my new coworker is putting fake mistakes in my work so she can tell our boss I’m bad at my job

A reader writes:

I’ve been with my company for over 10 years at this point. It was my first job out of college and I have successfully worked myself up the ranks to the corporate offices. I’ve been immensely proud of my progress, up until recently.

I transferred to a new team, which was presented as a great opportunity. Once I was here, it became very clear this manager, Celia, is a hot mess who does not have any idea how to manage people. I’m talking not having proper training programs and then reprimanding people for making mistakes on things they weren’t trained on, reaming people out for leaving at their assigned time, badmouthing employees to their coworkers, etc. It’s just been miserable and I constantly have a pit in my stomach because of it.

In addition to all of this, it feels like one of my coworkers is surgically attached to Celia. This coworker, Julia, is a new hire and has been with the company for less time than everyone else. She is constantly in Celia’s office. There have been multiple times where the team has been working and engaging in normal chit chat, Julia gets up and quietly goes to Celia’s office, and then moments later Celia is reaming us out for not “staying on task” (we are always working, just also talking because this isn’t elementary school, we can talk and work). Julia never works on the reports with us and we’ve been told she’s on a special project for the manager. I have no idea what this means.

Recently, I’ve been getting negative feedback from Celia about not completing tasks or making mistakes. When I go into the record to see who last touched it, it’s always Julia. I just thought Julia was finding the mistakes and fixing them. But I’ve never been one to make the same mistake over and over, so I started to get suspicious. I decided to take screenshots of my work at the end of the day to see if the next time I’m told Julia had to fix a mistake, it actually was correct to begin with.

This is what happened. I was reprimanded through email about not correcting something. When I compared the correct version to my screenshot, I could see very clearly that the record was right to begin with and Julia just re-executed it to make it seem like she had to fix it.

I’m absolutely livid and confused. Why would you alienate yourself from the team like this? But now I’m not sure what to do with this information. I don’t want to let Julia get away with this shady behavior but I also don’t trust Celia to take this seriously or, worse, to even believe me to begin with. Celia clearly never took the time look into the history of who modified the record and what was done (which she can see from her access), she just believed Julia was a genius and I’m some dunce who kept making the same mistake. I would go above her head but I’m hesitant that this would cause more drama. I did mention it to three of my coworkers who I’m close to and advised them to start screenshotting as well as they also are receiving negative feedback.

How would you handle this? Is there a way to go about this without looking like some paranoid lunatic? I’m just so tired of leaving work on Fridays with a lump in my throat because I already have anxieties about being reprimanded on Monday morning.

What the hell!  Julia sounds like she’s intentionally undermining you and your coworkers in order to curry favor with Celia.

In a normal situation with a different manager, you could go to Celia and lay out what you’d found: “I’ve been so baffled about how I could be repeating the same mistakes that I started screenshotting my work after finishing it. My screenshots show that the things Julia has been reporting as mistakes were correct the first time; it’s looks like she’s just re-executing the records so it looks like she had to fix them.”

Are you sure you can’t say that to Celia? If you have the screenshots, it might not be a question of whether to believe you or not.

But if you think she’s too defensive of Julia to hear it, could you say it in a way that doesn’t blame Julia? For example, you could use the script above but rather than outright saying that Julia is re-executing the records to make it look like she fixed something, you could say: “It seems like something is going wrong with our system if Julia is finding mistakes, when you can see from these screenshots that it was right the first time. If the system isn’t saving things correctly, that’s a huge problem so I think we need IT to figure out what’s going on.”

You might even put that in an email to her, attach the screenshots, and cc Julia — framing it all as “something’s going wrong with our system if Julia is seeing mistakes since, as you can see, these were done correctly.” That would put Julia on notice that what she’s doing won’t continue to work, without you having to directly confront her. Hell, with that framing, it might even be reasonable to cc your whole team as an FYI that your database isn’t saving records correctly — “is anyone else seeing this?” — which should really mess with Julia’s scheme.

If none of those feel like options, then I do think you need to go over Celia’s head. Yes, it will mean drama — but there is already drama! Julia is stirring up an entire cobra’s nest of drama by what she’s doing. If you can’t count on Celia to squash it, then the only real alternative is to go to someone who will. When a manager is regularly reprimanding you for something you didn’t do and can’t be trusted to hear reason, that warrants escalation. And the stakes are high enough here that you really should — because the lies Julia is feeding Celia have the potential to seriously impact your reputation in this company you’ve spent a decade working your way up in, and could even cost you your job at some point. You’ve got to bring this to someone — if not Celia, then someone above her. (And when you do that, consider having some of your coworkers join you, to demonstrate that this is a widespread issue, not a misunderstanding with one person.)

If none of the above works, I strongly recommend working on getting out of there. If things remain as they are — with someone actively working to harm you and a manager who’s willing to believe her — the risk to you if you stay is too high.

Read an update to this letter

{ 275 comments… read them below }

  1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Request a meeting with Celia’s boss and an HR person present. Bring all your evidence. You do not have to live with this insanity.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, definitely have someone from HR present. Celia and Julia seem to be a team that just feed off each other. An objective person from outside who doesn’t have a dog in this fight is a good idea.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I initially thought straight over Celia’s head, but I agree with others who have commented that I think she needs to try the “that’s not what I am seeing, perhaps it is an IT issue?” track first. She needs Celia’s response to that to better underscore exactly what is happening.

          Is Celia just inept? Or is she complicit? The letter writer can gain valuable information by approaching this with Celia, Julia, and the team first.

          I think, if she has the relationship to do so, she should have an in-person (not written) talk with IT, saying she is going to loop them in.

          Then gather additional evidence from the team, so it isn’t just her screenshots. Send screenshots from her and hopefully at least 2 other people. “This is concerning, as we are not seeing these issues. I am looping in IT to see if they can discover what might be causing this.”

          Hopefully IT will ask Julia to provide screenshots of what she is seeing so they can troubleshoot the issue.

          This will hopefully shut down Julia’s behavior for a little bit (since she’ll be caught out), but you’ll also need to document how Celia responds. Does she accuse y’all of lying? Does she glom on to the IT issue? Does her relationship with Julia change?

          And even if it does curtail Julia’s behavior for a little bit, I think once IT confirms there is no system issue, THEN you go to the higher up + HR and outline everything. Celia’s management issues (the berating, etc.), Julia’s fraudulent “fixes”, their weird relationship, the impact to the work and the team, etc.

          Good luck, letter writer!

          1. Peonies*

            I recently had a situation at work where I was told I had not been doing a piece of my job. IT was crucial in finding evidence that details I was initially given were incorrect and that the lapse was at a different point in the system, and thus not my fault. So I agree that lopping in IT might be very helpful here.

      1. yala*

        lol, I still remember when I asked to have HR present because of an issue between me and a coworker who was friends with our manager. I said I wanted an objective third party and was asked “Don’t you trust me to be that?” Haha, no. (Instead of arranging the meeting, the manager arranged for me to go to talk to HR on my own, telling the person that I wanted to “complain.”)

        Which is to say, I don’t even know that I’d want to have Celia there until talking to HR on my own first.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          What happened when you met with HR alone? Did it work or would it have been beneficial to have had the coworker there with HR from the start?

          1. yala*

            He told me that he used to work in the military and if I really wanted to know what a hostile work environment was…
            Also, turns out, while I don’t know if this was intentional or not, the meeting may’ve been arranged with the wrong HR person (as in, not the staff liaison who was actually more about trying to sort out personality conflicts etc). But either way, he already had an opinion of me by the time I walked into the door, and it did not get better.

            It would’ve probably been better if there had been a meeting with a liaison and the coworker I was having problems with. Or maybe it wouldn’t have been. Who knows.

            Eventually I did get in front of the right HR person for ADHD related reasons. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s significantly better than it was.

            1. ArtsNerd*

              He told me that he used to work in the military and if I really wanted to know what a hostile work environment was…


    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – have to agree here. OP – gather everything and go over Celia and Julia’s heads. They seem to be a team in undermining the whole team, and I don’t think this is solvable in the team.

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Exactly. And if Celia says anything about why you didn’t come to her, “because I see the way you take Julia’s word for things when you come out yelling at us after your daily closed-door sessions with her, and I didn’t trust you to believe me”

      1. yala*

        I mean, I don’t know if I’d say those exact words if you expect to still be working with this manager, because, y’know.

      2. Ellie*

        I wouldn’t do that – it will only make her defensive, and we don’t know for a fact that she’d continue to protect Julia if she knew what was happening. Julia could be spinning all sorts of lies to her as well.

        I would put everything together in an email, including screenshots and all the evidence you have, and send it to Celia, Julia, Celia’s boss (or anyone in authority over her who seems reasonable), and anyone else you can plausibly include as well (maybe the whole team, or if anyone has an elevated position on the team, or if you have any kind of peripheral, or multiple reporting lines, cc them in as well). Word it carefully to just present the facts, and not directly accuse Julia of anything. I wouldn’t volunteer IT as a potential source either, I’d just write, ‘I thought this was odd since I get pulled up for these mistakes every Monday, and I don’t remember making them, so I started taking screenshots of my work. As you can see, the data was correct when I entered it. It looks like you ran it a couple of hours after me Julia, and got incorrect data? Do you know how that happened?’

        Its possible Julia is an idiot, and has been unintentionally ruining the data. Its more likely she’s lying to make herself look better, and if the above doesn’t put your company on notice that Julia can’t be trusted, then find another job as fast as you can.

    4. lifebeforecorona*

      This is good especially if your other co-workers are also doing screenshots, the more people with evidence of tampering, the stronger the case. If there is an IT dept, maybe they can establish a trail as to when someone accessed your files.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Celia’s superiors need to be told about this entire rat’s nest, pronto! Even if they know she’s a mess, they’re probably in denial about how high the sewage overflow has gotten. They’re going to lose LW and her whole team if this keeps up.

    6. Some words*

      Yup. Any time I’ve seen (or been in) a situation like this, a bad manager will side with the person they like the most, or whoever throws the loudest tantrum. You already know what kind of manager you’re dealing with.

