update: my husband is my boss — and we’re getting divorced

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m 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 husband was her boss — and they were getting divorced? The first update was here, and here’s the latest.

I am the letter writen who wrote in in the middle of a divorce from my boss, who left me for a younger employee. Firstly, I want to thank both you and the readers for your compassion and kindness. Neither you nor the readers gloated or said I got what I deserved, and I am so grateful for that. Your compassion and kind advice showed me that I was reacting normally to an utter untenable situation: you restored my sence of normalcy and my confidence, and I am so grateful.

The one and a half years since my letter was printed has been eventful, to say the least. To start, I work at the same company in the same position. As I wrote in my original letter, I wanted to stay in the job because my young adult daughter was seriously ill and in psychiatric treatment, and needed the insurance for her treatment. Furthermore, I am a top specialist in a very narrow field with few job opportunities, so a change of job would mean moving to another part of the country and I could not bear to leave my daughter behind without the support of a parent, and my ex-husband is not what I call a parent.

Half of my original problem is solved, as my ex-husband resigned as head of department a few months ago, to my immense relief. However, the time after my original letter and until his resignation was bonkers. As expected, my ex-husband/boss started belittling me and questioning my qualifications in meetings with me and my collegues, he started withdrawing my funding, and he started placing very important project meetings on the exact days and times he had sent me on jobs outside the institution. I believe his plan was either to force me to resign, or to make sure I had so many stress-related sick days, that the institution could fire me.

In the same period, two collegues, both excellent specialists, resigned (and resignations are very rare here), in protest of my ex-husband/boss’s ´treatment of them. Both of them had meetings with the director, where they documented the ways in which my ex-husband/boss was a terrible manager and explained that they left because of him. The director did absolutely nothing with that information. One commenter remarked that “a fish rots from the head” and that is certainly the case here: In our only meeting, the director stated that the indepencence and autonomy of the head of department (my ex-husband) was his first priority, so he would not put a stop to what he called the “alleged mistreatment” and that his second was to make sure that I conducted myself professionally towards my ex-husband/boss. He said that my objections to being managed by my ex-husband during a divorce process showed that I was overly emotional, because he had complete trust in my ex’s abilities as a manager. In my country (not the States), employers have a legal obligation to create a safe work environment, so he was breaking the law as well as being a jerk. I had to call in sick after that meeting.

The end came when my boss/ex-husband and the director in secret fostered a plan to get rid of me and another colleague. My ex/boss stated that I and the colleague, our most excellent senior specialist, were getting too old and needed to be replaced in a short number of years (we are 15 and 17 years away from the official retirement age). The solution should be to hire completely inexperienced recent graduates, order me and my colleague to train them to our specialist level, and then have them replace us while we would be fired because of “budget cuts.” To make matters worse, all senior specialists receive no funding from the department budget, but have to apply for our funding ourselves from external sources. This has been a long-time point of contention. My ex-husband/boss had for years stated that the institution was much too poor to fund even the slightest bit of the senior staff (and especially me). Now we learned that these new employees woud be fully funded by the institution. My boss/ex and the director fostered this plan and kept it secret in order to have it sustained by the board, but we got wind of it. The secrecy and the plan did not go down well with either us nor the other senior specialists, who would of course be the next ones to be deemed too old and fired on the flimsiest of pretenses after having trained their successors.

I asked for a meeting with my boss/ex in order to discuss the plan and if possible avoid a big blowout at the next department meeting. That meeting went badly: my boss/ex said I was being paranoid as usual. (The “as usual” refers to an incident that took place in private a year earlier; I then confronted him having learned from a colleague that he was having a long-time affair with another of his employees. That affair apparently started while my mother was in hospice care 5 years ago.) Asked about the issues with funding, he stated that “of course the senior staff would receive some compensation for the time we used on training our (fully funded) replacements.” I still don’t know how I managed to refrain from tellling him exactly what he could do to himself.

The next department meeting was dramatic, to say the least. All senior specialists opposed the plan, the funding, and opposed the way my ex-husband/boss had handled the process, and the mistrust towards him was palpable.

My ex/boss resigned from his position as head of department and took a demotion a week after the meeting: apparently he and the director realized that the only other choice was to fire 10 renowned specialists, which would lead to very bad publicity.

However, not all is well: Upper management still suck and is not going to change. the director has hired a person with absolutely no prior management experience to fill the now vacant position as head of department. And of course, the “generational transfer” is going to come back. Management is even talking about “re-integrating the ex-boss into the department again ” — good luck with that. Morale in the department is at an all-time low, and upper management is working overtime to free themselves for responsibility for the dumpster fire they have ignited.

The good part is that my daughter is doing much better. In six months, perhaps a year, she will no longer need the level of support she does now and then my institution will see my dust.

