my manager yells at her boss through my office wall

A reader writes:

I’ve been with my current employer nearly five years. My current boss has just reached her third year with our company, after spending 20+ years with a different company. She has been struggling to adapt, throwing screaming tantrums whenever she doesn’t like a procedure. She compares our company to her old company and, naturally, our company falls short. I have failed at trying to help her adapt.

My office sits between her office and her boss’s office. Whenever she gets herself into a fight with her boss, she comes into my office and yells at him through my wall while I am trying to complete my work. He pretends to be unaware of this. I don’t feel comfortable discussing it with him.

She also likes to tell me every nasty thing one specific colleague says about me behind my back. I have talked to her about needing her to stop the yelling in my office and the nasty gossiping at my expense on at least four different occasions during her three years with our company. She seems to listen and change her behavior for a short time. I think she sees me as a safe place to vent, but I am exhausted and cannot carry her stress along with my own.

I know without doubt that I do my job the way her boss expects it to be done and he doesn’t yell at me or fight with me the way he does with her. I feel like I deserve to stay with this company because I am good at my job. What can I do to fix this problem without quitting and finding a new job?

What on earth.

First, why is your boss yelling so much? And at her own boss, no less? And why is her boss not putting a stop to it? It’s one thing if someone loses their temper once — that’s still a big deal at work, and not okay — but this is happening regularly and no one the power to shut it down has done so? Why?

Those are the big questions, and it says something about how weird this is that they dwarf the other obvious question, which is why your boss is going into someone else’s office to yell at a third person through a wall. It’s bizarre behavior in the extreme. If she wants to yell at him (?!), why isn’t she going into his office to do it? Does she feel like by standing in your office, she has plausible deniability that she’s not actually yelling at her boss? Does she come in to vent to you but then senses his presence through the drywall and can’t resist the temptation of letting loose on him through your wall?

There are so many questions here.

Anyway, if you’ve already told her you need it to stop — multiple times, it sounds like — and she continues anyway, I’m not sure there’s anything you can say that will get through to her. But how clear were you when you addressed it previously?  If you softened your message in any way, you could try a very, very blunt message this time. For example: “I need you to stop coming to my office to yell at Bob. It’s disruptive and upsetting to have someone yelling in my office and I cannot work if that continues to happen.”

But if you’ve already been that clear, you really only have two other options: ask to change offices, or talk to her boss. Since her boss has already shown himself disinclined to act, asking to change offices might be your better bet. Is your manager willing to switch with you herself or move you somewhere else? In fact, asking that might help reinforce the core point — that this isn’t okay — and you could tie it to that: “I cannot work when you are yelling. If you are going to yell at Bob, I need a different office. Can we switch, or is there another space I can work from?”

Then there’s the nasty gossiping. Since you’ve asked her to stop without success, all you can do is firmly shut it down in the moment when it starts: “Let me stop you there, this is the kind of thing I don’t want to hear.”

Ultimately, though, you’re asking how you can fix these problems without quitting and you might not be able to. You don’t have the power you need to shut your boss down. You’ve tried talking to her directly and it hasn’t worked. If you have the ear of someone over her head, you might be able to work on it from that angle — but in a company that’s been tolerating this behavior, I don’t have a lot of faith that’s going to work.

You’re right that you shouldn’t have to leave a job you’re good at just because your manager sucks, but this is about what is, not what should be … and unfortunately, boss problems are indeed why a lot of people leave jobs.

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. Goldenrod*

    “You’re right that you shouldn’t have to leave a job you’re good at just because your manager sucks, but this is about what is, not what should be … and unfortunately, boss problems are indeed why a lot of people leave jobs.”

    THIS. I didn’t want to leave my last job either – I really stuck with it and hoped it would change. But, in the end, if your boss is Crazytown like mine was (and yours clearly is), sometimes you really just have to leave. It’s not fair, but it is what it is.

    1. what?*

      And who knows, OP could find a job doing the same exact things in a better environment, with better pay / benefits.

      1. Libscoot*

        yep! I loved a previous job, except for the manager. I left solely because of her. As it turned out, that job had a great manager and a lot of other great stuff, but somehow it just didn’t feel “right” so I ended up moving on after a ear to my current job which is a) a decent amount more pay b) with a great manager c) much less stress than any other job I’ve had before, & I love it! d) might just be where I retire, unless I find something else with enough from a), b), and c) but more remote.

    2. Magenta+Sky*

      To quote the old saying, “People don’t quite bad jobs, they quit bad managers.”

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have mixed feelings about this saying. On the one hand there is a lot of truth to it. On the other hand, it is easily weaponized by Manager’s Boss. Employees aren’t, Manager’s Boss will claim, leaving because the pay and benefits suck, or the department is understaffed and overworked, or because the manager is unable to completely shield his people from his own sucky boss. No, it is all the manager’s fault that he can’t retain employees. Since he is the problem, it logically follows that there is nothing Manager’s Boss need do except berate the manager for not doing better.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          But if that’s happening, than the Manager has a Bad Manager’s Boss and should leave. People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons, but often the manager has as lot to do with it.

        2. Magenta+Sky*

          *Somewhere* up the food chain, there is a bad manager who is the reason people quit. Might not be the immediate supervisor, but *somebody* decided to pay crap wages with crap benefits, and that somebody is a bad manager.

          (But there are no universal truths when it comes to people, especially managing people.)

        3. Kella*

          “Manager” is a short hand for “person in charge making decisions that impact your life”. It’s not like the bad benefits and lack of staff is just… happening and the company exists without anyone to create it or run it. Someone, somewhere has decided to run the company that way, and their decisions are the problem.

        4. Ellie*

          This is happening at my company! They have a whole new people management program with development plans, and training plans, and how to tailor your management style to get the best out of your employees, etc. etc. And yet at the same time, they froze pay increases last year (and the year before) during record inflation, offered a pathetic cost of living increase this year, are giving people less flexibility by insisting that we all return to the office, and are making it ridiculously difficult to promote people. A lot of people are resigning and we keep getting told, “The number one reason people leave their jobs is because of their manager”. Yeah right.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I think the “bad” is extraneous and inaccurate. Some employees leave bad managers, some employees leave managers whose style doesn’t mesh with theirs, and some bad employees leave good managers who hold them accountable for bad behavior.

    3. animaniactoo*

      This is one of the things I love most about AAM. The realism of this and not blowing smoke about how it should be instead of how it is.

    4. MM*

      OP, you said “I feel like I deserve to stay with this company because I am good at my job.” As in, you don’t deserve to be pushed out. This is true. But, I mean: do you deserve to be treated like this? To have to put up with this every day? No.

      Maybe if you could reframe leaving in your mind not as “getting a punishment you don’t deserve” but rather “ceasing to put up with poor treatment you don’t deserve,” things might get a lot simpler?

      1. Library Lady*

        My thoughts when I left my last job (terrible new administrators who had been there less than a year, while I had been working there for 7.5 years) was that they didn’t deserve to have me. I knew my work was excellent and would be highly valued elsewhere, and if they wanted to run a fear-driven organization based on secrecy, gossip, and bad policies that endangered staff, they were going to do it without me.

      2. NerdyPrettyThings*

        Yes! You don’t deserve to stay in your job because you’re good at your job. You deserve to have a good job and good working conditions because you’re good at what you do.

    5. Teelo*

      I’d go sit in the grand-boss’ office each time while she yells and just stare at them the whole time saying that since you can’t get any work done in your office, you’ll just wait for some mentoring on this and the gossiping issue. And document it all. (PS- Autocorrect changed my text to ” I’d go sh!t in the grand-boss’ office each time” lol. I guess it’s a different approach :-P

      1. Maggie*

        Teelo, I love this. Leans heavy on the principle that some people don’t deal with what’s not their problem, so you have to let it fall apart and become their problem so they’ll address it.

