updates: the terrible game store manager, the emotional affair, and more

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. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

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

1. I own a game store with a terrible manager who I’m afraid to fire

The update is we tried as best as we could to have performance improvements and set goals to meet, but he has continued to not meet them. We have officially decided to let him go, but our business partners are adamant that we wait until after Christmas to avoid bad blood in the community. We have decided in the interim to hire an assistant manager to give them time to learn the ropes until we let the manager go. Once the manager is gone, the assistant manager will then be bumped to official manager. The assistant manager is a friend of ours and is understanding of this entire timeline and fully on board as well.

2. I don’t want my new boss to come to my extracurricular activity

First off, I’m not sure why I said “performance-based activity” to try and make my hobby less identifiable (mild panic?). What I actually practice is an unusual form of martial arts, and the event was a promotion test open to the public. So while I appreciate the points of the commetariat that as a performer you gotta accept these kinds of things, in this case it didn’t really apply! This was a big milestone for me and not something I’m liable to do again anytime soon.

Anyway, I had every intention of using your script, but in the end I chickened out and was too nervous to walk back the invite. I think she picked up on my vibes, though, because in the end she didn’t come! If I’d known her better or if it had been a regular exhibition match I don’t think I’d have minded as much, but this promotion test was the culmination of years of work and I was really nervous. But I’ve invited her/her son to a tournament my school is hosting next month–we’ll see if they come!

In the meantime, [name] has proven to be a GREAT boss, possibly the best boss I’ve ever had. It’s really enforced for me the fact that a good manager makes all the difference in the world–there is a lot about our institution I really dislike, but she and my grandboss do so much to shield us from the worst parts. Thanks again for your advice, and for all the work you do here. This time a year ago I was at a job so toxic I had to take medical leave for my mental health and eventually quit with nothing else lined up. Reading AAM both gave me practical advice in my job search and reassured me I was making the right choice, even if it was a risky one. I had a hard few months but things have worked out better than I could have imagined.

3. I’ve stopped going into the office and my boss doesn’t know

After my boyfriend finished his program, I moved back to my original location and started going into the office twice a week again (I actually work closely with the people at this location, so it makes sense for me to go. Also, they would know if I was skipping out!)

Shortly after moving back, I got yet another new manager. And about a month ago, my boyfriend was offered a permanent position at the University where he worked on his PhD that will begin in early 2023. So it looks like we’re moving yet again!

I let my manager know, and also asked if there was room for compromise on the in-office time. She said she couldn’t yet give me a formal, official answer but that I “shouldn’t worry.” From her tone, I believe she was implying that either the company might finally make our team permanent WFH in the near future, or that they will make an exception for me. She also said that she didn’t “want to lose” me over this, which I found interesting since I actually was planning on looking for a new position if I wasn’t allowed to be fully remote. Fingers crossed that she comes through for me and I will be granted WFH!

4. Emotional affair with a colleague (#2 at the link)

So ever since I read the response from you and your readers on my situation, I told the guy that I didn’t want to continue anything further and told him to respect my space. He even went a step further telling me that he loved me and asked me to think about being his second wife! That was kind of my breaking point where I had my “oh what the hell am I doing” moment. When I gave him a resounding “ABSOLUTELY NOT” response he wasn’t too happy about it! He later clarified that he wasn’t actually IN love with me, just liked my company as “a friend.” I still stuck to my gut and said no! There were a LOT of pleases and convincing from his side but I told him it was over.

We do occasionally meet at some colleagues’ parties or when we go out with our colleagues once in a while for drinks but I kind of keep my interaction with him to a bare minimum. I have been taking a sabbatical from dating and men for now and focus on my other goals! :) I hope one day I will be ready to meet new guys and start something fresh, stable and healthy! till then- Here’s hoping for it! :) Thank you for all your help.

{ 138 comments… read them below }

    1. Don*

      Anyone who has it in them to cavalierly add a second spouse does bupkis labor in the relationship. I can barely keep up with one wife’s laundry.

      1. Selina Luna*

        As someone who is partnered AND polyamorous, I agree with your overall assessment. My husband and I have it in us to date casually and to have long-term relationships with partners who live elsewhere, but moving another adult into the house where we live sounds terrifying!

      2. redflagday701*

        This is so true. My wife and I joke about how much work an additional relationship would be, and how if we ever opened our marriage up to a third person long-term, it would have to be someone who enjoys mornings, is excellent with financial planning, and loves giving back scratches but hates receiving them. It’s a high bar.

    2. Kes*

      Even better: he wants her to be a second wife, but also he’s not actually in love with her but just wants her company as a friend?!? (even though in the first letter he confessed that he loved her, and was jealous when she was going on dates with other guys). So glad OP realized she’s better off without this guy.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Him: I’m in love with you! Be my second wife! No one else can have you!
        Also him: Psych just kidding why would you think I like you don’t be weird.