I realize that this update is tragicomic and the whole process seems grotesque. However, being in the middle of it felt like a nightmare, as I fought my way through an acrimonious divorce from an emotionally and financially abusive husband/boss while my work life was under attack from said husband/boss, who was given free range by a director telling me I was “overly emotional” for even suggesting that I did not trust said abusive boss/ex-husband’s ability to manage me while divorcing me. At that point I seriously questioned my sanity. Thank you for coming to my rescue.

As Alison has pointed out, toxic environments can twist your sense of normalcy, and I am so grateful to Alison and the wonderful readers for giving sound and sane advise, kindness and compassion, that restored my sense of normalcy and my confidence and put me in a place where I am finally ready to move on.

{ 138 comments… read them below }

  1. LawBee*

    LW, you are a rock star. What a terrible situation, but it sounds like you were professional throughout (which can’t be said for your ex/boss). I’m also really happy to hear your daughter is doing better.

    1. LTT*

      I wanted to say this as well! It’s incredible that you’ve been able to weather this, and while dealing with a daughter who is struggling as well. Your ex sounds like an absolutely awful person.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, LW, you rescued yourself from a truly awful situation; we just cleaned all the mud off your glasses so you could figure out for yourself which way to go.

        Fingers crossed that the next update will be about the great job you got in a normal company where no one is managing their own spouses/lovers/etc. I know you can make it happen.

    2. The Eye of Argon*

      Good grief. Dealing with a rotten boss is a nightmare. Dealing with a jerkbag spouse is a nightmare. I can’t imagine having them wrapped up in the same person – nightmare squared, because there’s no time away from the rotten jerkbag in that situation.

      Supreme respect for pulling through when it must have seemed like the whole world was against you at times.

      I hope your daughter continues to do well, and that by this time next year both of you are free from this dumpster fire forever and on to better things.

      1. littlehope*

        My god, LW, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. What a nightmare. Your ex sounds like a monster, and the director is almost worse.
        I am so impressed at how you’ve handled all this – you must have wanted to just lie on the floor and cry, but you’ve been extraordinary.
        I’m so pleased you had at least that one win with the insane plan to fire you, and that your daughter is stabilising; she’s lucky to have such an incredible mum.
        I can’t wait for you to be able to get the hell out of there. I can’t imagine that you’ll have much trouble finding work somewhere saner; you are obviously an incredibly strong and competent person. I hope you don’t have to be so superhuman for much longer.

  2. ZSD*

    “He said that my objections to being managed by my ex-husband during a divorce process showed that I was overly emotional, because he had complete trust in my ex’s abilities as a manager.”
    Oh my god. Letter writer, in case you need this dose of sanity, please know that this was a horrible and completely abnormal response from the director. Once you’re finally able to move to a less toxic employer, please know that you can expect more supportive and sane responses than this.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Oh my goodness yes. I cringed at that statement. That is such gaslighting.

      The fact that the director can’t see that, shows that the director is the one being overly emotional, not you. He is letting his personal relationship with your husband skew his ability to manage objectively, and ignore the glaringly obvious signs of the exact kind of vindictive unprofessionalism that people cite as a reason not to let family members (and ESPECIALLY divorcing ones!) manage each other.

      I hope you can take comfort in:

      1. knowing how many of your objective coworkers have your back.

      2. Being a great parent to your daughter. You are sacrificing so much for her and she is worth it, and so are you.

      3. Being a good human.

      4. Being great in your field! Even your coworkers recognize your objective value. You’re not just enjoyable to work around, but also your work is excellent.

      5. If you have access to support groups or therapy, or physical and emotional support (like games, clubs, interest groups), you’d be doing well to invest in your own well-being over the long term. Your daughter needs a parent who is taking care of yourself in the same way you take care of others.

    2. Bagpuss*

      YEs, that part stood out to me as being so far from reality and normality that there’sno hope at all of any reaonable reaction from this boss or organisation.

      I’m a divorce lawyer. I’ve dealt with some *very* amicable divorces, including a handful where the couple have continued to work togwther BUT not with either as the other’s boss/ manager and mostly only on a short term basis (mostly couples who owned/ran a business together, where it needs to keep running until an oderly change can happen, for instnace) and they are very much the exception. HAving that here the husband already has a track record of poor and prejudiced management *and* is also having an affair with another employer and it is such a huge trash fire.

    3. Hills to Die on*

      Some people are just not worth a damn and this Director and your ex sounds like two of them. I am so glad your daughter is doing better. Being ok when your kid isn’t okay is so difficult, and everything else on top of it! Every day that goes by gets you one day closer to never having to see that place again and I hope it comes soon.

    4. Twix*

      100% this. Any even slightly competent manager would see themself or someone under them managing a partner during a divorce as a likely practical problem and a definite optics problem and address it proactively, even of the divorce was totally amicable. (Which is true of managing a spouse normally too, but I digress.) Please know that him trying to make you the problem for having perfectly sane and reasonable objections to the situation is unconscionable, and that anyone with an ounce of decency will see “overly emotional” for the blatant and despicable sexist dog whistle it is. The fish rots from the head indeed.

