our boss tells lies to make us feel bad for taking time off

A reader writes:

The other week, I took a few sick days due to Covid and a double ear infection. I was legitimately ill and even offered to submit a medical note. When I returned, my manager, Corrine, sat me down to tell me my team was forced to work overtime due my absence and they even had to come in on Saturday for a few hours. I was confused considering I didn’t see any communication proving this on Teams or in my email. I finally asked my coworkers and they were just as confused. They said none of this happened.

As the conversation went on, a few others had similar stories. One woman even said Corrine called her in the middle of her birthday dinner to berate her for leaving at her normal time and said we all were still working because of her. This absolutely never happened — one person leaving has never set us behind that far and I certainly would remember having to stay later because of a birthday dinner. Another woman said when she returned from a cruise, she received a similar lecture.

I’m quite disgusted and I want to have a conversation with Corrine face to face; I feel like it’d be harder to lie this way. Am I overreacting or is this totally inappropriate, not to mention weird behavior? How would you react to this?

I wrote back and asked, “What’s your manager like aside from this? I feel like there have got to be other issues with her!” The response:

Have you ever had a manager where you think “this person would 100% throw me under the bus without hesitation”? That’s what she is to me. The other week she forgot to tell us to run a report we didn’t know about; two days later she spent 30 minutes reaming us out in a meeting about how we should have asked her if we had any confusion … but if we don’t know a report needs to be done, why would we ask? It was a new report, not something we have ever heard of before. She constantly is changing meeting times and when people don’t show up on time, she will make a huge deal out of it but never acknowledges that it’s likely because she scheduled it for 2 pm and changed it to 1:30 pm at the last minute.

Everything is a fire drill, no situation can wait. She consistently tells us that since we are salaried, we are expected to be on call 24/7. This is my first salaried position (as with the majority of my coworkers because this position was just made salaried this year) so I don’t know if this is normal (note from Alison: it’s not), but shouldn’t we have some work/life balance? There’s a constant talk of layoffs but only from her; the company has sent no communication and other managers have no idea why she says this. It feels like she wants us in a constant state of anxiety and I have no idea why.

The main issue is she has been with the company for 35 years. We work in HR so if we reached out to a different department of HR, we would most likely be talking to her friends. I really just want to ask why she felt it necessary to tell me that getting Covid was detrimental to the team because I don’t appreciate being made to feel guilty for getting sick; however, the vibes she’s giving off tell me that she would become combative and try to gaslight me into thinking she never said that.

I think the key is this: “It feels like she wants us in a constant state of anxiety.”

She gets something out of behaving this way — maybe that she is in a constant state of anxiety so she wants others to be too (not necessarily because of cruelty but because she feels you won’t be sufficiently alert and vigilant otherwise; obviously this is hugely disordered thinking, but some people are this way), or maybe she only knows how to rule by fear (which I would argue also comes from a place of anxiety at its core). Or maybe she is an actual sadist who intentionally tries to keep you off-balance, but that seems a lot less likely than the other possibilities.

Regardless of the cause, though, something is truly wrong with Corrine and she shouldn’t be managing people.

Does it not occur to her that some of her lies will be very easily found out? Telling you that your team had to work on Saturday because of you is so easily exposed as a lie — it’s not like coworkers don’t talk — that Corrine doesn’t seem to be operating in the same plane of reality as the rest of us.

Given the full picture you’ve painted, I’m not sure there’s a lot to be gained by addressing the lies with her. There might be! Who knows, maybe letting her know that she’s so easily found out will discourage her from lying in the future. But there’s a good chance that she’ll just get more combative and maybe hold it against you in ways that will make your job even harder than it already is.

That said, in your position, I don’t know if I could resist saying something! I would be itching to go back to her and say, “You said the team had to work on Saturday when I was out sick, but everyone I talked to said they haven’t worked on a Saturday. What am I missing?” I would want to do it regardless of whether it helped anything, and possibly even if it made things worse, just because it would be so frustrating not to say I SEE YOU CORRINE.

But the wiser course of action is probably to resist that impulse and just to continue to information-share with your team, since you’re all being subject to these lies. Ideally you’d all make sure everyone on your team knows what Corrine is doing and agree that from now on when she tries to guilt-trip you about time off, you’ll all just calmly reply “okay” or some other neutral, unaffected response. (And really, even if what she was telling you was true … so? Are you supposed to conclude you shouldn’t take time off when you’re sick and contagious? Did she want you to come to work with Covid? There’s no point in speculating on the answer to that because we’ve already established Corrine doesn’t live in our reality, but it makes this all additionally ridiculous.)

Beyond that, I hope you’ll seriously consider looking for a new job, because having a boss who’s this far out of the galaxy the rest of us inhabit is going to affect you in a ton of ways. I can’t imagine your day-to-day quality of life there is good, or that she provides you with useful feedback or advocates effectively for your professional development, or that you don’t go home with a pounding headache much of the time. Please imagine what a relief it would be to be out of this situation by the end of this year, and consider whether it might be worth the work of making that happen!

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{ 347 comments… read them below }

  1. I should really pick a name*

    Do you know the people in the other HR department are her friends, or are you just assuming it?
    I can’t imagine many people like someone who behaves like this.

    1. King Friday XIII*

      Yeah, I’d be really tempted to feel out who else I could talk to about this, either above her head or on the same level as her. I don’t know that it’d actually HELP but I’d at least be thinking about it.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I was surprised Alison didn’t suggest giving feedback to Corrine’s boss or grandboss about this. Openly lying to employees about use of sick leave and impending layoffs are something someone at the top should know about. I guess the thinking is that if she’s been there for 35 years they probably already know and there’s no point, but I would still try, anonymously if necessary or preferably in a group.

        1. Miette*

          We don’t know who else this person has been lying to, either. Who knows what kind of BS she’s spreading around all over the place, not just OP and their co-workers.

          I wonder if this behavior is a recent thing or not. How can she have lasted 35 years, been promoted to be a manager of people, and not been found out?

          1. Paulina*

            If it’s recent, I wonder if it’s linked to the change of their positions to salaried. Perhaps it could be a reaction to losing the lever of “time off = less pay”, or alternatively gaining the “salaried so your hours aren’t limited, work harder” lever. Because she seems to be trying very hard to convince her staff that they should never take any time off whatsoever.

            1. Pennyworth*

              If it’s recent and she has been there for 35 years, she might be of an age where health issues might be coming into play. Just a thought.

          2. jojo*

            This might be worth all of her reports calling the EAP 800number individually. Sounds like her lies may eventually cause a liability to the company, especially as she is claiming layoffs are coming. She is creating a high stress, possibly hostile, work environment for all employees under her. Though not the tradidional hostile.

            1. syph*

              It wouldn’t be a hostile work environment unless it involved harassment based on a protected class or status, but it’s definitely high stress, and impending layoffs are usually confidential.

            1. L'étrangère*

              Yes. Management probably doesn’t care about her browbeating her employees about leaving on time, or lying about it. But rumors of possible layoffs are an entirely different thing! Especially when coming from HR. I’d casually mention it to other HR people as if you took them seriously “how are you guys getting ready for those upcoming layoffs? Really you didn’t know? But Corinne told us about it in our weekly meeting..”

        2. Artemesia*

          I’d be looking for a new job, but I’d also probably ask the grandboss for his or her advice on how to deal with this using the ‘I was out sick with COVID and when I came back she berated me for being out and forcing everyone to work Saturday, but my colleagues tell me that didn’t happen. Someone else was called at their own birthday party and told that because she left on time others had to work late; that didn’t happen either. How would you suggest we manage this? It really makes everyone on edge.’

          1. Tara.MD*

            I second this. In my opinion, it might be difficult to resolve this issue given that it doesn’t count as harassment (please correct me if I’m wrong). The grandboss/upper management generally have a lot on their plate and can sometimes be reluctant in getting involved in such situations.
            So yeah, definitely dust off that resume and start looking for a new job.

            1. Coder von Frankenstein*

              It doesn’t have to count as harassment for the grandboss to take action. There’s a lot to be said about at-will employment in the U.S., much of it bad; but one benefit is that when you become aware of a Corrine in your organization, you can move fast to get rid of them.

          2. yala*

            Y’know, even if she hadn’t been lying, berating an employee for being sick seems like a potential ADA issue in the making.

        3. Mockingjay*

          If OP goes to higher ups outside of HR, it would be better if they went as a group. Talk it out first, lay out the incidents factually, and have a couple resolutions/solutions in mind.

          If there isn’t anyone OP and her coworkers feel they can trust, info share as Alison suggests. OP, I’d go a few steps further to cover your backside: email recaps of each time Corrine changes her mind “per your convo this morning, the personnel files will be moved to the closet;” set alerts on calendars or file sites so you know if she changes a meeting time, etc. Document her actionable nonsense and ignore the personal digs.

          But please OP, find a director or senior manager to talk to. Threatening layoffs and lying about other employees and work – the company is going to lose many good employees at the same time all because of one person.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I agree. I’d do both – try to shine a light on this behavior as well as dust off the resume. Her behavior is not normal and I think she’s preying on your inexperience to keep you from questioning her about this. I’ve long been salary and am never available 24/7 and only after hours when really necessary.

            I’d also put out feelers in other departments – that report, for example. Who was it for? Why was it done by your team? Who did it before? Who can you reach out to in the future? What’s the cadence for planning? If she gets wind of it and asks why you’re asking, why surely it was such a big deal that she reprimanded the team and you just want to be sure sure it doesn’t happen again. *blink blink*

            OP already said that layoffs are talked about frequently but only in that department. So what is it based on? Get some info in case it affects your review, for example. I agree to start cover your butt emails and keep all of it documented in a folder.

            In the moment you can also try the confused response. “Boss, Sally told me that wasn’t the case. I’m confused why you would say that.”

            Otherwise, gray rock this woman. She’ll use anything against you, right? Hide the forks. Give her no ammo.

            1. SarahKay*

              Seconding the ‘preying on your inexperience’ bit. I’m salaried and there is no expectation that I am available outside of work hours as a general rule. Busy periods I might work longer days (but then will work shorter days in quieter weeks) but once I’m done, I’m done.
              I chose to give my manager my personal phone number in case of something seriously urgent when I’m on vacation, etc. He’s had it for five years and called me precisely never.

              This is a manger that wants you off-balance, and is likely to seriously warp your view of what is normal and acceptable.

            2. Sybil Writes*

              I’d go even further and say don’t just gray rock, but carry a notebook and write down anything she says.”was that this past Saturday or last Saturday?” “Layoffs? Will there be any meetings to bring HR up to speed on this? Do you know how soon they might go into affect?”
              As an HR person, don’ t you have access to a definition of what Salaried entails? (It’s definitely not 24/7 on call)
              Just jotting a note with the date/time such comments were said to you will make her lose her stuff!

          2. Citra*

            “But please OP, find a director or senior manager to talk to. Threatening layoffs and lying about other employees and work – the company is going to lose many good employees at the same time all because of one person.”

            Yes! This is a HUGE deal, imo. A lot of higher-ups would be livid if they discovered that one of their managers was widely telling employees that the company was in financial trouble and would need to lay people off; that’s the kind of thing that could affect stock prices for a publicly-traded company, or threaten upcoming business deals or client relationships, that sort of thing.

            The other lies are petty and annoying, and very bad management, but could be shrugged off. The lie about layoffs is a serious thing. It needs to be mentioned to someone as high on the chain as the OP can get.

        4. Goldenrod*

          “I was surprised Alison didn’t suggest giving feedback to Corrine’s boss or grandboss about this.”

          In my opinion, they already know, and don’t care. I remember reading (I think it was in a Robert Sutton book), “The bully’s boss is always the person who loves them the most.” I’ve found this to be 100% true in my own experience.

        5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I dunno, that could backfire, especially with someone who has been there 35 years. I doubt Corinne’s behavior is new. I would tread very carefully about saying anything to anyone else, and would be very cautious about sounding people out.

        6. Inkognyto*

          35 years of Capital. She’s good at covering her arse or she’d already be gone. She’s networked in the company and is see as an asset.

          Going above someone like this in HR is like tossing snowballs at a boulder. This is not the first time, but someone above is protecting or fine with the behavior.

          The person reporting won’t have this capital and if they cause a stir, they are gone or made to work in ways that will be even more horrible.

          She’s trying to guilt people into not taking time off.

          Don’t accept the guilt, everyone knows about it, but she also knows she cannot stop people from taking company sanctioned time off so it’s this tactic.

          1. Rosemary*

            I dunno…maybe because she has been there so long, people ASSUME she has capital and there is nothing to be done about her. When perhaps in reality, maybe there are others who have come after her who also would love for her to be gone…and this could be the final straw.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I think the ideal would be for OP and some of the other affected colleagues to speak to Corrine’s Boss or Grand boss about this, and to explicitly explain that they are concerned about the risk of retaliation from Corinne.
        I think there is a good case to speak to someone higher up or outside the department if necessary – do you not have policies about who is responsible for disciplinary issues et for members of the HR team? (We area small organisation but or policies do state that issues go to [name] who is out HR person but if it is a bout or involved them, then to [named Partner] Since you are HR, maybe you could suggest that if it doesn’t already exist!!

        Also – while I get that you may be worried that Corinne has been there a long time and that she therefore has ‘friends’ who would protect her , that isn’t necessarily the case – have you seen anything to suggest it is? It may be that they don’t monitor her closely because she has been there a long time so are not aware of how she behaves and would be willing to take steps if it is raised, it’s also possible that they do have an idea but either can’t, or feel they can’t , take steps unless someone makes a complaint . (I know that’s not necessarily the case, but I think sometimes there is a concern that if you’ve only heard rumours, and no one has officially complained and you (boss) haven’t actually seen it first hand that you can’t do anything .

        But if that geneuinely isn’t an option then I agree that cooperation with coworkers is the way to go. MAybe next time someone is off unexpectedly one of you could text them to say something along the lines of ‘sorry to hear you are ill, don’t worry about anything, all under control here, hope you are better soon’ – which would then hopefully (i) be reassuring to whoever was being guilt-tripped and (ii) help you potentially build a paper trail of evidence that Corinne is lying.

        Also – are there any grounds to ask for pay if you getting work related calls on your day off?

