is my melodramatic, credit-hogging boss a deal-breaker?

A reader writes:

How do I handle a melodramatic boss? I’m aware I have a low tolerance for melodrama, but I’m starting to think this is a bad fit. It’s a small company of ten people, no HR, we work directly under the business owner, “Paige.” I’ve been here about five months, everyone else has been with Paige and her business for years.

Paige seems like a sweet person but she’s very melodramatic and hysterical. As a woman, I don’t like saying another woman is hysterical but there is an element of hysterics and melodrama here about everything. A link didn’t work on our website and she was almost in tears even though it was a two-click fix that took less than 60 seconds. For real, zero hyperbole.

When a project was finished (I’m a project manager) she insisted everyone sit and watch me turn it on and once it was live she heaved a big sigh of relief and teared up saying how stressful the project had been on her and how tense she had been and how thankful she was that this process let her learn how strong she was and she was happy to finally release the tension. It was reconfiguring a storefront, not launching a rescue mission to Mars. Some other facts:

• The project took me less than a week.
• She didn’t touch the project at all, at any point.
• I encountered zero problems during the project.
• She never checked in with me at all during the process of this project or voiced any concerns that I could have assuaged.
• Nothing could have gone so wrong that it would have cost her business if there had been any hiccups.

Paige also takes credit for everything everyone does, from positive client feedback to vendor and peer accolades. Her social media (which I manage) is all geared to how she got successful without staff or help and does everything by herself. It’s disheartening and annoying to literally be editing a video of your boss saying she’s so alone and owes all her success to her hard work ethic.

What’s more awkward is that it feels like everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid here. My coworkers think the sun rises and sets because of Paige and cater to a lot of her melodramatic moments. Some even go so far to act protective of her with comments like “you know Paige will be very upset about this so let’s make today the best day possible for her!” with the upsetting thing being a minor inconvenience. It’s draining and I see a huge red flag for burnout coming.

Is this a deal-breaker? Do I start looking for something else or is this salvageable? The money is okay, but I worry about the resume gap and I don’t think Paige would be a good reference.

Oh my goodness, Paige sounds quite exhausting.

Whether she’s a deal-breaker, though, is really up to you.

I wouldn’t say this is in the category of definite and obvious deal-breaker, the way an unsafe work environment or abuse would be. It’s not in the category of letter where I’d feel obligated to urge you to run away immediately.

It’s more the kind of thing that sounds really annoying, possibly demoralizing (especially all the stuff about claiming she does everything herself), and draining. Some people might not be that bothered by it, but others definitely would be and it’s entirely reasonable if you decide that it’s a deal-breaker for you.

It’s the category of things that some people can deal with (usually internally rolling their eyes but then letting it roll off of them) and some people can’t. There are a bunch of things like that — some people can handle a terse/rude boss and some can’t. Some people can’t handle micromanagers, or boundary crossers, or wildly disorganized managers, and some can. It just depends on your particular makeup and what gets under your skin. Sometimes you might be able to see the humor in a bad boss … and other times not.

To some extent it can also depend on what your resume looks like and what other options you have. If you have a spotty job history and were hoping to stay in this position for a long time to counter that, or if it took forever to find this job and you were dismayed by the other options you found, it might make sense to deal with Paige for a while. On the other hand, if you have other better options out there, that’s a point in the other direction.

The fact that you don’t think Paige will be a good reference is relevant too. If it’s something like “she rambles and isn’t good at focusing her thoughts and so she’s not a very effective reference,” that’s one thing (still not great, but not necessarily a deal-breaker). But if it’s “she gives bad references for anyone who leaves” or “she’s constitutionally incapable of seeing what contributions others made” or “she clearly dislikes me,” then that too is a solid point toward not sticking around.

{ 174 comments… read them below }

  1. Jean*

    This… would be a deal breaker for me. I have worked for enough histrionic, hair trigger, delusional people in my time to know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Do you get paid way over market for this role? Because that would be the only thing that would keep me in a situation like this for any amount of time.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Same. This is the kind of boss where you can do all the managing up in the world and it isn’t ever going to be enough to get her to stop behaving this way.

    2. StellaBella*

      Same, worked for this person in my last role. Find a new job, when you can, this does not get better.

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        Thirding same. I worked for this person too (though not as directly) and I lasted all of 6 months. You were either her scapegoat or sycophant, there was no in-between. That environment was an absolute no go for my mental health, I now work for sane people with plenty of oversite, making much more than I would have ever done there. Get out when you can because this will be your life for whatever your tenure is at the company.

    3. Super Duper*

      Yep. I’d be running for the exit because this type of behavior raises my own stress level precipitously, and I know I’d be miserable and burn out quickly. The coworkers contributing to Paige’s melodrama makes it so much worse, too.

      1. KateM*

        Maybe the coworkers who have been there for years suffer from got-used-to-toxic-boss syndrome.

        1. VI Guy*

          There is likely a selection bias. Most people will leave from this situation very quickly, and the ones who stay may have been okay with the situation from the start.

          1. Quiet Liberal*

            Or, those who have been there for years are the type of people who wouldn’t make it anywhere else. I worked with a bunch of long-timers at a place with an owner just like Paige. He manufactured problems so he could be the hero and make things right. These people worked for him for 15, 20, 30 years, but most of them would’ve been canned anywhere else. Many were fairly incompetent in their jobs and he would rescue them and be the hero. Others were good at their jobs, but spent a lot of time creating their own drama, which he would “fix” and, again, be the hero. It was a hellacious office culture.

          2. Batgirl*

            Yeah, I would find it concerning that there isn’t anyone there who is rolling their eyes and saying “Oh, Paige” or giving the new person a subtle “No, you’re not crazy” pep talk. If they are all genuine Paige acolytes, that means that is what you need to be to bear it. It means that there hasn’t been anyone reasonable who has been able to stay and use the normal coping mechanisms.

            1. 1LFTW*

              THIS. If everyone there are genuine Paige acolytes, that makes this workplace the Cult of Paige. Eventually, you either join, or run away screaming.

    4. Anonym*

      OP, if you’re taking an informal poll, please add me to the YES This Is A Dealbreaker list.

      Unless you just don’t have the energy to job search right now (been there, totally get it), go ahead and start. The pay isn’t great, and this sounds profoundly aggravating and exhausting. You and your marketable skills deserve better.

      1. Crimson*

        There’s nothing to poll though. This is like looking of yellow should be their favorite color.

      2. Your local password resetter*

        And if you dont have the energy for jobsearching, this job is probably a big contributor. If so, consider cutting back on the job to create space for finding a better one.

    5. Zannadu*

      Huge deal-breaker for me as well, especially in such a small company where Paige is the bellwether you’re all tethered too. The co-worker Koolaid drinking makes it that much worse.

    6. TinaTurner*

      Yes, she’s annoying and so are those who PANDER to her. Yuck.
      BUT instead of waiting for her to check in on your 1-wk. project, why not give her updates? Daily? Quick updates by email or how she likes them. Not only does that maybe calm her, but it also gives you a paper trail so if she tries to take the credit, you have it.

      Ask her how often she needs updates and what format. It’s CATERING to her but not PANDERING. See if you can manage her a bit by knowing what she responds to. But her character sounds kinda bad here too.

      Sometimes if you give someone what they claim they want they get saturated and back off.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Oof, that sounds like trading one kind of exhausting for another. I’m also not convinced it would work…Paige doesn’t sound like a person who’s comforted by having more information.

        1. MsM*

          Yep. Guarantee she’d latch on to the one tiny thing that isn’t going absolutely perfectly or strikes her as off, and you’d be thrown off schedule addressing it.