  2. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    Start the job search. If you accept an offer and leave the company, cite this as the (or “a”) reason why you’re leaving.

    Can you ask Grand-Boss to either (1) shut her down or (2) switch your office with hers?

    1. mf*

      Yes, if OP has already been blunt with his/her boss as Allison has recommended, then I would escalate this to Grand-Boss.

      Grand-Boss is currently pretending like this is not happening–you need to remove his plausible deniability and force him to act. “I cannot work like this, and I deserve to have a workplace where I don’t have to listen to people screaming. I need you to make it stop or to find me a new office where this won’t be a problem.”

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      I’d be sorely tempted to stand up, walk next door, and tell Grandboss that I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be caught in the middle of this, especially since it was distracting me from my own work.

      I don’t know whether I’d actually do it, or what the consequences would be in my hypothetical office, but depending on what day they caught me…

  3. Someone in BioPharma*

    Is there an HR that the OP can go to, or is this one of those tiny dysfunctional companies?

    1. Observer*

      HR or someone above your GrandBoss. Because both your boss and her boss are out of their minds.

    2. what?*

      If there’s an HR, maybe multiple people can file a complaint? If they’re screaming, others must be hearing this as well. They should be bothered by it, right?

  4. The Original K.*

    She’s still adapting after three years? If procedures are still frustrating her this much, maybe this org is a bad fit.

    1. what?*

      I also don’t see why it’s her report’s job to help her adapt. She’s the job. Why isn’t it her boss’ responsibility?

      1. WellRed*

        Even bosses need to acclimate to a new job and might need some steering. Unfortunately, this boss has driven herself clear off the rails.

        1. what?*

          Definitely. And the responsibility primarily falls on her boss, the person she’s having screaming matches with, to acclimate her. LW can lightly help out but they should not feel it is their responsibility to do so, especially given the circumstances.

        2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yeah, this is not “oh, I always forget where the post-its are stored.” This is full-on, ridiculousness that needs shut down HARD.

          OP – is it possible for you to just… leave your office when she comes in and does this? Like, every time, you now need to go to the bathroom, the supply closet, make a quick coffee run, etc? This would drive me bananas.

      2. AuntAmy*

        Seriously! LW didn’t “fail to help her adapt”…she failed to adapt all on her own!

      3. Nightengale*

        It can be the subordinate’s job to help their boss sometimes with job specific stuff

        I am remembering my final rotation of my pediatrics residency. We had just hired a gastroenterologist after not having one for over a year and I arranged to do an elective with him at the last minute. My last month was his first month and it worked out well for both of us.

        Things I knew that he didn’t: the way around the hospital, where supplies were kept, some of the intricacies of our electronic health system, who to call to get various stuff done. . .

        Things he knew which I didn’t: the entire field of pediatric gastroenterology

    2. Anonym*

      Yeah, by 3 years she’s far beyond adaptation. This is how she is in this role, and there is no hope of improvement. I’m sorry, OP, but your good job has turned bad and is not going to recover. 3 years of upper management not dealing with it means they’re not going to either. This is bonkers and you don’t deserve it.

      I really am sorry – it sucks to live in hope that something once good will return, but this one is a lost cause.

    3. Emotional support capybara*


      I’m trying to imagine being in a management-level job for three years, still not doing the job in accordance with company policy, and STILL HAVING THE JOB and my brain is bluescreening.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        And not only yelling at one’s boss, but actually going in to the office beside the boss’s with the express purpose of yelling through the wall at the boss! I mean, regularly yelling at one’s boss is…not acceptable anyway, but I could imagine a situation in a very stressful job where a boss would overlook a report occasionally yelling at them during a heated discussion, but…not specifically going in, not even to their office but to the office next door and disturbing somebody else’s work as well as specifically intending to yell at them. It is a lot harder to lose one’s job in Ireland than it appears to be in America, but I cannot imagine doing that without consequences!

      2. Ally McBeal*

        As a millennial who graduated into the recession and whose career will likely never be what it could’ve been, this kind of nonsense makes me incandescent with rage.

  5. anonymous73*

    As Alison stated, if you haven’t been direct and told your boss to stop, you need to start there. And you also need to talk to your grand boss. You say you’re not comfortable with that, but it’s necessary. And if your HR department doesn’t suck, you need to report the issue to them as well. If none of these options work, you need to polish off your resume. Yelling is NEVER okay at work, no matter how upset or angry you get, especially from a manager.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Speculation here, but this LW’s tone makes me suspect that s/he has not bluntly and firmly told Boss that this must stop, now and forever. I suspect there’s been a lot of message-softening and not wanting to be rude and eye-rolling and downplaying and not wanting to make waves.

      There are times when you SHOULD make waves, particularly with people like this who are very busy making waves themselves. Especially with someone as willing to trample boundaries as this boss, you often need to say what feels rude to you before they get that you really mean business.

      LW ALSO needs to leave this job, because it’s not their responsibility to fix this boss or help them adapt. But it’s good practice to be able to firm up your message until you get your point across.

    2. RagingADHD*

      If LW has enough agency / capital in the office to (on at least 4 occasions) sit the boss down to say some version of “knock it off,” then why on earth can’t they stand up in the middle of one of boss’s yelling sprees and say, “This right here is what you need to knock off. Let me know when you’re done so I can get back to work.”

      Walk out, take your stuff to a conference room or go take a coffee break.

      If you can say something, and you have said something, why sit there listening to it for three freaking years? I’m willing to bet she’d be a lot less interested in these little performances if you deprived her of an audience.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        It’s possible the LW is intimidated when the boss is yelling through the wall. Obviously, I don’t know, but there ARE people who are completely reasonable when calm and will admit their behaviour wasn’t OK, but then when in a mood are…completely impossible to talk to and even scary. Walking out should definitely be an option though, even if done silently.

  6. CTT*

    I am pushing back on the comment to request switching offices. Unless LW have fabulous soundproofing, she will still be able to hear it and be distracted (maybe not as much as when it was happening in her office, but slightly muffled yelling is still yelling).

    1. another Hero*

      I thought the same thing – and the boss might yell more often if she doesn’t have to relocate to do it! – but if op feels like it’d be less stressful to have the yelling still happening but not in the same room as op, I think that’s perfectly reasonable, especially if op really wants to stay in the job. if not – if op’s feeling is basically “yelling is yelling” – that’s fair too, and the yelling is not going to stop.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        The boss might yell more often if she doesn’t have to move to do it, but she also might yell less often now that she can’t yell in front of a captive audience (OP). With someone unreasonable enough to yell at her boss (!) through a wall (!!) in someone else’s office (!!!), it’s hard to predict how her behavior might change in the future.

        I agree the OP should think about potential muffling vs possible increased frequency of the yelling before asking to change offices.

        1. Tupac Coachella*

          I’m wondering if the yelling is more indirect than we’re thinking- instead of storming into OP’s office and screaming “I hate you, Bob!” it’s more like storming into OP’s office under some false pretense and escalating: “How are the reports coming? I know I got them to you last minute, but SOMEONE didn’t get them to me UNTIL FRIDAY, because SOMEONE HAS NO RESPECT FOR MY TIME, BOB!” In trying to imagine how something this bananacrackers might play out, the captive audience part feels important. I’m thinking maybe this isn’t about yelling at Bob, it’s about trying to collect an ally in OP, which is backfiring spectacularly. Downside is that if that’s the case, an office switch probably won’t help much-Boss will find a new way to try to rope OP into the drama.

