should I explain I quit on my second day because my coworker was overwhelmingly difficult?

A reader writes:

I quit a job three months ago and I keep running into the board members who hired me. I lied about why I quit because it was such an insane reason I didn’t know what to do. My boyfriend says I should have been honest, but I wouldn’t know where to start.

I got laid off during the pandemic and was finally able to find part-time work at a community arts center run by a local art nonprofit. It was only 20 hours a week, but it was a great opportunity in a field I love to help provide some fun and joy. I was so excited.

This is where things went bad. I met with “Amy,” the woman who was supposed to train me and be my coworker. It was raining my first day and there were a few rumbles of thunder in the distance. Amy (who I had never met before) greets me at the locked office door and, terrified, asks me through the mail slot, “Did a plane crash into the building?!?”

No. It was thunder.

Things only went downhill from there. Amy and I were the only people there and my training was only four hours. I got home and immediately had to lay down. Being with Amy for four hours was actual torture. She didn’t show me how to do anything or talk about the job, it was just The Amy Show: I am now privy to her entire medical history, which included three incredibly personal and traumatizing situations that she described in graphic detail. I know too much about her sex life, reproductive health, her childhood, her marriage, and more. After a few attempts to get her on track by asking work-related questions, I gave up.

When she lost steam on her personal life, she cataloged every perceived insult, slight, and personal tussle she’d had with the nonprofit that ran the gallery, every visiting artist and instructor she hated, and why. And that was literally just the first hour. When she finally did start training me, she showed me how to turn the lights on — just regular labeled switches — for 45 minutes.

She spent another hour telling me how hard it was to operate the point of sale software, which didn’t look hard to operate at all when I finally got a look at it. When she did interact with the only customer we had that day, she was so awful and oversharing that the customer and I both got another performance, this time of why Amy’s son is in prison. The customer left, very bewildered, and I was dying of embarrassment.

I decided to stick it out and go to my next day’s training with a plan to keep Amy on track and deflect her over-sharing.

Reader, it did not work. I’m not good with oversharing and I get overwhelmed really fast with emotional labor. I didn’t think Amy could possibly top what she told me the day before but holy crap. I had to call my roommate to come to get me because by the end of my shift I was having panic attack symptoms. When I got home, I made an emergency appointment to see a therapist for the first time in over a year. After speaking to my therapist, partner, and my friends, I emailed the board of directors and quit, making up a story about a family emergency.

That was back in June. I keep running into members of the nonprofit board at my new job (yay!) because two of their spouses work in my department. The board members aren’t professionally affiliated with my new job at all, I just happen to work with their spouses. It’s a small city. They’ve been really sweet but keep asking me for details about why I left, one of them even asked pointed questions about how I got along with Amy. Should I have been honest that working with Amy was so uncomfortable and upsetting that I couldn’t even finish out my first week? I want to have empathy for her but it was like being held hostage.

Oh my goodness, please tell them.

It is very likely that they already sense there are issues with Amy; that’s why one of them is asking you those pointed questions. Plus, if they’ve had to interact with her at all, they must know there are Issues.

Why they haven’t done anything about her is a different question — but this is a small nonprofit and their board members likely have a zillion other things pulling their attention away, and if Amy has more or less kept things running (and especially if this is the first time they’ve tried to hire someone to work with her), they might not realize the extent of the problem.

You had an incredibly bad experience with their employee. If these were smaller quirks — just a little oversharing or a little incompetence — that would be different. But this was scaring off customers, oversharing to the point that you sought emergency therapy, and 45 minutes of how to switch on a standard light switch. It also sounds like it was constant; it wasn’t “ugh, I had to spend 15 minutes with a difficult person,” but your entire experience there.

The board members — who are Amy’s boss, either directly or indirectly — are asking you what went wrong. Tell them.

I suspect you’re hesitating because it feels unkind to explain how very problematic Amy is. But they want to know, and if you don’t tell them, they’re going to hire someone else who’s going to have the same experience. And at a small nonprofit, one out-of-control employee can have an outsized impact, to the point that Amy could end up causing significant and long-lasting harm to the organization and its mission.

Get in touch with the board member who asked you the pointed questions and say, “I didn’t want to speak critically of my experience, but I’ve given it some thought and I’d like to answer your questions about why I left if you’re still interested.” And then lay out what you laid out here without sugarcoating it or pulling punches (if you do tone it down, there’s always a risk that the true intensity of the problems will be missed). Hell, you could send the board a link to this letter, which explains the situation pretty compellingly.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. BadWolf*

    Even if Amy didn’t bother you, it sounds like Amy is probably tanking on the customer front. How many people are never coming back? How many people are not telling others to visit (or worse, telling them not to visit)?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      She seems to have a lot of problems with the visiting artists, too–it’s not just customers.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This – and I’m betting the artists aren’t being very specific in their complaints about Amy.

    2. irene adler*

      Oh yeah!
      I’m betting that some customer out there actually contacted someone higher up and complained about Amy. Something along the lines of “I had a bad experience with one of your customer service people. I was not comfortable with the things she said to me.” Which tips them off, but may not provide all the details they need to fully understand what is going on.

    3. Cait*

      It may be that they see that Amy has some clear mental health issues and would feel bad for reporting it (or maybe even scared of what she might do if she found out they had reported her). But regardless, if Amy is having a mental health crisis (and I’m no psychiatrist but this seems pretty evident), it does her no good if people just tiptoe around it. Someone higher up needs to check in on Amy and make a decision that’s best for her and the nonprofit.

      1. Whomever*

        Yeah. There used to be a woman in my neighborhood who ran a coffee shop and…definitely had mental health issues. Sometimes you’d go in and it’d be fine, sometimes she’d berate you. The sad thing is we were in a rapidly gentrifying area filling up with hipsters so a moderately well run coffee shop would have done great, but she ended up shutting down. The tone of the yelp reviews/people discussing was always “look I don’t want to criticize mental health, but…” (it was so obvious in her case, people actually tried to be kind in their reviews for the most part).

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      This! I’ve blacklisted several local businesses due to that one person that works there. There is an ice cream place that me and my friends will do a slow drive by on to see if that one guy is working there, and if so go somewhere else. If anyone asks me about it, I will tell them the ice cream is cheap and good, but the guy who works there is a total creeper and you are gonna want to take a shower after going there. If I went into a place and got a one woman show about her personal life trauma I would probably write a bad google review and never go again.

      1. AGD*

        Yep, there is a store I would otherwise love that I never go to because one of the employees is ridiculously pushy and it just isn’t worth it.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          The rudest asshole I ever ran into at a business (I found the wrong business that I was looking for, I ended up on the wrong end of the street) has stellar reviews on Yelp and I am convinced it’s because she must harass the hell out of anyone who tries to review her. When I finally found the business I wanted, the guy was all “Yeah, we hear about her a LOT.”

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Agreed, there’s a particular pharmacy (!) I won’t go to in my area because one of the staff just will not shut up. About anything. In one 10 minute transaction I found out what she thought about fat people (lazy, and I should do some exercise), what her kids did with an unflushed toilet and how her cat had barfed on her coat.

          Mate, I just wanted my prescription.

        3. Cactus*

          Yep. There’s this one store in my area that’s supposed to be the end all be all for art supplies, but the one time I went, there were employees following me around asking if I needed any help finding anything every 5 seconds, and it was totally overwhelming. It’s a tiny store. If I had needed help, I could have easily found someone to ask.

      2. Anonny*

        I haven’t been to Subway – any Subway – since the incident with the employee who told me he’d read the Da Vinci Code and was planning to become Pope (… by working in a Subway?) and other similarly weird things, and when he noticed I looked rather freaked out, called on the next poor customer who came in to reassure me that he wasn’t creepy.

        I mean, I’m not a big fan of Subway anyway, but going back in any of their shops just makes my hackles go up now.

  2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    This is totally advice column fanfic (though I suspect probably not too far from reality), but in my head, the board member who asked you the pointed questions is totally going “OH GOOD, this is our chance to get the issues with Amy documented as more than hearsay so we can get rid of her, but …. WHY WON’T THIS POOR PERSON ACTUALLY TELL US ANYTHING WE CAN DOCUMENT. No, seriously, please, PLEASE tell us everything she did so we have something actionable to move on. PLEASE.”

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      “Advice column fanfic” OMG.
      No, seriously, now I imagine a writer who reads AAM to get ideas.

      1. Wendy Qualls*

        I’m not saying I’ve *directly* lifted anything from AAM, but it’s possible some of my side characters have been inspired by the types of situations we see here regularly :-D

              1. TardyTardis*

                I have to admit that anything about ghosts is something my fantasy universe will gulp without a second thought…

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’m not a writer, but there’s a lot here that just can’t be made up. I stopped thinking I’ve seen it all years ago because there’s always something new that tops it.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Honestly, this may just come with being in my 40s, but I’m at the point where nothing about people really surprises me any more…

          2. Anonny*

            Not related to AAM, but in 1379, a little girl was born and christend Diot Coke.

            (Diot is a form of Dionysia, from the Greek God Dionysus and forerunner of the names Dennis and Denise, and Coke was a common spelling of ‘Cook’ before standardised spelling in English.)

      2. Fanfic fan*

        The worst holiday party ever story from this site has been adapted and retold as an absolutely delightful piece of Marvel fanfiction over on Archive of Our Own, so it’s a thing that actually happens!

            1. Words have power*

              I really enjoyed your story! Very well written and kept me engaged the whole way. Thanks for sharing.

              1. Fanfic fan*

                Not mine, I’m just the messenger! I follow the author and had a sense of nagging familiarity about the plot the whole way through, and then realized when I got to the end and saw the author’s note why that was. I’m still in awe that two of my favorite things on the internet collided in this way.

                1. Hawkeye is in the details*

                  I had the same! She’s one of my fave authors, so I got a message when the story was published. Immediately, I got the sense of familiarity, and as soon as the first magic trick appeared I was like, No way! This HAS to be based on the infamous AAM Christmas party story.

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              Well, I’ve just emailed that to myself for later. The worst holiday party ever is one of my absolute favorites.

            2. SeluciaMD*

              This has been the best part of my week so thank you ever-so-much. Truly fantastic! What a beautiful mashup of AOS and AAM. It’s everything I never knew I always wanted in a fanfic. :)

            3. Octavia*

              That is everything I wanted and needed it to be. Thank you for sharing! The internet is large and I would have regretted missing that one :)

        1. JHSC*

          I am entirely unsurprised that the Phlint Phandom reads AAM.

          I am friends with the fic author in question. She is loving the new spate of fic comments. Please send her more!

      3. AnonInCanada*

        It may well be a case of “you can’t make this sh*t up!” I’ve heard enough bizarre episodes around here, and I never question the authenticity of any of it. This isn’t Reddit, y’know, where stories get recycled all the time by those looking for posting karma and awards.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I learn a lot about business English here, which I need for my work. Never having worked in an English-speaking country (a Saturday job selling bread does not count), it’s really helpful. I’ve even included links to here, like the other day for a client who wanted me to put “the HR department” all over the place, where I’d just put “HR” as is “go to HR to report Wakeen”.

    2. Lance*

      That’s where my mind’s going right now. Like Alison pointed out, they’re asking specifically about Amy; they must at least have inklings of some sort of issue, if not anything more.

      1. EPLawyer*

        My mind went there too. They KNOW something is wrong with Amy. if she overshared with you, she overshared with others. As you saw with the poor customer. But they don’t have anything solid. Or they think its just an ocassional thing that maybe training will help. They need the details, right from the way overreaction to thunder through all the complaints about the artists that the gallery works with.

