update: our boss is demanding a gift with an accounting of names and how much each person contributed

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and for the rest of the year I’ll be  running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss was demanding a gift with an accounting of names and how much each person contributed? Here’s the update.

Here’s what happened. Feeling more brave after reading your and readers’ responses, first I tried a lowkey version of asking for help from HR. When I asked them about the grievance process in general (I did not provide any specifics) , they said the first step in the official company process is to talk directly with the person to try to resolve the issue one to one. They said this was true whether it was a peer or a supervisor — even though I hadn’t asked that question. Which reinforced my belief that HR protects the company, not any of the human beings in their employ. This was an effective dead end because I neither wanted to share more details with HR, nor confront the boss about the whole messed up pay-for-performance-review system.

Then I asked around to get an idea of what other employees were planning to do. A few had already made substantial “contributions” but many hadn’t done anything yet because they were feeling stuck too. I suggested those of us remaining contribute to a gift made “in honor of the Boss’s leaving the company for XYZ Corp” to a local organization that focuses on people facing food insecurity. I liked the suggested idea of making a donation to a cause Boss would find odious. But we all agreed that doing something that would ameliorate suffering in our community would be more impactful. It would be something good to come of the bad situation we found ourselves. So that’s what we did. And then we waited.

The deadline for performance reviews came and went. Cartoon Villain Boss left town for the new gig. I assumed she passed her review of me to the new boss, so she would have the satisfaction of cutting me down and forcing another person to deliver the bad news, and also poisoning the new boss about my work as an added parting-gift evil bonus.

In my first meeting with New Boss I mentioned, Lt. Columbo style, “I noticed it didn’t seem as if Former Boss uploaded my performance evaluation before she left. Wasn’t sure if you might have it?” New Boss responds “It turns out Former Boss didn’t do performance reviews for ANY of her employees!”

I was relieved, perplexed, and annoyed, all in equal measure. Reviews are tied to our annual raises, tied to advancing in the company, etc. Turns out there was an upside and a downside. New Boss made sure supervisees got the base raise, thereby immediately gaining our good will. But she told us we won’t have a performance review for another year because New Boss hasn’t supervised us until now. For some that had outstanding years, this was not great because it kind of makes it as if that outstanding work never happened.

Your advice and that of readers was of great value in terms of possible routes of action I could take, as well as providing general affirmation that the situation I found myself in was not cool.

With appreciation,
Loyal Reader, Who Now Has A New Boss Who Is Not A Cartoon Villain

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. Calamity Janine*

    well, that wasn’t a twist i was expecting, but i’m sure glad it happened!

    the proposed solution settled on was, i think, pitch-perfect. it’s hard to argue vehemently against such a gesture unless you want to look like a complete churlish villain. and apparently, your old boss realized that, so didn’t raise a stink. …possibly because she was already of the opinion that she didn’t need to do her job anymore? but in deciding to not do her job that meant she also wasn’t putting in the work to punish you? so it all worked out?

    it’s a bit Bank Error In Your Favor as far as resolutions go, but Lt. Columbo would be proud of your subtlety and just-one-more-thing skills!

    1. EPLawyer*

      She did punish them on the way out the door. By not doing the performance reviews, she was hoping to guarantee no raises for next year. Only because a sane person took over did that not happen.

      I don’t blame your new boss for not doing performance reviews. She is right, she has no idea if the work that was done is outstanding or just normal for your team. It sucks, but that is actually how it is supposed to work. As someone noted further down, keep the documentation and when the boss knows you better next year they are in better position to evaluate your work even if they didn’t personally supervise it.

      At this point, look at the glass as half full. Of a celebratory drink of your choice that old boss is GONE.

      1. Momma Bear*

        When a new director took over my division fairly close to the review time, other people were called in to provide input – for example, a Project Manager might be asked to provide input on someone’s contributions to their project. We were also asked (as is usual here) to provide our own opinions of our work, goals, successes, etc. I think that there could have been options for OP’s new boss, but I’m glad that they at least provided base raises.