    5. Starbuck*

      My jaw dropped at reading that – how awful! I know a lot of the advice was for OP to inform management of what was happening from the start so that they could head off any potential retaliation – clearly we were all wrong about how that would go. What a nightmare, so sorry OP that you have to work with such clods.

    6. Tupac Coachella*

      Ugh, yes. I can’t imagine a situation where having someone managing the person they are in *active divorce proceedings* with would sound like anything less than a tree full of bees. They could both assure me that it was 100% amicable and I’d still be looking for equitable ways to immediately get them out of that reporting line (which shouldn’t have been allowed to happen in the first place for exactly this reason!). No ethical manager would have been ok with this scenario. Wishing health and happiness for OP and their daughter.

    7. Spero*

      It’s especially bizarre to have said he had complete trust in ex’s abilities as a manager when he’d just heard from 2 other senior staff that they were resigning because EX WAS A BAD MANAGER. So not only is it insulting to the LW, it’s ignoring the flags being waived by others who are not the LW or ’emotional’ towards ex/boss

    8. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Any reasonable director would understand that it’s not an optimal situation to have to work closely with – let alone be managed by – someone you’re currently divorcing. But they also wouldn’t let someone manage their spouse, so…
      The guy’s a dick, wanted to keep your ex happy for some reason, and decided you were the problem.

  3. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    And here I thought Hanford was the most toxic place on Earth…

    My sincerest condolences for the two-plus years of absolute hell your ex and his boss have put you through, and you and your daughter have nothing but my best wishes for your futures.

    1. GoLightly*

      I cannot even fathom what kind of man would jeopardize his own daughter’s medical care like this. Absolutely soulless.

  4. MDLM*

    Wow… he must have put some terrible ideas into your head for you to imagine that you would be dragged through the mud in this comment section by people thinking you deserved what you got.

    I hope that you can leave this awful place quickly !

    1. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

      Wow… he must have put some terrible ideas into your head for you to imagine that you would be dragged through the mud in this comment section by people thinking you deserved what you got.

      This. A thousand times, this. They had you questioning your own worth in the eyes of complete strangers you’ve never even spoken to. Horrific levels of toxicity!

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I copied “Neither you nor the readers gloated or said I got what I deserved, and I am so grateful for that.” from above to post in the comments exactly what you posted!
      Just no.
      He is a POS and you are a doing great.

      1. Queen of the Introverts*

        I read that comment and actually said out loud, “But you didn’t do anything deserve ANY of this.”

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      Agreed! It could also be messages from friends, family, or communities she belongs to. Either way, it hurts my heart that OP expected to be blasted. She deserves so much better.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, there are some comments that just break your heart because– who made you think that might be anyone’s reaction? how could you believe that? I’m so glad the commentariat was able to make you think differently!

      1. MEH+Squared*

        Same. That’s the line that broke my heart, too. OP, you have gone above and beyond in how you’ve comported yourself and you have done nothing wrong! I am wishing you a much better 2023 and that you’ll be out of that trashfire place soon.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            My only thought is that it sounds like this wasn’t the ex-husband’s first affair and that the OP didn’t leave him then? But, based on the evidence presented, it seems clear that the ex-husband would have a) manipulated her into believing it was somehow due to her actions and a) threatened to fire the OP if she left. Any “you knew he was a cheater” arguments don’t really hold much weight when throwing out the whole man means throwing your entire professional existence with him.

  5. Empress Matilda*

    Good grief OP, what an absolute nightmare. I’m glad there is positive news in that your ex/boss is no longer your boss at least, and very glad your daughter is on the road to recovery!

    Sorry to hear that your ex is such a complete @%@#$%$, though, and the ED as well. But you – YOU – are a rock star, with resilience and strength you probably didn’t even know you had. Right now, you’re probably also wishing you didn’t *need* to be so strong and resilient, and wondering when you’ll get a chance to just relax. I’ve been there, and I remember it well. And I know you’ll get through this – move forward when you can, and hang in there when you can’t. You’ll be okay, I promise. <3

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Well – the thing is the ex-husband waste of air and even bigger waste of air management team will get their comeuppance- because I can totally see OP leaving (when health concerns permit – and isn’t that crummy to have to type out), and having her leave be the catalyst for a delicious brain drain for the air wasting idiot squad – only it will be a drain without the benefit of the newbies getting trained first.

      Oh well – you reap what you sow.

  6. NYC Taxi*

    What a horrible, chaotic work environment. Congrats for being able to conduct yourself so well through all of that, and for recognizing that none of this is normal! There are jobs out there where everyone is treated with respect and dignity! Wishing all the best to you and your daughter.

  7. squirreltooth*

    I wish your ex and the director a lifetime of stepping on Legos. You’re incredible for powering through this jaw-dropping mess, OP.