        Apparently this guy never emotionally progressed past middle school.

        1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

          Yeah, that’s just the traditional gas-lighting, “Oh, ha-ha, you misunderstood, I only meant to ask you to go to dinner and the movies as a friend.”

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I think the “just a friend” thing was his effort at “that thing that upset you isn’t true, so come back!”

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yup, he really is in love with her but walked it back when she declined his bananacrackers offer.

      3. Observer*

        Even better: he wants her to be a second wife, but also he’s not actually in love with her but just wants her company as a friend?!?

        It’s classic negging and classic “You can’t quit – you’re fired!”

        I am SOOOO glad that the OP is firmly out of that relationship. And I hope she finds someone who REALLY, ACTUALLY DOES care for her. Not someone who pretends in order to manipulate her.

    3. DataGirl*

      What I’m wondering is, is this a sister wives kind of thing or he wants to divorce his first wife and marry her?

      1. Yoyoyo*

        What does it say about me (or him, I guess?) that I didn’t even consider that he would divorce the first wife and went straight to a sister wives scenario?

        1. MEH Squared*

          Same thing it says about me because it didn’t occur to me that he might be thinking about divorcing his first wife. To me, it sounded like he wanted the two-for-one special.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Ditto. Didn’t even occur to me that this guy was thinking anything but “let’s solve my cheating problem with some me-centric polyamory!”

            1. Empress Matilda*

              100% that’s what he was thinking. I guess it’s good that he finally said the quiet part out loud? At least OP knows where she stands, and was able to kick him to the curb at this point.

        2. Observer*

          What does it say about me (or him, I guess?)

          Totally about him, given what the OP had already told us.

          Oh, and nothing good.

      2. The Original K.*

        I had the same thought! For some reason “second wife” in this context sounded to me like he meant “sister wife.”

        1. All Het Up About It*

          I love the different interpretations here! Because I took it as mistress, that I’m going to call my second wife to show you how much I “Love” you.

          Of course in ANY interpretation it is ICK. Glad OP let this guy go and hope that they find someone new after their dating moratorium or find deep and meaningful friendships during said moratorium.

        2. Heidi*

          I’ve been thinking about this a bit. If he had intended to divorce his first wife, he could have just said, “I want you to be my wife.” Divorced people who remarry don’t refer to their new spouse as the second spouse when they’re the only spouse. I think this is why I also assumed that he was proposing some sort of concubine situation.

      3. raincoaster*

        It’s the preamble to her writing Dear Abby about her fiancé whose getting-a-divorce process is now in its tenth year.

      4. Ally McBeal*

        My father tried this – showed up one day after 25+ years of marriage and informed my mother that the Bible says he can have more than one wife as long as he “provided for both of them” (apparently he figured he could divide up “provided” into financial and emotional/physical tranches) and would ya look at that, he’s already found #2, aren’t we all so happy for him? #2 lived in a different country so he simply moved there to be with her, although I’m not sure if his divorce from my mom was finalized before he married #2 in that country.

        The nerve of some people, honestly.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          Well let’s see; there was Timothy, Corinthians, Matthew in the new testament, and at the very least Titus and the Temple Scroll from the old testament… To say nothing of the leaders of the early church like Tertullian and Augustine of Hippo.

          Has your father ever read the bible? Because it sure sounds like he didn’t get past the second chapter of the old testament.

    4. Well...*

      Oh man this guy is such a mess. LW, there are people out there who will listen to you and be honest about their feelings, plus treat you more responsibly and not propose putting you in awful situations (be my second wife but like as a friend! Cool, sounds like a great future). You can find love and respect, be it from friends, partners, found family, or even your own relationship with yourself. You don’t need to settle for guys like this in your life.

    5. MEH Squared*

      Right???? If he actually said that phrase out loud….words fail me. Good on you, OP #4 in running like the wind.

    6. Luna*

      I know it’s good to also be friends and not just lovers with your marital partner, but I don’t think they mean it like this. XD

    7. L'étrangere*

      I’m so glad you’re out of this LW#4. And totally understand the need for a dating moratorium after being put through the wringer like this. May I remind you that at the time many people recommended a bit of therapy to help you deal with the fallout and reset your expectations in both friendships and more romantic endeavors? Some help in addressing the basic loneliness would really improve your life, and make you less likely to slide into anything with another creep. Even though you didn’t get raped or physically beaten up, there were many overtones of abuse here. I’d like to recommend a book – Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. I think it’d help you shed any idea that you had any responsibility in this fiasco, but also help you understand how you may have seemed like a good target, being too much of a good girl. It’s the best book I’ve ever seen on the topic because it explains the general pattern of desire for control while giving many examples of how that can play out in different circumstances. It’d definitely help you recognize those jerks from further away and shut them down more effectively. Wishing you the best for the future, at work and off

  1. Clobberin' Time*

    He later clarified that he wasn’t actually IN love with me, just liked my company as “a friend.”