          Also, kudos to OP for the utter lack of interest in the gossip about them. It takes someone very mature to straight up not care what’s being said and focus on the fact that the constant attempts to stir the pot are the real problem.

          1. Fae Kamen*

            I thought about this possibility too, but OP does say that their boss is yelling AT Bob, and doesn’t mention their boss yelling at her—which I feel like they would if that were true?

    2. WellRed*

      There’s still no reason not to ask. Muffled is better than full throttle, right? And maybe someone realizes how ridiculous this is (unlikely but one can dream). I mean, what do you suggest instead?

    3. The OTHER Other*

      Changing offices treats only part of one symptom, OK maybe symptoms are all we can deal with since the manager and grandboss are beyond redemption. But I get the feeling the manager is coming into LW’s office to have an audience and not because of its proximity to the grandboss. She could have an office across the building and it seems likely manager would come there to scream and share nasty comments from coworkers.

      It’s dismaying this manager has lasted this long with this degree of dysfunction, and the grandboss has pretended it’s not happening.

      LW, I recommend doing some deep soul searching about why you’ve allowed this treatment to go on for years. Being in a bad workplace can warp your sense of what is normal. You say you deserve to stay at your job (and not be driven out by your manager’s terrible behavior), yes, but do you deserve to be treated this way? This is the kind of thing that would not simply be disruptive, but would affect someone’s mental health. You deserve to work somewhere not disrupted by screaming rants (from your manager!) and where huge problems like this aren’t ignored.

    4. irene adler*

      How about boss and grandboss share an office?
      Probably won’t stop the yelling any.

      It will make it harder for grandboss to ignore the bad behavior.
      And, it might make boss try more effective ways to communicate.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      I thought she was in the middle, so if she switches with the yell-ee, yeller will now be two offices away. Sure potentially still audible, but OP would go from in the same room as yelling, to at least two walls away. (as opposed to going from in the same room to on the other side of a wall as yelling) and that’s just if switching with people involved in this debacle. Moving to a different part of the building might be on the table if they asked. Who knows.

  7. PollyQ*

    If it’d only been 3 months, I might have some hope for a change in the situation, but it’s been 3 years, so it seems pretty clear that this is the way it’s going to be. I’d actually skip the step of trying to talk to your boss or grand-boss and just start job-hunting or looking for an internal transfer.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Even three months is too long. Someone who thinks that yelling at their boss through a wall is acceptable behavior is pretty much never going to suddenly transform into someone enjoyable to work for. And the grand boss just pretending it doesn’t happen!

      1. Deborah*

        I bet she didn’t start screaming through walls in the first three months. I bet there was incremental creep of outlandish behavior. If someone was screaming just a few weeks into a new job, it’s way easier to let them go.

    2. Observer*

      Yeah, this is not going to change unless someone higher up is going to do something about this.

      Stop trying to help your boss. Shut her down when she starts telling her about what people are saying behind your back. And if there is no one to make her stop the yelling, start looking for a new job because that’s almost certainly the only way to stop the lunacy. It shouldn’t be that way, but we deal with that is rather than what should be.

      In the interim when she starts the yelling, as her to stop as it’s disturbing your ability to work. If she won’t walk out.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah my jaw was on the floor reading this one. My cortisol levels would be through the roof — hell, my heart rate started increasing just reading this.

      1. Mama Sarah*

        Yeah…it’s so over the top for the work place. This kind of reminds me of the post when a writer admits to a very off-kilter v workplace where she bit a colleague.

    2. ursula*

      For real. Also, just: “I have failed at trying to help her adapt” <— PLEASE do not take this on. This is not on you, oh my god!! This lady is a whole ass adult who is choosing to act like this for reasons that are not at all your responsibility! 3 YEARS and people are still excusing her behaviour like she's new and that explains it? This lady out-ranks and out-earns you, and you are putting 200x more work into this relationship (and her performance, and her professionalism) than she is!!
      This entire situation is outrageous. Everyone here is acting wild except for you. You're right, you shouldn't have to be the one to move on, but for your sake I really hope you do.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If this is considered acceptable behavior, I suspect that the entire office is full of bees. You rarely find a place that is this dysfunctional in only one way.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          Cosigned. OP, think about it this way. If you knew for sure nothing was going to change, how long would you stay – 6 months? a year? 5 years?

          Your boss has been acting like this for 3 (!) years (!!!). She is not going to change. The people above her, who have the ability to enforce change (or remove her from the position) are choosing not to do that. This situation is not going to change.

          This is the job. How much longer do you want to stay?

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        “Whole ass adult” exactly. Not your problem to fix. Just keep telling yourself “not my circus, not my monkeys” as you job hunt. Your boss, and hers, are bananacrackers

      3. MEH Squared*

        All of this.

        OP, I get that you don’t want to leave and it feels like a punishment when you have done nothing wrong. I get wrapped up in things not being fair, especially when it’s so unfair against me. But in the end, you’re the one who is suffering because of this outrageous behavior by your manager and your manager’s manager. This is not going to change–or at the very least, you have to presume it’s not going to change as it hasn’t for three years.

        I hate to say it, but given the inertia of your manager’s boss, you probably have to leave the situation rather than continuing to hit your head against a brick wall.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          This is SUCH a good point. The situation sucks, but is reality. Is it more “unfair” to have to find a different, hopefully better job, or to be constantly subjected to verbal abuse, nasty vicious gossip, yelling, and poor management?

      4. PollyQ*

        Also, just: “I have failed at trying to help her adapt” < — PLEASE do not take this on. This is not on you, oh my god!!

        Yes, 1000000% this!!! LW, you have in no way “failed”, and this isn’t a failure to “adapt” anyway. It’s a failure to be a rational, functional human being, and that’s entirely on your supervisor.

        1. Again With Feeling*

          This. Angry yelling in a workplace – in your office or anywhere else! – should not be a regular occurrence. Your manager is off the rails and her manager is enabling the dysfunction. This is not a situation you can change.

      5. Observer*

        Also, just: “I have failed at trying to help her adapt” <— PLEASE do not take this on. This is not on you, oh my god!!

        This. So much this!

        The situation is insanity and it was never something that you were responsible for even TRYING to fix.

    3. Maggie*

      Yes!!! I was one paragraph into reading this and my first thought was, “Please tell me Allison’s reply to this letter starts with ‘What on Earth'”. I was so pleased to see they were her first words!

  8. CatCat*


    Some additional things to try: (1) lock your office door if it has a lock so she can’t just come barreling in, and (2) get up and walk out of your office if she does come barreling in.

    But you do need another job. You cannot fix the fundamental problem here: your boss is out of control. And it doesn’t seem your organization is interested in doing anything about it. All you can truly control is whether you will continue to work there. This is bonkers.

      1. Unaccountably*

        I have been thinking about this letter for half an hour and “what” is genuinely all I’ve got.

    1. what?*

      I’m petty enough that I would leave the office when she starts screaming and sit in her boss’s office and just stare at her boss. That will at least catch them off guard and stop the screaming on their end. Then, I’d say something like, “Hi, I’m trying to work next door and I can’t with all the screaming.” Pull out my headphones, and listen to music while in their office. They’ll have to react to that.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        This was my thought too. If boss ignores Alison’s direct script, than getting up and stating, “I’ve told you that I cannot work while you are yelling at grandboss. I am going elsewhere until you are finished” isn’t a bad plan.