      Sorry, but this time I can’t agree with Alison as I don’t see the slightest chance that Celia will suddenly see the light and do the right thing.

      1. The One With Opinions*

        I don’t think it’s a matter of Celia seeing the light. She’s obviously too stuck on herself to. No, I think going through Celia first as an attempt to solve this is more important because it shows that LW made that attempt. In my experience, HR or higher ups will often want to know if you tried to solve it yourself before they will help, which can be infuriating when you’re stuck in a situation like this. So acting confused like it might be a technical glitch is a nice way to get a feel for all involved and even bring out any others LW isn’t aware of that Julia is doing this to as well before trying to move this up the chain of command.

        1. Rebel*

          Precisely. Stay above ground, OP; send that “Is this happening to y’all, too?” email first. Celia and your co-worker are certain to trip up themselves in the process, guaranteed.

      2. Ellie*

        Well, maybe, but these mistakes are making her team look bad, and her as their manager along with it. I’ve seen a similar situation play out before which saw the Celia boss completely turn on Julia and fire her on the spot. This Celia was a terrible manager and continued to be so, but they did take care of this problem. Its also the best chance Celia has of saving her own job if it does see a wider audience.

  2. A Simple Narwhal*


    Even if this does get resolved I’m concerned there are too many bees buzzing around to make staying an option.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Madness Mondays have apparently temporarily replaced WTF Wednesdays. I feel like the last few Mondays we’ve had something absolutely whackadoodle come down the pipe.

    2. EPLawyer*

      I agree. Did no one above Celia notice she is a terrible manager? Because if any of her complaints about her team are making their way up the chain someone should have noticed that her team sure seems to be terrible when well the results show otherwise.

    3. ferrina*

      Agree- First thing I’d do is update that resume and cover letter, and quietly start job searching.

      You can still try to resolve it internally. Talk to HR, Celia’s boss….whoever seems to be reasonable. Also, quietly let the team know what’s been happening. If Julia’s already doing this to you, she’s either done it to them already or will do it to them as soon as she thinks they’re a ‘threat’.
      But I suspect Celia will lash out, considering that she already reams people out for leaving when they’re supposed to leave. And Julia will 100% retaliate. Things will probably get worse before they get better. If the company doesn’t make things right and act quickly, OP will definitely need to be out of there.

      Wishing OP best of luck! I hope they are able to send an update!

      1. Megan*

        I came to say the same! I would actually email IT directly that there is a save issue, and CC the team. If your company uses a ticketing system, I would submit a ticket and forward the ticket confirmation email to the team as an FYI.

        Once you have IT confirmation, I would loop in HR. Honestly, you have enough to loop them in now.

        I had a similar situation with a coworker, but unfortunately with paper documents. She would “lose” documents I prepared for the boss for meetings. They would magically appear at the end of the day. I made it known I was initialing pages, making duplicates, and locking them up. Her behavior stopped until I was reprimanded for locking my desk. As Alison said, there’s a good chance she’ll stop if she knows you’re onto her.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          How did you deal with it once you were reprimanded and the coworker could ruin your paperwork again?

      2. Princess Sparklepony*

        One thing I see with going to just Celia and Julia is that this thing they are doing will stop but something new will replace it. You can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. You can stop some bad things, but they will think up new bad things.

        Definitely work on that resume as well as check other departments that would be a good fit.

      1. Vax'ildan is my disaster bicon*

        I think that one comes from Captain Awkward? I seem to recall a column describing a really messed up situation as “full of bees.”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It’s an amazing comment comparing an abusive relationship with a horror-movie house that wraps with this:

          “The house wants you to leave. It is full of bees. If it didn’t want you to leave, it wouldn’t be full of bees. It would be full of you.”

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        It’s a reference to Captain Awkward’s advice column which has a crossover of readers with AAM (in fact, CA and AAM have done joint posts before) – basically it is shorthand for things are very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        The “house of evil bees” came from a comment on Captain Awkward letter #169, from commenter Marie. It was originally a metaphor for an abusive relationship, and how with the benefit of hindsight you can see that the “house was full of bees” and therefore never a fit place to live.

        1. Clorinda*

          Fun fact, as a child I lived for a couple of years in a house with a beehive in the walls, and it was actually not a problem, except for that one time when they swarmed and a giant ball of bees ended hung out in a corner of my bedroom for a few days before decamping for more flowery pastures.
          Nobody in the house got stung even once. Bees: quite good neighbors if you don’t irritate them!

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. Bees are much less likely to sting you than wasps or hornets, because they die when they do. I’m still not sure I’d like to have a bee swarm in my bedroom, though. Or rather, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.

            Oh well, at least that’s a very interesting fact you can pull out if you get asked “tell us an interesting fact about yourself” at an informal social event. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if anything significant’s at stake, just in case your interlocutor has apiphobia or something…

            The principal at my high school kept bees, our school mascot was a bee, and the school colors were black and yellow (before his appointment the school didn’t have a mascot or colors). He retired about 20 years ago, but the bee mascot and colors are still there.

        1. Boof*

          Yes it is terribly unfair to the bees, yet is such evocative imagery – even if I like bees I don’t think I’d want to live in the same room as them. Even if we could proooobably cohabitate ok. Most likely. Maybe.

      4. Thegreatprevaricator*

        My reference point is Eddie Izzard covered in bees (there’s clips) and I wonder if that fed into the Captain Awkward line?

        1. Boof*

          I always like the macro of oprah showering the audience with bees and everyone screaming in either joy or fear, it’s really hard to say.

  3. learnedthehardway*

    I would bring this up with HR as well as deal with it with either Celia or her manager (if you can’t trust Celia to act reasonably).

    Also, wrt to Alison’s suggestion that you tell Celia you think there is an IT issue, if you’re not prepared to come right out and say that Julia is faking the records, if you choose to go in this direction, I would loop in IT right off the bat – ie. cc your IT support person to flag the “issue”. That way, you have an independent witness who can point out that the records have been changed and that this is NOT an IT problem. It will be harder for Celia to ignore the issue or blame you if there’s outside confirmation.

    1. Presea*

      In my opinion, this is 100% the way to go because it will provide the best ass-covering. If Celia is so bannanacrackers that she won’t even listen to IT and continues to blame you, it’ll be easier to justify going over her head, because it will no longer be “I suspect Julia might be tampering with my work and I’m not confident Celia will do anything”, it will be “IT has discovered that Julia is tampering with my work and Celia is punishing me instead of Julia for it for some reason”. Just make sure to document everything that happens.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        If the OP knows their IT Support person, it may be a good idea to have a side-bar chat about what is happening – ie. point out that you know it is not an IT issue and need them to make it clear what is happening. That way, they won’t feel blamed or blindsided, and will be able to help more effectively.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I agree with this. There is some risk to blowing the whole thing open publically without first building up some supporters on your side, because it seems like Julia is pretty savvy and once she knows you’re on to her, with our without Celia’s support I can think of ways it would get pretty ugly. She’s obviously willing to stoop pretty low.

          1. Addison DeWitt*

            I have to say, I suspect the LW is just days from being fired for “incompetence.” I would get ahead of them today; you don’t know how many more days you have.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Agreed on all points. I’d suspect that anyone higher up is going to ask if you talked to Celia and ask some questions if you didn’t. There seem to be good reasons to think that Celia wouldn’t handle this well (heck, I’m considering the possibility that Celia and Julia hatched this plot together). But I think you’ll be in a stronger position if you can go to Celia’s boss / HR / whomever and say that you brought the issue to Celia and she dealt with it poorly. Otherwise, you could get dismissed as just causing drama, even though this is a major issue.

          Presenting it as a “weird IT issue” gives you a better chance of bringing it up with Celia and not having the conversation go sideways / give her the opportunity to act as though you’re paranoid and seeing conspiracies everywhere. And having an outside person confirm the shenanigans is probably going to be very helpful. Plus, if there is some wild IT issue, any reasonable manager would want to investigate and get to the bottom of it before it causes big problems, right?!

          1. Sloanicota*

            I can think of a plausible “I wanted to approach IT to figure out why is was happening before I came to talk to you about it, Celia” that gives OP a little cover.

            1. yala*

              Unless Celia is the sort of manager who sees reports talking to other departments without her say-so/looping her in as some kind of insubordination…

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Honestly that was my main concern with calling it a saving issue – that IT is going to feel like they were being thrown under the bus. I think if you can give IT a heads up without tipping off Celia and Julia it’s definitely the way to go (because yeah it’s a way to give Celia a way out to not blame Julia while also getting Julia to Knock It Off before she looses the entire team who I’m sure are carrying Julia). I’m just not sure it will work.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        This x 1,000! Alison’s advice was excellent as well; it frames the problem in a way that does NOT place the blame on any one individual, but indicates that yes, there IS a serious issue here that needs to be handled promptly. It keeps the LW looking professional and focused, and puts the onus on Celia to investigate what’s going on and to clear it up.

        1. Nomic*

 individual IS to blame, and they are doing things that can get LW, and everyone on their team, fired. That needs not only to stop, but be addressed specifically.

          1. Jj*

            Technically, LW doesn’t know that. She knows what the file looks like when she’s done and she knows what’s being reported to her boss. Phrasing it like this allows for the possibility, however unlikely, of being wrong and can reduce defensiveness until the cause can be proven.

            1. Penny*

              If it’s a shared word doc, you should be able to see a detailed and time stamped list of all the changes and who committed them. I would be looking that up and attaching it as evidence. I’ve had to do this in the past when someone went in and made changes and tried to pin it on me.

              1. Mongrel*

                Only if tracking is switched on (Review Tab > Track changes)

                If the document is e-mailed as an attachment you can compare the two documents using the tools in Word (Review Tab > Compare)

                If it’s within a document repository, every one I’ve seen keeps track of previous versions and what changed. If the information isn’t available then it may be another reason to chat to IT

    2. Antilles*

      Looping in the IT department is absolutely a good addition, because that elevates it in a different way – IT is going to investigate it as though it’s a software bug and be able to respond that no, we can tell this file was most recently edited by Julia.

