our boss won’t speak to us, hides in his office, and drops off calls if anyone greets him

A reader writes:

I work for a small (12 person) agency that has exploded over the past few years. Most employees have been there for between 1-2 years, including our executive director.

Eleven of us get along famously, but our executive director has stopped speaking to anyone. He has always been an odd duck, but about a month ago one of the managers questioned something he had written in an all-staff memo. She handled her concern very professionally (at first) but when his response was “my teenage daughter doesn’t like it when I tell her what to do either, you need to just get over it,” she became very brusque and asked him not to think of her the way he thinks of his daughter. When it was apparent that she had support for her complaint (she questioned the condescending tone and rude comments made in the memo, not the subject of the memo itself) he disconnected from the call and hasn’t spoken to anyone since.

Now that we are all starting to come back to the office, his disdain is palpable. When you see him in the hall and say hello, he just keeps walking. When invited to lunch “with the gang,” he just refuses to respond. When in the office we are trying to conduct meetings in person, but he will stay in his office with the door closed and join by Zoom, usually with his camera off and muted until someone calls him out and asks a direct question. Then he will turn on his camera to answer the question and then turn it off again. He’s popped in to several meetings without announcing himself, trying to “lurk” without turning on his camera. When he is greeted, he immediately disconnects.

While all of this is odd, none of it is my direct problem. I was promised a promotion and a sizable raise in June. Since he is not talking to anyone or signing anything that he doesn’t have to sign, my raise and promotion are bottlenecked at his desk. The CFO is off for another month with a family emergency and can’t intervene, and my manager is bringing it up at every manager’s meeting (most of which he refuses to attend now). Right now, the plan is that I will get the promotion and raise next month when the CFO returns, but it will be effective June 30, as planned, so I will receive the additional pay at that time. In the meantime, I am doing the work of the promotion without the pay or title.

I don’t want to get pulled into the growing wave of disgust with our executive director, because I really do love my job and don’t want this to sour the experience. Other than being patient, refusing to pile on when people are making fun of him, and doing my job, what can I do to ensure that the promotion and raise go through as planned next month?

What.

The head of your organization — who needs to speak to other people as part of his job — is refusing to speak to anyone, freezes people out in the hall, hides in his office to the point that he joins meetings by Zoom when everyone else is in person down the hall, and sneaks onto video calls but hangs up immediately if anyone greets him? And this is because someone asked him not to compare her to his daughter?

Is everything … okay with your director?

Because this is seriously bizarre behavior, and it’s almost as bizarre that everyone seems to just be going along as if this isn’t incredibly strange and concerning. Which makes me think this isn’t the first time there have been issues with this guy?

As for ensuring that your promotion and raise go through next month … there might not be anything you can do beyond what’s already happened. It sounds like your manager doesn’t have the authority to make it happen herself but is on it to the extent she can be, and the CFO is coming back soon. You could ask your boss if she can put the plan in writing, but it sounds like she doesn’t have the authority to commit to it. Personally, if I were in your manager’s shoes, I’d just walk into the executive director’s office in person and say, “I need to finalize the raise and promotion for Lucinda, effective June 30 when she took over the role. What are the next steps to make that happen?” If you think she might be up for doing that, you could suggest it … but otherwise I think you’re stuck waiting until the CFO is back.

If I were your manager, I’d also organize the rest of the managers to confront the ED directly or to go to the board, but apparently for some reason no one is doing that.

It’s worth giving serious thought to whether you should build a career long-term at a place that’s run this way. I respect your “I’ll just keep my head down and not get involved” stance, but when an organization this small has this kind of kookiness going on, it’s going to affect you whether you want it to or not.

{ 192 comments… read them below }

  1. Madtown Maven*

    If this agency has a Board of Directors, I’d bet that they’d want to know about the issues with their ED.

    1. Lizzo*

      Yep, this is exactly the kind of situation that calls for board involvement. That said, tread lightly depending on the ED’s relationship with board members, and board leadership in particular.

      1. Amtelope*

        Yeah, only the board can fix this weirdness, but it doesn’t sound like OP is in a position to take this to the board, since she has at least one layer of management above her. My question would be, is the organization continuing to function despite a CFO on leave and an ED who isn’t doing his job? Or is it in slow motion meltdown? Is anyone who currently is at work and working empowered to make decisions, control the organization’s budget, and make plans for the future? If the answer to even one of those questions is “no,” I would start job-hunting. Small non-profits often fall apart, and this one is sending up some serious red flags.

        1. MissBliss*

          I disagree–the scale of the organization suggests to me that OP could go to the board, despite the fact that she doesn’t report directly to the ED.

    2. RC Rascal*

      Not necessarily. The ED probably has a very different tone when he speaks to the board. He is in a position to spin it so it sounds like everyone else is the. problem. Since doing nothing is always the easy way, it’s likely the board will continue to back him.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        There are only 12 people in the organization. It would be quite possible to line up literally every employee and have them all give their points of view to the Board.

        *Maybe* the ED is enough of a schmoozer to overcome that, but that would take some grade A schmoozing.

        1. Tom*

          I had a manager who would hide behind pillars or shelving, or quickly step into other rooms, when someone he had decided he was on the outs with appeared. It was awful for that person, but also awkward and embarrassing for the staff he had just been talking to, who – while he was still in earshot – had to pretend it hadn’t happened. Because he wasn’t speaking to them the ‘enemy’ would never know what they had done. He’d cancel one-on-one meetings an hour before began via the automatic updater on MS Calendar. He was a very odd man.

  2. nonbinary writer*

    I know plenty of people act without thinking, but honestly what on earth does this guy think he’s going to accomplish by acting like this! If anyone is deserving of a comparison to a teenager throwing a fit, it’s the ED.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Nobody ever called him out on his behavior before and it’s causing his whole identity of “mommy’s extra special boy” to implode.

      1. Nanani*

        How much do we all want to bet that “Don’t talk to me like your teen daughter” was the last straw for the person who wrote that to the ED?

        Petulant behaviour pairs well with him being unpleasant to work with at the best of times.

        1. Elenna*

          Yes – I’m 100% certain that the reason everyone is just working around the ED is because they always acted like a pouting toddler, and this is just slightly more obvious than normal, so everyone has normalized it.

          1. quill*

            I wonder if the absence of HIS superiors on-site, or the number of fires to put out this year, have enabled his behavior.

    2. Divergent*

      Honestly the ED’s behaviour reminds me of my strongest impulses when I’m having my worst anxiety issues: just running and hiding and avoiding as much as possible, and all people are scary and secretly hate me. Often ends up with me being described as stuck-up too.

      I’m looking forward to a follow-up from this one because it’s just so out there, but yet so familiar.

      1. elle*

        Totally agree. I don’t want to downplay the way his behavior is unacceptable and negatively impacting other people, but it sounds to me like he needs help with anxiety run amok.

      2. Marple*

        I’ve worked with someone like this. It was hell. As much as I had sympathy for them as a human being, they were doing a terrible job and mucking things up for the rest of the staff. It’s up to them to get their stuff together and show up for work, *ready* to work. All of us have that obligation.

      3. Anonosaurus*

        Yeah – he has to deal with it or someone has to remove him or otherwise deal with him, but part of me does have some sympathy. I’ve had periods of my life where I’d have liked to hide in my office all the time, too. While I don’t condone his behavior, it is not the behavior of a happy and healthy individual.

      4. WellRed*

        That was my immediate thought. Doesn’t excuse the behavior but intervention is needed at this point whatever the reason.