        1. Nina*

          My company has pretty high turnover among management (…and everywhere else, but also management) and it’s not unusual for a staff member to tell their new manager ‘here are all the major projects I’ve contributed to this year, here are the contact people for those projects, ask them how I did’ and for the responses to that to be the basis of a first performance review under a new manager. It’s not the employees’ problem that management turned over. That’s seen as the company’s problem to solve with minimal upset to the employees’ review cycle and pay review cycle.

    2. ferrina*

      Yes, OP had a great solution! Brilliant way to not give to the boss, but still not be a bad guy.

      For the performance reviews- she may have still not done them no matter how much you gave. Lots of people consider performance reviews annoying admin, and will take any excuse to skip them (or will only do them as a favor to certain people). Honestly, this boss wasn’t going to follow any rules of nicety anyways and was always going to find an excuse to terrorize LW.

      Congrats on being done with cartoon villians!

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Wondering if Cartoon Villian actually did really evil reviews, and new boss said I may not know enough to know how to rate everyone’s job performances, but these just don’t seem right. So new boss “circularly filed” the old reviews and got everybody just the standard raises for the year.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        That could well be true. If you see that 80% of staff got evil reviews, I’d say it reflects badly on the manager for letting the employees get away with bad work all year long, rather than on the actual employees.
        Whatever you say about other people says more about you than them.

  2. Susie*

    Wow. I would like to have seen her face when she found out. I know, petty of me, but something about bad bosses getting retribution for being so horrible to those under them is satisfying.

    1. OhNoYouDidn't*

      I was just coming here to say this. I’d love to hear what her reaction was at the moment she opened her gift…I’d have loved to have seen it.

  3. Witch*

    > When I asked them about the grievance process in general (I did not provide any specifics) , they said the first step in the official company process is to talk directly with the person to try to resolve the issue one to one. They said this was true whether it was a peer or a supervisor — even though I hadn’t asked that question. Which reinforced my belief that HR protects the company, not any of the human beings in their employ.

    I one hundred percent think you did the best you could, and everything more or less works out, but I gotta highlight the fact that you just asked a general question and received a general response. Of course your bias about HR (whether correct or not) would be confirmed if you neglected to actually give them any insight into the problem you were experiencing.

    HR = protecting the company, but that “protection” takes different forms depending on the situation.

    1. Caramel and Cheddar*

      Yes, that seemed like a pretty basic answer I’d expect to HR to give, i.e. slightly more than you asked and possibly so that you wouldn’t have to volunteer whether it was a peer or a supervisor. They were covering all the possibilities so you didn’t have to reveal more than they wanted, which is much more helpful than them saying “Do you want to grieve your boss?” and you having to come up with a non-committal answer on the spot.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The best way to protect the company is to retain good talent, give employees the security and support they need to be consistently productive, and not let bad managers set you up for lawsuits. But that doesn’t seem obvious to everyone I guess.

      1. ferrina*

        It can be tricky with HR, who may have to answer to different higher-ups or different policies.
        My company has our HR and staff support team separate. They work closely, but you’d go to a different person for a grievance filing than you would for general advice. Our general advice person is great- she flags issues without bringing your name into it. But the key is that HR and the support team have the ear of the C-Suite. I’ve been at companies where the C-Suite didn’t listen to a thing that HR/Staff support would say (unless it fit with the political game the CEO was playing that day).

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I felt the same way – OP asked a general question and received a pretty general answer. Without knowing more about OP’s HR it’s hard to say if that bit about “peer or supervisor” is boilerplate or not, but it’s very possible.

      I get that there’s a pretty commonly held bias against HR right now, but I can guarantee that they’re feeling just as burnt out and overloaded as everyone else, and if we assume a negative from every general interaction we have with them then the relationship between HR and the employee is just going to worsen.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        Agreed. I wonder what kind of response LW was hoping to hear from HR without giving any context or sense of magnitude for this problem.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Agreed that it’s a pretty standard response…adults should attempt to resolve problems directly before engaging HR…they had no way to know if the grievance was serious or frivolous.