        Depending on your relationship with your grandboss, I would also be tempted to walk out of my office and walk into theirs and say “Hey, Boss has something she wants to tell you.”

        But that’s probably a grand gesture better saved for if you do have something lined up or are ready to move on and burn or at least singe a bridge.

        1. Old Yeller*

          Walk out of the office and get a cup of coffee. Return half an hour later. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        I don’t think this is petty at all, but this might backfire. The grandboss is pretending the screaming fits aren’t happening, which suggests they ignore things that don’t really affect them. But LW going into the grandboss’s office might make the grandboss think the easiest solution is to get rid of the LW

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      Definitely remember that you can just get up and leave, OP. You don’t have to be her tantrum hostage. If you can, you might start with “I can’t work with you yelling like that. If you won’t stop, I’m going to step away for a bit,” before actually leaving, but honestly I wouldn’t fault you for just standing up and walking out silently. If she demands to know why, well, you’ve already talked about this behavior and nothing has changed.

    3. starfox*

      I’ve worked in some very toxic situations where I can’t believe I put up with certain things for so long but… this is CRAZY.

      When I read the title, I thought LW meant she could hear the bosses yelling at each other through the wall, but this…. WHAT?

  9. OlympiasEpiriot*


    Yup, you shouldn’t have to leave, but, a job search right now would probably give you options.

  10. Ama*

    As unfair as it seems that quitting a job you like might be the only solution, it’s probably worth considering that while your boss is clearly a huge problem, your company has allowed her to act like this for 3 years, so the company is at this point very clearly part of the problem. No functional company allows this kind of behaviour to continue for any length of time. Since I can’t imagine that the higher ups are unaware that this is happening, then you probably need to accept that management in general think this is an acceptable working environment for you and it’s probably worth at least considering other options. I’m sorry though. This sounds ridiculous.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Paired with the fact that apparently it’s somehow LW’s responsibility to manage her own manager’s emotions about processes (after 3 years!) this doesn’t seem like a normal place with a few quirks.

  11. AnonInCanada*

    I’m surprised Ms. Screams-A-Lot hasn’t been shown the door yet! Can’t you go over her boss’s head and address your concerns with someone higher up? Is there HR you can talk to? Certainly this is creating a toxic work environment that no one wants to hear, especially when you say it that way.

  12. Pomegranate*

    I would be tempted to walk out of the office and go straight next door to Grandboss letting them know the Boss is yelling at Grandboss through the wall right now. As much as possible, make it someone else’s problem.
    But also, job search if you can.

    1. ursula*

      This is legitimately decent advice.
      “Grandboss, Boss wants to talk to you.” [gestures at the wall from which yelling is heard]

    2. mf*

      The best thing to do is to march into Grand-Boss’s office *while* Boss is screaming in OP’s office. “Grand-Boss, I know you can hear that. Imagine how unpleasant and upsetting it is to have it happening in your own office. This is not OK, and I need you to fix it.”

      1. Gerry Keay*

        I tend to agree. It’s probably the most confrontational way to approach the situation while still being in the bounds of professionalism, but I honestly can’t imagine it being any more stressful that listening to someone screaming right next to your head.

  13. Koalafied*

    I am dying for some kind of explanation for this behavior even though I know there probably isn’t one. What is her end game? Like what is she hoping to accomplish that would require her to 1) scream, 2) at a wall that doesn’t provide any response, AND 3) in front of another person? Like, any two of those would be weird enough, but all three together takes it into the stratosphere of bizarre.

    1. Commenter*

      me too! like she wants to yell at her boss, but in a way that they KNOW she’s yelling at them and can hear (otherwise she’d go scream in her car, use her own office, or something), but that she doesn’t have to be in the same room as them? What on earth, how bizarre that this is OK for Grandboss for THEIR sake, not to mention how unfair it is to OP!

      1. Lydia*

        I was just thinking about this. There is some pretzel logic going on in the boss’ head. Probably something like she thinks she can claim ignorance, or plausible deniability. “I wasn’t yelling at you, I was yelling at LW” as if that would make it okay? Something is going on that makes the boss think as long as she is not in the actual room with Grand Boss, it is okay to be bonkers.

    2. Heffalump*

      Speaking of an endgame and what she hopes to accomplish assumes that she’s rational.

      Q: What do the inhabitants of Crazytown eat?
      A Bananacrackers.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m going with “Her accomplices are drilling a tunnel into the bank next door, and this is to cover up the occasional surge in noise.”

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        Oh god thank you for nearly having me choke on a jelly baby! This is now my favourite explanation for anybody yelling, including me :D

    4. redflagday701*

      My guess is that the boss gets a charge out of “performing” for her captive audience, OP. This is filling some kind of need for attention, and it’s only superficially about the actual work.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah honestly this strikes me as someone with deeply disregulated nervous system, where yelling is the only way she can get those good brain chemicals.

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      My best guesses are that (1) she has a captive audience in OP and/or (2) she gets to vent her spleen without boss trying to get a word in. She never has to be wrong! We all know that the one-sided fights we stage in our heads are flawless, full of perfectly cutting jabs and unimpeachable arguments, no? Maybe this is like that, but louder.

  14. Mid*

    Three years? This has been allowed to go on for THREE YEARS?? I mean, maybe it’s been less time because of remote working due to the panini, but still. I’d have been job hunting the second someone started using my office as their own amphitheater. Absolutely banana crackers.

  15. I should really pick a name*

    Is there any possible that the boss’s boss can’t hear through the wall and doesn’t even realize this is happening?
    Even if he’s not particularly effective, I think talking to him is the next step.

    1. Nanani*

      I was wondering this too – is the wall thick enough that Boss isn’t “pretending” but is -actually- unaware? Has LW given him a heads-up? Maybe Boss gets on the phone or something and honestly doesn’t know the yelling outside is aimed at him. Can’t hurt to bring it up.

  16. AnonManager*

    I left a job I loved because of a bad boss and grandboss that turned a job I loved and was really good at into something that was beyond stressful and unworkable. I still sometimes grapple with anger at how unfair it was that I was put in that situation where I felt like leaving was the only way forward to avoid a complete breakdown, when I could have stayed there happily my whole career and advanced. But that’s life and my new job, while maybe not quite as interesting, is soooo much better from a stress and pay and worklife balance perspective that it more than makes up for it.

  17. Ozzie*

    I would absolutely just stand up and leave – and make a very, very obvious show of it, like picking up your work and such, or grabbing your lunch, if she came in and started shouting. I don’t know that this is the most effective thing to do, especially because I don’t think she really experiences shame around this behavior, but it IS petty… and at least removes you from the situation. If it starts to impact your work enough, you have a pretty clear (and reasonable!) explanation as to WHY. But… being more direct will at least be more, erm, professional. If HR is an option, I would go there, personally. But yeah…. job hunting seems also like the right action, if no one is willing to deal with this. Alas, people usually quit over bad managers…

  18. Dona Florinda*

    I’m sorry, there’s no way all of this is happening (the yelling to the boss through a third-party wall! The boss’ inertia! The adjustment period three years in! The gossip!) in a functional company. I think OP’ company might have bigger problems and they just got used to the craziness.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, I agree 100% with this sentiment. I’m also curious if Boss yells in person at Grandboss sometimes too, or just always and forever through LW’s wall?

  19. Commenter*

    There’s a phrase that gets thrown around at my job a lot – something like ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’

    1. Antilles*

      That’s a common saying.
      But in this case, it’s a company that apparently is totally cool with someone screaming through a wall (!) at a superior for literally years on end. This goes way beyond a single bad Boss and is firmly into the overall corporate culture being a disaster.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately and I think I’ve only quit a job once because of the manager. I’ve left plenty of jobs that had good managers.