        Now, you don’t owe the non-profit a darn thing. You don’t work there anymore. But, by the same token, you are not required to keep your mouth shut either. You would be doing the non-profit a huge service if you told them Amy is destroying their organization.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Also, it may be helpful for the Letter Writer to hear: It’s not you that is getting a person fired. Hear me out. I had to let go an employee who was making too many mistakes on important tasks. And I did interview people to get their side on some of these tasks going wrong. But that doesn’t mean that any of these individual people got that person fired. What got them fired is that after clear and repeated warnings, they didn’t shape up. If individual people hadn’t told me their side of the story, I would have gotten my info from somebody or somewhere else, simple as that. Because the issue didn’t go away.

          On a personal level, I think most everyone in this thread is feeling for Amy. It must be hard to live that way. But things aren’t exactly solved by not talking about it. The org’s clients, newcomer artists, other employee’s jobs are being tanked by the hit in reputation this must be causing. They deserve a chance too.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        I can’t for the life of me figure out how a train wreck like Amy has been able to get or keep this job, it doesn’t sound as though she is capable of censoring herself, at all. But a big warning sign was that no one else was in the building when LW showed up for training. Why is someone like Amy given free run of the entire building? Where is her supervisor, and what has she been doing.

        But LW is not helping anyone but Amy by keeping this dirty little secret. In fact, lying about why you quit makes YOU seem flakey and unreliable, and that you are dissembling when board members are asking you for details and reasons is damaging your reputation even more. And for what, to avoid making someone who subjects the customers of this nonprofit to harangues about her incarcerated son? Someone whose first interaction with you was to ask through a mail slot behind a locked door whether a plan had crashed into the building? This is nuts, and you are going out of your way to let the nut continue being nuts.

        1. Your local password resetter*

          If she usually works alone, that would help explain why nobody took notice and fired her yet.

        2. Anonny*

          As for how Amy mangaged to get the job: nervous breakdowns can do really weird things to your social skills and coping strategies. She may have been able to fake being functional before this happened.

          (I say ‘fake’ because… well, if you have a nervous breakdown, it’s probably been building for a while.)

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’m sure this is very much on the mind of at least one member of the board. I know there is a problem, but I need official complaints to take action.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        They could start by actually supervising Amy. LW reports she and Amy were alone in the entire building on her first day. There’s no mention of anyone else on her second day. The board and management of this organization has essentially turned it over to a horse. Asking “pointed questions” to someone about whether the horse was acting weird when it was in charge of training and interacting with customers really not management.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I speculated below that Amy is probably only willing to control herself in front of a board member. I think she may be one of those people who “manages up very well.”

        2. Amaranth*

          If its an extremely small organization then they may only have funding for a few employees, but Amy obviously isn’t someone who works well without supervision. I wouldn’t expect the board to manager her directly but I’m wondering where the ED is, or some kind of program director. That’s…surely not Amy, right?

      2. Firecat*

        The board could:
        Talk to customers and ask about Amy.
        Schedule a lunch with OP to talk in a more comfortable environment.
        Ask what they think the problem is.
        We believe Amy’s training needs improving. Can you tell me more about what happened on your first day? What did you learn about the POS system? Oh you didn’t get to that? What did your cover? Etc.

        The answer isn’t to ambush OP with questions randomnly and hope she reveals all. That’s a very lazy way to manage. It’s on them if they can’t fire Amy. Not on OP.

    4. londonedit*

      Yes! We had a similar situation in a club I was in. One member was appalling and frequently flipped out and verbally abused other members – but the trouble was, they had a little clique of friends and admirers and had managed to get themselves known by half the club as being sweet and kind and wonderful. The club committee wanted to get this person out for AGES but we knew it would cause major drama when we did, and we knew we had to do it properly – there could be no possible suspicion that we were being unfair or singling them out or whatever. They had to hoist themselves by their own petard. So for months all we could do was say to people ‘Hey, you know if you EVER have a problem with someone, if you EVER feel like someone is bullying you, if someone is EVER abusive, please just come and tell us, you can report anonymously, it won’t be a problem, please just feel free to speak up AT ANY TIME…’. Eventually this person well and truly shot themselves in the foot by going off on a racist rant at one of the organisers of a club event…with several people as witnesses…and that person was finally willing to make an official complaint to the committee. But my goodness did it take a while.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, we had a situation with an employee and had several other employees complaining and saying “I thought you would want to know….” but refusing to make a formal complaint or grievance. We repeatedly explained that it is near impossible for us to take any action if the person on the receiving end won’t actually complain (the person was too canny to do anything in front of witnesses)
        In the end, they did slip up (a manager was passing and overheard them, and even then because it was officially an isolated incident it wasn’t enough to enable us to sack them .

    5. Momma Bear*

      I agree to tell them. Understandably OP wanted to save face but since it keeps coming up, I’d be direct and to the point about it. Glad to hear OP is employed elsewhere.

    6. Trillian*

      When I come to suspect, as a result of insistent and directed questioning, that the questioner knows for themselves what the problem is, then I begin to wonder *why hasn’t the problem been dealt with already?* What am I needed for?

      Are they asking so as to rugsweep or do damage control? To convince me that I was mistaken or that I was the problem or that there is no problem? Are they out to cover for a missing stair and make the problem go away?

      Or are they asking because there is horrible politics behind it, cliques battling cliques, and they want to use what I say as a lever or a club against their enemies, or hide behind me

      I tend to distrust people who seem to already know what the problem is and insist on trying to make me tell them all about it, because I don’t know what their agenda is—since it obviously isn’t fixing the problem.

      1. Zweisatz*

        I can only tell you from my perspective as a manager: When I ask these questions it’s because I have a feeling that there’s a problem, but not enough concrete reasons yet to act. I am trying to get more info so I am well-positioned to do something about it. But if I outright say “Hey, is colleague xy being unduly rude to you?” (or whatever my suspicion) a) I risk putting words in the mouth of the person I’m speaking to if they agree or b) I may hurt their respect for a colleague without good reason, if I was wrong or c) even though there is an actual issue, they feel protective of the colleague or like a “snitch” so they will not agree to any harsh phrasing because they don’t want to get them in trouble. None of these outcomes are helpful to solve the issue.

        I’m not saying that this will always be the case. There sure are people out there who want to make problems disappear without having to do anything hard. But I can’t agree that it’s always ill will.
        I do think it’s fair to shoot a “Why are you asking?” back in these cases, but even conscientious managers won’t necessarily spill for the reasons mentioned above, especially b).

      2. nonegiven*

        Maybe they would like to get rid of her but they can’t keep anyone long enough to be trained to take her place.

      3. Amaranth*

        Sometimes there are members of the board who think their Amy hung the moon, or are besties with her/her spouse/her parent, or an Amy is Connected to or adored by key donors. So then you get the other members who don’t like Amy or just see her as a liability but get ignored and told its not a big deal or get painted as just not getting along with Amy.

    7. Sara without an H*

      I suspect this is actually a good reading of the situation. There’s a reason multiple people are asking OP for feedback on Amy. It would be a kindness to give it to them.

    8. Kimberly*

      Yes, there’s an employee at my work who I briefly had to work with. Eventually they transferred her off my service (thank god). They BEGGED me to give her a negative performance review or they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. I get that. If no one says anything, they don’t want to fire someone because of the potential liability.

  3. Princess Deviant*

    Oh my gosh yes tell them! (Then please tell us how it went…)
    The fact you needed emergency therapy because of how she was speaks volumes! I particularly like how you laid it all out here in this letter and I think sending them this version of events is a good way to do it! Good luck.

    1. Totalanon*

      I think leave the therapy bit out. May art-adjacent industries are more understanding of that sort of thing, but I think it risks undermining the letter writer’s complaints if they say they needed therapy because of interacting with someone (like how “toxic” is overused/overblown now). For the record, I’d need it too! But my thought is they should lay out the events that happened, leave out the panic attack/therapy and their reaction. Let Amy’s bonkers actions stand on their own.

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Yes x 1,000! If you start talking/writing about your panic attack and need for emergency therapy, YOU’LL be oversharing about your private medical history. You’ll also be deflecting attention away from Amy’s behavior (which the board members may have heard about but not witnessed firsthand – even total flakes can very often pull themselves together when the boss is around!) and focusing it on YOUR reaction to Amy.
        If any of the board members hold old-fashioned but still common stereotypes about “counseling = crazy” this could actually backfire, making YOU look less credible. You do NOT need anyone deciding that the problem isn’t Amy but you. Because it isn’t!

      2. Pants*

        I agree with this, at least for the initial (hopefully only) interaction about the matter. Maybe if they asked questions about it later?

        It’s worth noting that you’re telling them about Amy’s actions, not necessarily making an Amy Assessment. That’s their job. Don’t feel guilty telling them the truth about actions that could certainly affect the business, optically or otherwise. You’re helping the business, you’re not tanking Amy.

      3. Nonprofit Lifer*

        Agreed. The important part isn’t that the writer needed therapy. It’s that they were so disturbed and stressed by what they experienced that they quit after two days. That speaks volumes.

        1. Amaranth*

          I think a reasonable question OP should be prepared for, however, is ‘why didn’t you contact the Director/Boss/Hiring Manager to report a problem?’

      4. Avi*

        I wouldn’t mention the therapy, no, but I think I would use some language to emphasize just how much of a nightmare working with Amy was. Probably something along the lines of ‘Those two shifts were possibly the most disturbing and stressful hours of my entire working life and I had no desire to experience such things again.’ Don’t overshare, but also don’t pull your punches.

  4. calonkat*

    Having worked at a museum like this (though not with this level of personnel problems), the board probably has little knowledge of the day to day work. So they’ve heard rumors, but with a “LONG TIME EMPLOYEE WHO HAS BEEN FAITHFUL TO THE ORGANIZATION” it is hard to address things without specific information. And in a small town, no one wants to rock the boat. I love Alison’s suggestion to send them the link to this letter, it might give you a veneer of deniability (which can be important for rumor mills) and it does go into enough detail to make it clear why the job was untenable.

  5. Akcipitrokulo*

    Please tell them!

    You don’t need to be unpleasant or emotional. Just state the facts.

    It sounds like they suspect there is an issue, and having reliable data will be useful to them, customers and the community the arts centre serves.

    1. Richard Barrell*

      I’m going to go against the grain a little and just say that I don’t think you morally *owe* them an explanation. It was a (brief, unpleasant) employment relationship, not a divine calling.

      If they aren’t paying enough attention to notice Amy’s behaviour then that’s really on them, not you.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I don’t think OP *owes* them an explanation, but I do think it would be helpful to them, and that the OP shouldn’t be the least bit embarrassed by it – laying out the facts of two very stressful days is not a failing on the OP’s part at all.

      2. Wendy*

        This. If the very idea of telling the truth gives you anxiety and flashbacks, the. you meed to do what’s best for your own mental health… but if you’re able to tell them in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself, that would be a valuable goft to that non-profit.

      3. Cat Lover*

        Right, but they might also know Amy is a problem and need documentable proof.

        No, LW doesn’t *owe* anything, but problematic employees stick around longer when no one speaks up.

      4. earl grey aficionado*

        I think it’s less that OP is obligated to give the feedback, and more that – since the nonprofit is actively soliciting the feedback – this seems like a good way for the OP to close the loop. I once had a nonprofit internship where things got seriously dysfunctional with my manager at the end and I “tucked and rolled” without explaining to anyone what had gone wrong. It ate me up inside because I felt like I had trashed the reference and possibly done damage to an organization whose mission I cared about. A few months later I had the opportunity to circle back and speak about the dysfunction I experienced to another employee at the organization and the relief I felt was IMMEDIATE. I got confirmation that this manager was a known problem, and also got the chance to get constructive feedback on my performance that I hadn’t gotten while I was there (due to said dysfunctional manager).

        So OP might get real value out of this, too.