    So does he ask every friend he likes to be his secret second wife? If you managed to keep from bursting out laughing at his pathetic face-saving excuse you are a more stoic person than I.

  2. JaneJam*

    Number 4, if you can share any other details or diakogit, it would be the most magical Christmas ever :D

  3. Fiddlesticks*

    Ewww, #4… does this guy want a “Sister Wives” situation or something?? Don’t get into anything like that again, OP.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I went more towards his current wife is his future ex-wife and LW is future wife #2 becuase in a poligamy is illegel she couldn’t legally be his second of two current wives.

      And once he says that any face saving He later clarified that he wasn’t actually IN love with me, just liked my company as “a friend.” is ridiculous. It may not be love or in love, but on his side there’s lust and a desire for a physical and continued emotional relationship.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        LW is future ex-wife #2. FTFY. (Except not, because LW will never be wife in the first place.)

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I’m not sure there’s room for love in his heart, because there’s rather a lot of ego getting in the way.

    2. Warrior Princess xena*

      EW EW EW EW EW EW.

      Kudos to OP for recognizing the bananacrackers situation and getting the heck out of that.

  4. Mississippi*

    “We tried as best as we could to have performance improvements and set goals to meet, but he has continued to not meet them.”

    If you are not already doing this, be sure to include words along the lines of “if these goals are not met, we will terminate you.” If your business partners need you to wait until after Christmas to start using these words, then so be it, but I encourage you to be explicit by using the word “terminate“ or one of its synonyms. This is partly a CYA so that your manager employee cannot claim that he was never told he’d be fired.

      1. Mississippi*

        They can fire him without goals to meet, too. A good manager is transparent not just about expectations but also about consequences.
        When you expect a fired employee to make trouble, it is smart to have been entirely transparent. Even when a fired employee is entirely in the wrong, if they make, it can be costly. The cost can be in terms of legal fees if the employee turns litigious or the cost can be in reputation if the business is part of a reputation and relationship based community, as this one is.

    1. tg33*

      I am assuming a game store makes a lot of sales over Gift as, by keeping him on you are missing this, and fixing in everyone’s mind that you are a dirty, messy shop with poor stock. They won’t be back next Giftmas.

      1. Wintermute*

        That’s much less true for game stores.

        Game stores tend to make their money on regular customers who buy a lot of product tied to the sales cycle of that product. A tournament-level collectable card game player will drop 300-500 dollars the day a new set releases and might buy packs off and on all year as their budget accommodates, as well as coming to you to buy and sell individual cards if you do that. But they’re not going to be gifting cards usually for Christmas.

        A miniatures or card game player is going to be dropping hundreds to thousands steadily over time, christmas sales tend to be one copy of a 40-dollar board game for their friend and then you don’t see them again for a year– it’s not your bread and butter the way it is for many retailers.

        The exception is if you do nerd-adjacent gifts (which I suggested in the original letter), those tend to be hot holiday items because everyone has a geek in their life and often go to a local game store going “I don’t get their interests but YOU DO, please, help me find something meaningful!”

  5. raincoaster*

    Hiring a friend to replace the bad manager who’s an integral part of your friend community is not going to be well-received. Your soon-to-be ex-employee will tell everyone that his replacement connived to push him out and you agreed because the assistant kissed your ass.

    It would have been a lot better if you’d hired someone who wasn’t your friend. Someone who was objectively good at retail management and had no personal connection to you.

    This is both to avoid the above narrative the manager will spin (you know he will), and also to prevent you from writing in to Alison in a year asking how to discipline a dear friend who works for you.

    I hope I’m wrong but I’ve seen it before. There is way too much interpersonal drama in the management structure there.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. Given the concerns in the first letter, this update sits really poorly with me.

      1. lost academic*

        I also agree but I also recognize that it might have been difficult for whatever reason to find a viable candidate that was also not socially connected. I think that for most companies it is NOT, but I imagine the small hyperlocal retail niche establishments are strapped for the kinds of useful recruiting skills and resources that we might take for granted. There has to be a better system in place after this point and hiring a friend isn’t going to make that easy.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Yes, the combination of being hyperlocal and niche makes this situation much more complicated. This may be a case of having to choose the least bad option.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Having to choose the least bad option is what this update reads like to me as well.

            Well, that and way too many cooks in the kitchen by way of way too many business partners who have a say in staffing decisions.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, it did seem strange that they need to hold off on firing someone until after Christmas in order to “avoid bad blood”, but it’s ok to take on a ‘backup’ who’s your friend and (presumably) knows about the performance issues of the existing manager, with the intent of pushing the manager out.