      1. Miette*

        Yes, this. IT will likely be able to provide you with an “audit trail” of how and when the records are being accessed and/or altered, to back up your story.

      2. zuzu*

        I would also make sure to get the whole team in on this as well, since they’re having the same issue. They could pipe in with “Yeah! I’ve noticed that issue, too!” and send in their own screenshots.

        That way, someone outside of Celia/Julia has proof that it’s a widespread issue, it’s being approached as a tech issue rather than accusing Julia of malfeasance, and Celia and Julia are on notice that someone with the power to escalate — and, importantly, who does not report to Celia — is aware of the issue, has seen the proof, and can dig up Julia’s electronic trail on this.

        1. Lana Kane*

          In my IT role I always ask if anyone else on the team is having the same issue. So it would be good to get that info and send it with the ticket.

          1. TootsNYC*

            ooh, I can see our letter writer saying in front of everyone, “I’m having some weird glitch with the software–when I save the file at night, everything is perfect. But when Julia gets to the file, somehow it’s wrong at the time she saves it. I don’t know what’s happening, but I’m going to ask IT to help. Has anyone else had any similar problems, where you were sure something was correct, and then you heard it was wrong?”

          2. Llama Llama Workplace Drama*

            If this us Microsoft Word it tracks changes made and shows what user made them. Turn on that screen and there’s your proof

            1. Marley's Ghost*

              If you’re using a repository like SharePoint that saves past versions, that might work, but it’s trivially easy to accept changes that are tracked to make it look like no change was ever made. (And if Julia has repository access, she might be able to delete past versions to cover her tracks.)

      3. Autumnheart*

        I don’t know if that’s going to help anything, because Julia has already justified it by saying she was going in there to fix a mistake. If IT confirms that yes, Julia was the last person to access the file, then that just supports her claim that she was fixing stuff. LW has her screenshots, but unless there’s some kind of version control where one can see actual edits, it’s LW’s word against Julia’s (with screenshots).

        1. Office Gumby*

          Many companies and organizations do have version control built into their Records Management systems (at least, mine does. Foolish is the company that does not…). Otherwise there are always backups. Where I work backs up their data VERY frequently, and that is a form of informal version control. But yeah. There should be plenty of evidence of who’s made what changes and when.

          Absolutely loop in your ICT department to this. They should be more than happy–gleefully so–to help provide evidence that data is being changed (and by whom). The deliberate tampering of business information is a fireable offence where I work. If you’ve got a handful of people who raise this “issue” with IT, they’re going to have an even easier time demonstrating the causal link.

          Julia has no foot to stand on if it’s shown that these “errors” only started getting “noticed” when she came onboard, especially if a full investigation showed that the team did not commit so many errors before she showed up.

          Yes to the IT team. They’ll be able to provide the solid evidence you require.

    3. JSPA*

      Yes, i’m wondering if you can let IT know, in a separate email, sent minutes before the other that they’re included on, maybe with the classic subject line, “please read this first.”

      In it, you’d say that there’s something mysterious going on; it could be an IT issue or a PEBCAK issue (but not your chair and your keyboard). However, due to a need for impartial documentation, you plan to flag it to your boss as a possible IT issue shortly, and let IT take it from there (with apologies for needing to take that pathway).

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        mmmmm I would have an oral conversation and not put something like that in writing. Why create a paper trail about what might be read as an underhanded tactic or an immature one (i.e. if I was upper boss/HR I’d be annoyed equally at the shenanigans: “why didn’t you just come to me directly”).

        1. JSPA*

          Eh, you’re saying that you don’t know for sure–so the next step is always some sort of fact-finding. And fact finding about electronic documents with multiple owners reasonably lies with IT. Maybe not automatically, but it’s a trainable next step.

          Thing is you don’t want them thinking that you must be an idiot to believe that it could be a technical error. And you want them to go into it prepared for the whole range of issues they might find.

    4. Momma Bear*

      If Julia wants to do this, I say bring the receipts and go for it. Loop in IT and everybody. It may even be able to go back to even the things OP didn’t screenshot and find some more examples of this.

      But regardless of the outcome, I’d look for another job, too.

    5. Artemesia*

      This because IT is not going to want to look bad and so they will ‘discover’ that yes things are being changed by Julia. And CC the whole team — don’t make it easy to cover up. After all the whole team may be affected by this. And consider copying Celia AND her boss.

    6. I'm fabulous!*

      Agreed. See if there are timestamps relating to the day/time that Ceclia changed your work in comparison to when you did yours.

    7. MigraineMonth*

      As a techy person, I do feel a bit sorry for the IT person who has to investigate this “database saving issue”. I hope they know to put on their beekeeper hat before wading into this mess.

      1. The Rat-Catcher*

        Luckily we have version control, so this would be a very short ticket for me. “Please see Screenshot 1 updated yesterday by OPDoingTheirJob, and Screenshot 2 updated today by JuliaIsTheWorst. Let me know if you need anything else!”

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          Although I guess I’d also need Screenshot 1.5, where Julia did sabotage. Honestly, this ticket could be fun.

  4. OrdinaryJoe*

    If you could get a couple other people who are also being called out for mistakes to find a similar issue with their work, complete with screen shots, I’d go the “Wow -serious IT issue, anyone else seeing this, with a cc to the whole team” route. Then have the other people chime in with what they’re seeing also. This prevents it from it looking like a YOU issue or a you vs Julia issue. It will also tell Julia that everyone is on to her and give you as a team more power to move it up the food chain or at least to keep asking about what IT is saying, is the problem being fixed (if it keeps happening) etc.

    1. Dover*

      I’d recommend bringing in IT for help but not blaming them since we know it’s not a technical problem. Remember, they’re an ally here. To the audience, there’s no difference between “serious IT issue” and “looping in IT to take a look”, but to the IT professional, it’s a huge difference.

      1. cnoocy*

        Yes, that is a big difference to anyone who deals with technical issues. Saying “this is a huge problem that IT caused” when you know it’s not will make you a person not to be trusted by IT for the forseeable future.

      2. Too Tired To Think*

        Yes, thank you! I’ve seen my systems blamed before when it was a procedural issue and if you told me what’s up (even in confidence) I can help you out so much better than just blaming my system.

      3. JSPA*

        This. Also, “IT Not thinking that you’re the sort of person who assumes that anything wrong with e-documents must be an IT problem.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was coming here to say this. You are probably not the only person this is happening to. Talk to your coworkers and get them to do screenshots. Then go to a trusted IT person and say “we might need your expertise on something…”

      I would do this before going to HR, because then, it’s not just you. It’s multiple people in the same department and IT all saying there was nothing wrong with the records.

  5. Critical Rolls*

    I just want to re-emphasize that you are not causing problems. Trying to get someone to stop doing damage to you is not “causing drama.” Anyone worth a damn outside the poisonous pair should be able to see that this ish is *bad for the company* and should be stopped immediately and with the biggest available hammer.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Exactly. These require quick “I see a time stamp with your name on 2/25/23 but no change since I was last in the account. Please advise as per what error was fixed”

      Immediately and every time and it is not drama! Drama is actually letting it stew like this!

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I’m also curious why Julia should be in those files at all. The LW says that Julia is doing some special project and “never works on the reports with us.” So why is she even looking at the reports? Is reviewing the reports part of Julia’s job and Celia has just “neglected” to tell everyone?

        Though I suppose if you ask, Celia will probably just say that there have been so many errors with the LW’s work that someone has to check…

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Yes – it sounds like Julia isn’t actually putting in an error, then fixing it, then running the corrected report. It sounds like Julia is simply re-running the report and then CLAIMING it is because of an error that only she found, and Celia is taking her word for it because a) who would make that up and b) Celia is not a good manager.

        I’d absolutely ask Julia, cc’ing Celia, where these errors are each and every time. The screenshots are your receipts, but honestly I’d make her try to prove it first by describing the errors (though $10 she says “I don’t remember” which will get really old really quick). I’d get my coworkers to do this as well.

        If that were the only issue, that might be enough. But since this is just one aspect of a crummy situation where Celia is failing as a manager, the path to HR and Celia’s boss is definitely worth taking.

    2. EPLawyer*

      THANK YOU.

      You aren’t the one causing drama, Julia and Celia are. You are trying to STOP the drama. While also protecting your reputation which is a legitimate thing to do.

    3. DyneinWalking*

      Seriously, this. So often people equate “making problems known to a wider audience” with “causing drama” – but when the problems are causing actual harm to actual people (in this case, OP), the drama is already there and the only question is who’s going to bear the consequences. “Keep quiet about problems, don’t cause drama” is synonymous with “victims ought to stay victims, everyone should protect the poor perpetrators from their own actions”.

      Does that sound right and just to you, OP?
      There’s a good reddit comment about the idiom “rock the boat” which you might want to read. It describes the observation that sometimes when people say “don’t rock the boat”, what they mean is “someone else is rocking the boat and your job is to jump to counter that and if you stop, I will blame you for this madness instead of the person who is actually responsible”.
      If you are concerned about causing drama when it’s you who is being harmed, then… well, then that suggests that you have internalized some pretty damaging lessons that you ought to unlearn.

      1. Nina*

        Thank you, I really needed to hear this!
        (Family member is in the habit of getting very drunk and phoning younger relatives’ new partners/spouses at 3 am to make credible death threats. I’m the fifth person they’ve pulled this stunt on and the first to a) file a police report b) get a restraining order c) demand an apology and d) cut off all contact with the offender and everyone who lives with them and advocates for them when no apology was forthcoming. Apparently I’m the one making a scene.)

        1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

          Excellent response, Nina. No messing about! Although you may now be labelled with being a “scene maker”, you have stopped this manipulative behaviour being done to you, and you have shown other family members that you take a fast and firm line in stopping this stuff.
          You have also provided a good example in how to do it, and that it can be done – who knows when that may help someone else in your family or a reader here etc – the ripple out effect of demonstrating good boundaries is very valuable!

      2. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ this. At my thankfully former (as of last week) org, the executive director would probably have accused you of causing drama if you alerted people to a fire in the office. That’s how dedicated he was to dismissing actual problems.