        1. The Starsong Princess*

          Document, document, document, including names and dates. It’s even better if she puts anything in writing. Send anything she tells you in an email back to her and ask if you understood correctly. Then if you talk to the grandboss, it’s all specifics rather than generalities.

          1. Loch Lomond*

            And you and your colleagues should openly (but innocently, in a tone of polite confusion) out her lies if it comes up. Like if you said in a meeting, “Well, since everyone had to work overtime all last week…” and a coworker replied, “Oh, we didn’t actually, last week was pretty normal.” And you said, “Oh, maybe I’m confused; Corinne said you were all here till 8pm.” And just let it hang there and/or blithely move on.

            Don’t do any extra work to hide her lies in public. Don’t go all “Ah-HA!”, just a long series of, “Oh, how odd. Well, anyways…”

            1. CJ*

              Came here to say I’d be tempted to say to Corinne very sweetly and earnestly ‘Oh dear, I’ll make sure everyone knows I appreciate them working on Saturday while I was ill’ but this is better!

            2. Jaydee*

              Yup, this is the time to bring a box of donuts to the next staff meeting “because Corrine said you all had to work overtime while I was out sick, so I thought it would be nice to bring everyone a little treat.”

              Normally, I would *never* suggest someone bring treats to “apologize” for being sick even if it inconveniences their coworkers. But these are not donuts of apology. These are donuts of truth.

        2. GreenDoor*

          You can try reporting…without reporting. For example, I might go to her Grandboss and say, “Corinne mentioned layoffs were on the horizon. Do you have any idea how employees selected for layoff will be chosen?” Another might be, “Corrine mentioned that the whole team had to come in on Saturday because I was out ill! I feel horrible about that! Do you think we could come up with a strategy to mitigate that for next time there’s an illness?” You’re not reporting it, per se. You’re just asking a perfectly reasonable questions about something you heard. P.S. Their reaction to you innocent questions will be very telling.

          1. yala*

            Yes, exactly this! Corrine has raised A Concern. Since it’s not reasonable to expect that no one will ever be sick, you just want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep things running smoothly.

    2. Allonge*

      I would definitely want to check – also, if not with HR, with whoever HR reports to or can be an ally.

      But as a horror story: I worked with someone like this being the leader of a department. And outside of his own team, he was the friendliest person ever, looked reasonable and all. And we regularly had people leaving his dept to anywhere at all. Someone like this to people they have power over can be savvy enough to not do it in front of everyone.

      1. Terrible as the Dawn*

        I worked under one of these once. She was an absolutely miserable human being, needlessly tyrannical and petty with her own team–but everyone else loved her and thought she was a huge sweetie. When she left, one of the other managers brought goodbye cakes. “You can’t have cake unless you’re going to miss me,” said Miserable Manager. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Yes, I can.”

        1. JoAnna*

          “She was an absolutely miserable human being, needlessly tyrannical and petty with her own team–but everyone else loved her and thought she was a huge sweetie.”

          Classic narcissist, sounds like.

      2. ferrina*

        Yep, this is pretty common with this behavior. Sometimes the person is an awful jerk to everyone, but sometimes they’re strategic about who they’re a jerk to. You’ll have to feel out which it is in your unique situation.

        This sucks so much! It really is enough to make you paranoid.

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yup. Plenty of people are awful to those they have power over and super charming to people with power over them. It’s a big part of how they manage to stick around for a while.

        Given how much Corinne lies, I’d be very concerned what she is telling her higher ups and peers about the people on her team. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she has already poisoned the well against OP and others to make it less likely that they will be believed. The only way to possibly override that is to have multiple people complain about the same behaviour.

      4. Anon for Now*

        Yes. I worked for someone who played all kinds of mind games with her direct reports and their direct reports. She had a pal in HR who treated her staff the same way and was NASTY to me when I was let-go.

        But, they can charm the socks off people they want to charm. They were delightful to me when I was being hired.

        They’re charming to the companies they do business with. I’ve worked for two of the vendors they use and everyone thought I was so lucky to be going to work for them.

        And, crucially, a lot of the other higher ups are also not great. I saw a guy from the C-suite berate a coworker over her lunch choices until she cried. The CEO loved to talk trash about other people in the company. So going to them about my nasty grand-boss was always going to be a non-starter.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I saw a guy from the C-suite berate a coworker over her lunch choices until she cried.

          WTF? I hope the heck you are long gone from there.

          I would be livid.

          1. Anon for Now*

            Oh I was fired within a year and all my immediate coworkers left one way or another within the 12 months after that.

            None of us could do our jobs correctly because we could never get clear goals or tasks from anyone. We just got berated when we hadn’t imagined for ourselves the correct work to do.

      5. Momma Bear*

        I have also encountered one of these and even though they have received mixed reviews (and at least one speaking-to by HR) I see from LinkedIn that they are still employed at that company. So speak up, but apply to get out.

        RE: her being there for 35 years. I wonder if they’re just waiting out the clock until she can retire.

      6. Princess Sparklepony*

        I feel like it was ignored that there are managers out there that think this is a legitimate form of management. Bad management but acceptable. It’s not really.

        Keeping everyone on edge so they worry about their jobs and therefore work harder…

        It’s like negging in dating relationships. And some people really like the power of their lies.

      7. Spero*

        Frankly that’s exactly what most domestic violence perpetrators do, and given the rates of DV we shouldn’t be surprised that people also encounter bosses like this.

    3. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      They may well be friendly, but if they’ve worked for her this long they know Corrine lies like a rug, and some of them may have been burned by it. She may be HR’s “missing stair” and everyone’s been working around her crazy so long they don’t even notice it.

      But no: salaried does not mean on-call 24/365, and being “sat down” and told how your normal life (getting sick, going on vacation, having personal plans in the evening) is a huge imposition on your team is bats.

      Maybe one conversation, as factual and dry as you can make it, with someone in HR would be helpful. But only if there’s someone in authority that strikes you as sane and reasonable. When someone like Corrinne has been around that long and is that nuts, you’ve got to wonder if there’s a collective screw loose.

      1. Susannah*

        The problem is… they and Corrine are all in HR.
        Sounds like why need to go higher up the food chain.

    4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, this is a great question. They may very well be her friends – and OP may have good reason to believe this that we don’t know about – but they might not be. Definitely worth considering the evidence and making a call on that one.

    5. Totally Minnie*

      Even if I did consider a colleague to be a friend, if someone on their staff came to me and told me this, I would investigate.

      OP, can you try to casually ask around about the other HR managers and see if they seem like they’re all like your boss or if some of them might be someone you could go to?

    6. linger*

      I’m wondering what the turnover rate has been among Corrine’s staff. Corrine’s attitude to work/life balance, at least, seems like a long-term problem, though Corrine’s unreliable relationship to reality and command of detail could well be more recent developments.
      Turnover may be the only objective evidence available to other HR departments that anything is wrong, if nobody has dared bring a complaint.
      (But also, how long now until Corrine retires? Other HR managers may be reluctant to move if she’ll be gone within the next year regardless, and if most of her staff are able to wait it out. Not that this would excuse HR’s inaction.)

    7. Reality.Bites*

      They may not be her friends, but you can bet they already know what’s going on and have not done anything.

      1. Citra*

        They might not have found anything actionable, though. They might be just waiting for someone to finally report something they can use.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      If it has been going on for 35 years, then someone high up is keeping her safe. OP needs to tread carefully!

    9. lifebeforecorona*

      The key takeaway is that she’s been there for 35 years. She hasn’t been operating in a vacuum the entire time and it’s very possible that the other managers are aware of her work style. At least one person must have complained or talked to HR in that time frame. She could be the fire in the dumpster that everyone ignores hoping that it will burn itself out or someone will call the fire department to deal with it.

      1. linger*

        Additionally —
        she hasn’t been a manager for all 35 years of her career;
        at least some parts of her behaviour may have got worse over time (if only because there hasn’t been a mechanism for effective feedback);
        her reports were until recently classified as hourly, so could more easily escape the workplace;
        she’s now close enough to retirement that management don’t see any urgency in acting.

    10. JJ*

      Certainly worth further careful assessment of HR and alliances. It’s also possible that Corrine is the kind of person who kisses up and kicks down, so only the people she has power over her are experiencing this. A common strategy of insecure leaders is to maintain authority by pitting the “little people” against each other…

    11. Erin*

      +1 to this.

      There’s also no way I wouldn’t act extremely interested in all of the havoc I created. Ex: oh no! Did Jane have to miss her son’s soccer game?! I had better go apologize! Did Warren not get to fishing?! How awful! I need to find him right away and apologize for making him miss that!!

    12. yala*

      I mean, awful people are good at getting Some Folks to like them.

      But seriously, to me this has HR written all over it. She’s got employees pressed to the point that they only take a couple of days off for Covid–a disease that has a higher risk of becoming a long-term problem if you don’t REST?

      And she’s just…like. Lying. Like, it’s weird, and feels like it could blow up spectacularly.

      1. lifebeforecorona*

        It’s sad and funny in a dark way that January isn’t over yet and there are already some good contenders for the title. 11 months to go!

    1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      Absolutely. I get anxious just reading about her! She totally seems like she would be a nightmare to work for.

  2. Ferret*

    I’m sorry, LW, this behaviour is clearly awful and ridiculous but it seems like you are in a classic “Your Boss Sucks and Isn’t Going to Change” scenario. Which means your avenues to fix this are to look elsewhere and in the meantime figure out if you can limit your exposure or just decide to care less what she thinks about you

    Someone this unreasonable isn’t going to fix things because of any conversation you have with her, no matter how much proof you have or how clearly you state your case

    1. ursula*

      Could I add: document your conversations? Even if they’re just contemporaneous notes. This type of person also tends to be pretty vindictive, and they may save your butt at some point.

    2. ferrina*


      As the great Captain Awkward says, “Reasons are for reasonable people.” Corrine is very clearly not a reasonable person. You already know she will not listen to reason. You cannot change her.

      Start planning your exit. This is not sustainable long term (trust me, I’ve been there). It will hurt your career, and it’s common that this hurts mental health. You already know she gaslights you- one of the intended effects of gaslighting is to make you doubt your own senses and things that you know to be true. It is intended to make you feel crazy. You want to get out as soon as you safely can.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        In my field, I see a lot of pathological liars, and I always joke that it is funny that for all the experience they have with lying, they are generally really bad at it! But it is part of a pathology, and so reasons and logic do not play into the lies.

        They also are totally oblivious when they get called out on a lie and just follow up with another lie totally contradicting other lies and all evidence to the contrary. It is fascinating and frustrating at the same time. Unfortunately, it is hard to get help for those cases.

        And no, I am not diagnosing Corinne. I am not qualified to diagnose anyone, and no one is qualified to do so on a blog post, of course. I am just saying that I see this type of pattern in those cases.

    3. ScruffyInternHerder*


      We sometimes see ridiculous behavior such as this from parents in youth sports. There have been a couple of “beyond the pale lying liars who lie” in my experience, I keep receipts because the level of “I could not make this up” is so farfetched that it IS difficult to believe.

      Examples: I have seen photoshopped birth certificates to prove a child younger, attempts made by a head coach to poach a team to another organization, defamation/slander of coaches and organizations (but no formal reports made, which had any of the allegations made been true, needed to be done), playing someone’s older brother (kids don’t shrink 6″ between December and February y’all, and we had photos of both games) instead, and that’s just off the top of my head.

      Being it hasn’t been at work, I’ve been able to completely limit my (and “my” team’s) exposure to this nonsense from the worst offenders and leave the rest to the universe to sort out, as I have receipts to show why I’m just not going to engage with these people at any level. Eventually the universe seems to handle it in some way, shape, or form.

      1. Susannah*

        I’m wondering if Corrine’s next claim is that she was a star volleyball player at Baruch, worked for Goldman Sachs and Citibank, is the granddaughter of Holocaust victims and is running for Congress.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*


          Yes, OP, encourage Corinne to leave her job and run for public office instead. She is clearly meant to be in politics!

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      That and document, document, document! As a CYA measure. And encourage other coworkers to do the same.

      Also, when leaving, hand off the documentation to a trusted coworker staying behind, signed and dated, and then be brutally honest in the exit interview. It won’t change anything, but there’s really nothing else to do!

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree that given that it sounds like she is constantly “scolding” you guys for all kinds of nonsense the best course of action is simply to try not to care when she does. Being open with your team members like you have been is also a great way to keep hold of reality. This is definitely something that would have a lot of people job searching, but if there are reasons you want to stay at this job in spite of your ridiculous boss then really the only recourse is to try to ignore her lying.

  3. Hlao-roo*

    OP, if you have the same impulse to say “I SEE YOU CORRINE” by asking about the Saturday that none of your coworkers worked, please update us on Corrine’s response!

    (If you resist the impulse and quietly find a new job with a competent manager, I’d be happy to read that update too.)

    1. Heidi*

      I’d worry that Corrine would have a scary meltdown if confronted with her lies, which would probably make everything worse, not better. The fact that the company was willing to put up with her for 35 years makes me think that reporting her is not going to be effective either. New job is the way to go.

    2. Bex*

      “Corrine, could you let me know who worked the Saturday after I was out sick? I wanted to (thank/offer a Starbucks gift card to/whatever gesture makes sense) the people that affected, but no one I’ve asked so far was in that group.”

      This is how I would do it, but only try it if you think you can pull off the sweetest, most chagrined by her guilt trip, completely innocent tone.

      1. Stevie Budd*

        Yeah, this is the type of wording I was thinking too. It would be interesting to see her reaction to it.

        1. Rose*

          My guess is that she would just insist that OP doesn’t need to buy anything and buying anything wouldn’t be enough anyways because it’s really about the huge selfish burden on the team, and also that information is confidential for some reason.

          Just a guess. This woman is bananas.

    3. CurrentlyBill*

      Or perhaps a group email to all the colleagues with a “heart felt” apology for making them work on Saturday, and thanking Corrine for bringing this to your attention. Praise Corrine for not hiding this hard truth.

      CC Corrine’s boss and grand boss.

      See what happens in the Reply to all responses.

      1. Observer*

        I was thinking of something like this.

        If you can do this reasonably safely, do it.

        Not instead of job searching, but in addition.

      2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        No, but call everyone including Corrinne into the office common area and announce that you want to publicly apologize for making everyone work saturday

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I hope for OP’s sake that we get the latter type of update, as fascinating as the former type sounds!