        Btw on the ‘firing before Christmas’ issue – why is this a thing? I understand that it is horrible to be fired around Christmas time, or indeed any other time, but the 2 things that stick out to me are: 1. better to do it while the person still has a chance to adjust their spending, rather than in January when all their seasonal spending has already been incurred. and 2. how will they ever feel about Christmas in future? Probably unable to enjoy it in case they are fired after it again.

        A related thing happened to me; I returned from annual leave (vacation) to an official reprimand about an incident in the office, which I had gone away on leave believing had already been resolved and I’d heard the end of it / no further action. That was in the mid 2000s and even now 15 years later I can never really relax during time off because of this.

        1. nona*

          I assumed it had to do with the pre-Christmas shopping stuff at the store (and not switching horses mid-stream, or having to manage the optics while also managing Christmas shopping), and less to do with the “don’t be mean atthe holidays” thing that most break-ups deal with.

          1. Velociraptor Attack*

            I definitely assumed it’s because they want the people who come to this store to still spend all their money there instead of going somewhere else through the holidays. I don’t think it’s anything about him, it’s all about the dollars coming in.

            I recognize this might be a very uncharitable way to look at it.

            1. Ellen Ripley*

              That’s what I thought as well. But maybe getting rid of the person currently driving away business would actually result in more customers coming in to shop for the holidays?

        2. Aggretsuko*

          Almost every Hallmark Channel Christmas movie has either “getting fired for/at Christmas” or being threatened with Christmas firing as a plotline, and it’s terrible. Honestly, it’s just plain asshole to fire someone during a period of time where you’re obligated to spend a lot and spend time with family (who will be asking what happened to your job). And as you point out, it does kind of ruin their Christmas when you fire someone on it.

          I know that a bad person should be booted out ASAP, but Christmas firing is SO bad that even I would endorse waiting until January to do it.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that most companies aren’t hiring during December/going on break/whatever, so if you lose your job right now, it’s even harder to find another one ASAP unless you want to suddenly work 12 hour days in retail. Look at all the ex-Twitter employees and everyone on the H-1 visa.

        3. TootsNYC*

          >>better to do it while the person still has a chance to adjust their spending

          I got fired from a job once the day after I got back from a plane trip home to see my parents.
          My firing-me boss actually said that she’d decided to do it before the trip, but didn’t want to do it then because she was afraid I’d cancel the trip and she wanted me to get to see my parents. I was thinking, “I just spend a month’s rent on plane tickets, asshole.”

        4. Rain's Small Hands*

          I got the impression that this had nothing to do with the manager not getting fired over Christmas and everything to do with “let’s not anger the manager’s friends right before they do all their Christmas shopping in the store.”

          1. SHEILA, the co-host*

            Yeah, I got this vibe too. But I think there are probably lots of potential customers who avoid the store because of this person. Hopefully once the old manager is gone, the store can do some outreach and get a variety of new customers.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m with you — I’ve argued on moving up a firing rather than moving it back precisely because it lets someone better judge their expenses. Maybe return a high-end purchase or two, or put the impossible-to-get holiday item onto ebay.

        6. ThatGirl*

          Layoffs frequently happen in Nov and Dec due to budget planning, and I get that. But there is a degree of people feeling like it’s especially heartless because “it’s the holidays!” — like someone in HR is Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s an emotional reaction to a business decision.

      3. raincoaster*

        Some fields are really prone to this kind of thing. People think they MUST get someone who lives and breathes Elfquest or whatever to run their comic book store, but you actually don’t.

        You need that in your frontline staff. In your manager, you need management skills.

        1. idwtpaun*

          Except that depending on the size of the store, the manager is often frontline staff too. I would almost always assume it to be the case.

          1. Stuff*

            Anecdotally, the good retail managers I can remember working with are people who spent a lot of time on the sales floor, and took on a share of the customer service, if not as big a share as the non-management employees. The managers who spent all their time in the office or stockroom had a tendency to be the ones disconnected with why metrics weren’t being met or issues were happening, and disconnected with how much effort employees were actually putting in.

            1. Stuff*

              By disconnected with how much effort employees were actually putting in, I mean such managers tended to think we weren’t working as hard as we actually were and get angry at unrealistic metrics not being met.