          1. SixTigers*

            Or she’d spend a lot of time each and every day Expressing Herself and going into detail about how it’s Such An Important Project, and how she’s On Edge All Day Long, and how she doesn’t know What She’d Do without OP and how OP should Promise Never To Leave —

        2. Esmae*

          Yeah, having worked with some high-anxiety, high-drama people, giving them more information doesn’t seem to help. If anything it just gives them more to be worried about.

      2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        A paper trail would make sense if there was someone higher up than Paige who was going to evaluate evidence and decide who to credit… but since Paige herself is the final word in this scenario, it’s hard to see what good it would do.

    7. TW1968*

      Yes, same here. Or start bringing up things like “Hey, _I_ just finished project XYZ, that you never touched, never gave feedback or input on, As I was editing your social media page where you wanted me to say YOU did this project with no help from anyone, it occurred to me how absolutely bats* crazy it would be for me to post that considering you did nothing.”

      1. StellaBella*

        Yeah that is what is called a CLM. Career Limiting Move with these types of folks.

        1. SixTigers*

          So is saying, “Oh, it was no big deal; it was a pretty simple set of requirements so it wasn’t at all hard to write up.”

          Put a pin in Paige’s balloon and you’ll be out on the street in 0.2 minutes.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

        One way to evaluate some of these suggested scripts: if it would be a crowd-pleasing piece of snark in a rom-com, it’s probably going to backfire on you in the office.
        This one, I’d even be reluctant to say in an exit interview.

    8. Momma Bear*

      I agree. Beyond the whole histrionics thing, I would be concerned that over time there would be little I could point to regarding my own work and value to the product if she acts like a one-woman show. I also suspect there will be more toxic behavior shown over time and the way other people feed into this/mollify her would also be a red flag. It is one thing to have a drama llama boss. It is another to live in a herd of drama llamas.

      If I were you, OP, I’d gather a portfolio and work on my resume. Bide your time while looking for the next good thing, but aim for the door.

  2. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    A link didn’t work on our website and she was almost in tears even though it was a two-click fix that took less than 60 seconds. For real, zero hyperbole.

    I have an acquaintance like this, the anxiety of daily living is so high that she can’t manage anything beyond everyday routine interactions. A credit card being rejected because of a system error on the bank’s end is terrifying and so stressful that it takes days to recover from the stress.
    The fact Paige owns a business and is able to get through an average day is frankly shocking.

    You need to get out, this eats away at your mental health, having to take care of someone who needs constant hand holding for everyday activities. And the taking credit for what others do is long term demoralizing.

    1. Emily*

      It sounds like the only way Paige is able to own a business and get through the day is because she has enablers working for her. OP, I understand if this is a deal breaker for you and you need to get out, because it would be for me, but I think Alison’s suggestions of what factors to look at when deciding whether to stay or whether to go are good ones.

      1. Anon for this*

        Agreed on all counts. My mom has a lot of similar behaviors – really over-the-top reactions to daily inconveniences. I have to limit my conversations/interactions with her because I can’t deal with the helplessness – everyone else in my family has enabled her to this point. I couldn’t handle this in a boss, but YMMV.

        1. Emily*

          I think the fact that “everyone else is enabling it” is a key issue here. I’m sorry you’re going through that with your mom, it must be exhausting. If OP’s co-workers were drawing boundaries with the boss, I would have more optimism for OP’s ability to stick it out as she could ban together with co-workers, but since the attitude seems to be “enable boss at all costs”, I think that makes things more difficult for OP. Also, while I don’t think I could tolerate the melodrama or the credit hogging for very long, I think it’s the credit hogging that would really do me in. Not only is the boss making OP and her co-workers’ jobs 10x harder by making them manage her emotions all day, she is not even giving them credit for the work they are doing.

      2. Chickaletta*

        Yeah, Paige sounds like the kind of person who wouldn’t last to lunch on a Monday without her employees. The posts and videos about doing it all on her own would be amusing to me, but in the long run, I think it would wear me down…

    2. quill*

      That’s a point at which medical help would probably be useful. Paige may or may not have severe anxiety, but puffing herself up and stealing credit makes me think it is mostly about attention, not the brain behaving poorly.

      (Full disclosure I have an anxiety disorder and when I worked for a self-aggrandizing boss at a small business it was *very* bad. Probably because he believed that every mistake was an emergency, when sometimes it was actually a case of needing to take a minute to re-print a label.)

      1. NeedRain47*

        I’m not gonna guess at a diagnosis, but I will say that extreme anxiety and an aspect of narcissism/attention-seeking are not mutually exclusive at all.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, there’s plenty of people who manage to have both. In my opinion though, the credit hogging is more conscious of an action than freaking out because there is a bad noise or because a broken bit of website sets off the brain weasels.

        2. Not Your Cheerleader*

          Yeeeeeeeep…my abusive, credit-stealing, high-anxiety, unhealthily needy, officially-diagnosed-with-NPD, ex-best friend is living proof of this. As are my mother and sister, who are nearly identical to ex-best friend, and are also officially diagnosed (to make it clear I’m not armchair-diagnosing or using “narcissist” as an insult).

          These people are dangerous to be around. I don’t mean they’ll necessarily pull a knife on you. I mean they’ll destroy you from the inside out, and feel entitled to do it because they believe you’re just so “inferior” next to them that destroying you is no morally different than throwing away a dirty napkin. And when you try to escape, they’ll do whatever they can to sabotage your efforts. The longer you stay, the harder it is to escape, even if you want to. You’ve given them too much time to figure out your social connections and weaknesses they can use to exploit and sabotage you.

          Stealing credit is just the first in a long line of red flags.

        3. Raboot*

          Frankly it doesn’t matter. That’s not really actionable for the Letter Writer. Telling your very anxious and sensitive boss to go to therapy is not a good idea.

          1. NeedRain47*

            I don’t believe anyone suggested that OP tell their boss to go to therapy. Understanding Paige’s actions/ patterns of behavior does matter, since that’s the information OP is using to decide whether to leave their job or not.

    3. Selina Luna*

      Oh, crap. Not days on end, but I had my credit card rejected yesterday, and it took me hours to recover from that stress… Maybe I do need to up my meds.

      Anyway, OP should leave the business. Paige sounds like hell to deal with. Even I work to keep an even keel at work. I explode my stress in private, away from most bystanders.

    4. Oxford Comma*

      I get super anxious about things like this, but at least I have the self awareness that this is not normal and I have the mechanisms to deal with it (meds, meditative exercises, therapy).

      OP: I think whether you stay depends on if you can tune out Paige’s roller coaster emotions. There are people who can. I suspect some of the people you work with have this ability. They deal with it during the work day and then then go home and forget about it. I do not have this gift so I would be out of there. But that’s me.

  3. KofSharp*

    Personally I could deal with the melodrama, but having everything be “done by her” would be what killed my interest in working there.
    You CAN leave. You’re allowed to go somewhere else.

    1. KateM*

      I’m imagining a reference would be “oh no, I did everything by myself and got no support from OP or anybody else”.

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        Followed closely by how terribly OP screwed her over by leaving. You know, even though OP allegedly did nothing and boss did everything.

        1. Ermintrude*

          My thoughts too, along with ‘HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME AFTER EVERYTHING?!’

    2. many bells down*

      Oh yes that would be my deal-breaker. I really need credit go where credit is actually due, even if it’s not to me.

      1. RunShaker*

        I see the same as well on reference. Paige did it all, OP or any other employee never contributed. I think I can deal with a lot but never getting credit for my (or OP’s hard work) is stuff. The drama would end up exhausting me as well. I think I get emotional but this is too much for me as well as a female.

    3. Meep*

      I honestly cackled at that part.

