my boss made us all attend a session with his therapist

A reader writes:

I need a reality check on whether I should weather the current company storm or jump ship. My manager, Bob, is the owner of the company, and while theoretically has people high up who could push back on him, the reality is that he makes the final decisions on most everything.

Bob has recently decided that the type of work our company takes on needs to drastically shift. This on its own is not an issue; we’ve all had a bit of job scope creep in recent years as a result of the pandemic, and he’d like to refocus on our core skills. The problem, however, is in his delivery.

The entire company received an email several weeks ago that there would be a three-hour, mandatory session with a business coach, who would be discussing the future of the company’s strategy. We all went to the meeting, expecting it to be the typical cheesy strategy sessions businesses like to do from time to time.

The “business coach” began describing his credentials, where it was revealed that he is a therapist by training. He then launched into his three-hour series, which focused largely on the fact that Bob works too much, and that work is affecting Bob’s personal life. Everything about the company restructure was framed in light of how it will make Bob’s life easier and better, with the heavy implication that no one at the company could possibly have it harder than Bob.

It became clear by the way this “coach” spoke that he is, in fact, Bob’s personal therapist who also happens to have some business training, and who Bob hired to give us this message. The session lasted for three hours, and only at the end (after time was up) was anyone asked to speak or give input. After the session, everyone was given a lengthy document describing the new strategy, and required to provide feedback on it.

Bob heard through the grapevine that people were unhappy with the session. Late one night/early one morning on a weekend, Bob sends out a 1,000+ word email in which he explained his reasoning for the company shift, described the company as friends and family, said that the sharing of his personal struggles was in an effort to provide the transparency that apparently had been asked of him, and characterized people’s concerns as complaining about the transparency they asked for. Several days later, this email was followed up by a 10-page document further explaining the reasoning behind Bob’s vision to restructure.

None of the restructure on its own is negatively perceived by any of the employees. But everyone is upset at the implication that we don’t work hard and don’t have our own struggles, and also that we’re now responsible for managing our boss’ emotional turmoil. Everyone is walking on eggshells around Bob, because any pushback on the delivery of this message is met with extreme defensiveness.

What I’m struggling with is that this company used to be a dream to work for — great hours, flexible work arrangements, interesting work, great coworkers, and management that recognized and respected the employees. I can’t tell if this recent shift is some sort of temporary personal crisis that Bob is going through (and dragging us all along with him) or if it signals a bigger problem. Should I keep my head down and weather it or begin my job hunt in earnest?

Bob is walking evidence of what happens when you give yourself too much power and don’t have people around you who will push back when you want to do something bananas.

To be clear, transparency is good! If Bob heard that people wanted more transparency around the restructure, calling a meeting to share his thoughts in person wasn’t a bad idea. But (1) asking his therapist (!) to lead (2) a three-hour (!!) session (3) about Bob’s personal struggles with working too much (!!!) … well, we were just talking recently about how therapists don’t always get work stuff right and holy hell is this is a clear example.

When people want transparency around work changes, it means they want to know the business reasoning, what options have been considered and rejected and why, how the new system will work, and what it means for them, and they want the opportunity to ask questions and have their concerns heard and considered. It does not mean “we need a better understanding of what’s in the CEO’s heart.” It does not mean “talk at us for three hours while centering yourself to the exclusion of everyone else.” It definitely does not mean “bring in your therapist to lecture us and then get defensive when people don’t like it.”

As for what to do from here … to what extent is this out of character for Bob versus not terribly surprising? Is your sense that he is generally a steady hand at the wheel and this was one misstep, or is it part of a pattern of missteps? Are the things that made you previously describe the company as a dream to work for still true, or have those things been on their way out for a while? The answers to those questions should point you in the right direction.

Either way, though, it wouldn’t hurt to start job-searching. You don’t need to leap at the first offer you get — or any offer, for that matter — but when things seem like they might be going bonkers around you, it’s useful to do some of the groundwork to create options in case you need them.

{ 318 comments… read them below }

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah. Bob has zero boundaries. He owns the damn business. If he thinks he works too much, he has the power to delegate literally anything (businesswise, of course) he wants to others. His personal reasoning behind a restructure, is frankly nobody’s business. Even if this is radically out of character for Bob, I think it’s an indication that he is crashing and burning. You can either stay, and go down with him, or leave now.

