update: my boss says it’s “not her place” to say anything to my smelly, messy coworker

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss said it’s “not her place” to say anything to a smelly, messy coworker? Here’s the update.

Even though logically going to HR is the right move in this type of situation, I think I asked because I knew that it was going to hurt me here. And oh boy did it hurt me.

It started out well, as HR was extremely receptive and took the complaint seriously. I even saw one of the reps visibly retch when I described the unsanitary situations I had to deal with. I did take commenter’s advise and framed it as a COVID safety issue and I believe that is why they took it so seriously. I saw them put a meeting on Kate’s calendar less than an hour after I met with them.

However, that’s when things went downhill. Kate does NOT like working with people who challenge her, often to the point of her own embarrassment. As for what actually happened, my future at the company was destroyed due to that complaint but I have to give some more details before I get into that. I know that retaliation is illegal, but Kate went about it in such a shady way that it could never have been proven as retaliation. She is widely disliked in the company but her manager, William, is such a coward that any feedback about her sub-par performance is never acted on. William puts on a friendly, commiserating front, but is so scared of confrontation that he will not address problems, even safety issues.

After her meeting with HR, Kate pulled me into a meeting and gave me a passive aggressive description of her thoughts on what HR told her she needed to do. I’m sure somehow she thought it was an apology, HR told me they were requiring her to apologize to me for the unsafe COVID environment, but it wasn’t an apology and she expressed no remorse. Things got slightly better with Pippa, though only in relation to COVID safety issues. The rest of her cleanliness problems did not change. One thing that came out in the comments, and I realized I should have included in my original letter, is that Pippa is a heavy marijuana user. I didn’t want to mention it initially because we live in a place where it is legal and I believe it should be so everywhere. However, anything in over-abundance can be harmful. I don’t think people should use while driving, and certainly not at work as I believe Pippa does. I should have thought more about the smell issue and realized that that likely comes from stale marijuana smoke and the smell desensitization from being constantly surrounded by it. It also most definitely explains her bad breath. One commenter thought I was being mean, and as much as I wanted to ignore it, I just have to point out that blunt women have been called mean since the beginning of time and if that could stop aaanytime soon the world would be a better, more equal place. Also, to the people who said they didn’t know you had to wash coats, they certainly don’t need to be washed often but definitely do when they get to the stained and flakey (ugh) state that Pippa’s was. One commenter, ‘jake peralta’, went into what may be some other causes of Pippa’s behavior and I have to say thank you because it did make me a bit more understanding of other people. I think about it often.

As far as I can tell, Kate never addressed Pippa’s behavioral issues that I described in the comments either. Stuff like Pippa giving me the silent treatment when asking her to give me more personal space. I guess Kate thought that was ‘not her place’ either. Some people suggested that I just let the workflow stop where Pippa had dropped it. Unfortunately, our work was pretty visible internally and if things weren’t done they would reflect badly on both of us. I tried to explain that, and how badly it was affecting me, numerous times to Kate but surprise surprise she did nothing.

Shortly after this all went down, the company furloughed a large percentage of its employees due to COVID. Kate jumped at the chance to get rid of me and furloughed me over Pippa, though I had three times as much as experience as Pippa and neither of them fully knew how to run the department. This caused…a rather large outcry among other employees that gave me some vindication I desperately needed. Pippa’s incompetence and general ickyness was well-known and Kate’s decision was questioned by people at numerous levels in the company. I never protested the issue because I knew there was no talking to her, but I got an email from William stating that nothing was going to change and I “needed to stop”. I pointed out that none of the criticism of the decision came from me or was requested by me and he just hemmed and hawed and never acknowledged that he maybe (definitely) had the power to reverse Kate’s decision. I went on furlough and suffered a massive blow to my ego and mental health. People who still work there were giving me constant updates of how badly Kate and Pippa were handling things. While that made me feel a bit of schadenfreude, I don’t think that emotion is healthy and I had to ask for the updates to stop. I never got invited back to the job and have been searching since.