      5. Anon Supervisor*

        I think it’s kind of OK to lay low and lick your wounds for a little bit (because I’m pretty avoidant and anxious too). But as long as that behavior doesn’t go on forever or at least doesn’t hamper the normal day to day business of getting work done, I don’t think it’s the worst way to respond.

        1. valprehension*

          This person… has no wounds to lick though. Someone asked him a question about a memo and he blew up and, as far as I can tell, didn’t even bother to answer the question. His employees have wounds to lick, not him. Also, as an ED, this behaviour toward your reports is *never* acceptable. If it happens, it should be rectified immediately. This has been going for weeks, if not months, and it’s absolutely unjustifiable.

      6. FallingSlowly*

        It’s funny that you say that, when I read just the title of the OP I laughed out loud because it sounded like wish-fulfilment for my worst days. There have been many times where I would love to do the equivalent of climbing into my treehouse and pulling the ladder up behind me, and to not speak to anyone. Not out of petulance, but anxiety and overwhelming workloads.

        The letter itself was a different wild ride though, I can’t imagine what on earth this ED is thinking to act in such a way.

    3. Despachito*

      Without wanting to armchair diagnose, I’d at least consider he might have some untreated health issues (which would not in the least change the fact that this situation is untenable and the higher-ups should take care of it, but it would help me not to think about him as mercilessly as if he was only acting out of asshattery.)

      What baffles me is that this is apparently going on for some time and the higher-ups did not notice that he is totally dysfunctional (it was unclear to me whether he has superiors or at least peers)?

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          Well, before we get too harsh about the “disproportionate” success of mediocre people, let’s bear in mind that mediocrity is the largest demographic group in most communities, and managers do tend to hire and promote people who remind them of themselves.

          1. Despachito*

            Good point..

            I am always thinking that what sucks is to be a mediocre member of any disadvantaged group. If you are extremely gifted member of a disadvantaged group, you can sometimes succeed as well (e.g. you can get a scholarship to a good university if you are a poor gifted student). If you are mediocre and rich, you can pay your way through the university but if you mediocre and poor (or mediocre, money-wise) then you are screwed.

            But I do not want to digress; we do not know whether if he were a woman the situation would be different. What we do know that he is utterly dysfunctional, and man or woman, the company can hardly afford having someone behaving like this in such a high position.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        It sounds like maybe the CFO is the only person higher and they’ve been out so haven’t seen the extent of what is happening?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          And the board I guess, but they presumably wouldn’t see any of this unless someone brings it to them (which definitely needs to happen if it hasn’t)

  3. AndersonDarling*

    I aspire to be as professional as the OP in this situation. I’d be all over the gossip train on this one.

    1. mcfizzle*

      I think I’d escalate (probably unfortunately). “Good morning Bob”. No response. “GOOD MORNING BOB”. Still no response. “HEY BOB!!” “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOBBBBB”. And then follow that up with an email. “Hey Bob – I saw you in the hall but you didn’t say good morning, and I just wanted to be sure you knew I wished you a good morning”.
      Repeat at least daily.

      1. Yipsie*

        Or when someone acknowledges him in a meeting and he bounces, I’d be tempted to send him a message/email/pop into his office and cheerfully be like “Oh no! It looks like you got dropped from the call. Are you trying to reconnect? I could send you the link for zoom again if you need it”

        1. OP with clarification*

          I’ve actually done that twice.
          He doesn’t reply, but it makes me happy for the rest of the day.

            1. COHikerGirl*

              Also late to the comments and also literally LOL’d. OP, both pointed and professional.

          1. Old Admin*

            Yes and no.
            Yes:
            Because my inner punk girl is giggling evilly on how you are sending the awkward back to the ED. Heehee!
            No:
            Because this is another instance of you learning twisted office norms and that petty revenge is OK. (I don’t want to put you down for that, as I would do the same thing – it’s just not good for your professional development.)

            1. Janne*

              But is it petty to send someone a message when they have suddenly and without explanation disconnected from a Zoom meeting? I think it is quite normal behavior.

      2. Mashed potatoes and gravy train*

        This is EXACTLY how I deal with my boss. She frequently stomps by my office without acknowledging me, so I run into her office waving.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        hee-hee-hee. We had a CEO that according to the rumor mill did NOT appreciate being spoken to first thing in the morning. Well. It came my week to unlock the door for him and OF COURSE I said good morning every morning.
        I never had to do that task again. lol.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I’m with your CEO on this one. Though to be fair, I do make myself greet everyone very cheerily on arrival, which usually buys me enough time/goodwill to sit silently for the next 15 mins drinking coffee till I’m ready to function.

          If someone does try to extend the initial greeting, it’s about 50/50 whether they get a sane answer or a blank look and confused muttering.

      4. Former HR Staffer*

        lmao… we had an anti-social colleague like this. one day our admin said “good night mary” as mary was heading out, and she barked “well gee thank! now everyone in the office knows what time i’m leaving!” and huffed out.

        it was 4:30 and most ppl had left by then anyways, so we didn’t know wth that was all about, but ever since then, we all made sure to shout BYE MARY every single time we saw her leave from then on :)

      5. Just My 2 Cents*

        Love this…I’ve actually resorted to Bueller…Bueller? when it’s someone I know can take a joke.

    2. Shenandoah*

      Same. I recognize this is a personal failing, but I would be the conductor of the gossip train here. Choo choooo!

  4. PT*

    ED may very well get fired when the CFO gets back. Waiting him out might not be the worst strategy, if you otherwise like the job.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      In small organizations like this, the Executive Director is usually the person at the top of the organization. The CFO probably reports to the ED (although the CFO may have enough independent authority to process promotions and such).

    2. MissDisplaced*

      This was my thought, and it sounds like the CEO isn’t yet aware of how badly this behavior has progressed. That may change when they return.

  5. Kat*

    I had a boss like this once. She was burned out and had mentally checked out of her job, not even going through the motions. If this boss has the same problem, he may already be job searching and on the way out.

    1. Meep*

      We have a VP like this who will pout, throw a tantrum, pick fights, and hang up on calls if you embarrass her. Which sadly isn’t hard to do on account of the fact she doesn’t listen and latches on words while misusing them constantly. (Think calling every fruit a pear despite being corrected multiple times.)

      I admit, I have started screening her calls because it is never about anything work-related other than to complain how mean the boss is being.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      We had one, who basically had never been told that sulking when you don’t get your own way isn’t appropriate past childhood. He was left waiting in silence for someone, anyone, to say ‘actually you’re right, we’re wrong and we’re sorry’, which we found out later was what he was after during that whole sulk.

      Thing is, he was wrong. And an IT team has better things to do than soothe a 48 year old man’s ego.

      1. AskJeeves*

        Sort of hilarious to imagine him sitting there in a huff waiting for someone to apologize, when everyone else in the room is getting on with things and doesn’t even realize he’s sulking. Oops!

  6. Mental Lentil*

    There are a ton of potential reasons for his behavior: medical issue, personal issue, etc.

    But none of that is your concern. You can’t manage those things. The real questions I’d be thinking about are those that Alison raised:

    1) What can I do (if anything) about managing around his behavior in the short term? (Answer: not much, if nobody else here seems to have a problem with this.)

    2) How much of my career do I want to invest in this place? (Answer: not much, if nobody else here seems to have a problem with this.)

    When the second verse is the same as the first…yeah, I’d be tempted to start looking for something else.

