job, it didn’t matter because the currency at the organization was baseless flattery.

                I think OP needs to re-read the story about the Emperor and his Clothes, when reflecting on their own behavior and Laura’s.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My friend runs his own business. He’s been doing it for decades. He’s the sole owner and he hires occasional (goes with the seasons) employees/contractors to do specialized work for him. There is very little in his business that he cannot do.

      4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Many people want their own business and almost everyone wants a group of friends. The trouble is that the OP has conflated the two; they want their employees to be their friends. That’s a recipe for infighting, backbiting and sabotage – which is exactly what’s happening. OP, you cannot be your employees’ BFF; you can and should be their BOSS! Right now it sounds as if you’re letting your company devolve into middle-school mean-kid behavior.
        Oh, and it also looks as if Laura is leading you around by the nose; she may or may not be plotting a takeover of your business, but she’s already convinced you that Miranda (about whose job you know so little that you can’t evaluate her work -WTH?!) is poison and has installed her friends in your company. Please, OP – wake up and smell the coffee (as Ann Landers used to write) before your company is down the drain and your “friend” Laura has departed for greener pastures!

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, this jumped out at me: “I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know if Miranda is right or not and I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t or about our software and the business and limitations. I haven’t used our software in years and I don’t know that much about our product sourcing and things that Laura wants to change.”

          This is a GIANT problem, and I don’t understand how you think you can run a business without getting a grip on it.

          1. quill*

            Yeah. OP doesn’t need to know everything about their employees jobs but they NEED to know enough about it to make decisions! Before taking any action on anything Laura says you should know more than enough to know your own mind.

      5. BRR*

        The next sentence heavily ties into this as well. “I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly.” That strongly doesn’t align with being a business owner.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Exactly this. Owning a business comes with a *ton* of responsibility and stress (as OP has learned). I have friends who are business owners, and I admire them greatly, but I do not want to do what they do! The only reason to take on that burden is if you really, really care about being in charge of your own work.

          If you are okay with letting others tell you what to do, you are much better off working for someone else. If your past jobs have been toxic, the solution is to learn how to spot toxic work environments before you take the job–this very website is full of good guidance on how to do that.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And you still are not truly in charge of your own work.
            The government has a bunch of rules.
            The tax folks have a bunch of rules.
            Paying customers have their say but sometimes the customers who walk out and never buy anything can have even MORE say.
            Vendors have rules.
            Services such as electricians, plumber and trash removers all come with rules.

            In the end the business owner can actually feel like they are working for all these people. It’s easy to feel like there are a million bosses running your own business.

          2. MM*

            Or, I mean….I don’t want to be mean here. But if OP has found that all her past workplaces are toxic, and now this is happening–that is, a toxic situation has emerged in her business–then maybe the problem is OP, and was never the jobs or the bosses. I would like to advise OP to really consider that possibility in reevaluating why they wanted to own a business, how they’re going about it, and how they got here, but it seems like probably too much to ask right now.

      6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        This, to me, is the worst of all of this mess. OP, if you think there is a lack of camaraderie, consider your actions:
        • You demoted an employee, not for poor performance, but to reward someone else. They were punished and did nothing wrong. That’s a nasty thing to do.
        • When the employee asks for guidance on her job, you refuse to answer and tell her she should know. That’s callous.
        • You pay the demoted employee to work 9-5 and then complain that she is not working nights and weekend. That’s manipulative.
        • You reward one employee for doing personal favors for you. That’s favoritism.

        OP, how can you expect camaraderie if you are doing so much to prevent it?

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          And I forgot the suggestion that Miranda come in to the store three days a week FOR NO GOOD REASON. Which requires a six-hour commute each day. That’s just cruel.

          Sorry to pile on, OP, but as a small business owner myself, I look at what you are doing and shake my head. If I acted like this, my partners would team up and fire me in a millisecond.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          And why should Miranda “just know” the exact job description of her newly-demoted position, when you don’t even know the details of what she does?

          Do not expect a 9 – 5 employee to respond to you at all outside of those exact hours. You have no right to any work, including an answered question, from her outside of 9 – 5 M – F.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            If Miranda had written in “Dear Alison, I was just demoted so the owner could reward a newer employee who does her personal favors. Yet they still expect me to be on-call evenings and weekends via email, show up in person when my position has always been remote and I live 6 hours away…”

            Alison would’ve told her to set boundaries to respond only 9-5 AND LOOK FOR A NEW JOB.

            1. BeckyinDuluth*

              I’m personally wondering if Miranda DID write the letter. And is going to show it to their manager.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            (Oh and if she is hourly? You owe her pay for any time she did respond to you outside her normal hours.)

        3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          And if Miranda actually DOES work on weekends but isn’t paid for her work, wouldn’t that be illegal? Or would it matter if she were exempt vs. non-exempt?

        4. Knope Knope Knope*

          Yeah! I mean every single thing in this letter is terrible but for some reason the “she should know her job description” really jumped out at me. Like you’re her boss. You changed her jd. You don’t even know what it is. And somehow Miranda not just knowing either is a bad sign for HER? WTF, she thought she knew her JD for 4 years and just got her demoted. I can’t wait to see this letter on the worst boss nominations this year. (You means OP, btw).

        5. MissBaudelaire*

          Yeah, I’m really disgusting at “Miranda is making me wait for an answer!” Um, you demoted her. Why shouldn’t she put up boundaries? Obviously being available to OP all the time wasn’t benefitting her. So she stopped doing it.

          Miranda isn’t going to light herself on fire to keep OP warm, and she shouldn’t be asked to.

      7. Not Your Sweetheart*

        And ended the letter with “I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly.” You shouldn’t run your own business if you don’t want to make decisions on your own. The fact that she has no understanding of the current software, or those recommend by Laura is concerning.

      8. Amaranth*

        Thats even more interesting considering she had one employee on the other side of the state for four years.

      9. Ellie*

        That line jumped out at me too, and begs the question – if the energy is so bad now, who is making it bad? It’s not Miranda, who’s not even in the office. It must be Laura – is she trash talking Miranda? Is she pushing OP to fire her? If that’s the case then firing Miranda is not going to solve anything, and will probably just bring its own set of problems when there’s no-one around who can answer these kinds of questions.

        OP – if you want to save your business, you need to meet with Miranda one-on-one and apologize to her for taking her job title away. If you don’t have a job description for her, you should craft one (possibly with her sitting next to you, if you really don’t know everything that she does) and show her that you appreciate what she does. Then you should sit down with Laura and have a conversation about being able to work with different personalities, and how working remotely should not interfere with getting the job done. Then see how she reacts. If she seems to be making a concerted effort, then it might all be good. If she doubles down, then you’ll probably have to let her go, and then watch her friends to see if they’re more loyal to her, or to you.

        Either way, its your business OP, and if its a small one, then you likely have the power to reshape it as you chose. Have a think about who you really need working there, and whether things were better before Laura came on board.

        1. Liz T*

          I’m guessing Laura’s staff find her “difficult” because she wants them to actually do their jobs?

        2. Chidi-Janet & The Tarantula Squids*

          Not only holding it together, but for years she has been instrumental in growing the business enough support upsvaling operations and bringing on more staff.
          I wouldn’t be surprised if Miranda is actively job searching so she can get out before she’s pushed or the business falls apart.

          1. Chidi-Janet & The Tarantula Squids*

            *growing the business enough to support upscaling operations

            Forking phone keyboard.

          2. No Longer Looking*

            Indeed. It sounds like rather than demoting Miranda, OP should have been looking into making her a partner.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              If I had the cash flow, I’d hire Miranda to be my Chief Operating Officer. Because that’s what her job title should be, based on OP’s description of her role.

              1. qvaken*

                I think it has to be a publicly-listed company with a Board of Directors for there to be Chief Officers of any sort – is that right? She would just become a business partner or a joint director in the company (after negotiations with OP), I would have thought.

                Though to be honest, I don’t think OP is savvy enough, nor Miranda silly enough, to entertain this idea.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      I agree with this. This is your company. It is your responsibility to know what is happening, especially at the current size of things. How can you possibly make good business decisions without knowing any of this information? Maybe you don’t need to know all the details, but you should be way more aware than you apparently are.

      Do you even keep track of the finances? Maybe I’m paranoid, and I am admittedly speculating here, but if you got rid of Miranda and Laura started managing the finances…would you know if something was wrong? It just seems like you’re really vulnerable to someone taking advantage of you, and this whole situation makes me really uneasy.

      1. Collarbone High*

        “Laura recommended all the warehouse staff” also raised my eyebrows. It’s possible that’s totally legit, but “all the people with access to inventory are friends” plus “owner has no insight into day-to-day operations” is a recipe for theft.

        1. Purlesque*

          Yes. And Laura wants to know even more of how Miranda runs things. If things go south with Laura, then she and her friends are in a good position to start up their own business competing with LW. I’m not saying that this is her conscious plan, but it could be or ot could just shake out that way.

          Also, all those personal favors sound suspiciously like “love bombing”, and combined with Laura’s behavior toward Miranda, things are likely to go badly between Laura and LW eventually. I have known some ‘Laura’s in the past.

          1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

            A competing business is the least of OP’s worries. A competing business with initial stock stolen from OP’s warehouse, maybe.

            1. IndustriousLabRat*

              This jumped out at me too- I wondered if the “mistakes” that Laura is accusing Miranda of making are simply Laura trying to gaslight LW into not seeing/not digging into irregularities that Miranda has flagged.

              1. quill*

                I did wonder if the “mistakes” that suddenly arose since laura got there were Laura covering up for not doing part of her job (checking in packages?) Laura blaming covid shipping difficulties on Miranda (possible) or you know, blatant theft.

          2. Night Vale Seems Good By Comparison*

            Yes! It might be a stretch, but this situation reminds me of the parasites who prey on senior citizens, especially those with cognitive issues. They pretend to befriend them, convince them their families can’t be trusted, and then abscond with all their assets. While OP is (probably) not such a senior citizen, her complete ignorance about her own business leaves her very vulnerable to being exploited in the same way. She doesn’t even know enough to judge who is telling the truth!!

            I have friends who own small businesses, and unless OP is wealthy enough to regularly infuse cash in the business, there is NO WAY it would have survived for FOUR years, let alone grown, if Miranda were as incompetent as Laura is stating.

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yes…and Laura is trying to push out the finance person who would most likely catch that.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            THIS.

            I’ve seen this before, a new person working to remove the one other person who could read numbers. The new person succeeded, and two years later was arrested for embezzlement. About two years of it…

            1. Windchime*

              Yep I have a friend (who reads this blog) and that happened to her. She was the new employee and was confused about some weird financial things, and finally the accountant in charge insisted on my friend being fired for not being able to catch on to their convoluted financial system. Fast forward a couple of years and the accountant is arrested for embezzlement.

            2. Knope Knope Knope*

              Yeah. OP should be on high alert for this. They’ve made it so clear in this letter they don’t really know the inner workings of their own business I’m sure a potential con artist or thief would pick up on it in a second. Dangerous situation for OP.

        3. JB*

          Honestly, I was thinking the same.

          What kind of ‘mistakes’ is Laura correcting on the daily? ‘Mistakes’ in inventory count, or perhaps Laura finds that Miranda is ‘underestimating’ how much is due to various vendors?

          Laura is going after Miranda because she recognized without Miranda there to watch the numbers, she can rob LW blind.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            OP, you (and your people) should be doing a physical inventory of stock on a set interval. They even have companies now that will come in and help do your inventory for you.

        4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Oh for real. I knew the second I read that – whatever LW’s selling, a lot of it has been falling off the truck lately.

      2. Goat Herder*

        “Do you even keep track of the finances? Maybe I’m paranoid, and I am admittedly speculating here, but if you got rid of Miranda and Laura started managing the finances…would you know if something was wrong? It just seems like you’re really vulnerable to someone taking advantage of you, and this whole situation makes me really uneasy.”

        This x1,000!!! Miranda and Laura’s issues aside, I think we’re all advocating that you take a much more active role in overseeing your business. If you own a small business but do not know what your employees do or want to get involved in disputes, you’re effectively handing over the reins to whoever is the loudest. Being a manager isn’t always fun but it is necessary. It’s very easy when you only have a small team to slip into that “we’re all friends/family here” dynamic and to allow personal relationships your ability to manage effectively.

        It’s also very common to want to start your own business to enjoy the creative aspects of your job, but to shy away from the more technical elements required. In the four years Miranda worked for you, how did you handle the admin and IT accountabilities when she went on vacation or got sick? Did those things just get put on the backburner until she came back? In the event that Miranda decides to leave, would you be able to handle her role until you hire someone new (especially since Laura is already struggling with key parts of her new job)?

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Very much this. For all we know, Miranda has been doing the job poorly and it’s taken Laura’s hard look at everything to realize it. But OP has no way to know, either! Whatever OP does with Laura and Miranda is less critical of an issue than whether OP can get enough of a handle on their own business to know whether their employees are doing their jobs.

          1. Raida*

            Absolutely. OP needs a business analyst/auditor to give her a real, unbiased layout of the business and set up KPI reporting so she has a friggin’ baseline to know when there’s issues.
            Right now…? Maybe both Miranda and Laura are incompetent in different and interesting ways. Maybe Miranda’s bad with numbers. Maybe Laura is stealing.
            Who knows? not OP!

          2. Knope Knope Knope*

            Agreed but all the reasons Laura give in this letter are so obviously shady and manipulative she cannot be trusted either.

        2. emmelemm*

          Right! As AAM is fond of pointing out, what if Miranda gets hit by a bus? And you know nothing about what she does, how to use your business’ software, who your suppliers are and what your agreements are with them? This is a recipe for disaster.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It’s SOP for a business owner to have a plan on how to replace each person if something comes up. Additionally, some people get insurance on their key people- to protect against loss if a key person quits.

      3. Poopsie*

        I had the same thought. Obviously there’s no real reason to suspect this would have been the outcome, but as I was reading this I really felt if the OP hadn’t written in about this they might have in a year or so with a letter about how they have had an employee oust them from their own business.

        Sorry to be harsh but the OP needs to get their head out of their bottom and be more hands on. They don’t know what Miranda does? What if she was hit by a bus one day and you would be stuffed. Have everyone’s roles defined, know roughly what each person does and have access to info about who your services are run through. Learn the system if you have to, to a level where you have a rough idea of what is happening in your own company so you can make an informed decision about everything, and can retain control in an emergency. But do it in a way that Miranda knows you aren’t punishing her further or going to replace her, so that you do know how it works. Maybe apologise to Miranda and say you are working to try and fix everything but to do that you need to know about her processes. That way you can make an informed decision about just who is the good or bad employee here.

        1. JustaTech*

          Very much this. I’ve seen this happen in small businesses (usually longer-standing than 4 years) where there’s one employee who just sort of starts being the only person who knows how to do things, and the owner is so relieved to stop doing those things that the owner doesn’t realize that they don’t actually know how to run their own business anymore.

          So, apologize to Miranda and learn your ding-dang software! If you have successfully run a business for 4 years you can learn at least the basics of your software. It will not bite you.
          I see so many people hamstring themselves by deciding that all software is impossible. And let’s be real, a lot of software is poorly designed and hard to use. But you can take notes and make cheat sheet for yourself and understand the basics. You’ve learned to manage customers and inventory and taxes and all the rest of that, you can learn your software well enough to know what’s going on.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            This is where I come down too! It’s so frustrating to read, “Laura says Miranda is doing X but I don’t know if it’s true. Miranda says this software is better, but I don’t know.” OMG! FIND OUT!!! These aren’t deep mysteries of the universe! These are things you can look into with your own eyes and experiences and make your own judgment call! And then you’ll know who is being truthful and trustworthy and who isn’t aside from whoever you like better, and make an actual business decision.

            If these are things you have trouble with, have someone teach you so you get at least a basic understanding. I just can’t conceive of tying your whole professional life in a small business and then not have at least a basic working knowledge of the things needed to keep it going.

            1. Green Beans*

              Or you can do what my boss did and have people walk you through what something is, what benefits it provides, what are the downsides/alternatives, and why you need it.

              It doesn’t take much to say, Hey, I don’t actually understand our software. Can you walk me through it on a high-level, including major benefits and limitations?

              The devil’s in the details. If there’s any major lies going on, they’ll start being really obvious once they have to start presenting their issues in logical, formal ways with the OP knowing the big picture (and the OP can always google, can X Software do Y?)