I’m now back in school, at one of the top 5 universities in the world (!!!), to make up for the trajectory I lost by being furloughed from that company. I am still really hurt by how everything went down but have a lovely therapist that has helped me work through the issues. If the pandemic has thought me anything, it’s that some things don’t matter nearly as much as they used to. A good meal, a nice glass of wine, and the vindication to know that I am doing what I can to get past a painful situation will suffice for the time being. Also, I know a lot more about middle management disfunction now and will never let myself be stuck in that kind of situation again. Sure, my savings is taking a hit, but I would rather be slightly more poor than lose years of my life to workplace stress.

I’ll end on a slightly funny note. I recently realized that Kate has blocked my main Instagram page, but still follows my dog’s account. I hope people have the same “man blinking in disbelief” GIF reaction that I did.

Update to the update:

LinkedIn has let me know that multiple executive-level employees have left the company in the last 6 months. It just shows that if there is disfunction in one area of a company, it is likely present in others too.

{ 135 comments… read them below }

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Same old story where managers punish the person pointing out the dysfunction, which appears to be more painful for the manager than just ignoring said dysfunction. Some people truly cannot deal with managerial tasks. Or change. Or assertive boundaries.
      You will continue to rise, OP.
      Clearly Kate, Pippa, and William have dug their own graves.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        The weird part is that these people — in most of this type of case, not just this one — seem to be perfectly comfortable having confrontations and being firm with the whistleblowers!!! I could understand it if they had no ability to cope with confronting anyone, but it’s as if the only people they are afraid to speak bluntly with, give instructions to, and even discipline, are the ones alerting them to outrageous problem employees.

        I don’t understand at all why, if they can do all that to the whistleblowers, they can’t also and equally do it to the problem employees in the first place.

        1. My Favorite Thing*

          I personally think those pointing out the dysfunction are not, well, dysfunctional. Confronting them is “safer” and less dramatic than correcting the person causing the problem.

          It’s the path of least resistance. :(

          1. Migraine Month*

            Very true. Add to this that everyone has learned to work around the problematic person, especially if they have been there for years. I’ve heard the metaphor that if you’re in a boat with someone who keeps rocking the boat, everyone else in the boat learns to counterbalance them. As a result, the new person who refuses to help counterbalance the boat-rocker seems like the problem.

      2. Jean*

        ‘Kate, Pippa, and William’? Anyone else see it? The story is the thing that smells.

        1. Morgan*

          It’s pretty standard on letters here to use themed aliases. Game of Thrones was fashionable for a while. It’s not an indicator that the story is fictional.

        2. Unaccountably*

          Pretty sure we all saw it, yes. No one who writes to Allison uses real names, nor should they.

        3. Kella*

          You must be new here. Names of fictional characters are always used in letters, often stemming from the same fictional franchise, and many of the same names get repeated between stories. Also, Alison has a rule for commenters to assume the stories are true, rather than looking for reasons they could be fake.

    2. pancakes*

      Yes! What in the what is going on there? Great to read that the letter writer is out of whatever it is.

  1. Duke Flapjack*


    It may seem like a bad thing OP, but you managed to get yourself into a better position. You’ll be better off staying away from this hive of misery.

    1. Elsie*

      So sorry to hear you were furloughed but your company sounds like a terrible place to work. I had an experience being treated badly by a terrible boss and it affected my mental health too. But now I’m in a much better job, have built back my confidence and earned a good reputation in my new workplace, and am ultimately so glad I’m no longer at my previous company. Wishing you many successes and hope to hear a future update of how you have a much better job that you enjoy.

      1. Momma Bear*

        And on the minor plus side, being furloughed is easier to explain to the next employer than being fired. It’s not a fun situation to be in, but I’d rather be able to say I was laid off/furloughed which is less about you and more about the company.

  2. Goldenrod*

    “One commenter thought I was being mean, and as much as I wanted to ignore it, I just have to point out that blunt women have been called mean since the beginning of time and if that could stop aaanytime soon the world would be a better, more equal place.”

    TOTALLY agree with this! I’ve also been called mean in these comments, just for directly sharing my opinion. I don’t know what the point of it is (except to position yourself as “the nice one” or something).