      In this case, the manager is the deciding factor for sure, but the company itself seems a bit off if this is being allowed for so long.

  20. Jean*

    This is a good example of how a grossly dysfunctional workplace can warp your sense of what’s OK and normal. There are better jobs out there, OP. Don’t let this one become your benchmark.

    1. Heffalump*

      Give your boss a length of masking tape and tell her to put it over her mouth. I kid.

  21. Anastasia*

    LW, it’s worth taking into account something that AAM has mentioned a lot before: being in a toxic work environment slowly morphs your viewpoint on work and your perception of what is and isn’t acceptable. There’s a not insignificant chance that staying here could start to negatively impact the way you interact with work environments in a way that could be a detriment to you at your next job. I’m really sorry! This is a very unfair situation and I honestly have no idea why your manager’s boss (or anyone else above her) is just letting this happen, it’s bizarre.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes! OP, if you haven’t seen it before, look up the letter “I bit my coworker” from July 12, 2017 for a very clear example of how a toxic workplace warps your sense of normal.

      One commenter downthread recommended yelling back at your boss, but I don’t think you want to become a person who yells (or bites!) as a problem-solving strategy. Seconding Anastasia in that it’s an unfair situation, but leaving might be your best course of action.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, and the worst of it was that she wrote back to say that she decided that it wasn’t THAT bad. And besides all of her friends have terribly boring jobs which is just as bad as a toxic workplace. I was really sad.

  22. Magenta+Sky*

    Your manager isn’t the problem, her boss is. It shouldn’t be necessary for you to do *anything* to put an end to a subordinate *yelling* at her boss. The first time that happened, her boss should have shut it down hard. From the sounds of it, that should have been the last time because she no longer worked there.

    1. Anonym*

      They both are, and that combined with the 3 year span is what makes this unsalvageable. The yelling should have happened once, at most. Grandboss should have intervened then (even if it wasn’t clear he was the target, he must have heard the yelling). But boss is just so wildly, bizarrely out of line that she bears the brunt of the WTF.

      1. Lydia*

        Yeah, this isn’t a one of them problem. This is both of them being incredibly dysfunctional and toxic.

        1. Magenta+Sky*

          The problem is the person who can fix the issue. That’s not the manager, that’s the manager’s boss. The manager might be the cause, but the manager’s boss has the solution, and when he doesn’t use it, he’s the real problem.

          1. Observer*

            Well, they could either fix the issue. No one is making the manager act like a caricature of a spoiled brat of a toddler. SHE has the power to change her behavior.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This is an expression Alison uses a lot and I’ve adopted it in my everyday parlance. It sure covers the gamut.

  23. hayling*

    There’s a reason that people say “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”

  24. Mangled metaphor*

    You should yell in a workplace in only three scenarios: to warn of imminent danger (“Get out of the way of this runaway fork-lift!”); to get someone to call the emergency services while you are providing first aid (“You! Call an ambulance!”); or upon discovering a fire requiring evacuation (“FIRE!”)
    What these have in common is that they are immediate emergencies requiring an immediate and urgent reaction.

    So, in this case the immediate and urgent reaction should probably be a job search.
    None of what has been described here constitutes normal or an emergency. But OP should get out as soon as safely possible.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Or “wow, your new hairstyle is amazing!” when you’re the only two people there but the person with the new hairstyle is way across the other side of the room and can’t hear you unless you raise your voice.

  25. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP’s boss yells through a wall. OP’s grandboss uses plausible deniability to claim he has no idea what’s going on. Maybe OP should keep the grandboss’ number on speed-dial. Or do a tin-can-and-string telephone system through the ceiling tiles. This is absolutely bonkers.

    OP, you say that your grandboss approves of your performance and you don’t have a contentious relationship, but you’re uncomfortable discussing the situation with him. If I were you, I’d take a deep breath and say something to him. All it takes is 20 seconds to get over the hump. Even just a matter-of-fact “What should I do when Karen comes into my office and yells at you through the wall?”. If it makes *him* uncomfortable, then so be it. Dealing with problems like your boss is why he gets paid $$.

    1. BA*

      Yes to this.

      You don’t want a contentious relationship, but pointing out to your boss’s boss that yelling isn’t acceptable – especially when it is yelling in your office through your office wall – isn’t contentious. You’re just pointing out that something is happening that is causing you to not be able to work effectively.

      Also, does that relationship really matter? I know it does in the grand scheme of things. You want to have a good relationship, but if the grandboss gets itchy about the issue being raised, that’s on them. They clearly have allowed a bridge that is burning to continue to burn. If contentious is the outcome, they made it that way.

    2. Goody*

      More technologically current than tin-and-string: Speakerphone call to Grandboss’ extension.

  26. cubone*

    I’m sure Alison’s advice is great but I literally can’t seem to read beyond the line: “Whenever she gets herself into a fight with her boss, she comes into my office and yells at him through my wall while I am trying to complete my work”

    What. On. Earth.

    1. Fae Kamen*

      When I got to that line, I did a double-take. I had just assumed the title meant, ” **I hear** my manager yell at her boss through my office wall”—like OP was uncomfortable listening to an argument in another room—and didn’t think much of it. This scenario did not even register as a possibility.

  27. RJ*

    OP, I am so sorry that you find yourself in this situation. I agree with what others have said – your manager is toxic, but her boss should have shut down this behavior by now. It is not conducive to a healthy work environment to have one employee come into another employee’s office to yell at the boss. Crank up your job search. I don’t think either of these people are apt to change without a major kick to the butt.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Just saw it, I thought it was an odd shaped super ball, didn’t bother the Canada geese though.

  28. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, I suspect that the manager is only the most obvious example of dysfunction, and that if she suddenly reformed tomorrow you would realize there were more signs. (This sign is standing in your office screaming–of course it crowds out other signs.)

    That your grandboss seems to have adopted the missing stair method is not encouraging.

    I would ask you to consider whether you are being tied to her in people’s minds?

    1. sacados*

      Yeah, the fact that this behavior has been allowed to go on this long… and Screaming Manager’s boss just “pretends not to hear it” ?!
      Even if they jumped into action and fired Screaming Manager tomorrow, I’m willing to bet it wouldn’t magically fix things because there’s a lot more about this company and/or OP’s grandboss that’s dysfunctional.

  29. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    OP I worked in a very gossipy place before. Here are actual lines I have used to shut down people trying to tell me what someone else supposedly said about me.

    I don’t listen to gossip.
    Other people’s opinions don’t pay my bills.
    When *insert name here* tells me His/her/their self, then I’ll worry about it.
    Why on earth would you repeat something like that?
    That’s gossip and I’m not going to listen to it.
    Gossip says more about the speaker then who they are talking about.
    “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” (actually I got snarky once and then said “Guess which one you are being right now” to that last line)

    It very quickly taught people that I was were gossip goes to die. And they took the water cooler talk out of my hearing distance and left me in peace and glorious quiet.

    1. Purple Cat*

      When *insert name here* tells me His/her/their self, then I’ll worry about it.

      I really like this one. You’re not getting into whether or not you believe what they’re saying, you’re just saying you want to hear any concerns straight from the source.

      1. 1LFTW*

        I’ve also used “If it it’s truly important to *insert name*, they can tell me directly.”

    2. All the Words*

      In my much younger days I was the subject of a lot of office gossip. Specifically, my sexual orientation. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic and being “out” at the office (even for women) wasn’t terribly safe. I refused to discuss my dating habits at work. People wondered. And people would make sure to tell me that people were wondering and speculating.