    5. Alexander Graham Yell*

      I’d be sooooo tempted to just apologize to the whole team during a meeting. “Hey everybody, I just wanted to let you know I’m really sorry that me getting Covid put everybody so far behind you had to work a weekend. I feel awful.” Just to publicly say I SEE YOUUUUUU.

      Not sure I’d do it. But it’d be tempting.

      1. AngelS.*

        I like that idea! She’s not putting it in writing, and will definitely put her on the spot. Knowing her type, however, she will probably go along with. Those people are great at their little games.

  4. amari*

    It may also be worth saying explicitly since this is your first salaried gig – no, it is NOT normal for “salaried” to mean “on call 24/7.” Absolutely not. Treat that as another of Corinne’s many, many lies.

    1. just another queer reader*


      There are different expectations for availability depending on the job/ company/ field, but salaried does not automatically mean always on call!

      I am salaried and I ignore emails and chats after 5pm, on weekends, and when I’m on PTO. So do all my coworkers.

      There will be an occasional time when I answer a quick or urgent question that comes up outside of my regular hours, but it’s rare.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        This is exactly my position, and I was just praised in my review for being available outside of business hours!

        So, everyone at my job also agrees that ignoring most work communication after 5, on the weekend, and on vacation is the right thing to do.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yes! I have been salaried and on call, and the second half of it was *always* an explicitly stated expectation. And, assuming more than one person who could do Thing, has rotated among those people so no one was on call every week! (And, you should be paid more in an on-call job than one that isn’t, either overall via higher salary or via additional money when you’re on call. If you are being paid the same as you would be at company B, but at company B you wouldn’t be on call, I recommend a quick lateral move to company B.)

      3. Jules*

        I left a job last year that had become problematic, in part because the executive director (who is a lovely woman and was a peer before she was promoted) thinks nothing of working seven days a week. “Salaried means you work until the job is done.” Except that it’s never done. She encouraged us (only two other employees – small non-profit) to take our vacations, and she never questioned school pick ups or sick kids because she’d been a working mom. But she did not walk that walk herself, so we were left with a lot of guilt and unclear feedback. I set up pretty firm boundaries and stuck to them, and have continued to live that way in my new job, which is fantastic.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I wondered if this recent switch to salaried has sent Corrine off the deep end. If the position used to be hourly or non-exempt, perhaps she enjoyed a difference in status or something, which she has now lost and is taking it out on you.

      1. A Penguin!*

        I’m wondering if the switch to salaried (and presumably exempt, though OP didn’t state that) was appropriate given a change in duties of the position, or if it was a misguided idea of Corrine’s to enable her to push more hours on her staff without compensation. There’s admittedly nothing in the letter to directly support this speculation, but it sounds in character for her. She certainly doesn’t sound like someone who grasps the proper distinction between exempt/non-exempt.

        1. Kit*

          I am personally quite skeptical that OP and coworkers are exempt, especially if this was a recent shift for the department from hourly pay – as someone who was salaried/non-exempt in my longest-term role, it’s not uncommon in certain office environments. OP, I would absolutely suggest verifying whether you and the rest of your team are currently treated as exempt, and whether that’s in accordance with the law (which varies state to state but provides income thresholds below which an employee must be treated as non-exempt). Receiving a salary rather than clocking your hours does not automatically make you exempt from overtime pay!

        2. A Poster Has No Name*

          I thought this exact same thing. If the positions had been around, hourly, for years and all of a sudden they’re salaried? Someone wants uncompensated overtime.

          My company tried this. It failed and cost them a chunk of change when they had to switch everyone back to hourly (at the new, higher wage that was the equivalent of their new salaries) and pay back OT.

    3. Miette*

      Was coming here to say this! There are many letters on this site explaining just what that means for a worker, and being at Corinne’s beck and call ain’t it.

      I also agree with the poster upthread that advises documenting this stuff–you never know when it’ll come in handy, especially if you get any traction with/plan to speak with higher-ups about this. No good management wants to think there’s an entire team being subjected to this kind of behavior on the daily.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Also, from my experience jobs that do have high on call demands are very (and in one case brutally) clear and upfront about the fact that there is a lot of on call responsibilities with the job at the interview stage. And this is because salaried doesn’t automatically equal on call 24/7/365.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Adding (because it came to mind as I pressed submit):

        There is also generally a really good reason why the job is on call 24/7/365. And from experience also some sort of rotation to help alleviate burn out (at least in the functional organizations).

      2. Snell*

        Yeah, Corrine’s “salaried means on-call 24/7/365” immediately struck me as very strange, because while my first job was hourly, I had close coworkers who, due to the /nature/ of the job, needed to be available 24/7. It wasn’t assumed that salaried=24/7, and those coworkers were /paid/ to have the 24/7 availability.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          Yeah, that’s not what salaried means. I’ve had normal salaried jobs, and jobs where I was salaried and 24×7 on-call as well as salaried. Even when I was on call constantly, my time off (vacation, sick, bereavement) I was not on call. If someone called me when I was out, I referred them to the person who was filling in for me.

            1. Snell*

              It’s what was on my mind when I typed the first comment, but on reviewing it after, it’s not really relevant to the point I was trying to make.

    5. Observer*

      Treat that as another of Corinne’s many, many lies.


      OP, this is another reason to leave. NOTHING Corinne says about work is trustworthy. Who knows what other garbage she is telling you, that could harm you if you carried that into other workplaces.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As someone who was on call 24/7 in a past job:
      1) It was in our job description and I was asked during my interview how I felt about being on call
      2) There was a process to it and the calls were being tracked in a ticketing system – it was not as simple as “Corinne was bored on a Saturday night/couldn’t sleep at three AM, so she randomly called everyone with a random request”
      3) We were paid more because of it
      4) We had more flexibility because of it
      and finally
      5) There was an obvious need for it as it was a manufacturing company where the machinery ran 24/7 and a minute of downtime cost the company wild amounts of money. And they used software that my team was supporting. Why does HR need to be on call 24/7? What is there for HR to do at 3AM on a Wednesday morning or at 8PM on a Superbowl Sunday? I admit I don’t know much about HR’s duties, but I cannot think of anything. Corinne is snorting something potent.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, forgot to add
        2.1) We had a rotation. No one was on call 365 days a year. We had off weeks when we could take vacation and take care of life stuff.

    7. Loch Lomond*

      Yes: do not let her affect your work/life balance, keep taking your sick leave, don’t respond outside of work.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      Salaried jobs *should* come with balance–you may be expected to work late sometimes, but then the flip side is that you can occasionally duck out early if you need to or go to various appointments in the middle of the day. Plenty of them fail to have that kind of balance, but that’s what you should expect from a good salaried job imo.

      (And I think more people who work consistently long hours without that kind of balance need to stop and do some math to make sure their hourly wage is really worth it to them.)

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      This is true. This is why my personal opinion based on my work experience is to address it face to face. The situation won’t really improve but also won’t get worse. But it will plant a seed. The key to “managing up” with these sort of questions is let the manager “win.”

      You don’t need to beat them down and get them to admit they were wrong. They will know you know they BS’d, and the message will have gotten across, even if they push back with “I thought Sally had to work Saturday”

      1. NeedRain47*

        Agreed, there’s really no point in keeping up a pretense. The horrible person will be horrible either way so you might as well point out you know they’re lying. Not to start an argument about it but to let Corrine know you’re not as dumb as she apparently thinks.

    2. Susannah*

      Agree – but the fact that LW can’t change Corrine doesn’t mean nothing should be done about it. Call her out, freak her out by telling her your colleagues told you they wee more than happy to work to make up for your sick time, tell on her to grandbosses, tell her it’s not your problem and (literally) walk away, or listen to her and tell her that you’re looking forward to her making staffing moves to accommodate normal sick days and PTO. It may not change her behavior at all. But going into bullies just empowers them more.

  5. The Original K.*

    And really, even if what she was telling you was true … so?
    This was my thought. Like … okay, if someone being out means everybody has to work weekends, that’s a problem for Corinne to solve, and the solution is not “nobody can call out sick or have a life.”

    Corinne sounds like a nightmare. I hope you’re out from under her soon.

    1. Miette*

      Excellent point–this sounds like a Corinne problem, if staffing on the team is so bare-bones that the absence of one person throws it all into disarray. I wonder what she’d say if this was someone’s response next time…

    2. Antilles*

      I quick-skimmed the title of the post so it didn’t really process that the post was about lying. So when I read that first paragraph, that was my exact thought going through my head:

      Everybody had to work overtime and come in on Saturday because one employee was sick? That’s not OP’s problem, that’s a management issue! Why is Corinne trying to pin this on you? Does she not realize she hired a human being?

    3. Lacey*

      Absolutely. I had two different years where I got horribly, horribly sick during a busy time and the owner of our small company had to come back from his vacation to get things done.

      And while I felt bad for him having to do that, it didn’t change the fact that I was puking my guts out every 15 minutes.

      1. Ashley*

        It definitely sucks that that happened, but when you are the owner of a small business, that is the type of thing that can happen sometimes! I would feel bad if I was in your position, too, though I would just tell myself that the owner is probably getting paid way more than me. It comes with the territory of being the owner!

        1. Lacey*

          Yup! That’s part of owning the business. You get bigger rewards, but you’re also the last result when things fall through. He never complained about it, but I did catch some flack from the office manager who probably would have come in no matter what.

      1. NaoNao*

        People like this aren’t reasonable and don’t respond to reasonable, logical lines of inquiry. They’ll splutter that even getting sick was irresponsible, *she* never gets sick, COVID is not real/exaggerated, they can figure out how to “make it safe” and on and on.

        Or they’ll shift the conversation to other imaginary flaws and faults and how wronged they are.

        I’ve learned this the hard way: you can’t reason people out of unreasonable positions they arrived at via emotion.

        Corinne wants people on edge, frantic, guilty, and spinning. If you look up “sick systems” by Issendi, there’s Corrine’s face staring back atcha.

    4. Jen with one n*

      My go-to story anytime someone feels guilty about needing time off or being sick during a busy period is this:

      One day, I was the only person scheduled to be in the office from my team. Everyone had vacation, training, appointments, etc. The night before, I woke up at 2 a.m. with gastro. At 3 a.m., I emailed my boss and grandboss to say that I knew the timing couldn’t be worse, but there was no way I could be in the office that day.

      Ten years later, my office is still standing and I had no repercussions from it (I’m sure it helped that I had a good track record of being reliable, etc., too). They found someone to sit and answer the phone, and all was well.

      1. The Original K.*

        I used to feel guilty about taking time off. No more, and I’m not apologetic about taking time off or not feeling guilty about it. Getting laid off cured that for me some time ago.

      2. Lizzo*

        This is why cross-training is a valuable thing to do in the workplace. I am a team of one, but there are several other people who are capable of doing my most time-sensitive tasks while I am away for both planned and unplanned absences.

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Semi-snarky reply for the next Corrine gaslighting conversation:
      “What is the actionable chance I’m meant to take from this conversation?”

      Honestly, we are human beings and we get sick – it is part of employing other humans. What is it that Corrine wants me to change going forward – put it fully out there for me please, don’t dance around the topic with passive aggressive hints.

      1. Underrated Pear*

        This is actually a great suggestion, and I think you could do it without being snarky!
        -“What would you like me to do differently next time I am sick and unable to work?”
        “I’m committed to our team; what actionable change are you envisioning the next time I or one of our team members is sick?”

    6. Underrated Pear*

      I came to the comments because this is such an important point to reiterate, given that the LW says she’s unsure about the norms. If your coworkers actually did have to work nights and weekends because you were sick, that is (1) an indication that the real issue is being understaffed/overworked, and (2) not something you could do anything about ANYWAY, because the alternative is coming in and getting everyone sick.

      In your letter, you also made the comment that you’d remember having to stay late because of something like a birthday dinner. While I understand your point (and am going with the assumption that you didn’t mean it in a negative way), I also want to point out, just to be clear, that it is also completely normal and acceptable for people to not cancel their birthday dinner* so they can work all evening. Once again, that is a situation that (1) should not throw a team’s workload into utter disarray, and (2) is not something that individual should feel at all guilty about.

      *I did this once, during an overwhelming work situation in my 20s, and guess what? It was a dead-end job with no possibility for promotion, no one ever got a raise, and after I left, I wished I hadn’t let that stupid job take over so much of my life when I got very little out of it. Don’t be me.

    7. yala*

      Serious question–is harassing an employee for being ill an ADA violation? Because it sure feels like one.

  6. chocolate lover*

    I have no practical advise to offer, just another person reiterating that Corrine’s behavior is NOT NORMAL. Try not to let her convince you it is.

    and no, being salaried/exempt does NOT mean you’re on call 24/7.

  7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’d be very curious what Corinne’s response would be if you asked her what you were meant to do when you were sick with a contagious illness and not able to work. And I mean asking as though it’s a genuine question that you want her perspective on, not being snarky.

    One of my favourite tricks from Captain Awkward is asking unreasonable people to articulate what a good solution would look like for them in a similar situation. Because they’re generally not able to. It works pretty well for them when you feel like you’re on unstable ground, trying anything and everything to keep from upsetting them. But you can break the cycle by asking them to tell you what their ideal outcome is in the scenario. And if they articulate something, you can evaluate whether it’s doable for you.

    Side note, even if it was the case that one person being sick or on vacation caused major chaos, that’s the organization’s fault for not staffing appropriately.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Captain just today did a rare and wonderful update on a scary situation! I understand why she doesn’t usually but I also wish she did them more often.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          She does when they send in updates, but it seems like they don’t come in all that regularly. I’d also love updates on a lot of the letters.

        3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          She has posted occasional updates, but she doesn’t want any letter writers to feel obliged to update.

      1. NeedRain47*

        Sometimes people will actually think about it, but in my experience, asking illogical people to use logic often makes them MORE ANGRY. They realize they don’t have a reasonable request, and it is your fault for pointing it out.
        I recently had a conversation with my brothers gf where I asked her three times to change the subject and she ignored me completely, then was shocked when I said it was time for them to leave. People that ignore boundaries are hard core.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          You have to frame it as you just wanting to know what to do next time so they’ll be happy/satisfied. This technique isn’t about setting or enforcing existing boundaries, it’s more like asking the other person what their boundaries and needs are. Which doesn’t obligate you to agree to whatever they ask for. Your example isn’t really what I was talking about. The technique would involve something like asking them how they’d like you to handle it in the future when they persist in continuing a topic of conversation that you’re not comfortable with.