      My former manager was investigated in March for misconduct (if you can think if something illegal for an employer to do, she did it on top of being unprofessional). I made the report so I knew she was going to complain about me. What I didn’t expect was for her to do was complain about Fred, Daphne, Velma, Scooby, Shaggy, and even Scrappy-Doo. Apparently everyone and her mother had her and only her to thank for where we were. Her boss/owner (someone she also sh*t-talked) apologized profusely for not believing me up to that point.

      A former coworker also was baffled/amused he had been brought into it and had all of his development attributed to her. This man is a Ph.D. and renowned in his field before he even met her. She has been fired within 18 months from literally every job for being unethical. When I met her, she lied about going to college (she did, she flunked out) and being a SAHM for 15 years (she wasn’t). The only thing anyone will give her credit for is she taught us how NOT to act.

      Some people are wild.

    4. DataGirl*

      Also- I’ve found that people who take all the credit for other people’s work are also the first ones to throw other people under the bus when they mess up themselves. It’s a terrible environment to be it.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        This! I’ve worked for one. Anything that succeeded was all down to her hard work & general amazing ness. Anything that went wrong was absolutely someone else’s fault & a Major Emergency.

        And she was just a plain old gold-bricker, malingerer, and bald-faced liar.

      2. Important Moi*

        Have you met my boss?

        The comments have been interesting – i.e. who or what warrants grace (or not).

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Something I also found interesting is how we seem to be interpreting Paige slightly differently based on our own experiences. I was seeing her as a well-meaning, but somewhat self-centred person, given to over-reaction, somewhat similar to a previous boss I had whereas other people who have had abusive bosses seem to be seeing her in that light. And having read those replies, I can definitely see how that could be true too.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I think it’s the inability to share credit or acknowledge that other people are even needed to help her success that set me to “this isn’t just a well-meaning person with a low tolerance for bumps in the road.” I have a sibling like that, but they would never ever not share credit or acknowledge help. Or give someone the worry of a bad reference.

            Oh, and, yes, it can be exhausting to deal with Everything is an Emergency in your family. It definitely taught me to deal with it at work. I think I have somehow cultivated a reputation as a Calming Presence.

          2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            There are the oblivious and then there are the malicious. The oblivious company owner will say that “you can pick up your kids from daycare late. I do it all the time. They are happy to get the $50 from me!”
            Like 1) anyone is happy to stay late; 2) the staffer staying late gets a cent; and 3) you the worker have a spare $50.
            This person falls into the malicious because she uses her emotions to manipulate people. “We don’t want to upset Paige” morphed into “we want to keep Paige happy.” to “We will make Paige happy!” resulting in allowing her to take credit, lay blame, whatever it takes to prevent a meltdown.
            That’s malicious.

          3. just passing through*

            That is an interesting disconnect! I imagine OP can get much more of a sense of that than we can, of course.

            The thing is, ultimately (and I know this isn’t contradicting what you said!), it doesn’t really matter for the OP whether Paige is well-meaning and coping badly or malicious and abusive. It might affect how the OP frames Paige’s behavior in her mind, but ultimately either could be just as draining and hard to cope with. It’s the effect of Paige’s behavior on the OP–not the cause of it–that should affect the OP’s future career decisions.

            (I say this as someone who has had to learn over time that just because there are understandable reasons for someone’s behavior doesn’t mean I necessarily can or should try to fix it or put up with it forever.)

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              Yes, I agree it doesn’t matter. Regardless of Paige’s reasons, the effect on the LW is the same. I just thought it interesting the number of interpretations there were from seeing her as so anxious that she genuinely sees every little hitch as a crisis through seeing her as oblivious or somebody who just needs to be the centre of attention to seeing her as borderline abusive.

              I guess this is why there’s the “avoid armchair diagnosing” rule. We can’t know and it ultimately doesn’t matter. I definitely agree that even if she is genuinely upset, it’s not the LW’s responsibility to try and fix things for her.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Yes, this. I bet people placate her because they don’t want her to blame them.

    5. Despachito*

      “Personally I could deal with the melodrama, but having everything be “done by her” would be what killed my interest in working there.”

      Same here – but the last straw for me would be the fawning of the other coworkers over her.

      I know there are unreasonable people who are difficult to deal with, but it is so much more difficult if other people seem to take the bait.

      OP, I think you are so much right to be annoyed, and I am with Alison to factor in whether you can afford it but think about leaving.

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        Yup. I was thinking that one could or could not adjust to doing an internal eyeroll at Paige. But when I hit the coworkers saying “you know Paige will be very upset about this so let’s make today the best day possible for her!” NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE. The house is full of bees—get out!

    6. GammaGirl1908*

      You CAN leave. You’re allowed to go somewhere else.
      **

      This. There isn’t a magic threshold of what behavior is “enough” that you’re allowed to leave a job. You can leave this job because the walls are green, or for no reason at all. You’re not obligated to stay here for a year and a half to make everybody’s effort in hiring you worth it. This isn’t the job for you. You and this lady are not going to mesh. You can’t make it better. You can leave whenever you want. Nothing will happen. Line up a new job and go.

      There is this thought that it’s terrible to be a job-hopper, but that is more when you can’t stay in *any* job for longer than a few months, not that you left *a* job after a few months. Every few years, you get an unofficial get out of jail free card, where you can leave a job after a short duration, either because it wasn’t what you thought, or because a better offer came along, or because you got there and it just wasn’t a great fit. As long as you have other jobs with good solid durations, you can leave a bad situation after a short duration. This can be one of those times.

    7. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “Her social media (which I manage) is all geared to how she got successful without staff or help and does everything by herself.”

      The irony in this statement is hilarious. I’m still snickering over it.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Someone watching might wonder then why she is so bad a businesswoman to pay for staff if they’re not doing any work at all

    8. I can’t think of a clever name*

      Alison’s answer is spot-on. Proven by the fact that I’m opposite of you KofSharp. I could handle the taking credit for everything by internally rolling my eyes. I wouldn’t be able to handle the melodrama. Everyone has different things that set them over the edge. You might consider just seeing what else is out there OP.

  4. DrSalty*

    You definitely leave if you want to. You can leave a job for any reason! Just start looking and see what’s out there.

        1. sara.bellum*

          hahahahah – she does not WANT to be related. She gets up a 5am! Who else would do that?

      1. Didi*

        (That name, it’s from some quiz or something, right? I recognize the format.. might have been shared in Bonnets at Dawn Facebook group?)

    1. Lacey*

      Haha, sounds like it.
      Although I’ve encountered a handful of these types who are not nearly so successful, but put everyone through the same amount of stress.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        Oh, but she will be that successful. Soon. Because she works so, so hard. All by herself.

    2. Wee wee wee*

      But everyone knows when something awful is posted on her social media it’s her team’s fault, and she had nothing to do with it.

  5. WonderWoman*

    This boss sounds exhausting, I agree! If you were to stay — even for a short time — I would recommend overcommunicating with her. Instead of waiting for her to ask about a project, maybe give regular updates about progress and how any potential problems have already been addressed and solved. Sort of the “good defense is a strong offense” strategy – addressing any concerns or potential freakouts before they happen. Of course, it sounds like a lot of her “hysteria” may be unavoidable, but if you can at least take some comfort in your efforts to “manage up” maybe it will feel less frustrating. All that to say, I do think you should explore leaving, as Allison suggests – sounds like it’s a fundamental personality mismatch.

    1. Cocafonix*

      Hard agree. I had a boss whose anxiety made them a relentless micromanager. Calm confidence, sweated small stuff on my own, indulged and got ahead of all the scrutiny with smiles and facts, and reassured them on the competence of their staff who were motivated to see the department succeed. Most importantly, I delivered. They eased right off after that and turned out to be a great manager. They had my back in some sticky politicized situations and turned into a huge advocate for my career in the industry. Once there is trust, it can be better, but only someone you can objectively respect. But its not for everyone.