        1. The curator*

          This reminded me of a situation I had about ten years ago. I came in as the department director. There were interns, entry level workers, two full time specialists and one manager.
          The manager’s behavior was unprofessional (oversharing would be understating it) inept in training staff, didn’t make deadlines, and didn’t follow building wide protocols.
          She was not well-supervised and had been there for 7 years. It seemed that she was “beloved”
          NO ONE. And I mean no one told me anything.
          I began documenting. AGAIN. No one corroborated what was going on.
          After a year and half of painful “investigations” and “coaching” I was finally able to fire her.
          I interviewed someone for a short term project whose resume said she interned in my department the year before .
          I didn’t remember her and said so.
          She said that the manager said not to talk to me because my position was temporary and I was going to be gone in a few months.
          WTF?

      5. Unkempt Flatware*

        Hi Richard! I haven’t seen you comment here before…I hope you keep interacting. New blood is always good.

    2. GNG*

      I agree – LW, tell them the truth. Right now by withholding the facts, you’re making yourself feel uncomfortable – but for what reason? When you tell them, you don’t need to say Amy’s doing a bad job, you just need to describe her behavior and state how it impacted you. No need to editorialize about “The Amy Show,” just state the facts of what she did and did not do.

  6. Archaeopteryx*

    There’s no reason not to be honest about this! Tell the truth immediately. There was no reason to lie in the first place.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      (As others said, they’re probably dependent on you to give them some specifics they can act on!)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        How, though? OP is no longer at the job and they keep asking her about it, which indicates they really want to know what the hell is going on over there. If Amy has any control over her behavior in front of the board (and I suspect she does, at least to a minimal extent, since she’s still there), a drop-in visit from them isn’t going to reveal much.

        They are asking her pointed questions. I feel like they know there is a problem but they can’t do anything about it without some kind of information. I also wonder if maybe a customer mentioned something and they want to know more.

        1. Generic Name*

          I had a coworker who told the unvarnished truth as to why he was leaving his previous job during the exit interview. Lots of unethical stuff was going on, and he was basically blowing the whistle. He already had a job lined up, so why not be honest? It was his ethical duty, after all. Well, at his new job (the one we worked together at) our company worked with his former company, and it caused all kinds of problems. The people he outed refused to work with him/our company. They treated him like jerks when they saw him on the site. So word gets around, and plenty of awful people don’t like their awfulness exposed, and take it out on the person who exposed them.

          1. Temperance*

            Sure, but that’s very different than working with one wackjob who is destroying an organization’s reputation.

            People like Amy can direct their crazy away from people who have the power to make employment decisions.

            1. Zweisatz*

              Can we not call people “wackjobs”? People with mental health issues are everywhere, including in this comment section.

              1. Pibble*

                So what word do you propose to quickly express the idea of “behavior is dangerously out of whack with societal norms/basic consideration for other people”? Because that’s an important idea to be able to express. (Also, I have mental health issues and have no issue with “whackjob” for expressing that idea.)

              2. Boof*

                Can you educate me on how whackjob is derogatory of mental health problems, not just describing erratic and problematic behavior?

        2. Firecat*

          Spouses are related from the two boards for one. OP said it’s a close knit community, so her future oppurtunities could be impacted for two.

          We don’t know anything about Amy other then she is problematic and still employed. She could be untouchable for some reason. Maybe she’s a board members niece. Who knows. OP sure doesn’t.

          Also, sadly, there are a lot of ways to pin this on the OP. She had a problem with a coworker and didn’t speak to a boss. She quit rather then firmly shut down Amy (which I get as someone familiar with mental health but I literally watched a former boss campaign to fire a woman who suffered a stress induced health injury because – “she should have toughed it out”). Mental health stygma is still hugely problematic. I think it’s irresponsible to assure the OP nothing bad will come of revealing that she left because Amy talked to her too much – we can’t know that.

          1. Myrin*

            The two board members “keep asking [her] for details about why [she] left, one of them even asked pointed questions about how [she] got along with Amy”, though. #
            What especially caught my eye here is that they didn’t ask once, which could easily just be polite small-talk, but actually keep approaching OP about it.
            That sounds to me like they either had an overall weird feeling around this situation/want confirmation of suspicions they already have or want to set OP up in some way and goad her into saying something negative about Amy (for whatever reason).
            Not saying the second option is impossible but IDK at least from what OP wrote, the first one seems much more likely to me.

          2. The OTHER Other*

            I don’t understand how it’s so “close knit” when it comes to the LW daring to answer honestly when asked why she left but there was no one else in the building when she was there on her first day or any other evidence of any supervision or management, nor did LW know of the reputation of the organization, or of Amy.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m guessing Amy has been the sole employee up until now. Just a guess though (partly based on the factors you note, and partly based on the fact the board seems to have no one else to ask about her).

              1. The OTHER other*

                Maybe this is par for the course in the nonprofit sector, but a board of directors and only one employee sounds like an extremely top-heavy organization. And out-of-touch, to boot. What are these people doing “running” this organization?

                1. RG5*

                  All 501(c)3 non-profits are legally required to have a board of directors, regardless of how many employees they have. Those board members may be highly involved as (typically unpaid) full time volunteers or do as little as just attend quarterly or annual board meetings, but non-profits need to have a governing board with legal and fiduciary oversight of the organization.

                  Even if they have none! Some non-profits just have a board and volunteers and no one at all is paid.

                2. FrivYeti*

                  Most of the not-for-profits that I’ve worked for have had two to three times as many Board members as staff members, up to and including two that had a single staff member and 8-10 board members. The Board handled volunteer activities, a lot of fundraising, and oversight, while the staff did administration and programming.

          3. Radical Edward*

            All of these concerns are definitely valid – in a workplace where there’s familial overlap with a previous job or connection one must always be on one’s toes at least a little bit. People talk to each other, so it’s in your best interest to give *all* of them evidence that you are a reliable, reasonable person who doesn’t fly off the handle after one bad first impression. (Which I wholeheartedly agree this was NOT – this was you getting dumped on and simultaneously ignored by your trainer! But we have no idea what sort of interpersonal machinations or excuses may or may not have kept Amy employed up to now.)

            However, that’s only an argument for keeping the explanation ‘bloodless’, so to speak. Even when there is other well-documented evidence of an employee’s inappropriate behavior, the people doing the listening often take complaints more seriously when they’re less emotional and more professional (such as focusing on the consequences of her behavior first and the content second – however, the content here is part of what was terrible so some brief summaries are warranted!). In this case not telling them immediately might actually help you; you have some time and emotional distance from the experience which will hopefully make it easier to describe clearly.

            It’s also quite possible that they are *hoping* you can be dispassionate in your incrimination. In my long history of toxic bosses, the most effective complaints I ever made were the coldest and driest, simply because all the complaints from other employees had been so emotional and personal that they had difficulty nailing down actionably bad behaviors to accuse the offender (in that particular workplace, ‘stop stressing out your staff’ was a non-starter). They were so relieved when I gave them a deadpan list of dates, offenses against customers, and witnessed transgressions against my coworkers. Sometimes, they just need that extra bit of corroboration!

            I have been in a very similar situation before re: inappropriate monologue behavior, where my experience with the behavior in question stretched over months rather than a single day. If I were having this Amy conversation with her superior(s), I would lead with how I didn’t receive any real training from this employee, watched her freak out a customer – and fail to share relevant information with said customer about the organization, probably – and unsuccessfully tried *multiple times* to bring her back to the topic of my orientation. After all of that was laid out, I would then go into more detail about the content of her off-topic monologues. They’re the substantial icing on the cake of inappropriateness.

          4. pancakes*

            The OP needn’t reveal that their mental health suffered as a result of working with Amy in order to discuss Amy’s behavior with the Board, and probably shouldn’t in order to keep the focus on the right topic: Amy’s behavior. The way she behaved is extremely problematic in itself, regardless whether anyone prone to panic attacks has the misfortune to spend time with her, either as a coworker or customer.

        3. Mockingjay*

          The potential for backfire is there because OP works with spouses of the board members.

          Now, I think the board is truly seeking info about the Amy Problem and there would be no backlash, but I’m not in OP’s shoes and it’s up to her alone to say or not say anything. It was an extremely uncomfortable, horrible situation for her and she has every right to cut the Amy Problem (TM) out of her life.

        4. Firecat*

          As for the pointed question of – how did you get along with Amy? To me that’s not enough.

          If they really want to know more about Amy why not speak with customers? No reason to include OP.

          If lots of people have quite suddenly after training, make it safer to speak about it. Invite them to lunch and lay it out. “To be perfectly honest, we have had a few sudden quits like yours. Please be honest and know we won’t hold it against you. Did your training with Amy go well?”

          Instead they are randomly asking OP while she is at work or when they run into her – hey why did you REALLY leave. Did you get along with Amy?

        5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – I bet Amy minds her “P’s and Q’s” in front of the board but is a total disaster when there is no oversight. The board probably has some indication that there are issues, but no real indication of the scope and details of the issue.

        6. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Also, take into account that by deflecting all blame away from Amy, OP is making themselves look flakey. A family emergency excuse might mitigate it somewhat, but a better explanation would make it clear the job was untenable. This could be especially valuable if OP has decided to remain in this industry in a small town where everyone knows everyone.

      1. TM*

        I vote for telling a reasonable amount of the truth to the more-than-one board members vs one oversharing employee, even in a smallish town. Also, it can’t be THAT small if they want to hire two employees for such an establishment.

        Certainly not going on about “that cray b..” or divulging the emergency therapy, but saying that you weren’t trained on fairly basic tasks, her oversharing of personal matters was off-putting and at times outright confronting, and most pertinently, it seemed to scare off a customer – all reasonable things to discuss.

        1. EmKay*

          This sounds perfectly reasonable to an outsider, but only OP knows if that’s worth the risk.

          (It wouldn’t be in my small town, FYI)

        2. Clisby*

          OP doesn’t say it’s a small town, she says it’s a small city. I guess this is all subjective, but I think of the place I live (Charleston, SC) as a small city of about 130,000 people. Are we talking that kind of small city, or a place with 10,000 residents?

      2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Especially given that this is a small town and a niche industry, OP doesn’t want to be known as “the person who left on the second day,” when they could give a reasonable and neutral account of what made the job untenable. OP should use their own judgment, but if they can trust the board member to be discrete with their name, I see no reason not to try to explain.

    2. Imani ladson*

      Exactly! This was my first response lol why are you lying when this person is wasting everyone’s time and is clearly not doing their job lol don’t protect people when the truth is damning enough.

  7. Delta Delta*

    Likely the board is only indirectly Amy’s employer, and she probably has an actual manager. that would have been the person to tell the issues to. But, it also seems like if the board is taking an interest in why OP left so quickly, it might be worth it to tell them what happened, as it may have happened to other people, as well.

  8. lyonite*

    Me before reading the letter: You left on the second day because of one person? Okay, drama llama.
    Me after reading the letter: You came back for the second day??

    1. Meep*

      I am older and wiser now, but I should have walked away when our Amy started talking about how she would bury anyone who crossed her and how her adoptive daughter was an “alkie baby”. I agree. Coming back a second day was generous.

      1. pancakes*

        You didn’t mention her threatening violence in the letter. Kind of burying the lead there! That in itself is very much worth telling higher-ups about. It’s really, really not ok to threaten people at work, even vaguely.

    2. OhNo*

      Seriously. I try not to judge before reading, but at first I was surprised that the LW didn’t even make it a week. After reading the details, though, I’m shocked they even made it through the first day without snapping. Yikes!

      This behavior sounds so egregious that it really would be a kindness to let the board know. Even if they don’t do anything with the information, they would at least have some context for why certain things might be difficult.

    3. anonymouse*

      Yes! There was a cumulative gasp in the AAM reading community.
      I was so, “must be nice that you can rage quit a job. Let Alison absolve you…haha.”
      followed by, “how? How did you go back? Not why…HOW did you drag yourself there?”