    Also, I am SO sorry this backfired on you and caused you so much pain….Although you did learn an important lesson about middle managers. Some of the worst people I’ve encountered in jobs have been middle managers, and it’s amazing how much harm they can cause.

    Now that you are at a great school and moving on, I bet this will eventually just seem funny in retrospect. Congrats on your success! You are better off out of that situation, even though the way it happened was hurtful at the time.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*


      Well said, Goldenrod and OP. Even here, one of the most liberal places I’ve been on the Internet, people (including women) will often vociferously express their opinion that women shouldn’t have opinions. It’s a little depressing sometimes.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        Someone calling someone else “mean” is in no way “vociferously express[ing] their opinion that women shouldn’t have opinions.” Especially on a site where you don’t necessarily have any indication of commenter’s genders.

  3. Kes*

    Wow, that’s rough. The one I would say is it might have been worth going back to HR, since they seemed receptive the first time, about the retaliation (especially after you learned you being furloughed). That said, as difficult as this is I do suspect in the longer term you’ll be happy to be out of there – it sounds like very toxic and dysfunctional and it sounds like the company is going downhill as a result. Good luck with your studies and in finding a better place in the future!

    1. Observer*

      Nah, HR is incompetent. OP didn’t need an apology from Kate. She just needed some reasonable changes to be made. Requiring an apology but not all of the necessary changes, and apparently not following up on stuff tells me that HR wouldn’t do its job. Also, they should have been all over the fact that the OP was furloughed rather than Pipa, but they just let it ride.

      It’s not for nothing that lots of other folks have left the place.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup. They “acted like” they were taking it seriously, but they probably couldn’t wait to pass the buck.

          OP, hard as it is, you’re ultimately going to be in a much better place.

      1. Lydia*

        Yeaaaahhhh, I’m not sure why HR gave Kate any idea who made the complaint. That’s not how you do that.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I’ve been in situations where it was obvious I was the complainer, though. It’s hard for HR/landlord/whoever to keep someone from guessing you complained when you already tried talking to the person directly so they figure you escalated it when they kept doing the thing.

    2. River Otter*

      I agree about going back to HR. I didn’t see anything about continuing to have conversations with them after the initial discussion. It is too late now, but another lesson learned for OP should be that conversations about problems have to be ongoing. It is never a one and done type of thing.

  4. sub rosa for this*

    It’s hard to see the far-reaching extent of the red flags when you work in a red-flag factory, that’s for sure.

    Congrats on getting out of there! Congrats on getting away from (shudder) that mess. Glad you’re getting therapy; I grew up in a hoarder home and came away with crippling OCD and in retrospect I really should have gotten help for it, so I applaud you for the self-care.

    Some day you’ll look back on this from your better company in your better job, and see in retrospect just how lucky you were to get out of there. :)

    1. Olivia*

      “It’s hard to see the far-reaching extent of the red flags when you work in a red-flag factory.”

      I’ll definitely be finding places to use this most perfect of sentences.

  5. Real name*

    Alison, I think the person’s real name might be in here. That, or I can’t figure out who Kate. Didn’t see it in the old letter.

        1. Real name*

          Ah, thanks! I didn’t read the original comments, just the letter, so I didn’t see Kate.

      1. The one who wears too much black*

        I believe Kate manages LW and Pippa, so Kate is the manager that believed it wasn’t their place to address the hygiene issues in the first letter.

        1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

          Thats William.
          “She is widely disliked in the company but her manager, William…”

          1. Person from the Resume*

            “[Kate] is widely disliked in the company but her manager, William, is such a coward that any feedback about her sub-par performance is never acted on. William puts on a friendly, commiserating front, but is so scared of confrontation that he will not address problems, even safety issues.”

            So LW’s and Pippa’s boss was terrible and her boos was ineffective too.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Wel, that’s how Kate was able to be her awful self at work, she had the manager above her running scared. But that manager being a wimp was really the ultimate problem.