    2. pancakes*

      I’m skeptical about that approach. Paige’s freakouts don’t seem to have anything to do with their actual work product, or substantive questions about it that no one has answers to. The details of a project don’t interest her nearly as much as her own emotions about it, and the fact that those don’t seem to be grounded in reality doesn’t seem to hold her back from focusing on them. Any communication with someone like this can set them off because their thoughts aren’t lucid. It’s not like communicating with someone who can be counted on to understand. The letter writer can’t avoid communicating with her, of course, but I think it would make more sense to try to keep it relatively simple and minimal.

  6. Goldenrod*

    The part that would be a possible deal-breaker for me would be the cult-like atmosphere pervading the general workplace, i.e. everyone treating Paige like she is extra-special and taking on the labor of managing her emotional reactions.

    The other stuff – tolerating a boss who is freaking out, being anxious, being high-strung – would be okay for me. As long as I’m not expected to manage their emotions. But I hate doing the emotional labor that everyone else there seems to accept and even…cherish, for some reason? That’s a hard no.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yes, agree with this. If everyone else just kind of went with it but rolled their eyes to each other or whatever in commiseration, that would be one thing. The fact that everyone else seems to think the sun rises & sets with her, on top of everything else…I couldn’t do it.

      1. Jaydee*

        I think this is where I come down too. I can work for a crappy boss. Not forever, but for a year or two – long enough not to cause a questionable resume gap. But to make that workable, I need coworkers who can help keep me oriented to normalcy. I need at least a couple coworkers to whom I can give a look that says “Are you forking kidding me?!” and who will respond with a look that says “I know, right?! At least this is good material for our memoirs someday!”

    2. Super Duper*

      This. Paige is enough of a reason to look elsewhere, but it’s also really unfortunate that LW has no coworkers to reality-check with. Employees coddling the boss to protect her fragile emotions from the stress of everyday business (that she owns!) is a messed up dynamic.

    3. Despachito*

      Absolutely this.

      If I deal with unreasonable people but it is clear that everyone else sees the unreasonableness, it is sort of easier. But if the unreasonable person somehow manages to lure the others to support them, it makes me desperate and angry at the same time, and I confess that more than once I was more cross with the enablers than with the perpetrator.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      What would bother me most is that the cult like atmosphere can have you second-guessing yourself. As I mentioned below, I worked with somebody who had melodramatic tendencies and was surrounded by people who treated her with kid gloves when I was doing work experience as a college student and…I did come to feel I was over-reacting or being too sensitive for things that now strike me as perfectly reasonable to be annoyed by. When everybody else is acting like “oh yes, that was such a worrying situation,” it’s easy to start wondering, am I the one whose under-reacting? Does it look like I don’t care?

      1. Esmae*

        And in my experience, the drama and over-sensitivity did become the norm, and those of us who didn’t join in on it were seen as not caring or even as being unkind. This kind of culture can really take on a life of its own.

    5. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes! If there were a sense of “we all get our work done in spite of Paige, and humor her because she’s a nightmare” this would be way more manageable than being the only one who doesn’t coddle her.

  7. Trek*

    Ask yourself what’s the gain in staying? And how long does the gain take to get? If a two year stay will help your career then you can decide if it’s worth it. If a two year stay results in being two years older with the same company I would start looking. You don’t have to leave tomorrow, take time to find the right job. But if you decide to stay be clear about how it benefits you or does not benefit you beyond the paycheck.

    1. TPS reporter*

      Exactly, maybe there is something here that is worth it like learning a new/unique new skill or area of business. It doesn’t seem to be worth the money.

      If this is a pretty standard job substance wise and you get get something similar somewhere else, with a less stressful boss, then go!

  8. Actuarial Octagon*

    If your role is public facing, like marketing, this could also become a reputational risk. If you’re handling the day to day public image of the company but all of the content says she’s handling it alone and she won’t provide a reference that outlines your contributions that may become difficult to explain when you’re ready to move on.

    1. Frenchie too*

      Exactly! She is doing all the work and getting zero credit.
      Boss will likely not be a good reference.
      I suggest cutting your losses and lining up a new job.
      Then…post a so-so review on Glassdoor and maybe Google. “The company has XYZ pros, but the cons are that in spite of having a staff of #, boss claims to do all of the work herself. Also, her staff has been conditioned to go along with her claims and walk on eggshells to prevent extreme reactions”.
      And comment on her social media posts ” Greetings to you and your staff of #! Happy Holidays/Whatever!
      People like her deserve to be exposed.
      But, if any of this would cause you harm, just move on and be glad that you don’t have to go home to THAT!

      1. sub rosa for this*

        I was thinking of a more subtle way of shining some light on this.

        This may fall under the umbrella of unreasonable revenge fantasy, but… as a social media manager, is it possible to encode or encrypt her media so that it “thanks” her hard working staff in a way that she isn’t aware of it but it’s not hard to find?

        Like, and this is so ten years ago, a QR code that leads to a website naming the creators/contributors, or something?

        Because I wouldn’t put it past someone like this to do what happened to me. “No, she never worked here; never heard of her!” and then I had to dig through my closet to try and find old pay stubs just to prove to potential employers that I wasn’t a liar…

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    I think your coworkers are a fair sample of the sort of person who will thrive working for Paige. And it doesn’t sound like you want to become more like them.

    (There are times where becoming more like the long-term people in the office is sound advice, but I don’t think this is one.)

  10. fluffy*

    I just had a flashback to a job I had many years ago, where one of the people in management would go into hysterics and theatrically “have a panic attack” if they saw the game I was working on crash while I was working on a new, untested feature, while breathing down my neck to get the feature done as soon as possible.

    That was not a great experience and I would not wish it on anyone.

  11. quill*

    Paige makes me tired. I’ve had a few bosses whose lack of planning created emergencies, or whose lack of training created emergencies.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, this would be my bright line. If Paige is more emotional work but the workflow is normal, fine, I don’t mind other people being theatrical. The issue comes when this inappropriate urgency infects issues only when they hit MY plate – so, this is a crisis and I need to cancel my vacation and there’s a lot of weeping and wailing, but in reality we could have either chosen not to do this at all or handled it differently from the start without it rolling out like this. I find that completely demoralizing. Someone with a Big Personality I don’t mind.

  12. LKW*

    This sounds unsustainable. I worked for a place that had a cult like worship for the owner and it was like being in an alternate world where rational behavior was unheard of and cruel bullying was expected if not outright celebrated. I left as soon as possible and never looked back. I suspect you’ve got a lot of toads sitting in warm water, not even realizing that their behavior is irrational.

    Adults should not be expected to manage other adults’ emotions, and especially not in the workplace. Contribute, show respect, address problems professionally, but not manage one another’s emotions. And no wonder she’s so stressed, she’s doing the work of 10 people (or at least taking the credit for it).

    I’d start looking.

  13. Nora*

    This reminds me of Principal Ava from Abbott Elementary, except not funny because it’s real life. (And no one on that show is drinking the kool-aid)

    1. Sloanicota*

      I know we’re not supposed to nit-pick word choice, and that nobody means harm, but that is a phrase I used to use myself thinking nothing of it until someone kindly reminded me that it refers to real people, mostly African-American people who were seeking to escape racism in the US, who died tragically and horribly. I hadn’t thought of it that way before and now I try to use an alternate way of saying this. Ideally, if we could pick a different phrase for the comment section at least that would be great.

      1. Nora*

        Yes, I am aware and it is not a phrase I would use if it were not in the letter.