  6. Venus*

    Depending on the company and Celia’s seniority I would be tempted to return to my previous team. It sounds like Celia is the larger problem, Julia is only one symptom, and if an internal transfer is possible then I would ask for it soonest.

    1. Huh*

      Agreed—OP I hope you find a way out of this team, either by going back to your previous team or a new one. The only way to win with this “manager” is to get as far away from them as possible. It sounds like they’re far more focused on manipulating others to lord over a tiny fiefdom than doing their job, and even if you find a way to detach from it, that’s still going to impact you when it comes time for performance evaluations, promotions, and raises.

      I’m really sorry you have to deal with this though. I hope that after ten years working successfully with this org that you have a strong network of colleagues who can help you move somewhere else.

    2. Jujyfruits*

      Yes this is a great idea. Or see if the previous manager can help in another way. I’d hope after 10 years she has capitol she can use to help get her out of this situation.

      1. cleo*

        Yeah, I was wondering if the LW has any mentors or former supervisors they could go to for advice / support.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – reach out to the folks who managed you in the past, they know you and your work to see if you can get out of here before Julia and Celia destroy the ten years of prior work history (and maybe they can help rescue the rest of the team as well).

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, to be honest, even if OP is successful at exposing Julia and, best case scenario, Celia actually cares (and I can think of about a hundred ways this scenario is not the most likely) – it sounds like you will still be in a poorly managed department with a crappy boss who may already have it out for you. OP needs to find an exit while they still have their good track record in their favor.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – and it sounds as if this department is the exception to the norm, so it’s probably to the company’s benefit to expose how dysfunctional this department has become.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    If your workplace hasn’t noticed Celia’s dysfunction already, I don’t hold out a lot of hope.

    I second the idea to meet with Celia and an HR person. If HR bombs this your answer will be even clearer.

    1. Elle*

      I bet there’s been a lot of turnover there and HR is aware. It’s worth a shot with HR but I would leave anyway. You don’t deserve this stress.

      1. Meep*

        This. I work for a start-up where my manager would create fake issues to make it look like she was too busy to do her own work. It resulted in the fact you were either fired or quit within a year because she was batsh*t. Her boss was aware of it, but she gaslit him into thinking it was his fault for hiring these people.

        It took me pointing out it wasn’t normal for him to hire HR and then HR pointed out it isn’t normal. I am sure they would love to see why Celica has high turnover compared to what she is telling them (probably that she just receives difficult employees who cannot handle it).

        Still leave, because HR should’ve seen this before you complain, but have it on the record.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve read an AAM situation where HR wanted to pull the trigger but didn’t feel it had “enough evidence” until someone finally showed up with receipts.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      “If your workplace hasn’t noticed Celia’s dysfunction already”

      People online seem to think HR is aware every single time someone is slightly inconvenienced or unhappy, or aware of every passing remark.

      I think the situation is coming to a head now, nothing written up until the part of logging fake mistakes to throw someone under the boss was bad enough to warrant HR involvement. The training part is iffy and I’d probably exclude that from the complaint. In most professional situations it’s expected people figure stuff out to a certain degree, either by bringing industry experience or by following past cases and examples. So the manager made passive aggressive remarks about “staying on task” but that’s basically the only bad thing that has happened until now

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        This isn’t HR being oblivious, this is Celia’s managers being oblivious. How have THEY not noticed?

      2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

        yeah, especially since Julia is a new hire and has been there the least amount of time. Celia maybe brought her in to spy on the team or something. Or she and Julia ‘clicked’ or Julia is very manipulative. This might not be something that’s been going on for a while so HR might not know.
        I say talk with HR. OP do you have a good relationship with your old boss that you could talk to them and get their take?

        1. Haven’t picked a username yet*

          I am unclear as to how “new” Julia is. It sounds like she has been at the company the least time, but that could mean 2 months or two years depending. Not that it changes much!

      3. Pick A Little Talk A Little*

        Exactly. HR may have some vague idea that Celia is more difficult for staff to get along with and that causes higher turnover for her team than for other teams. But that doesn’t mean they know she’s installed a spy on her team to create reasons to reprimand her other staff and create fraudulent documentation that could lead to terminating an innocent employee.

        I don’t see any reason to believe HR knows how big a problem Celia is. They most likely know that she’s kind of prickly and has had conflicts with staff in the past, but they almost certainly do not know the full extent of her shenanigans. And if LW requests a meeting with HR and finds out they know and don’t care, then that’s still good information for them to have and they can start focusing seriously on their job search.

      4. blood orange*

        Yes, you can absolutely have a bad manager who’s habits fly under the radar if their own boss, other executives, and/or HR don’t interact enough with the people who report to them.

        I’m in HR at a mid-size private company, and we had a manager who painted a different picture than reality in front of executive leadership. Over time (a matter of months) things just weren’t adding up, and finally some of their direct reports came to me and it started to paint the full picture. They had been hesitant to come forward because they’re legitimately good people who didn’t want to get their manager in trouble, but ultimately it all came to a head and they spoke up.

        Hopefully, OP will have decent HR and a decent grandboss. Those are the right people to handle this situation, but ultimately I really think OP needs to get out of this department if Celia isn’t replaced.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wonder how long Celia has been a manager? If she’s only been there for say a year or two it could be that HR is starting to see the pattern but hasn’t fully put it together because of the short time frame.

    4. cncx*

      I’m usually not an advocate of going to HR but in this case, the best case is they are an effective HR department and they will shut this situation down; worst case HR is also put on notice if OP leaves that depending on jurisdiction and industry they need to let OP go quietly, give glowing reference, etc. Something similar happened to me at a job where I was leaving a toxic situation, HR had their hands tied for reasons in terms of dealing with the perps, but they made sure I got out without a hit to my reputation. In this situation it is the least HR can do if they can’t shut it down with Celia.

  8. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    Oh my! OP I am sorry you are dealing with this. I would suggest if whatever system you have had something similar to Word’s track changes feature, you might want to turn it on as well. Or save a local copy and send it to your boss directly, or anything else that makes sense. You could say, “something seems to be wrong because these changes keep reverting. In the meantime, I’m saving a copy and emailing as soon as I’m finished so that we don’t have to keep redoing work while we figure this out.”

    I’ll second Alison in saying it could help to get other on board… Even with the original flag of “something isn’t going right” maybe,”I asked and Imogene and Sven are both seeing this as well so we all decided to (insert thing yOu are doing to work around) for now.”

    Also, probably worth cutting the chit chat, even though you shouldn’t have to, for a bit, just to reduce the room for fodder because she may try to escalate.

    1. Sloanicota*

      If it was me, I’d send this to Tech support with some playing dumb “I can’t figure out how this is happening,” and then I would tell all my coworkers to check themselves and create a record, but I would NOT include Julia (or sadly, Celia, if I thought I could arguably get away with it) and give her time to plan another cover up / let her cover her bases. The only way to catch someone like Julia is to get all the evidence and win over all the decisionmakers before she knows, and then you all approach her red-handed. Don’t give her time to execute Plan B.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I was also wondering about whether there was any opportunity to save local copies or lock things to editing “until we figure out what’s going on.”

  9. DomaneSL5*

    You need both of these people gone really to be able to stay. Julia is probably your bigger problem though. However if she is forced out you know that Celia will not trust you and be looking for a way to get rid of you.

    Sounds like this is a nightmare.

  10. Charlie Rose*

    I see strength in numbers being a big factor here. I would be encouraging the coworkers you are close to, to do the screenshotting as well. Then I would be sending an all team email about a glitch in the database, then the other coworkers can add to the email chain with what they are seeing as well by attaching their screen shots. Then once, a couple of you have done this, I would be CC’ing someone above Celia to “loop them into a very concerning” glitch in your system.

    1. EMP*

      I’d ask your coworkers directly if they’ve noticed similar issues with “mistakes” cropping up. It sounds like everyone on the team is being targeted.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yes – please let us know what happens here – we’re rooting for you to get away from the dysfunction.

  11. Blue*

    I’m sort of delighted with “something’s going wrong with our system if Julia is seeing mistakes since, as you can see, these were done correctly” because it has the benefit of being 100% true — it’s just that the problem with the “system” is “Julia.”

      1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

        Huh, I’ve always heard PICNIC – problem in chair, not in computer. But this one’s good too!

      2. BreakingDishes*

        PEBAK: my first exposure to this acronym. Long way round to mean operator error.

        Giggles-> Made my day.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        I get those from customers all the time: calling to demand where their food is when they ordered online, and the correct answer is “You did not hit Send.”

  12. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Oh this is not good at all.
    Celia by herself, or the dynamic she has set up w/ Julia, or Julia’s freelance sabotage.

    Something is very rotten in the state of Denmark. In addition to other advice already posted, I’d reach out to your former manager. Can’t help to get somebody else in your corner who can vouch for you.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Definitely. Hopefully the LW has some trusted colleagues she can reach out to for advice and help.

  13. irene adler*

    “I think we need IT to figure out what’s going on.”
    Yes! If nothing else, they can put the lie to anything Julia -or Celia-may claim is the ‘real’ culprit here.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Exactly. IT should be able to tell exactly who made the change and when it was done.

      1. Sloanicota*

        My only problem here is that commenters are assuming IT is going to be concerned, proactive, and all over this. In my experience a lot of company departments are pretty ho-hum and won’t necessarily leap into action. Ideally you would prep someone in IT / someone senior in advance so they understand what’s happening, or else your email won’t go anywhere and now Celia/Julie know what you’ve tried to do.

        1. Caledonian Crow*

          As someone who works in IT and has helped out with weird situations (although nothing like this), please definitely loop them in ahead of time instead of just dropping it in their lap. If you have a good relationship with a specific person in IT, talk to them directly.

          If they know the full picture, as opposed to “hey, this is an IT issue, why isn’t it working?” they will be able to be your ally in this as opposed to just giving you something more brief and less helpful such as “nope, not an IT issue, program is working fine”

          I know if I were at this company and someone approached me with something like this (giving me at least enough of the context to know what they really needed from me), I would happily go to the ends of the earth to help them prove their case, including feigning confusion at strategic places and asking very pointed questions. (former LARPer here – I can be dramatic when the situation calls for it!)