      HOWEVER, they should have also noted that if an employee doesn’t feel safe or if the problem is severe enough they can skip that step. Unfortunately for the OP I don’t think a potential bad performance review would rise to a severe enough level …bodily harm or illegal activity usually… pay for performance review is atrocious but not necessarily illegal.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah…. unfortunately holding back/hurting an employee’s career through terrible management is not something that HR tends to get involved in. This is why it’s so important to have a good manager.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Though an even halfway competent HR will pay a lot of attention to illegal behavior such as sexual harassment/discrimination on protected characteristic/retaliation. Their purpose is to protect the company, and illegal behavior damages the company.

      2. Just me*

        The company should provide a way to skip the step if you don’t want to confront your boss because you fear retribution, especially if there’s a reason you fear retribution. Otherwise people won’t grieve problems that the company really would be better off knowing about.

    5. bamcheeks*

      Yes, and I’d add that this is also the advice the union gives! There are times when it’s appropriate to raise a grievance directly with HR, but generally both HR and the union will ask you to try and resolve it with the individual or through management channels before you raise a grievance. Raising a grievance means a full investigation has to be performed, it inevitably feels antagonistic, and it’s a very intense and stressful process. The union will tell you to try lots of different things before they recommend you raise a grievance because they are also trying to protect you from the stress of the process.

      I wonder whether OP has misunderstood what raising a grievance is, and thinks that simply giving details of the situation with HR and asking whether this is in line with company policy how they should resolve counts as raising a grievance. It doesn’t! That’s just giving details of the situation to HR and asking for advice.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes “talk to the person” is like “have you tried turning it off and turning it back on?” for IT. We always start there, and all subsequent advice is based on the answer given.

    6. Lacey*

      Yeah, in all my on-boarding it’s been made clear that the first step is always to talk to the person you have the grievance with first.

      Is it sexual harassment? Tell them to stop.

      Are they insulting your religion? Tell them it is unwelcome.

      And so on.

      1. Chip Biffington*

        For sexual harassment, I’ve worked for places where yes, if in the moment you tell someone to stop, that’s fine, but also raise it to a higher-up. Because good places to work want to know about that kind of thing.

        1. SarahKay*

          Not just sexual harassment, but any discriminatory behaviour (race, religion, sexuality, gender, etc).
          If Arthur makes a comment to me that women are bad at maths and I tell him to stop being sexist and he stops, then I don’t know if Arthur is regularly sexist but knows I won’t tolerate it, or if he just made what he thought was a joke and learnt better.
          Provided I give a quiet heads-up to my manager – not necessarily a formal complaint, maybe just an FYI – then my manager can be aware that there might be a problem, and to keep half an eye out for further manifestations.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yes! SarahKay might have no qualms about reporting offensive behaviour, but the young intern, who’s plenty pretty enough to attract the manager’s attention, likely won’t have the skills or standing to deal with it.

    7. Lulu*

      Also, the important thing to remember is that protecting the company doesn’t equal protecting a specific manager. One of the ways HR protects the company is by stepping in to prevent a manager from abusing the power or addressing an abuse of power when it happens. They would fail at protecting the company if they didn’t address issues in management. Of course that doesn’t mean that they’re trying to protect every individual worker, but don’t take “protect the company” to mean that they’ll never do anything about egregious behavior (assuming it’s a functional company).

    8. blood orange*

      I came to say the same thing, and agree with many of the comments on this thread.

      OP, your gut may have been completely on point, but from the details here this sounds like a really normal exchange with HR that doesn’t necessarily indicate if you have good or bad HR. Remember that HR typically deals with lots of employee inquiries, some of which should have hit other channels first or not gone to HR at all. It sounds as though they gave you an initial response to try to help you figure out where the conversation should start, or just inform you on the procedure.

      As an example, I spoke with a very young employee recently who wanted to “make a complaint” against her manager (not her direct manager, the site manager which was two levels up). Once we spoke, she wanted to lodge complaints about not having a party that a different site had, being under appreciated, and a lack of communication. All things that I’d direct (and did in this case) an employee to address with their manager as a first step. I’m glad to know about her complaints so I can coach her management, though!