      1. Billups*

        Alternatively, Bob’s “therapist” has sold him a bill of goods and has designs on his money. I wonder if this therapist/coach/svengali is suddenly in on making decisions about Bob’s finances or the business. See: The Shrink Next Door.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      So Bob’s therapist thought it was a good idea to deliver a three hour hagiography about his patient that forced a version of him as an Oliver Twist/Bambi/Foxe’s Martyr combo platter onto a captive audience?

      I can see a possible reason why Bob is going off the rails. I wouldn’t trust that “therapist” with a potted plant, let alone a human psyche!

      1. And thanks for the coffee*

        I learned a new word today- hagiography. And you used it in a sentence. Thank you.

      2. LaFramboise*

        thank you, @goddessoftransitory, for the use of hagiography today, one of my all-time favorite words.

    3. Colleen Whalen*

      Run! Head for the hills and get a new job ASAP.

      #1 this is an incompetent therapist who has enabled her narcissitic patient to be utterly self absorbed, self involved, “My Myself and I” Serious crossing the line with blurring the boundaries of the patients work life and personal life – TMI – “Too Much Information”.

      THREE HOURS session? Seriously? All of this was on company time the employer was paying salaries for a large group of staffers to sit and listen a bombastic presentation about how this poor little guy is so beleagured, overworked and many stressors? Get real.

      Why on earth the CEO and HR allowed this Bananapants dumpster fire to happen speaks to how very skewed the workplace culture is. This sounds like a huge drain on the staff who were stuck for three hours in this cringe-worthy therapist presentation – now they have to all work even harder to make up all that lost time they should have been working on their work duties. Heck, if this boss cannot cope with the job because he is overworked, his therapist should have told him to find a less demanding job – maybe switch to working from home, or working part time or switch careers to a job that was less stressful – NOT burden the entire staff with a massive guilt trip that they are responsible for the mental health of their SUPERVISOR who outranks them!

      At work, I never ever overshare about my personal problems with my coworkers. #1 I doubt they would feel comfortable know info about whatever trauma I am going through #2 I really DO NOT want my coworkers to highly personal, confidential info about me. In the past, at other jobs when I saw a group of coworkers bond together in a really tight clique social private club – they would all dish about their personal life and then it BACKFIRED big time, when some of the women used it against other women in their clique. Soon that gossip spread like wildfire through my entire organization of 50 employees. Really I did not need to know that Employee X was grappling with alcoholism or Employee Z just had an abortion cos her boyfriend ghosted her – nor did I need to know why Employee Y had bad credit and was in collection for unpaid bills, blah, blah, blah.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      Definitely start looking. Three hours of being lectured by someone else’s therapist and bombarded with long screeds about the reorg does not sound like a healthy environment for anyone. Even if this is a temporary meltdown, it could cause serious damage to the business in a relatively short time, especially if clients/customers are receiving this same level of bananapants behavior or other coworkers decide to leave en masse. It doesn’t commit you to leaving but you should know what your options are.

      1. Selena81*

        Yeah. Even if Bob regains his senses tomorrow and kicks out that therapist there’s going to be damage. Damage to the inside of the company (the tiptoing around Bob would go on for a long time). And almost certainly damage to the outside (if customers got even a whiff of how mentally unstable Bob has become).

        Keeping your head low for a while only makes sense if you think the period of crazyness will blow over soon (f.i. if Bob is weird because he has just had some life-changing trauma and you trust he’ll bounce back within a few weeks).
        But unfortunately this sounds like Bob will just keep digging himself in deeper, his therapist/cult-leader will gleefully drag him down (as long as there is money, presumably), and there won’t be attempts at fixing things until customers and employees notably start leaving, and maybe not even then.

        You don’t have to leave tomorrow, but you should probably be starting a serious search.

    5. Mister_L*

      That wasn’t a flag, that was a soviet parade.
      The whole matter sounds like “The beatings will continue…”

    1. ecnaseener*

      LOL yeah I thought it was going to be “mandated individual therapy sessions with someone who happens to be the boss’s therapist” (oh no) not “bring the whole company into the boss’s therapy!”