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a time when “showing resilience” is to run fast, far, and early/ Before you are buried in the swamp and start thinking “You know, I’ll bet all workplaces are like this.”

  9. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Best case, they fire Amy and rehire you. And you already know where the light switches are!

  10. learnedthehardway*

    OP, you have credibility with the board members, you’re in a completely different job now (and obviously have no ax to grind about getting your other job back or replacing Amy), and they are asking for your feedback. You should let them know the situation, just as Allison suggests.

    While you may not want to speak ill of Amy, Amy is damaging the organization, its mission, its reputation, and is alienating customers. Whatever her issues (I’m sure they are quite legitimate and serious), the fact is that she shouldn’t be bringing them to work and inflicting them on coworkers or the public. That’s not fair to non-consenting people or to the organization for which she is working. If she needs to talk about her issues, she has the option to seek support and therapy – just as you did when she affected your own mental health.

  11. Meep*

    I work with an Amy. She definitely thinks she is the “cool office mom”. The number of times I have been pressured into admitting a 20-something-year-old was “hawt” (he wasn’t) by this 60-year-old is uncomfortable. Any time I am sick, because I am a woman, I must be pregnant – which would be so inconvenient for HER. I had a fever recently and she told me it was probably because I was ovulating… Yes, when you ovulate, you have a 103.8-degree fever…

    Our clients and potential employees complain about her. There have been several emails about how unprofessional AND unethical she is. Complaints have been lodged about how she spends work time talking about hot firemen. I could go on and on and on. Heck, I could write several novels on her alone.

    Luckily, I don’t have to work with her too much. But I would definitely have said something. They could be like my boss and do nothing about Amy, but they could also be looking for an out.

    1. Nanani*

      God I hate that so much. Doesn’t matter if it’s a joke or not, “ill woman = pregnant” is gross, misogynistic, demeaning, and just plain annoying.
      Its hard enough gettign anyone to take our illnesses and pain seriously without jumping to babies jfc

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I hate the ‘a woman feels ill, she must be pregnant’ thing with the fire of a thousand blazing suns. I’d have fun with anyone who insists on that here since I’m struggling through early menopause! No, I’m not pregnant Dave, I’m barfing because that damn organ is trying to make a break for it through my spine!

      Did once have a coworker who made it her task to try and guess, daily, exactly what medical conditions I had – up to the point of telling me that I was absolutely diabetic because she could ‘tell’. I’m not diabetic. Just fat.

      1. allathian*

        Ugh. That’s a bit like the reverse of what I overheard one coworker say to another, “you can’t possibly have T2 diabetes, you aren’t fat.”

    3. pancakes*

      Not a good idea to go along with pressure to sexually objectify people at work. If HR, etc., comes calling, “I didn’t want to make things awkward by refusing to join in” won’t come across well.

    4. Boof*

      Sounds kind of like this ventures into sexual harassment territory? Given how she’s pervasively making a lot of overly sexual comments

  12. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    OP, they probably have an inkling that something is wrong, but really aren’t aware of the full scope of the problem. Please tell them. Be very matter of fact, but also don’t pull any punches because they need to know just how bad Amy is.

  13. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’d start by saying “I apologize for not giving you the whole story. I found the entire experience so overwhelming and disturbing that I just kind of shut down. But now that some time has passed I’m more comfortable going into the details.”

    It’s true, and it foreshadows just how truly bizarre and off-putting Amy’s behavior was.

    1. Anon for now*

      I think this is an excellent response. I also think the more specific examples you can provide when talking to board members is helpful. They may suspect Amy may be more challenging to work with, but everyone has a different definition of challenging, and so they really may have no idea the extent to how she is likely dragging down their organization,

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This opening script is good, and I would not be dramatic about it. Just tell them matter-of-factly what you observed. Especially how it impacted the customer.

    3. OrigCassandra*

      I recently used this for an incident I witnessed — had the virtue of being true. The people I was talking to accepted this explanation without question, and while I don’t know what happened to the person responsible for the incident (and don’t expect to; they’re in a very different part of the very large org I work for), I’m satisfied that the powers that be took it appropriately seriously.

  14. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    When something is that terrible, it seems a no-brainer to at least allude generally to the problems you had that led you to quit. It seems like additional emotional labor to make up a lie about why you were quitting. You’re definitely making it harder/weirder than you have to – although I know that can be common when one is overwhelmed. Good luck – I hope you can put this to rest once and for all by being honest yet kind.

  15. Firecat*

    I disagree with telling them.

    Best case scenario for OP is what – they fire Amy? That doesn’t do anything for you.

    Worst case they think you are a pot stirrer and it impacts your job at the current place.

    Why take all that risk for no reward? There is no reason to talk about it, and since Amy didn’t assault you or do some other unethical actions you have no obligation to report her.

    I say let sleeping dogs lie.

    Also the fact they are asking doesn’t mean they are investigating Amy like so many people think. My experience with art, dance, and drama businesses is that they are dramatic and love gossip. It’s part of their creative flair. The fun of telling a good story. They have a hunger for finding drama that would put a research librarian to shame.

    1. owl10*

      I agree. When I was younger I would speak up about issues at workplaces that would benefit the business to know about. Too often it would go nowhere and cost me capital.

      It blows back on people too often to go out of your way for this sort of thing. What’s the gain for OP? Chances are this is a dysfunctional non-profit that will simply keep Amy and OP gains nothing.

      I feel like AMA often focuses on ‘best practice’ and being very honest and ethical when the reality of the workplace is more sketchy than that.

      1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

        Except the pointed questions from board members about Amy indicate the exact opposite: they know something is wrong, want to do the right thing about it, and need to do it in an above-water fashion to both give it legitimacy & allow it to stick.

        1. BRR*

          I’m not advocating it’s one way or another but they could also just be nosey. Since the LW cited a family emergency as their reason for quitting, I think it’s a bit of an overstep to keep asking why the LW left. If they want to fire Amy, they can be more direct with the LW than “how did you get along with Amy?” Again though, I’m not firmly in either camp for where the board is coming from.

            1. Blue Eagle*

              I agree with not saying anything other than “if you really want to know what the situation is with Amy, why don’t you install cameras and watch and listen – then you’ll know”.

              Or perhaps ask them “why are you so interested in how I got along with Amy? If I told you there was a problem, would you do anything about it?” I’ll bet they would hem and haw and not answer you. If that is the case, why should you give them the complete details.

              1. nonegiven*

                >why don’t you install cameras and watch and listen – then you’ll know

                Nobody else knows how to turn the lights on and off, how will they be able to install cameras?

              2. pancakes*

                I couldn’t disagree more that constant video surveillance is preferable to people speaking up about outrageous behavior at work. Big yikes to that!

                I think you’re underestimating, too, the extent to which “why are you so interested in how I got along with Amy” would come across as an unprofessional and oddly coy admission that there was a big problem with Amy.

              3. EventPlannerGal*

                But that sort of “there’s obviously a problem but I shan’t be telling YOU what it is (please please ask me for more details oh please)” stuff is infinitely more drama-llama behaviour than just explaining what the problem was?

        2. owl10*

          There are tonnes of situations where employers pretend to care then bite you for it. Like surveys asking about how you feel about work, then they yell at you for what you said.

          This whole thing is suspicious. If they wanted to fire Amy it doesn’t hang on the testimony of someone who worked for 2 days.

          I like my work, I like working. I’ve also learned over the years not to go out of my way politically. I will go out of my way work wise if you want me to do more hours or something. If you want me to put myself on the line to tell you about another employee or vendor or whatever then the answer is no. Been bitten too many times before.

          1. alc*

            I agree.

            Assume, for the safe of argument, the board members are legitimately asking OP for actionable information they intend to use at a board meeting regarding Amy’s employment, and not idle gossip. (But honestly, given how casual these inquiries have been, I think they just want gossip.)

            That means the question of Amy’s employment is a matter of debate with other board members. It’s not “share OP’s story and she’s gone.” It’s “share OP’s story with the anti-Amy board members and they will use it to argue against the pro-Amy board members at the next meeting.” OP would be opening their mouth without knowing what the shot is.

            This isn’t a sworn and sealed deposition of a protected witness. This is a verbal and/or written statement given to people OP has no reason to trust. OP’s words can be distorted in ways OP can’t predict and shared in ways OP can’t control. And Amy, who probably forgot about OP months ago, may learn that OP is an enemy worth making a personal project out of.

      2. pancakes*

        Re: “I feel like AMA often focuses on ‘best practice’ and being very honest and ethical when the reality of the workplace is more sketchy than that.”

        Of course just about every reader is going to be a better judge of risks in their own workplace and career than strangers who aren’t very familiar with either, and of course big-time whistleblowing is risky and requires a great deal of care, but in most professional workplaces, higher-ups are not vengeful or punitive about being calmly and politely informed that something is wrong.

        1. Firecat*

          I don’t think you can say that at most professional jobs vengeful bosses aren’t a problem.

          in fact evidence, such athinks the news about various big company illegal activities that were hushed and the numerous letters hear about dysfunctional all business suggest otherwise. I also think it’s odd to assume that whistleblowing is inherently risky but that those companies and people who punish employees who push back on black and white illegal activities and whistleblowers will be utterly reasonable and professional about pushback on interpersonal non-illegal but still problematic grey issues.

          1. pancakes*

            That’s not quite what I’m saying. It isn’t a grey issue in most professional workplaces whether or not one should speak with someone higher-up about a coworker’s outrageous behavior: Not only is it appropriate to discuss, it is welcome. Alison’s answer would’ve been very different if this was not the case.

      3. Amaranth*

        I guess it also depends on how valuable OP thinks the nonprofit is to the community, since she said its a cause dear to her. If Amy is a gatekeeper with the public, she’s potentially a big liability to their success.

    2. idwtpaun*

      I strongly disagree with this. Why would the Board think the OP is a “pot stirrer” if they’re the ones asking the question months later. The OP quit on their second day, that’s not attention-seeking behaviour, that’s a consequence to some real disfunction that the Board in question should know about.

      OP doesn’t need to tell the story in the same semi-humourous tone they did it for this advice blog. The issues with Amy can be laid out in a matter-of-fact manner that still convey how inappropriate and detrimental to the business (on all fronts) it was.

      1. Hipsand Makers*

        Exactly. “Amy spent so much time on her personal history and grievances with other stakeholders in the organization that our actual “training” focused almost entirely on operating the light switches, and my only introduction to the POS system was her personal assessment of how difficult it was. She also shared private information about a family member with a customer who was obviously discomfited and left.”

        None of that is pot stirring. OP is not telling sordid details. OP is describing how Amy’s behavior made it impossible for OP or any other potential trainee to learn and do the job.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yup. The perception of what someone is saying is radically different if that person is answering a question rather than volunteering information unasked. It’s answering questions where the questioner needs honest answers vs. tattling.

    3. Cat Lover*

      HARD disagree. Toxic employees stick around longer when no one speaks up. No one wants to complain or be a “tattle” or whatever, but the board clearly has at least an idea that Amy might’ve been involved.

      Telling doesn’t hurt LW and may help a lot of people if it gets Amy out.

      1. Firecat*

        Then the board should make it much easier for OP to be honest then they have.

        It’s not OPs responsibility to fix their org. It’s on the board and the ED.

        If they really need to know they should take OP to lunch and lay their cards down vs relying on innuendo.

        Asking – did you get along with coworker? To me is not the smoking gun irrefutable proof that they want to know and won’t punish the messenger like a lot of the commenters today seem to think it is.

        I’ve seen the messenger shot more often then not so yeah. I don’t speak up as much anymore unless the consequences for me justify the risk for me.

        1. Ciara*

          There’s nothing to indicate the Board has made it hard in any way. OP has chosen to lie, that’s not the fault of the Board.