      For what it’s worth, I would absolutely have put a stop to the situation you were facing if I had the power/influence to do so. Sometimes HR does, and sometimes we don’t. Just as HR is employed to protect the company (which often means protecting employees), we also only have the amount of decision-making ability that the company gives us.

  4. Don*

    “For some that had outstanding years, this was not great because it kind of makes it as if that outstanding work never happened.”

    You can set your watch on the fact that I’d put all my documentation for those things into a file and include them in the following year’s performance report paperwork.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      The snarky part of me would also be tempted to include an accounting of all the “pay-for-performance” contributions made under duress to the old regime.

      1. Lily of the Valley*

        What outcome are you hoping for by directing snark at your new boss for the actions of your old boss?

        1. Insert+Clever+Name+Here*

          I think a legitimate case could be made that it’s worthwhile to calmly inform the new boss that reviews were pay-for-performance because that might actually be useful context (“hmm, it looks like Susan consistently got the lowest review over the last few years, maybe I should watch her very closely” when Susan just didn’t cough up money for a higher review rating). But I’m an individual contributor and don’t know how much weight a new manager would generally put on an old manager’s reviews.

          1. Tragus*

            Possibly. That’s a huge accusation, though, so one would definitely want to tread carefully. Snark would be utterly the wrong tone.

    2. The Original K.*

      This is part of why I keep a folder in my email of accolades from others. There’s a self-eval part of our evaluations and I was able to refer to it when I did it. Also useful when asking for a raise or promotion.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Same. And why when someone does something outstanding I email it to them and also notify their supervisor as appropriate. I’ve gotten some really nice responses from this as well, which makes me feel good about my team.

  5. nom de plume*

    This is absolutely banana-crackers batshit crazy stuff. OP, I commend you for your leadership and clever-yet-benevolently-malicious compliance in this instance, but man, while you may have a decent new boss, your company sounds like it’s rotten to the core. How did your Former Boss’s boss not realize she was performing reviews?! That quite the dereliction of duty.

    It’s often facile for commenters to suggest moving on, but now that you can un-clench a little, boss-wise, maybe consider it. Because something is seriously wrong with a place that allowed that feudal-lite system to even exist.

    1. Observer*

      How did your Former Boss’s boss not realize she was performing reviews?! That quite the dereliction of duty.

      Maybe they did realize. But remember, she was headed out the door.

        1. Observer*

          It wasn’t a year – it was only the last year that wasn’t done, and that was 6 weeks before she left.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      It was an onerous task near the end of her time in the job. She probably just put it off until she left. They can’t chase her down and make her do it once she no longer works there.

      The question is – was it on purpose to screw her employees over or did she just procrastinate an unpleasant task until it was too late? It really could have been either.

      While I feel that the new boss’s answer was probably right, it seems like it would fall on boss’s boss to fix the problem since presumably she was there during the year that bas boss was supervising these people.

      1. nom de plume*

        If I’m reading the OP correctly, this happened multiple times — “pay to review” and the former manager never submitted any performance reviews, so it wasn’t just a one-time occurrence.

        Of course each office has a different system — our reviews are biannual and have to be signed off by our grand-boss, too; plus HR would know that no review had been submitted. Here, even allowing for those differences, it sounds like the issue went unchecked more than once.

    3. doreen*

      Depends on the details – at my last job, performance reviews for everyone in my bargaining unit were due April 1. There wasn’t a different date for each person. If my boss had left Feb 1 , her boss might not have been thinking about reviews since they weren’t due yet – and even if he had, how are you going to make sure someone who already gave notice gets them done?

    4. ferrina*

      This is actually recommended- if the manager is heading out the door, they should do the reviews because they know the most about a person’s performance. Otherwise you’ll ask someone who doesn’t know as much to write the review- or just wait a year until the next review. And it’s also easy for this to slip through the cracks- it’s not the first priority for the grandboss, who is also trying to transition everything else from the old manager. It’s not uncommon for them to realize this wasn’t done until after they leave.

      The issue is that this was a toxic, coercive manager who was allowed to linger and continue to manage people. Sometimes that is indicative of untenable dysfunction, but sometimes it’s something that can be salvaged with a good manager.