      1. Candi*

        I thought it was going to be ‘giant group therapy session the boss is running’ with maybe a side of ‘boss verbally tramping therapist.’

        And when that would’ve been the better option….

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I did too, which is bad enough–forcing therapy of any kind on anyone is a terrible idea and any therapist who endorsed it should be investigated, frankly–but this was even more of a full on bananapants marching band scenario!

    2. Wintermute*

      I’m with you I feel like this is a bellwether, the job might have awesome aspects but this is a sign of things to come.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Right? Like this is the last-ditch effort before Bob has a complete nervous breakdown, but the fact that he and his therapist allowed this to happen is already a sign that his therapist was crappe to begin with, Bob’s too far gone and the breakdown’s a-comin’. The boulder has already picked up too much speed as it has started rolling down the hill.

        But still. None of that is the fault of the staff. Just, no.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Same. You know that picture of the koala with a leaf hanging out of its mouth meme that was going around a few years ago? I am eating lunch while I read this and that is me.

    4. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Same. I didn’t think it could get worse than I imagined.

      A three hour meeting did not factor into my imagination.

  1. Peanut Hamper*

    I’m giving a lot of side-eye to any therapist who would pull something like this. How is this guy keeping his license?

    1. Naomi*

      I know, right? Therapists not understanding a work environment is one thing… but I’m not sure this person understands how therapy works, either.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        HA. Yeah this is…odd. Is the therapist hoping to start a side gig as a business consultant and saw a window here? And decided…ethics didn’t matter anymore? Idk man the red flags are flying.

        1. Jill Swinburne*

          Business coaching is more lucrative than therapy, because results are directly tied to how much more money you stand to make.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          Yes, I’m thinking he wants to fill any empty therapy slots with business consulting. And I’m thinking he may have a lot of empty therapy slots.

    2. Alex*

      My question too. If I asked my therapist to do this I’m pretty sure she’d refer me to a more intensive mental health program.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        And she’d be justified! This is not what is meant by “bring your whole self” to work.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Exposing all of his client’s personal details — even with permission, given the context is really a bad idea.

    4. idwtpaun*

      Very much this! Even when therapists don’s always get work stuff right, surely this is beyond the pale of what any thinking therapist would consider professionally acceptable?

    5. Cookie Monster*

      That was my first reaction too. I wonder if a neutral, stick-to-the-facts email to the licensing board would be appropriate.

      1. Nelalvai*

        I was thinking the exact same thing. I can’t imagine how a competent therapist would think this was a good idea.

      2. Wintermute*

        This is purely idle speculation, I have no proof, but I would be curious to know of his standing. The pivot from private clinician to a business coach might just be someone trying to get their grindset on and “hustle” in a more lucrative field– but switching from being a therapist to being a not-a-therapist-but-acts-like-it in an adjacent but unregulated/unprotected field like life coaching, pastoral counselling, business coaching, “wellness coaching”/”mindfulness coaching” and so on is really common for people that either are no longer in good standing.

        Sometimes that’s innocuous, there’s a LOT of reasons people surrender a credential, including such mundane things as “I can’t find enough/good enough work in my field and the continuing education and licensure fees are a total waste” or “I found out I don’t like the traditional options in that field after I graduated and gave it an earnest try”. But it can ALSO be a refuge for people who have had ethics trouble.

        1. NewJobNewGal*

          And it it reads like a shady deal. “If I get the company to write you a check for $4,000, then I don’t have to pay you for therapy sessions for the next 3 months.”

          1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            We’re thinking alike. I commented below that this could all just be a ruse to pay for his personal therapy through the company and write it off as a business expense.

        2. Yoyoyo*

          I am a therapist and this was my thought too…he may have trained as a therapist but switched to being a “life coach” who is no longer bound by therapy ethics.

        3. epizeugma*

          If that is the case, the licensing board should know about it, if he is still representing himself as having that credential in good standing.