    2. Kes*

      Yeah, I’m glad they’re letting go of the bad manager but the way they’re going about it is… not great. I get not all of this is under OP’s control, but bringing in someone that you’re secretly planning to replace them with, who is also friends with you, that you’re expecting him to train under the guise of being an assistant before firing him and having your friend take over, is not the best. It’s definitely going to look like you pushed him out in order to bring in your friend

      1. Mississippi*

        “bringing in someone that you’re secretly planning to replace them with”

        I don’t like this strategy, either. If it’s not already clear what’s going on, it’s going to become clear in retrospect once the current manager is fired. I think they are going to lose a lot of that customer friend base (except for the ones who know this guy is a clown even though they are his friend :-)). I guess that’s why they are waiting for after Christmas—so they don’t lose Christmas sales.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, this seems much more likely to blow up in one’s face than just being honest. If one is that worried about an employee being bitter, consider a severance payment instead.

    3. Allegra*

      Yeah, I really hope they just meant “friendly with us” and not a close friend, because then they’ll be recreating the exact same dynamics, only on their side. The plan to have an assistant manager learn the ropes to eventually promote them is great, but as long as the business is in a tug-of-war between cliques I worry they’ll keep having the same issues. Customers can and do pick up on this kind of tension! If the OP hasn’t read “The Five Geek Social Fallacies” I might recommend it–it’s a little dated and not perfect of course, but being aware of those kinds of dynamics particularly as they show up in nerdy/geeky spaces like comic and game shops might be helpful.

      1. raincoaster*

        It’s retail. The skill set of management doesn’t change that much, although enthusiasts tend to hate to hear that.

        1. Calamity Janine*

          especially since there are some essential retail skills, even among enthusiasts, that this guy isn’t following.

          you have to actually order what customers want to buy, and have a decent handle on inventory management. not just order stuff that you personally like and throw everything in a pile where it’s anyone’s guess if you can find it again or not.

          ironically i see a lot of the same mistakes done by gaming stores and… yarn shops. people love a hobby so much they think they’ll just open a store. people value hobby knowledge more than they do basic retail work. people make a fun space for their friends over selling things. people hire all their friends because surely, everyone’s so passionate, they’ll all make it work!

          after all, they really know [ 40k miniatures / knitting / tabletop roleplaying / crochet / yu-gi-oh / macrame ], what could go wrong?

          and then, predictably, things go very wrong!

          honestly, given the write-ups of places very visibly going to heck you’ll find online upon occasion, usually it ends with at least one person bankrupt and at least a pinch of light fraud (because when you’re all friends, you don’t need to worry about that, right? what do you mean the inventory issues could be connected to that, but they’re my friends…)

    4. mcm*

      yes, this. In the original letter, Alison also recommended reviewing their hiring practices to figure out how they got in this situation in the first place, and I’d bet that we’re seeing exactly how!

    5. Wintermute*

      I agree with this in part, it seems set to stir up a lot of accusations of nepotism, and sets you up for trouble if this new person doesn’t perform as expected.

      But on the other hand, the local gaming community has who it has. You need someone to build bridges to that community so your pool of available talent is limited.

      While you can go a long way with an outsider who takes a “camp director” mentality of activity planning and intentionally targeting events to demographics of player, you’re not operating in a vacuum, the risk is that people will go to another store that employs one of their friend group out of a sense of loyalty.

  6. OrigCassandra*

    OP3, I think it wise to have a backup plan to look for a job at the location you’re moving to, in case your current workplace doesn’t agree to WFH. If they don’t, it may well have nothing whatever to do with you — they might be more concerned about how it will look to everybody else in the place.

    OP4, I think you’re doing the right thing and I hope it continues working out well for you.

  7. Critical Rolls*

    OP1, hiring a friend is almost never a good idea in any business situation, especially if there’s no protective structure or management layers between you and the hire. And the optics are going to work in your current terrible employee’s favor. I mean this kindly and not sarcastically: I think you need to find some basic management courses to take. You don’t know what you don’t know! But I think you could avoid some future difficulty with a bit more knowledge than a single advice column can provide.

    1. idwtpaun*

      I think this came up a lot in the original thread too, but you have to understand the tabletop gaming community that local game stores serve. It’s fairly niche and incestuous, and at least knowing the people you hire as an LGS owner/manager if not being friends with them is very common, practically the norm, even in large cities. Most of the best LGS managers and staff will be well known to local players. There’s a certain knowledge you have to bring into this job, you have to be able to give good suggestions on games and specific mechanics within a game, as well as train brand new players, so hiring someone who’s a model employee but not knowledgeable about the products isn’t usually done.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        The thing is, that incestuousness may be part of why the communities in these stores can easily start going down the road to toxicity.

        One can be knowledgeable about the products without having a pre-existing relationship with the staff.

        1. idwtpaun*

          It’s absolutely why some of these stores create toxic environments, but you can’t one-size-fits-all the solution of “don’t hire people you know, it’s bad business” when this specific industry has an established, specific culture. The trick is to know how to manage someone who is an acquaintance/friend, how to set expectations before they accept the job and establish boundaries once they have it.