    5. turquoisecow*

      There should be some sort of backup plan for reviews, I think. Like what if old boss was perfectly competent and pleasant but was hit by a bus and out of work the last few months of the year, or had a heart attack and keeled over suddenly? Sorry, no performance reviews for any of you? No other grandboss or VP or whatever that could at least make an effort to do the review process with these employees?

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I liked the system at my previous employer. In times of management turnover or transition, the old manager and the new manager did the reviews together. The old manager completed the written review, but the new manager got to sit in on the process. If the new manager wasn’t hired yet, then the old manager’s boss sat in the reviews so that they could get the new manager up to speed when they started. The system made for smoother transitions. It was actually baked into HR’s separation check-list of things to get done before a manager left.

      2. ferrina*

        I’ve run reviews at a couple different companies, and it’s not worth having a transition plan for reviews. This is something that’s addressed on an individual basis. Sometimes it’s the grandboss, sometimes it’s a manager that works closely with the individual (if their work closely intersects), but sometimes there’s just no one that works closely enough with the person to know. Unfortunately, in the absence of information, it’s impossible to do a fair review. Sometimes someone that appears a strong performer in the first couple months really isn’t, and vice versa. I think what LW’s new boss did is probably the best way to do it.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Probably going to sound like an arse here but: I’ve even the incoming manager a few times where the previous boss hasn’t done any work on performance reviews and I don’t believe that ‘oh sorry, that means it’s impossible till next year’ is anything other than laziness.

    Whether that’s HR being lazy, a lazy corporate rule, the boss being lazy is up to the situation but you can always find the information if you and the team pull together for a bit.

    (Ranting a bit today because some twit managed to delete a lot of information off a server – important HR information. Seven hours later I got it back..)

    1. Koifeeder*

      Just out of idle curiosity- what should OP’s boss be doing if it’s a lazy HR or corporate rule that prevents performance reviews from being done until next year?

      1. bamcheeks*

        I was in that situation and I did informal mid-year reviews with my team so that they had some objectives to work to and we had something to review when PDRs fid one around.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I would say then it falls to boss’s boss to handle the reviews her direct report did not complete before departure which could mean making the new boss do them with input from employees themselves and other people.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Sadly, nothing. Because if it’s red tape or HR blocking you then trying to fight it is pointless.

    2. Red+Reader+the+Adulting+Fairy*

      My predecessor not only hadn’t done any work on performance reviews but she deleted all her files on her way out the door and left NOTHING for handover. (We had a gap of about two months between her leaving and my starting.) I ended up basically doing goal-setting with each of my team members as part of our initial round of 1:1s.

      1. allathian*

        Oof. Thank goodness we have a performance evaluation system. It’s impossible for either the employee or the manager to change anything after the evaluation’s been completed and signed by both parties. An employee who disagrees with a manager’s evaluation can request mediation by the occupational health and safety representative (union, but they’ll usually help anyone regardless of union membership status). You can’t really refuse to sign, but you can submit a statement that you don’t agree with the manager’s evaluation even after mediation.

        But there’s no way a manager could delete a completed evaluation out of spite.

    3. Observer*

      Maybe. But in this case, the new boss has a legitimate problem. Nothing that the old boss left is reliable, so what do they have to work with?

      At least they made sure that everyone got the base increase.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Depending on the role and how they interact with others, the new boss could reach out to other people to get feedback on how a project went, for example. That’s what my new boss did when it was too close to review time to really have gotten his feet wet.

    4. Pudding*

      I’ve been the person with the new boss doing performance reviews (not old boss’s fault – hiring a replacement took months and I had a patchwork of interim managers during that time, none for more than a few weeks.) My new boss, who sucked, filled out my performance review without asking ANYONE for ANY input. She rated me neutral for everything except two categories related to (small to medium) mistakes I’d made – she gave me 2/5 ratings in those. It was the worst performance review of my life, and covered a period where I’d worked my tail off covering things that normally would have been handled by 3 people, with almost no supervision, and yep I made some mistakes (while working 60 hr weeks) but nothing fell apart.