    1. MassMatt*

      I’m reminded of a roommate of mine who worked for a local bar rag (remember them?). The owner/publisher was an awful, AWFUL person who acted like he was God’s gift. Several of the overworked and underpaid staff got together and asked all the advertisers if they would support a new publication, same general content, but without Mr. Douchebag. They all said yes. So one day Mr. Douche comes in to the office to find that the entire staff has quit. New publication was up and running in about 10 days. He still owned the name, and an office lease, but had no employees or advertisers. It was masterfully done, and entirety deserved.

      If this ED is at the top of the hierarchy (honestly all this talk of a CFO, CEO, and “go to the board of directors” for a 12 person workplace makes it sound awfully top-heavy, who is doing the actual work?) and is this useless, maybe the staff could all form a new organization without him? He could stay in his office and not talk to anyone as long as he likes.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Ha, that is amazing! Good on the and the advertisers.

        Points of clarification:
        *The original letter only mentions a CFO, no CEO is mentioned.
        *An Executive Director and a Board of Directors is pretty standard setup for a non-profit of any size.

        1. Self Employed*

          I believe the regulations for non-profits require an ED and a Board of Directors. Supposedly that prevents people from creating non-profits and just running off with the money instead of spending it on the goals of the organization.

        2. MassMatt*

          The letter doesn’t mention a CEO, but comments upstream do.

          For that matter, the letter doesn’t mention a board of directors, either, or that it’s a nonprofit, only that it’s an “agency”. That it’s a nonprofit seems likely given the ED title, but it could be an ad agency, or small local government.

          Maybe this is the norm for nonprofits, but the org does seem quite top heavy with (absentee) leadership, IMO. An ED (incommunicado), CFO (out for family emergency for a month—nothing getting done in meanwhile), a board of directors (I’m assuming that’s at least 3 people? One of them the chairperson?), who knows how many other execs. It sounds like a lot of generals and very few soldiers. It sounds like Lilliput.

  7. Jessie J*

    The ED does sound odd but I would email a brief “are you ok?” message just to connect on a non-work human level.
    Maybe something is really wrong with him.

    1. JG Obscura*

      Unfortunately from what OP’s told us, I think sending such a message would backfire horribly.

      1. Not Australian*

        Also, a person doesn’t always realise there is ‘something wrong’ with them, and someone in acute mental distress may believe he is coping wonderfully well in difficult circumstances. I don’t think in this case approaching the guy directly – with whatever goodwill may be involved – will do anything other than make matters significantly worse. If anyone is going to make a sympathetic approach to him, it needs to be the CFO.

        1. Jessie J*

          I meant “did someone close to you pass or is someone ill” type of check-in.
          My office managers and co-workers would be able to talk about something like this. It was meant as a basic human check in since his behaviour is extreme and their group is quite small.

    2. AskJeeves*

      Nah. So likely to backfire, and it’s not the staff’s responsibility to manage the mental health of their ED. But (depending on the nature of the family emergency), the CFO should be alerted so they can check in.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        +100000 to this. Just because he’s higher up in management doesn’t mean that those employed at a more junior level have to assuage his tantrums. The power differential here should never dictate that.

    3. TransmascJourno*

      Oof, I’d advise strongly against this. OP would be inserting herself into a situation in a way that could actually put her promotion in more jeopardy. Considering from what we know about the ED per this letter, he would most likely retaliate against her if she sent something to him along these lines. Not only that, but blurring the professional and the personal with someone who has a supervisory, executive-level position over the OP could lead to so many more complications that, quite frankly, the OP doesn’t need.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I had a problem boss at a workplace once. He was going through a divorce with one of the other partners in the business, and he turned into a raging jerk at work. Micromanaging, ready to snap at us for any little thing we did– not just did wrong, but not done *the way that he would do it*– the works.

        Well, one of my colleagues decided to take the compassionate approach of asking him if he was ok. This led to night of him pouring out his soul until the early hours of the morning, and ended with him trying to kiss her.

        Soooooo, yeah, I’m on Team Stay Away.

  8. Save the Hellbender*

    Two nightmare EDs on AAM today! I wonder how staff and boards can work around or prevent this when it’s such a huge role in small organizations.

    1. Allypopx*

      I’ve known plenty of EDs who have been vetted to the teeth and still ended up being awful. It’s so hard to screen for, really you need a process in place to deal with it when it happens (which involves effective chains of communication staff can pursue to reach the board with issues, written policies, probationary periods, and clear guidelines for how a board ousts a problem ED)

      1. NYC Taxi*

        So true, process is key here. At a previous job we hired an ED who was great on paper, great in all our interviews, came with glowing references….then when they started it was like an entirely different person showed up. It was stunning and bizarre. Because we set milestones that had to be met within x number of days, weeks, months, etc. we were able to show them the door in a little under two months. I always wondered if they had a twin and that’s who showed up. Lifetime movie for sure.

        1. Pipe Organ Guy*

          Many years ago, I was organist for a church and beginning to enjoy what I had waited years for, a newly-installed pipe organ. The previous choir director had resigned; I had been filling in, but didn’t really want to be both choir director and organist. So a search was on for a new choir director. One of the candidates had a great resume, interviewed well, and auditioned very well. He had just started his doctoral studies at the local university. The church hired him. The conductor who showed up had a completely different, toxic personality. After a few months, I quit without another organist job lined up. He was given to browbeating an elderly volunteer member of the choir. He played sick psychological games to trip people up. He made life miserable for one of the paid quartet of singers. I heard through the grapevine that he drove most of the volunteer choir members away. I also heard that he was not respected, merely tolerated, as a doctoral student. He graduated and found a teaching position in another state. I admit to feeling schadenfreude when he was fired from that position over financial and possible other improprieties, and it got into a national LGBT magazine. He managed to mess up a lot of lives.

    2. Sue*

      A lot of it is the nature of the job. An ED of a small organization usually has to handle a wide variety of functions, be a leader but also a worker bee.
      Things like engagement, focus, enthusiasm and energy level can make a huge difference. Over time, many people have wide disparities. They might be a star and then lose momentum and become mediocre or even worse. Because of the pressure, burnout is a big issue. Tough job.

      1. Artemesia*

        I used to place interns in dozens of organizations and so worked with a lot of dysfunctional ones. It seemed pretty common for a board to hire some golf buddy or ‘guy they used to know’ to be ED. They often seemed pretty clueless.

  9. Risha*

    I don’t want to internet diagnose anything. For all we know he’s just an ass who is throwing a fit, or has reason to believe the FBI is about to raid the office. But I will say this reads oddly like some of my work behavior in the six months before I had to take a leave of absence for a partial hospitalization.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      That was my thought, as well—there are certain medical conditions that can cause a sudden change in behavior. (Or his hamster exploded, or someone stole all his ramen. Who know?)

      But ultimately, it’s not on LW to manage the ED’s health concerns. She can only manage the fallout from his behavior, and that’s where we need to focus our attention.

    2. Mary Connell*

      Also not internet diagnosing, but it sounds like a case I recall reading about of early onset Alzheimers. But whatever the cause, it needs to be handled!

    3. Xenia*

      Same—I don’t want to diagnose anything, and won’t, beyond the fact that this seems way beyond normal workplace pettiness and well into “mental well-being” status. I’ve lived with folks whose feelings get hurt at the drop of a hat and this is a special kind of extreme.