      1. NervousHoolelya*

        And partially chewed dog toys that are spiky (because of the chewing) and also roll in unexpected ways so they turn their ankles.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          And moist. At 2am, because also? May they never sleep through the night again without need to get up to pee.

        1. kicking-k*

          All these curses are golden, but this is my favourite. What _makes_ people like this? I will never understand it.

    1. Pants (aka: Petty Crocker)*

      I wish him a life time of chronic jock itch and an incurable yeast infection up his butt crack.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Let me add Duplos (aka toddler legos) to the list of things to always be in their barefooted path.

    3. Phoenix Wright*

      I wish them a save game wipe right before fighting the final boss in every 100-hour RPG they play from here on.

  8. MyStars*

    One hopes that LW took to heart the suggestion to secure legal advice and support regarding the employment situation, especially since their country offers protections related to unsafe work environments. May your opportunity to exit this mess happen quickly and smoothly.

  9. Miss Muffett*

    This company seems to check every box of terrible workplace! I don’t understand why you would expect anyone to gloat and say you got what you deserved, though. It’s probably a symptom of the toxic workplace you have and the terrible person you were married to.

  10. scurvycapn*

    So, uh, has anyone ever had a positive experience working for a non-profit? No matter the source, I’ve only heard stories ranging from unprofessionalism to straight up malice whenever they come up. I know people don’t go on the internet to say “all is well”, but it still seems to be nothing but horror stories.

    1. Gal Friday*

      I think like any business, non-profit orgs run the gamut of experiences. I’ve been in the non-profit filed for nearly 30 years with two different orgs and have only stayed so long because the culture at both was/is positive, encouraging, professional. My comp is comparable to many for-profits and non-profits of similar size.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Alison has answered this question in the past. If you search for “are nonprofits more dysfunctional?” you’ll find the post from July 15, 2015. From the post:

      I also want to push back on the idea that nonprofits are more dysfunctional. Based on the letters here, it’s small employers that are more likely to be dysfunctional, in any sector. (And nonprofits are more likely to be smaller.) Dysfunction is more likely to flourish when an organization is small; when a place is larger, (a) the impact of incompetence or craziness is usually far more contained, and (b) things tend to have more oversight and review.

      I’ll link to the post in a follow-up comment.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, I worked for 27 years as a computer programmer for a non-profit with around 1500 employees. Good pay, excellent benefits, good colleagues, and I got to work remotely for the last 17-18 years.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^This. I’ve worked at two non-profits. The very very small one was pretty seat-of-the-pants with a mercurial director who was much MUCH too involved in the day-to-day and it was not the healthiest workplace, but it was not as bad as the one department I worked in at a huge financial services firm, by far. The small non-profit at least had people who were generally likeable and pleasant to work with, even when a bit chaotic, unlike WorstJob.

        The other non-profit I worked for was maybe 150-200 employees, so still small, and didn’t pay very well but had some excellent benefits, a great group of people, a cause we all felt was worth showing up for every day, and really very little dysfunction. A lot of flexibility for me to jump on projects outside my job description, which I enjoyed as it was a great learning experience; I think back very fondly on my years at that job.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Thank you for this. It seems like every few posts about non-profits has someone asking this question. In the same post you linked to, Alison also wrote:

        I don’t think that nonprofits are disproportionately represented in the letters here. It’s just that you notice “nonprofit” more because people tend to use that label, so we hear a lot of “I work for a nonprofit” whereas people rarely say “I work for a for-profit business.”

        So it’s a bit of confirmation bias as well. I have worked for non-profits and for-profits and they each have their plusses and minuses. I have never worked for a dysfunctional organization (by luck or by design, I do not know) and I have to say I prefer the non-profits because they seem to be less stingy. My for-profit boss never wanted to spend any money on anything so we always had old equipment that could get frustrating at times. My non-profit bosses know that it’s important to spend money to keep staff happy and to make sure they can do their work without too much frustration so while they don’t buy the latest and greatest they do make sure that things work well. (I realize this is an N=1 so not exactly a large representation, but just wanted to say that no, scurvy, not all non-profits are dysfunctional.)

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And also – it’s an advice blog. People typically don’t write to advice columns/blogs about their amazing and competent job. We get the folks that need help about the crazy.

      4. I am Emily's failing memory*

        As a career nonprofit worker I completely co-sign that. Small nonprofits – especially small, founder-led nonprofits, very closely resemble start-ups – especially venture capitalist-funded, founder-led start-ups. You have 1) someone at the helm who had a great idea for the product/service the company/organization will provide, but who doesn’t necessarily know the first thing about the logistics of running and organization and managing people; 2) the company/organization’s continued existence heavily dependent on the whims of a few rich a-holes; 3) bare bones staffing that a) ensures everyone will have to wear multiple hats, which in turn almost guarantees someone will be wearing at least one ill-fitting hat, and b) means that a single unpleasant or reckless person is all by themselves a substantial percentage of the staff, and quite possibly that every single other person has to work with them directly; and 4) no playbook of past experience to work from, where for a number of years the company/organization will encounter a variety situations it has never encountered before and will flail around, stabbing blindly in the dark for a solution, without the easy option of just doing “the thing that worked last time this happened” or using “the boilerplate/template we always use for this.”