    1. Myrin*

      Kate is OP’s former and Pippa’s back-then-and-still-today boss.
      (I’d guess OP named the people after the Middleton sisters of royal British fame.)

    2. nerak*

      I also kept saying to myself “who is Kate?!?!!”. I went back and read the original letter and was struggling to put it together, so I’m relived to know I’m not the only one who was having trouble with that. Regardless, the now-named Kate sounds awful and it seems like OP is now on to bigger and better things.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was also confused about this. I can’t quite figure out the hierarchy here but I guess Myrin is right and Kate is OP’s and Pippa’s boss and William is their grandboss. Ugh, this situation sucks though.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Re-reading this letter knowing the right hierarchy really helps. William was terrible to not step in and deal with this, as was HR. I dunno, is it HR’s place to follow up in a situation like this when the boss (Kate) won’t fix the issue? I know HR’s main job is to protect the company, but still, seems like this would be a perfect situation for them to deal with. In any case, sorry you went through all this, OP, but it does sound like you’re better off without them.

  6. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Is this a variation of failing up?

    I had to reread the post several times as i’m not sure who Kate is. Apparently they are not Pippa “Kate never addressed Pippa’s behavioral issues” and might be a grandboss or someone in HR?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      It sounds like Kate is/was the LW’s/Pippa’s manager. The manager wasn’t named in the original letter, but from the description of

      I have spoken to my manager many times about these issues and asked her to step in. She refuses to do so and says it is not her place. I do not agree with her about that! It has always been my understanding that managers address employee hygiene issues. She does not take into account the effect this is having on me and my ability to work, not to mention my appetite.

      I’m not surprised she turned out to be a terrible manager on a number of different levels, beyond not wanting to manage Pippa’s hygiene issues.

    2. Flash Packet*

      OP and Pippa work(ed) for Kate. Kate works for William.

      Org chart:
      Pippa and OP

      1. Beany*

        It might be an idea for Alison to edit the original letter to put “[Kate]” in there for future reference. It was super-confusing.

        1. Very Social*

          Or to put “our manager” after the first mention of Kate in the update. I thought the names had gotten simply mixed up in this update (Kate in the update being Pippa in the original) until about halfway through. Rereading the first few paragraphs realizing that Kate is Pippa and OP’s manager made much more sense!

  7. top five???*

    Ugh what a nightmare! I feel for this person. It’s great to hear they’re happy on their new trajectory, but “top 5 universities in the world” isn’t really a thing.

    1. mairona*

      US News & World Report would disagree with you, considering they put out an annual list of the top-ranking universities worldwide.

      1. The Tin Man*

        Makes me think of my University, which distanced itself from its high “Party School” rating in a certain ranking but a giant banner in the business school that touted that the same ranking put it as a top 10 business school.

        It is also 100% a thing that universities can game the rankings – Northeastern in Boston is a fine university but has also openly made it a goal to optimize their performance in the largely arbitrary (and sometimes damaging) US News performance metrics in order to increase enrollment and prestige.

      2. Rainbow*

        I went to “the #1 university in the world”, and it’s not really a thing. But it’s vaguely ok to say to give context to people who don’t know about these things, or to feel proud about your achievements after hardship, IMO.

        1. Guin*

          It absolutely is a thing on your resume, in certain fields. Companies will hire #1 University over #1 East Podunk Technical School ninety times in one hunderd.

    2. Anon Administrator*

      There _are_ official lists, but how meaningful they are… shrug. I used to work in the central administrative area in a big-name university and certainly people talked about it if it had moved up or (horrors!) out of the “top ten”.

      1. Sasha*

        In the context, where OP is pointing out she isn’t at Ryerson (joke, Ryerson alums), it is fine.

        I agree you wouldn’t put it on your CV.

  8. LawBee*

    “I just have to point out that blunt women have been called mean since the beginning of time and if that could stop aaanytime soon the world would be a better, more equal place.“

    effing word.

      1. TypityTypeType*

        Oh, yes, that one. And “abrasive,” “tough to take,” “difficult,” “a lot,” and, lately, “Karen.”