            2. Poopsie*

              Agreed. Maybe Laura is right. Maybe Miranda’s been bad at her job all these years, maybe criminally – for all OP knows she might have gone to her family and said ‘har har the owner doesn’t know what’s going on and I have control of the finances. Set up a business in Great Aunt Wakeen’s name, buy Splorts in at 1c a Splort and I’ll place orders with you for 20c a Splort because I place the orders and authorise the payments, and we will split the loot between us’. Maybe she’s good at her job, maybe she knows that other software looks good but isn’t practical to use, and Laura doesn’t know her rear from her elbow. The point is OP admits she doesn’t know so shouldn’t take one side over the other without solid info.

              But the onus is on her to decide what she wants to do with the business – if she doesn’t want to be involved to the degree needed, sell it or hire someone to run it. But if she does, she needs to understand the business and that includes an overview of the functions/parts of the business she finds boring and is the reason she hired someone to deal with it. If you don’t at least have a basic understanding then you are open to anything. Who knows if there’s a bill to come from the IRS because taxes haven’t been paid, or a fraud investigation that OP will ultimately be on the hook for.

              OP needs to say to all her employees, not pointing blame, that she realises she’s become a bit too hands off and will be meeting with everyone individually (or however works best) to go through their roles, to understand what they do and how the jobs mesh together and to reorient herself with the basics of the business – who knows, maybe Laura’s friends aren’t both actually needed as their jobs overlap and there’s not enough work for both, that’s entirely possible as well. Think of it like a company audit and maybe as part of that ask what companies they work with for what service, then you can look at if it’s the best option for your needs. If nothing else you will also be able to look at what your staff do and know if you are paying them appropriately.

              Don’t take what Laura says at face value just because she’s your friend. Yes you trust her, but ultimately the one who is responsible for all this is you OP. I think OP will get it from all the replies here so I really don’t want to harp on but one more example – you said Laura says ‘that if Miranda cared about the company she’d move to be closer to the warehouse and office’…Alison has adequately addressed that but to expand, if I got a job at your business and moved in next door and offered to drive your pet stick insect to the vets that means I’m now more committed than Laura who lives a bit further away? That way lies preferential treatment, cliques and toxic workplaces. People prove their commitment by performing their job in a timely and competent manner, not by who’s better friends with the boss.

              1. CurrentlyBill*

                And if Laura volunteers to introduce you to a friend who is a professional auditor/consultant who can do this analysis for you, well…

                How do you think that will go?

            3. Worldwalker*

              And besides being things you *can* do, they’re things that literally millions of other business owners *do* do. “It’s too hard” doesn’t cut it; the buck stops with you.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            If you have successfully run a business for 4 years . . .

            It seems like *Miranda* has successfully run a business for 4 years.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              This is absolutely the truth here.

              Miranda, are you out there? Leave this sinking ship and find a place that will treat you as you deserve to be treated. This is a sinking ship!

          3. Chinookwind*

            This! My mother opened her own business with a silent partner (whom she later bought out) who taught her how to run it. When she didn’t understand new tech, whether it was a POS upgrade or Facebook advertising, she found someone she trusted to explain it to her (usually me or my sister – we know how to translate techno babble to mom-friendly words) and she took step by step notes and asked detailed questions. She realized that, if she wanted to be successful, she had to check her ego and ask people she trusted implicitly to help (and it does require an ego check to ask your 20 year old daughter for help)

        2. FrenchCusser*

          I also recommend a regular audit. If you don’t understand accounting or bookkeeping, hire someone who does to keep an eye on that.

            1. Amaranth*

              I tend to assume that if Miranda had been accused of embezzlement then OP would have said that, rather than ‘bad at her job’ but a lot of the letter is about *feelings* rather than business details.

              1. FrenchCusser*

                I actually mentioned an audit to keep an eye on Laura, not Miranda, because I doubt Laura is trustworthy.

      4. Artemesia*

        I once consulted with an operation where the data management was central and the director didn’t understand the software; it was a disaster because she was over a barrel with the person who did manage the data. In this case, she needed to learn her ax and he needed to go. In the case of Miranda, she MAY in fact be on top of the software and data management but you have no way of judging so you have allowed Laura to poison your view of her.

        The second thing that jumped out is how vulnerable you are to embezzlement — The owner needs to be on top of the financials and that means being able to understand the data she has. Laura seems like a potential thief as does Miranda — not because they are either of them dishonest — but how would you know. This appears to be a business without normal business controls understood by the owner. I have known a small business owner and a non-profit where trusted employees embezzled. One was a close friend of the owner and in the non-profit it was the business manager who had been trusted for 25 years to run that side of the business with no real oversight.

        You are good with Miranda, Laura sweeps in and suddenly Miranda is ‘doing a terrible job’ and Laura takes the reins. The business is in big trouble and needs active management with an understanding of how things work and who can understand the data products even if not using them.

        1. NerdyKris*

          There’s a letter on this site from someone who ended up with something like $200,000 in personal expenses on the company credit card. It started off as just putting a few expenses on there in a pinch, and then the pinch didn’t stop, and it just spiraled over a few years. Embezzlement is sometimes done by people with bad intentions, and almost equally as often it’s by someone who’s in a pinch and figures what you won’t know won’t hurt you.

        2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          I used to work at an accounting firm where the clients were all these micro businesses: bodegas, guys who rent out bounce houses for parties, mechanic shops, small retail… You want to think that embezzlement is a rare thing, but I no longer do.

          Admittedly, the sample was skewed. A lot of places called in an accounting firm only when they started to get nasty letters about unpaid taxes or when they couldn’t figure out why they had so much trouble meeting payroll… but even so. It was a downer, in terms of human nature.

        3. Iris Eyes*

          Who knows it may really be a battle between the “smart” embezzler who is skimming the cream and the parasitic embezzler who will drain you dry.

          1. Aerin*

            Okay but I want to see a movie with that plot now. ::eyes my pile of pending writing projects::

        4. Djuna*

          I worked for a retail chain with the weirdest, most time consuming, cash reconciliation process imaginable. Think details like #of coins, weight of coins, value of coins for every coin and the same deal for banknotes. You were basically triple-checking and triple-entering everything in slightly different ways, and then doing a final quadruple check at the end. Double-entry on steroids.

          Once, when the owner visited and was in the office while I was doing the cash, we got to chatting. I asked him why it was set up that way. I’d worked in a cash office before and never seen something so complex.
          Turns out they had had an embezzlement problem where an entire floor (with 5 floats) of their flagship store collaborated to skim a substantial amount over a couple of years. So they built this system with a bunch of tripwires in it to help them catch anyone trying to fudge the numbers. Made perfect sense.

          You can bet he knew his designed-just-for-them software inside out, but that was after he’d taken a hit to his pocket, his pride, and his trust in his employees. LW should be extremely wary and get right to understanding that software, and evaluate things without Laura-tinted glasses on.

          When I left that job, they spent 18 months trying to get me to come back, and I was a mere cog in the machine. I can’t imagine where LW would be if Miranda upped and left (and if I was Miranda, I’d be actively job-hunting already).

      5. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, having worked at a small business that was a toxic cesspit of dysfunction, one thing that happened when management wanted to be as hands-off as they could (e.g. chillin in their office most of the day and giving me the poisonous combination of responsibility for managing staff but no hiring/firing power and oh we don’t like to fire people here) was that the accountant embezzled thousands of dollars out of the place and it wasn’t noticed for months.

    4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP, I don’t want to sound harsh, but while you own the store, you aren’t running it. You need to reframe your role. Are you an non-operating owner or a real hands-on manager? You can be one or the other. Not both.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Even in large companies, I’ve known Area Presidents, SVPs, etc., who trained with their team any time a new software package or process launched. They understood how a raw material order process was supposed to work, even if they weren’t placing the orders themselves, and needed to know these things to really have ‘the big picture.’ If executive-level leaders can be conversant on topics like this, then small business owners don’t get a pass.

        OP, this is your privately owned business, and you should know how it runs better than anyone else. You need the big picture too, but at this stage you also need to know the details of running your business.

      2. AB*

        Right!
        “She’s been with me forever (almost four years) and I’ve never noticed how bad a job she does until my new employee came on board.”
        Like, how have you not noticed? Either she’s not doing a bad job, or you know nothing about your own business.

    5. Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional*

      I agree completely. As the owner and operator not understanding how things run leaves her vulnerable to be embezzlement and theft from staff. Laura is manipulative and knows the lay of the land and who is competent and who is not. She has systematically targeted Miranda from day one. Miranda is the only one that knows how things actually runs and Laura is pushing to get her out. In a few months the update from the letter writer will be Miranda left and the business tanked and I don’t know what went wrong or where all the money went. OP you really need to get back to understanding your business, in minute detail, because a catastrophe is waiting to happen.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one whose brain “went there” with the embezzlement vulnerability. I really hope the OP can head that off.

        1. RunShaker*

          My brain did as well. It is a huge flashing bill board screaming come embezzle from me. Also, I said further down in comments, Laura isn’t OP’s friend either. Laura is manipulative & taking advantage of OP.

      2. Yet Another Analyst*

        This this this.

        OP, I sincerely hope this is garden variety mean girls nonsense and Laura just loves to make trouble, but please, *please* consider that Laura may be actively stealing from you. Laura gets a new job as warehouse manager and immediately starts “fixing” mistakes your bookkeeper’s making? Suggesting changes to sourcing processes that your bookeeper objects to? Trying to actively replace your bookeeper, despite evidently not having any qualifications in that department? And now she’s moved on to ultimatums and absurd exaggeration about feeling “unsafe” working with the bookkeeper, who lives three hours away and never comes into the office??

        Lock everything down. Fire Laura, and then do a thorough audit. Be prepared to fire Laura’s friends as a result of what you find.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Either or both of them could be skimming –and OPEN wouldn’t know.
          Lock everything down, do an audit yes — but it could be either of them. So audit a year before Laura was hired as well as this year. Be prepared to fire someone and hope you don’t have enough loss to file charges.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            So audit a year before Laura was hired as well as this year.

            Yes. Because you need to know what Laura and her friends are doing, but you also need to know what has changed – what’s different now, from when it was just you and Miranda?

            Also, don’t let the phrase “do an audit” scare you. It doesn’t mean you need to do it yourself! And in fact, please don’t do it yourself. You admit you don’t know a lot about how the business runs, and others have pointed out that the business is vulnerable to exploitation, so this is definitely a situation that calls for an independent review.

            Start by googling “small business audit services” and your location. And I hate to be paranoid, but I would do this at home or on an incognito browser. You do not want your employees to get any hints about what you’re up to here – if one of them is out to sabotage you, they might just grab the money and run if they think there’s going to be an audit.

            Wishing you good luck, and tons of strength and perseverance to get through all this.

          2. Empress Matilda*

            (I think my original response has vanished into cyberspace – sorry if this is a duplicate!)

            I just wanted to point out that “do an audit” doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. And in fact, given that you don’t know a lot about the business, you probably shouldn’t do it yourself! This is a service that you can buy, and you’ll probably get a lot of benefit beyond just the immediate situation with Laura and Miranda.

            Start by googling “small business audit services” and your location. And I hate to be paranoid, but you should do this from home or from an incognito browser. If one of your employees is out to sabotage the business, you definitely don’t want them finding out that you’re thinking of doing an audit.

            Good luck!

        2. alienor*

          That “unsafe” comment from Laura really bugged me. Not only is it very difficult for Laura to be unsafe working with someone who isn’t there (unless Miranda is a witch and can put the whammy on her from 200 miles away) but it sounds like Laura is co-opting language that’s meant to be used for flagging specific types of aggression. There’s something really manipulative and off-putting about casting “I don’t like this person because I think they have a negative attitude about our work” in the same light as “I’m not safe working i the same office with this person because they are openly homophobic and I am gay.”

          1. Splendid Colors*

            The only way that Miranda is “unsafe” to Laura is that Miranda is in a position to expose any embezzlement or other shenanigans by Laura and her clique.

          2. Worldwalker*

            Yeah. “Unsafe” means “may come to actual harm” not “they’re harshing my vibe”.

          3. quill*

            Also if she felt unsafe why should she be advocating for someone to drive six hours to come to the location three days a wek?

          4. Not So NewReader*

            Miranda is three hours away from Laura. Miranda has zero interest in working in person.
            I doubt she is going to drive to work to rig Laura’s car or something.

            Specifically what does Laura expect to happen that makes her feel “unsafe”. I think she chose that particular word to get OP riled up/ upset/ turn OP against Miranda.

            1. Airy*

              I remember once when I was trying to make a complaint about an instructor on a course I was taking being harshly critical and nuking my confidence as a learner, being encouraged to say she “made me feel unsafe” or nothing would happen (at least, that’s how it sounded to me, bearing in mind I was very anxious and depressed at the time), and I was like “I don’t think she’s going to DO anything to me, she’s just really mean and demoralising and I can’t learn from her” and ended up dropping it because while I hated and feared her as a teacher I wasn’t going to lie about her. Particularly as I used to be a teacher myself, which is why I had a problem with her approach. The use of “unsafe” can get really weird and a bit shady.

      3. Knope Knope Knope*

        I don’t know enough about embezzlement and theft (thankfully) to know how this could play out in a business owned by OP, but I do know as a boss pleading ignorance is never an excuse for things that go wrong. I assume OP is not only opening herself up to theft, but to taking the fall legally if her business is stealing.

    6. Hills to Die on*

      Laura is not the primary problem.
      Miranda is not the primary problem.
      There is a huge opportunity for you to understand your business better and be a better boss. Your business and your employees and YOU will all be in an improved, happier position for it.

    7. Never mine straight down*

      LW, you seem strangely oblivious to the workings of your own small business. It’s just, it used to be just Miranda and you, the boss. If Miranda truly did a shit job for 4! years how on earth did you not know??? I’m also firmly in the camp of thinking Laura is the shit stirrer here and obviously wants to get rid of Miranda. And btw what mistakes was Miranda supposed to be making according to Laura. Did you really check if it was true?
      I would probably recommend outsourcing your warehouse/shipping again to a company. Because gently, I dont think you are able to effectively manage employees. I mean for example like PP s have said of course they put you in the middle you are the boss.
      I hope for you you havn’t totally burned the bridge with Miranda. Because if I was her I would walk.

      1. onco fonco*

        Yes! If the business stayed afloat when it was just LW and Miranda, and LW has no idea what Miranda does or how the business works, then – Miranda was running the business, and apparently doing well enough to keep them in profit. What *exactly* does Laura think Miranda has been screwing up? Can she point to concrete things?

        Also, why oh why would you demote Miranda, put Laura in her role, and then expect Miranda to just keep handling the parts of her old role that Laura doesn’t know how to do? That’s not how roles work!

        1. Batgirl*

          Miranda has been screwing up by not doing personal favours, “caring enough” to relocate, not responding to emails at night and not being the OP’s friend+saviour. Those aren’t job duties, but who cares, when Laura seems too good to be true! (Or is actually too good to be true).

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            +1

            Miranda has been successfully running the business for 4 years, but in retrospect, she should have been providing personal favors and validation and being a BFF, so now she’s shite.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              In work places like this the favor-doers are called suck-ups or “the In Group”. Miranda is out of the group and she knows it.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I could see promoting Laura, but to demote Miranda? I guess you can only have one person in charge of purchasing, but…

      2. Teapot Repair Technician*

        I would probably recommend outsourcing your warehouse/shipping again to a company.

        This is one of the few useful bits of advice I’ve noticed in this comment section. I hope OP sees it and seriously considers it.

        If your company went from using a “shipping company” to operating a warehouse with a staff of three, that’s a huge transition, one that entirely changes the nature of your business. And it sounds like the transition went badly. I would think about transitioning back.

        (There’s probably a reason why many online retailers are drop-shippers who never actually touch the products they sell, and you many have discovered it.)

    8. Person from the Resume*

      You are the manager, boss, and owner. You need to manage your employees and your business. I’ve rarely seen a letter where the answer is so obviously the LW is the problem.

      I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know if Miranda is right or not and I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t or about our software and the business and limitations. I haven’t used our software in years and I don’t know that much about our product sourcing and things that Laura wants to change.

      You also need to know enough to understand your software and the business and limitations well enough to software to make managerial decisions. You also should understand enough about product sourcing to make business decisions. If you don’t know everything, you need to have trusted employees you can rely on for their recommendation.