          1. Not that other person you didn't like*

            Yes! Process:
            1. Loop IT in first
            2. Send to whole team with “what could be happening? I asked IT to check into it… is anyone else seeing this?”
            3. Stand back all innocent like and see what happens

            By looping IT in at the start, you avoid your boss saying “no, don’t bother IT” and by telling the whole team, you put the culprit on notice AND rally support if anyone else is having troubles. And if nothing happens, you have a great reason to ask about going back to your own team.

          2. Office Gumby*

            I second looping in IT ahead of time. I recommend the use of the phrase “potential sabotage” and explain that you think data is being deliberately changed in certain documents from one version to the next. Please do include the screenshots or your evidence to them, so they know exactly what they’re looking for. You’ve already done the sleuthing; you just need someone external to corroborate what you’ve discovered.

            Anything you can give them to make their jobs easier would be greatly appreciated.

        2. Nina*

          In my experience IT will be extremely proactive, concerned, and all over this if ‘this’ is ‘prove that the problem is a specific user deliberately changing things rather than an error in the system we administrate’.

          1. I have RBF*

            Yep. IME, IT will be very well able to discern whether it is a system issue or a user issue, and if a user issue, where.

  14. Clefairy*


    It’s honestly frustrating to me that people like Julia (and Julia) exist, and probably make way more money than I do acting like jealous 12 year olds.

  15. HonorBox*

    I think going to HR to request a change back to your original role might be your best bet. There’s probably not a great outcome if you’re just reporting it and hoping for the best. My guess is Celia would probably target you even more if she’s forced to let Julia go. Celia and Julia may both be fired, but I think that’s probably a long shot. So go to HR, present what you have for evidence, request a change back to your original role and see what comes of it. Simply stating that you don’t feel confident that your work and your reputation will be looked upon fairly given the fact that Julia is actively undermining you should be enough if HR is worth a damn.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I would ask for a transfer back just stating that you don’t think the department is being handled well. If pressed, keep focused on your transfer. If there’s no hope of that, you want to know it before you start attacking your bosses’ BFF that she trusts more than anyone. After all, you could also share this info in an exit interview or after you are safely in a new role.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I’m pretty sure if you say you don’t think the department is being handled well they’re going to ask you more questions and not let you change the subject.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Seriously. I feel like the idea of letting Celia know what you found is like when somebody goes to confront the murderer with all the evidence … and then ends up buried in a ditch somewhere. This is an extremely messed up person who is not afraid to cross some really bad lines! She’s capable of anything IMO.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      If this is allowed. In my job, having work files on my personal computer is a big no-no and could have big consequences.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        I assumed Baby Yoda meant printed copies, kept on company property but in an area where Celia doesn’t have plausible reason to snoop. That would have been my suggestion, at least.

      2. Captain Swan*

        Password protected folder on the company’s shared drive would be a good option to keep the screenshots in. If no one knows that it exists they might not go looking for it. If they do go looking they wouldn’t be able to access it or delete it.

  16. chickia*

    Since you have been there for 10 years — presumably you also have a network of people and a good reputation. Can you loop on your old manager? or is there any way to return to your old team or transfer? I love all the suggestions above but also don’t forget you can talk to other trusted people about what’s going on. Maybe they can help as well? But also, start looking now – put out feelers with your network. Even if this gets resolved, you could be stuck with this horrible manager for a while, so getting out might be your best option.

    1. Boof*

      Yes this! I’m wondering
      — who sold this move to LW as a good idea? Are they aware how bad Cecilia is?
      — does LW have anyone above Cecilia they trust to talk to about what’s going on? If not above, at least someone else to talk to about the politics of this situation (is upper management likely aware of Cecelia and ignoring/allowing the problem to go on, or is Cecelia new enough / no one has worked up the steam to complain yet, are other problem managers effectively handled, etc etc)
      — LW, do dust off the resume and look around, just in case, we all know it’s really a Cecilia problem not a Julia problem even if you could probably handle this specific issue with screenshots + innocent “I’m so confused, I started saving copies to figure out what mistake I was making and they look the same!” + cc whole team and try to loop in an IT person as well (ideally talk to them first) as above

  17. Green great dragon*

    I’d definitely be sharing with co-workers first, and see if they want to add their screenshots to yours.

    I think the risk of bypassing Celia in the first place is that the first thing her boss should ask is what Celia thinks – and so far she hasn’t done anything that proves she wouldn’t handle it, so you might end up in a discussion about why you didn’t speak to her rather than focusing on the problem. There’s lots to say Celia’s a bad manager, but nothing to say she’s so bad she would accept someone actively lying. But you can hardly be criticised for ccing people far and wide into your discovery of an ‘IT glitch’ which for all you know is affecting other departments too.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m sure Celia would not be thrilled that Julie was demonstrably caught lying and there is evidence and now a bunch of people know. It’s quite likely that Celia would feel like she needed to publicly punish Julie for that, maybe even fire her, although I wouldn’t bet on it. However, it’s equally likely to me that Celia would blame OP for causing her trouble and would hold it against her in future, rather than understanding she’s the innocent victim here.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Or Celia is in so far with Julia that she would interpret this as someone setting Julia up to get in trouble. I don’t feel like we can trust Celia until we know a lot more.

      2. Green great dragon*

        I think you’re right that Celia might blame OP, but I also think going over Celia’s head first would make it worse rather than better.

      3. Boof*

        Yea it’s equally likely Celia will just lay into OP for taking screen shots and make it all about why is OP questioning Julia (and by extension Celia); at best I predict Julia will back off this specific trick and not the others. The only defense beyond leaving the team or getting celia fired would be to ban together with other coworkers to make all this behavior incredibly unrewarding, like every time Julia sneaks off ask “oh hey, what’s up?” and if Celia comes back to yell at them for chatting every look puzzled and ask “what do you mean, we are working; is there some deadline you’re worried about?” Everyone agree to continue to leave on time and if Celia yells look at her confused and ask “it’s 5pm, are you asking us to work overtime? Did an emergency come up?” – basically question in a polite puzzled way every petty move Celia makes as a group and don’t reward the aggression. Every time. While job hunting.

    2. yala*

      “But you can hardly be criticised for ccing people far and wide into your discovery of an ‘IT glitch’ which for all you know is affecting other departments too.”

      Oooooh, believe me, you can be…

  18. Lizy*

    I like the “is anyone else seeing this” route, followed by letting Celia’s manager know what’s up. Or – are you friendly with any of the IT folk? I wonder if cc’ing IT on that email would help… “Hey, team, I’ve been noticing this recently. Is anyone else seeing this? I’ve copied in IT to see if they can figure out anything on the backend…”

    If you’re friendly with IT, and if they’re willing, give them a heads up discreetly and maybe they can loop in GrandBoss. “Sheesh I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve looped in Celia’s boss – do you know anything about this???”

    1. irene adler*

      I bet IT can provide pertinent information as to what IS happening and IS NOT happening with document changes. And who is doing these things.

  19. MassMatt*

    No surprise that the two most awful people in the department have glommed on to each other!

    The fact that the transfer to this new department was sold to the LW as a “great opportunity” makes me skeptical that upper management is aware of the problem, or cares.

    I would try the steps Alison and others recommend but sadly I don’t see this ending well. I’d prepare to move on. You have an impulsive, sloppy, and vindictive manager, and a lickspittle who has figured out a way to weaponize her. And an organization that thinks working in the department is a plum.

    1. Sloanicota*

      To be fair, the going to complain to her boss and the sucking up is so common so as to be unremarkable, and lots of coworkers secretly hope to throw colleagues under the bus to make themselves look better. But actually changing the work and then reporting it is really beyond the pale.

  20. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    If you’re working in Word, it also keeps a version history and prior versions.

    I feel like we need a worst co-worker contest as well as a worst boss contest.

  21. Clobberin' Time*

    Hell, with that framing, it might even be reasonable to cc your whole team as an FYI that your database isn’t saving records correctly — “is anyone else seeing this?” — which should really mess with Julia’s scheme.

    This is 100% the correct move. Go ahead and copy IT on your e-mail, too. The only way to deal with this kind of backstabbing is to bring it out in the open, along with a pretense that surely the problem is caused by something else. What is Julia going to say – “No, the system is fine, I was just adding mistakes to your files”?

    A meeting with your grandboss and/or HR are not the worst idea, but this is a no-win situation because your bad manager has been allowed to fester. Start looking elsewhere ASAP.

  22. AnonAnon*

    Alison nailed the response. Play dumb in a way and say “we should get IT involved” because any good IT person will be able to figure it out. Or, just sending that email to your boss and CCing Julia will make the problem suddenly go away.

    In my last job I had something similar happen. People were changing things on a spreadsheet and pretending they weren’t or really messing it up. I have an IT background so I created a macro that generated an audit trail on a hidden tab in Excel that showed who touched what cell, when and the before and after values. The nonsense stopped almost immediately.

    And I had a boss that would take my work and tell the VP they did it. I created fake watermarks with my name so they couldn’t pass it off as their own anymore. That boss was demoted for other reasons and sent to a new department. I left that job.

  23. François Caron*

    Lawyer up. You’re gonna need one for the wrongful dismissal suit that’s coming up very soon. Make sure your evidence is off-site and printed on paper.

    1. Observer*

      Nope. “Wrongful dismissal” is not really a thing in the US, unless you can show that it’s based on protected classifications (eg if the OP were the only one dealing with Celia’s behavior because they are Black, or male etc.)

      1. Jenny*

        Unfortunately Observer is right here. As long as it’s not for a discriminatory reason, it’s nit wrongful dismissal.

        Maybe maybe there’s an argument for defamation but that wouldn’t be financially worth pursuing. The case would be too expensive.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yep, Celia can 100% fire OP for being difficult to work with at any time (and could use the infractions like talking to other coworkers too much if needed). I also doubt there’s anything illegal about Julie changing other people’s work and then reporting it, it’s just crappy.