          1. Critical Rolls*

            All of your arguments have been “this is how things are” instead of “this is a good way to do things.” The industry “culture” of insularity and nepotism is harmful *to the industry* and should not be upheld just because it’s the status quo.

            And I don’t know what makes you think owners who have been unable to fire an abjectly terrible manager over three years are going to be up for handling the complexities of managing a friend (who they have hired to secretly prepare to take over!).

        2. Koifeeder*

          Also, that incestuousness ends up being self-perpetrating. I buy and play online because my local community doesn’t want to play with anyone they perceive as a woman/queer/etc. (I’m not really a human female, I’m a blahaj in a costume), so the only “new blood” coming in are people who already more-or-less resemble and agree with the group (and thus think it’s a good idea to only hire from within the community, for example).

        3. Wintermute*

          I call the later the “camp director” mentality– you bring in someone who does objective research on activities and events designed to bring in who you want to bring in based on profit potential and the size of the demographic in your area. They figure out who they want to target as clientele and their profit potential and set about trying to deliberately make events to attract that sort of person

          This can work really well, and improve margins, because if you let things go organically then the game that your new manager is really in to might not be all that profitable, or might come with strings in the form of unfavorable contracts with the sole supplier.

          The risk, however, is that a rival store will hire someone well-regarded in the community and everyone will go over there out of a sense of loyalty and it doesn’t matter how thoughtful your itinerary of events is you’re not going to win them over.

          Geek Social Fallacy #3 (Friendship before all else) and #5 (friends do everything together) must be accounted for when you staff a game store.

      2. raincoaster*

        But they’re not hiring frontline staff, they’re hiring a manager. A good manager will know which of his staffers is the best to assist each customer.

        If you’re hiring a hospital administrator, they don’t need to know brain surgery, you need to know how to get the best out of your brain surgeons.

      3. Critical Rolls*

        I’m part of the community. I’m aware of what’s typical, and I’m aware that those practices heavily contribute to ill-run stores where people know the games but have no idea how a business should/needs to operate.

        1. Allegra*

          This, thank you. Personal enthusiasm only goes so far. As a queer woman who enjoys tabletop stuff, I’d much rather go to a shipshape store with a manager who’s maybe still learning the industry, than a cliquey, insular shop. Staff can and should be knowledgeable but a competent and welcoming atmosphere means a LOT. (Also, have always loved your username, Critical Rolls!)

    1. Veryanon*

      I’m still trying to figure out how this would actually work and why it would be different than just calling her his mistress. :(

  8. Olivia*

    #3 makes me think of a recent letter from someone whose boss told them informally that it would be okay if they moved to California, but they later found out that wasn’t the case, after they had put down a deposit, I think. If you are moving to a different state, it could be tricky. As you make decisions about the move and are trying to figure out financial calculations, I would caution against treating it as a done deal that you’ll be able to keep this job. Even if your boss is trustworthy and you have a good relationship with them, they probably don’t have control over policies about moving out of state, and, like the other letter writer’s boss, they might not realize all that would be involved for the company to decide to greenlight it.

    And if you are in the US and you happen to be moving from not-California to California and your company doesn’t already have a presence there, honestly I would assume it’s probably a no-go until you get it in writing from HR or whoever would be involved in that. It’s not a good business decision for them to try to navigate all the tax and legal matters involved for one employee.

  9. Veryanon*

    Wait, second wife? As in, he is going to divorce the first one and marry you, or in a polygamous sense, or???????
    In any event, it’s good you’ve drawn your boundaries, LW, and have moved on. Please stay firm and do not let this guy back into your life.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I read it as, “like my wife, but not my wife, ha ha, a man and a woman who are really close but don’t have sex, obviously— unless…???”

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I read it (initially) as sort of meaning “my work wife.” “You’re like my second wife” sort of thing. But…I’m actually not sure.

  10. idwtpaun*

    Right, because doesn’t everyone ask their friends that they’re not in love with to be their new spouse. What a dingbat.

  11. I should really pick a name*

    Sounds like LW1 didn’t have much say in the matter, but I don’t love how this was handled.

    The improvement plan should have been “fix X by Y date or be terminated”. The fact that there was a debate about when to let him go suggests there were not firm dates in the plane.

    Intertwined friend circles was already part of the problem, so hiring a friend as an assistant manager is worrisome. I’m hoping it’s just a coincidence that it was a friend and that they have solid applicable skills.

    Firing someone after Christmas when you knew you were going to fire them before Christmas isn’t great. It means the person won’t have the chance to moderate their Christmas spending. (I know not everyone will agree with this)

    I’m very curious if the concern about bad blood in the community is actually founded or not. The store was doing poorly when it was mainly patronized by the manager’s friends, so I don’t think they’ll be a big loss.