          I take your point that being calm and logical can make unreasonable people spin out and attack to provoke a reaction, though. There will probably be an extinction burst.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Pull out HR’s policies. “Our signed/approved handbook says that employees with contagious illnesses must stay home until symptom free for X hours. Surely you don’t want us to violate our own policy? We’re HR, we set the example.”

      Yeah right.

    2. Generic Name*

      And sometimes a person is SO unreasonable that they are actually delusional in that they will be able to articulate the solution that want, but it is over the top that their ideal solution is unreasonable/unrealistic/unfair/physically impossible. Which is not to say don’t ask, but listen to their answer and evaluate it against reality. It’s helpful information to know when someone is disconnected from reality so you can take steps to protect yourself.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yes, exactly. You can and should give it some thought. Perhaps you have a counter-proposal to offer instead.

      2. RLC*

        Brings to mind a long ago supervisor who told me to work on my “mind over matter” skills to overcome my symptoms when I was out with a serious bout of gastroenteritis. He stated that he always used that method so he wouldn’t miss work for illness. Hmmm, wonder how the gastro virus came into our work unit?
        I gladly took a pay cut to leave that dysfunctional mess a couple months later.

    3. Mill Miker*

      In my experience, this gets you a lecture about how they’re not going to do your job for you, and if you were at all competent you wouldn’t be asking that question, and maybe you aren’t actually a good fit for this role, and you need to start justifying why you should continue to do you the favour of employing you.

  8. Anna Badger*

    I suspect you may find a lot of your current work life in Issendai’s description of sick systems, which I will leave a link to as a reply so this comment doesn’t get eaten

    1. ferrina*

      Wow, that’s terrifyingly accurate. Hadn’t read that one before!

      Trigger warning – slight mention of suicidal thoughts, and highly descriptive of how systemic emotional abuse and codependence is perpetuated.

    2. Poppy*

      This essay made such a world of difference to me when I was stuck in a similar situation with an abusive, gaslighting boss whose management style seemed to be “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” We actually did have a morale improvement meeting during which he berated us for being miserable and told us to quit if we were unhappy. Half of the money generating staff quit within a couple months (he treated the support staff like they could do no wrong, including showing up 30 minutes late on a regular basis and blame the rest of us for clients being unable to get through on the phones). That whole article was a massive eye opener.

    3. Anima*

      Wow, that hit home. My old job was exactly this, glad I had a boyfriend (now husband) who pulled me out of it. What a sick system that was.

  9. Butterfly Counter*

    OP says they can’t go to another department in HR, but what about Corrine’s boss? My language when talking to my grandboss in this situation would be something like, “I and others who work for Corrine have lost trust in her because we’ve caught her in so many lies. For example, whenever any of us takes sick time or even leaves at a time before she thinks is appropriate (but is our usual leave time), she tells us that the rest of us had to work hours and hours extra when we haven’t. She also blames us for not knowing things she doesn’t tell us, like the new procedure. We’re having a hard time knowing when to trust what she is telling is is true and if she is even giving us necessary information. We can’t work like this and need an intervention.”

    I’d have this kind of conversation WHILE also looking for a new job.

    1. Raging Iron Thunder*

      I second this as well. If as a group, they list out the issues, and approach Corrine’s boss, maybe this will get dealt with.

      Unfortunately, the reason she may have lasted 35 years here is because the boss above her is just as crazy. @OP, I’d suggest doing some quiet asking around. But seriously second the “get out now” advice.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Yes I was wondering about this approach too. It may be she’s head of HR in which case going to the overall COO or CEO?

  10. Neeul*

    While going back and saying “Hey I double checked with the team members and they said you’re lying about working overtime.” might be too much of a risk to call her on, going forward I would do this (especially if you can get the rest of the team to agree to do it as well.)
    Anytime she tells you that someone/everyone had to work late or come in to cover you, say something like “Oh, I’ll make sure to go apologize to them and thank them for their effort.”
    I’d love to see how she tries to backtrack on that!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I like your suggestion! How could she possibly fault you for trying to be a good colleague and thanking your coworkers for going the extra mile???

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      I was going to suggest this too! Get the whole team in the loop about the scope of past lies and suggest everyone do this if they suspect her of lying in the future.

    3. k*

      I would skip the warning and just thank them, loudly and in front of her. As a shout out in a team meeting, when she’s present with the group around the water cooler, in a cc’d all email; whatever would feel most natural for your office norms. Kindly and sincerely thank them for picking up the slack and working overtime, and let her figure out how to react when they say they have no idea what you’re talking about.

      1. ferrina*

        I wouldn’t do that- it puts your colleagues in the middle of either calling out your boss or needing to enable her lie. This boss seems like the kind to retaliate, so you don’t want to put your coworkers in a position where they need to choose between ethics and self-preservation from a very real threat. Corrine’s already doing enough of that.

        This is the one time where it is absolutely acceptable and necessary to talk behind her back.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          I would do both: discuss it ahead of time with colleagues, and then do the call-out in a group setting. (While ALSO talking to Corinne’s boss.) (AND job-hunting.)

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      I have always found that it’s very effective to treat a liar’s lies as truth and act accordingly. If you push back and point out the lies, the liars come up with new lies. If you treat their statements as the truth, they spin out of control…and then they stay away from you for awhile.

      I worked for a boss like this and we all did exactly that when she’d pour on the “you should be grateful for this job” nonsense and “look what you did to you coworkers by asking to be off one day last week!” We kept a “lie chart” and we also made up a game called BS Bingo where we’d try to guess what weird things she’d do next. I literally turned in fake vacation requests so she could deny them and “force” me to take the week I actually wanted off.

      I loved the work so I stayed working for a crazy person for far too long. It does warp you. Get out when you can.

    5. Pink Geek*

      “Let’s go together, right now, so you can see me apologize and know I’m taking this seriously.”

      (Kidding, but it’s a lovely daydream)

  11. EPLawyer*

    LW you say you want to confront her because it would be harder for her lie to your face. Except she did. She literally lied to your face when she said the team had to work Saturday because you were out sick.

    This is not someone who when confronted with her lies is going to say “Oops you caught me, truth only from now on.” This is someone who will double down on the lie and then somehow make it your fault that you are not believing her lie.

    Your boss sucks. She isn’t going to change. This is not normal. The only way to not let it warp your sense is to GET OUT.

      1. MsSolo UK*

        Yes, this is my guess. The fact she does this in face to face meetings, and not emails, means she can just claim she never told you anything of the sort, and accuse you of lying to your colleagues. If anyone higher up investigates, it’ll turn into “I said that in the future we would have to… and OP misunderstood and started a vicious rumour about me rather than clearing up their obvious confusion”

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Yup. It is a time waster, but the best solution is to follow up each and every face to face meeting with an email documenting the discussion, to avoid confusion, you know…

        2. cncx*

          This was my former boss’ MO, his worst comments he would save for the one on one meetings. Then when I said anything he denied it.

  12. Presea*

    “She consistently tells us that since we are salaried, we are expected to be on call 24/7. This is my first salaried position (as with the majority of my coworkers because this position was just made salaried this year) so I don’t know if this is normal, but shouldn’t we have some work/life balance? ”

    There are jobs that require someone to be on call per the nature of the work but it’s only reasonable if: you know that going in, are compensated accordingly for the on-call time, and ideally not be the one covering on-call duty 100% of the time. Even then, companies should really only even ask for 24 hour on-call if it’s truly a business need. It’s not something that should be assigned flippantly.

    If this doesn’t describe your job – and I’m betting it doesn’t – then no, it’s not normal for your boss to say things like this. If this actually is what your job is like, you still don’t deserve to be verbally bludgeoned about it in this manner. And whether it describes your job or not, you should absolutely have work/life balance and any decent boss would be taking steps to ensure you can have that. Your boss sucks, none of this is normal, I hope things get better for you soon.

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      And on-call rotates! It’s not everyone, all the time. It’s “I’m on call this weekend, Stan is on call next weekend, Marcia is on call the weekend after that” etc. So you can go have your life otherwise.

  13. I should really pick a name*

    She consistently tells us that since we are salaried, we are expected to be on call 24/7

    I think she has conclusively proven that she cannot be used as a reference point for employment norms.
    I suspect her superiors would be horrified to learn of her behaviour.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I hope her superiors would be horrified, but who knows. Corinne has been at the company for 35 years and apparently nobody has noticed or done anything to stop her nonsense.

    2. Clown Eradicator*

      Since you are HR, i would be so tempted to ask for “advice” from Corinne:

      “Someone from the juggling department came to me for advice and I wondered how you’d handle it. They said that their manager is continually making up things that just ramp up the department anxiety – and these are things that are easily checked and found false just by talking to coworkers. How would you handle it? “

    3. Observer*

      I think she has conclusively proven that she cannot be used as a reference point for employment norms.


      I suspect her superiors would be horrified to learn of her behaviour.

      I’m not so sure. She’s been there for 35 years. Some of her colleagues know about at least some of the lies. Yet. She’s been there for 35 years.

  14. Smithy*

    Document document document.

    Every conversation you have, you go back and send a follow up email. “Thank you for just discussing the Llama Grooming File with me in the hallway, I appreciate confirming that you agree ABC is the right way forward. Hope the rest of your Wednesday isn’t too hectic!”

    Essentially anything where there’s room for her to forget, her to gaslight, her to change her mind – you have that follow up. And also look for a new job.

    A bad reason, is that she thinks it benefits her for her team to be in a constant state of anxiety and on high alert. A worse reason though is that the larger organzation is a bit cruel and chaotic and leaving amplifying her wrost cruel and chaotic management characteristics. And there’s nothing worse than thinking you work for A Bad Reason manager who’s style your organization would disagree with, and then finding out you work for A Worse Reason manager who simply mirrors your organization.

    1. Smithy*

      uff…typing too fast – “and amplifying her worst, cruel and chaotic management characteristics.”

    2. Meghan*

      Yes! I agree so much! Even just as a way to cover your butt for future stuff/if you do end up going above her head you’ll have the documentation to prove it. Also, if you’re able to BCC yourself. I could see the boss as the type to go and ask IT to do naughty things.

  15. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, assume everything Corinne says is a lie until proven otherwise. Given how easily disproved these lies were, I bet she is also telling lies about any negative situation that may be harder to disprove. A few examples that I’ve heard in my life: “The CEO is angry we didn’t finish this report,” “I can’t promote you because of the company’s financial situation,” and my all-time favorite: “You’re stakeholders are very dissapointed in your performance.” Then again, I could disprove this by, you know, sharing the quotes in my review with my actual stakeholders.

  16. CSRoadWarrior*

    Why do I have a feeling Corrine is trying to gaslight her employees? Because it certainly sounds like it. And it baffles me that she has been with the company for 35 years – showing that the company is willing to tolerate such behavior for over 3 decades.

    Either way, Corrine does not sound like the boss I would like to work for. I hope you find a better job soon. Nobody should be expected to be on call 24/7, let alone be forced to work on a Saturday. And the fact you had COVID and had to be out and were lectured about it is just totally out of line.

    1. cncx*

      I had a boss like this, right down to everything being a fire drill. He ultimately stayed with the organization because he did a lot of the housekeeping in projects no one else wanted to do, so management found him useful despite him bleeding out candidates to the tune of 2-3 people per year in turnover in a 6 person team.

  17. learnedthehardway*

    Who does Corinne report to? The CEO? The VP HR? She reports to SOMEONE. IF you decide to complain about this, that’s who you would go to, since you’re in HR.

    Before doing that, I would gauge whether Corinne’s manager is someone likely to make any changes, though. If she’s been with the company for 35 years, then presumably, others are aware of her personality and (lack of) management skills.

    Your manager’s management style is a Chicken Little / Sky is Falling approach – and she’ll pretend the sky is falling, even if it isn’t. You’ve now seen through this.

    You may find it easiest to cultivate an “Ignore and carry on” approach. Once you know that someone is gaslighting you, it becomes a LOT easier to evaluate what they say/do in light of the fact that they are a known gaslighter. It’s NOT ideal to stay in the environment longer than you need to, but it’s also possible to build in reality checks (eg. checking with people outside your department about whether the company is healthy – finance people are good for that; consciously telling yourself that it is unreasonable for the manager to expect you to know things that they haven’t told you), and even to push back some (eg. IF you’re up for the added stress).

    In the mid to longer term, finding another job is a good plan. But now that you know what your manager is up to, you can play along and choose your time, rather than rush from one frying pan into another one.

  18. Minerva*

    “You are salaried and are expected to be on call 24/7” is toxic workplace nonsense. It is 100% untrue, do not let it be normalized. You are allowed to take sick days, PTO, and leave at the normal time you leave everyday so you can make it to your birthday dinner (????).

    This woman gets power trip from making people feel bad they have a life outside of work.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, and MOST jobs don’t require 24 hour availability; unless there are specific reasons to require immediate responsiveness most professional questions and decisions can wait until the next day

  19. KHB*

    Sometimes with people like this – who are constantly telling lies that are very easily exposed – it’s less about convincing you that any particular lie is true, and more about wearing down your will to care what’s true and what’s not. It’s like what Barack Obama said about the Russian media landscape: Flood the public square with so much “raw sewage” that people don’t know what to believe anymore. That theory has helped me a lot in understanding the habitual liars in my own life.

    1. Smithy*

      Yes, I also think that this often ends up cultivating an environment of people thinking that they need good reasons or excuses themselves, for all things both good and bad. And at some point, it creates a situation where more and more people find themsevles on the path where their resume goes from “Basic Spanish” to “Conversational Spanish for Business” to “Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese”.

    2. irene adler*


      It’s also a diversionary tactic. Hides what is really going on. Like if the boss is not as adept as they should be at the job.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I had a former boss who was fantastic at this tactic – and it definitely was used to hide what was really going on.

        He mentioned to shared field contacts that I left OldJob (where I reported to him in manner of speaking but not directly) because I didn’t want to do llama grooming anymore. Now the specific reason I left: him, in part. Incompetence, made my job impossible, lack of ethics, lack of moral direction, all displayed by him.