          1. Mama Llama*

            Often, former therapists who do this are very careful about how they present themselves. A former psychologist in my area had to surrender her license due to egregious violations including a sexual & romantic relationship with her patient, a former foster youth in treatment for sexual abuse. Her Psychology Today profile starts out, “I hold a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and have taught psychology for many years,” which is true and legal for her to say, and is different from calling herself a “psychologist.” Arguably misleading, but legal.

    6. SereneScientist*

      Yeah, this is the sort of dual relationships clinicians are warned away from in, like, ethical practice 101. Very suspicious indeed.

    7. Bilateralrope*

      Good question. Maybe the people who can revoke it don’t know about this.

      So I’d report the therapist.

    8. IrishCatLover*

      As a therapist, I am screaming at this!!

      In what world did the therapist think this was appropriate, ethical, sane, a good idea???

      I’m at a loss for words how not okay this is and I personally don’t know any therapist who would ever even consider this!

      Also, I really hope this post doesn’t put anyone off seeking therapy if they need it – this is not the behaviour of a good, sound, ethical therapist.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        My husband and I laughed that reading this article to a therapist would be fascinating because there’s so many problems in how this went down….

      2. Alienist*

        Another “As a therapist myself” I wanted to validate that any ethical professional would tell Bob absolutely the fuck not.

        I might actually use the words “absolutely the fuck not.”

        1. this isn’t helpful to Bob.
        2. absolutely a dual relationship which is unethical.
        3. 3 hours for the love of God.
        4. at minimum, this person has lost their objectivity and is compromised as a helper and at worst, operating outside the scope of practice.

        Most of us don’t do these things and have no problems telling clients why we can’t and won’t do these things.

    9. Bilateralrope*

      After further thought, the words “therapist by training” stick out to me as being oddly specific. Not “licensed therapist”. Not simply therapist.

      Now I’m wondering if that therapist is licensed.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        The podcast Unladylike did an episode recently about lifestyle coaches and business coaches and I wonder if this falls into this category. That segment of business is unregulated, so it would make sense if this is a person who bills themselves as a coach and has some therapist training but didn’t get or maintain their therapist license.

        OP: we need an update ASAP.

        1. Mama Llama*

          When therapists lose their licenses, it is common for them to transition to being “coaches.” We really have no idea what is going on here from that angle.

      2. Decidedly Me*

        Could be a business coach with a therapist background (who has turned more therapist than coach for Bob…)

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And is clearly failing at both.

          Has Bob had a major life change recently? Or has he always been… unusual?

      3. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Or if the therapist has decided to skip the whole ethics part of therapy by practicing as a “coach” instead.
        I’ve seen a few people in my extended circle do that.
        And yikes.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’ve done quite a few translations for a coaching website and they have a very strong focus on ethics, with the same boundaries and requirements for confidentiality etc. I think what happened during that session would not be any more acceptable coming from a coach as from a therapist.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Agreed. I’m a coach and I try, as much as possible, to comply with the standards of the largest regulatory board for psychotherapists in this country. There’s no regulation of coaching but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to act like a rogue agent with no moral code.

          1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            That code would mean a lot more if there were some sort of enforcement mechanism. Without one, there’s no way to ensure that *any* coach is following it.

            The US Supreme Court has a code of ethics too but no consequences for violating it.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              Do they? I think the problem is that they don’t have a code of ethics. The judges under their level do, but SCOTUS isn’t bound by that code.

      4. Jaybeetee*

        This is a good point – I initially read that as “therapist in training”. Which is a thing, but in that case, someone should still be supervising him closely enough to slam the brakes on anything like this.

        Therapist by training – what does that even mean? That he started studies/training in that direction but never finished?

        1. constant_craving*

          The term “therapist” isn’t legally protected. There is licensing, but you can call yourself a therapist without any licensing and even without training. So I’m guessing this is an unlicensed individual who took at least some classes, maybe even got his MS.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Pretty much.

          My mom has her masters in marriage, family and child counseling, and did about half of the required hours for licensure, but bailed out after the divorce and her inability to hold a job. So she’s a “therapist by training”, but not licensed or in practice.

        3. Not Australian*

          He’s read a couple of books and now he’s an expert. (Source: had a sister who suddenly decided she was a ‘lifestyle coach’.)