          You seem very keen to avoid difficult situations and conversations. That passivity and tendency to avoidance is not helpful or professional, and you might want to consider how this approach is limiting your effectiveness and success.

        2. Coder von Frankenstein*

          I really doubt they are looking to shoot the messenger in this case, but even if they are, they have no bullets. OP doesn’t work there and they have no power over her. They can’t even threaten to give her a bad reference, nobody requests references from an employer of two days’ duration. The most they could conceivably do is ask their spouses who are OP’s coworkers (not her boss, at least not from my reading) to give OP a hard time.

          OP has nothing to lose by being honest. Not much to gain, either, but if the nonprofit’s mission is a worthy one, it will help that mission be successful if the people in charge know about the problem.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          How much easier do you want it to be, for goodness sake? They have approached her directly and asked her specifically about her experience working with Amy. If you read the letter you can also see that OP had told them that she quit due to a family emergency – they can’t really be more direct than that without straight-up accusing her of lying about her granny dying or something, which (in the all-important Small Town) they are also probably keen not to do. They are being about as direct as they can be.

          OP doesn’t have to relay the story in the dramatic, semi-comedic way they have in this letter. She can say something to the effect of “Amy made me feel really uncomfortable throughout both the shifts I worked, told me a number of graphic and upsetting stories and didn’t train me on anything beyond switching the lights on.” Maybe these board members are indeed just gossips laying an elaborate trap in order to shoot the messenger for shits and giggles, or maybe it will be fine. IDK.

    4. Veronica*

      If I was on the board and finally figured out how bad Amy was, I would have serious questions about why the people don’t come to me with complaints. This is a small town. I would not want to hire someone who is unable to raise serious issues or concerns.
      There is a difference between being dramatic and a factual recitation of events. I think it helps that the letter writer is now at another job and some distance from the situation.

      1. Firecat*

        I would not want to hire someone who is unable to raise serious concerns.

        Didn’t you prove my point just there? By bringing up what happened it can leave the board wondering why she didn’t bring it up sooner. It calls into question OPs judgement. So why do that to yourself?

        Also in your paragraph there is zero indication that you would reflect on why people may not feel safe coming to you with concerns – instead it was all blame about how people should be better at coming to you with this sort of stuff.

        I think most people have the same reactions as you. they blame the victims for not speaking up.

        In my 20s I did bring up serious concerns. It always backfired. Now I don’t speak up unless it’s illegal or an -ist.

        1. Siege*

          It doesn’t matter who you want to hire or not hire though, because the LW doesn’t work for the organization any more and is not job-seeking with them. Why do you keep fixating on this idea that somehow it would be toxic for an employee who quit on their second day to relate factually to a board member something that happened? She quit on the second day! They know something happened! And why does the “small town” part of this matter? The smallest town I’ve ever lived in was 30,000 people in a conurbation that barely topped 90K – a much smaller town than my hometown fifty miles away, where the metropolitan population at the same time was 2.5 million. “Small arts non-profits” don’t really go with “10 people and a dog”, it’s quite a leap to assume that the only employable people in this town are directly known to the board members.

          1. Firecat*

            I’m not sure where you are getting that I’m fixated on a small town not where you think I said only Amy and OP are employable?

            The facts in the letter are:
            The boards of both groups share spouses.
            It’s a close knit employment community.
            Old job has snooping about “the real why” for months and not dropping it but also not making it clear their motivation.

            So OP can speak up, risk blowback, and maybe the org fixes there problem. Or leave it be and live her life. Not her circus not her monkeys.

        2. HelenofWhat*

          Amy’s behavior can easily slide into sexual harassment territory based on some of the topics above. That’s enough to warrant a report.

        3. BRR*

          It’s perfectly understandable why the LW wouldn’t want to bring something up, especially in their first two days at a job. But I could easily see someone dismissing the LW’s comments (heck, I did at the start of the letter). There’s also the possibility the LW brings it up, the board says something to Amy, an the LW has to work with Amy again after Amy knows the LW brought up her unprofessional behavior.

          And just playing devil’s advocate, if Amy is this bad one could wonder how the board was so disconnected.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not realistic to expect an employee on their second day to try to resolve concerns with a board of directors (!) rather than just deciding the job isn’t for them. People aren’t obligated to try stay and make a bad situation work, and most people would judge that the results they’d get might not be worth the energy they’d need to invest to get them. I sure wouldn’t want to take that on my first week of work. You’re allowed to just leave.

        1. banoffee pie*

          I don’t think anybody would judge OP for leaving. I would probably have walked out halfway through the first day, to be honest. There’s no point in sticking it out when you’ve only invested two days in it and it’s obviously going to be awful

    5. Edie Poovey*

      I agree. OP stands to gain nothing from diving back into this mess. Especially if they work with board members’ spouses. OP has a new job, they don’t need to be rehired at the old place, and Amy is not their responsibility. Let it go.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        At the same time, it sounds like OP is still in the same industry, which they want to build a career in; they are in a small community where a new workplace contains multiple spouses of the board members of the previous one; and people are point-blank asking about it, continuously, months later. OP is currently doubling down on “I left a job on the second day for ambiguous reasons,” or, possibly “I know that YOU know that Amy is unbearable and unprofessional, why are you lying about it?”

        OP might want to work with that organization again (if not FOR it), or with/for any of the organizations that the board members work for. They have a shining chance to un-burn a bridge in a small network–I would encourage OP to do it, especially if they have the sense that the people asking pointing question won’t construe/represent OP as a pot-stirrer or bring their name unnecessarily into addressing Amy’s issues.

        1. Firecat*

          Why do you think OP burnt the bridge with her former employer and telling thrm that Amy is an extreme oversharer will unbutn it?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        People who quit on the second day are not usually referred to as pot stirrers. You kind of have to be near the pot to stir the pot. Pot stirring is a repeated action it’s not a one time conversation.

        From my experience it is unusual for board member to ask this type of question to anyone.
        It’s super unusual to ask a person who has only worked there two days.

        The board members tipped their hands just in asking.
        My guess is that these two board members know something is up with Amy and they have discussed it at length. (It could be that the board has discussed it.)
        The first one tried to start a conversation and reported to the second board member that they failed, so the second board member decided to give it a shot.
        The fact that they are asking months later really telegraphs a lot- this is a subject that keeps coming up for them.

        OP, others are correct in saying that you do not have to do anything here. For myself, it’s important to see me standing up for ME. I dunno what that means to you- it could be that your version of standing up for yourself means getting out and moving to a different setting. Some people put a higher value on just that part.

        In my own experience as a board member I do know that employees get entrenched/embedded. A lot of people say, “the employee has dirt on the board and therefore keeps their job” this can be true. But many times the big hurdle is public opinion. In smaller communities public opinion is an interesting beast. The public might for the most part entirely dislike the employee YET tell the board member do not fire the employee. wtf. Well they feel sorry for the employee because low income, difficult home life, difficult life, loneliness and other reasons. Notice how none of these reasons are a job qualification. As the years turn into decades and the decades roll by it is harder and harder to remove this person. The board has become trapped by their own narrow thinking.

        Then along comes new board members, who say, “You know what?! It’s time we dealt with Negative Employee!” I have to wonder if the two people who asked you are newer to the board. Amy has to be hurting the mission of the organization- has to be. And it’s showing in their numbers (whatever numbers they use to decide how well they are doing.)

        Again you have zero obligation to do anything here. You quit after two days. They can ask Amy what happened and what she is going to do differently so she does not drive employees off like that.

        1. pancakes*

          They can ask Amy to self-report on her own behavior, sure, but that is not effective management. Neither is asking her to devise her own plan to improve her self-reported bad behavior.

          I agree that the letter writer isn’t obliged to do anything in particular about this, but I think it’s strange and unfortunate to decline so many opportunities to talk about what happened here. It often seems that a disproportionate number of commenters on this site (compared to my wider experiences of the world elsewhere, I mean) are extremely conflict-avoidant, and seem to see themselves as having no middle ground between clamming up and losing all self-control, as if awkward conversations must either be avoided entirely or turned into massive showdowns.

    6. Sue*

      I am a long time board member of an arts organization and have been involved with others. Your disparagement is absolutely ridiculous in my experience. Of course they want to know about a bad employee. If you care about the mission and want to see the organization succeed, it would be very helpful to divulge the experience. The downside is so remote as to negligible in my opinion.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think there is any real risk for someone who is a good communicator, but for someone who doesn’t feel sure they’d be able to communicate the salient points effectively without, say, becoming overwrought, or revealing deeply personal and extraneous information about themself, I suppose there is a good deal of risk.

  16. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    It’s the right thing to do to tell them the truth about Amy, and arguably kind of selfish not to. Yes, it will be an uncomfortable conversation, but you’re also giving them the ability to get rid of a toxic person who in turn can not then turn their toxicity against something that brings community good.

  17. B Wayne*

    I wish the first reaction had not been “lie” but really, if management has no inkling Amy is a show unto her own at this point, well, they deserve her! Just move on and see humor in this at some point.

    1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I suspect the management or board has known for years. I’m thinking she’s the niece or sister-in-law of a (recently retired board member) who has always brushed it of with, “But she’s fiiiiiiiiiiiine when she remembers to take her meds!!” Now that Nepotist Board Member is gone, they want to both get rid of her AND get extensive documentation for CYA purposes.

  18. BlueWolf*

    Reminds me a bit of the time at my old job (medical office) when we hired a new receptionist, except the new person was the Amy. On literally her first day, she told me and my manager all about how she was married (on paper) to a guy in the military, solely for the housing benefits. She literally admitted to committing fraud. Considering the job involved handling sensitive patient information, she was not invited to come back the next day.

  19. Essentially Cheesy*

    Yes be honest and upfront! If you think it’s too late, write an anonymous letter to the leadership.

    I would personally have called management from home after that first shift (and being able to collect my thoughts) and ask if that’s typical and raise a few red flags with them. That is not normal behaviour and needs to be addressed.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      If you can actually write an “I left on my second day” email with this information and still be even remotely anonymous, the leadership has bigger problems.

  20. Sparkles McFadden*

    Yes, please tell them. I absolutely understand why you didn’t do so in the first place, as your priority was to get away from that crazy person as fast as humanly possible. You put on your oxygen mask first and saved yourself! Now, please go back and tell the board what you told us here.

    I quit my post-retirement job because the boss was insane (I lasted about a year). I used the work equivalent of “it’s not you, it me” and said “I am used to a corporate work environment…” A day later, I went back to the personnel director and said “That woman is cray-cray” and gave him four pages of documentation on the crazy behavior. The personnel director said “Yeah…I figured it was something like that.” It turns out that the only people who could deal with the nutty boss were also crazy so they had no reliable reports that would let them oust this woman (she managed up well).

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, I worked at a small nonprofit that had really, really horrible, entrenched problems – the executive director was a not-very-functioning alcoholic and another director was his drinking buddy, plus a toxic stew of sexism, discrimination and verbal abuse, and it unfortunately took the board years to oust them, but they were only able to do it because they had stacks and stacks of documentation from the employees who had been affected.

  21. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    My goodness, definitely tell them. The fact that someone asked a pointed question indicates that they believe there’s some kind of problem. But is Amy just a bit of a drama queen, or is she seriously a problem for this organization? Just tell them what you went through in a very matter-of-fact way. You have nothing to lose; you don’t work there anymore.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’d say she’s not just a drama queen if during a 4-hour shift all she trained the new person on is how to turn on the (labelled) lights. That’s a waste of time & wages for a non-profit.

  22. CommanderBanana*

    Yikes. Years ago I was working at a very small jewelry boutique (small as in, the boutique was literally very small) and a woman with logorrhea was hired. She was literally incapable of not talking, and she wasn’t talking TO you, she was talking AT you, just an unstoppable torrent of words. Customer were so disconcerted by her that they would walk out. It really did feel like torture to be around her, even though she was a nice person! But I left that shift feeling like my brain was on fire.