    Publicize that the store is under new management. People who’ve given up on it need a reason to give it another chance.

    1. Velociraptor Attack*

      I think the bad blood will actually be worse in this scenario because it’s going to look like they purposefully led the manager on through the holiday season while installing someone to take over their job once they fired him.

      And since it’s a small community, they might very much feel like if they had known this was coming, they wouldn’t have spent their money there.

      1. Calamity Janine*

        it’s a true worst-of-both-worlds choice. firing him around the holidays will be easy to spin as cruelty because the company ‘led him on’, so there’s still plenty of ways that small community can rally around him.

        meanwhile, he’s still there, not paying attention to customers, not keeping things organized, not stocking things people actually want on the shelves… basically doing everything to drive off any new customers and convince them the store is useless.

        so the old customer base of friends is lost. and so is the new customer base of people brought in to do holiday shopping somewhere new.

        …at some point it’s got to be both more cost-efficient and less stressful to just buy a pile of scratch-off tickets instead of a business.

        1. Mississippi*

          “firing him around the holidays will be easy to spin as cruelty because the company ‘led him on’, so there’s still plenty of ways that small community can rally around him.”

          Agree. That’s why I advocated for making sure they very clearly spell out that he will be terminated if he does not improve if they have not already used that word with him.

    2. Gracely*

      Also, I feel like LW wrote in well enough before Christmas that this really shouldn’t have been an issue if they moved in a timely manner. The manager should’ve been gone before there was a hint of Thanksgiving or Christmas in the air.

      Seconding the concern about hiring a friend as a replacement. My first thought upon reading that was “well, someone didn’t learn their lesson.”

      And DEFINITELY agree about them publicizing the new management.

      1. Kay*

        This – the letter was published Aug 3rd with the employee having multiple “talks” under his belt – the guy should have been fired before September rolled around.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      You could get around the whole “fire before Christmas vs after Christmas” debate with more transparency. Tell them that the PIP ends January 15th, at which point they will be let go if their performance hasn’t improved sufficiently. No surprises, no tricks, no “this is your assistant who we’ve promised your job”.

      1. 1LFTW*


        I agree with others who’ve pointed out that this should have been handled long before the holidays, but the truly important thing is that there needs to be a hard, clear end date for the PIP.

  12. Hlao-roo*

    OP2 – I’m glad your performance went well and you didn’t have to worry about your boss being in the audience! Thanks for the update.

  13. MEH Squared*

    OP#2, I’m glad your situation worked out. Reading between the lines, congrats on passing the promotions test?! I’m glad your boss is supportive and that she seemed to sense that you were uncomfortable with her attending. It sounds like everything worked out well (at work and outside of work as well!). Congratulations again!

  14. Poly Anon For This*

    OP #4 – good for you on stating and keeping your boundaries! I think you really dodged a bullet there. He sounds like a real piece of work. First “red poly flag” – assuring you that his wife “knows about you”, but not even introducing the two of you. Can’t have a consensual poly relationship without that open conversation. (of course, this was before the whole “second wife” comment. Which… ick.)

    It’s people like him that give poly a bad name – I’m not trying to #NotAllPolyPeople but I know a lot of people who are in wonderful, loving, supportive poly relationships (including my spouse and myself; we each have fantastic girlfriends, and each of them have another partner as well).

    1. Very Social*

      Yup. I once knowingly ignored that exact red poly flag to date someone. Guess what? It turned out to be far, far from the only thing he was lying about.

      Glad you stepped away from that, OP.

  15. Phillippe II*

    As my former boss told his daughter when she was at that age, “All men are pigs, even me. Some of us hide it better than others, but we’re all pigs.”

    I like to think I do a decent job of hiding it.

    1. Mississippi*

      Ew. No, all men are not pigs, but men who think that some men just hide being a pig are definitely pigs.

    2. Cat Tree*

      This has the opposite of your intended effect. It perpetuates the idea that we can’t expect better of men, and that women should tolerate horrible men because they have no hope of ever finding a good one. This is really harmful.

  16. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Wow, creepy male bosses who pretend to have the back of their younger female employees seems to be a theme this update season and I’m disheartened to hear that but fully heartened to hear the females are standing up for themselves and are telling the bosses that they are not remotely interested in playing that game. I love that aspect of these types of stories but I truly wish these things would just stop happening at all, TYVM.

  17. TimeTravlR*

    It’s possible we might hear from Game Store Owner again at some point. Hiring friends is not often the best way to go. But I do hope it works out! Truly!

  18. Calamity Janine*

    i’m glad to hear that the bad manager is going!