    2. Pink Candyfloss*

      If OP is in most places in the US, wrongful dismissal is not an option. Employment can be terminated at any time for any reason.

    3. Bibliothecarial*

      That seems premature and escalated too high. I’d be wary, yes, but we have definitely seen letters where the higher-ups cleaned things up quickly when they were made aware of issues. See the updates to spicy food thief, baby-mama hr, peanut harassing workplace, etc. Alison’s suggestions may indeed fix the situation without the LW being let go.

  24. Marna Nightingale*

    I’m not usually team “nuke the bridge from orbit” but it is time to go.

    Your workplace employs not only Jane and Celia but also Celia’s boss. And so on.

    At this point if HR doesn’t know, they’re either completely sidelined or complicit.

    Too many bees. Not enough honey. Take cover immediately and retreat in good order.

    1. Goldenrod*

      ” At this point if HR doesn’t know, they’re either completely sidelined or complicit.”

      Sadly, I agree. I doubt HR will do anything. My guess is that they would just decide you have a “personality problem” with your co-worker and/or your manager and interpret it as being partly your fault. (Not fair, but I don’t trust them to be fair.)

      I had a Celia/Julia situation at work once. The Julia did the least work of all of us, but was the Celia’s favorite because she trash talked the rest of us on the regular. It was gross. I couldn’t see any way around it except to leave (HR was useless).

  25. Decidedly Me*

    I wouldn’t assume that Celia knows. Just because it she can check the history doesn’t mean she is. While I could double check that everything every one of my people is telling me is the truth via logs, cross checking with other team members, etc., I don’t; that would show a huge lack of trust and be a waste of my time if there is no indication that there is a need to. If someone indicated there was an issue, then of course I would be checking. You know Celia better than anyone here would, but I wouldn’t discount the idea of starting the conversation with her just for the reason that she can check this stuff.

    1. Christmas Carol*

      I wouldn’t assume Celia is innocent. Julia may be performing her sabotage at Celia’s direction.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I don’t know. That sounds like a lot.

        Even the worst teachers I know would rather students just turn in things according to the rules rather than have to take the time to reprimand someone for not following the rules.

        1. S*

          Didn’t we have a malicious boss falsifying writeups just last week? It’s surely not common, but it isn’t unknown, either.

    2. irene adler*

      Yes, some people’s default is to take others at their word.

      So while Celia and Julia may be ‘buddies’, if Celia has even a smidge of good sense, she will realize that her acceptance at what is essentially work product sabotage is not going to be a good look for her- in terms of what her superiors will think of the whole situation.

    3. Marna Nightingale*

      1) “… Celia, is a hot mess who does not have any idea how to manage people. I’m talking not having proper training programs and then reprimanding people for making mistakes on things they weren’t trained on, reaming people out for leaving at their assigned time, badmouthing employees to their coworkers, etc. ”

      2) If she doesn’t know, she ought to.
      Julia isn’t exactly being subtle about being terrible and Celia is her manager.

    4. BeeMused*

      Yeah, I’ve seen managers with access to the systems their reports use who don’t actually know how to use said systems. There was a very long drama at one workplace in which a terrible employee had the clueless manager so confused about what databases could and couldn’t do she managed to save herself from getting fired several times.

  26. Observer*

    Two things I would add:

    1. Talk to HR. They may have logs of access, which would be useful to you. Don’t make any accusations. Just tell them that you’ve been having glitches and changes being made, and you want to be able to track work to make it easier to go back to prior versions. They may also have previous versions of the work.

    2. If any of your systems have a “track changes” / audit trail capability, TURN THEM ON. Because them you can see who did what when, and that can be really, really useful.

    1. Buu*

      I was going to say this. If you are using office 365, be sure to save to one drive and then send the link to doc when submitting work.
      You can see who is in the doc and track revisions. Screenshots are solid too, but as an extra precaution you can find out when and on what account changes are being made

    2. Smuckahs*

      OneDrive gives you full version histories with time stamps and user info. You can also restore the older versions. It’s fixed corrupted files for me more than once.

      It should be pretty easy to prove the state of your documents after your last save if they’re on One Drive.

  27. Jenny*

    I might also loop in your old manager, if you trust them. As someone who trains/supervises, I would absolutely go to bat for a former mentee.

  28. S*

    So, uh, is there a possibility that Project Get Everyone Fired is actually Julia’s special project for Celia? If Celia has visions of empire-building that involve hiring her own hand-picked staff and there are people on the team with strong support within the company, this might be something Celia is doing to justify firings.

    Given that, definitely loop in IT and coworkers early and often, and see if there are ways to plausibly include one of Celia’s peer managers or her supervisor. Otherwise, you run the risk of being shown the door *because* you have receipts.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is the kind of thing nobody thinks of usually, which is why Alison’s advice to get a bunch of people involved is good. Most people think, “I’ve got screencaps, I’m going to report Julie to Celia and then it will be obvious how terrible she is!!” not realizing that Celia could be in on this. Is it the most likely scenario, no, but now you’ve delivered all your evidence to someone who is trying to hurt you.

      1. yala*

        I’ve been watching a lot of Poker Face, and this feels like exactly the sort of thing that gets most of the murders-of-the-week killed.

    2. lunchtime caller*

      This was my very first suspicion—her “secret project” is being a spy for the boss at the very least.

    3. skadhu*

      I actually wondered about this too. “Julia never works on the reports with us and we’ve been told she’s on a special project for the manager. I have no idea what this means.” I never worked in the corporate world; is it common for people to have no idea about what their co-worker does? And does anyone above Celia know what the new hire actually does? If so, Does her job description match her activity? I don’t know how possible it is to find out but it would be interesting to know if Julia was hired to do reports and isn’t being given that work.

  29. Anastia Beaverhousen*

    Follow up with boss and HR in same email. You want this in writing so if there is any retaliation you have evidence to support your case (legal or unemployment if it gets to that) against them.

  30. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    I am really sorry you are dealing with this, LW. There is so much great advice here I don’t have anything extra add, but it’s a treat to watch the commentariat put all of their political wiles into building your alliances and undercutting your foes in this nightmarish Game-of-Thrones ass workplace.

  31. HailRobonia*

    In my previous job one of my coworkers (“Leela”) encountered something similar with a shared document that another staff member (“Zapp”) also had access to. Zapp tried to claim that Leela was incompetent and pointed out several potentially Extremely Bad errors in the shared document (example: wrong dates for a faculty hiring case meeting).

    Zapp did not realize that the system logged changes and with a simple click of the button it was obvious that Zapp made all the changes – Leela had entered in the correct information and Zapp changed it.

    One can only speculate on his motivation but he was moved off of that project.

    1. Anon because she is still on my LinkedIn*

      This happened to me and I had already quit. A coworker was being overly nitpicky with me and it got to be too much, especially when she started dinging my language skills because of her insecurity in that language (we were both native English speakers, my french then and now blows hers out of the water, she needed/needs flawless French for her job, I did not, and that made her salty). My last project on the way out had version control. At 3am on a Saturday night the same coworker sabotaged my project file then 8am Monday morning called crying to my now ex boss that he needed to give me a bad reference.

      IT called boss in separately and showed him the versioning that coworker had made the changes. 3am Saturday the day after I left. She wanted to get me so bad she tried to sabotage after me after I was already gone. She should have hustled her French as hard as she hated on me.

      She left shortly thereafter, because her French wasn’t cutting it in a marketing/comme position where you need to be journalist level bilingual. I guess it was karma but i was upset I had already quit. I didn’t particularly want to change jobs and the job after that one actually sucked even more.

  32. Parenthesis Guy*

    It’s possible that Julia is just incompetent and thinks things are broken when they’re not. I wouldn’t act on that presumption, but it’s possible.

    1. Don't kneel in front of me*

      Sounds like you missed the part where Julia is the one that “notices” the problem and “fixes” it. She knows what she is doing.

  33. Katara's side braids*

    My blood is BOILING. LW, I hope this gets resolved for you soon, or that you find a way out of that team if it doesn’t. Please update us if you can!

  34. Don't kneel in front of me*

    I disagree with any advice that’s passive aggressive. Julia knows exactly what she’s doing. This needs to be addressed directly.

    Do not suggest an IT issue, do not suggest a system failure. Since this keeps happening you need to take multiple screenshots of multiple occurances. Document whenever Julia “fixes” something. You need to send the screenshots and the explanation to your boss and you need to CC your boss’ boss and your HR department.

    1. Staying Anon*

      I agree with you. The LW specifically said she doesn’t want this to be dramatic, and I feel that creating that email chain would be the dramatic course of action in this situation.

      OP should continue to collect evidence and document whenever this happens for a case against Julia whether it be with HR or someone higher up if there is no HR. Even though they think this is the more dramatic course of action, it is not. It is what you should do in this situation! HR can handle this with the least amount of drama.

  35. grumpy old lady*

    Pleading for an update on this. I hope you can resolve the problem but sadly you may have to switch jobs. Document, talk with IT, loop in your coworkers. We are all hoping for a good outcome.

  36. XF1013*

    OP, as offensive as Julia’s lies are, they’re a distraction from the bigger problem, which is that Celia is a capricious, mean, reputation-damaging boss who is uninterested in details or facts. Even if Julia is fired tomorrow over the lies, you will still be stuck with Celia. That’s not sustainable.

    You must have built up a lot of capital over your decade of hard work and promotions, and there should be well-placed people in the organization who trust you, like your previous boss. Talk to them. At a minimum, they can give you advice on how to handle this situation. They could probably also go to bat for you with HR or Celia’s boss over Julia’s lies, vouching for your character that you wouldn’t lie nor try to start drama nor whatever else Celia claims to try to punish you (and she definitely will). But the best-case scenario would be that they are just as horrified as we are to hear your description of what it’s like on Celia’s team and try either to rescue you from there or to get Celia removed from authority. If for some reason going to them is not an option, then I think both you and the lump in your throat know what you need to do, which is leave.