  10. RJ*

    Can’t add anything to Allison’s excellent response.. This is just very bizarre behavior which has been going on for a month at a small company with no one confronting the ED. OP, this does affect you directly. You don’t have to manage this issue, but it’s affecting both your promotion and your bottom line. Unless some action is taken soon by the managing staff, I’d consider fast tracking a job search IMO.

  11. Bee Eye Ill*

    It might be worth trying to catch this person outside of work and briefly talk to them, check in, ask if they are OK, or whatever. Something strange is going on, for sure.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I’d advise against that – it’s not the OP’s “place” to do so, and they’re not even a direct report to the ED. The OP should keep their head down and let their manager and the rest of the executive team handle the situation (and they should be going to the board of directors).

      1. ShakenNotStirred*

        This is probably the best course of action for anyone not directly reporting to the ED. Of course, if upper management doesn’t take this to the board immediately, I might change my answer.

    2. Statisticianian*

      I don’t think the OP is the right person to do this. A peer, or maybe a direct report with a good relationship might, but he seems to be her grandboss, who she’s worked with a year or two.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Adding: Given how long this has gone on, the ED has painted himself into a corner that he really can’t get himself out of.
      He would have to step out of his role as an abuser and answer, it’s unlikely he will do that. He is stuck in this role he set up for himself.
      I do have this fantasy that subordinates ask him questions without him knowing that board members are watching how he handles the questions.

      I do think that when the CFO gets back, you all should ask for a secondary person that you can go to in case of emergency- meaning a board member who would be available to all of you.

    4. OP with clarification*

      The truth is, and this is going to sound harsh, I don’t really care WHY he’s behaving this way. I don’t want to diagnose him or try to fix him or know more than superficial things about his private life. When he’s speaking to us he talks about getting drunk with his friends and his hot wife. That’s plenty of personal information as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Yeah, he sounds like a pretty run-of-the-mill turd. I’m assuming this is a not-for-profit? Any idea how he gets along with the board? Is there any local government oversight? Bad directors can be fired, but in the instance I know about, it took discussions with select board members and a few leaks to local media.

      2. Librarian1*

        And you don’t need to care about it. It’s not your responsibility and he needs to stop behaving this way regardless of why.

      3. Idril Celebrindal*

        Yeah, especially since this all started with his reaction to being asked to please stop being rude and condescending, I’m not seeing “mental breakdown” and am seeing a lot of “entitled jerk having a tantrum.” If there is a problem, it’s not the responsibility of people he has power over.

      4. Observer*

        The truth is, and this is going to sound harsh, I don’t really care WHY he’s behaving this way

        In this context, TOTALLY not “harsh”. It’s totally reasonable.

        In fact, even if you did care, it would be a very, very bad idea to follow this particular piece of advice.

  12. Airy*

    It could well be that whatever he’s being so weird about is unrelated to the “teenage daughter” incident and just coincidentally happened right after it so it looked like cause and effect. That’s the main explanation I can think of for such an entirely disproportionate reaction, that it’s actually a reaction to something else – but whatever his reason, it’s no way to behave at work, it’s inconveniencing everyone and it does sound like something the board should know.

    1. a*

      That’s what I was thinking. I’m embarrassed to say that I displayed some pretty bizarre behavior and isolated myself from my coworkers in a previous job when I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

    2. Pennyworth*

      The ”teenage daughter” seems to be the catalyst – perhaps there is something going on at home which is triggering his behavior. Who knows, but he needs to stop what he is doing and get help if necessary.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        That was my thought as well. And I also agree with willow for now that I feel bad for his teenage daughter.

    3. Kella*

      I don’t think that’s likely for two reasons. First, the comment that started the conflict “my teenage daughter doesn’t like it when I tell her what to do either, you need to just get over it,” is already a sign that this manager isn’t great at managing. Secondly, it says that when it was clear others agreed with the employee’s complaint, “he disconnected from the call and hasn’t spoken to anyone since.” So, he hung up on his employees while having a conversation about his behavior. Then he stopped speaking to anyone immediately afterward. That’s two examples of him shutting down conversations, immediately followed by him shutting down *all* conversation.

      In short, something was *already* wrong at the time he was having that conversation. It’s possible that something else is going on to exacerbate whatever his baseline weirdness is but it definitely looks like this conflict directly worsened things.

      1. Astrid*

        What prompted the “teenage daughter” comment was the employee who “questioned the condescending tone and rude comments made in the {ED’s] memo,” so it sounds like there was an obvious issue before that. Yikes, what a mess.

    4. DI*

      This is what I think, too. I would actually be concerned about more than the promotion bottleneck — the ED is hiding out and refusing to talk to anyone for unknown reasons. People can withdraw like that because they’re angry, or dealing with a personal problem, but it can also be because they know something bad’s about to happen and they don’t want to face everyone.

  13. Nanani*

    If your ED is not, in fact, in middle school, then this is a giant red flag that this organization will continue to be a nightmare for the brief time it continues to exist.

  14. Jean*

    I’ve always wondered what it was like to have a job where I could just go cuckoo for cocoa puffs and still get to show up every day and collect my check. If I behaved like this in my current role I’d be shown the door the same day. It always seems to be people with supposedly “important” jobs too. How important can you really be if your utter lack of functioning doesn’t really impair day to day operations all that much?

    1. Amber T*

      Right?? Every time I make a minor mistake, or maybe seem a bit gruff or grumpy because of an off day, anxiety shoots me to “oh crap you’re going to get fired!” Then I remember that people like this exist, and I feel more secure in my job.

    2. meyer lemon*

      I have to wonder what kind of money he’s getting paid to hide in his office and ignore everyone. Probably more than any of the people who are presumably taking over all the work he’s meant to be doing.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I know, right? I have to take great care to not let my own crazy into the workplace, and it’s always a shock to see that there are apparently jobs where I could actually go bonkers and still get paid.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, but remember that management can get away with almost anything they want to. Peons can’t.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I am management but it’s still a good point that the higher up you go the more you can get away with.

          Wonder how my boss would react if I came in with one of my delusions versus, say, a member of my staff doing the same…

        2. Merci Dee*

          Don’t I wish. There’s currently a guy that works in a department adjacent to mine (business-wise, not location-wise) who is the most unrepentant, utter ass I’ve ever seen in a work environment. He is consistently rude to co-workers, as well as outside vendors. He usually keeps it to the level of low-grade snark, but every once in a while he just absolutely loses it and sends incredibly offensive and insulting emails copied to anyone that he thinks is even remotely involved with the “problem” that he’s dealing with. If my supervisor or I are caught in the sights of his meltdown, we tend to reply back to him that he needs to dial down his tone because we won’t deal with him otherwise. But my supervisor, my grand-boss (the head of our department), and I have all had conversations with his supervisor at different times saying that she needs to get this situation with him sorted out because he’s doing more harm than good to the company’s reputation with vendors. (His manager and I have a really good relationship, because we were peers on the same org level for about 8 years; it’s only been about 3 years ago that she was promoted to manager, and we have maintained a work-friends relationship since her promotion because our departments work so closely together.) She’ll give his leash a yank, and he’ll settle down for a while. But it’s not long before he moves back into snark territory and then starts working himself into another blow-up. She refuses to get rid of him, and it ends up doing damage to her own reputation that she’s letting one of her subordinates operate like this with so little oversight or consequences for his behavior. Meanwhile, their department has a hard time holding onto personnel for any length of time, and I have to think it’s because of this guy’s attitude.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            That’s really too bad for your peer. What she is not thinking about is that everyone is noticing how poorly she is handling this and that will follow her. And it could follow her for a long time.