  14. Eldritch Office Worker*

    At this stage in my career, I would absolutely not tolerate a Paige. Earlier in my career, when I was more concerned about building up a work history and a resume, I probably would have. But that version of me was very stressed all the time and I do not wish to return to her frame of mind.

    This is highly personal calculus and I wish you the best in figuring it out. Just know that you will have a lifetime of horrible boss stories to entertain at parties!

    There isn’t a wrong answer, but if you’re unsure it certainly wouldn’t hurt to start hunting and seeing what your other options are.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      It would be a huge no for me at this stage of my career too. I just don’t have that patience.
      When younger, I might have dealt with it if the firm was a good stepping stone.

      But here’s the thing, it’s not something SO bad you need to make a move immediately. Keep your eye out for other opportunities and document your contributions and work samples (or portfolio).

  15. Violet Eldritch*

    I used to work for a Paige, and have a theory about why it appears everyone seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid:
    She holds everyone hostage to her (eventual) Tantrums And Punishment. My Paige was a histrionic bully with just enough authority and control to ruin you professionally if you failed to keep the status quo for her comfort. I bet Paige emotionally dis-regulates about miniscule incidents that any adult professional would take in stride. I bet Paige talks trash about co-workers and reports alike. I bet Paige had shitty professional boundaries and has a “clique” that pretend to worship her.

    My Paige lives in a world where everyone around her tells her she’s just the best, most awesome person ever, all her ideas are excellent and her decisions are always sound Why does everyone kowtow and bow and scrape?

    Nuclear Meltdowns.

    Anyone brought to tears over a simple fix made by someone else, that she takes credit for, will absolutely melt the F down the first time anyone challenges her or corrects her for credit due.

    My Paige openly bragged that she would destroy anyone’s career who dared go over her head to complain about her. She also openly bragged about being a bitch and how well she manipulates people to always get what she wants. She was dramatic, divisive and emotionally unstable for a middle aged woman in a supervisory position.

    Your co-workers know the deal and are doing what they need to every day to save their jobs and keep the bully appeased. This is a strain for them that they cant share with you, because even a whiff of betrayal will be punished. I would even wager that they hate having to use the mental bandwith everyday on Paige.

    My Paige was “moved” to another department after (what I believe) were many complaints. We as a team are still recovering our sanity and repairing the damage to our professional connections several months later.

    My advice: Paige will never get better and may possibly damage your mental health. Get out and make sure your exit interview contains at least all the bullet points in your letter. Best of luck to you.

    1. Managing to get by*

      I worked for someone like this. She also had leadership convinced that she really did do all the important work and they were so afraid of losing her she was allowed to behave poorly because she was a “star”.

      Those of us under her towed the line because she had a history of getting people fired if they disagreed with her.

      When our org was acquired by a national firm the new leadership saw that she was toxic but were afraid that we’d lose clients if she were cut because she had then convinced she was the primary contact for our major channel partners. They didn’t know that our channel partners thought she was annoying and would try to work around her and go direct to the account teams whenever she inserted herself into negotiations

      The new leadership phased her out over 3.5 years. Through reorgs she was moved to a position with a fancy title but no direct reports and little collaboration with others. She started working remotely and for the last 1.5 to 2 years of her tenure she was impossible to get a hold of and would post pictures to instagram of taking her dog to the beach during work hours.

      She was paid about 300k per year to walk her dog on the beach and travel to visit friends in other states, until she eventually agreed to retire when a new director FINALLY questioned why she had an out of office message on het voice mail indicating she was traveling and may be delayed in responding but wasn’t getting charged pto.

      All this was going on while we had a hiring and promotion freeze on positions being paid less than 25% of what they were paying this monster.

      She also reached out to me to chat about a shared hobby after she retired. It took a lot of self control to just ignore her messages rather than go off on her about why would i want to keep in contact with such a horrible person.

  16. Naomi*

    OP, you ask “is this salvageable?” If by that you mean “can I change this situation”… then no, I don’t think so. Assume that Paige and your coworkers will continue to behave exactly as they do now, and make your decisions accordingly.

    1. WonderWoman*

      This is a great reframing – if OP is trying to change the boss, then it will fail. But other adaptations (on OP’s part) might be possible.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yep! This is the perfect situation for Captain Awkward’s Sheelzebub Principle: assuming everything stays exactly as it is now, how long would you stay? Don’t get caught up in “but what if it gets a little better” – it probably won’t.

    3. allathian*

      Yeah, exactly. I don’t think this is bad enough to quit and take any job, or to quit without anything else lined up. But in the LW’s shoes, I’d definitely start looking for something better.

  17. anonymous73*

    As Alison said you are the only one that can decide it’s a deal breaker, but hellllllll no I couldn’t handle that. I too am a PM and I have zero tolerance for drama. And I wonder what you mean by concern of a resume gap – is it because you wouldn’t put this job on your resume? I think it’s okay to be honest if you decide to start looking. This place isn’t a good fit. You don’t need to sugar coat it. And since everyone else seems to be drinking the same Kool-Adi as Paige, it seems like you need to get away before the cult brainwashes you into thinking her behavior is okay.

  18. This sounds familiar. . .*

    Paige would drive me nuts. I have worked for (and with) similar folks over the years and it was not a pleasant experience. I would find the melodrama extremely annoying, but I think the larger concern is the credit stealing–particularly considering that she is the business owner and this is a small company. Another poster mentioned this. I would be concerned about receiving a quality reference if you decide to go elsewhere–or would she “ghost” any reference requests because she claims to do absolutely everything.

  19. Beebee*

    I can definitely see why you want to leave! It can be really tough to be the only person at a job who seems to see how weird things are.

    I had a job like this before my current one (except my Paige was also just… a terrible person who it seemed actively wanted people to get COVID and die). I honestly felt like I was going crazy because no one else would acknowledge what the company was doing was weird or illegal or immoral. I stayed way too long because I felt like maybe the issue was me. It’s made WFH tough because that was my first WFH job and there were weird expectations I still haven’t shaken off over a year later.

    Maybe your situation isn’t that bad… but it also sounds bad enough that leaving is totally justifiable! Whatever decision you end up making, make sure it’s the best one for you.

  20. RagingADHD*

    If you don’t like your boss or your job you are allowed to look for another one at any time. You don’t need your reasons to be blessed as some kind of official “deal breaker.” You can just…go, if you want to.

    Until you find a job you like better, you deal with this kind of thing by smiling, nodding, and keeping your mouth shut. You aren’t going to change Paige’s personality, and she isn’t doing anything wrongful that needs to be reported somewhere. She’s just obnoxious.

    I assume from the description that Paige’s business model depends on her social media persona as some kind of influencer or guru. The cult of personality, which includes the fake claims doing everything herself, isn’t tangential to the business – it is the business. She performs her emotions for the audience/customers as well as for the employees.

    This is the kind of job where you say in the next interview, “I’m proud of the work I did, but it wasn’t a great culture fit.”

    1. LensesAreUseful*

      This. I’m curious whether Paige takes credit when behind the scenes too, or if OP is taking the video content and applying it to everything.

      Paige’s comments about being stressed about a project that OP is managing are from a different point of view than OP’s.. Paige is responsible for the business, her brand reputation, the employees having ongoing work.. for OP to brush off Paige’s anxiety just because *OP* isn’t stressed (due to understanding code) indicates to me that OP doesn’t appreciate the broader implications connected to a successful site relaunch, or a dysfunctional button that can actually be quite serious in the days of cancel culture and influencers.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It kind of sounds like you think I’m defending Paige as reasonable. I’m not. I don’t think her overdramatizations are justified at all. Either she’s incredibly manipulative and self-centered, or she has mental health issues that are out of control, or both. Either way, she sounds dreadful.