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

          I’m guessing he graduated with a degree if he listed his credentials, but didn’t pass (or maybe take) any licensing exams. Similar to a person who graduates medical school — completes the training and education — but then doesn’t complete a residency or pass the Board exams. A doctor on paper…but not…they can’t practice medicine on a patient, they can maybe do laboratory research or health policy consultant or administrator, etc. So this guy is a therapist…but not…he’s a business coach instead.

        5. SHEILA, the co-host*

          It could mean a variety of things, but the most common usage I see is that the person has the degree but never got licensed or is no longer actively practicing. I’m not sure which is the case here.

      5. Myrin*

        100% speculation but possibly OP is not a native English speaker. I’m not, either, and I would probably have said “therapist by training”, too, because “licenced therapist” is not in my active vocabulary (although I’ve definitely heard it before) and “by training” conveys most closely and literally what I would’ve said in my native language.

      6. Mockingjay*

        But…but it was a highly recommended online course. All my friends took it. I learned SO much from it and I just want to share it with you all! (And I passed the quiz at the end, so of course I have “credentials.” Buzzfeed is legit!)

      7. goddessoftransitory*

        I’m starting to wonder if the guy’s “training” consists solely of watching YouTube videos…

    10. Lady Ann*

      As a therapist myself, I had the same thought. But the longer I am in the field the more I come to realize there are a lot of bad therapists out there.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        That’s the problem with all jobs that work with vulnerable people, isn’t it? You get the professionals who really want to help and do a good job, the professionals who really want to help but end up doing damage instead, and the professionals who are just looking for vulnerable people to exploit.

        1. Boof*

          All jobs really. There are bad people in every profession, either bed at their jobs, or perhaps, actually malicious occasionally. It is extra infuriating when they have a high position of trust or serve populations tho.

    11. LCH*

      same.

      like, sure, Bob could come up with this terrible idea; any patient could. but what therapist would agree that it is a good idea?! therapists definitely tell people to establish boundaries in their work life and whatever, but that’s usually an assignment for the person in therapy to do. the therapist doesn’t (shouldn’t!) get involved like this.

    12. Sage*

      I want to think that Bob (the therapist) got a lot of money for doing that, because the alternative is far too bananapants for me to understand.

      1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        Yep. A typical fee for a one hour session ranges around $200-400 and is paid by the individual or their insurer. What do you suppose this person charged *the company* for a three hour group lecture?

        Now I’m thinking the boss is paying for his personal therapy with company funds. Involving the whole company with his personal therapist, by hiring them as a consultant of sorts, is just a ruse to justify that.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          You’d think the CEO at least would be able to find health coverage that included therapy…

        2. Sage*

          With the first paragraph you have a good point, although for that fee I would have expected a better job than that. But maybe neither Bob nor the coach cared, as long as money changed from one account to another.

    13. Itsa Me, Mario*

      I was recently reading something about how one should tread carefully with people who brand their services as “life coaching” and the like, because of the number of such folks who are former therapists who’ve lost their licenses, or people who want to be therapists who can’t get a license for some significant reason. Because life coaching and other similar types of coaching aren’t in any way regulated by the state. What I read wasn’t suggesting that this is *all* coaches by any means, or denigrating the idea of working with a coach, but just putting out there that this happens.

      When reading this post, I started to wonder if maybe this person is one of “those” kinds of coaches.

    14. ONFM*

      When I raised some very specific job-related issues I had with a with a supervisor, our company’s HR referred us both to an EAP-contracted therapist who was supposedly trained in team-building and coaching. Her advice to me was incredibly sexist and I declined to continue working with her. I don’t know how far the supervisor took it, but his behavior did not improve and he was fired for similar issues about eighteen months later. Not sure about Bob’s therapist, but my person was heavily into personality tests/types and did not seem capable of providing any actual means of resolving anything (for example, things had gotten to the point where my boss would not speak to me for days at a time; the therapist’s advice was to smile more and move my office to another company location so it wouldn’t seem like a big deal).

      All that to say…maybe this IS their job. Maybe they’re just really bad at it?

    15. Jessica*

      Yeah, it seems like there are some really glaring consent issues here that would violate a lot of ethics codes.