          2. Observer*

            With all of it, it sounds like he is actually getting more work done than the OP’s ED.

            And, although he is getting away with it FOR NOW, something is going to snap at some point. And the boss who is letting him get away with it is ALSO going to pay a price. In fact, she may already be paying even though it’s not so obvious.

            1. Merci Dee*

              Interestingly enough, I just got a message from the troublesome co-worker saying that September 1 is going to be his last day. So it looks like this situation is going to resolve itself.

      2. quill*

        My worst behavior is generally incoherence and inattention, or sarcasm and stalling.

        The worst behavior of extremely senior people that we’ve seen around here runs the gamut from screaming at people to taping their mouths shut to weird gross marking-territory-with-bodily-functions behavior.

        I think there’s something to the Trunchbull principal of “be so outrageously evil no one will believe that anyone is telling the truth about your reign of terror.”

    4. Rectilinear Propagation*

      How important can you really be if your utter lack of functioning doesn’t really impair day to day operations all that much?

      This needs to be a cross stitch or something.

  15. Magenta Sky*

    Welcome to the 3rd grade.

    “I’M NOT LISTENING!!!”

    Does he stomp his feet with his hands over his ears, too?

    1. Yvette*

      No silly, he doesn’t stomp his feet he says “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LAAAAA”

    1. Amber T*

      Honestly one of the best bets would be to knock on his door and ask a work related question like nothing has happened. I’m super curious what would happen. I’m sure everyone is kinda walking on eggshells around him and only contacting him remotely, so he has the power play of easily ignoring those and making everyone thing “what did I do wrong?”

      If someone in OP’s office were to go in and just say “hey, do you have a few minutes to review the Teapots Report?” super nonchalantly, what would his response be? Would he be shocked into responding normally (because how dare someone ignore his attempts at mind games??)? Or would he throw a more literal temper tantrum?

  16. Just Another Zebra*

    OP, unless your org is very new, I think there’s a bit of a red flag that most people have only been there “a year or two”, including this ED. Do you work in an industry with a propensity for burn out?

    As for advice, I’d go to someone above the ED. Board of Directors, maybe? I’d definitely frame it in terms of your promotion, that you’ve been doing the work for your new role for six weeks, but the paperwork for the pay and title change haven’t come through. Maybe express the ED seems overwhelmed, or distant… something to convey that things are not OK without completely flagging this guy as a donkey (even if he is being one).

    1. Allypopx*

      I read “organization has exploded” as “everything blew up and everyone left” and now I’m realizing that’s probably not what OP meant.

      1. Daniel*

        I read “exploded” as “abruptly expanded,” which could explain the short tenures of the folks there.

  17. Meep*

    So two sides to this –

    We have a very immature VP. If her authority is questioned in the slightest, no matter how polite, she will hang up the call. She was complaining I was “catty” because I repeatedly told her I did not have the know-how to be up-to-speed by Wednesday (it was Monday) to give the clients a training session on a complex topic (which wasn’t even what they needed) and she decided to announce to our boss I would do it. I was so fed up and frustrated with having to try and get her to be reasonable for an hour prior that I was short. “I am not doing that, because as I explained, I don’t feel comfortable about the subject matter on such short notice.” I have been on her sh*t list since for “embarrassing her” and she will go out of her way to be verbally abusive and hang up when I hold firm on being polite and professional.

    On the flip side, I refuse to answer her calls and text messages. I will only acknowledge her work emails, because a) there is a paper trail, and b) any time she calls it is to try and use me as free therapy for hours and maybe five minutes related to work. (Texts are always – call me to which I response “I am busy right now. Please send an email if it is urgent.) There is no good way to get her off the phone as she will say “wait. I need to talk to you about x” before never actually talking about work.

    He is definitely doing the bare minimum communication required to do his job (like me), but the difference is he is acting like our toxic VP over a slight embarrassment. If there is HR (there isn’t with our small company either), I would have them pull him aside. If he is ignoring your emails (like my delightful coworker does!) then walk with the task in hand into his office and sweetly tell him you are leaving it for him. Then follow up. If he wants to act like a child, treat him like one. Give him space but make him realize not doing his homework isn’t an option.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Sometimes we just have to move on with our business, even if the toddler is throwing a tantrum.
      Someone has to crack this bizarre standoff.

      “Hey boss. Just checking in to see if there’s anything I can do to help you move the paperwork along for my job change.”
      Act like it is a totally normal thing, and that you’re expecting a totally normal response.

      This would be the opening the ED could use to express whatever they need to express — either “I’m not eating my vegetables” (at which point, you can report to HR that there’s a bottleneck and how could you help move things along without involving ED), or to maybe hint at whatever the heck is going on, and then you offer to assist with breaking the log jam so that everyone can start getting back to normal. Even if that means that you’re going to lay down on the floor during the Zoom calls with ED and talk about how overwhelming everything is for this poor broken soul.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        There’s likely no HR at a place this small (12 people), and the CFO may be doing the HR (and that person is out). I agree with others that there should be a call to the Board that oversees this organization. They’re the ones with the ability (whether they employ it or not is another issue) to make the ED shape up or otherwise ship him out.

        1. starsaphire*

          That would be my guess too. I worked (briefly) at a tiny non-profit, and our “HR” was the office manager, who was also the bookkeeper, accounts payable/receivable, shipping/receiving, and backup receptionist. (And the person who was kind enough to tell us, when she handed us our paychecks, that while the law stated we had to GET them on Friday, we probably shouldn’t try to CASH them until Tuesday… )

          I’m willing to bet this CFO is probably also the _only_ financial officer, and probably the only HR as well.

          1. Yvette*

            It is easy to be the top title of anything when you are the only one doing the job. In my husband’s business I am the Director of Technology, Chief of Human Resources, and Head of Facilities Management!

      2. Khlovia*

        If He’s not eating his vegetables, the blockage is not in his neck, but at the other end of his tubing.

  18. RedinSC*

    Oh man, I feel ya. A few years ago the ED at my non profit was just melting down. It was so bad, everyone was ready to quit. I was actively looking for a new job (being one of the ED’s direct reports), but I felt I owed it to the organization to let the board know what was going on. So, I reached out to the board chair, got an off site appointment with her and explained what I was seeing. The board really stepped in, insisted that the ED get some mental health support (that he really needed) got him a coach and ensured that he was following through on all of that. Things changed and I’m still here.

    So, LW, I encourage you to go to the board, let them know what’s going on, so they can take action if needed.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I believe the board needs to know but I think it should be someone higher than the OP. The ED sounds like he is her grandboss, and she is not her direct report. I would say her manager and the other managers need to go to the board.

      1. Venus*

        Well, we don’t know that the managers haven’t gone to the board, because the board is unlikely to tell all employees if they are trying to manage the ED.

        And I disagree about the OP going to the board. It might not be the right dynamic in every situation, but many years ago we were having a problem with our grand-grand-boss (GGB), and I happened to run into their boss (GGGB), and I just said that they needed to look into the problem because it was hidden at the time from GGGB but it was soon going to be obvious as a lot of us were looking to leave. GGGB didn’t ask a lot of questions, and I said that I didn’t want to complain much, but I gave a few examples and said that if they asked around at the boss and GB-level (the ones working for the problem GGB) for honest opinions then they should better understand the problem. Things improved, and GGB was asked to leave within the year.