        There are just so many ways to tell women to shut up!

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          And not only to shut up but to place the blame on the woman who dares open their mouth instead of sitting back and taking it.

        2. Lily*

          My daughter hates the “Karen” thing. Yes, there are crappy women, but the “Karen” trend has “become just another way to tell women to shut up.”

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I think any woman expressing a belief can be called a Karen. I’ve been called a Karen for saying what I think.
              It started out as a name for people who demand to see the manager when they are clearly in the wrong, but now is applied to any woman who says anything you don’t like.

              1. i'm walking here*

                Hell, some kid called me “Karen” just for walking around my apartment complex. I wasn’t looking at the group of kids, wasn’t speaking to them, nothing.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              I’ve been called a ‘Karen’ for expressing dismay at the killing of Black men.

        3. tommy*

          Karen is about WHITE women using white supremacy in their own favor. Karen is not a sexist term; it’s a term about noting and critiquing that white women employ racism as much as white men do, and in certain arenas especially.

          1. miss chevious*

            It’s been diluted by popular usage, I think, but my understanding is yours: “Karen” is a term for white women weaponizing whiteness by invoking the authroties, not just anyone complaining.

          2. kyber crystal*

            This is absolutely its origin in Black slang, along with terms like “white feminism”. However, it’s a notable trend that people – often but not exclusively left-leaning white men – will criticize women as a group and (attempt to) disguise that criticism by using words that were intended to convey criticism of racial dynamics between white and Black women. E.g. “It’s white feminism’s fault so many women are struggling to support families as single mothers,” “The stupidest person in the world is a white girl who wears Uggs and loves One Direction,” etc. If you read through Reddit threads of white men discussing Karens, the valid racial critique vanishes and is largely replaced by an invalid misogynistic critique. (Some of it is probably based in valid frustration with abusive customers – but the focus on women as uniquely terrible and deserving of degradation/punishment is still misogynistic.)

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      You don’t even need to be blunt … pointing out abusive behaviors is enough!

  9. PABJ*

    I think being furloughed over someone else is a form of retaliation that you could have proven, but since you’ve moved on the point is moot.

    1. All het up about it*

      This was my thought too, especially since without prompting the decision was questioned by so many people at various levels. It was obviously suspect.

      BUT you obviously needed to set some boundaries for your mental health regarding updates about that place and choosing not to pursue a case is a valid boundary/form of self-care as well!

    2. Liz T*

      But is retaliation actually illegal in ALL cases? I thought it was just for reporting harassment over protected characteristics, or labor organizing.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        It’s not, but it’s often against company policy to allow retaliation for any form of reporting anything, because it gets stuff reported more often and this is often in a company’s (at least theoretical) best interests.

        Whether this company had such a policy, and whether they would have bothered to enforce it if so, are of course unknown.

        As far as I know, retaliation is only prohibited under law if it’s for reporting something that was against the law in the first place, not if it was for reporting a problem with a fellow employee or a boss that didn’t involve illegal behavior such as discrimination.

        1. Liz T*

          Right, but LW said “retaliation is illegal,” which is not the case–not the way she means it.

  10. Phony Genius*

    When HR requires an apology be delivered, they should require it either be in writing, or witnessed by somebody in HR. Otherwise, the requirement has no teeth.

    1. HR Ninja*

      Right? More than likely it’ll end in an, “I’m sorry you feel that way” fake apology

        1. Princesss Sparklepony*

          Not so much a coward but someone who isn’t sorry at all.
          — Yes, I was required to apologize but I’m not sorry so I’m giving you this non apology so I’m not in trouble with HR… but I’m not sorry at all and I now dislike you for making me have to apologize for my rotten behavior.

          That’s always been my take on the fake apologies.

    2. sdog*

      I actually don’t understand why HR thought an apology was needed. I think a good HR wouldn’t have brought in OP at all and they sound super ineffective. I think they could have talked to Kate, explained that there have been complaints about Pippa and coached her on how to talk to Pippa about them.

  11. Snarkastic*

    Reading the original post made me nauseous, but I had to know how it all shook out.