    I lasted one shift with her and told the owner to either schedule me so we didn’t overlap or I’d quit. My other coworkers followed suit pretty quickly. Granted, the situation is a little different – I had worked there for years – but it would have been a huge disservice to the owner if I had invented a family emergency and quit instead of telling her what the problem was. The owner let her go after about four days.

    If you weren’t still being asked by the board members was happened, I would probably let it go, but given that you still have an opportunity to tell them what happened, I would. I would absolutely want to know, if I was on the board of directors, that someone was causing other hires to quit or need emergency therapy!

  23. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

    Next time they ask, repeat after me: “You guys didn’t pay me enough during those two days for me to relive the trauma — and risk the need for another emergency therapy session — without a consultant’s fee.”

    I’m joking. Well not really. This isn’t a longtime employee who has an emotional attachment to the organization, so why should the OP deal with the stress of listing all of the ways Amy ruined the situation when that one sentence lets board members know it wasn’t a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

    Oh, s/he’s already made such a list and it’s been published? OK, I supposed you can add a second sentence that links to this letter, but I wonder if that would have the unwanted effect of triggering unwanted follow-up questions from board members to the OP.

    Although, therapists do say that talking about a problem helps …

  24. AKchic*

    Please, please, *please* do yourself and the board a favor and tell them the truth.

    At least some of the board already suspects Amy’s inappropriate behaviors (I’m sure there are public reviews, and in a small town, word gets ‘round if you know what I mean and people know each other). Having a coworker, even one who didn’t last long, confirm problems/details, and explicitly say “I left because of X reasons that were doing Y, Z and F to my health after 48 hours of meeting and dealing with her” is powerful. Especially if any of it corroborates an existing complaint (maybe the customer made a complaint or online review?).
    If Amy is let go, you are doing the organization a huge favor, and you may feel more willing to work/volunteer there, and others may feel more generous towards it, may volunteer/apply to work there, etc. I can bet that Amy is a huge hindrance to growth and they need more proof.

  25. Nicki Name*

    LW, the board members have to suspect already that something is up with Amy. She’s probably given them a story about the two days she worked with you that doesn’t jibe with yours at all (or with the reality of what actually happened). This probably isn’t the first time someone has quit after not being able to handle an entire job’s worth of Amy. There are probably customers who have complained. It would be an act of kindness to fill them in on what’s really going on.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I suspect that there are a lot of very non-specific complaints about Amy, mostly from artists that don’t want to damage their ability to work with this group. Plus, small town, well there also probably some non-specific word of mouth that Amy is tricky to deal with.

      1. The OTHER other*

        LW says small city, not small town, and if it’s small enough for her to keep bumping up against board members and word of mouth that Amy is nuts to get around, it’s very strange that LW never heard anything about it.

  26. WellRed*

    In a perfect world, they take OP seriously, save the organization from being dragged further down and Amy gets the help she so desperately needs. I realize it’s not a perfect world.

  27. lex talionis*

    I’m curious, if the BOD has suspicions re Amy, why haven’t they just hired a professional, aka a spy, to get hired and go through the on boarding with Amy and then provide the board with a report? Then no one, like the OP, has to worry about the potential negative impact to their reputation. There are companies who provide this service. And it seems like it would be less expensive in the the long run to know what is going on (especially as the board is most likely responsible for the working environment) than to keep hiring people who only end up lasting 1-2 days. Not to mention the trauma OP endured.

    1. quill*

      Now I’m imagining a spy whose grim duty it is to wait for Amy’s diatribe about the world at large and all their personal problems to turn up evidence of… *spins James Bond wheel* a doomsday plot involving space lasers.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I don’t think they’d have to wait very long. The OP was met with “did a plane hit the building?!” before they even got through front door! If this was a spy movie, Amy would definitely already be a part of the opening action sequence…but that scene might be all in her head…

    2. JB*

      Although that’s a good idea, it would probably be very difficult for them to justify that expense, as a non-profit.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s not a good idea. It could be amusing in a tv show, but in the actual workplace, surveillance is a very poor and intrusive substitute for effective communication.

    3. All the words*

      I had the exact same thought. Send in a trainee (agent) to either confirm or put to rest concerns regarding Amy.

  28. Volunteer, they said, It will be fun, they said....*

    OMG as someone who is running a board and quickly discovering a wealth of problems with our recently retired Managing Director, please, please, please tell the board.

    In my situation, the MD was a huge problem, but none of the staff would tell the board the truth as they were threatened by the MD with firing and blackballing should they go to the board. Now that he is retired, we have discovered huge amounts of mismanagement both financial and otherwise and are likely starting a fraud investigation. This could have been resolved years ago if someone had just come out and said… Look MD is stealing and is psychotic, do something!

    Amy is likely flat out lying to the board about why they can’t keep staff, and the board is probably frustrated as heck about why they can’t keep anyone. Likely Amy does this on purpose to scare off anyone who could threaten her role. I’d love to see that board “hire” someone new for the sole purpose of ferretting out any issues.

    1. Leela*

      I’m genuinely curious as I don’t have any experience working on a board but have been on the receiving end of a board feeling like I should have come forward…does the board usually have any plan for making it clear to employees that they’re safe if they come forward with something? Does the board not have a plan to ensure that the people on it are aware of what it’s like at the company they’re directing? I can’t say for your situation but on my end it really felt like they were sitting there hoping one of us would come forward but they weren’t doing anything to actually build that bridge to us, and I would think that “go to the board” is something I’d only elect to do in a very extreme case as I’d have no idea what would happen to me if it got around I’d gone so far over someone’s head. I didn’t even know the board members, they were just trotted out at Christmas parties, it would have been very odd of me to reach out to them for anything and I wouldn’t have even known how if I’d wanted to!

    2. nothing rhymes with purple*

      I completely second Leela’s questions and was about to ask those same questions. You’ve asked people to risk firing and blackballing to talk to you — what assurances of your protection did they have to rely on that would allow them to take these risks?

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Right. Most people who whistleblow and tell on badly behaving people in a job get fired. Most businesses would rather keep a bully/bad person who’s in power than anyone else who objects to it or is abused by them.

        That said, OP may have less of issues if she reports it all since she’s out of the business and they seem to obviously suspect something here.

  29. Twisted Lion*

    OP definitely tell them. I was a person who told when hired about a coworker who was difficult and my leadership was grateful because they needed someone to confirm what others had said. As an unbiased person my input helped them fire that person instead of it being a he said/she said from other employees. Amy sounds incredibly awful if she is oversharing that much within a hot minute of meeting a stranger. I cant even imagine!

  30. mreasy*

    OP, I got anxious just reading your letter. I can’t imagine how tough the actual experience must have been! I think it would be a kindness to tell the board about the situation, but something low-stress like an email is a fine way to do it.

    1. nothing rhymes with purple*

      Yeah, but does LW really need to set herself on fire to show the board the way to get rid of Amy?

        1. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

          She’s in a small town, and who knows what network Amy has? I’ve seen people have their lives upended for less.

          1. I agree*

            The board should install cameras inside the building, with Amy’s knowledge, to observe what’s happening. Unless Amy behaved entirely appropriately from that point on (which itself would be a win), there would soon be video evidence of her behavior with customers and anyone else she was asked to train.

          2. pancakes*

            The depiction of small towns on this site suggests that any and all conflict must be avoided, no matter how much better off everyone would be if it were resolved, on account of an ever-present threat of vengeful locals. It’s so grim. I don’t doubt there are many small towns like this in the US, but they can’t all be quite that oppressive, and if they are, those of you who live in them ought to try to do something about it.

  31. Manana*

    85% of the letters that get printed on this site are people who want to complain at length about a situation but do nothing about it. The number of LWs who have either lied or just stayed silent about bad employees, managers, clients, etc. is crazy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As the person who corresponds with letter writers, that’s not my sense at all. Some letters do fit that description, but the majority of people genuinely are struggling with a problem and want advice. Power dynamics complicate “just speak up,” and not everyone has been raised or socialized to be direct (in fact, most people have not) and don’t trust it will be safe to do that. (And really, we could also say “the number of citizens who have stayed silent about terrible situations rather than voting their interests is crazy.” It’s about the world we live in, not specific to people who write to advice columns.)

      1. pancakes*

        “Most” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. People where I grew up were not socialized to be intensely conflict-avoidant. There was a good deal of care taken in the schools I went to 20 and 30 years ago to teach people better ways of communicating. There are a lot of cultural and class issues around this to unpack, and suggesting that this mindset is ubiquitous isn’t going yo make a dent in that unpacking work.

        1. rarely comments*

          Well, consider yourself extremely lucky, because that wasn’t taught in my overcrowded public school.

          1. pancakes*

            That is my point, which I expanded on in other comments – this stuff can indeed be taught, and is taught to some people, and should be taught to everyone, not merely a relatively small group of lucky people.

    2. Reba*

      This is needlessly unkind. Speaking out is hard and can come with risks, it’s no surprise people want guidance with it.

      re: “complain at length” do you… not want to have letters to read?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, no one is exempt from the commenting rules.

        As I’ve said repeatedly, and is clearly listed in the commenting rules that I ask people to read before commenting:

        I do not read and approve every single comment. The volume is far too high. So if you see a comment that seems problematic, please don’t do this: “I can’t believe this comment is allowed! Why has Alison approved this?!” Instead, assume I haven’t seen it and feel free to flag it and I’ll take a look (if you include a link in your comment, it’ll go to moderation so I’ll see it).

        There are literally thousands of comments here a week. I do not read them all.

        No one has flagged this one for me yet, and I don’t know what post it was on, how long ago, etc. If you can link me to it, I’d appreciate it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I removed a long off-topic thread here debating a comment someone made several months ago.

        The comment, which has now been removed, didn’t tell someone to go F themselves as it was portrayed here; she said in response to the idea that she didn’t care for her mom that she did and “anyone who thinks otherwise is kindly invited to engage in intimate activity with a cactus” … which is more heated than I want here, but not at all the same as “go F a cactus.” Regardless of your take on it, though, this was a lot of angst about a comment from months ago that no one reported at the time. If you are concerned about a comment, please flag it for me in real time; that will be far more useful than complaining about it months later.

        To reiterate: I do not see all comments (even if I see some within a thread, I may not see the whole thread, particularly if it’s long). From the commenting rules that I ask people to read before commenting:

        I do not read and approve every single comment. The volume is far too high. So if you see a comment that seems problematic, please don’t do this: “I can’t believe this comment is allowed! Why has Alison approved this?!” Instead, assume I haven’t seen it and feel free to flag it and I’ll take a look (if you include a link in your comment, it’ll go to moderation so I’ll see it).

        Thanks.

    3. Firecat*

      Yeah because we have no examples of employees complaining about say, serial sexual harassment, and getting blacklisted from their industry’s. Blizzard, Fox, McDonalds, etc. Are just the exceptions not the norm right?

      1. pancakes*

        Reporting sexual harassment – even a one-off occurrence, not serial – is fraught in many, many ways that saying “this person you’ve asked about many times is incredibly rude to coworkers” is not. You’re not comparing like with like.

        1. Firecat*

          I’ve never one suggested it is or compared the two. I was replying to mananas comments which were about all letter writers and how they never do the easy thing of speaking up for themselves.

          Many people have compared Amy’s comments to sexual harassment in this thread but I am not one of them.

    4. Baron*

      I was once in a situation that seemed a little odd at work, but I wasn’t sure if I was right that the situation was odd, or if I had the social capital to speak up about it. I wrote in to AAM, and while most commenters were very kind and supportive, I also got a lot of, “This situation is the worst thing I’ve ever heard – how would anyone tolerate that? Why would you need to write to an advice columnist? Why wouldn’t you just know how to solve your own problem?” And it’s, like, I honestly didn’t know it was that bad until Alison and the commenters told me. I’m sure a lot of LWs are in that situation!