        Maybe things are different with EDs and Boards, but I don’t believe in a hierarchy just for the sake of it. Especially if the OP mentions the problem and suggests that the board look into it themselves.

      2. RedinSC*

        Yes, agreed, if she can get her boss to go. But if not, our board would have been open to hearing this from someone else. I think it really just needs to be said.

        BUT if the LW is worried, again, start looking, and then if no one else will speak up, get that new job, and then tell them on your way out the door. But please do speak up, because nothing will change without someone mentioning the problem.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Our board had to write an antibullying policy. We designated all of us as as mandatory reporters- we could have just gone with two people. So all of us have to follow the procedure if someone presents an instance of bullying. We do have a set procedure and we even created forms for reporting.

      OP you might want to check to see what policies are in place for your organization.

      If you do not have such a beast, you may want to ask the BoD to write a policy.

  19. Observer*

    OP, as others have said, if there is a Board or owner, please let them know.

    If you can’t do that for some reason, start looking for something new. You have absolutely no guarantee that you will get the retroactive pay – in fact, you don’t even have a guarantee that you’ll get the raise when the CFO gets back. And this insanity IS going to affect you in the long term.

    You are wise to keep your head down and keep doing your work. But the fact that the worst thing you have to say about this bizarre behavior is that it’s “odd” tells me that your norms around reasonable workplace behavior may be getting a bit warped. This guy is NOT “odd” nor is his behavior. It’s madness. (this is not meant in a diagnostic / clinical sense, but in the colloquial usage.)

    Also, do not use ANY of your personal equipment for work, and do not put ANY personal stuff on your work computers / systems / email. This guy is trying to spy on you. Sure, he’s being comically incompetent about it, but you don’t know what he’ll get right. Or what destructive stupidity he winds up trying since his current efforts don’t seem to be going so well.

  20. Darkangel*

    Ah! A narcissic man child boss. A classic. There are a lot in my undustry. I feel you. Allison is right. Only the board has authority here. But honestly, start thinking about getting out of there. Nothing good came come out of working for someone like that.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      If “undustry” is a typo then it is the best typo ever. And if not, I give you kudos for creating such a great word!

  21. Heidi*

    This totally has the same flavor as the boss from a few posts back who sent a mass email telling everyone that writing “please” in an email was unprofessional. It seems as though they’re both really checked out and not self aware enough to recognize it or mature enough to handle it well.

  22. Prof. Space Cadet*

    I had a co-worker at a previous job who behaved exactly like this. The team became do dysfunctional that HR brought in a mediator. It turned out that a lot of his bizarre behavior was essentially the result of insecurity and fear of being replaced. He felt like a lot of people were “disrespecting” him and not valuing his expertise, which became a negative feedback loop (the more he pulled away, the less people valued him and the angrier he became). The mediation helped address some but not all of the negative behaviors. The other thing that I found out a year or two later was that he had been going through a difficult divorce at the time.

    So yeah, I’d say the the ED in this case needs an intervention of some sort, but it doesn’t sound like the LW is in a position to be the person who initiates that.

    1. OP with clarification*

      The HR consultant is his wife’s best friend, and we aren’t given her contact number because every time someone contacts her, the agency is charged – so in order to access HR you have to talk to the ED and get his permission to bother his wife’s friend. (Who has been known to tattle on people who approach her with issues.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        So the more details you give in the comments, the more my advice turns into: Get out, no matter what happens with the raise. Spending a lot of time at a tiny place run this incompetently will not help your career. You’re not going to get the kind of professional development you need to grow and advance, you’re going to learn really weird norms, and you’re unlikely to have the kind of accomplishments that will help you get the next job (and that compounds the longer you stay).

  23. Manana*

    I would not hold my breath for the raise or promotion. If/when the board does get involved, there may be waaaay more going on than just your ED’s behavior that could put all sorts of stuff on hold. If the board never intervenes, ED will likely not move on anything currently sitting on his desk. This dude seems very likely to be the type to destroy anything that isn’t 100% in his control and will gladly bring that whole organization down with him. Update that resume; if anything good will ever come of this situation, it’s not in the immediate future.

  24. AKchic*

    LW, I am glad that you’re not joining in on the gossip train. That is the mature and professional thing to do.

    However, what the CEO is doing is bad enough that the board does need to step in. Even if the CFO is away right now and can’t help. Your manager needs to be the one to act like the grown up professional right now and reach out to the CFO and alert them to the issue as a courtesy (if the reason for being away allows for that sort of thing, or if the board is that type of nitpicky), and then alert the board to what is going on.

    At the same time, don’t necessarily expect the board to come in and remove the CEO for his poor behavior and (potential) mismanagement. Be fully prepared that they will turn on the rest of you and tell him that someone tattled and he get vindictive and start his own brand of house cleaning and start firing people (you included). Start removing personal items now, just in case. You can always bring them back (or upgrade/redecorate) if things go well, but right now, it’s better to be well prepared for the worst.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If he wanted to fire anyone, then he would have to actually, you know, speak to them.

      It’s fine to tell the board member(s) that you fully expect retaliation [because that’s this guy’s middle name] and you can ask for their protection.
      If you are super concerned get a group of people together, in an organization of 12 even a group of four can be pretty intimidating/formidable.

  25. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “…agency that has exploded over the last few years…”

    Two thoughts:
    1) Are you sure that the books aren’t being cooked by this guy?
    2) Is the CEO going under due to the pressure of running a bigger shop?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That’s what was going on at my old place. The CEO cooked the books and everyone covered for him. I will say though that we all knew. We were told that we would not survive as an organization without the CEO and all his book cooking ways.
      And audit by the state brought everything out in the open.

    2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      This second one was my thought, that he was fine running a sloop with only a few people, but now that they have a dozen more staff in such a short space of time he’s feeling overwhelmed.
      I wonder if his response also has something to do with the CFO being out for a month, maybe they shoulder more of the burden of keeping things running smoothly and the cracks are showing while they’re away.
      It sounds like at the very least the ED needs some training on how to professionally handle all this, maybe this is something the board could mandate? I do think the board needs to be informed at this point, an absent leader rarely makes for a stable organisation.

  26. anonforthis*

    OP, oh goodness. What else is going on at your agency – anything that may explain your EDs behavior? Budget concerns, board transitions, legal issues? This has got to be about more than a clash with a manager over memo tone.
    Depending on how the organization is performing, there could be a massive restructure coming (ED has been in the role 1-2 years, most of that during a pandemic, re-design/plans for restructure could now just be getting underway). If you’re a twelve person agency, the future of your org rests almost entirely in the hands of your ED, and it is very concerning that he is acting this way. Depending on your CFO’s relationship with the Board, s/he would likely be in the best position to manage this situation. I would take it up with the CFO when s/he returns to confirm your raise, and hopefully the managers will speak to the CFO about the erratic behavior of the ED. But if the behavior continues for several more months, I would begin job hunting. In terms of approaching the Board, if you don’t have any interaction with them, I would not suggest doing this. The best bet would be for the CFO or a group of managers to confidentially approach the Board chair, or an approachable and engaged Board member, and raise concerns in the context of the agency achieving its mission. Dispassionately putting forward a fact-based record of obviously erratic behavior that shows how it is hindering agency mission achievement will be essential. A person who does not interact with the Board reaching out individually will likely be viewed as a random, disgruntled staff member. It will not take very long for this type of leadership to begin reflecting in what the Board should be reviewing quarterly, but I will say this – it can take a really long time for a volunteer Board to come to the conclusion that they need to terminate an ED, and then a lot of time in small orgs, that process is handled really poorly. Not to be discouraging, but all this to say, with a wayward ED and a small org, there is very little that can be done to salvage the situation. Take care of you.