        My response upon hearing that I no longer wanted to do llama grooming, which is, by the way, 90% of my workload at CurrentJob, was to say “Oh! I’m sure there must have been a misunderstanding somewhere, I left in order to do more llama grooming at XYZ corp and I’m certain I mentioned this to Goyle in my exit interview….”

      2. HRChickie*

        1000% this (re: diversionary tactic)

        I had a former boss who buried us under tiny lies about everything (both work and their personal life), micro-managed, and reacted badly to being even professionally, gently questioned. It didn’t matter if it was just the two of us or in a group, if it was framed as a question (“Do we need to review this? We work in the US and we don’t use employee contracts”) or a statement.

        I continue to discover mistakes and sloppiness to this day, several years after this person no longer works here. They wear you down about so much stuff that your reality gets warped; I spent more time making sure I was right about basic facts and that I was, in fact, living in a reality that others shared, that I missed many of the errors in the moment.

  20. digitalnative-ish*

    Sorry you’re going through this LW. My old boss was the same way. They left a few years ago, and I’m still working through some of the damage (but it’s a lot better). If Corrine is as insecure as my old boss, I’d err on not confronting her. Also, there’s good chance she’s already thrown you under the bus. Ask me how I know.

    How I dealt with it: remind yourself she’s the problem, and you don’t have to care why. She’s got issues? Don’t give a shit. She doesn’t get to treat you like crap. I also mentally said to myself, “[she’s] so weird” whenever they pulled crap. Weird is an emotionally neutral word for me, so it helped me detach while acknowledging who the problem was. And emotionally detaching is crucial.

    Try building relationships outside your area (my boss isolated us from eachother so ymmv). My old boss was a long termer, but everyone was just waiting for them to leave. Everyone knew they were a pain, they just weren’t open about it.

    But most of all, get the hell out of there. I lucked out, but I was looking. Start polishing the resume cause Corinne will never change.

  21. urguncle*

    I had a very similar boss that I dealt with in a few ways:

    – Figure out what is actually important/time-sensitive/impactful to the team by asking your team rather than her. Whether that’s a boss-less Slack instant message chain or a group text on the side. It feels sneaky, but ultimately necessary, especially if she’s working to whip everyone up into the anxiety that she apparently thrives in.

    – On the times when she comes to you with “facts,” challenge them. “You should have told me about this” –> “I actually told you about this on these dates; I have the meeting notes from our 1:1 here.” “Everyone had to work overtime” –> “Can you forward me some of the emails or notes from your overtime work? I didn’t get any communication this weekend and I want to make sure I don’t want to miss even more than I already have by having been sick.” We have an extensive internal wiki that I started using in my every day work to capture these kinds of things so that there was no question that I had worked on something and it was in a place where she was able to see it, not “lost in her email” or “never brought up.”

    – Go straight to the source. Mine would make up critical and personal feedback from other people, hoping I would feel too much shame to ask them outright. When I actually asked them what could have been better from an issue, they had actual actionable feedback for me or said that they’d never seen an issue, not personal attacks. This is doubly true for any tasks that she gives where someone else is the stakeholder. Don’t take her word for it; go to the stakeholder and confirm what you need to do.

    – Ignore everything else. This can be hard because she will warp your reality to fit her own, but if you can’t be in direct control of something, let it go. Getting reamed out for missing a meeting that was rescheduled to the past? I tried to see how slowly I could blink without it looking obvious.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Urguncle, I agree with all these tactics. Challenge the “facts”, go straight to the source, and ignore all else. And also, of course: Be looking for a new job.

  22. Bad Crocheter*

    I’m too petty to be AAM. I’d be tempted to say, “Oh, no! Linda was having a family reunion Saturday. I feel just awful that she missed it because of me. I’d better go apologize to her!”

  23. Stir The Pot Tuesday*

    Is your boss also included on your teams channel? If it were me I would put a message in teams with a lengthy apology for making everyone work late, work on Saturday, etc. I would include direct quotes from the boss as much as possible and explain that I had no idea how my behavior impacted the team until boss explained it to me and thank boss for bringing it to my attention and promise to do better in the future. Let the team be confused as hell and see how the boss responds. Boss will likely freak out but you can pull that thread if you feel like it.

    1. What She Said*

      My Corrine would have insisted she never said that. “You must have misunderstood”. She’s already talked with her teammates. Putting something on teams like this will only make things worse for her.

      1. urguncle*

        YEP. Everyone trying to call Corinne out publicly is strongly wrong. She will not hesitate to return awkwardness to sender and then incur her wrath on the offender.

      2. Susannah*

        How much worse could it be? Especially when her colleagues have told her Corrine has told the same lies to them. Nope. Got to call her out – or at least make it clear you know she is lying all the time.

        1. urguncle*

          My Corinne made up a fake PIP to put me on. She did that as well with another person and messed up his transfer out of her management by two months by constantly saying he was a “low performer.”

  24. LCH*

    “Did she want you to come to work with Covid? There’s no point in speculating on the answer to that because we’ve already established Corrine doesn’t live in our reality, but it makes this all additionally ridiculous.)”

    i might be tempted to get her response on record because it might be “yes!” so i can go to a higher up and ask why the company wants to implement such a terrible policy. i mean, if someone in HR is saying it…

    but, yeah, staying calm might be the best revenge against someone like her. so calm. just the calmest. no anxiety here!

  25. Penny Hartz*

    I had this manager–her specialty was easily disproven lies as well (along with NOT DOING ANYTHING). By the time I left after three years, I was her longest-term employee and some positions had turned over more than once in those three years. We were pretty sure management wouldn’t do anything because they were 1. lazy and 2. probably afraid of an age-discrimination suit.

    Eventually she was busted down to some subsidiary where she didn’t do anything because they didn’t give her anything to do.


    1. unperformative worker*

      Had one of these at my workplace. A person so awful even seasoned pre-retirees talked about how she made them cry 15 yrs ago when they had her for a boss. She eventually yelled at a student employee and was removed to a position without direct reports until she retired.
      She had a smile like a sociopathic crocodile and used it to buffalo higher ups.

      1. Pippa K*

        I see you’ve met my dean. (But in her case, until she slaps a student or a major donor, they’re never going to remove her.)

  26. S*

    So I would HATE to work for the company that has Corinne as an HR manager. If she’s lying like a rug to her direct reports, what’s happening to the workers who are relying on HR for accurate information or help in a bad situation? I mean, I hope she’s not in charge of investigating sexual harrassment allegations or other similar sensitive issues, but even if it’s more business-as-usual HR work, Corinne’s reckless disregard for truth and appetite for drama has the potential to screw things up for more than the OP and her colleagues.

    If there’s a business impact beyond the team, that might be worth documenting and pushing up the chain. People who would look askance at complaints about Corinne’s treatment of her direct reports might still take action if Corinne is causing bigger problems.

  27. Veryanon*

    Oh God, Corrine sounds like a boss I had earlier in my career. Everyone experiences a Corrine at some point.

    1. CSRoadWarrior*

      I had a boss worse than Corrine. And it led to a major anxiety attack, which lead me to quitting without notice right afterwards. It was that bad.

      1. Veryanon*

        I stayed working for my Corrine way too long – I knew within 2 weeks of starting there that she was bat-crap off her rocker.

  28. Nom de ploom*

    Where I live we have pretty good workers rights. Collect enough proof, documentation, corroborating stories from coworkers and we would have this person removed from affecting our team at a minimum.
    Why should everyone else scatter to the wind finding new jobs and dance around confrontation? If you have means of legal support (maybe as a group) and this job is worth it to you, don’t let this person win.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Why should everyone else scatter to the wind finding new jobs and dance around confrontation?

      There are a few reasons:
      (1) The LW is likely in the US, which does not have good workers’ rights.
      (2) It’s not just Corinne. She’s been at this company for 35 years, which means that on some level, upper management supports her (unless she has managed to keep her lying hidden from everyone above her for all that time).

      The other reason your qualification and this job is worth it to you. For most people in most jobs, the effort it would take to remove Corinne from management/the company (not guaranteed!) is not worth it compared to the effort of finding a new job.

  29. Khatul Madame*

    Look for a new job.
    In the meantime, document all of Corinne’s abuse of you and others. On your last day at this job, send the documentation to the Head of HR and Legal.
    Other commenters have given good advice on how to take care of your mental health while working for this nut.

    1. Susannah*

      Better yet – ALL of you look for a new job. And give your notices the same day. And see how she manages to find people to make up for the time she lost by losing her entire staff.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        You are right, no one deserves to work for this sadist. But if all of them start looking at once, they will compete with each other for jobs. LW deserves a small head start for writing in, and will help her teammates once in a new job.
        Just kidding, of course. I hope all of them are actively job searching.

  30. Oxford Comma*

    If Corrine is like this in her working life, she’s probably like this everywhere which suggests she has a lot of practice lying and it’s not going to go well with a one-on-one.

  31. kiki*

    I might find sneaky ways to bring some of the especially egregious behavior to the attention of Corinne’s manager or other folks at Corinne’s level. Like, if you’re ever in a skip-level, bring up how sorry you are that your sick day caused such an issue for the team that they all worked over the weekend. Or ask your manager’s manager about the layoffs. When they ask you who told you there were layoffs, mention how often your manager talks about them.

    To any reasonable leader, hearing this will set off alarm bells that something isn’t right with Corinne.

  32. irene adler*

    My now retired boss did this.

    While the lies are always easily verifiable, and I’ve had to confront him on more than a few of these lies, it doesn’t change anything. He’d just spin another lie-also easily verifiable.

    It’s all about keeping subordinates off balance so they won’t see their manager’s shortcomings. Never mind that this entire treatment IS a giant management shortcoming.

    In the OP’s case, you’ll just get things like: “they misunderstood the date you were referring to”, or “I told them not to tell you that they’d worked late as it might cause you some upset”.

    And the lies get crazier and more ridiculous over time. Example: I had discipline issues with a report. Boss explained that since another department did not have issues with this report, that there was no issue here. Never mind that this other department had no interactions whatsoever with this report.

    There’s no fixing this- no matter how thoroughly you call out the lies. The only defenses are to maintain solid communication lines with all of your co-workers and to verify everything you are told. Just know that you will be assigned last-minute projects that boss will insist were assigned and you are late in completing them. If you can find where these projects come from you might be able to establish avenues to get a jump start on them. But that has to be done completely outside of the boss’ knowledge.

    And really, get away from this boss. Otherwise, it WILL color how you see things at work-and not for the better. I know, I put up with this for 30 years. I don’t trust a single thing my new boss tells me. And so far, he’s not lied once.

    1. Ashley*

      Because this isn’t just a you issue but all her subordinates, one thing that might help is to help each other a little more then normal. If you see a last minute meeting change maybe send a group text so others see it and you can save a yourselves from being screamed at. The downside to banning together sometimes is when you all still inevitably ‘mess up’ the rantings are worse, but it can help limit some of what she is able to dish out to you all or make what she does dish out come across as so extreme to any outsider that gaslighting outsiders is harder.

      1. irene adler*

        Oh yeah- “maintain solid communication lines with all of your co-workers”

        Thing is, nothing will save the employees from being “screamed at” if boss feels like doing so. Can’t assume they will act logically. They can get angry BECAUSE everything is going as it should and there are no issues.

        Employees of this boss are not going to win here. This boss will not change. Maybe HR or grandboss can work to fire them. Otherwise, they have a whole bag of tricks to mess with people. Best to polish up the resume and scram.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “They can get angry BECAUSE everything is going as it should and there are no issues.”

          Yes, this is so true! There were many times with my crazy former boss when she would confront me about a “mistake” and I was able to immediately prove that no mistake had been made. She was so disappointed whenever this happened (now she would just have to find some other pretense so that she could vent her anger)….

          1. irene adler*

            So bewildering to those of us who expect bosses to be rational.

            Totally logical to those who act irrationally.

            1. Loch Lomond*

              People in early-stage abusive relationships and/or sick-system workplaces like this are often naturally honest enough people themselves that it takes a really long time to understand that they’re just not being dealt with in good faith.

              They think like “What’s the right way to assert boundaries with this person? / Why can’t I get my boss to understand that what I want is reasonable? I tried x and y and it went terribly, I just can’t seem to get it right.” Which is like being in a shady carnival boardwalk and asking yourself, “Gee, why can’t I knock down these milk bottles? I just can’t find the right throwing technique.”

              The milk bottles are glued down. And there is no way to assert boundaries with an abuser / phrase your reasoning perfectly that they will accept. There never was. The game is rigged.

              1. irene adler*

                Rigged- exactly.

                People who treat others fairly expect same in return. And are very surprised to receive other than that. Messes with one’s mindset.

                This is why it is so imperative to cut bait and not try to ‘tough out’ abusive bosses. The failure is on the boss’s part. Only the employee tends to feel like they are the one that failed.

        2. Mill Miker*

          You might also have to hide that you’re maintaining solid communication. I’ve definitely seen bosses like this take moves from the “Anything said in our 1:1 meetings is strictly confidential, and discussing anything related to those topics with your coworkers will get you a write-up”, “Any conversations with coworkers beyond the bare minimum to complete your tasks is time-theft”, and “A meeting with all of you would be too disruptive, but I’m willing to address your questions in our 1:1s” playbook (And see the first point if you’re curious about 1 person asking a question and sharing the answer).

          1. Observer*

            Anything said in our 1:1 meetings is strictly confidential, and discussing anything related to those topics with your coworkers will get you a write-up”

            That might actually be a GOOD thing. Remember the woman who got written up because she told a coworker about a bizarre and cruel prank that her supervisor pulled? When a different supervisor saw the write up, that finally causes that manager to be fired.

            Especially since this kind of thing could be illegal. I doubt anyone is going to care about her being a terrible boss. And they may not even care about illegality per se. But there might be someone who is concerned about the risk it poses.

            1. Mill Miker*

              Yeah, but a boss like this never actually does the write-up, they just dangle the constant threat of it as proof that they’re being kind and generous by letting you get off with just another warning for the awful crime of “thanking a coworker for covering for you” or “telling another coworker the boss put you in charge of a project, when that coworker was told by the same boss that they are in charge of it.”