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      This is an odd comment when you consider that this particular letter writer, like most letter writers here, is asking for advice on what she should have done differently. Her past actions are weighing on her and she is looking for support to speak up. That’s what most of us are here for.

      The power dynamics in the workplace are no joke to people trying to stay employed. That is why unions were created. That is why there are whistleblower laws on the books. Even with those protections, there are people who feel they just cannot afford to take that sort of risk.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah I would say if anything most, or at least a lot, of the letter writers where the answer is just “speak up”–it seems like they usually mostly know what they should do and just need confirmation that it’s okay and/or help with a script.

    6. Beth Jacobs*

      OP did do something about it – she quit. Of course, that doesn’t address the root of the problem, but it’s good enough for the OP.

      A lot of times, distancing yourself from the situation is the best option. It solves the problem for you. It might not solve the problem for others, but you can’t make it your job to solve all the problems in the world.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      A good number of people are born with out the answers embedded in their genes at birth.
      This stuff is not taught in schools.
      Not all parents know how to share/teach this stuff to their kids.
      So that leaves a professional advice columnist to do the job.

      As far as staying silent, I’d like to see a show of hands of anyone here who fights every single battle they see. If remaining silent about employees, managers, clients etc is the only way a person can extract themselves from a bad situation, who is to tell them that they have to go back and fight?

      Yes, I have committed lies of omission because saving my own butt from future revenge was more important to me. I have also had the opposite end of the spectrum where my life has been threatened because I put my foot down and said I was not going to put up with certain nonsense. We definitely pick and choose which hills we are willing to die on. I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying, “This battle is not for me.”

      Last. This is a hospital for sick and tired employees. You will not find happy, full of life employees in the letters here. No one writes in to say, “Hi Alison, I am doing great and do not need help with anything.” What advice can Alison give that person? There’s nothing to write about. It’s an advice column for people who would like some advice. So yeah, people are going to sound tired and defeated. That is why they are here.

      1. pancakes*

        It was taught in my high school, among other places. One of the ways it was taught there is that we had all-school meetings three times a week where anyone at all could speak. I realize that doesn’t tend to happen in overcrowded public schools, but there are ways to teach people to express themselves in ways more likely to improve rather than worsen their own communities. There are also many ways to provide people with mental health resources (support for panic attacks, for example, in the case of the letter writer) rather than collectively, as a society, leaving them to try to muddle through on their own dime.

      2. pancakes*

        I want to add, a more common way of teaching people to speak up is small seminars in college or university. That is what people are mostly learning in classes of 10, 12, 15 people rather than massive lecture halls a hundred or more students – they are learning how to productively disagree with one another about the matter at hand.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I don’t get it. How does a small seminar about poetry or Russian history or whatever make people better at speaking up for themselves in social situations? In college, what you’re talking about in these classes is about the subject matter — it’s not personal.

      3. Boof*

        I agree except I think there are plenty of positive letters here and it’s refreshing; good updates/follow ups, the friday good news, and interviews and guides. So it’s not all doom and gloom!

    8. Manana*

      People can feel however they want about my letter, but I too am a sick and tired employee. I too am sick of working for harrassers and bigots and bullies, who remain in place because people are afraid to speak out. It is exhausting to think of the experiences I could have avoided if someone spoke out. It’s exhausting to be the only one standing up for yourself. It’s demoralizing to see how often abuse goes unchecked. This column regularly celebrates pettiness and “take downs” as others have pointed out. If voicing my frustration is “needlessly cruel” I don’t understand anything about what culture you stand for. This isn’t about this or any LW, it is about an enduring culture of silence that makes so many workplaces oppressive and toxic. And while I can empathize with fear, I can’t abide it in comfort.

  32. Ashley*

    OP if you believe the board member to be credible I would recommend telling them the truth. I briefly worked at a non-profit and upon departure I did an exit interview with a few Board members I knew and trusted. Because so many people had been through my position, they kept thinking it was the new hire. Since they knew me and my work, they were able to start reframing the conversation. It took a few years to get rid of ‘Amy’, but the organization is stronger because of it. In small towns word travels, and it can be a problem so find a trustworthy Board member and do a small deed to make the organization better.

    1. WellRed*

      They kept thinking it was the new hire? If you meet an asshole, you’ve met an asshole. If everyone you meet is an asshole, maybe you’re the asshole. Not a perfect example but I’m too lazy to translate.

    2. Amaranth*

      It took three of us – all managers and directors – coming in and quitting at the same time for the BOD to take complaints against the ED seriously. She ended up fired and we made the mistake of sticking around another year with an interim ED who threw out everything that *wasn’t* broken and treated us as troublemakers.

  33. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I once interviewed for a role at my current company that would have been a promotion, and after meeting with one of the people that would be on my team, I withdrew my candidacy. HR asked me straight-out if it was because of this person, and I was very candid in my reply- they had spent all their time with me talking about the shortcomings of the other people on team, who they didn’t like, all the ways others had messed up, etc. it was terrible and I clearly would have been inheriting a disaster. Hard pass. LW, people are asking you because they already suspect Amy is the issue, they just need validation in order to determine their next steps. Please tell them.

  34. HelenofWhat*

    I also want to note that board members are often putting lots of time and money (often their own) into an organization, if they’re asking pointed questions about Amy it’s because they care that there’s an issue but they haven’t witnessed it themselves. I can’t blame them for wanting to know what’s not being said.

    You’re also working with their spouses so you might just feel better getting this off your chest and not being reminded of “the thing you haven’t told them” at every holiday party or parking lot interaction! I know that would stress me out.

  35. Sharpieees*

    I lived in an apartment building with someone like this. She lived right by the entrance and she bolted out every time someone came home. She would immediately take you as a hostage. She told me stories about very private and uncomfortable things, things that needed to be talked through with a qualified therapist. One time I caught her reading the label on a package that was at my door. She also asked for strange favors. One time she asked if she could borrow my cat for a few days to kill the mice in her apartment. Ummmmm, hard no. I really think she wanted my cat because she would always talk about him so much, how she would see him in my window and admire him (to be fair he really was a gorgeous cat, lol, he had a long sleek orange coat). She’d try to give me her leftovers to feed him, one of which was seafood even though I told her my cat can’t tolerate fish and shellfish. It made him vomit. She also asked me to stay with her after she got home after a surgery – doctors don’t want you to be alone that first night etc etc. Also hard nooooooooo. Felt bad she didn’t have anyone to that for her, but they can keep you at the hospital if you don’t. I used to linger in my car some nights because I knew what was coming once I walked through the entrance. Eventually, I had to just walk by and not acknowledge her at all. It felt mean and rude, but it was literally the only way to handle her.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      So sorry you had to deal with that. I started to get second-hand anxiety just reading about it.

  36. irene adler*

    I can’t help but marvel at the level of ‘drama queen’ of anyone who immediately thinks “plane crashed into my building” when an abnormally loud noise is experienced.

    I would have answered “Why yes, a plane did just ram into your building. And I’ll be leaving now.”

    1. kevin*

      It is highly improbable that she actually thought a plane had crashed into the building. More likely, this was a joke that failed to land. That’s not a great figure of speech on my part, considering the subject, but the point is that she was almost surely trying to be funny.

      1. Sharpieees*

        The most generous interpretation that I can come up with is maybe she has anxiety issues stemming from 9/11 or something, but yeah, more likely she was trying to be dramatic or funny. Doing that to a person you just met, though, is ridiculous and doomed to fail.

    2. Lime green Pacer*

      A family member has anxiety (diagnosed). When the anxiety is at its worst, this is how they think–and extreme anxiety removes their filter, so you learn what they are worried about as soon as it pops into their head.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      That one I kind of understood. One day there was a loud bang here and the house shook. I went outside and walked all around the house.
      It was an earthquake- perhaps an after shock. The quake was about 20 miles from here. But all I could think of was “a plane just hit the house”. We are on the landing pattern for the airport and we almost never have earthquakes here. A plane was a more logical go-to explanation.
      I kind of tossed off Amy’s comment about the plane because as a stand-alone comment it could be something or it could be nothing.

  37. Maseca*

    Unfortunately, Amy reminds me quite a bit of my mother. There are mental health factors at play but it comes down to not having a broader sense of what info is typical or appropriate to share with a new acquaintance. It doesn’t occur to her that a person she just met might not need/want to know the things that are most often top of mind for her (her failed marriage nearly 40 years ago, her physical and mental health issues since then, a catalog of perceived slights over the years). I feel badly for her but it’s also incredibly wearing and if I weren’t her child I don’t know how long I would want to stay in her company either.

    All this to say, OP, that you can feel empathy or sympathy for Amy without also needing to protect or shield her from the appropriate consequences of her actions. And you should 100% not feel any guilt or anxiety over needing to protect your own mental health.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I read the list of your mom’s fave topics and thought “did I write this in some sort of fugue state?!”

      My mother also has a “greatest hits” reel of favorite topics and no sense that others may not be as focused on these as she is at any given time (specifically the 40 year old divorce)…

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Oh god, yes, mine too. It’s just a monologue at you about the evils of Democrats, her unhappiness with her husband, the evils of Democrats, her unhappiness with her husband – wash, rinse, repeat. I definitely think there are some mental health issues there, but she’s an adult and has made it clear that she’s “not interested in being happy,” so.

    2. Leela*

      My mom is just like this, she likes to wait until someone is trapped in a car with her and just unload about various miseries and things she should really be telling a therapist and not a child, and not someone from work who carpooled with her once. She probably learned it from my grandmother who holds restaurant hosts hostage and makes them listen to thirty minutes of how she hates her neighbor’s messy garage and how no one cares about her when they ask the initial “hi how are you?” at the entrance, telling them that they’re rude if they try to inch away and you can see that they are just *dying* and frustrated customers are waiting at the front for the host to come back and seat them but that doesn’t matter, she wants to feel listened to and knows these people can’t push back as hard as everyone else does

  38. Bookworm*

    OP, I think you have an “out” if they are asking pointed questions specifically about Amy. Only you know know for certain, but if it seems like they are asking questions that seem to imply they are aware that there’s a problem, then it’s okay to talk about it.

    Whether you “should” is up to you (I understand it must feel awkward, you don’t want to revisit, etc.) but it seems they do know at least something is up and may need to hear your experiences (you worked directly with her) to do anything.

    I was in a somewhat similar position like the board members (but not as a board member, rather a coordinator) where I couldn’t get rid of a volunteer because he’d go over heads. I needed someone else who had worked directly with him to tell me so I had enough backup to say “you gotta go.” So I sympathize with you, but also really wouldn’t be surprised if the board either needs more information or DOES know and needs testimony from someone who had to deal with Amy directly to take any action.

    Good luck! In any case, I’m so sorry you had that experience. Eeeep.

  39. cmcinnyc*

    I ran into an Amy at a theater once. She was deeply entrenched in the place because she would volunteer for anything, take on any project, work any hours—in short, she had no boundaries, personal or professional, and the business used that to get a LOT of free labor out of her. The arts runs on free labor, but mostly it comes to an end: the intern graduates, the actor gets a paying gig, the writer won’t also scrub the toilets. And then there’s the Amys.

    My Amy was semi-avoidable because she was not the only employee, but despite alienating lots of people and starting lots of drama, she didn’t get shown the door until a new artistic director was hired and he instantly cleaned house. I think this is really typical.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Oooof. Yeah, I worked at a theatre that relied on a small army of Amys for its front-of-house/volunteer corps, and in the bright light of your comment it all makes sense. It’s a Thing.

  40. kevin*

    Gonna zag here. I’m not trying to say that how Amy is acting is normal or should be encouraged or anything, but reading between the lines here, I don’t think she’s as bad as the OP is trying to make her sound. I kind of wonder if the OP is trying to make it sound worse in order to justify her decision to quit.