  27. Sara without an H*

    OP, I know you say you love your job, but unless this resolves pretty quickly, you don’t have a future here. I respect your decision to stay cool and professional and see what happens. I don’t know what’s going on with your ED. Maybe his wife threw him out and filed for divorce. Who knows? Maybe he’ll snap out of it.

    But I wouldn’t count on it or count on rescue by the Board. We had another poster earlier today who described an ED who almost blew up the organization he was supposed to lead. If your promotion and pay raise come in more-or-less on schedule, it may be worth it to put in another year or two. But if they don’t, and especially if the behavior escalates, start working on a Plan B.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If a person stays too long they can forget how a workplace should function. This goes into a bigger problem than it sounds here.

  28. Andy*

    Sounds like mental health crisis to me. The camera on/off in particular is telling – it is the sort of behavior people dealing with own issues and not handling have.

    1. TransmascJourno*

      Honestly, this doesn’t sound so much like a mental health crisis to me as it does to an ED who has control issues. Lurking is usually just a huge red flag.

      1. Andy*

        Maybe because I work in environment where no one uses camera and people do sometimes randomly join meetings, I dont find that super controlling.

        But in the whole context, it does seem more as avoidance and mental issue then pure control. He is not getting any control at all here, instead he is withrawing.

  29. TransmascJourno*

    So, a bit of anecdata — while I had a boss like this at a much more extreme level (literally, the dude would throw lightweight objects at me to threaten me and tried to fire me after I politely asked him to gender me correctly, only to retract my firing after he realized how illegal it would be), my mom actually had a much more similar situation to the OP’s with the ED at the nonprofit she formerly worked for. She attempted to address how his very gross, childlike tantrums and periodic silent treatments affected the day-to-day of the nonprofit in a very diplomatic, tactful way — and then found herself fired only a few weeks later for reasons that were very obviously, inherently straw man arguments. (This was confirmed by a number of her coworkers.) While the ED was removed from that particular branch of the non-profit soon after she was fired (surprise, surprise, it had to do with evidenced sexual misconduct), the fact that she was on a lower rung within the hierarchy of the organization was what made her firing possible.

    That being said, Alison’s advice is the right course here — my mom didn’t have safety in numbers, and very much regrets not organizing that in advance. Regardless, she also realized that she couldn’t continue with the non-profit with a glass bowl like that as an ED, anyway, and was glad that her impulse to already start job-hunting well before that almost immediately paid off.

  30. Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional*

    Document. Document. Document. Every odd interaction, the date the time, the incident, who was present, who was on the call, who was on the zoom meeting, etc. Document everything about your promotion. Sent an email to your self at your personal email address (as long as it is professional sounding) if you are not sure the company email is private. So it will just be today we had a meeting about X; J, K and L was present. Boss came on, J said hello, boss signed off and disappeared from the call. This will be important in regards to your promotion, but also if later someone reaches out to the board, and the board decides to reach out to each employee for feedback on the ED’s behaviour. Also, I am in the camp, that employees can reach out to Board members with serious issues in a organization that small. I was part of a Board that interviewed each employee about a problem ED. Our board welcomed staff approaching us. But you may wish to give your manager a head’s up if you do this. In the situation where I was a board member, we had an outside person come in to do a review of the work environment, specifically the ED abilities. We discovered that her employees fell under two groups, the liked and the not liked. The challenging ED in that situation was provided with training, and one on one coaching. This person in her 50s, said to her coach, that the training was helpful, and that she learned for the first time that someone who has a different opinion than her is not necessarily personally attacking her. Yes, she went through life for over 50 years, and learned this in one on one coaching on how to be a good Executive Director. She ended up resigning as we were about to put in place an ED expectations contract with her. Good luck. I hope the ED either gets the help they need to change, or that he ends up leaving. If not, then you wish to look for another job.

    1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Yes x 1,000 to documenting absolutely every interaction with the ED! Date, time, who was present, who said what, and so on – and write it as soon as you can after each incident while it’s still fresh in your mind. Major bonus points if you record verbatim quotes, too – they can be extremely helpful in making your case!

  31. singlemaltgirl*

    when a grievance is about the ED, any employee should be able to take that grievance to the board since the board supervises the ED (at least that’s how things are typically structured – the board is the final arbiter of all and the ED only works within the authority given to them by the board).

    if there’s a formal grievance process (usually found in the hr manual), i would get my teammates together and collectively put in a grievance for this odd and willful non management behaviour. this is dereliction of duty (your ED’s job is to speak with his team regularly and attend mgmt meetings – that’s pretty basic).

    the promotion and raise aside, you need to deal with this yahoo and it’s not going to get better by all of you not informing the board of this shit. the ED hasn’t been there long so if they want to dismiss this person, it won’t cost them an arm and leg to do it now (unless they can do it with cause which is usually pretty difficult).

  32. quill*

    This is the sort of situation that begs for context but also… I’m not sure the context will make a difference in how this gets handled.

    Your ED needs to 1) communicate professionally (both in the weirdly condescending memo and how he handles criticism of it: none of your reports are going to appreciate comments that imply they’re bratty teenagers! Also, the fastest way to get a teen to be a brat to you is to be condescending to them, so…. chickens, eggs, anyone?)
    2) Do his job regarding your raise.

    Right now it sounds like the only way to get either to happen is to go over or around him. You probably don’t have the standing to go over (and only the raise is directly something you probably should be focusing on right now…) so if I were you I’d recruit your manager to check on both the process of finalizing the raise. And ask yourself the Sheezlebub question: Will you still be able to do your job if none of this is resolved within a year?

  33. VanLH*

    I know we shouldn’t try to diagnose someone at a distance but this is way beyond abnormal behavior. If there is a board they should be notified stat.

  34. 10-Cat Shuffle*

    Yeah wow that almost sounds like there’s something deeper going on with him than just one bad interaction at a meeting (like, maybe that was the trigger for it, but something else was already going wrong under the surface).

    The last time I encountered anything like this at work, it was with one of the senior managers, and later on it turned out he’d been wrapped up in divorce proceedings for months. Not that it excuses bad behavior at work, but I can’t imagine it’s *just* the one incident at that meeting this guy is reacting to. Whatever it is, it’s probably not in your control. I’d just wait it out and hopefully the lump sum of back-pay makes up for it!

    1. OP with clarification*

      I agree that there is something else going on. But I’m not in any position to guess (though, of course, I have ideas!!)

  35. Not So NewReader*

    To me you have more than enough here for this guy to get dismissed immediately.

    A key part of any job is willingness to get along with cohorts. This guy has less than zero willingness to get along with anyone there. He’s done, in my opinion.

    This guy should not be in charge of a bag of potato chips. He can’t lead.

  36. OP with clarification*

    Several of you have commented that this is an issue for the board, and I completely agree. There are 4 directors, three of whom actively hate each other. My manager actually went to a member of the board to bring this up, and was told that some of our larger grants require an ED who has been there for 18 months. We’ve been through three EDs in three years, so we are at risk of losing our largest grant.
    In the meantime, the Director of Finance and the ED can’t stand each other and actively badmouth each other to the staff, so that’s sort of a dead end as well.
    Two years ago the outgoing ED fired almost everyone, which is why we are all so new. We went from a $500,000 agency to a $4.5 nillion agency in about two months and they started a hiring frenzy, so a lot of this is growing pains.
    My manager has assured me that the raise will become effective by the end of August. My resume is updated. At this point, it’s a waiting game. If the raise comes in by the end of August, I’ll do my best to see how it plays out. If it doesn’t I’ll be reading AAM for job hunt ideas. Time will tell.