  12. Flash Packet*

    Hi, OP.

    I, too, had a truly terrible boss who took advantage of a round of layoffs to get rid of me. We were in sales and my numbers were always in the top 15% of the department but she put my name on the Get Rid Of list and kept peopel who hadn’t ever met their quota. That was 12 years ago and I *still* have nightmares about her.

    BUT… I also ended up going back to school, finished my Bachelor’s, got my Master’s, and now work for a mostly-fabulous company, under a truly fabulous VP, doing work I really like for a lot more money.

    That manager is still at Old Company (global, household name, software company) and hasn’t moved up *at all* in the org chart in the intervening years. She was also removed from being a people-manager shortly after I was let go and that’s still the same.

    Living well really is the best revenge.

  13. raincoaster*

    Despite you not being called back, this was a very satisfying update to read. I hope your new academic achievements will be properly valued and your hard work appropriately respected by your new employer, whoever that turns out to be.

  14. MicroManagered*

    I think Pippa is Kate’s dealer… it’s the only reason this makes sense! (kidding)

    1. Jojo*

      I always wonder when managers have strange affinities for the problem employees. Here, it would be just as easy furlough Pippa, no?

      1. Autumnheart*

        So true. Why would a manager try so hard to keep, and not do anything about, a crusty, smelly employee who causes problems for others, to the point of retaliating against a more productive employee? Whyyyy. It’s so common, too, for employers to fight to protect the problem employee while driving off everyone who actually makes the workplace function. It’s bizarre.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Probably for the same reason that my colleague was the Golden Girl and I was the Mean Girl for my employer: she would stay late because her husband was a lawyer, I would leave bang on time to rush off to pick up my children.
          The fact that my productivity was literally double hers had absolutely nothing to do with it. What he wanted was someone he could bully, and she let him bully her the whole time. Any time I stood up to him, she would quietly slink off to make sure he didn’t think she was in cahoots with me.
          Toxic bosses just want to wield power rather than get work done properly.

        2. Tex*

          Two possibilities:

          So that when things go wrong, the boss has a handy scapegoat (Pippa) vs someone who is willing to make waves, be vocal and has allies to back them up (OP).

          Also, OP made the wokplace hierarchy (HR, William) question and scrutinize Kate’s judgement and management style. Kate does not want a disloyal soldier who brings problems to the attention of people out side of the immediate team.

        3. Chicken Chili*

          At a previous job, we had an employee who was terrible at her job, rude, lazy, and just thoroughly unpleasant. She literally threw a book at another manager one time for questioning something work-related that she had done. She yelled at people or gave them the cold shoulder. Just awful. Turned out she had a disability of some kind, albeit a disability that had absolutely nothing to do with her job performance. But when they tried to get rid of her years before, she played on her disability and threatened to sue, and the company was too scared to go against her. So they watched her and built a case over a course of years — too long, if you ask me — and were finally able to get rid of her when her responsibilities were divvied up and farmed out and several people were laid off at the same time.

          So I kind of wonder if there was a similar thing going on here. I knew about my co-worker’s disability from other co-workers who knew her longer than I did. It’s possible that Pippa has some kind of disability — which of course no one in management or HR can legally tell anyone else about — and they’re afraid of letting her go for fear of a discrimination lawsuit.

    2. Anonymousfriend*

      Interesting construction industry tidbit: It’s apparently common to keep a person who is an admin, or estimator, or any other job title on the books without that person doing any work. Often times, that person is a drug supplier to a person in power in the construction company or job site. I’ve met a few construction industry professionals who have all heard of this happening or witnessed it during the span of their careers.

    3. High Score!*

      I wonder if Pippa is related to one of their managers or another higher up. This reeks of nepotism.

  15. RJ*

    Kate, Pippa but especially William are toxic employees and real stinkers (pun intended). OP, good luck in school. I’m glad you got away from that Toxic Trio.

  16. Nameless in Customer Service*

    Breathe freely and get that education, OP! I’m cheering you on!