        And when #1 is true, it makes the problems caused by #2-4 much, more worse.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’ve worked with a variety of business clients and would agree with Allison: dysfunction has much more to do with the size of the business and the people running it than the type of business. I’d say startups are just as much if not more likely to be dysfunctional.

    4. nonprofit worker*

      Yes, of course. I might as easily ask “has anyone ever had a positive experience working for a family business” or “for a big corporation” or “in academia”–people don’t write in to Ask A Manager when everything’s okay.

    5. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      And bear in mind that people who are having positive experiences in their workplace (any workplace) are less likely to be writing in to an advice column!

    6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Absolutely — I worked for fourteen good years at an academic-adjacent nonprofit, which only ended when they had to lay off a quarter of the staff after 9/11. It’s the for-profit business I worked for later that seemed to have a policy of randomly laying off 10-15% of the staff about once a year, then hiring replacements. I’m saying “seemed to” because nobody actually said that they were doing that because it had been more than twelve months since the last time they fired a bunch of well-qualified people.

      Academic-adjacent meant the retirement benefits were through TIAA-CREF, and they had the best 401k matching I’ve heard of anywhere (I put 5% of my salary, and they added eight dollars for every five I put in.

    7. Pool lounger*

      I worked for a small non-profit archive/library/museum and it was wonderful. The pay being low was the only issue, but pay is low across the board for such jobs, unless you’re pretty advanced/lucky.

    8. Chirpy*

      I liked my job when I actually got to do it, but I was absolutely fired for being “the expendable one” because I was young, single and had no children. I was the person who did *all* of the public-facing programming, to the point of they had to then ask me to work an extra week because they’d forgotten about an event only I knew how to do. I would have left within a year anyway because I was burned out by the trash fire (board of directors on down), but yeah.

      My next job was a completely different type of nonprofit, and was overall better, but I still had to deal with a director who didn’t take people’s concerns seriously. Decent guy overall, just had some weird machismo hangups sometimes. The board there was fabulous though, and handled a mess caused by a different director after I left very well.

    9. Avery*

      I’ve worked for four nonprofits over the years. Two were very pleasant experiences, one was mediocre but more due to the nature of the job (retail) than anything the company did wrong, and one… well, one is the one I tend to talk about in here. But just because that one was bad doesn’t mean my good nonprofit experiences don’t exist!

    10. BRR*

      I have. In addition to the employer size, it’s come up in the past here people are more likely to say they work at a nonprofit (or will say organization)

    11. Kate*

      My first professional job out of grad school was for a largely state-funded nonprofit. I was laid off the following year when they lost state funding, which was outside of the control of anyone in the organization. Getting laid off was horrible, but everyone in the organization did what they could to make it as humane as possible & I’ve always appreciated that.

    12. Talullah*

      The nonprofit my husband works for us straight up cuckoo. The sad thing is—he likes the work. Just not anything else about the organization!

    13. FairweatherAdventures*

      I’m coming up on four years at a charity, which is hands down the best place I’ve ever worked. I’ve been supported with mental health issues and neurodiversity, maternity leave, childcare crises, the pandemic, moving hundreds of miles and becoming permanently remote, and now transitioning down to much fewer hours so I can build my side business. We’re a fairly small organisation too; I think we now have more than 50 employees but that wasn’t the case when I started.

    14. kicking-k*

      I work at one and it’s the nicest, most people-focused environment I have encountered in 25 years of working life. Everyone seems both pleasant and competent. But it’s not small. It’s also in the care sector and consequently heavily regulated.

  11. soontoberetired*

    And this is why my company prohibits boss/underling relationships – if you start dating your boss around here, the boss or you will be moved if it becomes known.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes – we a re a small business and we avoid having family members supervising each other – we have had situations where there have been family members working here at the same time (one parent / child and one pair of spouses, and in each case with specific lines of authority which mean that he senior staff member can’t supervise their own family member and recuses themself from any discussions involving that individuals performance, pay, etc (and, if it were ever relvant, from any disciplinary or grievance process)
      Where we have ahd people who are relatedto one another where neither is a supervisor we I’ve generally tried to ensure that they have difference supervisers to each other and are in different departments to try to ensure that there’s no ganging up, favouritism or indeed any family drama splilling over into work.

    2. Zephy*

      In this specific case, they were married before OP’s husband started working there, but in that case he should never have been anywhere near her reporting chain.

      1. soontoberetired*

        right, and my company would make sure that wouldn’t happen, too. We have plently of married couples but all have been moved to make sure they are not reporting to their boss. We’re big, it is easy to find a place for someone if they need to do so.