    1. ThatGirl*

      You may love your coworkers and the work but this is a disaster and you definitely need to get out. I mean the more comments I read of yours the more insane it all seems. You can do better.

    2. Astor*

      oh no! This place sounds really terrible. So bad. And if you know that the ED can’t be fired, and they know they can’t be fired, it’s even worse than the reactions you’re already seeing here.

      With all of your clarifications, you should really plan to get out no matter what happens. Start job hunting now, literally as soon as you can, and if you get a raise before you leave then you’ve got some extra money. But even if you get the raise, you should get out as soon as you can find a decent job.

      Good luck!

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        Agreed! This is just whole extra layers of terrible, and while it’s great that your resume is updated, I would definitely start job searching and getting it out there. You don’t need to take any interviews or jobs that you’re offered, but it might help to know what’s available. And if your current workplace of bees does implode at least you’ll have a good head start.

    3. singlemaltgirl*

      omg. this is dysfunctional from the very top. get out, get out, get out. i know you want the raise but it’s better to leave on your terms. the senior mgmt hates each other? the board won’t fire the ed (who is acting like a child and willfully non managing) b/c of a grant that requires the ed last 18 months? the board can’t seem to hire and the rest of the org will have to make up for all the crap fest this appears to be.

      op, start looking. now. don’t wait.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      Honestly, I’d start job hunting now, because it sounds like a sinking ship that’s also on fire.

      Maybe you’ll get your raise. But you’re still stuck in the dysfunction. Your ED is either having some sort of mental health breakdown or is a petulant, vindictive man-child (or, possibly, both). If they fire him, your agency probably loses their major grant and can’t pay the employees. If they keep him, you’re stuck with a nightmare boss (a PIP is highly unlikely to fix this sort of dysfunction). The directors hate each other, you can’t access HR without going through your dysfunctional boss, and anything you say to HR is going straight back to him.

    5. NerdyLibraryClerk*

      Holy cats! You don’t have a workplace, you have a trainwreck. You may like your coworkers and what you do, but this is sounding more and more like a question of whether you leave before or after the organization implodes.

    6. No Name #1*

      Ooof everything about this is a giant red flag doused in gasoline!!
      On the positive side, it seems like you have a good relationship with your manager and CFO so at least there’s options if you need a reference in the future. But I absolutely think it’s time to start looking for another job. Looking for a job doesn’t mean committing to jumping ship, but this is a sinking ship and honestly I’d be shocked if your ED/the board wasn’t engaging in some kind of financial malfeasance.

    7. Sylvan*

      You gotta run. A raise might make you feel better, at least temporarily, but it’s just not going to fix the problems you’re dealing with day to day.

    8. Despachito*

      Oh, I read this only after I posted I am wondering how the other higher-ups cannot see that.

      I do not wonder any more.

      I second those who say it’s high time to start job hunting.

      And I am sorry you have to go through this.

    9. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Start job searching now, so if the promotion does not come through, you have a head start. If the promotion does come through, you can always decline any invitations to interview.
      This definitely sounds like a situation that is only going to get worse. When those with the power and authority to fix things choose to do nothing, problems only get worse.

    10. Observer*

      Get out.

      Seriously, get out regardless of what happens with your raise.

      You have a Board that is dysfunctional, doesn’t know how to hire or manage the few key positions they are responsible for. They also have no idea how governance works or how to manage growth.

      You are a $4.5MILLION agency, but you have no HR. What other crucial infrastructure are you missing?

      You are a multi-million dollar agency have have ZERO governance regarding issues of conflict of interest. What other conflicts are going on?

      There is a really, really high chance that the organization is going to lose not just it’s largest grant but MANY )or even most) of its grants. Any grant that has a requirement like “ED whose been these for 18 months” is going to have other requirements, and I’d be willing to bet that they are not being fulfilled. Almost any large grantor, ESPECIALLY government grants, have reporting requirements. What do you want to bet that a lot of those reports are not coming in timely? Most large grantors require that organizations have things like conflict of interest, nepotism, harassment and whistleblower policies in place. (And some of these things are actually legally required in some jurisdictions) Given that you don’t have any conflict-of-interest policies of any sort nor any real way to address issues, I’d be willing to bet that the other stuff is lacking, too.

      The longer you stay, the worse it’s going to be for you. Get out while you can.

    11. Allegra*

      I…would not describe “4 directors, three of whom actively hate each other,” “[going] through three EDs in three years,” and “the Director of Finance and the ED can’t stand each other and actively badmouth each other to the staff” as “growing pains”, I’m sorry, OP. This sounds like a fundamental failure in structure and design. Don’t wait for your raise, just get out. (A starting salary at a new place will likely be higher than what you’re making now, anyway?)

      1. Observer*

        I…would not describe “4 directors, three of whom actively hate each other,” “[going] through three EDs in three years,” and “the Director of Finance and the ED can’t stand each other and actively badmouth each other to the staff” as “growing pains”,

        Good point. This is not “growing pains”. This is a mess of an organization with major, major structural problems.

    12. Observer*

      By the way, please come back with an update when you get out and when / if you ever find out what’s REALLY going on.

  37. His Grace*

    I’d drag HR into this, but this could exacerbate an already tense situation, and it sounds like your office is too small to sustain such a department.

    In any event, AAM is right. There is little either you or the ED can do regarding your promotion and pay raise (at the moment).

    But yeah, have that resume ready, OP. It sounds like you will need it.

    1. No Name #1*

      Based on one of LWs comments, “HR” is an outside consultant who also happens to be the ED’s wife’s best friend :/

  38. fhqwhgads*

    Is your ED secretly two ten year olds, one standing on the other’s shoulders wearing a trenchcoat? Because seriously, holy childlike behavior, Batman. Also, holy dysfunctional workplace, Batman, if that many of the higher ups can’t stand each other.

  39. John Smith*

    Our department head is similar. He works in an office (which is meant for someone else) and only comes out to make a cup of tea. The only communication we get from him is a weekly email that repeats what has already been stated on the staff noticeboard. During the pandemic, he said nothing until a relatively new junior staff member suggested to him that he might want to email his staff to show support for them.

    Probably explains why the senior managers in our section are so bloody terrible.

    You have my sympathy, LW.

  40. Rectilinear Propagation*

    …it’s almost as bizarre that everyone seems to just be going along as if this isn’t incredibly strange and concerning.

    5 bucks says that they all view his silence as a gift. LW might be the only one in the office who currently needs him to actually do something. And if he’s normally as rude as he was to the woman who pushed back on that memo (which as apparently also rude) then I don’t blame them.

    I’m assuming they’ll all eventually start running into the problem of the ED refusing to do his job and this will get less funny.

  41. Nicole*

    This probably goes against everything I’ve learned from my years of reading AAM, but my knee-jerk reaction is for the 11 of you to decide to take 1-3 personal/sick days at once with no notice. This is some if the most childish crap I’ve ever read on here and this dude has voided any claim to courtesy from the rest of you. I’d also be prepared to quit on the spot if they run around on giving you your raise/promotion. Ugh this makes me so annoyed!

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