      Unfortunately your new best friend Laura is not a trustworthy employee. She’s said some crazy outright lies* in an effort to get in your good graces and push Miranda out and take Miranda’s job title. I can’t tell if Miranda is a good, trusted employee or not, but if she did good work for you and you relied and trusted her before Laura poisoned you against her, then she’s probably okay and your trust of Laura is the problem.

      Laura’s outright lies = if Miranda cared about the company she’d move to be closer to the warehouse and office and you’d have to be abysmal at your job to cause problems when you’re not there in person and Miranda was making things unsafe for Laura.

      But you want your small business to be a place where you can pay people for camaraderie and friendship and to do you personal favors to help you manage your life by all means keep Laura and kindly let Miranda go with lots of warning and a nice severance. I predict your business will fall apart, though, and you’ll likely find out that Laura isn’t the kind of friend who sticks around after you stop paying her.

      1. Aerin*

        The bit about product sourcing made my jaw drop. OP, you may own this store, but you’re sure as hell not the one running it.

          1. Fred*

            I scrolled back to the top TWICE to verify OP was the business owner. All I could do was shake my head as I read.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah. Really.

          Procuring product is a whole huge topic. OP, you should be having regular meetings on what is being bought and from whom. This involves writing budgets and having a strategy/overall plan. This plan can be divided into seasons or quarters which ever works best for your operations.
          Contact information should be readily available and accessible.
          You should be checking sales against inventory and against outstanding orders.
          Your employees should be giving you regular reports.
          This is a major expense that can make or break your business.

          1. Amaranth*

            Especially now when so many supply chains have stalled. Some prices rose, some items are scarce or have quality issues, and some companies might be cutting prices to stay in business and gain a new customer.
            Its easy to cast Laura as the main chaos agent here, but even if Miranda is terrible or stealing money, LW wouldn’t have a clue and can’t take Laura’s word for it.

      2. Joielle*

        “you’ll likely find out that Laura isn’t the kind of friend who sticks around after you stop paying her.”

        YEP, this is such a good point. Right now, Laura is sucking up to her boss. She may or may not be an actual friend to you if you fire Miranda and things go south, but do you really want to find out?? If you get to that point and she’s not an actual friend, you will have a BIG problem on your hands.

        1. Worldwalker*

          It’s highly unlikely that she’d remain any sort of friend. The fact that she started doing this indicates she’s a “friend” because there’s something in it for her. As soon as there isn’t, the friendship will end.

          1. Raida*

            Or, she’s a good friend but also a selfish person with a high opinion of herself, that likes to have people she gets along with at work.
            In the context of becoming an employee for her friend, this is making her into a sh*tty friend where once, or in specific circumstances still, she is quite a good friend.

            Either way, shouldn’t be employed by OP

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        Another good point – if you don’t know the limitations of your software, etc, you don’t know if Miranda is right to say no to these things. I did some theatrical lighting work in college, and had a(n already pretty loopy) director get mad at me for essentially saying, “Well, we can’t do X because our circuits can’t handle it, but we could try something like Y to achieve the same effect.” She tried to report me for… backsassing? naysaying? trying to prevent an electrical fire? I don’t even know.

        Saying no to a proposal can be the best business decision someone can make.

    9. Dragon_dreamer*

      I had to re-read multiple times because I kept think Laura was the remote employee being a problem!

    10. President Porpoise*

      Look OP, if you want someone to tell you what to do and you don’t want to be making these decisions, you need to hire a manager and get the heck out of your business’s day to day operations. That or sell your business.

    11. TiredMama*

      Yes, this line, “I feel like they keep putting me in the middle and that’s really unprofessional,” leapt off the screen and slapped me in the face.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I always wished I could be in a sorority, but I sure as heck didn’t try to turn my small business into one.

    12. Effective Immediately*

      This one *really* got me, and I think speaks to the fundamental root issue here:

      “I left a lot of toxic jobs because I wanted my own business and camaraderie. The energy is so bad now. I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly.”

      1) You don’t start businesses for camaraderie, that’s what like, book clubs are for. And you certainly don’t start a business in order to outsource responsibility for your personal life, what in the???
      2) OP seems to not have a good sense of their own business, and that very much feels relevant in light of the above sentence.
      3) ‘I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly’ might as well be a giant, flashing neon sign that says, ‘I am not equipped to be in charge of things’

      OP *is* the person who needs to be deciding what to do, and delegating work to others! There is a very distinct sense of, ‘I don’t want to run my business, I just want to have my name on it while I hang out with my friends’. That is…not good, and I think OP could really benefit from some management coaching and leadership development in general.

      Not to mention, OP’s desire to follow not lead opens them up to bad actors (like Laura) who are perfectly willing to exploit their naivete and desire to farm out responsibility for their lives. Weak leaders are a feeding frenzy for grifters, flatterers and the cravenly ambitious and this letter is exhibit A.

      Honestly, this might be one of the most frustrating and obtuse letters I’ve ever read here. It is completely wild to me that someone could write all this out and not think, ‘huh, maybe I’m wrong here’. Not to be petty, but I think OP deserves Miranda’s ire and more than deserves her resignation.

    1. Fran Fine*

      Same. Laura is a nightmare shitstirrer from everything OP’s written here, she hired her shitstirring mini-mes as backup in the warehouse to further her agenda, and OP doesn’t see that she’s being played. Miranda would be better off going to work in a less toxic environment and let these people destroy each other (because they will eventually – people like this inevitably turn on one another).

      1. Wry*

        No kidding. It’s so blatantly obvious even from the LW’s hugely biased pro-Laura perspective that Laura is the problem here….imagine how much more obvious it would be if we heard Miranda’s side of the story.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. This is one of those posts where the LW is so completely in the wrong that it’s not even funny.

            LW, if you want to save your business, take Laura up on her ultimatum and tell her to go. Let this be a lesson to you, don’t mix friends and business. If you fire Laura, you’re going to lose her friendship and that’s going to be tough, given the way she supported you when you had a difficult year. But unless you fire Laura and her cronies and give Miranda her old job back, she’s very probably going to leave within a short time and then your business will be down the tubes. I bet she’s the one who kept it afloat during your difficult year, even if she’s a bit conservative when it comes to implementing new systems. Miranda deserves a lot better than you’re giving her.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Laura has reeeeeeeeally manipulated the OP. The fact that OP is in so deep and it’s so clear from the outside is a sign of how successful Laura’s manipulation has been. I don’t think this is at a point where it’s reparable with Miranda, but please OP get rid of Laura. Block her everywhere. She’s a danger to your business and she is not your friend.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Seriously. Woman, run like your heels are on fire and your hem is catching.

      1. Amaranth*

        I love your user name. So many dramatic scenes (in life and literature) would be totally avoided if there were more adulting by adults.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That was my thought the whole time. Yeah, fire Miranda, let her collect unemployment and set her free from this mess.

      But don’t do that, Miranda deserves her job and you botched this whole situation.

    4. Clorinda*

      If Miranda leaves, the business will be bankrupt within six months, and in six months and one day, Laura will ghost OP.

      1. Ali G*

        Yeah, Laura will run that place into the ground and OP will write in wondering how it all went wrong…

        1. TiredMama*

          And as she does, Laura will keep putting it back on Miranda. One day the OP will realize Miranda hasn’t been there for a year and will ask, how is it still Miranda’s fault? And Laura will pull the trigger on her exit plan.

          1. usually anon*

            Had this happen to me after I left a toxic job (after screaming into the owners face that she should be deported back to Canada for tax evasion, fraud and all manner of illegalities, business and private).
            The business mess was somehow my mess, to any employees who stayed on as the owner unraveled.
            The fun part was that I was still able to claim unemployment because she physically threatened me, and I was able to put her out of business by telling her extremely high end customers (think red carpet evening wear designers) how much she cheated them over the years.

      2. Ilovemess*

        Yep. Tbh, Laura has gotten so much out of this it wouldn’t surprise if she ghosted sooner than that.

        Or Laura could use the fact that she did personal favors for the OP against them one day. OP crossed some important employer/employee boundaries, and I’m sure Laura is keenly aware of that.

      3. LTR/FTP*

        I was once the Miranda at a job. And the Laura successfully convinced the boss to get rid of me — it was literally an “it’s her or me” ultimatum (the boss admitted this in my exit interview) and he chose Laura.

        Well, the joke’s on him, because a year later Laura left to start her own company, taking a number of valuable employees and clients with her.

      1. Yep, me again*

        I kinda want Laura to write in and go into ‘repair mode’ and demand a retraction from AAM. Said letter would probably include a litany of offenses that had nothing to do with the job performance of Miranda but a lot of adjectives like ‘useless, worthless, awful…” with nothing of substance.

        That’s a time to break out the popcorn and get a soda….it’s showtime!

        (Oh, and I want Miranda to resign like yesterday! OP doesn’t deserve good employees when they’ve been under her nose this whole time and she can’t even pick them out from the toxic one. )

    5. Guin*

      I’d hire Miranda in a heartbeat. She has single-handedly run the OP’s business for four years with no management oversight or direction.

      1. CLC*

        Literally what I was thinking- can’t imagine Miranda’s been paid fairly over the past 4 years either….

    6. Merci Dee*

      I’m surprised that Miranda hasn’t already left, with her boss shitting all over her the way this OP has. I would have had very little patience for the back-biting and back-stabbing that Laura seemed to be doing, even less patience with the boss telling me that I’m unprofessional for asking her to sort out problems with the team mate that’s responsible for all the back-biting and back-stabbing, and then would’ve been right out the door as soon as I was demoted so that the back-biting/back-stabbing team mate could step into my job . . . and then have to ask me what to do because she has no idea about what my work entails even though she’s apparently been gunning for my job the whole time. Yep. I’d walk straight out the door and let the whole dumpster catch fire behind me.

      1. MsClaw*

        I would be surprised as well if Miranda isn’t already making other plans. I would. She’s basically been single-handedly running OP’s business for years. Then someone comes along, becomes best buds with the boss, is a total nightmare to work with, and says they ‘don’t feel safe’ when you point out that your boss is showing an *insane amount of favoritism????

        OP, when I see things like this: ‘ I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know if Miranda is right or not and I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t or about our software and the business and limitations.’ I wonder how you think you are running anything. You need to figure this stuff out because once Miranda leaves, Laura is going to be incompetent to take over for her and so are you, nor can you explain to anyone else you might hire what Miranda was doing. You’ve put yourself in the situation of having a single point of failure. And now you are inexplicably pushing on that single point in the hope it collapses. I don’t know what you think you’re going to do with Miranda leaves and takes all her institutional knowledge with her.

        1. Artemesia*

          ‘I don’t feel safe’ is one of those buzz phrases that grinds thing to a halt when usually the person saying it is a manipulator. (now there are people who are potentially violent who make others unsafe and this can be a legitimate thing to charge but not for someone who is working remotely and has no personal interaction with the person saying it. It is designed to be PC and a legal trigger and it is a favorite of terrible employees who want to hobble management or of sociopaths.

          1. MsClaw*

            +1

            I actually had an employee try to pull something similar with me once. I talked with both parties separately and went back to the complainant and basically said ‘disagreeing with you is not attacking you.’ The only thing they were in danger of was not getting their way; there was no chance of physical or economic harm.

          2. Luke G*

            Yup. “Safe” is a big-deal trigger word you can’t ignore, but “feel” is a squishy word that you can’t ever disprove.

          3. ampersand*

            Yep, giant red flag. My ex used to say this to abruptly end conversations he didn’t want to have, or when things weren’t going his way. Now when I hear it in a context like this where there’s no actual danger, alarm bells go off in my head.

          4. Archaeopteryx*

            Yeah as someone who has used that phrasing regarding someone who was actually threatening me (and was not taken seriously), I’m pretty offended that Laura would use it to mean “Miranda is complaining about me.” What an ass.

        2. Health Insurance Nerd*

          The thing that jumped out at me was that the LW TOLD Laura what Miranda said about the favoritism! This is a HUGE breach of confidence, and I don’t blame Miranda one little bit for how she feels. To be treated this way after basically running this person’s business for four years is such a kick in the pants.

          Run, Miranda, run!!!

        3. MsM*

          I’m certainly wondering how OP plans to hire a replacement for Miranda with no job description.

    7. Heidi*

      I was wondering if asking for an updated job description had something to do with that. Polishing up a resume and such. Or it could just be trying to define boundaries between what she absolutely has to do and what she doesn’t have to do as Laura increasingly takes over operations. Weird that the OP’s response was that Miranda should know what her job is. The owner should be the one who decides what everyone’s job is.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Super weird. You just demoted her, that’s a change! You expect her to just guess at which details have changed?

        1. generic_username*

          Right?1 Sounds like she just gave her title away and didn’t think anything of it…? I’d be wanting to know what changed in my role with my new (demoted) title too! At the very least, I’d be wondering how Laura’s new role intersects with mine so I could stop stepping on her toes

        2. Luke G*

          I don’t think OP expects Miranda to kjnow “which details have changed” because I don’t think OP expects Miranda to change anything- just keep doing all the work she’s been doing at a lower title and (presumably) lower pay. It’s right in the letter- “Laura did such a great job helping me manage my life in the last year that it just seemed natural for her to be in charge.”

          OP isn’t giving any work-related reason to promote Laura, just the general friendship and favors and “life management” she did. OP is still expecting Miranda to be responsive at all hours and train Laura- just like she was doing when she still held the higher title.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Mostly what I see here is that OP is stark staring TERRIFIED of having to do anything for themself. They can’t run their bookstore because they’re too afraid of it to learn how to do anything, so they hire Miranda and dump the whole load on her without even knowing what Miranda is doing or how to evaluate it. But that’s not enough… not only can’t OP run their own business, they can’t run their own life, either. So they hire Laura as “warehouse manager” by official title, but more accurately as “OP’s life manager,” whose job it is to run OP’s life for them. Completely.

            Anyone who can’t run their own life is not a recognizable adult. They shouldn’t be allowed to function without a formal guardian — the legal kind, for which “a random employee whom I begged until they took over my whole life for me” doesn’t qualify.

            1. TyphoidMary*

              I know we’re all very frustrated with OP’s lack of agency, but I’m not sure jumping straight to conservatorship is an appropriate response (I certainly know it sent a chill down my spine).

          2. Koalafied*

            Another wack thing about this (boy, there’s so many) is that Laura and Miranda seemed to have completely different spheres of responsibility, but somehow Laura’s promotion involved being given Miranda’s title and being put “in charge.” Was Laura promoted out of the warehouse to something like Chief of Staff, and if so, was her warehouse manager role backfilled? Or is Laura still primarily the warehouse manager, but with an executive title and somehow now having management authority over Miranda, who was doing a completely different kind of work than Laura?

          3. MissBaudelaire*

            This was what I thought. She wanted to reward Laura for all the favors and so she snatched Miranda’s title, handed it over, but wasn’t going to hand over any of the actual yucky work. And she wasn’t going to define Miranda’s new job, because that’s also yucky work OP doesn’t like doing.

            So Miranda lost her title, but had all her old duties, and possibly some new ones here? Associated with the new title? So it was more work for no title and maybe less pay? And she had to hand hold Laura because she didn’t actually know what to do? And OP expected her to be available all the time?

            Miranda, darling, if you can read this, RUN don’t walk to a new job.

        3. MyAlterEgoIsTaller*

          Yeah this jumped out at me as the most super weird part of this letter. The OP demoted Miranda, but then thinks she’s just supposed to know what her job duties are? No wonder she’s drawings some new lines about answering emails nights and weekends.

          Sheesh. The OP’s ideas are so skewed and unreasonable that it makes me wonder if the letter is written by the real boss, or if maybe it’s written by Miranda, posing as her boss, in order to get the kind of feedback this is getting. If it’s for real: fire Laura and all of her friends immediately.

          1. L*

            Yeah expects her to “just know” then gets mad when it doesn’t align to what’s in OP’s mind

        4. Florp*

          Unless OP took her title away but expects her to keep doing what she’s always done while giving Laura the credit, which is a special kind of crappy.

      2. TiredMama*

        I don’t think it is weird, I think it is straight up laziness. Miranda was smart to ask for a job description.