  17. STG*

    It sounds like it was the best decision for both parties honestly. You had a grand boss tell you to stop your behavior which I think can be problematic long term when it gets to that point. That may be the sign of a bigger issue with your behavior or a sign of management not wanting to deal with it. Who knows but either way, this wasn’t tenable any longer.

    1. Who is the asshole*

      As far as I understand it the “behavior” was non-existent. People complained about the furlough decision, OP did not, and still grandboss insinuated OP was stirring the pot. So 100 % on grandboss.

      1. STG*

        Eh, the OP says there wasn’t behavior. I’m not so sure based on how this was all presented.

        That’s alright though. It wasn’t tenable any longer either way.

  18. Chickaletta*

    How weird that Kate took Pippa’s side. Were they a couple? Cousins? Was Kate her supplier? Or Pippa hers? There’s something missing to this story…

    1. Myrin*

      Never underestimate managers’ unwillingness to actually deal with a problem employee!
      (There could totally be something else at play, of course. But the most prominent example of this I can think of is one where the literal only reason is that the boss shies away from confrontation and the problem employee is the most confrontational person around.)

    2. Cj*

      Marijuana is legal in where they live, so Kate or Pippa is not the supplier for the other one. Unless it’s for a harder drug.

  19. Seashell*

    This story makes me thankful for my office’s policy on stuff left in the fridge. They will send an e-mail saying “The fridge is being cleaned out on Friday. Any food without your initials on it or that looks spoiled will be tossed.”

  20. Kit*

    OP, I am so glad you’re out of there, and you’re right – a little less spending money is worth the peace of mind! (I’m calling you Meghan in my head, btw.)

    Drawing a boundary with your other coworkers about not hearing Every Little Detail about the shenanigans at The Firm was also a fabulous move, and I’m just so impressed that you’ve managed to prioritize your mental health in tough circumstances. The fact that other rats are fleeing the sinking ship is just proof that you were lucky to get out early, and I hope you land somewhere fabulous that treats you like you deserve.

  21. surprisedcannuk*

    I always hate the advice that suggests going to HR. Going to HR is like rolling the dice. Some Some HR people are good, but if your company is full of bad managers then odds are not in your favour.

    1. Unaccountably*

      This is a good thing to remember. Never trust HR to do the right thing in a company full of people who would have been kicked to the curb years ago in any functional environment. The should-have-been-kicked people are either the cause of HR’s unresponsiveness or the consequence of it.

  22. Bookworm*

    I am sorry that this how it ended for you, OP, but it does sound like they did you a favor in a way. They sound terrible and it sounds like you’re best not being there anymore.

  23. OhBehave*

    It makes my skin crawl to read about this again! Glad you’re out and on a new path.
    BTW – I clean our coats every year!

    1. Cj*

      I was really surprised to read that commenters on the original letter said they didn’t know you were supposed to wash coats. Eventually they start to look dirty and grungy, and I would think at that point you would look for a dry clean only or washing instruction tag.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I always get my nice wool coat dry-cleaned before I put it in storage. I don’t even buy casual outerwear that can’t be machine washed, and it gets washed at least a couple of times a season.

  24. Berkeleyfarm*

    LW, I am so very sorry this happened to you. I’m glad to hear that you’re finding your way back.

    That place … was a seething mess of dysfunction. Pippa had to be someone’s untouchable pet project – otherwise unemployable relative, side chick, dealer sort of thing. If not, well, this really was an extreme example of “we want the title but don’t want to do the actual managerial work”.

    And, yeah, having to go over the boss’ head for basic safety sort of thing … doesn’t bode well for employment prospects. I have definitely been retaliated against for speaking up against really flagrant abuse and lost $$$ because of it. I’m in a better place now, but it has left scars.

    (I’m not familiar with the Gram. Is there some way you can set it up so Kate can’t see your dog page without blocking her? Like, a security list? But a block is perfectly in order.)

    1. Dennis Feinstein*

      Since Kate is still following OP’s dog?!?!?
      Maybe OP’s dog could start posting lots of info about dealing with smells/behavioural issues/passive-aggressiveness…

  25. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Since you are well out of that place, I’d be very tempted to ask Pippa if she is still stinking up the joint. Or leave a factually truthful report on Glassdoor.