      My response was always the same: “If I’m the most interesting topic they can find to talk about, I hope they have fun.” That usually had an effect similar to poking a small hole in an inner tube. The drama they were hoping to provoke just went flat.

  30. SJJ*

    “ But how clear were you when you addressed it previously? If you softened your message in any way, you could try a very, very blunt message this time.”

    To be honest – if someone walks into an office just to scream at a wall.. all is lost. No amount of bluntness will matter.

    Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate

    1. Lydia*

      I kind of agree. At that point, the only thing you can do is go a little bit bananas yourself and demand they leave your office. Firm voice, “get out of my office right now.”

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I’d pay good money to see the yelling boss be confronted by a shushing old fashioned stereotypical librarian. Think old spinster staring in disproval over the tops of her glasses as she shushes Yelling Boss.

        1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

          Ooooh great idea! Maybe OP could hang up ‘no yelling’ or ‘shush!’ signs in her office and with a ‘shhhhhh!’ point to those whenever her manager comes in for another yelling session? She’d probably need quite a number of those but still…

            1. All the Words*

              Of course I would never do it, but the temptation to give a short blast from an air horn the second the yelling started would be very very strong.

              “Oh, is that an inappropriate level of noise in an office setting?”

  31. Doctors Whom*

    All of the management here is toxic. Because the *first* time the manager did this “scream through the wall” thing would have been the *last* time, in any healthy workplace. The fact that grandboss did not stop this immediately tells OP all they need to know about this workplace. Grandboss is complicit.

    Sometimes bad actors get through screenings. It happens. No one asks in an interview “are you going to scream at people through the walls?” But the fact that it happens is no reason for it to continue.

    OP, there will be other workplaces where you can do great work you enjoy, without this nonsense.

  32. BlackBellamy*

    I think the OP should also start yelling at the same time her boss is yelling, repeating the same thing her boss is yelling and keeping direct eye contact with her boss. Something is going to give! The after the boss retreats in confusion, go into their office and start yelling at the wall, pick a wall with no one on the other side, maybe the wall with the parking lot or the fire stairs. Keep it short, yell out some nonsense, like “going forward optimize operational synergies!” and then go back to your own office to work. Repeat every time it happens. Any questions just be like “following a great leader!” and make sure to yell that out as well. Accept the promotion and then it will be your turn to yell at the wall for real. Check here for a frightened complaint from your future subordinate.

    1. Observer*

      I hope this is meant sarcastically. But if it’s for real, that’s a really, really bad idea.

    1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      Don’t you wonder how some people manage to stay employed? I mean, I’d get it if this started with “I work for a small company and my boss is a niece of one of the owners. My grandboss is one of the other owners.” Then you are kind of like “family companies can be horrible” – but this sounds like boss was hired from outside….what sort of blackmail materials does she have?

    2. 1LFTW*

      Yes. I just. What??? WHY???

      What does this person hope to accomplish by:
      1) yelling at her supervisor
      2) through a wall
      3) from someone else’s office?

      I’m imagining the normal version of this letter. The “normal” version of this letter. It would be “my boss yells at my grandboss from the hallway, and I can hear everything because my office is right next to his, and grandboss doesn’t do anything about it”. That still wouldn’t be normal. But this? This made my brain evaporate.

  33. redflagday701*

    I hope the update is that OP talks to the grandboss, he responds by sharing all the nasty things the boss has said about OP, and then he starts coming into OP’s office too, to yell at the boss through the wall.

    And ultimately, they ask OP to officiate at their wedding.

  34. Kate*

    I’d bet good money that the “nasty things” this boss is telling her are being said behind her back are exaggerated and fabricated.

  35. Critical Rolls*

    Three years. Three. Years! THREE! YEARS!!! This behavior would not be tolerated for three *minutes* in a remotely functional workplace. Please really take that on board. This is not okay, it’s not normal, it’s not even in the zone of normal not-okay stuff. Your boss is off the rails and your grandboss is a gutless wonder. Take this to HR if you can, but don’t let the unfairness of the situation keep you from preserving your mental health and whatever might be left of your sense of workplace norms.

  36. Save Roe*

    I’d whip out my phone and film the yelling. If asked why I’d say, “I guess this is why everyone doesn’t like me.”

    If you’re good at your job you deserve a better job.

    1. mf*

      I actually kind of like the idea of filming this. It might scare the Boss into stopping if she realizes, “Yikes, it could really damage my reputation to have this behavior documented.”

    2. Tea and Cake*

      Honestly, I think recording it and going to HR with the video evidence would be my next move. Clearly boss and grandboss are ignoring how horrible this all is and are both in need of reporting to HR.

      Does this constitute a threatening environment? In my mind, yes, but I think it varies by state, assuming this is happening in the US. Perhaps HR and legal can weigh in after seeing the video of what LW is being subjected to.

    3. Goody*

      I very much like this idea, as video gives you incontrovertible evidence. Just make sure you’re in a one-party consent state before you do so, OP.

  37. Other options*

    Can you look for other jobs within the company – if u like to stay with the company?

  38. Slow Gin Lizz*

    OP, if the reason you aren’t comfortable going to Grandboss is that Grandboss is also terrible, then you should definitely be getting out of this house of bees. But if Grandboss is a good human being and a decent boss and all you wanted was permission to approach him, you definitely have my permission to do so. But if nothing else, you should at least see what jobs are out there that you might be interested in. Even just doing interviews could change your perspective on how much you do or don’t want to quit your current job.

  39. GeekFit*

    1) You can’t fix other people’s bad behavior- particularly when you have no authority over them

    2) 3 years into a new job isn’t ‘struggling to adjust’ to a new company, this is stubbornness to adjust to a different way of working.

    OP’s manager’s boss needs to be the one to shut this whole thing down-nothing OP can do here other than set consistent boundaries. Yikes.

  40. I'm Done*

    I know this is no consolation just commiseration, but I can tell you that in the last 10 years, I changed jobs four times and all of them were because my managers sucked. When your boss is terrible and you can’t take it any more that’s what it usually will boil down to. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of terrible managers within the federal service.

  41. Everything Bagel*

    The thing that is more bizarre to me than the boss yelling through the wall is the grand boss ignoring it. What the hell? I cannot imagine a place where this would fly. How does this person sit in an office and hear his employee yelling at him through the wall and not come out and say, “What are you doing? Stop yelling!” Who are these people?

    1. Nanani*

      I hope he isn’t pretending not to hear it but actually doesn’t hear it. The wall may be thicker than LW realizes or maybe boss immediately gets into a call or leaves his office after meeting with Yellager or something.

      1. 1LFTW*

        Or boss is hard of hearing. Manager might even know that that, and has decided OP’s office is a great place to yell because Grandboss won’t see or hear.

  42. Meghan*

    If leaving is out of the option for you, I’d try a handful of things.
    1) lock your office door.
    2) right now, the grandboss is pretending not to hear the yelling, or whatever. Make it his actual problem. When she starts yelling in your office, go to his and ask him to deal with it.
    3) talk to HR, like, yesterday if you have one.
    4) Do not engage even in the tiniest amount over the gossip she brings to you. Grey rock this lady.

    Good luck, OP.

    1. Meghan*

      oh! AND make a record of everything! So that if you have an HR, you can back it up with data and say, she was in my office on X date and yelled for X minutes.

      Though, honestly, you shouldn’t have to do *any* of this if your direct manager was sane and the one above her had a spine.