    8. Puggles*

      It sounds like Laura is pushing Miranda out so she can get another friend of hers in the position.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        By the time Laura is done, the business will be hers and the OP will be pushed out.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          EXACTLY. As soon as she’s pushed Miranda out she’s likely to turn around and start doing the same to OP.

    9. Kat Malfoy*

      I would not be surprised if Miranda is already looking for a way out after that nonsense demotion. There is literally nothing about this situation that would demand her loyalty or continued devotion to this job. OP honestly has no business being a manager.

      1. Green Beans*

        Employees who stop responding to after-hours emails are usually in the process of emotionally detaching from the job, which is usually followed pretty quickly by a new job.

        And it’s a good time for an experienced remote employer in the retail business to be looking, I imagine.

        1. Nanani*

          That or the demotion was a wake-up call to stop giving free hours to OPs business that are not being compensated.

        2. LTL*

          Tbf sometimes people just start setting healthy boundaries because it increases their quality of life and not because they’re looking for an out. Sometimes setting boundaries is navigating what works best in a (work) relationship so that you can stay.

          This isn’t to say that Miranda’s not likely to be job hunting, but I don’t feel that creating some boundaries around your work life should be a flag that someone is looking to leave. It’ll make it even harder for employees to honor their boundaries.

          1. Amaranth*

            I’d be looking if I were Miranda because if the owner is taking Laura’s word for everything and Laura wants my job, the writing is pretty much on the wall. I’d frankly be worried that Laura might next accuse me of fiscal impropriety in an effort to push me out the door.

    10. Run mad; don't faint*

      Yep. My jaw kept dropping lower and lower as I read this. I wonder how long this business will be able to stay afloat if this is how it’s being managed.

  2. Murphy*

    I’m really amazed that OP has no opinion on who is right or what’s really going on. It sounds like they’re really hands off and not very knowledgeable about the day to day of the business.

    1. Mary Richards*

      Right? How can you effectively run a small business and be so hands-off on everything? I’m not saying you have to know all the nitty-gritty technical details of, say, the website code, but some of this seems like pretty basic stuff.

      1. Anon for this*

        Very much this! LW,you should be at least familiar enough with what your employees are doing to be able to confirm that they’re actually making mistakes.

        Now, one caveat: it’s POSSIBLE, though not probable, that when Laura says “mistake” what she means is that, since your systems have been in place for years, industry best practices have evolved to the point that the way your business (and by extension, Miranda) handles some part of the process is causing unneeded work for Laura, and that Laura is aware of this, and Miranda is resisting changing the processes for… reasons. You might want to at least give this possibility a cursory glance, in the name of ruling out that this is not the case (also because as the business manager, this is something you should be aware of anyway, it helps you have the knowledge needed to prevent this exact situation from happening).

        But it’s much, much more likely that Laura is leaning on her personal connection with you to make Miranda look bad and try to drive Miranda out for her own personal gain. Your ignorance is forcing you to take one employee’s word for it, and since you like Laura because she’s done you favors, you’re taking Laura’s word over Miranda’s. Employees shouldn’t be obligated to work outside of their contract, or do material favors outside of work for their boss, to get promoted or avoid demotion.

        1. Luke G*

          Let’s go full benefit-of-the-doubt here and say that Miranda has been doing a technical role that OP truly doesn’t need to know all the details of. Laura comes in and says Miranda is doing things the wrong/old way, Miranda says that the exciting new things Laura wants to do wouldn’t work well for the business. OP isn’t familiar enough with the technical details to be sure.

          That’s a quandary a pretty reasonable boss could find themselves in- but a functional boss sorts it out by digging in, figuring out the details, and establishing where the balance falls between Miranda needing to modernize and Laura needing to work within the limitations of the existing system. Not just… wash their hands of figuring out the right answer and assuming that the person who does them the most personal favors is right.

          1. Amaranth*

            Laura does shipping and inventory control, which is apparently a new in-house function. I used to manage a software company and learned that most shipping programs are terrible and interface poorly with IC, but that just meant more data entry rather than changing my entire MRP program. I can’t imagine how IC was being done previously — by OP? But then they’d know their vendors, right?

    2. ThatGirl*

      I know there are well-run small businesses out there, because my FIL owns one, and he knows everything that happens. I am baffled by the idea that it’s **your** business and yet you’re somehow very hands-off about both day to day operations and the big picture. If you don’t know what’s right or wrong, how can anyone else?

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        At a large business, it’s critical to have redundancy… no one should be the only person who knows how to do X, in case they suddenly quit/die/retire/etc. So you always have at least two of basically every position, or at least have overlap between multiple positions so all duties are done by at least two people.

        At a small business, the owner IS the redundancy. They need to be prepared to (at least temporarily) take over any position in the company. You can’t afford to have two warehouse managers… so the owner needs to know how to step in to fill that role. You can’t afford multiple software specialists… so the owner needs to know what the job involves. You can’t afford more than one accountant… so the owner needs to at least know enough to be able to hire a temporary contractor/consultant to tide the business over until a new one can be hired.

        Even assuming everyone in this story has good, honest intentions… What will happen to LW’s business if Laura has an accident and can’t work anymore? Or Miranda? LW, do you even feel like you know enough at this point to tell if a replacement is qualified when you go to hire for the job or what services you’ll need to contract out short-term? If not, that’s a disaster waiting to happen!

        1. kiwidg*

          Yes, this! You have to know what’s going on, especially in a small business, because – as Alison has said many times – employees come and go on a regular basis. You have to be prepared for that.

          Like Ace in the Hole, I took the tack that both Laura and Miranda have/had good intentions vs. the nefarious, malicious jousting for power positions.

          It seems like a small thing, at the time, to accept the use of an employee’s car to run an errand when yours isn’t working. It solves a problem quickly and lets life get back to normal. But it’s not an employee’s job to make an employer’s personal life easier – it’s their job to make the business run smoothly (thus easier). Mixing the two the way OP has crossed the boundaries Alison preaches about.

          And the flag on that one was ” sometimes I’m waiting all evening for a response that I don’t get until the next morning.” My first thought was you should never be expecting an employee to respond after normal business hours, unless this is an emergency.

          I was very interested in Alison’s response on this one and I think she pretty much nailed it. There might have been some room for Laura not being intentionally manipulative just because I’ve seen the same sort of interactions between the new kid on the block who has all these great ideas but has no idea how things are done yet versus the established employee who has been around this block a few times and knows where the pot holes are. One won’t slow down enough to learn what the other has to give. And yes, sometimes the established employee can be resistant to change and the new employee doesn’t have the change management skills to bring them along.

          But that’s where the manager has work to do. And OP has definitely blurred those lines.

        2. Anja*

          I went to the dentist yesterday. I think when I got there it was only the receptionist, the hygienist, and the dentist left in the office. I was the last appointment of the day, and the receptionist had to go home early. So after the dentist was done with my check-up he took me up to the front, processed my insurance claim, took my credit card payment for uncovered items, and stapled my receipt to my printed out statement thing for me.

          Because it’s his practice and he’s the redundancy.

          1. Luke G*

            “He’s the redundancy” is such a quotable quote! Every truly good boss I’ve ever had has been willing and able to step in for basically any role beneath them, and at least keep the ship afloat in an emergency.

                1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                  “my employees are coming to me with their workplace issues it’s just not professional.”
                  OP, That wird doesn’t mean what you think it means. Honestly, it’s pretty much the opposite of every action you’ve stated in this letter.

          2. Liz*

            Yeah, my physio had to let some of his admin staff go due to Covid, so now he’s his own receptionist. And he absolutely understands how to do that side of the job.

    3. Pony Puff*

      Clearly it has been Miranda running the business this whole time…good luck to OP when she leaves!

      1. Murphy*

        I know! Even before all this happened it would have been bad for OP to be so far out of the loop.

    4. all good*

      Yeah, I get the impression that OP wants the freedom and flexibility that comes with owning a small business, but doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a small business. You can’t have one without the other.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      LW’s *ONLY* employee for four years was Miranda and they apparently had no idea what she was doing or whether she was doing it well! How??

      1. Splendid Colors*

        OP doesn’t sound like the kind of business owner who has a business plan or tracks business financials to make sure everything’s actually OK.

  3. Zach*

    It’s always nice when I have a visceral reaction to the question and then feel better when Ashley feels the same way I did reading it

    Thanks as always !

    1. North Wind*

      My head snapped back when I read that she thought it was unprofessional for her employees to “put her in the middle”, aka be a basic manager.

      One of the many reasons I love to do multiple, short-term projects as a freelancer is it feels easier to extricate myself from messed up situations and find a new one. (And one of the things that has surprised me as a freelancer is how very much the majority of people are pretty great to work with).

      1. Lacey*

        Seriously! It was all pretty bad, but that’s SUCH a wild thing to say when you’re the OWNER.

      2. RosyGlasses*

        Yeah that was one of my first lines to read (and similar reaction). I literally re-read the letter several times to see if I was missing something because the answer seemed so obvious.

    2. Firecat*

      Same here!

      OP some questions for you:

      1. How is the business doing? Are profits up or down post Laura? Be sure to get these numbers yourself. Have Miranda show you how to use the software and evaluate it independently.

      1. Badger*

        Those are really good questions. I’m also wondering if Laura has impacted relationships with long-standing customers or vendors in any way. It might be something to look into.

      1. Effective Immediately*

        Wait, what? I would not read that as pot-stirring at all. Saying you like someone personally, and think they’re a value-add but struggle with certain things is just…assessing someone’s work.

        What Laura is doing is on a whole other level, but I really don’t see anything wrong with the sentence you gave as evidence of pot-stirring.

      1. LisaNeedsBraces*

        As much as Laura being a shitstirrer is a problem, everyone saying the bad energy started with Laura is wrong.

        The bad energy started when OP started a business without wanting the responsibility of running the business. The fact that OP can’t tell who’s right or wrong, doesn’t know basic facts of her business, lets personal favors and relationships dictate promotions/demotions, and has expectations that people respond to her 24/7 is the source of the bad energy. She’s obviously struggling with something, hence the wanting someone to tell her how to run her life, but she needs to either step up or step down. Everything she’s doing is unfair to Miranda and even Laura (imagine knowing your job is dependent on whether your boss thinks you’ve been a good enough friend).

        Op, I hope this has been a wake up call for you. Maybe, you don’t want to be a business owner. Maybe you do, but you need more experience. Maybe you need to get your personal life in order. Maybe you just needed this kick in the pants to take responsibility. In any case, the bad energy starts with you and can be stopped by you.

    1. Firecat*

      And the energy is bad since Laura showed up.

      This is by design. Laura is a poster child pot stirrer who is manipulative and insidious.

      1. She makes broad claims with no evidence. “I feel unsafe around Miranda” When pressed she offered 0 safety concerns.

      2. She makes straw man arguments. If Miranda truly cares about your business, she would blah. Blah can be anything. The point is Blah was never a problem for you. Laura is trying to manipulate you into seeing blah as a problem.

      3. She created a clique of supporters. In this case literally hiring her friends. She then rallied that clique to say the same complaints. I bet dollars to donuts if you talk to one of Laura’s friends one on one and ask for a specific example, they wouldn’t be able to provide one.

      4. She made herself feel indispensable. She took advantage of the fact that you are hands off with your software to make you scared of losing her.

      5. She brown nosed you. She saw you were struggling and then acted like your friend. This was 100% for her own gain.

      6. She leveraged that shad talk, personal friendship I to perks at work. In this case a promotion.

      7. And once she had that power what did she do? This is the biggest indicator Laura is the problem. When good leaders are given power they don’t immediately try and squash the only dissenting opinion in the room. The only reason to do that is because you know they are right or a threat to you.

      Miranda is a threat to Laura, but not from a safety perspective. As someone with knowledge and experience she can easily show you when Laura is wrong. Hence the danger to Laura leeching off your business. I would not be surprised to find out Laura is either underperforming, pocketing profits, or some other combination of problems for your business.

      1. Green Beans*

        The “I feel unsafe” thing – oof, I’ve heard that a lot and when it’s unspecific and being used to ‘force’ others to behave a specific way or do a certain thing, it usually means, “this person can’t be emotionally manipulated.”

        (there are times where it’s legitimate, but in those cases, the person can provide specific details, and when they use it, it’s to explain their own behavior, not to change others, ie, “Honestly, I feel a little unsafe around Mary. She kind of gives me the creeps – maybe it’s the way she’s so overly interested in everything I say. Anyways, that’s why I’m not going to the party. But you guys have fun!)

        1. Here we go again*

          There are two times I’ve used unsafe at work:
          1. Was at a gas station where I was working alone past what I was scheduled. I quit because my life and safety is worth way more that $5.50/hr (this was 2005)
          2. I feel unsafe climbing the top rung of a ladder and standing on my top toes to change light bulbs. I won’t be doing that.
          Not because of someone who works off site was curt with me.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes to all of this. Laura has detected that you seem very easily led and don’t seem to have a strong sense of self/boundaries/plans and is going to town with that vulnerability.

      3. Paulina*

        The “I feel unsafe around Miranda” argument is even vaguer when combined with the complaint that Miranda, as a remote employee, isn’t actually around. If there was remote harassment then Laura would have been able to provide specifics. The main thing Laura likely feels isn’t safe due to Miranda is Laura’s powerplay and what else she’s up to.

  4. LDN Layabout*

    Own might be correct, but run is definitely not something OP’s been doing if they have so little idea of what’s going on and can’t tell whether ideas and actions are good or not.

    1. Canadian Valkyrie*

      This! Ok, I’m my defence, my field is potentially a lot different than OPs (they mention having a warehouse, which indicates to me that they sell products). But I work in a field where my boss could literally face fines if I was doing something wrong and claiming ignorance would not get her out of losing her license to practice and facing the same charges as me if I was ever accused of negligence or something because I’m not fully licensed yet so therefore she’s responsible for me. Like, it’s why being a boss is hard because it’s a lot of work and you can’t just do your own job and be done with it, you also have to know what others are doing.

      1. Canadian Valkyrie*

        It would be in OPs best interests to learn because of things like that. If there are compliance issues that she doesn’t know about, then regardless of what happens with staff, it’ll help her. Like what if she fires Laura or if Miranda quits, OP will have to onboard a new staff member with no idea what that person needs to be doing. So just practically speaking, it would be good to get clear on how the software works, how the supply chain works, etc and have everything (processes, etc) documented.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I am 100% sure that OP has no idea what OSHA regulations apply to her warehouse. I would be utterly unsurprised if she didn’t even know whether or not her local public health department had COVID safety protocols, or whether or not the employee labor laws/rights posters required by law are posted onsite.

  5. Zephy*

    LW, what do you actually DO all day, since you apparently don’t know anything about your business and how it runs?

    1. Fran Fine*

      Right. I’m so confused about this and totally agree with you that Alison’s take is spot-on accurate.

    2. AVP*

      I’m actually wondering if OP has a different ft job and this is a side business that took off unexpectedly?

      1. Liz T*

        Thank you!

        We so very, very do not want this wonderful comment section becoming like that subreddit…

    3. Anomalous*

      Please be kind to the letter writer. She came here for advice, and we commenters should not be mean.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Agreed.
        It’s not as if the OP is the first small business owner to not be a great business owner. Plenty of small businesses are run less than ideally. This was just a vulnerability that Laura saw and seized on to manipulate her, and this manipulation sounds like it’s built up slowly over a long period of time. It’s very easy for us to see from the outside at the end that Laura has OP wound around her finger and her business practices left her more open to it, but it probably wasn’t that easy to spot on the ground at the time.

        It’s going to be a rough lesson that better business practices are the best way to avoid future Lauras. It’s going to feel really bad to find out that Miranda’s actually been treated abysmally and that she’s responsible for some of that. And that’s on top of the fact that someone she thought was a friend has been manipulating her all along! How do we think jumping down her throat is going to help her? I’ve been very disappointed with this comment section today.

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      “I want to run my business but I just want someone to tell me what to do.”

      There is no overlap in this scenario.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        If you give OP a very charitable reading of this, that she feels like she doesn’t know enough to make good decisions by herself, she could get a business mentor who is NOT an employee and NOT in a position to benefit from the advice they’re giving. There are plenty of organizations funded by the Small Business Administration that do business mentoring, and various “women in business” organizations. OP could get free mentoring and support to learn the software, etc. Right now it’s easy to get remote courses for free so you aren’t limited to whatever’s within a reasonable drive, too.