  12. Heidi*

    So is the director also having an affair with the OP’s ex-husband? I’m having difficulty accounting for the unwavering trust the director has in this jerk.

    1. GraceC*

      At the very least it sounds like he has a history of also dating his employees, so has a vested interest insisting that this is all normal, nothing to see here, and if the employee has a problem with it then it’s all their fault, not the fault of the higher-up

        1. The Petty Revenge Fairy*

          Isn’t it? I first came across it in Kate Manne’s “Entitled” and I shout it at the telly and the Internet depressingly often. It’s strangely satisfying to have such a pithy response.

  13. Clobberin' Time*

    “In my country (not the States), employers have a legal obligation to create a safe work environment, so he was breaking the law as well as being a jerk.”

    Please consider talking to a lawyer/solicitor or the equivalent in your country. At a minimum, this could help you to negotiate a much more lucrative exit from this company that you would otherwise have. Here in the US, it is all too common for companies to pay excellent severance packages as a form of hush money.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, even if you don’t want to do anything immediately becuse you needthe job, it’s worth knowing where you stand and what your options are in case they do try to push you out or push you to the point where you need to resign for your own sanity and safety.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This. As someone who has spoken to lawyers in the past, speaking to the lawyer doesn’t mean you will be taking action. And it’s far easier to take effective action when you know what all your options (including legal action) are.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I do not want to speculate on where the OP is located but I am curious as to what other countries have medical benefits linked to employment. Forgive my ignorance, but I thought the US was one of the last holdouts.

      1. BubbleTea*

        In the UK we have the NHS but for many issues, particularly long-term mental health problems, private healthcare is far superior, and some jobs offer private health insurance as a perk. Even my small charity job used to provide dental benefits (not any more, alas, and NHS dentists are almost impossible to come by).

      2. MsSolo (UK)*

        A lot of countries have a hybrid system, where a tax funded service covers some areas and private insurance covers others, or one system covers a certain amount of care and then the other picks up from there. Or the tax funded service is just so oversubscribed and underfunded that any one who can afford it has private insurance, which makes it a worthwhile job perk.

    3. Pants*

      Reading this saga, I came to the “not the states” part and thought Hmmm, I guess there’s a benefit to this crazy country sometimes.

      And definitely on the golden parachute hush money. A C-Suiter at my last job was given a $7m “shhh” to go quietly when he was proven to be taking up-skirt shots under his desk during meetings.

      1. Pants*

        (The company doesn’t exist anymore — unrelated — and the story was hushed out of the media so I’m not concerned about outing him. Plus, he deserves it.)

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        What on earth? “Ooh, let’s give him a few million dollars, that’ll show him!” I do not understand this at all. And yes, I know it happens not infrequently, but that doesn’t mean I understand it at all.

  14. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Please take a bow. If I could send you chocolate, I would. You have navigated an insanely toxic situation for many years, while keeping your focus on your priorities (your daughter). Wishing both you and your child a year of peace and happiness, and may your ex receive exactly what he deserves.

  15. Abogado Avocado*

    LW, yes, upper management suck, but you are — as Law Bee said above — a rock star! Your workplace sounds awful beyond belief. Yet, I hope you get up every morning and congratulate yourself for: (1) being the consummate professional in spite of your idiot manager who thinks you’re overly emotional when discussing being managed by your Asshole Ex during a divorce; (2) persevering through stressful times at a toxic job and a divorce; and (3) participating in steps that led to the Asshole Ex having to resign from his management position and being demoted. You clearly are a survivor — and I bet I’m not the only one here who wishes to have you there when times get tough on the job.

    I hope you will keep on keeping on AND gathering intelligence regarding this place so that you can use it against them when the time is ripe. Any upper management so stupid as to develop the “generational transfer” scheme has doubtless committed other unwise, amoral, or even illegal actions. Gather the evidence and go get ’em!

    1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I’m actually impressed by their ability to “self own” here. It is very reasonable to want to ensure institutional knowledge isn’t sitting exclusively with employees all at the same stage of their careers because they may potentially all move up, leave, or retire around the same time and that would be a challenge. This company pretty much set it up in such a way to show it was ONLY a pretext for age discrimination. They even named it “generational transfer”. The lack of awareness is staggering.

  16. Shira*

    If I’m reading the update right, the ex had affairs with not one but two of his employees within 5 years?! This effing guy.
    The director sounds like a real piece of work as well.
    LW, I am here rooting for you!! Best wishes for health, happiness and success in 2023.

  17. EverythingIsInteresting*

    Hereby nominated for Dishonorable Mention for Worst Boss/Most Toxic Work Environment of the year.
    Kudos and hugs to you, LW, for having to endure such a traumatic situation!

  18. duinath*

    damn. op, i’m sorry you have to keep treading water like this, just reading this feels a bit like drowning. i hope you reach shore safely and soon.

  19. sagewhiz*

    Wow. Just wow. If there’s ever a Lifetime Achievement award in the Worst Boss Ever category, my vote goes to this ex and director!