        I’m just saying that in certain parts of the entertainment/social media industry, histrionics are the name of the game. It’s deeply dysfunctional, but LW has no power to change it.

        LW—or anyone else—is entitled to walk away from any job they don’t like, without any justification other than that they don’t like it. And they’ve learned something about what kind of environments they don’t want to work in again.

  21. Dust Bunny*

    To Hell with all of this–I’d have been looking again from Day 1.

    Also, I wouldn’t stay because this is not someone you can trust to be a good job reference. This is someone who will lose her cool because you “betrayed” her and will turn on you like a hungry wolf during your notice period.

  22. Richard Hershberger*

    Many of the “is this a dealbreaker?” question come down to the LW’s individual responses to various stimuli. The universal one, it seems to me, is the reference. As I read it, I agree that she is very unlikely to give a good reference. The longer the LW is there, the bigger deal this becomes.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Especially since OP is unlikely to get a peer reference either if everyone is deep in Paige’s graces.

      Big point in the “leave” column.

  23. Carpe Manana*

    I work as a small business broker, and Paige’s antics are precisely what make a business difficult, if not impossible, to sale. To put it bluntly, what she presumably thinks makes herself look valuable is actually destroying the value of her business. If she were to meet with an exit planner or a small business broker, it might help her re-orient her priorities and her metric of what success looks like. Beyond the all-important cash flow, the less a business is reliant on an owner/operator and the more that owner/operator is in the background, the more a buyer feels comfortable that the business will continue to be successful after the transition. Maybe she’s not even thinking of selling now, but this is akin to retirement planning. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.

    1. RB*

      That sounds like an interesting job. Alison should interview you for that feature where she talks to people who have unusual jobs.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Seconded, this job sounds fascinating and I bet Carpe Manana has a lot of interesting tales to tell about dysfunctional small businesses.

        1. Carpe Manana*

          Yes, some businesses are head-scratchers, but overall I have tremendous respect for small business owners. TREMENDOUS. But back to OP’s situation, Paige seems to have a *very* external locus of control and needs approval from others. This manifests as “I’m so important,” “I’m so stressed,” “every project needs (to look like) it revolves around me.” Granted, it’s not OP’s role or responsibility, but if Paige’s path could somehow miraculously cross with that of an exit planner’s, it might help her flip the script. “I’m such a great business owner that I can go on vacation for a month, and my staff doesn’t miss a beat! The money keeps rolling in!”

          My favorite business owners to work with . . .those who work relaxed schedules and take LOTS of vacations. What better indicator that they’ve got great systems and a high-functioning team in place.

  24. Slow Gin Lizz*

    It sounds remarkably like this boss is in fact a deal-breaker. Only you can decide that for yourself, LW, but if you are looking for permission to find a new job, you definitely have it from me. (And the rest of the commetariat, from what I can see.)

  25. Military Prof*

    Am I the only one that thinks your boss sounds shockingly similar to Ruby Rod, in The Fifth Element? (And your coworkers really sound like his handlers, FWIW.)

  26. CaptainMouse*

    Turn the Paige—sorry I couldn’t help myself. Along with everyone else, start looking for a new job now. But it sounds like you can take the time you need to find a good job, rather than just any job.

  27. Massive Dynamic*

    I’ve never worked for the hysterical, but I HAVE worked for the testerical (if y’all are picking up what I’m putting down ;). Never again will I work for a messy man like that. I was a teen then and had no calibration on what was normal. Wishing you the best on this, OP, and I hope you can leave for something better soon.

    1. Ermintrude*

      TESTERICAL FOR THE WIN
      Especially since people exhort each other to ‘grow a pair’!

    2. Esmae*

      Ooh, I’ve definitely worked for the testerical. Messed up my sense of what was normal in the workplace for years afterward.

  28. RB*

    Just came here to say this would probably be a deal breaker for me but it would depend on so many other things. If the pay/benefits were higher than other jobs you were looking at, plus it was close to home and maybe you really like a couple of the co-workers, then it might be worth staying. But this is the kind of problem that might either grate on you more deeply over time or, conversely, you might become inured to it, so you have to think ahead to which of those you categories you would be more likely to fall into.

  29. Sarah55555*

    My husband works for a very small company in close quarters with his boss, who definitely isn’t for everyone. If this stuff is a dealbreaker now, it will not get better in a year. It is just a part of working in a small business, and ultimately sometimes your job isnt just about what you do, but the people who you work with, because you will be with them every day for 8 hours a day.

  30. A Simple Narwhal*

    Woof this sounds exhausting and draining. Unless there are any extenuating circumstances (this job pays insanely well, you’re gaining valuable experience in a new field, this position is a good stepping stone, you have a spotty job history and need to add a longer position, etc), I would start looking to get out.

    Finding the right job can take a while, so there’s nothing wrong with trying to get a head start on that. And the quicker you can leave, the easier it will be to either leave this job off your resume entirely or still use previous references without them appearing to be out of date.

  31. Dona Florinda*

    I personally wouldn’t be so annoyed by the constant drama, but it is concerning she’s taking credit for other people’s work. You already know you won’t get a reference, so think how your projects might be seen as her by others in the industry and consider if it’s worth staying.

  32. Irish Teacher*

    She sounds a little like a supervisor I had during my work experience. Really nice person but very melodramatic and with a few other odd quirks. At the time, I would have said I didn’t mind, but while I still think she was a genuinely nice person and meant well, looking back with more experience, I can see that there were ways in which working under her was more difficult than I realised, things I put down to my own inexperience and my making mistakes that I can now see would…probably still have been issues to some point as I WAS inexperienced, but could certainly have been reduced by a boss that made it less about herself. That…doesn’t quite phrase it, but like she might think a mistake I made was very funny and tease me about it, intending, I do believe, partly to make light of it, but also just drawing attention to herself being funny, but because I was inexperienced and anxious about my mistakes, being teased for weeks kept it in my mind and made me more nervous when doing the same task again. That sort of thing.

    She was also, I believe, a very bad fit with me as I am pretty literal and dislike uncertainty, so working with somebody who had rather dramatic mood swings and who constantly lied and had melodramas…was a really bad fit for me. Again, being so young and inexperienced, I saw that very much as my problem and part of it was, but it really was just a mismatch.

    And yes, people bought into her dramas too. I’ll always remember the time she declared that she “thought she was getting a brain hemorrage” and people started fussing over her and asking if she was OK, when I was trying not to laugh at the ridiculousness.

    In her case, my worry about a reference would have been that she would probably try to big me up and I would afraid it would either get to the point of ridiculousness or that she would claim I worked on something I hadn’t (either just because she didn’t bother to check or because she wanted to make me sound good) and I would be asked about it. Seems a rather different issue than you might have.

    I’m not sure I have any real advice. I know worked with my “Paige” (though I’m not sure how alike they are really; as you can probably tell from this, melodrama wasn’t the only issue in this case) long-term would not have been a good idea for me, though I would probably have thought it fine at the time. It’s only after working with other people that I can see how much easier it is when you don’t have to deal with “EVERYBODY! WE’VE GOT A MAJOR PROBLEM! There’s no coloured ink and the poster looks boring in black and white.” (Made that one up, but it was the sort of thing.) But you might feel differently. It sounds from your post though as if she is bothering you.

    1. pancakes*

      She doesn’t sound nice at all! Teasing a coworker for a minor mistake for weeks, subjecting coworkers to “rather dramatic mood swings,” “constant lies,” foisting hypochondriac fears on coworkers – any one of those on their own isn’t nice. People who cannot feel their feelings without trying to force everyone in the vicinity to feel them as well aren’t being nice. The fact that it’s not always intentional doesn’t mean we need to conceive of it as a nice way to behave.