      I transferred to another department in the weeks between when she wrote the review and when she delivered it. I tried formally complaining but to no avail. She kept calling me for help (LMAO) and questions (ROFL) after all that. I did help, in part because my new boss was alarmed at how incompetent she was and wanted some help documenting problems he wouldn’t have had visibility to otherwise, but she was a walking disaster. They fired her almost exactly a year after she started.

  7. Meow*

    I’m not really understanding the HR thing. That’s a pretty general answer which makes sense because you didn’t give any details. It’s possible, even likely, that if you had explained the situation and that you were fearful of retaliation that they would’ve taken different steps. I’m not sure how you expected them to be able to assist without actually telling them about the situation?

    1. Fabulous*

      Right, that’s my take as well.

      If OP had even gone so far as to add, “A person in our department is demanding monetary contributions for a gift and forcing a subordinate to document how much and by whom is contributed. With their history of vindictiveness for what they perceive as poor contributions, our entire team is scared of retaliation if we don’t contribute beyond our means,” HR would have had FAR more to work with without having any names or other specifics.

      I can’t imagine any decent HR say, “Oh just talk to the person,” to that situation.

        1. Fabulous*

          Re-reading it, I’d make one slight change – “…contributions for a gift FOR THEMSELVES…” because without that specified it sounds like it could be a gift for someone else, which while it still isn’t good, it doesn’t seem nearly as egregious.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Definitely this. Were I an HR person and someone asked me about solving a generic grievance, I would have no way of knowing how serious it is. Are you and your coworkers having a difficulty in agreeing who cleans out the coffee maker? Go back and communicate to each other, because that in and of itself should not be an HR level problem. Widespread bullying and harassment + power imbalance? Very different answer. But if you ask me about ‘a conflict’ with no more info than that, I’m going to assume that it’s on the level of the coffee maker because that’s more likely to come up in an office.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          I’m going to quibble a bit here because the answer is clearly different based on situation so that is information you can provide even given nothing from the person asking.

          If someone asks you what the procedures is
          a. for most situations the expectation is you attempt to resolve the issue yourself first but doing xyz
          b. in situations where it arises to discrimination, sexual harassment (insert whatever the language should be here) then you can make an appointment to discuss it with HR by doing abc

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            Good point! Definitely one of those times where having a written document somewhere in an employee handbook or company intranet with various procedures would be really helpful, especially when asking a person about it could get around to the wrong ears.

      2. Tio*

        I mean, it would probably not be hard to figure out who they’re talking about with that amount of detail though. Who else is receiving a gift in their department at this time? I feel like you could figure this out with one casual conversation, and if OP believes that HR will protect the boss (rightly or wrongly) it makes sense to not give all that information.

        Anyway, seems to have worked out mostly ok, so hopefully that’s the end of it

      3. Observer*

        f OP had even gone so far as to add, “A person in our department is demanding monetary contributions for a gift and forcing a subordinate to document how much and by whom is contributed. With their history of vindictiveness for what they perceive as poor contributions, our entire team is scared of retaliation if we don’t contribute beyond our means,” HR would have had FAR more to work with without having any names or other specifics.

        Given that the OP was suspicious of HR in the first place, it’s WAAAY too much.

        But they could have followed up with “what if the conflict is with someone who has a habit of retaliating in significant ways?” That’s something that would have told the OP whether HR is a viable path or not.

    2. bamcheeks*

      If OP wasn’t comfortable raising it directly with their boss, the next suggestion would probably be to raise it with their boss’s boss. Which is also what HR would probably do first if it *was* a formal grievance.

  8. Lily of the Valley*

    “ When I asked them about the grievance process in general (I did not provide any specifics) , they said the first step in the official company process is to talk directly with the person to try to resolve the issue one to one. They said this was true whether it was a peer or a supervisor — even though I hadn’t asked that question.”