  26. raincoaster*

    I wonder if the smelly coworker is untouchable because she’s everybody’s weed connection in management? Just a thought.

      1. Hungry Magpie*

        At least here in Canada (where pot is now legal), I heard that at least at first, some folks preferred their previous sources over the government-approved suppliers due to perceived better product and cost…not sure if it’s still like this as I don’t have personal experience, but it seems feasible.

        1. Unaccountably*

          Can’t they share seeds or cuttings or something? I feel like if you can grow an herb garden you can, well, grow an herb garden.

          Wow, I have just realized how vast my lack of knowledge about pot-growing is.

  27. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — Oh, my, been there, done that. It’s hard not to take it personally, but please remember, the organization obviously had issues that went way beyond your own department. I hope your therapist is helping you get to a place where you can really believe that this was a “them” problem, not a “you” problem.

    Good luck with your new academic program!

  28. Hired Hacker*

    > I went on furlough and suffered a massive blow to my ego and mental health.

    You have all my solidarity. Please don’t feel that way. It is normal that a dysfunctional and rotten company chooses to eliminate the most valued employees and keep the trash. With time I learnt that one should be proud of having been furloughed from such places, because this shows that one is a good employee. I had similar experiences, and now I wear them like medals.

    Congratulations on your new life, and keep watching the ship sink from a safe distance.

  29. That One Person*

    The fact she still follows your dog’s instagram is hilarious not gonna lie, though I won’t fault someone for enjoying a pet profile on a site either (I wonder if she even remembers its your dog). She’s not a total loss of a human being in that regard, but everything else is up for debate. Glad you ultimately cut off the schadenfreude line as its indeed not healthy, but you got confirmation that your work was recognized and I think that’s at least something good to keep with you. At this point it sounds like its best to just let them flounder on their own until things finally hit the fan seeing as their position and ability sounds untenable in the long run – even if people can’t complain about Pippa’s hygiene it’s hard to get around the lack of output in work.

  30. Econobiker*

    The stinky stoner girl who is stoned out of her mind half the time. But she has a “disability” ergo her reason for smoking pot and her performance not being addressed by lame and scared manager.

    Good riddance from that organization.

  31. World Weary*

    Someday, this terrible experience will help you be a better manager by not repeating these negative examples.

    One place I worked years ago, we had an employee who started coming to work in unwashed clothes. She has always smelled of cigarettes but it got worse. Turned out she was grappling with some serious issues. Her therapist had told her that her behavior was a sign of not respecting herself. Her manager told her that may be true, but to everyone else, it looks like she didn’t respect them since they couldn’t know what was going on in her personal life. So, if she won’t do it for herself, could you make some extra effort for your colleagues? This was back in the 80’s. It helped, for a little while. Eventually she went out on disability and never returned.

  32. jake peralta*

    oh dang, that was my comment! I never went back to the thread so I never saw — glad it was helpful for you, OP!

    Way-too-long aside: on my own front, the situation I was describing with my girlfriend got even worse because she went into a serious depression spiral (like, “I leave rotting food out because I don’t deserve to live in a clean space” level of depression). Shortly after I wrote that comment, she injured herself by tripping over some of her stuff, then tried to hide the injury because she didn’t want to go to the doctor. I asked her if she would please let me take her, and she did, but then as soon as we got home, she broke up with me because she was so upset and resentful about having to deal with wound care, followup appointments, etc.

    We’d been together ten years, and last I heard, she had moved back in with her parents after being evicted for repeatedly forgetting to pay the rent after she kicked me out. (Our management company offered an autopay option, but she literally couldn’t focus long enough to sign up for it.) I feel truly sorry for her — being so tangled in your own brain wires that you can’t take care of your own basic needs, even really important things like housing, is hard to imagine even for a lot of us who have our own mental health struggles.

    It’s been almost two years and all I can say is, life’s better on the other side. Best of luck to you, OP <3

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