  33. learnedthehardway*

    I’m at the stage if my career where I am amused by these kinds of people – I have one client who is similarly histrionic. The critical bit is that I’m not solely dependent on that person for my income, and I’m buffered by dealing mostly with their assistant.

    Otherwise, I would walk. Fast.

  34. Lavender*

    Paige on her own might be just barely tolerable (for me, anyway), but the coworkers telling everyone to “make this the best day possible for her!” might send me over the edge. The only thing worse than having to work with someone that ridiculous is having to work with a bunch of other people who DON’T SEE IT.

    1. StellaBella*

      A cult-like atmosphere of toxic positivity and avoidance, pandering to the boss who is way to anxious, is how it seems.

  35. Lady Blerd*

    The histrionics would be exhausting but I can deal with it, I currently have one of those bosses and have had those over the years. It’s the credit stealing that would be a deal breaker for me because you know this boss won’t be the type to let you outshine her and I would be weary of asking her for reference. This is also the type of boss who will think that whatever issue it is, it’s actually your fault and they probably have a mental ledger of your slights to her that you are not aware of. So personally, that would be my reason to leave that job.

    1. BadWolf*

      Same, I could probably ride the drama if I was mostly observing it (versus getting drama texts at 3AM or sucking up all my time at work). But the “no one helps me/I do everything” woe-cakes would not be tolerable.

  36. Olive*

    I’d bet cold hard cash that the reason Paige wouldn’t be a potential reference after leaving a job at her company is because she takes resignations personally, regardless of the reasons.

  37. RJ*

    OP, I’ve worked with a few Paige’s in my career. The self-created hysteria just gets worse and worse. Get out as soon as possible.

  38. kiki*

    If LW is looking for validation that others would have a problem in this environment and would likely head for the door, I’m here to give it! I also have a low tolerance for melodrama (besides the album by Lorde, which is brilliant) and sometimes I second-guess myself: “Maybe emoting like this is actually normal and I need to learn to work with this.” But no, this seems like a lot and it would definitely wear a lot of people down, especially when they’re setting the tone for a whole company.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      The latter would be my concern with the enabling. Stay there for long and I can imagine how one could start thinking “am I being unfair to Paige? Everybody ELSE seems to think her behaviour is normal, maybe I’m being particularly harsh or uncaring. Maybe I need to be more sympathetic. Maybe I am missing something and a mistake in this project really WOULD be more serious than I realise.”

  39. Lobsterman*

    I worked for a boss like this for a year and a half, and it took another year of therapy to unlearn all the bad things he had installed in my brain. I would avoid.

  40. Essess*

    I would be turning this back on her to realize what she’s doing… “I was so stressed about this project”… should be met with an immediate “Why would you say that? What about this project gave you any concerns? Did anyone say or do anything to indicate there were any concerns with this project?” I would keep asking in order for them to actually think about their reaction.
    I would also approach her while editing the video and tell her that it hurt to hear that she didn’t feel like the staff had any purpose or any part of the work and that made YOU feel unappreciated. She needs to actually hear the impact of her statements.

    1. Ermintrude*

      That sounds to me like more labour emotional and otherwise than this boss warrants.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s differ labor, but I wouldn’t say it’s more than the status quo. For me it would be a much more comfortable type of labor than pretending she’s reasonable to say things like that, or stifling any and all questions about her disconnect from reality.

        I can’t quite get on board with Essess’s last paragraph, though. I don’t think Paige is in the right frame of mind to “actually hear the impact of her statements” and she doesn’t seem to have any interest in or capacity for talking about other people’s feelings. I wouldn’t bother trying to nudge her toward lucidity on that. Fact-based questions about the project, etc., may help nudge her, but starting a conversation about feelings with her in hopes of a lucid discussion seems very unlikely to succeed, to me.

  41. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

    I, too, have a low tolerance for melodrama, and judging by the tone of your (amusing to read!) letter, your tolerance for all of this nonsense seems thoroughly maxed out.

    I agree with Alison and the others who feel this *is* a deal-breaker *for you.* You do need to find another job where your expertise and hard work is valued.

    I don’t think I could stomach managing someone’s social media account where they claim all the credit (and aren’t even doing the posts!) – let alone all the rest of it.

    It doesn’t sound like an urgency, but def get out ASAP and head for greener, less histrionic pastures. Wishing you all the best! I’m sure we’d all love an update, too. :)

  42. Free Meerkats*

    I’m completely on the escape train.

    In the meantime while you job search, maybe recalibrate your reactions and have some fun with it. When the button breaks, panic just as much, if not more then, she does. Ask her how she coded it in the first place so you “can figure out how to fix it” (since she did all the work, she knows how it works, right?) See how long it takes before someone admits she didn’t do the work. See how high you can push the hysteria meter. Dramatically ask the others how you can best assuage her anxiety. Suggest brining in a professional shaman to exorcise the office. Then gaslight the living F*** out of her.

  43. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”–Harry Truman

    I’ve always taken issue with this. In a sane company, the person who gets the credit gets the favorable attention of leadership, the plum project, the raise, the promotion. If your boss takes the credit for your accomplishment or even your ordinary day-to-day work, they’re robbing you of the polish on your halo that can help you thrive, grow, and advance.

    1. Esprit de l'escalier*

      +1. I’m guessing he said that when he was already well advanced in his career, at which point he had an established reputation for getting things done and could afford to be gracious about others’ contributions. That was how they used to do business in the US Senate, one hand washes the other. (And that’s assuming that he really did let other people take “his” credit for what got done.)

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I think that quote makes sense for those in positions of power. I mean, if you are taking part in a peace process, getting the credit is probably less important than preventing the war. And in some cases, you may need to ensure the belligerents believe they have come to an agreement themselves (I’m thinking of cases like Northern Ireland where if a deal is associated too much with the Irish government, the unionists may reject it on principle and if it is too associated with the British government, the nationalists may reject it on principle, so staying in the background could be advantageous or even necessary).

      However, I think it makes less sense for the people who are not at the top. There is a difference between the boss not caring if his or her employees get the credit for something (s)he created; after all, they are getting a good deal of the profits anyway and the employee not caring if the boss gets the credit for their work. Unless they are working on something that is a matter of life and death – I don’t think a fireman would necessarily care if his chief got the credit for a rescue he did – I think the credit does matter in those situations.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Exactly. I first heard this quote not from Harry Truman but from “leadership” trying to make underlings feel petty for wanting acknowledgement for their contributions to company success.

  44. justabot*

    The thing is, Paige is the owner, not just a boss, so things are unlikely to change. Only the LW can decide whether they can tolerate the job or not. I also wondered what kind of business this is and is there any kind of narrative about building it from the ground up, etc., where selling that persona is almost part of the brand narrative? (Even though it’s always nice when people share credit and it can be demoralizing when they don’t.)

    Sometimes brands really are based on an image of that one person up on a ladder hand picking apples for her baby food line all by herself. (Baby Boom lol) Where the owner/company founder is going to be the one in the spotlight as if they singlehandedly built the brand. They should still give credit behind the scenes though. Not saying that’s the case in this situation, just that sometimes things present bit differently on the surface when an owner is the face/story of the brand/company, as opposed to a boss/manager stealing credit.

  45. Anne Wentworth*

    LW, if you are concerned that Paige will be a bad reference (and from your description of her belief that she’s doing it all herself, you’re right, she would be a terrible reference), keep in mind that the longer you stay there, the worse it will look that she has nothing good to say about you.

  46. ZucchiniBikini*

    Gosh, this is exhausting enough behaviour in a co-worker (I have worked with a couple of people like this in the past, and it gets really irritating). I don’t think I could handle it in a manager! If it were me, I’d be strategising for a timely exit, unless of course Paige is paying way over market, in which case it would be a matter of weighing up the $$ vs the aggravation.