    …but hoo boy, LW1, take careful note of the sales figures for this holiday season. and then cross your fingers that you’ll be able to make it to the next, so you can appreciate the massive difference you will find between the two.

    all i can think about really is how many people are going to be walking into your store, not quite knowing what they want, because they’re holiday shopping for a relative… and hitting an absolute brick wall of disorganized snobbery, accented by a selection that has very little room for things customers actually want because this guy refuses to order them.

    this is an absolutely crucial and wonderful time for you to build your customer base, and you still have a guy in charge who seems dead set on doing anything other than sabotaging it so his friends can have a clubhouse.

    (or, at very least, consider if your co-owners in the business are actually interested in running it… or sabotaging it so they can have a clubhouse. if they want a clubhouse, you don’t want to be stuck holding the bill for that.)

    fingers crossed the business will survive until next year, and at that point you will have the numbers in black and white to show your business partners what a bad idea leaving him in was. but, well, you should probably put into the budget advertising to make clear to everyone that it is under new management. banners, signs, events, so on and so forth. because right now to everyone but those who are already his friends – which you know is not enough to sustain the store, by far! – his bad behavior is defining the store in people’s minds. it will take a lot of hard work and effort – and money! – to change that.

    so, um, i hope you all will manage to have the money to do that successfully! (this is, however, a really good time to STOP THE BLEEDING. it might seem cruel before the holidays, but even sending him home on paid garden leave will likely be the far more sensible business move!)

    honestly, LW1, i know you want to work with friends and have hired a friend as well. but it’s really time to sit down with that Geek Social Fallacies essay, do some self-examination, and seriously ponder how those social fallacies are becoming business fallacies for you, too.

    1. Calamity Janine*

      also, i’m aware that this will make me sound conspiratorial-minded.

      but LW1, you need to get in there and do a full inventory *now*.

      you, personally, yourself. by hook or by crook, it needs to happen. it will be a miserable slog but you need to verify with your own eyes, written down on your own records, what is in the store.

      because this is a guy who you already know 1. orders what he likes, not what sells; 2. is incredibly disorganized in handling inventory to the point where he can’t say what’s in your store or not. and now, 3. you are going to fire him, while 4. the new manager shadowing him is also a friend, of you but likely in the same friend group, and 5. your co-owners want him treated with kid gloves because he’s their friend.

      this is a perfect scenario for him to walk off with half your stock, justifying this to himself all the way, while confident that his friends won’t actually have the heart to be seriously angry with him for it. in fact, if you’ve been trying to get him to meet performance goals, there’s a good chance he’s already got justification for it – you’re being so mean to him, so he’s “owed” this. if, of course, this hasn’t been the goal all along.

      am i going to sound a bit histrionic and doom-and-gloom with this? yes! but i sincerely hope i’m wrong, and honestly, it’s one of those things where you’ll still be doing the due diligence that is overall going to help you even if i’ve completely whiffed it. it’ll be a pain in the neck to do, but it’s a win-win situation – you just have to actually get out there and do it.

      (until then i’m going to be doing the business comment section equivalent of watching a horror movie through your fingers because you’re scared to look)

      1. 1LFTW*

        I think this is a very realistic risk assessment. There are a lot of red flags here that indicate a high risk for theft or fraud, and that’s *before* we get to the looming termination.

    2. Tom*

      I think the line of thinking is going like this:
      1. We need to get rid of toxic manager
      2. When we get rid of toxic manager, we lose his spendy friends’ business
      3. We’ve managed to put ourselves in a position where we’re not going to have time before the Christmas spending season for word of mouth to get around that we’ve gotten rid of toxic manager, which means that the loss of said business will not be offset by new customers.
      4. We need money.
      5. Therefore, we’ll get rid of toxic manager after Christmas, thereby giving us his spendy friends’ business over this Christmas, and allowing nearly a year of time for word to get around that we’ve gotten rid of toxic manager before Christmas next year.

      Now, whether or not they’re right about all of that is debatable, but that’s almost certainly what they’re thinking.

    3. Minerva*

      Yup LW1 watch those sales figures. Not just because you’ll want to track how your business hopefully improves after toxic manager is gone and you have a real idea of what sells in your store (since you know TM was ordering for his benefit) but also to be sure nothing walks out the door with TM once he is let go because he feels like he “earned” it.

  19. Curmudgeon*

    LW 1 honestly it seems like you’re better off selling your share of the business & moving onto something else because your partners do not make sound business decisions.

  20. hawkorhandsaw*

    As someone who also does an obscure martial art with promotion tests open to the public, I am desperate to know if this is hema and where they are.

  21. Bess*

    “Would you be my second wife?” So romantic, every woman’s dream…

    No respect for those who would cheat, but doubly so in a workplace scenario…shows such a gross disregard for basic professional and interpersonal norms. It’s not that you can’t develop genuine feelings in these scenarios, but the acting on them makes me suspicious of the motives. Generally asking someone to be a secret side spouse is not a very loving act.

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