    5. Sasha*

      I can see a scenario where there is a bricks and mortar shop that OP runs, and an online offshoot that she recognises is way outside her competency, so she hired Miranda to manage it for her. And maybe Miranda’s role has grown over the years.

      I can’t quite see where three warehouse staff would fit into that business model, or why OP now had no idea who her suppliers are.

      But recognising you can’t do something essential to the business yourself, and therefore hiring somebody to do it for you, is not necessarily a bad business decision. Lots of people outsource HR, payroll, graphic design etc, just as examples. Most small business owners aren’t going to be able to appraise the results like people in the field could.

  6. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, you can’t run a successful business by popularity contest. Nor can you run a successful business by having employees manage your personal life.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I have watched this play out in a small business. The owner had the business as a hobby and handed the reins to a friend. The friend said they needed a six figure salary, and all their family should be hired. Done! Two low-paid employees that manage to keep the basics running. The business has never turned a profit, so the owner dumps more money into it every year.
      So there really isn’t a business. It’s just the owner handing outrageous salaries to another family. The owner is literally giving money to people to put on a show so he can say he owns a business.

      1. kgb*

        I think that’s fairly common, actually, especially when the business owner has either family money or a spouse with enough income that the “business expenses” don’t actually affect their household finances.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Haha! You hit it! In this case it is the spouse that is making all the big money, and then she gives it to her husband to funnel it into his business so he has something to do.

          1. Rebecca1*

            Depending on how much space she wants from her husband, this could be a very reasonable expenditure for her.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I suspect this is why my grandmother started a furniture store while my mom was growing up. However, when her husband died young, I think she managed to be profitable (as well as inheriting money from his business–he had owned the local gravel quarry).

              1. Talia*

                There’s a reason that “rich man’s young trophy wife opens a dress shop” is a known cliché.

                1. Sasha*

                  Ha! It is drug dealers’ girlfriends around here, and their hair salons also provide a handy front for money laundering.

  7. Not Petty, Just Tom*

    Oh honey no. You are wrong as the day is long here. You might as well sell the business to Laura at this rate because your judgment is so cloudy.

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s driving me mad because at my work, we do have a similar situation, but with one crucial difference, and that is that there is actually evidence that our Miranda is wrong. We’ve documented everything, and presented clear, concrete reasons why our Miranda is wrong, and in the face of a mountain of evidence that our Miranda is wrong, including several choice emails where our Miranda called our grandboss several interesting things… our Miranda is still here. And seeing this situation, where there is actually NO evidence that any of the things said about Miranda are actually true, and yet LW is taking Laura’s side? Noooooo. Do not just take one employee’s words. Demand EVIDENCE. Did LW even give Miranda a chance to refute what Laura is saying?

        1. Fran Fine*

          Exactly. If there was an actual, verifiable problem with Miranda and her work, trust and believe someone like Laura would have had the receipts to back up her claims. The fact that OP hasn’t been presented with anything of the sort to our knowledge (it wasn’t mentioned in the letter) leads me to believe Laura is a highly unreliable narrator here and wants to push Miranda out for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the latter’s actual work product.

          1. Myrin*

            The problem is that even if Laura actually procured evidence for her claims (which is possible; OP’s “I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t” kinda read to me like she’d looked at actual examples, but maybe she just spoke generally), OP isn’t in any position to evaluate those because she literally can’t tell what’s good and what’s bad. Basically, I don’t see any moving on from this in any direction unless OP hasn’t familiarised herself intimately with every and all processes pertaining to her business.

            1. Fran Fine*

              Yeah, OP needs an independent auditor who does understand the business to come in and sort this all out.

          2. JustaTech*

            Right! They work with physical objects, if there really is something wrong with inventory then there should either be too many books (obvious) or not enough books (also pretty obvious). It’s not like Laura could just shove inventory in her pocket and claim Miranda didn’t order enough.

    1. kgb*

      Why? Laura already runs the business, but with none of the risk involved in owning it. Perfect situation for her.

  8. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    I’d love to see the LW pick Laura; Miranda is the only one who knows the systems! How on earth would that work out?

    1. Sambal*

      If OP is really serious about getting her business in shape, they’d be working day in and day on learning the tools THEMSELF while they have Miranda around. Because Miranda is about to walk about at any second regardless of who OP “chooses” and the business is going to implode on itself.

    2. Elbe*

      I’m assuming that Miranda isn’t replying to the LW’s email because she’s busy applying for new jobs. If she’s competent enough to run this business smoothly for this long, she likely has other options.

      1. Anonymous Mouse*

        I would not be surprised if she’s even doing it on the clock. If Miranda feels like she’s being mistreated and threatened and wants out, why would she care? Either she’d be out of a sinking ship or out of an environment she wasn’t wanted in

    3. Jessica Fletcher*

      Miranda is the only one who knows the systems, *but the ones who don’t keep insisting she’s wrong about the system’s capabilities!!* Wild. Miranda is right. If Laura knows so much about the system, she shouldn’t need Miranda to teach her.

  9. awesome3*

    It’s very reasonable for an employee who got a demotion to want to know their new job description. Alison has given you some great advice here, I hope you are able to use it, best of luck.

    1. Yipsie*

      Yea, like OP… you changed her job. She wants to know what you changed it to. Why does that seem off base to you?

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        That struck me too.

        If my boss says “your job changed”, absolutely my next question would be: “to what?”

        It’s a perfectly reasonable question and the answer should not be that Miranda ought to “just know”. Healthy work relationships are not maintained via telepathy.

        1. KHRose*

          This. LW gave Miranda a new job when she have Miranda’s job to Laura. LW needs to explicitly lay out what she wants Miranda to do in her new position.

          “She should know” sounds suspiciously like “she should just keep doing all the things she was doing” which would beg the question as to why sure was demoted if she’s got all the same responsibilities.

      2. Elbe*

        The LW seems very unclear on what running a business actually entails. As an owner, hiring the employees who report to you is one of the biggest roles. In order to do that well, you need to a) know what the job is that you’re hiring for and b) know how to tell if they’re doing it well.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I can’t get past that! How can the OP tell Miranda that she has a new job, and not tell her what the new job is!
      I’m getting the idea that the OP demoted Miranda in title, but still expected Miranda to do the exact same job. It’s like the motivation was to spite Miranda, but the OP doesn’t want to consequences of that.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Probably, yeah. OP wanted to take authority away from Miranda but not any actual duties. Sorry OP, she can’t read your mind. (Also wondering, did the demotion come with a pay cut? If so…you can’t expect pay her less for the same exact work.)

          1. MassMatt*

            For what, exactly? In most states, employment is at-will, someone can be fired or demoted at any time. The only protections are that the reason cannot be race, age, gender, etc.

            I agree that OP’s demotion of Miranda doesn’t seem to be justified (OP basically admits they don’t know enough about the business to know who is right or wrong) but I don’t see how a complaint to the state could arise.

            1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              If LW is expecting unpaid overtime, which includes “she should be answering emails after hours and on weekends,” Miranda might want to know whether the business can legally classify her as exempt from overtime rules.

            2. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

              The only possibility I could see is if the reduction in duties made her no long net qualify for exempt status. In which case, she is really doing OP a service by not working extra hours until that is resolved. Because if she’s not exempt but not being paid overtime, that’s gonna be a problem.

            3. Sasha*

              Do you guys have constructive dismissal in at-will states?

              If she can demonstrate she has essentially bee forced to resign because it’s untenable to remain, presumably she’d be entitled to unemployment at the very least?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        OP, writing and updating job descriptions is pretty normal stuff. It’s not an outlandish request at all.

        So Miranda is pretty upset at this point. She doesn’t know what you expect of her and when she asked you basically blew her off and probably sounded like you thought that was a stupid question. It’s not a stupid question, honest.

        It’s up to the boss to assign work. That’d be you, OP.

        Now she has been demoted, does she report to Laura? Even if she doesn’t, Laura’s complaints about her will now escalate. Worse yet, some of the complaints may be legit- but you may not be able to tell the legit complaints from the pot-stirring complaints.

    3. Ama*

      Yeah, honestly even if Laura was as great as an employee as OP seems to think she is (and I agree with Alison that OP is letting Laura’s personal relationship with OP cloud her judgment of her professional acumen), OP should not recognize Laura’s achievements by taking a title away from a current employee unless Miranda did something explicitly wrong and not just “Laura doesn’t think Miranda’s very good at her job.” You don’t recognize a good employee by punishing someone else.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, this struck me as really weird. It’s a small business – give people whatever titles you want! I understand in my bureaucratic government agency there are complicated rules about changing job titles and promotions and how many people can be at different grades, but why did promoting Laura mean demoting Miranda?

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Exactly. It would have probably curtailed a lot of this toxic mess by giving Laura a different title and responsibilities that don’t overlap or demote Miranda. But it also stood out to me that “forever” to this OP means 4 years…lol. It could be that both Miranda and Laura should be fired…it’s not good that the OP doesn’t know her own operations for this business especially after only 4 years. It might be time for an external audit on inventory, IT infrastructure and bookkeeping.

          OP should really get her personal life in order on her own though. Don’t borrow employee’s cars or have them run your personal life. I want to have sympathy, but she is the agent of her own destruction on this mess and it sounds like it’s about to get A LOT worse before it gets any better — COVID notwithstanding.

          1. Anonymous Mouse*

            this is the thing – Miranda could indeed be rubbish at her job, but the only side of the story on display is the one presented, which is inadvertently demonstrating more how Laura is the problem

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              Well, the OP did say, “She doesn’t want to try new things and is creating limits that I don’t think we need and saying no to new procedures and processes. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know if Miranda is right or not and I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t or about our software and the business and limitations.” So Miranda doesn’t really sound like a peach here either… saying no to the owner of the business on new procedures and processes. With a growing business, and addition of new employees there SHOULD be new processes and procedures.

              1. Fran Fine*

                And you would be correct if Miranda was saying no to suggestions being given to her by a manager who knows all about the business, understands what Miranda does, and has a clear idea of where she wants her company to go. The OP admitted she knows nothing about what Miranda does, which is IT, administration, and bookkeeping work. If she’s saying no to the suggestions the ignorant OP is making (and I’m not using ignorant as a pejorative here – OP genuinely is ignorant about this aspect of the business by her own account), there’s probably a good reason for that that may be due to regulatory reasons given her areas of operation.

              2. RW*

                I had a different reaction when I read that. If Miranda is managing finances, technology, and business processes — which it sounds like she is — a lot of her job could consist of saying no to stuff for either legal or practical reasons. It’s weird that the owner would not understand enough about any of those things to know if Miranda SHOULD be saying no, and then get sad because she’s being a dream killer.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “You don’t recognize a good employee by punishing someone else.”

        Unless, of course, you define “good employee” as one who bad mouths others with real or imagined accusations.

        OP, you just put Laura in charge of personnel. No, not formally. Everyone there knows they have to kiss-up to Laura because she can and will make or break their jobs for them.
        In extreme situations this can mean that if Laura tells them to load your product into her car, then that is what they will do. Because they don’t want Laura crying to you about their poor work.

    4. Bostonian*

      It’s bc OP wants her to still do the higher level work, PLUS be available nights and weekends, with that lower title (and possibly lower pay?)

    5. Marketing*

      I wish my toxic ex boss wrote in to Allison to complain about me. I feel seen by this billeted list!

  10. MissGirl*

    I appreciated the bulleted list Alison put together. All I could think through that jumble of a letter was that, “I don’t know who’s right–Miranda or Laura–but I know who’s wrong, the OP.”

    1. WellRed*

      Even if Laura has valid points, making statements such as “Miranda should move closer if she cared” are such howling red flags I can’t take her at face value on ANYTHING.

      1. Lizzy May*

        This. Laura is saying things that are so manipulative that her opinions can’t be trusted across the board. It’s very possible that Miranda is not good at the job (though she’s kept the business going for four years) but Laura is not someone who can assess that objectively.

        1. Anon for this*

          This, and it’s so annoying because there are just enough concrete reasons why someone in charge of ordering might, possibly, need to be on site to give the whole thing a veneer of legitimacy. Are any of the reasons applicable to this situation? Who knows, and the fact that LW just bought it without asking for proof is maddening. This would be a whole different kettle of fish if, at any time, Laura had shown LW a mountain of incorrect product.”She says she’s ordering widgets but look the supplier is clearly sending us gizmos and charging us for widgets and she has no idea because she isn’t here” would set the tone so differently than what we’ve been presented with and what the LW is acting upon.

          1. Luke G*

            Could Laura actually be correct about some things? Maybe, but (according to OP’s description) she’s presenting those concerns in such a twisted way that they’re not distinguishable from general malicious pot-stirring. We’ve seen other letters here that get responses like “It doesn’t matter whether John has an undiagnosed mental issue or is just a jerk, you just can’t do what he did in the workplace.” I think the same applies here- it doesn’t matter whether there’s an actual reason to consider shifting Miranda to more on-site work, you just can’t approach it in such a wheedling and manipulative manner.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Possibly. But… lets say Miranda has a couple of things that could be done better. She has still kept her part of business going for years when owner of business does not have sufficient knowledge to do so.

              Could new person see legitimate places for improvement? Probably!

              Has Miranda been the disaster Laura us making out? No. Based on LW’s account.

              1. Luke G*

                100% agree! I was just comparing how this situation might look in a functional company compared to how it looks here…

            2. Anonymous Mouse*

              you can be as right as the day is long, but if you’re an asshole about it, you are automatically wrong

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Yep, cue all the AAM advice about “you can not trust Laura’s judgement because x. Examine her other behavior knowing that.”

          OP, Laura’s playing you. She is not your friend.

      2. MissGirl*

        True, but I was too distracted by the OP to even consider the others. The whole I borrowed my employee’s car and had her run personal errands had me blinded to much else. Especially the fact she was mad it took the weekend to respond when the employee doesn’t work weekends.

        1. Kate R*

          Yes. There was so much yikes in this letter that I really appreciated Alison’s bulleted list addressing basically each part where my jaw dropped, but this part, about not responding on nights and weekends when she doesn’t work on nights and weekends. Miranda was going above and beyond by doing that. I get that it can be off-putting when an employee stops being as responsive or engaged as they have been in the past, but answering work questions in your off hours, unless specifically part of your job duties, is going above and beyond. And then OP demoted her. Why would she continue to be so accommodating when the result was a demotion?

      3. Wry*

        That and “you’d have to be abysmal at your job to cause problems when you aren’t there in person”….! I’m so glad Alison addressed this specifically because woah the LW is so out of touch with reality/so fully on the Laura train to think this is a “good point.” It’s not a good point! It doesn’t make any sense! A job is a job. If you’re bad at it, you’ll be bad at it remotely or in person. Being remote doesn’t make it “harder” to mess something up…! Why would it??

        1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          It’s particularly wild when combined with the whole “if Miranda cared she’d move closer” thing. Like, which is it? Does not being in the office make it harder to cause trouble, or should she come the office just “for morale” multiple times a week?

          I would guess Miranda not coming into the office does make it harder for Laura to set her up, though.

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, my number one sign for not trusting someone’s reporting is those shifting, conflicting reports. “She didn’t ask me if she could use this piece of equipment!” “OMG, she’s always interrupting to ask if she can use equipment.” “She’s not getting work done fast enough and she says it’s because she doesn’t get access to the equipment, but she never asked and it was right there!”

            We probably *do* have an issue with [remote employee communication/equipment availability/whatever], but I can’t get to the bottom of it if you’re just looking to score points today rather than be a partner in a solution.

        2. Batgirl*

          “So fully on the Laura train”… Didn’t a famous con man say “If you don’t want to get conned, be aware of the things you want more than anything.” OP wants friends, and someone else to run her business for her. Not only does that make her a very wide mark to hit, but here’s someone who fits the bill perfectly and does all these little favours for her, gratis, out of the goodness of her heart… as long as you fire Miranda.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          “you’d have to be abysmal at your job to cause problems when you aren’t there in person”

          Laura is there in person and look at all the problems that have come up since Laura joined the company.

          Laura’s got her hand in your wallet, OP. And she is willing to step on anyone to get to your wallet.

          1. Sasha*

            I mean, the other way to look at this is that Laura must be able to start a fight in an empty room if she has all of these problems with somebody who isn’t even on site. But I bet it doesn’t work the other way around, does it?