    Something that immediately got my attention is that the OP doesn’t actually provide details of what the job entailed. It’s part time, and there’s point of sale software, which to me sounds like retail. And so, without any further details of the job, how much training does she need? If it’s just a museum store, and the OP just scans barcodes and runs the cash register, to me, four hours seems like more than enough. And indeed, when Amy spent one of those four houses training OP on the point of sale software, the OP herself admitted it was more than enough. Was more training required? Since we don’t know any other job requirements, we can’t say.

    We can infer that, with only one customer during her entire shift, there wasn’t much hands-on training to be had. A more charitable reading of the situation is that Amy and OP had a lot of awkward silence, and Amy tried to fill it as best she could. Personally, that’s not my thing either, and Amy probably took it too far, but there’s at least a plausible alternate explanation.

    Lacking details of the job, one could also read it that “catalog[ing] every perceived insult, slight, and personal tussle she’d had with the nonprofit that ran the gallery, every visiting artist and instructor she hated, and why” could fall under the rubric of training. After all, if the NPO that’s running the gallery is insulting its employees regularly, and visiting artists are behaving boorishly, that’s probably helpful information to know. Had Amy not shared that up front, and the OP found out the hard way later in her tenure, she’d no doubt complain that nobody warned her of the insult and boorish work environment.

    OP seems surprised that training would only be four hours, but it’s a part time job. Four hours is a pretty normal part-time shift. What did she expect?

    Just based on the meager details provided by the OP, you could easily reframe this as an expectations clash where the OP just didn’t want to deal with anything for a low-paying part time job and is using Amy as an excuse. At the very least, without further details, I think it’s a little mean-spirited to cast Amy as an evil villain who deserves to be fired because one person didn’t get along with her. At the very least, Amy seems to have a lot going on in her life, and seems pretty lonely, and maybe let’s have some compassion for that?

    1. Former Young Lady*

      A lot of the loneliness in this world is self-perpetuating. Most of the Amys I know are lonely because they don’t respect boundaries. Rather than get therapy, they just take advantage of any captive audience. They don’t fill awkward silences and lulls with conversations; they take conversational hostages.

      I have absolutely no doubt that they are troubled and hurting, but they are also alienating other people who are not qualified to rehabilitate them. Workplaces that don’t hold them to professional standards are putting it on their other employees to perform emotional labor (and almost certainly pick up a bunch of slack in other areas).

      OP is not lacking compassion, and Amy’s obvious loneliness is not the OP’s problem to fix. It’s way out of the paygrade for any part-time occupation with a point-of-sale system.

      1. kevin*

        There’s a good point, but if the OP does answer her new co-workers’ questions she should blame the workplace instead of Amy herself. “The organization didn’t provide a professional atmosphere.”

        Arguably, the fact that board members’ spouses are asking leading questions about Amy is also indicative of an unprofessional atmosphere.

      2. JT*

        While Amy’s behavior is inappropriate, OPs reaction does seem extreme. She said Amy “overshared”, not that Amy threatened her or was verbally or physically abusive. Over sharing is annoying, and sure it doesn’t seem like Amy has appropriate boundaries, but again, that’s annoying, not dangerous or detrimental. If OP can’t handle an annoying coworker it’s her right to quit. I’ve quit jobs bc of coworkers but it was due to workplace bullying, not just a coworker who won’t shut up. OP hasn’t given nearly enough details for us to know if the oversharing was merely Amy talking about her gallbladder surgery or if it was extremely disturbing and triggering subjects that would be upsetting to hear for most people.

      3. Gobbo McGobberson*

        +1000 to this. As someone who has just escaped a friend-relationship with an “Amy”, their issues are not yours or ANY coworker’s responsibility to fix. Everything in the first paragraph is 100% correct. Most of us are not trained therapists; it’s not lacking compassion, it’s the simple fact that we are NOT equipped to handle their issues the way a professional can. We simply can’t. They need professional help, and if they can’t/won’t get professional help there’s only so much you can do to try to lead people there.

    2. The OTHER other*

      The LW is not complaining about not enough training, nor did she quit because of it. Amy was a litany of bizarre and inappropriate behavior, start to finish. The only “training” she provided was 45 minute diatribe about light switches.

      I suppose you are trying to be kind to Amy, but Amy didn’t write in, the LW did. It does no favors to the LW to second guess what happened to make Amy seem more reasonable.

    3. Dara*

      I feel more that the job itself wasn’t described, because the job wasn’t the issue here; Amy was, and we are asked to take letter writers at their word at what the situation is/was.

      LW also doesn’t seem surprised at the 4 hr training to me. It looks more like the phrasing of ‘only four hours’ was to indicate how overwhelming Amy was. As in, it was only four hours, but this person managed to exhaust the LW in that short amount of time.

      Also, she didn’t spend an hour training LW on the POS software; she spent that hour just talking about how hard it is to use, and spend 45 min going over how to turn on the lights. LW also says they tried to redirect her with work-related questions and still got nowhere, so I really do not get the feel here that they’re trying to make her out to be worse than she was.

    4. Not A Manager*

      Oh my goodness, Kevin, stay in your lane. You’ve literally written a butwhatabout fanfic loosely based on the OP. Do your family and friends rewrite your entire history every time you tell them something?

    5. Thomas Merton*

      Why do you assume that the OP is incapable of describing events as they really were? If the OP provided such “meager details,” I can’t see the point in being a devil’s advocate here. In fact, it’s a “little mean-spirited” toward the OP.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. And a “retail job” is not as mindless as some would think. In my area it’s difficult to hire people because the register is actually a computer and a lot of people just plain do not use a computer. I am pretty computer oriented but that did not make me great at using their particular clunky, non-intuitive program.
        And there are a lot of laws and regs that one needs to be aware of. You don’t just start ringing things up five minutes after you sign in.
        Yes, several hours of training would be totally appropriate. The fact that Amy had nothing prepared is jawdropping to me. Just talking about safety and security should be a chunk of time right there.

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think OP has any obligation to say anything.. She may want to of course which is fine, but since it sounds like it was a difficult couple of days she may want to just forget about it entirely.

    Also, if Amy is this bizarre I find it difficult to believe the only evidence is one person’s two days of interacting with her. If she’s really THAT bad there has to be other traces of it

    1. nothing rhymes with purple*

      Yes, this. Not to mention the possibilities for blowback, as Firecat astutely pointed out .

  42. Emotional Projector*

    Ouch. Firstly, I’m sorry you had to experience that. Secondly, I’ve learned from my own experience with difficult people, that usually some others are having that, or had, the same experience. But people worry that it’s just them, they are being too sensitive, or harsh, or they explain away the person’s behavior with empathy and justifications, and people just rather bow out quietly rather than bring it to someone higher’s attention. You sound like a kind and empathetic person, but please be honest and tell Amy’s seniors why you left. Or this little non-profit may continue to hemorrhage new (and potentially excellent and effective) employees, and never understand why, and therefore never take appropriate measures. If Amy acted like this with you, I would put money on you not being the first or last.

  43. Sue*

    I am a long time board member of an arts organization and have been involved with others. Your disparagement is absolutely ridiculous in my experience. Of course they want to know about a bad employee. If you care about the mission and want to see the organization succeed, it would be very helpful to divulge the experience. The downside is so remote as to negligible in my opinion.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        I think Sue meant Amy’s behavior towards OP with regards to a disparagement.

        Firecat, there have been comments by several people who serve as board members for arts-oriented nonprofits who have stated that they would DEFINITELY want the OP to say something. I’m a bit surprised you’ve continued to hold onto your stance and have ignored them.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          Sorry, I actually think upon reread that Sue’s stand-alone comment here was a nesting fail and that it was directed towards you as a response upthread. (I’m not seconding that you’ve disparaged nonprofits, for the record.)

        2. Firecat*

          I would also want to know if I were on their board. Doesn’t change my advice to the OP which is to move on.

          It’s because my stance is that OP has nothing to gain from speaking up and the risk is not non zero for her. Plus there is the whole why did you wait to speak up so long element at this point.

          I’d feel differently about speaking up if the board had been more earnest in their approach (I detailed several other approaches they could have taken above like talking to customers, probing about the training more specifically, saying what their concerns are, etc). There approach seems to be – ask in coded language everytime we see her. That doesn’t give me much confidence that they will handle it in a way that doesn’t blowback on the OP.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t think OP would’ve written this letter if there was nothing to be gained by them learning how to handle conflicts like this better. They have been second-guessing their own response for three years.

            It isn’t “coded language” to ask someone how they got on with a coworker, and if the person being asked that question feels anxious about answering, it doesn’t thereby become a “coded” question.

  44. CW*

    I wouldn’t hesitate to be honest. After all, Amy was so bad that she started scaring off the customers, and the fact that she would take 45 minutes to explain a light switch is more than over the top. I mean, you are not a 2-year-old. Sheesh.

    If you are hesitant, I would keep it brief, and stress to them not tell anyone freely about it. This wasn’t your fault. Amy was very difficult, and much worse than an average chatterbox. As someone who also quit due to an anxiety attack in the past, I totally feel for you.

  45. JelloStapler*

    Add me to the pleading to tell them- you could help head off them having turnover problems because everyone wants to avoid Amy, versus doing something about Amy and then being bale to keep hires they want.

  46. Erin*

    Amy is definitely not winning any employee of the month awards, and she’s definitely bad for business. I wonder if there are other complaints about her behavior.

    If training goes off the rails, why not ask a specific question to bring it back “that’s too bad about your son, Amy. Now can you tell me about how to use XYZ for ABC?” and keep on reigning her in as needed. Then, pass that info along to Amy’s boss via questions; “hey, Smurfette, I’m learning the ropes with Amy, and I have some questions that I’m hoping you can answer” and then lay out all of questions (which will be everything). Amy’s manager will inevitably wonder what Amy was showing you in training. You don’t have to seem complainey if you approach it as questions.

    Also, maybe some coping mechanisms to learn work with others. Feeling compelled to schedule an emergency therapy session over something as insignificant as a 4 hour job training session gone awry is a bit much.

  47. Dragon Toad*

    God, I had to suffer someone like this. I could always tell when she entered the office, because she had a super strong stale herb BO from whatever it was that she smoked – I would smell her before I would see or hear her!
    ZERO notion of personal boundaries, physical or otherwise; show her something on the screen, and she’d lean in so close you could feel her breath on your cheek and her spittle on your arm. She also sat down next to me one day, apropos of nothing, and not only FORCIBLY showed me the psoriasis rash on her hand (I sympathise, but doesn’t mean I want a hand covered in peeling skin shoved in my face!), but also told me in great detail about having a similar peeling rash on her butt. In terms of her crossing boundaries, that was a MINOR incident – just to give you an idea of how bad she was.

    I once got accused of lying on my timesheets, because I had put down extra hours I wasn’t rostered on for but had to cover because she was in hospital. They thought I was lying, because this woman had somehow FORGOT THAT SHE WAS HOSPITALISED, and put in a timesheet for that shift. I was also conned into coming in for a few hours on my day off to help with a job; two hours before I could even start, because she refused point blank to give me the necessary details to complete said job. To this day I have no idea why. She told me “Dragon Toad, why are you stressed? Don’t be stressed”. Was only the presence of the supervisor that stopped me from responding “This is not the face and voice of someone who is stressed, this is the face and voice of someone who is about to strangle you with her bare hands”. Neither case was maliciousness or sabotage, she was just genuinely that incompetent at everything. Words cannot describe how little I could stand working with that woman.

  48. SleepyWolverine*

    Based on how loony the behavior was, I’m sitting here wondering if this was Amy from Amy’s Baking Company. Maybe she finally had to go out and get a job for her cats?

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