    16. No Real Name Here*

      I’m someone who could provide therapy with the type of license I have if I wanted to. And I came here to say that I’d be reported this “therapist” to his appropriate licensing board. So, so many problems with what he’s done.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Since he presided over a three hour mandatory cheer session for Bob, I’m guessing “wants to hear” is high on his list of assets for his clientele.

    17. Really?*

      I’d be interested to know the guy’s professional qualifications as a therapist. While clearly his business coaching is questionable, I have trouble visualizing any competent, professional therapist running the type of session OP outlined. Good luck OP! Time to start evaluating options.

    18. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      If this were like some of the other crazy AAM stories, the “therapist” would turn out to be Bob’s secret lover.

  2. Czhorat*

    Wow. Just wow.

    I’d say that Bob needs therapy, but he apparently already has that. What Bob needs is for his therapist to act like a therapist and not a business coach. He also needs a lesson on what SHOULD be your problem and what shouldn’t be.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      My friend and I often comment that our friend in therapy just needs a better (different) therapist.

      Bob needs a better therapist that if this was Bob’s idea would have told him “no. never. completely out of bounds.” and if this was the therapist’s idea, Bob needs a new, better therapist who would have never offered this up as a suggestion in the first place.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, it kinda feels like the therapist was like “I want to be a business coach! What a great opportunity I have here!” but didn’t really think it through. At all. Bob needs a new therapist and OP might need a new job if Bob continues down this road.

    2. ferrina*

      Can the employees bring in their therapists too? Cuz I’d like my therapist to explain to the company how Bob’s therapist triggered workplace PTSD and how people need to respect reasonable workplace boundaries because this is impacting my personal life.

      1. JelloStapler*

        and why I feel like I am not allowed to say no but just put up with the workload because “mission”?

  3. Name (Required)*

    The three hour session is one (bananas) thing, but to double down with the 1000 word screed and THEN ALSO later a 10 page document is another. Sounds like this is now in character for Bob and Bob is bananas.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m just imagining Bob pounding away on his keyboard, typing out his manifesto, like Kermit in that typing gif.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Getting visions of a certain famous therapist who sounds like Kermit being Bob’s therapist.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Agreed. I could give Bob a freebie for the three hour session. He gets away with one terrible decision, but the two follow-ups make me think this is only going to get worse.

      1. MK*

        I agree. Everyone has a failure of judgment once in a while, but this reads more like a controlled nervous breakdown.

    3. SHEILA, the co-host*

      Right? Also, isn’t this exactly the kind of thing Bob shouldn’t be doing if he’s too stressed? He’s adding unnecessary work to his plate by deciding he needs to write additional responses to the push back. He’s being ineffective on multiple fronts.

  4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    When your boss cannot separate the business from his personal life, all boundaries are gone. Time to job hunt!

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Well they are all family and friends (query who only made the friends list and not the family list?), so why wouldn’t he be sharing his personal life with them.

      That line alone was enough of a red flag. But coupled with the rest of this completely bananas schtick its time to bail.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “query who only made the friends list and not the family list?”

        Ha, that would have been my feedback. “Could we get more clarity around the ‘friends’ vs ‘family’ designations and how that impacts our specific roles?”

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Should, uh, should somebody report the therapist to the state licensing board?

    If would be one thing for the therapist, WITH BOB’S EXPRESS CONSENT, to write down some insights into Bob’s problems and distribute them. But having a live, in-person, 3-hour event seems like way too big of an opportunity to violate patient confidentiality and other professional ethics.

    1. nonprofit writer*

      I strongly suspect this “therapist” is actually a “life coach.” While I know there are programs that some coaches go through for training, etc, there isn’t any licensing board and pretty much anyone can call themselves a coach, as far as I’m aware.

      When I was working full time, my grandboss had his life coach lead our department retreat and it was not bananas in this way, but it was definitely inappropriate. If I hadn’t been relatively new to the department and/or if I were a bit older and more experienced than I was then, I would have reported it to HR because the guy had us doing various thought exercises that required us to reveal way more personal info than was appropriate for work.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I think I’ve found my retirement gig. I can hang out a shingle as a “life coach”. I should probably write the book I keep contemplating about “adulting”, but hey, everyone has to have goals, right?