      4. NotJane*

        Speaking of Miranda not being close to the warehouse, what about this gem:

        “She and I spoke about her coming into the office three times a week for morale…”

        OP seriously had a conversation with Miranda about her making a 6 hour round trip (!), 3 times a week (!!!), FOR MORALE?!??!!?

        I can’t even.

        1. Elbe*

          It’s even worse when the “morale” they’re trying to change is actually just Laura and Laura’s friends.

          It’s like “Please drive all this way multiple times per week, in a desperate attempt to make the people who are trying to get you fired like you more.”

          1. NotJane*

            Oh, but if Laura “doesn’t feel safe” around Miranda – when the latter is working remotely, 3 hours away – I doubt it would help Laura’s morale, either!

            /s

        2. Splendid Colors*

          Exactly! If Laura had a specific problem such as “Miranda orders stock but she has no idea whether or not the suppliers are shipping product that meets the specifications because she never sees it” that would make sense. “Our morale is suffering because we can’t hang out with our purchasing agent” doesn’t.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Evidently, there are no phones, computers, faxes or tin cans with strings in OP’s area.

            Take a pic of the problem and email it to Miranda, for pete’s sake. jeepers.
            If Laura is so helpful then why was she not able to figure out how to do that?

    2. Xenia*

      Alison did a wonderful job of clarifying the growing unease I was feeling all throughout that letter that Laura was trouble.

    3. SomehowIManage*

      OP has unseated the person who wrote fiction about a colleague as “the most wrong LW ever”— and even that person was genuinely regretful of her actions.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Idk, the “leave a work request at a gravestone” boss still sticks out in my mind as the all time worst boss in the history of ever

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            That one wasn’t an LW, were they? The LW left it, but only because they were being forced on pain of firing. It was the boss that forced them to do it who was that awful.

  11. HLK_HLK45*

    Alison I doff my hat at you. PERFECT response!! The whole time I was reading the letter I kept thinking that Miranda has been unfairly targeted and maligned because the OP made the mistake of treating her subordinate as a pseudo family member and best friend. If OP fires Miranda, it’s just going to get worse since I don’t think Laura knows what she’s supposed to be doing (and is talking out of her nether regions).

    1. londonedit*

      Absolutely. I got more and more annoyed on Miranda’s behalf as I was reading the letter, but I was thinking I was probably wrong and Alison was going to give a much more measured response. But no, my instincts were correct!

      Looking at this from Miranda’s point of view, it’s just awful. Imagine having a job you’ve done remotely for several years, where you’re responsible for looking after a load of important business processes and procedures that your boss has absolutely no clue how to do. As far as you know, you’ve been doing a decent job, and even though your official hours are 9-5, you’re always available in case your boss needs you. Then what happens? Your boss hires some in-house staff, and all of a sudden your name is muck and you can’t do anything right. To the extent that your boss decides to demote you and install this new person, who wants everything done on her terms and in her way despite your protests that the software doesn’t work like that/that’s not how things have been done for the last three years/she doesn’t know the ins and outs of what she’s talking about. If I was in Miranda’s shoes, I’d absolutely stop being available for my boss outside of my official working hours – if the boss is going to demote me and start taking someone else’s word as gospel, then yeah, you can bet I won’t be responding to any emails at the weekend. Go and ask Laura if it’s that important, she seems to know everything.

      I also don’t know how Laura can possibly describe Miranda as ‘unsafe to work with’ when Miranda is three hours away. Laura sounds like a massive drama queen who will throw a tantrum every time she’s told no.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah if the OP is accurately representing Laura’s word choices with both the “unsafe” and the “should move closer if she cared” those are huge red flags that Laura’s concept of professionalism is either way off or she is being intentionally manipulative and choosing arguments/phrases she know will make the OP think poorly of Miranda.

        1. Robin Ellacott*

          And frankly if those are the best complaints she can come up with, Miranda is probably fine, because both of those are ridiculous.

          A reasonable person with concerns about their colleague has actual examples of their mistakes, explains the impact of the mistakes, tells you what they did to try to solve it, and does all this in an “I wanted to solve this but I couldn’t. Over to you, Boss!” way.

        2. alienor*

          Plus if Laura actually felt unsafe, why on earth would she want Miranda to move and start physically coming into the office/warehouse/store where she works? To me this says she’s just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what will get OP to fire Miranda, for whatever her personal reasons for wanting Miranda gone may be.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “She said Miranda won’t show her how to do anything in the software and I don’t know how to use it, and she feels like Miranda is trying to sabotage her and the company.”

        It might be too late now, but the thing to do here is to check with Miranda to see if Laura even asked to be shown the software. I’d bet my last chocolate donut that she did not ask.
        OR the answer could have been that the software license only allowed the program on one computer, Laura’s computer was not covered under the license.

        So Laura leveraged that answer by skipping the details and creating a scenario where she looks like the victim. But she may actually be the agressor.

        1. Raida*

          Or hey, crazy idea, as the (in theory) manager of this whole show, OP could have arrange training sessions for the new staff to be onboarded.
          And then she’d know that time was specifically set aside for training in the software.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Oh, I think Laura knows exactly what she is doing. She found a sucker that she can manipulate into handing over a fat salary for herself and her friends.

      1. NotJane*

        I’d wager a large sum of money that OP isn’t the first sucker Laura has manipulated and used for her own benefit.

    3. Mole-keter*

      Spot on! The minute I read the part about Laura helping to run errands and lending a car, etc, my first thought was she seemed to be love-bombing. And lo and behold, OP fell for it!

    4. ecnaseener*

      I would love a category label for these types of posts, the “I don’t think this is the answer you were expecting…” posts. Alison has such a great balance of gentle and firm.

    5. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Yesssss. This is definitely one of the top 10 most satisfying responses on this site. I love that she addressed every single thing wrong with this, including the underlying assumptions that are clearly being made by OP. And the abdication of her responsibility as a business owner to actually manage her employees!!!

  12. Wendy City*

    Oh wow, this reminds me of why I don’t ever want to work for a small business. So, so many of my friends have been the Miranda in this situation, and the only way to resolve it was to leave. This dynamic (hands-off owner who refuses to manage, problems arise when an employee inevitably takes control–and advantage–of the situation) is frighteningly common in small businesses.

    Props to Alison for spelling out exactly why LW has mismanaged the conflict with Laura.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Totally off-topic, but I’m curious: if your handle is from the book I think it is, could I express sympathy for your loss of Freddy Lounds?

    2. Raida*

      God yes, how many people, instead of getting a remote assistant like Miranda, instead opt for a family member or friend?
      And this person has no experience, is forceful with their ideas, want to make changes, ignores important tasks, don’t want to do the uninteresting stuff, aren’t organised enough to do filing, make up their own ways of doing things, don’t document, etc etc etc…
      I have spent hours at a mates’ small businesses physically rearranging their store rooms and adding big, bold, Arial labels to everything with a clear instruction and agreement “Nobody discusses where things are stored, everything is alphabetical.” Because the husband and wife “just don’t think the same way” and put things where it makes sense to them. O_o
      It is truly satisfying to visit and see all those big labels still in place, everything that little bit more functional, reports of less wasted time

  13. Charlotte Lucas*

    Laura sounds horrible & manipulative. I bet she already has a friend who she wants to do (what’s left of) Miranda’s job.

    Also, I worked for someone like Laura. It’s just a matter of time before she somehow goes after the OP.

    1. Jesshereforthecomments*

      This was my thought too… it’s only a matter of time before Laura tries to push OP out of their own business. Which may work since OP doesn’t even know what their business is or does anymore.

      And Miranda, if you somehow stumble upon this, get out! We’re all rooting for you.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        Oh, I bet Laura has no interest in pushing OP completely out of her business. I think she’s sure she has OP exactly where she wants her: clueless about her actual business operations and wholly beholden to Laura. Right now, OP has all the risks of owning a business and Laura has all the power. She’ll keep happily drawing her salary until there is no money left. No reason to ruin something like that by becoming a partner and fiduciary for the business.

    2. RW*

      Even before we got to the meat of the letter, when we were just at the point where Laura brought her own people into the warehouse, I was like “Ruh-roh.” Now she’s on a sustained campaign to get rid of the only person pushing back on her suggestions.

      Right now, the OP is facilitating Laura getting what she wants, so of course Laura is sucking up and playing into this idea that they’re best friends — the change will come when the OP becomes an obstacle to something Laura wants.

  14. idwtpaun*

    Wow. OP, this is going to be hard for you, but I hope you can really listen to Alison’s response. I was thinking all the same things she said as I was reading your letter. It was a stream of red flags, not from Miranda, but from you.

    “I wanted my own business”
    “I just want someone to tell me what to do and help me run my life smoothly.”

    OP, these two things are not compatible. Either you want to be the boss or you don’t. From your letter, you want the freedom of creating your own work environment, but you don’t actually want any of the responsibilities that you need to take on in order to make that happen, as a result, you’re now being manipulated by someone who got you to hire their friends and demote a long-standing employee. I’m sure everything can go smoothly if you just give Laura everything she wants. It’s not likely to be any good for you, your business or for any employees Laura takes a dislike to, but she’ll be happy I’m sure.

    And now I can’t get the image of Laura as Grima Wormtongue and the OP as Theoden from Lord of the Rings out of my head.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yes, this. And I’m going to come down on the side of “you don’t” because you have not been running this business. I would suggest strongly rethinking your career decisions.

    2. Language Lover*

      I agree. The LW also said:I left a lot of toxic jobs because I wanted my own business and camaraderie.

      Unfortunately, the business they created is now toxic due to the inability to process job performance through a lens of skills and competence but rather through the lens of who the LW likes more.

      LW, I think Alison’s advice is great but owning a business is hard. And for a small business, you need to be more aware how it works. This is not only important for evaluating employees but it’s important to not be taken advantage of in other ways. How closely do you pay attention to inventory? The financial aspects?…etc.

        1. StressedButOkay*

          This. You’re not running a business to make friends, you’re running a business to make money and deliver a product.

      1. Gel Pen Destroyer*

        Also… when every job you’ve ever had is “toxic,” well, the common denominator there … is the OP. (I realize it is totally possible for people to have a string of bad luck with work environments, but when the shoe fits…)

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Or, more likely, because the OP hasn’t seen a business functioning properly, she has nothing to model her own business after. She knows X doesn’t work, so she’s trying Y, but in reality, B is what she needs to do.

          People are most comfortable in situations they’re familiar with, so they tend to reproduce them even when they’re toxic because they aren’t aware or are too scared of the unknown correct way to do something.

          1. Ori*

            This. Also some industries are simply more dysfunctional than others, and I think a lot of us build our network in our first few jobs. If those are dysfunctional, our opportunities might be too.

        2. Starbuck*

          That didn’t really stand out to me on the first read, because I was assuming they’d only done retail so far and that can be a minefield of toxicity and bad management even if you’re a totally emotionally stable and mature person. But it doesn’t bode well either way for OP having learned good professional norms and management skills (clearly!)

        3. Avi*

          Yeah. I don’t want to be too hard on the LW, but part of me is honestly wondering if her definition of ‘toxic’ amounts to ‘didn’t want to be friends with me and expected me to actually do the parts of my job that I didn’t like’, given how the opposite of that seems to be what she expected to get out of running her own business.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        “I left a lot of toxic jobs” was where my eyebrows – which were already up there past my hairline – actually levitated clean off my head.

        Yeah, I’ll bet.

        1. Effective Immediately*

          Right?! The popcorn-loving Internet user in me is *dying* for OP to respond to Alison/comments in this thread.

    3. Ermintrude*

      Grima Wormtongue: PERFECT analogy.
      I’ve met/had housemates like this. They’re friendly and helpful until they’re not. They expect to push one around and take their crap, and then screw you over emotionally and/or financially, and the best way out is to be rid of them.
      Laura and co. will probably attempt to pull crap on you and the business, so be wary and ready for that.
      You survived with just Miranda before, you’ll make do again, hopefully.

    4. Liane*

      “And now I can’t get the image of Laura as Grima Wormtongue and the OP as Theoden from Lord of the Rings out of my head.”
      And Alison in full wizard regalia to speak some sense. Will OP be as fortunate as Theoden King and be able to shake off the spell with AAM’s aid and do the Right But Very Hard Things they need to do?
      Not sure…

        1. Heidi*

          The business would be Rohan or the Riddermark, wouldn’t it? And Miranda is Eowyn – who was played by….Miranda Otto!

      1. quill*

        Someone needs to make art of that scene but with Allison as gandalf. Just smacking the keyboard with a staff

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      Work environments that are positive, efficient and free of toxicity and drama don’t just magically happen – they require work, and the tone has to come from the top. Unfortunately, OP just doesn’t want to take the responsibility or put in the work to make this kind of environment a reality.

      1. Batgirl*

        I’m scratching my head at why she took Miranda’s complaints of favourtism to Laura. What manager airs her employee’s complaints of her competency? What did she expect Laura to do about it? Book her a seminar on managerial skills? Agree to stop sucking up and confusing the OP? Of course Laura was going to manipulate it all away.

        1. Elbe*

          It’s especially perplexing because Miranda is spot on. The LW stated flat-out that she was demoting Miranda because Laura had “helped” her personally. Alison is right that that’s the definition of favoritism.

        2. Queen of the File*

          “Let me just prove that I’m impartial by immediately telling the person you think I’m too close to all about your complaint.”

      1. Luke G*

        But does she recommend submitting your resume via e-mail or Shadowfax?

        … I’ll see myself to the door now.

    6. Name Required*

      OP, I agree with this so strongly. I’ve worked for a few small business owners as hands off as you, and you really can’t eat your cake and eat it too if you want the business to be successful.

      If you are looking to run a lifestyle business to earn you an income you are comfortable with, you will need to be more hands-on in all aspects of the business, and remove your personal life from the mix. I think you would benefit from connecting with other business owners or participating in a mastermind for business owners who do the same work as you do, so that you have a place to connect personally and other folks to bounce issues off of when you feel stuck.

          1. Name Required*

            Yeah, and it sounds like she’ll be able to embezzle OP out of all of her revenue pretty soon, at this rate

      1. Batgirl*

        This is such practical advice. I’ve been waiting for someone to say something more actionable.. I honestly don’t know where I’d start if I’d drifted out as far away from the core of the business as OP has.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        There are good business owner meetups and bad ones. I went to a webinar last week by a survivor of bad ones that focused on “greed is good” and “look at the Lambo I bought by underpaying my staff and overcharging my customers”. Apparently that is the culture for Entrepreneur Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever.

        I have been fortunate to be in peer groups of other art/craft/makers and the local SBDC, PTAC, and other agencies that support small businesses. Some of these are targeted at disadvantaged entrepreneurs, and OP may not fit their criteria. But the SBA pays a LOT of groups to help small business owners and there should be something out there. With so much virtual stuff these days, you’re not always limited to “what’s within reasonable driving distance.”

    7. StressedButOkay*

      I was coming here to comment on those lines, as they really jumped out at me! You are the owner and manager of your own business – that means there isn’t someone who tells you what to do. Even before Laura was hired, it sounds like you were far too hands off. There’s a line between doing All the Things as Owner and Doing None of the Things that you have to find.

      Also, “help me run my life smoothly” – I’m sorry, I really am. But that is not the point of your employees. They are there to help you run your business smoothly but your life is a different matter. Even if it’s a personally run business, they aren’t generally your personal assistants.

      1. Ori*

        Eowyn. Doing all the work, not getting any recognition, likely to GTFO the second a better opportunity comes along.

    8. Aerin*

      There’s nothing wrong with being the kind of person who needs an outside perspective to tell them what to do and keep things running smoothly. I’m that kind of person! And because of that, I’ve worked best in jobs with *more* structure, not less. I’ve given some thought to freelancing, especially since I want to be able to travel more while I work, but I know I would be terrible at the business side of it, so I resist the temptation.

      “Has clear expectations and will keep you on task” is not necessarily the same as “toxic and overbearing,” though you might have to look a little harder for that kind of position. However, a “tell me what to do” job, even a healthy and supportive one, is never gonna be a “just let me vibe with my friends” job. The latter are pretty much limited to the independently wealthy (or grifters and leeches who can talk themselves into such a position).