    I think your beliefs about the grievance process might be excessively influenced by the work environment you’ve been in. you didn’t mention a union, so I am assuming that grievance is a colloquial word rather than an official grievance process. Expecting the complainant to have a conversation with the person they’re having a conflict with is, in most cases, eminently reasonable, assuming the conflict is not something legally actionable like discrimination or harassment. Take the example of yesterday’s follow-up letter—a manager was having what he described as a personality conflict with an admin, and he had never spoken to her directly about what he disliked. That’s the kind of situation where it is reasonable to expect someone to have a conversation before complaining to HR, nd that is honestly what most conflicts in the workplace are like. A more involved situation where power differences make having that conversation more difficult or unrealistic, like yours, Would require a different approach. And this is where years of working under that manager worked against you. It would’ve been completely reasonable to have a more involved conversation with HR to explain that you are not asking about a minor situation and you don’t think having that initial conversation would go well and ask for advice on how to approach it. You believe that that option was not open to you bc HR would protect the company, but beliefs are not necessarily true, especially when you have been under a toxic situation. I hope your new manager gives you enough positive experiences that you can reevaluate some of the beliefs that you developed under your old manager.

  9. L-squared*

    I feel like you were in a bad situation, but some of your stuff in the update doesn’t make you seem great either.

    Your dig at HR seemed unnecessary since you went to them with super vague information, so they gave you an answer that was appropriate so you didn’t have to continue to divulge info you didn’t want to. Not sure what you expected there.

    Similarly, your comment about the raise seems off. You got a new manager who knew nothing of your previous work, made sure you got the base raise, and that still isn’t enough for you. Did you want her to just give you a 45% raise based on the 2 weeks she knew you? You seem to be expecting more of her, but this seems pretty logical to me.

    1. TechWorker*

      That’s a bit unfair :)
      If I’d worked my arse off all year towards a promotion and been told ‘well sorry new manager you get the base raise and have to wait at least another year’ I’d be job hunting. Obviously the manager can’t come in and know everything but in a functional company there are other ways for them to get information that aren’t ‘give everyone the minimum’ or ‘give everyone the maximum’.

      1. doreen*

        I think that’s the kind of thing that really depends on the job. I’ve had jobs where I worked enough with other people that a new manager could have gotten a good deal of information about me and my work and I’ve had other jobs where a new manager could have assumed I “met expectations” in everything because there wasn’t any documentation that I hadn’t but I didn’t work with others in a way that they could provide much information to the new manager.

      2. L-squared*

        This just really depends on how things are structured. Sometimes the “grandboss” has a passing knowledge of what someones work looks like, but its not shocking that it wouldn’t be enough to want to give someone an extra big raise or promotion

      3. turquoisecow*

        I wonder if it would be possible for the company to push the review/raise process back a bit, say, a month, to give New Boss a chance to at least get to know the employees and have a vague idea of how they work, rather than forcing them to immediately do a performance review on someone they just met while they’re still figuring out the job themselves.

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Not only that but OP working their butt off may contribute in some way to Evil Manager getting a good review of her management of the department!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I read the comment about the raises as “new boss found a decent solution for raises, and here’s how that solution had some negative impacts for some of the people on the team.”

      I agree with you that the new boss’s decision to give moderate raises to everyone is logical and I think the letter writer made a fair point about how it stings to receive a moderate raise when you’ve gone above and beyond all year because the Cartoon Villain boss neglected your performance review.

  10. BreakingDishes*

    I’m delighted to hear this update. You figured out a work around and got others to sign on. Old boss not doing reviews is on her. Congratulations!

  11. CatsOnAKeyboard*

    I think the biggest miss is that even if this was a worst-case situation in which HR department that leaned toward protecting supervisors over subordinates, in this case they wouldn’t have that motivation since the boss was already leaving!

    On the other hand, I don’t know that it would have done much with the raise situation, since HR wouldn’t be able to speak to the outstanding work any more than the new supervisor.

    But I do love the gift to charity and am glad that both that happened, and that you at least got the regular raises.

  12. Cafe+au+Lait*

    >Which reinforced my belief that HR protects the company, not any of the human beings in their employ.

    I feel like this is my new soapbox to die on: HR is there to provide ethical solutions to issues, they are not there to enforce moral judgements onto one party from another.