  47. Ermintrude*

    I think this a great example of: ‘This person is actually not nice.’
    Also, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Meltdown City in my life but I’ve put a lot of effort into managing that and becoming more efficient at problem-solving. Paige’s behaviour here strikes me as a cultivated mannerism.

  48. Dr SmartyPants*

    OMG, this sounds so much like my postdoc supervisor!! Like, the one-woman show, the melodramatic comments, the coworkers driking KoolAid and even helping with unethical things and somehow justifying it to themselves that it was ok. I didn’t buy into this, so I was like a black sheep. Within a few weeks, I knew I needed to leave. But when I took the first job I found, it turns out the new supervisor was completely off (severe mental health issues, and has severe paranoia about me in particular), so OP, if you really wanna leave, I would suggest that do not take the first opportunity, research, make sure you are not walking into something similar out of desperation!

  49. Corporate Counsel*

    My first boss was like this, minus the taking credit part. She was absolutely exhausting and it wasn’t until she left that I realized how frayed my nerves had gotten. Highlights include her standing around the department printer in near tears asking me when I thought I could fix it while she shredded a Kleenex (we’re both lawyers), obsessively forcing me to prep for weekly meetings with our Big Boss (where I generally had nothing much of controversy to add), and calling me while I was in the Emergency Room and essentially trying to guilt me into coming back into the office because one of our other coworkers was also out that day and she was concerned about “coverage.” She was always high-strung, always on the verge of tears, and catering to her emotional fits was way too much for me.

  50. Nerto*

    Curious if other folks would find this to be a dealbreaker. Boss who is great otherwise but is super ambitious, type A and just says yes to everything, so we are just getting work piled on our heads. I have tried to speak with her about it and she says she’ll slow down but literally an hour later she’s assigning more work. And half of the stuff that she assigns gets forgotten about, never even sees the light of day. Its frustrating my team and I am not sure what I can do about it.

    1. Corporate Counsel*

      For me it is. I had a boss like that and it’s easy for those kinds of environments to get toxic. When it comes to performance review season, she won’t remember any of your contributions. When you tell her that you’re overworked, she won’t remember what she has and hasn’t assigned you, and will just keep piling on. She’s just going to keep treating you like a black hole that she can chuck stuff into and forget about.

      If she’s Type-A and ambitious like you say, then she’s probably having you do assignments that upper management mention as peripheral priorities. She’s making you have things ready just so she can try and impress them, but a lot of times those plans get scrapped, which means a ton of work expended and sent down the drain for no reason. I would suggest that she’s not actually a great manager because she can’t prioritize or remember what she asked you to work on. When I was in that situation I got laid off, and I suspect a massive part of it is the boss who I killed myself for couldn’t actually articulate what my contributions were, because she didn’t know how to manage or utilize me correctly, and that sounds like the case for yours too.

      1. Nerto*

        Yeah she is not a manager. She doesn’t manage anything . I think she’s overwhelmed by her job and dealing with the board and C-suite. You are spot on about trying to impress them. She makes promises to the board without ever consulting the team. I’ve always been a manager who tries to smooth things out for my team, reduce work so we can focus and do our best, so this is really frustrating to me personally. I’d like to stay with this company, and I do like my boss, but feeling hopeless.

        1. Corporate Counsel*

          Have you had a talk with her about this specific issue? It sounds like a very concrete thing that you could bring to her attention.

          1. Nerto*

            I’m trying for sure. The angle I am trying to take, is we are going to have a process for intake of work and she is going to be a client. She gets very defensive very easily. She is an emotional person who hides it well.

        2. kiki*

          I feel like this is really common with folks who have to interact with the c-suite or head honchos– they get so wrapped up in trying to impress these folks that they forget that they are also supposed to serve as a reality check for these higher-ups who are perhaps disconnected from the realities of the day-to-day operations. And it’s insidious because a lot of times leadership does promote the folks who impress them most but what leadership actually needs is a reality check. Whole businesses sink this way.

    2. pancakes*

      That doesn’t sound ambitious to me so much as undiscerning or unfocused. I suppose it depends on the industry. Saying yes to any and every project that comes in the door isn’t always a great way to build up to a point where you can start being more choosy because a high-turnover generalist isn’t always going to be the top choice of clients or customers who want something more specialized. It’s not necessarily the same kind of work.

      Getting so busy that assigned tasks fall through the cracks seems likely to leave many clients or customers (or employees, in your scenario?) frustrated, and also not conducive to building up to being choosier about projects.

      1. Nerto*

        I feel the same way, but she is a C-level exec with a verifiable track record of success (albeit in a much bigger and well-resourced company). I’ll give an example – we decide we are going to do a campaign to promote our new digital product 3 days before it launches, ok fine we pull together the copy and strategy. She then decides we are going to brand and trademark the product (which is now live). So the campaign is now on hold while we go through the branding exercise. Out of that, we now are shooting a video with the board member explaining the origin story. So what was a campaign with 3 days of lead time, is now a full video production. Every project is like this. I come from an operations background so I am constantly trying to put processes in place to manage it, which she says is important, but she basically ignores it all.

        1. pancakes*

          Whew, that sounds exhausting. And rough on an operations person in particular because it’s totally disorganized! If the department gets audits, the auditors could maybe be helpful to lean on in terms of finding support among other people who want processes in place too? Good luck.

  51. Just Me*

    Oh God, my old employer was like this and, ultimately, it ended up being a deal breaker. Why? Things that were mildly annoying and somewhat excessive became significantly more so during the pandemic. Someone who isn’t stable during normal times will be even less stable when conditions change. In addition to always taking credit for others’ work, she also had a belief that her ideas and opinions were infallible and could not be questioned because she was successful, but she was successful because of the behind-the-scenes work of others. She ultimately began to truly believe in her own greatness. My role was related to compliance, so I would have to tell her frankly that some of her ideas were not only bad but noncompliant with regulations, and it spiraled out of control.

  52. Trash games*

    Op2, but mostly Alison, regarding a reason why sometimes people donate items rather than throw them out. My town is very specific and picky about what they will and will not accept as trash. Sometimes you’ll put something out for 3 or 4 weeks before the trash people take it, if they take it at all. They will not take a TV and none of the recyclers will take one either. You sometimes have to hide certain trash items by double/triple bagging them and hiding it in other trash. Sometimes you have to cut/tear things up and distribute the parts over time with other trash. Sometimes they decide you are throwing too much trash out so they only take some of it. If your trash exceeds the height of a trash can top they won’t take that at all so you buy more trash cans, save trash for the next pickup and hope you don’t generate more trash than the capacity of your cans and don’t have too many cans, etc. For the record I have four trash cans: three normal 32 gallon ones and a 64 gallon one. They don’t always take them all and we don’t use all every time. The point of all of this is that either you can play the trash games with used clothes, appliances, etc or you just take it to a donation center where, no questions asked, they just take it.

  53. Luna*

    Oh my goodness, just reading about how this Paige acts sounds tiring to me. Count me as another one that would consider this a dealbreaker. A person dealing with their emotions, making sure they are doing okay, keeping themselves in check, and overall taking care of themselves, you know, can already be a thing in its own and take up your energy.
    But having to not only take care of yourself, but also of another person? That isn’t a close relative or your best friend, but is just past the stranger phase, and is your supervisor? That is extra tiring.

    I don’t know what this Paige’s deal is, and I probably don’t want to know. If the other employees are okay with continuing to coddle her and wrap her up in cotton because the scent of a marshmallow could lead to Paige having a meltdown, that’s fine. But if this really sounds like a thing that won’t change, I would put this into a ‘walk away before it drags you down’ kind of situation.

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