      1. Splendid Colors*

        If you want to freelance with some support for the business side, I just went to a webinar by an artist/freelancer cooperative called Guilded earlier this week. Members get support with standardized contracts, actual advocacy by experienced people, and guaranteed payment via Guilded. They front the funds and go after the client to claim payment if a client doesn’t pay on time. It isn’t a great fit for my business, because I sell primarily finished goods, but they’re a cooperative for freelancers who bill for services on a 1099. They also provide accounting support and limited health benefits.

    9. NotJane*

      “It’s not likely to be any good for you, your business or for any employees Laura takes a dislike to, but she’ll be happy I’m sure.”

      Until she either gets bored or runs OP’s business into the ground (or both) and runs off to find a new mark to con.

    10. Carlie*

      The only descriptive word that kept coming into my head while reading the letter for Laura was “viper” oh, and I don’t know that I’ve ever used that term to refer to a person before. Even from the OP’s description, Laura seems to be really bad news. I would urge her to tread very, very carefully regarding taking any advice from Laura.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      It’s true, OP, you do have some odd pairings going on here.

      I have worked in groups with a strong sense of camaraderie. That sense came from working together well and successfully. It wasn’t because we were all friends.

      I can remember one woman I worked with early on. Let’s just say we were polar opposites. It was to the point that we could not take break together because we had ZERO in common to talk about. But, boy, this woman could work, wow. The boss said he could have the two of us or he would have to put on four people. We clicked so well as a team. Our camaraderie was solely based on our mutural respect for the other’s work ethic. Take the work away and there was nothing.
      Please reconsider what you call camaraderie.

    12. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yes it really struck me that someone can want to run their own business yet seemingly want to shirk all the responsibilities of decision making. This OP chose to make herself responsible for the livelihoods of her employees and is acting as if she owes them nothing and they owe her personal favors and friendships.

  15. SlimeKnight*

    Miranda may very well be bad at her job. Laura may be right. How can LW know when it sounds like she wants to wash her hands of the whole thing? LW is the owner of this business. As a manager I don’t know each of my direct reports’ jobs down to a technical level, but I do have the knowledge needed to judge performance and manage process flows. I

    1. Janie*

      Miranda’s good enough at her job that, without any oversight, competence, or management from the OP, the business grew enough to more than double their staff and open a warehouse.

      1. Elle*

        That was my exact thought! In three years with Miranda it seems to have gone quite well and expanded. It doesn’t seem possible that she’s bad if this is the end result.

        And if I got demoted, I for sure would want my responsibilities clarified in writing. I wish Miranda the best – perhaps she should start her own business!

        1. quill*

          The fact that the business still exists after four years says Miranda is at least functionally competent.

      2. Raida*

        Actually, I wonder about that – *did* the business grow enough that it made sense to hire three new staff and in-house warehousing?
        Or did Laura tell OP that she could do wonders with the warehousing, save OP money, and OP wouldn’t need to do a thing…?

        After all, OP doesn’t know how the processes work or the warehouse tasks or Miranda’s tasks – how’d she come to make this business decision?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ultimatums are one of my boundaries. A subordinate issues an ultimatum like that and they just lost the argument, even if they were right.

      I do not deal with ultimatums because that is not how to manage people.

      Now that Laura has opened this tactic you will probably see it again any time you do not do what she wants.

      I hear this stuff and I instantly picture a 5 year old child whining that they want an ice cream when there is no ice cream in sight. I’d tell Laura that anything framed as an ultimatum is an automatic NO. Then I’d ask her, “Knowing this, would you like to reframe your question or let it stand as stated?”

  16. Renee Remains the Same*

    I won’t pile on. Clearly, the OP didn’t realize the toxic environment they were supporting. But, it seems moreso that they were ignorant rather than malicious. The great news about being unaware is that one can learn to become aware. And in the spirit of that, I hope everyone in this situation recovers. But, I also hope Miranda leaves. I’m not sure anyone’s self-esteem can take the battering she’s gotten and I hope she finds a soft, awesome place to land.

    1. North Wind*

      Love this comment. This letter got me so riled up but this is the right and helpful response.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Excellent points. But I don’t hope Miranda leaves—I hope OP takes Alison’s advice to heart, answers Laura’s ultimatum with “Best of luck in your future endeavors,” and gives Miranda a promotion, a raise, and a heartfelt apology.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        (My dream scenario is that OP realizes they want to own the business but not really run it and offers to step and and give Miranda the position of General Manager with a fat salary and an equity stake, since it sounds like she’s been running the business anyway.)

      2. Renee Remains the Same*

        That would be awesome. But as someone who was put through the ringer in a similar fashion, I would rather Miranda go somewhere else where she’s appreciated, respected,, and able to work on restoring her wellness without the fog of past drama surrounding her.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      When the OP mentioned that they had been in toxic work environments before starting their own business, I did wonder if they were unconsciously replicating the dynamics of their past workplaces in their business. Sometimes people replicate negative behaviours (intentionally or not) purely because it’s familiar to them.

      1. onco fonco*

        I wondered this. Where would OP have learnt to run a business well if they had mostly worked in a bunch of dysfunctional ones?

      2. ecnaseener*

        Very true. Stuff like “it’s unprofessional to go to your boss with conflicts” could’ve easily been learned in a toxic environment.

    4. Bostonian*

      I would bet a fat five dollar that Miranda gets fired, more of Laura’s friends get hired, and we get an update from OP detailing how wrong we were about the whole situation.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Even that LW later realized they were in the wrong (after being fired…) and made strives to improve. I’m hopeful the OP will be the same.

            1. Forrest*

              There’s a later one where she says she left that job, did lots of therapy, has realised she’s not suited to being a manager and is so humiliated and horrified by her former self. Massive self-growth!

            2. Lance*

              Yeah, there was a second update sometime later after some therapy (if I’m remembering right) and admitting no desire to return to a management role after realizing just how much they didn’t do it well.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’d strongly suggest OP read the original letter of that and the updates and take it as a warning because they’re, unintentionally or not, creating a very similar problem. When ‘friends’ get the cushy benefits there’s always someone outside the clique getting shat on.

    5. Cinderella Sparklepants*

      I agree with you there. OP seems more clueless than actively malicious. I hope they read the comments and realize they HAVE to take a more active role in the day-to-day of the business. They don’t know what do to here because they don’t know enough about the inventory/billing/whatever to know if Laura is making stuff up (seems likely), Miranda is making a ton of mistakes (possible, but less likely), or how the systems even work.
      I can see the OP in a front-of-house/customer service role who thought they’d just hire people to deal with the other parts. You can’t let someone else do all of the “business” parts of your business. I hope this is a wake-up call for them.

      1. L*

        I think Laura is RELYING on the fact OP has no idea how the business runs. She’s an opportunist and sees a ripe mark

      2. The Bimmer Guy*

        Right. I want to be generous to this letter writer, but they have all the obliviousness and perceived helplessness of the Duck Sex Club manager. And that’s not a flattering comparison.

    6. LegalSec*

      If I were anyone in Miranda’s life, I would be pointing her to AAM so she can brush up her resume, interviewing and salary negotiation skills and get the best possible outcome, and also to give LW exactly as much notice of her resignation and taking a new job as LW gave her when she decided to demote her. This reminds me of the “my boss decreased my salary and demoted me at 3pm on a Friday” letter about burning bridges with style

    7. Aerin*

      It’s been mentioned upthread that the “I should just start my own business, it will be so fun!” is SUCH a common thing. OP shouldn’t feel bad for falling into that trap. But now they need to correct it. That might mean making more of an effort to learn the ins and outs of the business and get themselves some management training, or it might mean selling and looking for a job more suited to their temperament. Not everyone has the specific skillset to be a boss, nothing wrong with that as long as you recognize it.

    8. Batgirl*

      If you’re smack bang in the middle of Covid hell and your wonderful new employee is just too “blitz spirit” to avoid helping you… I can see it feeling like the answer to a prayer. At least OP got the jitters enough to write in once Laura started screwing the thumbtacks. OPs instincts are screaming out in there somewhere. It was probably much easier to believe in her during the love bombing stage.

    9. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      > But, it seems moreso that they were ignorant rather than malicious.

      I call this “malicious ignorance.” At a certain point, it becomes necessary to acknowledge that a sufficient level of ignorance leads to a(n often unintentionally) malicious outcome. Being ignorant isn’t always a sufficient excuse.

      1. Raida*

        I call it “dangerous negligence” because maliciousness requires intent, but just not-giving-a-fck doesn’t.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      To me the OP sounds tired and sounds like they have given up caring about it all. Probably overwhelmed by so many moving parts.

      There are volunteers who will mentor small business owners, OP. SCORE is a nationwide network of people who offer this mentoring help. (score dot org)

    11. Jack Straw*

      Love this response and this line especially: “The great news about being unaware is that one can learn to become aware.”

  17. CatCat*

    OP is probably not going to need to fire Miranda because Miranda is probably going to quit as soon as she can find something else. Problem solved. For Miranda.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I would. Can you imagine working somewhere for years and then being demoted out of the blue because your manager decided to promote the person who acted as her personal assistant, even though that has nothing to do with the job?! The whole thing is gross.

      1. WellRed*

        I don’t even get how that works, even on paper. Did Laura start doing all Miranda’s tasks? We can’t ask Miranda because OP is keeping Miranda in the dark about her job description. Staff?

        1. onco fonco*

          Oh, not all of them. OP complains that Miranda stopped doing the bits that Laura doesn’t know how to do. When OP took Miranda’s job away from her and gave it to Laura.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes – I also don’t understand why a promotion for Laura had to result in a demotion for Miranda. Surely you could have given Laura a pay rise and/or different title without demoting Miranda.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          I feel like it’s so rare to see a perfect textbook case of a zero-sum conflict. I feel awful for Miranda.

      3. LizM*

        Yeah, this really stood out to me. Like, how did that conversation go? How did OP not think Miranda would take it personally. You’re talking about someone’s livelihood. Messing with that *is* personal.

    2. R*

      Yeah if Miranda is savvy enough to back away from being available after hours, shes savvy enough to update her resume and at the very least glance at the relevant job boards. If she hasn’t begun to actively job search, she’s just waiting for Laura or the OP to give her a reason why.

    3. Mental Lentil*

      Honestly, I am amazed that Miranda has stuck with it this long. I would have left long ago.

    4. RVA Cat*

      Hopefully Miranda is on her way out already. You know that whole guilt trip of “if you leave, the business will fail?” Well, it deserves to.

  18. Delta Delta*

    Ooh, OP doesn’t know their own business or processes or where their products are even sourced and hasn’t used the company’s software in years. Nothing about this is good and the problem pretty clearly isn’t Miranda.

    1. Delta Delta*

      And another thing – I don’t fully understand Laura’s alleged statement she feels unsafe. From my reading of this, Miranda works on the other side of the state from Laura (right?). What even is happening here?

      1. Lin*

        It could be that she picked up “unsafe” as a buzzword to lend power to her position. At least that’s my gut reaction.

        1. Pants*

          It was mine too. “Hostile work environment.” “Toxic.” “Bully.” “Unsafe.” These have all become buzzwords or trigger words. I think it does a disservice to those who are really affected by situations that are described with the phrases. From reading OP’s take, it sounds like Miranda has a far better case for any/all of these descriptions than Laura does.

      2. LTL*

        Yeah, I didn’t pick up on a lot of what Alison and the other commentators seemed to pick up on when first reading the letter. But when Laura said she was feeling “unsafe” something about that struck me. Given that nothing in the letter described Miranda doing something so extreme, it just felt like a manipulative move.

      3. Ilovemess*

        Laura is playing the OP, and saying she feels unsafe was meant to be the final, big issue manipulation to get Miranda out completely. It’s hard for an employer to ignore that, let alone one who’s also a friend.

        Hopefully OP wakes up in time to realize what’s going on and fix it.

      4. Gerry Keay*

        Feels a lot like DARVO — a wildly effective manipulation tactic. Stands for “Defend, argue, reverse victim and offender.” Laura is making this an unsafe environment for Miranda and is trying to flip the script so she’s seen as the victim (with success!)

        1. honoria*

          I always heard it as “Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender”, but your version works, too–variations on the same dysfunctional theme!

    2. Kramerica Industries*

      I would also bet that Miranda “being negative and not wanting to try new things” is actually her understanding the intricacies of the processes and why some things won’t work. New people can suggest all the fancy shiny ideas they want, but if they won’t work, then what’s the point? Did OP even bother to learn from Miranda on why things are done the way they are or is she just taking Laura’s word that “new” must mean “better”?

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Or that “not wanting to try new things” is actually “not wanting to violate industry regulations, federal labor laws, insurance requirements, IRS rules, generally accepted accounting practices, software capabilities, and/or the laws of space and time.”

        Sure, it’s possible that Miranda is just inflexible, but it doesn’t strike me as the most likely answer given the rest of the letter.

      2. Elbe*

        I think it’s fairly common for new hires to come in and suggest a lot of changes to process that have actually already been ruled out for various reasons. They can come in and say “We should do XYZ!” without realizing that XYZ was tried two years ago and failed miserably, or XYZ isn’t possible on their systems, or XYZ is outside of regulations, etc.

        We can’t know for sure, but – based on the rest of the letter – I would guess that Laura’s suggestions aren’t actually good. People who are good at their jobs tend to not have to buddy up to their bosses outside of work, hire their friends, and try to get their rivals fired for BS reasons like “won’t relocate for a job”.

    3. MistOrMister*

      This is such an odd situation. I don’t understand how OP can flat out admit to basically having no idea how Miranda’s job is done, how to tell if she’s aorling accurately, etc but then also says how she’s such a problem employee. I guess it is slightly possi le that Miranda IS a huge problem and having Laura and the others has brought that to light but it seems highly unlikely. It really sounds like Miranda has been single handedly running the business for four years. But suddenly she is the cause of every problem in the entire world. Alrighty then! I hope Miranda leaves. Not to punish OP or leave the business in the lurch, but because as long as Laura is around she is likely going to be treated like crap. No one deserves that.

      1. Raida*

        Yeah, saying “i don’t know how to tell” and then accepting Miranda’s crappy without any evidence is just… pathetic.

  19. Starchy*

    Phew, what a hot mess. My best guess is Laura has someone in mind for Miranda’s position. It’s kind of ironic that the OP left toxic jobs only to end up creating one in their own business.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      LW saying they started a business to avoid toxic jobs is like how the person who constantly says “I hate drama” is always the one causing it

      1. KN*

        Yes? OP started a business with the intent of escaping toxic environments, but inadvertently created their own toxic environment. Action with effect opposite of what was intended = situational irony.

        But is it *unexpected*, from an outside perspective, that someone who saw toxicity everywhere then found themselves creating it? Well… maybe not.

    1. Pants*

      I thought the same thing. “Does this company only manufacture red flags?” (Thank you, Maria Bamford!)

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      Maybe, but the owner is so hands off she really doesn’t know what they’re producing.

    3. Storm in a teacup*

      Lol all I can hear in my head now is Simone from RPDR S13 saying ‘flag factory’

  20. Eldritch Office Worker*

    This feels like a sitcom, with a leader who’s such a caricature of a bad business owner that it’s satirical, and a slippery ambitious antagonist who comes in and charms their way into power and pushes Emily Deschanel’s character out. This is horrifying to see in real life.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I was thinking this was like an episode of original recipe Gossip Girl with Laura as the Blair Waldorf character. Toxic and manipulative as all get out, smh.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Ha! Probably not. But for Miranda’s sake, I hope Laura’s little scheme ends up just like most of Blair’s did – blowing up in her face.

    2. Lizzy May*

      This happened on the Office where Andy managed to suck up to Michael and push Dwight out. And that makes the OP the Michael Scott of their company. That is a very bad place to be.

      1. it's me*

        And then Michael realized his mistake, rejected Andy for being annoying, and went to hire Dwight back….

      2. Collarbone High*

        That episode was just on Comedy Central last night! That’s EXACTLY what this feels like.

  21. Nasyra*

    Ooof – this is a lot, what a mess. I think this answer is on point!

    One more thing not mentioned in the response… I absolutely do not blame Miranda one bit for not wanting to come into the store three days a week (when she had been performing her job remotely to your satisfaction for years) (AND after a demotion) considering that she lives *THREE HOURS AWAY*. No wonder she “doesn’t want the commute!” Does LW actually expect Miranda to spend 18 hours a week just driving because Laura says she “should?”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Or god forbid she should *move closer* – my ears were a tea kettle after reading that one.