    And yup, OP deserves a Rock Star award!

  20. RJ*

    Your boss and your ex may totally suck and be major gaslighters, but you are awesome, OP. I’m so glad the situation with your daughter is improving and I hope you can get into a new work situation ASAP. You’ve shown true strength in the eye of several storms hitting you simultaneously and I salute you for that.

  21. Alex*

    Wow, OP the people you work with are unfathomably horrid! Good for you for keeping your head high and focusing on your daughter. That must be really tough.

    May the path forward for your ex be scattered with legos and may he walk it barefoot.

  22. Purple Cat*

    Wow, my heart breaks for OP. She does not deserve any of what has happened to her and the fact that she thinks she does AND that the director thought she was “too emotional” by fearing retribution – which OF COURSE actually happened. *scream*
    I’m so proud of you OP for making it through this. We are rooting for you and your daughter.

  23. GoLightly*

    Wow OP. I hate this for you and can only hope that your ex meets his comeuppance. Still, I know that living well is the best revenge, and I hope that good things are in the works for you. (But also if you want us to slash his tires for you, let us know!)

  24. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Ah, yes, calling a woman “emotional” when she stops prioritizing a man’s emotions.

    1. Luna*

      Woman: *absolutely calm* I do not think this situation is going well.
      Man: *puffed up, huffing, slamming fist on table* You women, always so emotional!

  25. Michelle Smith*

    “Neither you nor the readers gloated or said I got what I deserved, and I am so grateful for that.”

    I’m just astonished that there is anything you think you could possibly have done to deserve the kind of mistreatment and abuse you’ve received across the board. For anyone to suggest you deserved any of this, they would have to be your ex-husband. I’m so sorry he and your grandboss (?) turned out to be such pieces of garbage, but I’m grateful you and your daughter are doing better. I trust you know what you’re doing by staying put for now and I trust you’ll make a move when you can. Big hugs OP, you’re doing great!!

  26. Keymaster of Gozer*

    You’ve truly been through pain and unfair treatment that absolutely nobody should deal with. I hope your ex and your boss step on upturned UK plugs for at least 20 hours a day.

    Sincerely wish you all the best at getting out and a special hope for you and your daughter to get through. I’ve been through the serious psychiatric issues and inpatient/urgent treatment and can say having a supportive loved one alongside is such a major thing that helps to find a new stable equilibrium. You’re an absolute legend for being there for her.

  27. TimeTravlR*

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I did not hire my employee’s wife even though she was well qualified. I was afraid of something like this happening! (She was hired for another division in my department though, becayse we did want her as she had some great skills to offer.)

    1. Luna*

      Honestly, this type of thing is why a lot of companies do not want people in different levels of hierarchy even dating, let alone be married. I was wondering why the heck this situation even occured, but… well, the company seems pretty upside-down, to put it mildly, so that probably explains it.

  28. tg33*

    You sound very strong in a completely ridiculus (sp) situation. Brava. It would be lovely to hear you are out of there with a fabulous new job, but you have to work with the parameters (insurance, children) that you have.

  29. ecnaseener*

    Holy shit, that’s terrible. Best wishes for getting out of there ASAP, and for your daughter to continue to improve.

  30. Warm Gooey Cheap Ass Rolls*

    OP, are people in your life suggesting you “got what you deserved,” in some way?
    Because those people have terrible values. You did not deserve to have a sick child. You did not deserve to have a terrible boss. You did not deserve to be betrayed by your husband. You deserve peace and success.

    1. Meep*

      It is pretty common for men to blame women when family members (or herself) get sick. She wasn’t “wifely” enough and not taking care of her husband’s needs. God forbid that she had a dying mother, a sick daughter, and a jerk husband in short succession. I also get the feeling that her ex-husband wasn’t being cruel to show “impartiality” but because he was trying to show his mistress he cared for her more.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I also get the feeling that her ex-husband wasn’t being cruel to show “impartiality” but because he was trying to show his mistress he cared for her more.

        Possibly, or also he could just be a total jerk (which actually is true regardless). I somehow doubt the mistress is being treated very well either, or maybe she was when he was still married but now that they’re free to legally be in a relationship, I bet he’s not treating her nearly as well as he used to treat her.

        Some people also blame wives when their husbands cheat (because she’s not giving him what he wants and “deserves,” I guess?) and that’s maddening.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I also cannot imagine the co-workers think very much of the affair partner. I doubt the affair and divorce were the big secrets ex-husband wanted them to be while he was still there, the whole team saw how ex-husband was treating OP, and two even left over it. I’m usually pretty hard on affair partners where they are very aware of the existence of the marriage, but given how much the OP (who is clearly an established professional with decades of experience) had her sense of what was “acceptable overlap” between personal and professional manipulated by the ex-husband and toxic workplace, I really wonder what might be going on in the mind of someone younger who is in an extra marital relationship with a clearly manipulative boss who has demonstrated the capacity to retaliate professionally against women who do not do exactly what he wants in their personal relationships.