  33. Marna Nightingale*

    Not that this thread needs more people saying this, but you and your coworkers should board that bus and drive it elsewhere before she can throw you under it.

  34. What She Said*

    Not worth it to say anything. I know from experience, I’ve had this boss. Even called her out once on her lie. She just doubled down on it. You will never know why the boss acts the way she does. What you do know is not to take her word for anything anymore. She can’t be trusted. If you choose to stay just take her complaints with a grain of salt. They have no meaning or support. Don’t respond to her complaints. I used to tell my boss “okay” and nothing more. The point is to not engage anymore then you have to. I outlived my boss at my company and am so glad she is finally gone.

  35. A Pound of Obscure*

    That behavior is so classically, pathologically deranged and narcissistic that I wonder if Corinne is actually a narcissistic man who’s considering another run for president ;)

    1. urguncle*

      I spent about a year under a boss like Corinne until she yelled at me for something that was so not even remotely an error that I could have foreseen or avoided and I realized that my mother would have done the same thing. That realization snapped me out of feeling like I was the problem.

  36. Magenta*

    If it were me I would talk to the other employees beforehand to make sure they were on side, then send an email to the whole team saying taking time out for covid was the best for everyone, but that you are sorry for causing them to work overtime and come in on a Saturday. Then get them to reply all asking what you are talking about. It gives you a paper trail and makes her look stupid.

    1. Squawkberries*

      Tempting. But publicly embarrassing a boss like this tends to backfire. They will likely double down in ways that make it harder to prove. A boss that you can catch lying is better than one whom you arent sure is lying.

    2. Pippa K*

      This requires that you can trust all of your colleagues. In really poisonous environments like this, sometimes someone decides that they can use the abusive boss’s behaviour in a way that benefits them. Maybe they tolerate it when it’s directed at someone else, maybe they facilitate it to put themselves in a better position, maybe they reckon it’s advantageous to them to have colleagues damaged by the boss – unfortunately I’ve seen this happen. Sometimes people are just trying to protect themselves and accept the tradeoff of harm to others, but sometimes they’re ambitious and just spot a vicious boss as a potentially useful tool. I hope that’s not the case in OP’s workplace, but it’s another factor in the “look for another job” decision tree.

  37. Magenta*

    If it were me I would talk to the other employees beforehand to make sure they were on side, then send an email to the whole team saying taking time out for covid was the best for everyone, but that you are sorry for causing them to work overtime and come in on a Saturday. Then get them to reply all asking what you are talking about. It gives you a paper trail and makes her look stupid without having to call her out.

    1. Jamboree*

      I like this idea! I was going to suggest OP & CWs agree on one very quick response, a la “Okay” and they all respond that way every time someone gets the lecture. It will take at least a couple of these exchanges for boss to start head tilting. But I might like the email with confused responses would be more entertaining.

  38. Pdxer*

    I had a department director for several years early in my career who behaved in a very similar manner. After while, it came to light that he kept the department in disarray and everyone completely on edge because his position was redundant and he knew it. Always looking like he was jumping in to avert catastrophe was the only reason he still had a job, and eventually after many years of very high turn over, his superiors finally figured that out.

  39. BellyButton*

    I have had a “throw you under the bus boss” more than once. The last one was a real piece of work, I did confront her multiple times, and did it in front of the CEO, and she was finally told to resign.
    One incident that sticks out the most — I was presenting to the entire executive team. The CEO asked a normal “why was this the approach as opposed to this other way” Normal question, and I was prepared to give the decision making process, but throw-me-under-bus boss jumped in and started saying she wanted the other way but I didn’t listen to her. While she was going on about me, I switched my presentation onto the big screen to an email completely contradicting everything she said. I said- “throw-me-under-the-bus boss, I don’t think you recall this meeting and follow up email where we discussed both approaches and the team decided on this one.” Her jaw literally dropped, the CEO called a break and called her into the conference room next door. While he never yelled, he talked for 15 minutes non-stop and it was very firm. When the meeting continued, she didn’t say a word the rest of the day.
    I am a big advocate of CYA and calling people out on the BS/lies. I do it respectfully and always approach it as, “I am sure there was some sort of miscommunication” or “I know you have so many things going on, you probably missed this…”

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Wow, well done!

      I have to ask, did you have the email ready to show in advance, expecting your boss to pull this stunt?

  40. cardigarden*

    Anybody else wondering which bodies Corrine knows about? Like, there’s a lot of your personality and management style you can hide from your superiors, but you can’t keep that kind of act going for 35 years without someone picking up on it.

    1. urguncle*

      1) She’s made her way into organizations at a high enough level for long enough that it would be difficult, expensive and/or embarrassing for the organization to fire her.
      2) She’s about to retire, at which point she will take her toys and leave, keeping the company from having to pay out a severance package, unemployment or a costly wrongful termination lawsuit.
      3) She’s gotten results for long enough that they don’t care how she does it.

  41. JustKnope*

    I would document every single ridiculous situation she puts you all in – time, date, situation, etc. Have your coworkers do the same. *While looking for a new job.* You don’t want to end up taking this to someone in leadership/above her and them not doing anything with it while you’re still feeling stuck there. But this behavior is so loony I feel like someone needs to be made aware of it in writing. But you gotta save yourself first. Your quality of life will be soooo much better when you have a boss who isn’t dedicated to making you constantly second guess yourself.

  42. Dumpster Fire*

    I’d email the whole team (cc’ing Corinne, of course) and apologize for making them work the whole weekend! But you really didn’t want to put them and their families at risk so you called in sick. And if they’re sick, of course, you understand that you might need to work extra, even the whole weekend just like they did.

  43. animaniactoo*

    The only way to win is not to play.

    “”I’m so sorry that my being massively sick was so inconvenient for the team.”

    and then let it roll. Expect that she’ll try to guilt trip and you’ll have to go find the truth elsewhere.

    At most… “Wait, what? What came up that needed so much extra effort? I thought everything was in pretty good shape?” and entertain yourself watching her dig the rabbit hole deeper as she works to come up with a reasonable answer. But then back to “Oh, well, I’m sorry that coincided with my being sick/vacation/etc.” As lip service. Not something you actually mean. But something that you WOULD actually mean if it did actually coincide, and the rest of your team did indeed have to put in extra hours. Even though you should still not feel guilty about that, but it’s hard for us not to sometimes.

  44. Goldenrod*

    This sounds SOOOO much like my evil ex-boss (who was VP of HR) that I almost wonder if it *is* her……….!! All I can say is: get out, get out, get out.

    Nothing to add but my FULL SYMPATHY. Your boss is clearly bonkers.

  45. SJ (they/them)*

    Something I’d like to add here: leaving aside the lies, it is never okay to be berated at work.

    Whether what she’s saying is true or not is beside the point if she is reaming you out. That should never be happening.

    Things you are allowed to say at any time:
    – I am not okay with being spoken to this way. I am leaving now. I will be available for a calmer discussion at another time.
    – I am not okay with hearing a colleague spoken to this way at work. I am leaving now. I will be available for a calmer discussion at another time.

    And then you get to leave: sign out of the call, leave her office, head to the kitchen to refill your water bottle, whatever you need to do.

    Good luck OP.

  46. Richard Hershberger*

    There is a malicious compliance strategy available. It is the team’s fault for not asking her about that new report they hadn’t be told about? Ask her about future new reports every single day. Better yet, have every member of the team do this every single day. Best of all, since she presumably is salaried and therefore on call 24/7, set up a rotation to call her at 3:00 in the morning every single day.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        No, but the idea is sound — work with your co-workers to gaslight her back. She says your co-workers had to work overtime because you stayed home sick. You apologize to them, and they loudly complain to her about all the extra work they did. Pretend all the lies she tells you are true, as a team. Make it a game that you all play, while you all work at finding new jobs. Ideally, you can all leave in quick succession, too.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Variant: apologize to the team, with them responding with support for you in your illness, culminating with whatever is the pandemic-era version of a group hug.

        2. AnonInCanada*

          And when the whole team finds new jobs, they all quit en masse with no notice. Bye, Felicia…er…Corrine!

  47. Wallflower*

    I’d write a fact-filled report and hand deliver it to her boss with a request that these peculiar actions be further investigated by upper management. Corrine’s actions are dangerously close to being an actual liability to the company.

  48. Hills to Die on*

    I had a boss do something similar and I vowed that the next time he tried this, I would publicly apologize to my team with him sitting there.
    “Thomas told me that some of you have come to him with concerns that I am doing X and Y. I just wanted to apologize to all of you and let you know that I will be more communicative going forward and I am so sorry for the confusion I have created.”
    We talked all of the time and my team would have been trying not to laugh because Thomas was actually the one who did X and Y all of the time and everyone knew it.
    Thomas got laid off after I wasn’t there to do his job for him, and ended up having to switch industries because he wouldn’t stop telling everyone that the CFO sexually harassed people. Got himself blacklisted and nobody misses him. Bye, Thomas.

  49. theletter*


    Perhaps this is my own disordered thinking, but I have no tolerance for this kind of lies and manipulation. ::cue Kill Bill theme music::

    I would call her out by publically trying to track down the people who worked on Saturday so that you could apologize to them individually. Or by requesting she put her most guilt-trippy statements into writing. But that’s just me and how I live dangerously.

    Another thing to point out is that if one person being sick or enjoying a birthday dinner means other people have to work overtime, that’s a human resources problem, not a individual contributor problem. Sick days are part of your compensation package, and no one should be prevented from using them. She should be thinking in terms of hiring more people or pushing back deadlines instead of making up stories.

  50. Susannah*

    I’m with Alison and wanting to give in to the temptation to call her out.
    But I’d do one of two things: say to her, “yes – the last time, you said people had to work nights and weekends to make up for my being out sick. I reached out to them, and they all said they were happy to have worked overtime to ensure I was able to recover.” That’ll make her wonder if her own lies are true.

    Or, you could just say, “sorry – but that’s really not my problem.” And walk away.

    But walk away anyway, as soon as you find something new.

  51. AVP*

    I would be extremely tempted to just wait for the next Serious-Conversation-About-Normal-Time-Off and respond with something like, “yes, yes, Corrine, I know, the team had to work Saturday, they always do, just like when we needed to work late for Mark’s birthday dinner and come in on the weekend for Jane’s bout with Covid. It’s okay, we know it happens.”

  52. PleaseNo*

    I was expecting Alison to recommend the route of ganging up and going to your boss’ boss to talk about what’s going on. Interesting.

  53. BBB*

    I would play dumb and go with the petty route and in the next group meeting go on a very long and drawn out apology to my team about my absence making them work on the weekend and then revel in the awkwardness it creates

    but for real, look for a new job because this one isn’t worth it. I would still want to address it tho. corrie reports to someone and they should want to know she is actively discouraging her staff from using their sick time, muttering about layoffs that aren’t happening (pretty bad for morale and retention) and is just lying constantly and being an all around bad manager. I would try to get your whole team on board and go to her boss and other HR reps and lay it out for them to see. strength in numbers.

  54. Glad to be here and not there*

    I worked for a boss like this for about 7 years. It was the same thing- lies about things that were easily disproved, or about things that didn’t even matter, and on and on.

    We survived by information-sharing (as Alison suggested) so that we could figure out what was true vs what the boss said. Those 2 things rarely matched up.

  55. Felicity Flowers*

    Wow…. I’d never have the actually chutzpah to do this myself but I’d love it if your all teamed up and used this to your advantage either immediately or during your annual review or increase/bonus time (if you have one)… each of you having a conversation along the lines of, “By what you’ve told me the department falls apart when I’m out and people have had to work over time and weekends to cover my workload, and when other people on the team are out it isn’t nearly such an issue I think I should be compensated appropriately.”

  56. Spicy Tuna*

    I would have emailed the entire team and cc’d Corrinne stating that I was terribly sorry that they all had to work on Saturday due to my illness but that I was sick with COVID and thought they would appreciate not being infected.

  57. Michelle Smith*

    If she’s a gaslighter, it’s time to get a new job. If you really want to confront her, I wouldn’t do it directly. She’s just going to lie. I’d do it in a way that lets her save face. Like “When I heard that people had to come in on Saturday because I was too sick to come into the office, is that what you said? I asked my coworkers and they said that wasn’t true, so I believe I misunderstood what you meant.” You take a vacation and she says it caused a huge problem? “That sounds difficult. I’ll speak to Jane and John about that and make sure they’re okay.” When she knows how quickly you’re going to find out her lies, it may cause them to stop. At worst though, with an approach like this, it gives her room to backtrack without feeling like she’s been directly confronted. She’ll know you know she’s a liar, but she is less likely to feel called out. And then you can bide your time until you can get out from under her.

  58. Folklorist*

    OMG, I just got fired from a tiny company where the owner/my boss ruled like this ALL THE TIME. I only lasted 1.5 months–partially, I think, because I had a lot more experience than she realized (I look and sound a good 10 years younger than I am), and I didn’t put up with the lying. I would constantly be like, “but that’s not what you said/did/told me to do, and here’s proof… Actually, you told us that our working hours were THESE and that we wouldn’t have to deviate them except in extreme circumstances… I can’t work this weekend; this can be finished Monday.” and she HATED that. I actually thought of submitting the fact that I got fired quickly from this place to the AAM Friday Wins section because I’ve learned so much from this site about not putting up with abusive bosses.

    Seriously, get out of there any way you can. This is warping your sense of normal and will affect your entire career negatively. That much anxiety is terrible for your mental and physical health! I hope you get out of there soon!

    1. Econobiker*

      Submit your story of getting fired for telling the truth! Others would want to know about it especially given this thread!

  59. Wendy*

    My husband and I both worked for 2 managers who were like Corrine

    That behavior affected me to the point that I never want to work for anyone like that again.

    I asked one of the managers, Conrad, why he was like that.

    His response was “It is nothing personal. This is just who I am.”

  60. Qwerty*

    I’m not sure that confronting Corrine and her easily-disprovable lies will do anything good.

    Best case: She gaslights you, like you already suspect she will.

    Worst case: She gets better about lying so that it is less easily disprovable in the future.

    The lazier her lies are, the easier they will be for you to catch them in the future and mentally protect yourself from reacting. There is no scenario where Corrine comes clean and admits that she wanted you to feel bad for having covid.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, I just recommended a fairly safe way to put Corinne on notice that her lies run the risk of being exposed without it looking deliberate on OP’s part, but then I put in a line under advising that she consider though whether she really wants to put Corinne on notice and give her the opportunity to play her games more intelligently.