      I really hope Miranda gets out.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        Right, because this is an ideal time to move with the frenzied housing market and all.

    2. StoneColdJaneAusten*

      Nah, LW just isn’t thinking through that Laura wants LW to demand that knowing that Miranda will be forced to quit.

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I don’t know why this was the most horrifying thing for me. She wants her to commute 6 hours per day, three times a week????? Does she expect an 8 hour workday on top of the commute for a 14 hour day for Miranda, again THREE TIMES PER WEEK? Holy crap, talk about a deal breaker.

  22. GigglyPuff*

    I hate to be this blunt OP, but this isn’t a Laura or Miranda problem, this is a you problem. Employees aren’t supposed to help manage your life. I mean did you even tell Laura you were demoting her? Have a conversation about the entire thing?

    Alison put it all much better than I could. But it sounds like you want to own your own business but not be the operator, and (I assume) just run the day to day stuff at the physical location. If you only want to be a manager/independent employee, you need to explicitly hire a management operator (not Laura!), but even then you need to be more involved than you probably are now.

  23. Esmeralda*

    Wow, Laura — I immediately thought, that’s Eve Harrington!

    Fasten your seatbelt, OP, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    1. Fran Fine*

      Yes!! And if OP’s not careful, OP’s next letter to Alison will be, “Help! My employee is trying to push me out of my own company!”

  24. Roscoe*

    I think I read this slightly differently

    I don’t know that Laura is “poison” in fact, I feel like she is likely making some good and valid points. However, I can also see how given the info we have, its not really easy to see. As far as the “unsafe” thing, well I think a lot of people throw words around like that these days that are baseless, so while I agree this situation doesn’t rise to that level, Laura wouldn’t be the first person I’ve seen use that term (as well as “hostile”, “bullying” and a number of others), when it doesn’t really seem applicable.

    But OP, you have managed this situation horribly. You put yourself in a situation where you don’t know what really needs to be done to run your company. You don’t want to manage these 2. You demoted someone, but won’t tell them what their new job description is, and you have unreaslistic expectations.

    This could be a number of things. It could be a simple personality conflict. It could be that Laura IS better at the job than Miranda was, and Miranda isn’t willing to help. It could be that Laura is better and pushing out Miranda. It could be that Laura is worse, but because she has face time and more people there on her side, that she just seems better because of optics.

    But OP, you really need to get your house in order

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Not necessarily–if they have different jobs, one may feed information to the other.

        My supervisor often needs my help with things, not because she’s not good at what we do but because our duties don’t completely overlap, and I often have information on hand that she would have to track down.

      2. Roscoe*

        I don’t necessarily think that is true. Depending on the systems used and what the job is, you can definitely be better at handling things, and still need the help of people who have used a system for a long time. My company uses a lot of software systems. Just because someone may come in good at a job function, doesn’t mean they won’t need help on certain processes.

        As an example, you can be great at Sales, and still need help learning the companies CRM system.

    1. Simply the best*

      Can I ask what good points you think Laura made? When I read the letter I hear her say the nonsense about Miranda needing to live closer and the nonsense about how abysmal you have to be at your job to mess something up remotely. She says she has to fix Miranda’s mistakes, but op doesn’t actually give us an example of any mistakes. And considering how Laura is trying to get Miranda fired, I wouldn’t take that as truth unless we had concrete examples. So… I don’t see the good points you think Laura is making.

    2. Save the Hellbender*

      I think you’re right that we can’t know the nature of the actual work dispute, and the bulk of the blame here is the OP’s, but we can know that Laura is poison because Laura is, as someone pointed out, mimicking Grima Wormtounge and saying truly bizarre things! She is clearly unprofessional and even if she’s 100% right about Miranda’s work, Laura is a bad employee.

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      I agree to some extent – Laura probably is legitimately good at some of her job, and she may have some good comments on ways that things could be improved in the warehouse. There IS likely some disconnect between what she sees in person and what Miranda sees as a remote worker, and so changes that make sense to one party don’t make sense to the other.

      The problem is, OP should have been the one mediating and helping to make the right decision all along… and since OP has been out of the picture, Miranda/Laura have to fight it out on their own. If OP were more hands on and made decisions that’s best for the business, based on the employee’s input, the relationship might have been salvaged. But OP deliberately abdicated responsibility and has shown their employees that they don’t have the knowledge to make these business decisions.
      Laura is savvy enough to understand that OP doesn’t want to get involved, and that’s what makes her dangerous – I don’t know that this situation is salvageable, because OP doesn’t have the information or ability to determine whether Laura is acting in her own self interest or whether she does have good points.

      1. Cinderella Sparklepants*

        +1. I tried to make a similar comment up top somewhere, but you said it better. Maybe Laura is 100% right, or maybe she’s stealing from OP (or, more likely, any of 1000 possibilities in the middle), but it doesn’t even matter at this point because OP is clueless. OP has to get their house in order before they’ll actually know what needs to be done.

        1. Andy*

          There is no way for Laura to be 100% right. There are several points that are quite wrong and one of them clearly manipulative – the one about omg screwing something while not being there you must be abysmal.

          That comment is about emotional us vs them feeling and making OP agree due to being funny. But it is nonsense, of course remote worker can make mistake without being abysmal.

    4. Me*

      Employees who aren’t poison don’t claim another employee makes them feel unsafe when there is exactly zero threat to their safety. That’s a horribly nasty thing to claim about someone.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        Not do they try to turn otherwise benign things about another employee into ammunition against said employee to their boss.

        1. Me*

          Exactly. I’m really not understanding the handful of people who are like “oh Laura may not be exactly what she’s acting like, we just don’t know!”

          1. Amaranth*

            I think its because the OP comes across as an unreliable narrator. We just get their feelings about Laura and how *trying* it is to have to pick sides when they don’t know anything. We don’t really know what Laura thinks needs improvement or why Miranda is shooting it down because OP hasn’t a clue. The one thing that is clear is that OP needs to learn how the company runs.

    5. Batgirl*

      Saying “Oh, can I hire all my friends?” and getting the go ahead to do so is the most efficient way to brew poison that I can think of. While I am suspicious that Laura is deliberately targeting OP as a sucker and making trouble, it doesn’t matter as far as toxicity goes. Accidental toxicity based on lazy favourtism is as common as daisies.

    6. DefinitiveAnn*

      Re using words like this a lot…OMG yes. If “toxic” was a shot word at AAM, I’d never make it back from lunch.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I am not a fan of the “personality conflict” explanation. In part because it seems to be used mostly when women are involved.

      If it was a personality conflict then the answer is to sit both people down and remind them that they are being compensated for their willingness to get along with others. They both need to find a path through their differences and get the job done.

      I don’t think personality conflict fits here because this seems to be mostly about Laura’s unending list of complaints about Miranda. OTOH, Miranda does not seem to have any where near the amount of complaints that Laura has.

      1. Ori*

        Yeah, I like the phrase ‘conflict is not abuse’, but the flip side to that is that abuse (or bullying in this case) isn’t conflict either. One employee undermining and picking at another isn’t a ‘conflict’.

  25. EmKay*

    Oh yikes, what a mess. OP you have to nip your own behaviour (showing favouritism to Laura and her friends) in the bud right now or you are going to lose Miranda and/or your business is going to take a serious dive.

  26. LTL*

    OP, I say this with kindness and the hopes that your business flourishes. You need to work on your professionalism. You need to acknowledge that you are in a position of power, controlling these people’s livelihoods, as their boss. The arrangement you have with them is a business deal. Being a manager means that you have to actively manage your business, your employees, and be capable of measuring their success objectively. A boss that can’t judge their employees’ work isn’t a good boss.

    Judging your employees’ work entails
    – doing so impartially (only considering things that are a part of their work in your evaluation of them as an employee- and not as a friend)
    – understanding their work (having enough familiarity with the things they do that if errors are happening often, you can spot them)
    – setting expectations around what bad, good, and great work looks like (you shouldn’t expect Miranda to figure out what her job is, you should have updated job descriptions for all your employees, don’t rely on unspoken expectations about being available outside of work hours and then ding employees for not following a secret rule). Alison’s famous interview question (“what distinguishes someone mediocre from someone who would excel in this position?) isn’t just meant to impress. It tells candidates a lot about how well-thought out a position is. Great managers are able to answer it well.

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      Yes, this! Owning and operating a business is primarily a managerial job, OP. If you can afford it, some managerial training and/or management consulting for your business might benefit you.

  27. I should really pick a name*

    ” I don’t have an updated job description for her”

    Then what was the point of the demotion? Changing her job title should mean changing her job description.

    1. ples*

      No kidding. If I got demoted, I’m sure not going to be working on the same projects and things for lesser pay and lesser title.

    2. AB*

      Even if she wasn’t demoted, it’s totally reasonable to expect to have access to your job description. I imagine “she should just know” made every HR professional audibly gasp.

      1. RW*

        I used to work for someone like the OP. I had a job description, but I was not allowed to do a lot of the things in it. After some frustrating encounters, I asked my boss if she could tell me what she saw my job as being, because we clearly didn’t see it the same way. She refused and told me she didn’t understand why we had to “define everything.”

    3. Chris*

      Totally agree. It is absolutely normal to review job descriptions every few years to make sure they are still relevant. In this case, I would ask for clarity since Miranda seems to be told at every turn that she is doing something wrong, when that wasn’t the case for many years.

    4. Gel Pen Destroyer*

      Right? I’m still trying to figure out what it is that OP does all day. She doesn’t manage the company’s finances, software, product sourcing, distribution, or warehouse, and she’s not managing the HR functions, like updating job descriptions, either. And she has an employee doing personal favors and errands for her. Which leaves her to do what, exactly?

        1. Blue*

          Not even that! They source product, and OP doesn’t know how or where from, it sounds like.
          OP, genuinely, I have to believe you do *something* all day, but based on what you’ve described, it’s hard to imagine what’s left for you to do. Making the window displays pretty? I mean, that’s a job, but it’s not the manager’s job.
          You do not run this business. Miranda does. It sounds like she’s been running it very successfully with minimal input or supervision from you for several years. This is your proof that she is doing a good job; your company, which consisted for years of only you and Miranda, was doing well without you knowing anything about how it runs! That only leaves Miranda to be responsible for your success, there’s no one else it could be!

          1. Fran Fine*

            THIS. OP needs to do some serious self reflection because there was a surprising lack of self-awareness present in this letter.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If there is no updated job description then OP needs to create one.

      OP, you seem to have stalled out here. It is up to you, actually, to make that job description. You should know what you are paying Miranda to do.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        It sounds like OP thinks Miranda’s actual job description is “everything Laura can’t or won’t do.”

  28. Jean*

    OP you need to get control of your business. First of all, you’re doing yourself no favors at all by not knowing how your own system works. That needs to be remedied immediately, otherwise you’re going to remain at the mercy of your staff. You also need to be looking at every situation from a business perspective, not a personal perspective, and thinking way more critically about the things your staff are telling you. Even if Laura isn’t taking advantage of you, eventually you’re going to have someone in there who tries to, and they will be able to easily if you don’t smarten up and get some better habits and boundaries in place.

  29. PPaula*

    Laura sounds toxic. OP sounds clueless. I’ve been Miranda. It sucked.
    I’m betting that Laura has a third friend that she wants to recommend for Miranda’s job. Be careful, OP, you’re next!

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Maybe all hee suggested employees are related and it’s a warehouse version of Parasite…

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Same. I was Miranda (except in office). New employee was successful in getting me to leave. Two years later, new employee is arrested for embezzlement, which was pretty much what I predicted in my resignation letter. I hope my letter helped them notice.

    3. Ori*

      I was bullied relentlessly by a new manager, which made no sense because I had otherwise good relationships and was bringing in the bulk of the department’s revenue. I eventually gave up and quit. Lo and behold, her daughter got my job.

      (She couldn’t hack it and the role was re-advertised a couple weeks later but that’s a different story).

  30. AceyAceyAcey*

    When Allison talks about how places that “feel like family” have poor boundaries, this is the sort of place she was talking about.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “We’re like a family”
      “Yeah but this shit is why I don’t talk to my actual family”

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I didn’t talk to my sister for 2 years after she hassled me about my weight. I think if she’d demoted me in favour of her new best friend we’d still not be on speaking terms.

        Family, friends, romantic relationships etc. still have the ‘opt out’ function – which a lot of these ‘we’re like a family’ companies don’t understand.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      She didn’t pull any punches, and thank goodness for that. These types of letters help me check my own small-business biases. List this under: How I don’t want to be when I grow up.

  31. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

    Personally I am not usually in favor of changing things, as Miranda was accused. From my experience, it’s typically just different and not often better. Many times it’s worse. It takes time and effort and causes confusion just so someone can try an experiment that too often fails.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      And will probably be a major headache for Miranda since the OP doesn’t know how her business is run as it is. Laura putting her own systems in place sounds like a power grab.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      There’s no way to know this without a lot more information. Every decent place I’ve ever worked has made changes that turned out to be for the better, usually for the much better.

      1. Simply the best*

        Sure, but OP doesn’t know anything about her own business so there’s no way to know if Miranda is just being obstinate or if she has reasons for not wanting to make change. And we don’t know what these changes actually are.

        I just had a meeting with a whole bunch of people who want to make changes at my work and had to put my foot down and say absolutely not are we making these changes because the amount of work that I will end up having to do doesn’t make sense for what little benefit this change will give us. Not all change is good.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          That was kind of my point: There is no way to know here which it is. Simply wanting to make changes is not inherently good or bad–in your case, it meant more work for you; in mine, it meant less, and vastly better service for our clients. But neither of our situations has anything to do with this situation so unless and until we know a whole lot more about what’s going on here, there is no way to tell whether making changes is better or not.

          Maybe Miranda doesn’t want to make changes because it would mean more work for her, but maybe she just doesn’t want to learn anything new even if it would benefit the business. The LW admits she hasn’t worked with the software in years, so there’s at least some chance it’s completely out of date and a newer version might be an improvement.

        2. qvaken*

          Sometimes requesting changes is about people wanting to have input into the work they do every day and the systems and processes they use. If you think the “cons” of a worker’s suggestion outweigh the “pros”, I think it can be a good idea to show that you listened and that you valued their perspective and their input, even if you also have to tell them that you can’t implement the change they suggested.

    3. MassMatt*

      We don’t really have enough info about what changes are being proposed, and it’s natural to be wary of change, but IMO this kind of conservative mindset is increasingly at odds with business. Technological, social, and legislative changes are accelerating, and it’s not going to stop or slow down, it’s only going to accelerate more.

      Yes, sometimes the new software/management reorganization is a PITA, but overall change is here to stay and the better we adjust, the better off we will be.

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think the key here is that OP’s business model has changed. I think it’s very likely that the system Miranda has set up worked well for the previous setup using a contracted warehouse/shipping company, but the shift to hiring in-house warehouse staff means that the system needs to work differently. In a functional business, both Miranda and Laura would be able to bring up their concerns and a decision would be made considering both sides.

      It seems like OP fundamentally does not understand that running a business means that compromises and decisions need to be made. The desire for “camaraderie” sounds like OP is expecting a group that is all aligned in mindset, with no disagreements or conflicts, so all the business decisions would be easy because everyone agrees.

    5. SnappinTerrapin*

      “Change for the sake of change” and “doing it the way we always have” are two sides of the same coin.

      Both are apparently easy answers for someone unwilling to do the work of figuring out what the alternatives really are, and what the likely costs and benefits are of those alternatives.

      1. qvaken*

        I agree. I think it’s more about accepting feedback and doing a cost-benefit analysis to decide the best way forward. Change isn’t always the right way, and change isn’t always the wrong way, either.

  32. Dust Bunny*

    ” I don’t know what is a mistake and what isn’t or about our software and the business and limitations. I haven’t used our software in years and I don’t know that much about our product sourcing and things that Laura wants to change.”

    OP, you need to get back on the horse and run your business. Right now it sounds like you just want to be there for fun but don’t want to bother with any of the stuff that is actually involved in running a business. Like, by a lot. You can’t succeed at this while also avoiding all the hard and/or boring nuts-and-bolts stuff. You seem to be hoping that your employees will magically make this work out for you without your participation.

    I can’t tell here who or what the problem is–it sort of sounds like you have two strong, pushy personalities duking it out in your living room–but the first step is for you to take back the reins and be the leader you’re supposed to be here, whether it’s fun and good-vibey or not.