      2. Notalifecoach*

        I once cleaned a hoarder’s house when I was unemployed for 6 months in the recession as a way to make some money. It was digusting, she had multiple cats and there was cat poo and urine all over the house. I was on linkedin a year later and found out she had become a “life coach”. I always wondered how she could be one when her life was a mess.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Ironically, some people with mental and emotional disorders are very attracted to these fields–it’s kind of a combination of projection and problem solving. They can show that they’re clearly competent since they’re helping others and justify their own issues by “being too busy with Important Career to worry–and besides, I’m a [fill in field] so clearly I don’t have any real problems anyway!”

          1. STAT!*

            Yes. I have a friend whose mother has unmanaged emotional disorders and is close to losing her psychologist’s licence for unprofessional conduct. It’s one thing to have challenges, it’s another not to work on them.

          2. Selena81*

            I think it can be good to ‘have gone through your own struggles’ and thus understand better what clients are going through.
            Some coaches are like that.

            But there’s also a sizeable group for whom it’s more about denial of their own problems, and copying the optics of what a licensed therapist does in an attempt to gain similar social status and income.

        2. What is it about hoarders?*

          That’s really bizarre because a friend who’s a hoarder (her house is navigable, clean, and no pets, thank G-d!) just asked me about “coaching” as a potential career pivot. Oddly, I think she’d be really good at it if she decided to go that route, but yeah, her personal life’s a hot mess!

    2. Jaydee*

      Yeah I think it would be fine for Bob to cite his personal struggles *briefly* and mention that his therapist recommended cutting back in some areas of his life when explaining the company’s directional shift. But that should be a few sentences in maybe a 20 minute talk outlining the changes – not a whole 3 hour presentation of its own!

      1. Nameless*

        My thought exactly. It’s fine to acknowledge that part of this pivot is that you, as the owner, have over-extended and need to find a way to step back. That’s a considerate level of transparency. But this? YIKES, YIKES, YIKES ON BIKES.

    3. Kay*

      I’m not 100% convinced that he’s a licensed therapist. Lots of people hear “counsellor” or “coach” or whatever, and translate it to “therapist” despite there being important differences among the job titles (legal ones, especially).

  6. funkytown*

    I wish I could read that 1000 word email…. what a nightmare. I hope OP gets out to something way less ridiculous and can laugh about this sooner than later.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Request: Can everyone submit the most bananacrackers email they’ve ever gotten from an employer and can we all schedule a zoom call for some live readings?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I have long wanted to do this as an “ask the readers” (minus the zoom call, although what an addition!) but haven’t been sure if there would be enough people comfortable posting emails verbatim to make it work.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Damn. Now I wish I’d kept the email from the ex-CEO that was fired by email. It was short but pithy.

        2. Anononononon*

          Yeah, unfortunately that’s a really great way to get ferreted out and fired at my job :( Which is really too bad, because my new director has started sending these weekly rah-rah sports analogy pep talk emails and some of them are just bizarre.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            If the details were sufficiently randomized, this could probably work. (Just no llamas or teapots, please!)

        3. anonymous 5*

          I would love to do a recording of “dramatic reading” of emails (e.g. the “real breakup letter sent by a real person” that circulated several years ago, that was read aloud over-dramatically to absolute hilarity…). If nothing else, I think maybe I should that technique by myself with some of the bananacrackers emails I’ve received over the years…

          1. Andy*

            You might enjoy the Live Letters series – well-known actors doing dramatic readings of letters. Some letters are historically significant; others are just…emails. You can find some on YouTube.

            1. anonymous 5*

              I do, indeed, enjoy those (at least the ones I’ve seen so far)! Which reminds me I should go peek to see if there are any more on YT that I haven’t seen yet, as I could use a lift. :)

              1. Letters*

                My favourite one by far is Sanjeev Bhaskar reading Napoleon’s letters to Josephine, with live reactions from Miriam Margolyes

        4. Wintermute*

          I feel like there’s enough people that have old emails socked away some place that they had to save because they were just that good but they’re well beyond caring if anyone at that job knows. That’s how the infamous “tiger mike” memos got leaked, after all, and they’re perhaps the greatest unhinged memos of all time.