      So my main advice is to document, document, document, and urge coworkers to do the same, not in order to go after Corinne, but just as a CYA measure!

    2. Mill Miker*

      The closest you might get to her “coming clean” is an “I’m the boss. I’m right, you’re wrong. I will always be right. Any indication you feel differently is a sign of insubordination and a fireable offence. This is your only warning. Question me, fact check me, or try to hold me accountable again and you’re fired.” response. If she’s really on-the-ball she might even assure you that everyone up the chain have been warned and have her back on this, and will also gladly fire you for wasting their time on something she’s already made clear.

  61. MuseumChick*

    Run. Run fast, run far, and do not look back.

    This full falls under “Your boss sucks and it isn’t going to change.” I would start job hunting this very moment and if you can afford to burn the bridge (which many people cannot so think very carefully before you do what I am about to say) be brutally honest in your exit interview, “I’m leaving because of this incident and several others I learned about as a result. It is impossible to work for a boss who fabricates things like this.”

  62. grumpy old lady*

    I would assume Corrine is also lying to higher ups about you and other team members when it comes to giving out any bonus/raise/promotion. Do members of your team get those? If not, why? It sounds like lying is an ingrained behavior and it isn’t going to change. As others have suggested 1)document 2)share info and 3) LOOK FOR ANOTHER JOB.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly. I’d assume she’s been poisoning the well against you all to give herself the advantage if you ever complain to someone else. It reminds me of the letter about the new manager “Kate” who told a bunch of lies to senior leaders about how her whole staff sucked and she was whipping everyone into shape. Kate was awful, but her lies about her staff were believable and if memory serves, caused some problems for the staff folks. Gonna track down the letter in a reply.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        OK, it wasn’t in the letter that I was thinking of and I can’t find the actual letter at the moment.

  63. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    First and foremost, OP, please document everything, every interaction, every situation that occurs and recommend coworkers do the same. This is not for the purpose of going after Corrine, but simply a CYA measure. You want to have backup when she does try to throw you under the bus in far more significant ways.

    Second, I would address this type of thing in the future by responding with a look of confusion, “Oh really? Well, that must have been very inconvenient for my coworkers. Of course I do believe the outcome would be worse if I had come in and spread COVID to my teammates, but I will make a point of apologizing to them all for the inconvenience and thanking them for putting so much of their personal time into keeping things running!”

    That way, Corinne is advised that you are going to tell your teammates what she said, but she really will be hard pressed to say anything to stop you, as you sound like you are being really reasonable and considerate of your coworkers. Is she going to tell you that you aren’t allowed to apologize to them or thank them? It isn’t confrontational, and unless you act over the top, she really cannot assume that you are doing it to mess with her. It is a totally reasonable reaction on your part. But it does tell her that she needs to be more careful about her lies.

    On the other hand, that also might just teach her to be smarter about her lies, and maybe you would be better off if she remains as incompetent in her lies as possible!

  64. Someone Else's Boss*

    One thing I did to my one boss who lied in a similar way (hers was more positive – “You’re the only person who can do this correctly!” but she told that to four people) is to tell her I would be apologizing (or whatever) to the affected person. When possible, I had that conversation in front of my boss. You could consider saying, in front of your colleagues and boss, “I am SO SORRY you all had to work late while I was out. I feel terrible.” And then when they look confused, say, “Oh, that’s what Corinne told me.”

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I recommended something similar, but OP may not want to give Corinne the chance to improve her lying skills, and doing it with the colleagues in front of Corinne may put them in a tough spot. They would feel confused and worried to contradict anything in front of Corinne. I definitely think doing it in front of Corinne could backfire badly!

  65. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    LW, can you talk to the payroll part of your company? Find out if you really should be classified as exempt? (Exempt means “not eligible for OT pay”.) Can you push back on the change, ask why it happened when the job didn’t change? That *might* spur someone out of Corinne’s direct environment to start investigating, and if so, it could turn up more of her shenanigans in a way visible enough that upper management would have to actually react.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Honestly, because Corinne’s lies show that the colleagues do not really need to provide extra coverage when they are out, I am guessing she really is exempt. HR positions are often (though admittedly not always) exempt.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        True! But given that *everyone* mixes up what “salaried” and “exempt” mean, that could actually be a wedge into the mishegas.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yeah, people really do not understand the difference, though I know Alison has explained it a lot! To be fair, it is not always easy to figure out. There was a position in my agency that was treated as exempt for years, and then about a year after I began there (in a different role), they realized the position had been misclassified. There are a LOT of employees in that position, and transitioning it properly and stopping overtime from happening without authorization caused a huge mess! I think just being around for that made me very aware of the distinction!

  66. CLC*

    My team had an absolutely horrible leader for about 3 or 4 years. They didn’t do the same things as Corrine, but they were in a relatively high up leadership position and they absolutely should not have been by any stretch of the imagination. At first, many of us tried to approach problems like you would with any normal professional—surely there must be some misunderstanding. But this person was so horrible, they would just treat you like dirt if you said *anything* about *anything* even if it wasn’t directly related to them. They twisted *every word* you spoke to them. We learned quickly that you cannot talk to irrational people as if they are rational. If we had 1:1s with this person we would just nod and smile as much as humanly possible. Every project was always going swimmingly as far as they were concerned—we learned to work out everything within the team because this person wouldn’t understand it anyway. Eventually they left the company for an even bigger job and insanely high salary. Of course.

  67. Snell*

    For the sake of commiseration and to give a bit of a break/breathing room amid all the horror stories here, submitting my own experience of a non-malicious “anxious, wants others to be anxious too”:

    If my mother ever found out that I had a huge, urgent school assignment and one night left before it was due, she’d panic hard. If I did not engage in visible panicking at her intensity, she would panic harder. If she saw me sitting at the table working on my assignment intently, she would freak out because I wasn’t visibly panicking at her level. Did her panicking help me complete my school work? Of course not. Did interrupting my work help me complete my school work? Of course not. Would she prefer I spent my time freaking out instead of working on my assignment? Yes. It wouldn’t help my school situation, but it would make her feel better.

    She was not satisfied with me when I explained plainly that I was working and would work better if left in peace to focus, and would instead emphasize again how little time I had left to complete how large a workload. I think if I started crying or something, she’d calm down. She needed me to lose my composure in order to regain hers. She did this with all the best intentions…and none of the best thinking.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      My ex had this dynamic with one of his supervisors (a toxic workplace by his account, although I am not sure how much of it was through his ‘lens’ as he did have certain issues with authority etc…) – they worked on a factory floor so sometimes things would go wrong with the machinery or sudden quality issues etc.

      My ex had a very cerebral, step back and think about the problem and analyse it (assuming it wasn’t an actual life and limb threatening emergency of course!) and the supervisor seemed to expect everyone to run around like headless chickens in response to problems… whether because that seemed like they were taking the problem seriously whereas someone stepping back to think didn’t, or some other reason, I am not sure. Once the supervisor said to someone else “there was a problem with the XYZ, and [Captain’s ex] just stood there!”…

      1. Here for the Insurance*

        This reminds me a lot of the Poirot stories. Everybody’s flipping out, Hastings is demanding that Poirot “do something” and losing his shit because Poirot is calmly sitting in a chair. And no matter how many times Poirot is proved right, Hastings never changes and never stops thinking that action without thought is the best answer.

  68. AnonInCanada*

    Wow, just wow. We can’t even get out of January and this is what, the third or fourth strong candidate for Worst Boss of 2023? Alas, OP likely has not much of a choice other than to high-tail it out of there and find another job. Alas, depending on how long they’ve been with the company, this may be something that could be left off a resume, or this could be an issue, since I seriously don’t think Corrine is going to be a good reference. Or she may have a vendetta and will try to sabotage all of OP’s efforts to find another job.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, OP. I’ve had a toxic boss many years ago and made me come to work in fear that that jerk will blow a fuse over a tiny misstep. Walking on eggshells is never a healthy situation. For your own health, get out!

  69. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    First, this is not at ALL constructive, but…

    I took would be tempted to say I SEE YOU… But I would do it with baked goods. I would probably bring in donuts or something and send an email saying,”I am SO SO sorry I couldn’t be here to help out everyone. I know it really stinks to have to work late when a coworker is out sick – and Coraline says some had to come in on Saturday because I was out sick. I feel just awful about that. I know it won’t give you your evenings and Saturday back, but I brought in some donuts in appreciation for everyone stepping up when I was out. They’re in the break room.”

    Then you are documenting the “fact” that people were working and showing your team spirit or whatever… And people can organically and publicly be confused.

    But probably a bad idea

  70. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    LW, please get out of there ASAP! Alison has often warned people that working for a toxic, dishonest supervisor can warp your own expectations of what’s normal and reasonable (spoiler alert: Corinne is neither normal nor reasonable.)

    While you still have the perspective to write in and ask if this is standard, the fact that you still have to ask if it’s the norm for HR professionals to be on call 24/7 shows that Corinne’s attempts to convince you that yes, this is normal, are beginning to work on you. NO, this is NOT normal, no, this is not acceptable, yes, Corinne is totally out of line and no, she’s not going to change! Get out ASAP…and don’t be surprised if the rest of Corinne’s reports follow you out the door.

  71. River*

    Corrine has 35 years with the company. It sounds like she’s lost touch with the importance of transparency and communication. Or she could be burnt out/tired. Or she could be dealing with personal issues outside of work or it might be something internal that affects her personally. Or she is misdirecting frustration on staff. Or she doesn’t like changes and likes things in a routine fashion. Or something else is going on!

    Regardless, her behavior is unacceptable. Keep that baggage away from work, if that’s the case. Considering how long she has been with the company, I am going to assume she’s older and might not even care if she is ever told she needs to quit or gets fired etc. She might be at the point where she just doesn’t care and is riding out as long as she can before any action takes place against her. Or she might be in a power trip where because she is in HR, she thinks she is immune to most things.
    I would document instances where she guilt trips you or does anything to you that you deem unacceptable. If you’re feeling up for it and I highly encourage you to do so is to have other co-workers that you trust do the same and document dates/times/description of these types of situations. If in the event Corinne is relieved of her duties and tries to turn it around by trying to sue, having documentation will be very useful against her.
    I will echo what others have said and it might be time to look for a new job. As much as it sucks, it sounds like Corinne is set in her ways. No one should have to quit a job because of one person being toxic or consistently unreasonable. Best of luck in this situation. If Corinne changes, I hope it’s not just a temporary change and then several months or a year (if at that) goes by and she goes back to some or all of her old ways. Take care.

  72. my cat is the employee of the month*

    Wow, this was so similar to one of my former managers. They lied constantly, and we didn’t really have HR. At one point I was dinged on my annual review because I didn’t help with a task that no one ever actually asked me to help with and that I wouldn’t have had time to work on anyway. I left that job 5 years ago, and I still wonder why that manager was like that. I think the “constant state of anxiety” is completely correct for my former situation. I never sat down with this manager to call them out on their lies because I didn’t think it would change anything. I communicated with the rest of the team frequently, and that helped. We all knew the manager lied. I eventually found a new job, at which point the group had high turnover and the company had enough HR that they sat down with everyone on the manager’s team. They found that the manager was the common link, and encouraged them to go bother some other company. And I found the “your boss stinks and is never going to change” topics to be very helpful at the time. Good luck!

  73. Sharon*

    Even if she WAS telling the truth, it’s not your problem to fix. You get vacation and sick days, and management is responsible for managing the workload when you take them. I’d ask someone above her: “What are planning to do to make sure these kinds of normal absences don’t cause coverage problems or keep our team from missing critical deadlines?” That way you’ve escalated the problem (as Corrine is presenting it) to someone in a position to do something about it – or to dig in and find out there’s actually no problem that needs solving.

  74. MollyMcIntire*

    I am team Confront the Lie! I had a boss who lied a lot in my last position. The only time I called her on it was after a conference, when we were back home, and she was bragging about how nice her hotel room was. (Sidenote: She would not stay in the conference hotel and made our university pay for a more expensive hotel. The conference hotel was really nice.) When bragging about how nice her room was, she said “That’s why I invited you and [coworker] to come hang out in my room.” I said, “You never invited us over.” The look of shock on her face on being called out on such a tiny, unnecessary lie was amazing. She recovered by saying, “Oh, well I wanted to, but you and [coworker] looked like you were having so much fun together I didn’t want to interrupt you.”

  75. fantomina*

    Dream level of pettiness while seeming deferential: “I went to apologize to the team for inconveniencing them, and they said they haven’t worked any Saturdays. Could you let me know who specifically worked Saturday? I want to be sure to give them a personal apology!”

  76. Anon for this one*

    > There’s a constant talk of layoffs but only from her; the company has sent no communication and other managers have no idea why she says this

    Hang on, so she’s talking to other managers about layoffs – other managers who aren’t part of HR? When HR is normally exactly the people you’d hear about layoffs from… whatever her motivation is, it seems to extend outside this team but rather about inducing a constant sense of uncertainty in everyone she comes across. How do you (OP) know she’s said this to other managers, e.g. have they then come to ask you about it, did she say it ‘first hand’ in front of you? I’m curious about that part.

    She sounds like a mess all round, scattered in her own mind and trying to control anything she can whilst feeling totally at the mercy of ‘everything external’ herself, I suggest (I hope this isn’t too close to making armchair statements). In case it sheds any light – I’m afraid to say I’ve had some of these tendencies in the past myself, not really with these specific lies, but rather wanting people to feel uncertain about themselves or their position, worry about things, second-guess themselves … not really because of wanting to induce anxiety in its own right, but rather almost that I was envious or jealous (whichever it is, I always mix them up) of others who seemed to be able to glide through life without having to deal with those worries, when was it going to be their turn to have to live in the state of constant fear I did? It is not a trait to be proud of by any means (and I realized what it was about when I was much younger than this manager must be, if she’s been working for 35 years). It doesn’t really change the situation but I wonder if there’s any commonality with this motivation for her, and if that changes how to approach it.