    One caveat about going above Celia’s head: She’s such a terrible manager that I wonder how she has remained in her position for long. I wouldn’t be surprised if her own boss is just as terrible as she is, or if she’s so effective at lying and kiss-up-kick-down that the grandboss trusts her word. If either of those is the case, you’ll risk making things worse by going to the grandboss, which is why you need HR involved and hopefully also someone else who can stand up for you. The screenshots will help too, but only up to a point.

    Good luck! I really hope for a positive update in the future.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “You must have built up a lot of capital over your decade of hard work and promotions, and there should be well-placed people in the organization who trust you, like your previous boss.”

      Not necessarily. Hard work and being an excellent contributor are sometimes surprisingly invisible to others and no match for a toxic boss and a co-worker who are telling lies about you. People don’t always notice hard work in and of itself (sadly!).

      I learned this the hard way, and trained myself to be more vocal about explicitly telling people about the good work I was doing – you would think you wouldn’t have to do this, but I’ve found that people tend to overlook those who are quietly competent but who don’t “play the game.” Unfortunately, optics matter.

    2. Shandra*

      I agree with Goldenrod. People may like you and trust you, but that doesn’t mean they’ll use their political capital on your behalf.

  37. CountessofBeans*

    Is it possible to just go straight to IT for an explanation/investigation? It doesn’t sound like Celia will accept anything other than Julia’s word on anything at this point, and an independent answer from IT could be shared with Celia and HR at the same time.

  38. Ann Stephens*

    Every time I think my job is bonkers, I read letters like this and realize that my problems are miniscule, all things considered. I have a coworker (same level and experience as me, but has worked here a lot longer) who will ask what I’m working on or how many hours I worked at home on Saturday (it’s our busy time and we work from home on Saturday instead of coming into the office). I’m usually pretty vague with my answers (“oh, you know, lots of things”, “no more hours than I needed to”). It’s annoying but I’m not sure if she’s nosy or just awkward at conversation.

  39. Venomous Voice*

    Could you clarify where the documents are that you are seeing the changes? From my experience, if you are using SharePoint it could be that no one is malicious and all are misinformed. We use SharePoint very heavily at my job, and over the past couple years we’ve had a lot of complaints about backups not completing work for their co-workers who are out of the office. We started digging into it a little more and three of us opened the same spreadsheet at the same time. It turned out that to some of us it looked like all work had been completed, to another person it looked like nothing had been completed, and to yet another person it looked like only some of the work had been completed.

    It turned out that
    A) All users should be clearing their cache at the end of the day at the very least. I found it easiest to use Firefox and have it set to automatically clear my history and cache as soon as I exit.

    B) Even clearing your cash in your history everyday or every hour it doesn’t always work. We found that sometimes everyone who has touched that spreadsheet in the last few months needs to actually go into their account and use the ” sign out everywhere” function.

    The way we figured this out was that I sat there in a team’s call with the worker who was being shown as still in a spreadsheet even when she was out of the office. I watched her close all her browsers, reopen those browsers, manually clear all history and cache, close the browser windows again, close all Microsoft office apps, and then I watched her shut down her computer. The issue still persisted and it showed her as being in the spreadsheet when she was not. Once she rebooted her computer we got back on our call, I walked her through doing the sign out everywhere option, and everything was cleared up.

    Please please please in the interest of keeping the peace, if you’re using SharePoint then share these issues and resolutions with your team, get everyone together and have everyone do all of the clearing and signing out everywhere. Then if the problem still persists, then move forward with whatever plan you choose for screenshotting and escalating the issues that are tearing your team apart.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      There are so many other concerns here that even if this were the issue with the changed documents, LW still has a lot on her plate.

      1. phira*

        Agreed with Peanut Hamper. This is definitely something to consider, and a good reason to bring it up with IT first. But Julia and Celia’s attitudes towards the LW’s perceived mistakes is absolutely unacceptable and is enough of a problem on its own that LW’s screenshotting should be enough to escalate the issue regardless of tech issues.

    2. hodie-hi*

      This is interesting. We stopped using Sharepoint for similar reasons. The fixes seem obnoxious, but not intolerable.

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Same issues with Sharepoint and, as noted by another commenter, this is a great reason to start with IT. If even in the end Julia and Celia are the keepers of an department full of bees, LW will have confirmation from outside the hive that LW was accurately completing the work and the only way Julia could have found errors to “fix” is if they were introduced after LW had finished the work correctly. If LW needs to go over Celia’s head, it will be much better to have this 3rd party confirmation rather than just LW’s screenshots vs Julia’s reports with Celia, at best, saying “golly gee, I just don’t know what to think” or, at worst, arguing that LW is just vindictive towards Julia because Julia “has been doing such a great job at finding LW’s many mistakes” .

  40. I AM a Lawyer*

    Julia is a bully. Undermining other people’s work is classic bullying behavior. Your employer should want to address this.

  41. Imaginary Number*

    I’ve been through something similar and my experience was that everyone wants to believe it was an unintentional glitch even if all the evidence points to it being intentional. And you might have to play along with that.

    I was a Lieutenant in the Army at the time working as a company XO. One big paperwork thing we constantly dealt with was awards. They had to be perfect and there was usually a lot of back-and-forth with battalion (the next level up) on corrections. They were also a metric that got briefed to the battalion commander on a weekly basis. And the S-1 (battalion staff who manages personnel actions) would always kick them back for minor corrections an hour before the briefing so we would be left with the “hot potato” as the ones holding up the award processing.

    But there was one particularly late award and our battalion commander got annoyed that it went back and forth so many times and demanded to see the email traffic. The S-1 went through and edited the previous replies in the email message to make it seem like they sent things to us weeks before they actually did, so it looked like we were always the ones sitting on them. This was really bad. An officer was straight up falsifying records (provable just by going into someone’s outlook directly) to lie to the battalion commander.

    But when I tried to point it out, everyone jumped to “oh it must have been a glitch” and then dropped the issue. They even decided this “glitch” was responsible for the award being late. No one actually wanted to go down the path of accusing this officer of a straight up integrity violation like that.

    1. Programmer Kid Anon*

      Yes, this is most plausible to me. HR will protect Celia, who will protect her BFF Julia. Nothing will happen to Julia. LW will have even more scrutiny and bs directed at her by Celia until LW either quits or is fired.

      Don’t ever, EVER count on HR for help. Be pleasantly surprised if it happens but HR isn’t there for employees, it’s there for the company.

      1. allathian*

        Sure, but it’s still a sign of incompetent HR if they protect incompetent managers at the expense of the company and its employees.

    2. Grammar Penguin*

      This tracks with my military experience. It often seemed like the entire bureaucratic system of it was expressly designed to prevent any officer from taking responsibility for anything ever.

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I think that situation actually isn’t as bad as what is going on here. The email forger didn’t do it to get the other department in trouble, they did it to deflect from their own mistake/delays. I think it is normal for people to justify in their head that the email forger was panicked and acted out of desperation. Julia is going out of her way to sabotage LW, repeatedly. You don’t do that in a desperate move not to be fired for a mistake.

  42. JustMe*

    I would definitely start with Alison’s second script (“I’ve noticed this issue keeps arising, has anyone else noticed this? I’m concerned this is a serious tech issue.”) in part because there is always a chance, however small, that Julia is not actually manipulating the records in the way you think. It also will (or at least should) prompt a more thorough examination of the system and processes, which can subtly draw out the truth and may bring attention from different departments or higher ups.

  43. I'm fabulous!*

    Definitely keep originals of your pre-Julia reviewed work. At an old job, there was an IT issue where there were repeated fixtures of the same problem. It turned out that the CIO would make changes to his workers’ fixes but always forgot to update/refresh the system to complete the tasks. One of the IT people ended up being let go because of it.

  44. BaskingInMyWindowlessOffice*

    This is crazy. I would have someone watch me take the screenshot too. Belts, suspenders, everything.

  45. Pareto*

    It’s possible that Julia is editing mistakes into the work and then “fixing” them. For example, OP correctly dates something for March 15, Julia 1) updates the date to March 16 and takes a screenshot, then 2) updates it back to the 15th to show it “corrected”. Depending on the software and it’s versioning capabilities and how record history is displayed, it’s also possible she’s taking a screenshot first showing OP updated the record last without showing what the record shows, before Step 1, and just sending screenshots to the boss out of order. I dealt with a similar situation once, only it was with a software developer falsifying test outcomes to make it look like his code worked.

  46. My Brain is Exploding*

    Any chance that OP was moved to this team BECAUSE someone higher up knew something was wrong with Celia? And that Celia suspects OP will actually replace her?

  47. Hiring Mgr*

    This is serious enough to be addressed immediately – and I would go to HR or your old boss/grandboss or whoever and let them know what’s going on. No coy emails or pretend confusion – if what you are saying is accurate they clearly have it out for you.

  48. H3llifIknow*

    Ugh this sounds like it might be too toxic to fix. If only one of them were a dysfunctional mess, maybe, but when it’s both of them? Your chances are so slim. And what if you do get HR involved? They say you’re right, and then…what? If Julie gets let go, Celia will probably hate you and punish you. Unless they fire both of them *unlikely TBH* you’re still in a bad spot. Anyway you can transfer back to your original team? I’d want out of that craptoilet of a position ASAP, in your shoes.

  49. yala*

    Yeah, I would not even try Celia first. She’s made it very clear that she and Julia are friendy-friends, and isn’t likely to respond well to someone she perceives as a “troublemaker” telling her that Julia is doing something shady. She would have to admit to herself that she was wrong about Julia and about you, and it’s much easier for people who act like that to just say you’re making excuses. Having “proof” doesn’t always help (I remember finally digging up proof on an issue where my manager thought I’d been doing something against her instructions, but my mentor had been signing off on it, and the only response I got was “why didn’t you bring this to me before” and I was still penalized for having said “I know what I know” prior to having the proof). She could also decide to get snippy about you even doing something like this at all. Sometimes managers who make friends and enemies out of their reports get really weird.

    Granted, she’ll also be upset if you go over her head first. But at least you’ll have an opportunity to tell HR the situation first, on your own terms.

  50. Michelle Smith*

    Please update us when you get results on this OP! I’m appalled you’re dealing with this kind of behavior from a colleague!!