      1. Observer*

        oh! AND make a record of everything! So that if you have an HR, you can back it up with data and say, she was in my office on X date and yelled for X minutes.


        Also, because let’s get real. In a workplace *THIS* dysfunctional, there is a good chance that you could get fired for reacting the “wrong” way one day, or someone will decide to scapegoat you for your boss’ behavior – although to be clear IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT OR RESPONSIBILITY!, or someone does some housekeeping and you get swept out with the trash. Or you may find that things get to a point where you simply can no longer deal with this and have to leave with nothing else lined up. In any of these cases, you are going to want to collect unemployment. You’ll need the documentation of this situation to prove that you were not fired for cause / you were put into such an impossible situation that no reasonable person could have been expected to deal with it.

  43. Tired Social Worker*

    Can you just lock your door so she can’t come in when you are in there working?

  44. Scriveaaa*

    In what world does it take THREE YEARS to adjust to a new workplace enough that you don’t yell at your boss? Wow.

  45. CaptainMouse*

    How does OP know that Grandboss is actually in the office? Maybe every time boss starts yelling through the wall they just leave.

  46. laowai_gaijin*

    LW, you need to tell her in the moment when she starts her yelling that you cannot work when she’s doing this, and it needs to stop now. I mean, I get that this situation is somewhere beyond merely screwed up and it’s hard to know how to respond, but this is truly beyond anything you should have to put up with. Tell her to stop it. Are the possible consequences of that really any worse than what you’re putting up with already?

  47. Veryanon*

    If your boss is a screamer (and I’ve had that unfortunate experience), there’s really not much you can do beyond asking them to stop, escalating it up the chain to HR/senior management, and then leaving if nothing changes. I’m sorry, LW.

  48. What She Said*

    If you really don’t want to leave this is what I would do:
    – get up and walk away every time she starts venting or yelling, no words, just get up and walk away, use that moment to get some water/a snack, etc.
    – ignore her, don’t respond, any response negative or positive will encourage her to continue, so no response is the way to go unless she is calm and it’s work appropriate

    Good luck!

  49. No longer in crazytown*

    Oh I am dying to know if this is my old boss now in a newer company. Screamed and cussed at plenty of people, including her boss, over the phone (he was in a different location) without seeming to face any consequences, gossiped about her staff to her staff. Had a weird tic of doing a kind of maniacal laugh after most sentences. I must have been giving her some kind of look once in a one-on-one and she said, [weird maniacal laugh] “I know you think I’m on drugs” [weird maniacal laugh].

    1. No longer in crazytown*

      She screamed at me once, at length, in the cubicle farm in front of teammates and others not directly in our team, for something that she had misunderstood me to have done. I was so surprised, I just kind of gave no response at all. Because I wasn’t in the wrong, I didn’t feel very affected by it, if that makes sense, and just looked at her weird. When she was done screaming I just told her what actually happened. (If I had actually done something wrong, I would have been mortified).

      Some from our team were really into walking to the farmers market when it was in the city once a week and I always bought apples. The day after the screaming incident, she brought me a brand of apples that she thought was really nice and some flowers and apologized. She said, laughing as always, that I was an absolute brick wall and she wouldn’t be yelling at me again.

  50. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I so want to give LW a squeaky toy to squeeze every time the boss comes in and does any of these behaviors. Or one of those oh-oooga car horns.

    1. Trek*

      I love this idea. A spray bottle would be awesome to but an annoying noise is great.

    2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Air Horn. I got one at the $1Tree once. Used it on bickering teens once. The confused looks on their face and the glorious quiet that followed was priceless.

  51. Goody*

    What is *less* uncomfortable – having your work constantly interrupted by a manager who seems to think she’s still in high school, or talking to your grand-boss/ HR about the situation so they can deal with her?

    This is not going to change until someone makes it clear to your manager that her behaviors are not appropriate. And that is unlikely to happen until you speak up about how much she is interfering with your ability to work. Or until you quit in frustration.

    1. Goody*

      Also, I somehow mis-read the part about Boss’ gossip. I thought she was dumping random crap on you, not specifically stuff that was allegedly said about you.
      Please go talk to the coworker who she claims is bad-mouthing you and clear the air. And if, as I suspect, Boss is making it up, then this is additional material to discuss with GrandBoss and HR.

  52. Anonosaurus*

    I think the sense that “it’s not fair I have to leave because of these people” is understandable but ultimately self defeating. It’s not fair, but on the other hand there are other jobs out there where you can do good work for decent pay and won’t have to put up with this rubbish, and they’ll still be there – so who is the winner in the end, really? It’s you. Get that resume updated like yesterday!

  53. learnedthehardway*

    This is just the most bizarre situation. I honestly would have a hard time not laughing out loud – mostly because that’s what happens when I am under stress in bizarre situations. But I know it is no laughing matter for the OP.

    While you don’t deserve to be pushed out of a job you’re otherwise happy about, OP, you also DO deserve a sane work environment, where your manager doesn’t repeat nasty gossip about you to you (if the gossip is even real – keep in mind that it might not be – I mean, consider the source here, right?) and who tries to make you complicit in her yelling at her own manager by doing so in your office (because that sounds like what she is trying to do to).

    Is it at all possible that your grand-boss is deaf? That’s the only scenario in which I can understand this situation being a dysfunction of your manager, and not a company/management-wide dysfunction.

    Either way, you deserve a more professional environment to work in, and you should polish up your resume and go look for it.

  54. Free Meerkats*

    If you want to make another try at changing her yelling, try this.

    The next time it happens, wait for her to be taking a breath and very quietly say, “Jane?” Keep repeating this until she responds (probably by yelling at you, so be ready for that). Then, in a very quiet and calm voice tell her that she “must stop yelling in your office. It makes it impossible for me to work.” No soft pedaling, no prevarication, just “I can’t work like this.” Yeah, she’s your boss, but you have autonomy here, as well. The key is the very quiet and calm voice, no matter how much you’re trembling inside.

    I don’t have a lot of hope that it will make any lasting difference; and you don’t have to do this unless you want to make one more try. But one more try is all you should attempt, if any. If you can manage it, pack up all your personal stuff and take it home. Then the next time she goes off, grab your coat and bag, walk into the big boss’s office, and quit on the spot.

  55. jpalm*

    Is anyone else picturing the boss as Lucille Bluth yelling “that B*TCH” at Lucille Austero from across the hall?

  56. Happy*

    Jiminy!! Is it possible grand-boss is deaf and can’t hear the yelling?
    I would be tempted to post this question/answer/thread everywhere in the company and then quit. But then, I’m at a place of not needing the reference. Soooo sorry OP!

  57. BA*

    Go in to grandboss and calmly state, “I really like my job. I think you see that I do a good job. I want to continue working here. That said, I do not like the environment that has been allowed to exist, in which my boss yells at her boss – you – through the wall of my office. The relationship you two have is yours. But I’m unable to be productive and unable to be happy doing my work when someone is in my office screaming. I’d like to ask that this be addressed. I cannot and will not continue to allow this to occur in my workspace.”

    If immediate action is not taken, take the first exit ramp you’re able to. And as others have said, as you’re waiting for that exit ramp, don’t hesitate to walk out of your office when this occurs. Get a coffee. Hell, go find a bar and grab a beer.

    Please stay well LW, and keep us posted.

    1. mf*

      This is a very good script. Your point about immediate action is key. If Grand-Boss doesn’t act immediately, the chances of him ever addressing this problem are astronomically low.

  58. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    The passing on of nasty things a co-worker said would drive me bonkers, but the yelling at her boss through walls would have me laughing hysterically.