    I’d be inclined to handle this the way I do with any passive aggressive behaviour (which is really what this is) and take it at face value. Someone in a comment suggested “oh that’s bad that they had to work a Saturday, who was it so I can get them a gift card” which is a good one, also press for details about the supposed layoffs and so on in a matter of fact manner. Whatever she’s getting — and there will be something — from y’all’s reactions will soon stop when your reactions stop.

  77. Tedious Cat*

    I’m sure Alison would say this is terrible advice, but if I had to deal with this individual, I would keep my phone on me at all times, and at any point that I was told one of these lines, I would call the person she’s lying about and immediately deliver a loud and over-the-top apology and she would have to physically attack me to get the phone away.

    But it’s probably easier to get a new job away from this glassbowl.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Actually, I love the idea of each one of them sending group apologies for x thing she said.

  78. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Do you have a mentor in the company or in your field who can give you advice? Ask them if what you did (taking time off when you had COVID) was inappropriate and how you could have handled that time off and her response.

    Like, play dumb and see what they say. After their input, mention that she also said others had to work Saturdays but you later learned they did not. Ask if you are missing something.

    This can alert others to what is happening without you telling them in a complaining fashion

  79. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — I haven’t read all the comments yet, but we seem to be falling into two camps, Camp Tell-the-Higher-Ups and Camp Don’t-Bother-Just-Get-Out.

    Reporting Corrine could be risky for a lot of reasons, most of which have been addressed upstream. You, OP, haven’t been with this firm long enough to have accumulated a lot of political capital, which makes the proposition even more dodgy. Confronting her, while tempting, will probably just pin a target to your back.

    While I don’t see a long-term future here for you, here are some suggestions to make life easier while you’re job hunting:

    1. It will help if you and your coworkers can support each other as a unit. You already identified Corrine’s statement as false by checking with your colleagues. Encourage each other to keep this up.

    2. Document all transactions with Corrine that seem even mildly unprofessional. Do not keep your documentation anywhere in the office where Corrine could find it. Use an online storage service such as Google, Dropbox, or send it to your private email address. And if you’re not sure yet what’s professionally normal, keep reading AAM. I especially recommend anything in the archives under the “Workplace Practices” and “Wait, What?!” topics.

    3. The next time Corrine berates you, stay cool and let her run down. When you get an opening say something like, “I can see you’re upset. How would you like me to handle this in the future?” (Hat tip Captain Awkward.) Use your best Wednesday Addams deadpan.

    4. Never attempt to defend yourself or respond emotionally to anything Corrine says. This will just feed her energy. Return to item 3.

    5. See if you can find ways to increase your visibility in the organization. Are the places where you can collaborate with others? It might help you build up a network of people who can speak to your good work and (eventually) serve as references. It will also give you a better reading on how Corrine is perceived by others.

    6. You may want to tinker with your phone settings so that Corrine gets sent automatically to voice mail. In any case, don’t take calls from her after hours or when you’re on PTO. If she screams at you about it when you get back, look puzzled and say you don’t understand why you didn’t get her call.

    I learned all this the hard way (VERY hard). And I’m afraid I have to come down on the side of Team Get-Out-ASAP. Corrine is not going to change and, after 35 years, she either has political protection or the higher ups would rather wait for her to retire than do the work of managing her. So clean up your resume and begin a discreet job search.

    Good luck and send us an update.

  80. HotSauce*

    Next time she pulls this B.S. ask her in a very monotone voice, what would you suggest, Corrine? Should I be coming in to work when I am ill? Follow up your conversations with emails, “per our earlier conversation, PTO should not be taken unless you are hospitalized”. Make her own her crazy & document it like heck.

  81. e271828*

    Recap every meeting and conversation you have with Corinne back to her in email, and make sure you keep copies off-site.

  82. Here for the Insurance*

    when she tries to guilt-trip you about time off, you’ll all just calmly reply “okay” or some other neutral, unaffected response

    Building on this, a person can’t make you feel guilty without your cooperation. Choosing not to go along is incredibly empowering. To yourself as many times as you need to internalize it: “I refuse to feel guilty when I haven’t done anything wrong.” Taking time off and having a life ARE NOT WRONG. Her thinking or saying it is doesn’t make it so. If it helps, focus on the “trip” part of “guilt-trip” and keep telling yourself that you don’t have to accept a trip to someplace you don’t want to go.

    Beyond that, I’d encourage you to let go of asking why she’s like this. I sympathize, I’m a why person myself, but there’s no point here. It could be any number of reasons and she’ll never be honest with you (she might not even know herself). And even if you knew why, it wouldn’t change anything.

    Corrine is a liar who’s invested in keeping everyone off-kilter. Nothing she’s doing is normal. Accept that this is who she is and you can’t change her. Focus on what you can control — yourself. If you stay, accept that you can’t rely on her to be honest, about anything apparently, or to have your back. Do not accept her framing (no, you are not expected to be available 24/7; no, everything is not a fire drill and some things can wait; no, you are not a mind reader who can produce a report you’ve never heard of). Do not listen to any rumors coming from her.

    The best way to maintain your cool around an unreasonable person is to let go of thinking they’ll be reasonable or that you can make them be reasonable. They won’t and you can’t.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      It’s like Everclear said in the late 90s. They can’t hurt you unless you let them. Remember what Here for the Insurance said – you do not have to feel guilty just because Corrine is trying to make you feel that way. Ultimately, if one person being away causes massive chaos for everyone (and it sounds like that’s not even the case here), that’s on the organization for failing to staff appropriately.

  83. JustMe*

    OP – my last boss was like this. Run for the hills. This is not normal for a salaried job and she’s taking advantage of the fact that she’s the boss to maintain her own alternate reality. With my oldboss who could be Corinne’s doppelganger, I gave notice when I had driven 2 hours to a different branch to prepare for an upcoming audit. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, she was calling saying I had to drive 2 hours to our main site RIGHT NOW. I said that I thought our agreement was that I would be at the other site to prepare for this big audit–did it really make sense to change plans last minute? Was this really for something urgent? She thought for a minute and said, “I guess not. You just need to come in because I expect you here.” Turns out she wanted us to be in the office to rearrange furniture.

    Giving notice was very hairy but so, so, so worth it.

  84. TG*

    I hear what Allison is saying but MAN – I don’t think I could keep working for this crazy woman and not call her out and/or report her to HR somehow.
    I’d document the lies and even if it is anonymous I’d reach out to someone above her. Her behavior is NOT normal and NOT okay.

  85. Corporate Goth*

    OP, I feel your pain. I’m finally about to leave this level of insanity behind after twenty years. It’s nerve-wracking, but I hope you’re seriously considering leaving. I read this and…get out, get out, get out!

  86. raida*

    Sounds like my old Director.

    We recorded everything, made official bullying complaints, included our union reps, all that jazz.

    She didn’t get moved on (because the next person up the chain isn’t great with uncomfortable situations) but she did stop lying “HR has told me there’s been a complaint that there was too much chatter here on Wednesday afternoon” when there’s a new person to spook, for example, and she did stop the berating tone, and she did stop wasting time repeating herself for half an hour to make people feel like they’ve done something wrong.

  87. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Nothing to add past the given advice, just the evergreen question: why are there so many bad managers? (Like Corinne)

    1. Anon badboss*

      I honestly only ever had one that was Corinne level. She was an outside hire, brought in by an equally bad department head. Dept head was let go for performance about a year later, but our Corinne somehow stayed and continued to surround herself with yes-people. It was a wild mix of micromanagement and bad leadership decisions. (In one example of many, our Corinne once banned a report from working from home while prepping for the upcoming cancer surgery. Report went over Corinne’s head and got permission to WFH from grandboss. Corinne called report, forced them to come in anyway, scolded them in person once they arrived in the office, and told them “you are taking advantage of your situation”, their situation being CANCER.) We were all looking and interviewing. Then we had a round of layoffs. Corinne was the first out the door, followed by every last one of her yes-people. I may or may not have opened a bottle of Scotch that night, that I’d been saving for a special occasion. Sadly the damage had been done, a lot of talent had been lost, and I don’t think our org ever recovered from the 3-4 years of Corinne.

      I heard it through the grapevine a year ago that our Corinne had passed away. Found her obit. Our Corinne turned out to have been a devoted mother, who in her spare time volunteered at: a suicide hotline, an animal shelter, and a domestic violence shelter. Truly a Jekyll/Hyde situation. It’s like the obit was written about a different person and not the Corinne I knew. I’ll add it to my running list of unsolved mysteries of human nature. I do not understand this. I do not understand how seemingly normal, and even caring, people get into a leadership position and decide to be… this. This is not how I understand leading at all. Probably why I’m not leading and never will be.

    2. need a name*

      I’d love to know the answer to this question.

      The majority of the managers I’ve worked with are bad, unfortunately, with several of them being like Corrine.

      The worst of them, Sarah, had 4 or 5 essential team members fired unlawfully across about 2 years, and all based on complete lies. The most senior manager was perfectly aware of Sarah’s lies, and not only allowed all of these people to be fired unlawfully, but continued to protect Sarah, who was also completely useless, so none of the work got done. It made no sense.

    3. Tom*

      Partly selection bias; people don’t usually write in here when their work situation is good or even average.

  88. Jules the 3rd*

    Good luck, OP, but a word of caution: I just read that a lot of the tech layoffs were in HR, so jobs may be particularly scarce in that field right now. Don’t quit without a written offer and solid start date.

  89. Anallamadingdong*

    I would send out a sweet email to the entire department apologizing that they had to work late and on a Saturday due to my absence. And I would CC this manager.

  90. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    I love it, too.

    I also give my approval to this suggestion as well as the suggestions made by Loch Lomond for openly but casually referring to claims that Corinne has made.

    Don’t be afraid to embarrass her! If it happens a few times, that might make her think twice about spinning these yarns.

    Or not, so have fun with it and hope for the best but don’t hold your breath. Also, as others have said, job hunt. If she freaks out this much every time people take time off, just imagine how she’ll react when you tell her you’re leaving for good!

  91. Rose*

    I once worked at a company with a terrible director of HR. I think maybe we thought it was obvious our leadership knew with rumors flying and a new person in the department quitting constantly. But the second to last person wrote a letter to his boss, the COO. And he called her immediately to profusely apologize and said he’d take care of it and he fired him on the spot. I realize now that they were pretty out of touch with a lot of what went on in their company. You’d think after 35 years, your leadership would be aware but maybe they don’t know the extent or has there been any turnover with someone new in the c-suite? Might be worth a shot especially if you have another job lined up…

  92. ABCYaBYE*

    OP, I am guessing that I’m probably going to say the same as many above (I didn’t get to read every comment) but it is worth saying again. I’d be looking both for a new job AND an opportunity to share with higher-ups what is happening. I don’t think that I would go to others in HR, unless you know for sure that they’re not friendly with her. I’d suggest higher-level management… and let them know that you’re not sure you can trust that people who have been working with Corrine for as long as they have. Heck, ask for a meeting with Corrine’s boss and some higher-level management, just so you have multiple channels. The biggest thing is that you don’t want to face retaliation should she find out and absolutely say that in the meeting. Call it out. Would I do this as a group? Absolutely. Lay out facts. She’s lying and making people feel bad for not being at the office… for being ill, at times that you wouldn’t be expected to be there anyway, etc. And she’s using layoffs as a threat to hold over your heads so you stay in compliance with her weird world. I wouldn’t wait to have this conversation until you have a job lined up if you actually like your job and would consider staying if she was out of the picture. But I’d definitely be looking just in case things go sideways and it becomes impossible to stay.

  93. The Covid Guilt-Trip*

    My manager tried to guilt-trip me when I had to miss work due to Covid back in 2021. I ended up with the virus even though I didn’t really go anywhere. I had some other family who had recently travelled though and they all ended up with Covid and ultimately passed it on to me when they came to visit after their trip. Oh well. Illnesses happen. I wasn’t mad at them.

    When I returned to work, my manager began to tell me that she had to spend so much money because of me testing positive for Covid. This was all before she even asked how I was throughout the entire time of being sick. She said she had to spend $300 on Covid tests: $150 for both her and her sister since they live together. She also had to spend $500 to stay in a hotel overnight because she didn’t want to risk giving the illness to her husband in case she had it (her husband is a high-risk). So in total, I was welcomed back by being told how I put her out $1300 due to all this. #1: she didn’t NEED to spend $300 on Covid tests. Our company’s insurance provided free tests at the time. If she decided to not use the insurance, that’s on her. #2: We don’t live in a super luxurious town. $500 for a hotel room is bizarre. She told me which hotel she stayed at and I know for a fact it wasn’t $500 because I, myself, looked into staying there so I wouldn’t pass the illness on to my parents (I lived with them at the time). Rooms were easily only like $100-200 in the middle of winter (January).

    I regretted not saying anything to her the first time. But then she brought it up again randomly like a week later (almost as if she was expecting repayment of some kind) and I just more or less told her “I don’t think you guilting me for being sick is appropriate and I don’t think HR would appreciate knowing you’re saying any of this.” She immediately stopped and never brought it back up.

  94. Odditor*

    I think the commentariat has suggested the essay linked below a few times before, but it seems especially apt here. Your boss, whether she is fully conscious of it or not, is perpetuating a sick system. I’m glad you’re able to talk with your coworkers about it. I hope you can all keep each other tethered to reality.

  95. Canadian Gal*

    When all your teammates and Corrine are around, either at a team meeting or in the lunch room, stand up and say very seriously that you wanted to personally thank them after hearing from Corrine how they all had to work overtime and on Saturday while you were sick at home with COVID, and that you see them as comrades and great co-workers and really appreciate them. Get them all to look really puzzled at each other and say out loud that it never happened. Each time Corrine says something like that, get each person to either do something like that publicly, or to say something along of the lines of `I am so lucky to have great coworkers, I will be sure reach out to each person and personally thank them for covering for me`. Each of you do this. Every. Single. Time. Get her to know that her bullshit will be called out, and that you are doing so under the guise of gratitude. At townhall meetings, or meetings with higher ups, ask them about what will be considered in the upcoming layoffs that Corrinne has told your team about.
    Put all the bat shit crazy shit she says out there in the public. Pretend you believe it 100% and are sharing to be helpful/transparent/show gratitude etc. Once you take away her power to operate in silos with each of you with bullshit information you take away her power. Note there is no confrontation here, you are operating under the guise that of course what she is telling you is the truth.

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