  51. River*

    This is something that needs to be taken care of ASAP. No one ever should have to spend their weekends constantly ruminating and worrying about what Monday will bring. You don’t want this worrying to manifest itself into detrimental pain later on whether it be mental, emotional, or physical. No job is worth that. Your health is first.
    It sounds like Julia is toxic and you need to report this to HR or someone with similar position/authority. You need to make sure HR discloses full anonymity with you so that if an investigation or action occurs, this doesn’t come back to you.
    This is toxic of Julia to do and I hope she gets fired and Celia gets the management help that she sounds like she desperately needs.

    I hope there’s an update to this letter! A good update!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, unfortunately I feel like even if OP is able to execute her plan and Julia is fired (I don’t think it’s terribly likely Celia would be fired here, maybe receive a talking-to), OP will still have this sense of dread and worry – something else will come up as long as someone like Celia is the manager.

    2. Clefairy*

      HR won’t always (and often can’t) promise anonymity- especially since the examples of this happening are Julia’s work, that’s going to have to be a relevant part of the conversation. More importantly than asking for anonymity is asking what HR can to do proactively help insure that she won’t be subject to retaliation from her manager over this.

  52. Stuff*

    Honestly, this is one where I disagree with Allison. I think providing a potential out by suggesting an IT issue is sidestepping the actual problem here. Julia is intentionally sabotaging company documents, taking things that met the company’s needs and making them not meet the company’s needs. That alone is a firing offense in a reasonable HR environment. That she is doing it specifically to frame her coworkers is just adding onto the severity of this offense. There is no reasonable solution whatsoever other than firing. This is not something where any chances for redemption can be offered. Since you have received several disciplinary conversations with your manager over this framing, it is absolutely justified to go straight to HR with documentation, and ask for a meeting with Celia with HR present. Things need to be laid out very bluntly and directly, and it is quite fair under the circumstances to ask for a transfer, because of the irreparable reputational damage you have received due to being intentionally framed. If HR refuses, start looking for a new job. No competent HR would ever refuse such a request under the circumstances.

    I’m sorry to sound so harsh, but I just see this as an extreme issue requiring an extreme response, and giving the perpetrator cover just opens the door to more framing and eventually getting fired unjustly.

    1. Clefairy*

      I do think you’re right, but in practice sometimes you just have to operate in a way to protect yourself if you have a toxic manager or HR, which was likely why Alison suggested the sidestepping option- is it ideal? No. But if the OP has genuine concern that her job could be in jeopardy by intentionally rocking the boat, it could be a fairly innocuous way to draw attention without pointing fingers to someone that is unfairly favored by the manager.

  53. Candy*

    Presumably everyone involved here is a professional adult so I don’t see the need to play dumb and beat around the bush by blaming the software and bringing IT into a situation you know they don’t have anything to do with.

    OP, you have proof that Julia is editing your work. 1st step is to give your manager a chance to correct Julia’s behaviour. Send a straight-forward email to Celia with your screenshots stating that you are submitting your work correctly, that Julia is editing it after your submission, and ask her to follow-up with Julia.

    If you don’t get a satisfactory reply from Celia, then your 2nd step is to forward that email thread to Celia’s higher-ups and ask them to take it up with Celia accordingly.

    1. Fishsticks*

      I mean, Julia is purposefully screwing up other peoples’ work so she looks better and Celia is yelling at people based entirely on Julia tattling to her. “Professional adult” is out the window.

  54. Liz*

    The job market is still pretty hot, so focus on getting out. After 10 years, you are probably grossly underpaid for what you do, so find someone who will pay you what you are worth.

    As for Cecilia, remember that in an organization, fish rots from the head. Cecilia is in her position because someone more rotten above her wants her there. And she’s going after you and the others because she wants you gone. So oblige her and find someone better.

  55. Happy Little Cog*

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen this a lot. At least half a dozen times, maybe more. It always follows the same pattern:
    – a person gets hired on/works their way up to the #2 spot. They don’t have hiring/firing power, but cozy up to #1, who does;
    – they work hard in front of #1, but do no work when #1 is not watching. They foist their own job duties into others. Those others are already often overworked, and now appear to be more bogged down;
    – they become the BFF of #1, convincing #1 that they are a model employee, and that everyone else is incompetent. They point out to #1 how bogged down the others are, when in reality, those others are trying to keep on top of a workload that includes #2’s foisted work. It’s a Grima Wormtongue situation;
    – they intentionally sabotage work done by others in order to escalate the situation;
    – when others talk to #1 about how #2 does less than their fair share, #1 does not believe it. Because #2 works very hard (or appears to) in front of #1. Also, they are BFFs;
    – the others are either fired for “incompetence,” or quit out of frustration. #1 cannot figure out why every person they hired is such a bad fit.

    Fortunately, the LW has done what professionals recommend in this situation: document, document, document. She has proof of what Julia has been doing. And what’s more, she made the mistake of doing it to multiple people at the same time, which means quite a few people have proof. I agree with Allison that pulling in IT (after a heads-up) is a good idea. Then IT can say, “Oh, it isn’t on our end.”
    I wish LW luck here. In all of my experiences with Julias, I’ve never managed to get them to leave, or leave me alone. I learned to recognize the pattern quicker, but it’s always ended with my leaving. :(

  56. BobBob*

    Ask for a transfer out from under this manager. Even if you remedy this bizarre behavior with this favored employee. Then manager still sucks. And that isn’t going to change. Get out. Don’t waste time. Get out.

  57. Escape from HNB*

    I had a co-worker like this once – I’ll call her “Samantha”. I was certain that she was using the system I managed to create issues to make me look bad – but it was hard to prove. She and I both worked late – so I staged a fake call “with” the system vendor. My side of it went like this: “oh – we can turn on the audit function to show every action someone made in the system? Every single action? Wow – that’s a great improvement! I’ll activate that right now!”

    Problem stopped cold.

  58. Raida*

    I would go back to any previous managers or managers of managers elsewhere in the business and ask them how to transfer out of this team.
    Be fully honest – the manager is not competent, behaves unprofessionally, has a special little offsider that is absolutely taking advantage of their need to be in charge and others wrong, is aggressive in negative feedback, lies, gossips, insults staff just doing things as per policy.

    Hell, I’d be noting every time she ‘berates’ anyone – that’s not how you speak to staff.

    And you just say “I took this role because it was framed as a ‘great opportunity’ and unless the opportunity was to record the slew of terrible work practises that open up the business to being sued for workplace bullying I don’t know what the opportunity is supposed to be. An opportunity, after a decade of good work, to be treated like shit?
    I want to get away from this manager, can you start keeping an ear out for roles?”

    “Oh hey, any tips on who I could tell about Celia’s significant HR risk? Or is she protected by someone and it’s not worth bothering?”

  59. Bertha*

    OMG. I wonder how old this is, because if it was from 3 years ago, I think I can name names. My answer: get the heck out of there. Which is what I think happened.

    I love the “it must be the IT system” email because that both puts the toxic employee on notice and also gives a heads up to the toxic manager.

    1. NL*

      I doubt it’s from 3 years ago! I think Alison said letters might wait months to be answered but not years.

  60. Minimal Pear*

    I just want to note that I was scrolling past this quickly and read it as, “My New Coworker is Putting On Fake Mustaches” and I’d LOVE to read that letter!

    1. yala*

      Sounds like that twitter thread from that guy who got called in to interview at the job that had just laid him off…

  61. Moonstone*

    Wow LW I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. I’m livid on your behalf! I think the script provided was a good one and just want to say — please update us when you can! I’m so curious to hear how this plays out.

  62. Pink Geek*

    Use your old team and boss as references when you job hunt if you trust them to keep it from Celia. Heck, maybe they can take you back.

    Get out. Get out. Get out.

  63. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

    If you’re going to fight this fight, you need your teammates and you need IT. I wouldn’t put it past Julia to accuse you of doctoring the screenshots, and of course Celia will take her side.

  64. Melanie*

    In my own experience, in a situation like this, any kind of move the LW makes can be very risky, even if she has all the evidence in the world. Unfortunately, in some workplaces, what really happened doesn’t matter at all, and the only thing that determines the outcome for you is whether or not you have someone to hold your back. It sucks, but sometimes (hopefully rarely) that’s the way it goes. If the LW goes to Celia, she may not even listen to her, or may believe her, but still try to protect Julia (e.g. prepare some lie in case the LW goes further up the chain). And depending on the relations of Celia with her bosses/HR, involving them could only lead to further consequences for the LW’s career. However, if LW doesn’t do anything, Julia will keep doing what she does and the LW’s reputation will continue to suffer…
    LW, it’s really, really hard to tell what you should do, but the only thing I know for sure is that I would not recommend going to Julia directly.

  65. Asi*

    For the “You May Also Like” links, I wonder if a past letter about someone wondering if a coworker was sabotaging their work would be a good fit?

    In the updates to the letter, it turned out that at least part of the data issues were indeed caused by an IT issue!

    Will be curious to find out the update for this new letter and sorry OP is dealing with this. It sounds incredibly frustrating.

  66. Squamous & Rugose LLP*

    If AAM had a Cheap-Ass Rolls Memorial Worst Colleague Award 2023, this’d be a very strong contender.

  67. Tex*

    This is sabotage. I disagree with Alison – there is no time to be diplomatically sneaky. I would go straight to HR, tell them your suspicions, why you can’t go to Cecilia, ask them if they can have IT track and log all changes.

    you don’t have to be confrontational but you can still be professional while not 100% sure what is going on, and express willingness to cooperate with HR to get to the bottom of this.

  68. TeapotNinja*

    Don’t take screenshots. Make multiple backup copies to somewhere where Julia can’t touch/see before you submit your work, then DO NOT TOUCH THEM after.

    File timestamps will prove you’re right without a question.

  69. elle *sparkle emoji**

    I realize this isn’t realistic, but the conspiracy part of my brain wonders if getting rid of the coworkers is Julia’s “special project for the manager” because what does she gain from this other than possibly distracting from her own shortcomings?

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