  59. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    Sorry, OP, but your workplace is full of bees. Activate your exit plan and leave as soon as you can.

  60. Purple Cat*

    Oh LW, I feel for you. The self-blame here though is off the charts, so I’ll say this nice and loud – NONE OF THIS IS YOUR FAULT! You DESERVE a new job. Working someplace new that isn’t dysfunctional and respects you is doing yourself a service, it is NOT a punishment.

  61. Annie Mouse*

    Oh, LW, I’ve been there. Boss and coworker would constantly scream at each other, through walls or in boss’s office. Both would vent to the rest of the team about how horrible the other was. Boss was one of two co-owners, so no grandboss, but other co-owner would jump in and scream at boss, defending coworker. Even when you’re just trying to tune it out and work, it messes with your concept of what is normal. I ended up stuck there for a year and am amazed at how much happier and better I felt once I got away. I later found out coworker won a lawsuit against boss.

    You said you don’t think you should have to leave. You shouldn’t have to, but I hope you will anyway. Obviously your boss sucks, but so does grandboss and the company in general if this is still going on. You deserve to be someplace better.

  62. DC*

    You could try physical cues.
    1) When boss comes in your office and starts yelling, stand up, put your arms out, and usher her towards the door saying “I’m in the middle of something and can’t concentrate with this yelling.” Or “I’ll need to stop you there. You will need to address your concerns directly with Grandboss.” Then close the door. Repeat as necessary.
    2) When she starts gossiping, hold your hand up in a “stop” gesture combined with Allison’s suggested script, such as “I’ll need to stop you there. This is not something I want to hear.”

    But really, you should not be subjected to this behavior in a work environment, and this shouldn’t be your problem to solve.

  63. bunniferous*

    The minute she started yelling I would go to the restroom. EVERY time.

    (But yes, talk to grandboss and/0r HR. This is ridiculous. )

  64. soontoberetired*

    My company’s HR would have intervened long before this, I think. I know they intervened when a director regularly yelled at her team publicly. the director thought someone tattled, but HR found out about it because everyone heard the yelling! Eventually, that director was terminated, but it took longer that it should. but she did stop yelling at her team.

  65. ResuMAYDAY*

    Is it at all possible for you to work from home? Even three days a week would make a big difference.

  66. Observer*

    OP, you say that you “don’t feel comfortable discussing it with him.: Why is that? It’s worth thinking about that. Because if your grand boss is in the least bit rational, it’s not something that will reflect poorly on you.

    If you have any reason to think that your grandboss would view you negatively for this, that is another good reason to start looking for a new job. Do it FOR YOU, not your boss or grandboss.

  67. What a way to make a living*

    This isn’t about taking time to acclimatise to a new job! I take longer than I’d like to settle into a new job. I take time to learn the way things work, find out who leads on what, remember where the printer is and how it works, etc.

    I don’t scream at my boss (!) through someone else’s wall, repeatedly. That is just a person who behaves in a wildly unacceptable way.

    Maybe you have become too acclimatised to this job yourself. It seems like you think this type of behaviour is far more normal and acceptable than it is. The tone of your letter makes you seem amazingly patient.

    Would it not be possible to find similar work at another organisation? I bet if you did, you’d realise that all sorts of things about this organisation were, in fact, completely beyond the pale.

    The fact that she does this constantly and nothing happens makes me think the whole company is a mess. Even doing this once would get more people into a serious situation, possibly fired.

    You deserve better. So much better.

  68. Kella*

    As much as I hate to say it, OP, there may be things you can do to reduce the impact of the yelling on you. But at the end of the day, you work at a company where someone is yelling *at their boss* on a regular basis, thinks this is perfectly professional behavior, and their boss is doing nothing to solve this extremely obvious, over the top problem. Oh, also where there is someone who says nasty things about you specifically, behind your back. That’s a minimum of three highly toxic, unprofessional people regularly impacting your ability to work. If no one is pushing back on them, then it’s likely there are more. None of those problems are ones that *you* can change and it doesn’t sound like they are likely to change on their own. This doesn’t seem like a salvageable situation.

  69. SloanGhost*

    She isn’t “struggling to adapt.” It’s been three years. She has at this point FAILED to adapt (or, given the lack of consequences from her own management…maybe this is what “adapted” looks like here!). Go forward with the assumption that she is never going to change in any significant way.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      This is so true. Yelling isn’t part of struggling to adapt, either. Struggling to adapt would be not wanting to take on the new company’s processes because she likes the old company’s processes better. Yelling at all, much less in such a bizarre way, is just being an asshole.

  70. Phil*

    Just when you think you’ve read it all, something this bizarre shows up. At most places I’ve worked even a raised voice would be out of bounds, but yelling? WOW.

  71. Jay*

    Next time she bring up Old Job, just say:
    “WOW, that place sounds awesome! No wonder they got rid of YOU!”

  72. eveningsummerbreeze*

    The second time she did this, I would’ve yelled back at her to get out of my office and would’ve done the same thing each time until she either stopped or fired me. I have no patience for idiocy like this and crazy people don’t intimidate me.

  73. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

    For starters, surely you immediately exit the room with your handbag every time the in-room shouting happens. The vile gossip–how do you not say “Enough! no more.” ad infinitum?

    The rest, I am speechless.

  74. Erin*

    Your manager yells through your office wall at her manager. That is….horrifying. Tbh, I can’t imagine not being incredibly embarrassed about yelling through a wall at someone, and spreading gossip. Especially as someone in a leadership role. Yikes. She seems pretty clueless to how inappropriate her behavior is, which is sad.

    Since it sounds like Grandboss isn’t fazed by this woman’s behavior, a red flag to HR needs to be sent. If HR is not super responsive, can you move to another office, hopefully somewhere involving an inconvenient walk/elevator ride for your boss?

  75. milksnake*

    I have no advice, I can only commiserate… My work-life is very similar. Someone send help.

  76. Aphra*

    I’m in the UK and I know that different laws can apply from state to state in the U.S. so I don’t know whether I’m misunderstanding what constitutes a hostile workplace. I see two issues here that I’d argue could render a workplace hostile: First, subjecting LW to Bad Manager’s repeated yelling and especially as BM (not deliberate but hey, if the abbreviation fits…) actively gets up from her desk, leaves her own office and goes into LW’s office to yell at another person, forcing LW to witness it. Is it so that LW will be intimidated and not want to become the object of the yelling? Who knows. Secondly, making a point of telling one subordinate the bad things another subordinate allegedly said about them is just horrible. Whether it’s to foment trouble between the two subordinates or for any other reason, it’s not acceptable. In my view, both these activities by BM (still not sorry about this abbreviation) constitute bullying and are causing LW unnecessary stress. I’d be interested to know whether others can clarify the hostile work environment issue.

    1. Wisteria*

      A hostile work environment in the US is one in which the employee is subject to discriminatory words or actions based on something protected by the EEOC, like their gender, race, national origin, or age over 40. It is different from the colloquial use of “hostile” to mean aggressive or antagonistic.

      1. Aphra*

        Thank you Wisteria, that makes perfect sense and is much the same here. I appreciate your taking the time to explain.

  77. Mim*

    Oh god. This is worse than when I worked a really terrible retail job, and the owner/manager once had a screaming match with a customer while I was stuck in the middle at a cash register. And the owner totally escalated it to that point. I don’t even remember what the customer’s problem or complaint was, because it was completely unmemorable until the owner’s ego was hurt and he completely lost it.

    Honestly I should have just joined the customer’s side (I don’t care what it was) and then left that place forever. But the fear or not having rent $ keeps people in some pretty terrible situations.

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