  13. Witch*

    I honestly love that phrasing. I’m an HR admin who focuses on the more clerical stuff, but there’s a perception from managerial and hourly staff both that HR is:

    A) Super formal. An email is an official inquiry™ and Very Serious. This is sometimes true, not always true.

    B) Halfway between a temperature check or a therapist. I actually like this format of HR the best; we’ll give you a barometer as to whether the situation you’re experiencing is something solvable, and if so, we’ll help figure out a decent solution.

    C) There for no good reason but to protect GREAT INJUSTICE done upon someone. Lol no.

  14. Other+Meredith*

    You’re getting some pushback on your HR comments, but as someone who works for a place with an HR department that is incompetent at best and actively malicious at worst, I don’t blame you at all for being cautious. The stated purpose of HR may not be to protect the company, but the purpose doesn’t matter as much as the actual results, which is too often that they screw people over to protect the higher ups. Glad you have a better boss now.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t blame you at all for being cautious.

      True. But the reason that the OP is getting pushback is because they went well past caution to just confirming an existing bias. The question they asked was super vague, and the response therefore also had to be super vague. And the fact that HR mentioned that they expect people to talk to their supervisors first does NOT meant that of course HR is going to insist on that in every case and automatically just do whatever the manager wants. Even from the pov of protecting the company, that’s unlikely.

      And the OP could most definitely provided enough additional information without getting into enough specifics to create a problem if HR turns out to be incompetent. But they chose not to because they had already confirmed their bias.

      1. Other+Meredith*

        Yeah, ours is either incompetent or malicious. Not saying everyone’s HR is, but our sucks so bad that those are the only two reasonable explanations.

      2. I+went+to+school+with+only+1+Jennifer*

        We’ve seen examples here of people who work with confidential information being inappropriate with it – sharing health information, salary information, home addressess, lots of things that shouldn’t be public. So maybe those HR departments are malicious as whole and maybe they’re not, but someone working in them is.

  15. Michelle+Smith*

    I think we should give OP the benefit of the doubt about their interaction with HR. This was clearly a dysfunctional workplace and I trust their gut instinct about how the interaction with HR went down, since I wasn’t there and don’t know these people. It all worked out in the end anyway, so why jump on that part of the post? Just be happy for OP?

    1. Observer*

      I think we can be happy for the OP while pointing out that they may have misjudged the situation with HR.

    2. Minimal Pear*

      Yeah, I’m wondering if there was something about how HR said it/the exact wording and context that gave them a bad vibe, knowing what they already know about what HR is like there.
      Also, sidenote, the usernames are doing the plus sign thing again. :/

    3. KN*

      We can give OP the benefit of the doubt that they may have made the right call for their own situation (e.g., distrusting their company’s HR based on “gut instinct” or accumulated evidence not shared). But their post doesn’t just make claims about HR *at their company*; it implies that HR in general can’t be trusted: “Which reinforced my belief that HR protects the company, not any of the human beings in their employ.”

      I think it’s fair to push back on this statement, and to point out that the evidence in this story doesn’t really prove that conclusion. Recalling AAM stories may influence how people handle their own work situations (at least, that’s part of why I read the site!), so the alternative viewpoints here are helpful from that perspective.

  16. Observer*

    OP, as one of the people who commented that perhaps your interpretation of your HR’s response was not correct, I want to say a few things.

    You were TOTALLY correct to be *cautious*. There are some pretty bad HR departments out there and the fact that this manager lasted that long and then left on her own terms is a clue that you company’s might be not so great. And if you’ve had experience with really bad HR in the past, I get your paranoia.

    I feel bad about what happened with the evaluations. It could have been worse, and I think that the new boss probably didn’t have much choice, but it is frustrating for the people who did really good work. I think that the suggestion to keep documentation of the work and bring it up with next year’s evaluations is a good idea.

    Lastly, I am VERY glad that you now have a reasonable boss. It makes such a difference.

  17. Nate*

    Disappointing as it is, I wouldn’t hold it against the new boss that you’re not getting performance reviews this time; they have a point; they’re new and haven’t worked with you all for very long yet. Can’t really evaluate performance when you haven’t observed them for long enough.

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