    2. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      This! Anyone who suggests you deserve any of this situation does not have your best interests at heart, OP. I hope you continue down your path with the same courage and integrity you have shown this far. These internet strangers are rooting for you!

  31. Meep*

    Ick. Sorry you spent 30 years with this jerk, but glad you got out. May he step on legos every single day for the rest of his life.

  32. Elle*

    I’m so glad for you, LW, that things have gone not quite as badly as they could have. What a horrible situation to find yourself in. You deserve none of it! I’ve dealt with some betrayal that involved a manager and my (now former) spouse and this is SO much more extreme than what I went through. Your resilience is incredible. Sending you sooo many good thoughts.

  33. learnedthehardway*

    I have no idea how you managed to be so amazing through all of this total crap from your ex-husband/manager and the director. You are a complete rockstar!!! Your love for your daughter must be what has kept you going – she’s blessed to have a mother like you.

    Wishing you and your colleagues great success in combatting the assholes at work.

  34. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW, you are a total bad*ss. This situation has been awful, your ex has been awful, your director has been awful, the whole leadership team seems to have been awful. But it sounds like you’ve navigated some pretty challenging waters with professionalism, grace, and courage.

    I hope that 2023 sees some big positive changes for you and your daughter!

  35. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    I hope your daughter continues to get better and that you can leave as soon as possible for better, more functional pastures, OP.

  36. The Rafters*

    LW, I am simply appalled that you think you did anything to deserve the treatment to which you have been subjected. You held it together like the rock star we know you are!

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Well, that’s one of the most common tools in the abusers’ playbook. Turn it around on their victims. The director and the ex are both flat-out abusive.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Seriously, I cannot imagine how much damage these two did not only to the OP but to pretty much every person who worked under them. OP mentioned in her first letter that her ex-husband went out of his way to treat her worse to avoid the appearance of favoritism and also that he had 2 affairs over the last 5 years with people who directly report. And the upper management just seemed at best indifferent to it and at worst to actively condone the behavior. How would working in that environment NOT do a number on your sense of what a normal workplace is? I feel like this is how we get managers like the beer run one who didn’t understand why it was completely unacceptable to bully and drive out someone assigned to their team because they “didn’t fit the culture”….

  37. Dr Sarah*

    OP, you’re one of the bravest people I’ve encountered. I’m very much rooting for you to be back in the future with an update about a wonderful new job. Best wishes for you and your daughter.

  38. Jules the 3rd*

    Wow, OP, you have been dealing with a lot of straight-up abuse, from both your ex and the director. Consider reading “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy; there’s a free pdf on the web. The benefit for you is that Lundy talks about all the tricks abusers use, which may help you identify and counter them, until you are able to get out. Or persuade the board that your ex and the director suck enough for them to ditch.

    And correct, you do not deserve any of this. Both these men are abusers, and it is not a coincidence that they work together.

    You and your daughter deserve a few decades of drama-free life after this. I’m hoping it for you both.

  39. Beanie*

    OP, I’m so sorry you had to deal with all that! I’ll add to the boxes letting you know that you are definitely not the one in the wrong here!

    I also have to wonder if legal action could be taken? Wouldn’t trying to force out older workers for newer workers actually meet the definition of a hostile work environment? I know that term gets tossed around all the time, but it looks to me like the director and the ex are discriminating against their older employees. And age is a protected class.

  40. Jasmi*

    OP, I’m sorry you’re going through all this! This whole situation is crazy, particularly the plan to get rid of you, and the part ‘He said that my objections to being managed by my ex-husband during a divorce process showed that I was overly emotional, because he had complete trust in my ex’s abilities as a manager’ had my eyebrows shooting off the top of my head so far that I am going to have to get them pencilled in. I hope things get better and that you can leave this crazy situation behind. Also best wishes to your daughter for a continued improvement in her health and hope she makes a full recovery!

  41. Luna*

    Call me petty, but I would have been so tempted to point out to the ex that his age also meant he was getting ‘too old’ for the position, and he should be replaced with someone younger and cheaper.

    “re-integrating the ex-boss into the department again ”
    Pretty sure if they did that, everyone in that department is going to resign at the same time, and leave the company out to dry as they scramble to find those cheaper substitutes. Let alone to get them trained to adequate levels.

    Good for you for getting rid of that piece of dung called an ex-husband. The only things to improve are to get away from the company, which I hope will be a quick process once your daughter is doing better (thumbs held for her).

  42. Dust Bunny*

    “Neither you nor the readers gloated or said I got what I deserved, and I am so grateful for that.”

    I’m glad you’re doing better and making plans to get out but that you would even think someone who wasn’t a towering [glassbowl] would think this about you is pretty upsetting.

  43. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    Wow! Too bad it is too late to enter your boss into the running for worst boss of 2022!

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