        5. starsaphire*

          The Heirs of Tiger Mike! :D

          I would hope we could do enough detail-obscuration that we could get away with this, but that may just be my wishful thinking.

        6. The Prettiest Curse*

          What about bonkers emails from clients? My last job once got a 12-paragraph email (with footnotes!) complaining about how we shouldn’t show a specific film at our family movie night. Alas, I don’t have a copy of the email any more, but it will live rent-free in my head forever.

        7. Pippa K*

          Can we add emails from coworkers? Because I’ll happily share one of my favorites. It was an email from an older, senior, somewhat testy faculty colleague: “I do not understand what we’re voting on, and I don’t see why we need to take a vote. That said, I vote ‘yes.’”

          He’s long since retired. I’ve seen a lot of nutty academic emails, but I’ll always remember this one fondly.

        8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Hrm, you’ve got an excellent point there. There’s some absolute corkers I’ve accumulated in 20+ years in IT.

          If you’d accept one’s that have been edited enough to retain the WTF but remove identification? I could do that.

          I’d start with, let’s say, the one that ordered us to not throw AOL cds in the bin because that was breaking the law supposedly. And no, she would not be told otherwise.

        9. Doc McCracken*

          I’d happily contribute my alcoholic ex boss’s email berating me for asking all communication be done in writing after illegally withholding my final paycheck. Cause yeah, asking for communication only by text or email after he ghosted my phone calls keeps one from cutting a check…

        10. Sociology Rocks!*

          Maybe in the ask the readers post provide some requirements about what to redact in order to post the emails? Or make it a submission form, and Alison redacts them and shares the best in an altered format?

        11. Seeking Second Childhood*

          At this point I’d be concerned that someone would feed them to AI as good examples.

        12. OhGeez*

          I think the key is to have people submit emails that were sent out to a minimum of like five others or were widely forwarded. I recently received one about a water cooler that was truly epic.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, totally agree.

      Unfortunately, I’ve seen this all too many times when you have a small company owned by a single person. They put in a lot of hours, end up not having a social life or a family life, and then start to view their employees as friends and family.

      This is a huge red flag to me. I would be job searching pretty hard at this point.

      1. Laser99*

        I guess it has never occurred to Bob that not everyone is fascinated by his innermost thoughts and feelings. I would certainly mention it at the exit interview.

        1. MassMatt*

          The term narcissist is horribly overused on the internet, but OMG it seems to fit the boss here perfectly.

    2. JMac*

      “We’re a family” is code for “you will be overworked, underpaid and don’t even think about complaining”

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Yeah, last time I worked for a business that said that, I regularly felt like the unwanted stepchild leftover from one spouse’s previosu marriag.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Ah, yes, “friends and family” where he’s the authority figure, and everyone else is supposed to say “yes, Dad, whatever you say” and have no needs of their own. Not the sort of family or friendship where he’s returning favors, taking his turn driving someone an elderly relative to the doctor, or even letting people pick the restaurant for their own birthday dinners.

      No, it’s all about Uncle Bob’s emotions and problems.

      1. epizeugma*

        Implicit in “friends and family” type declarations is often the assumption that the speaker must be the unquestioned, feared and beloved patriarch/matriarch that rules the family with an iron fist. Kinda like The Godfather, but with emails.

  7. Falling Diphthong*

    I admit, I laughed out loud at the thought that someone in authority over Bob told him he needed to be transparent, and this is what he came up with.

    Person in authority over Bob, you need to be transparent about how you will be reining Bob in starting right now.

    1. Antilles*

      My manager, Bob, is the owner of the company, and while theoretically has people high up who could push back on him, the reality is that he makes the final decisions on most everything.
      That doesn’t sound like there are people who can rein Bob in. To me, that reads more like that there are a few senior managers who can push back in limited ways or request additional info, but nobody with straight up power to order him to do anything or directly call him out for being bonkers.

      I’d guess the request for transparency was more like a department head saying something like “Bob, my team is raising a lot of questions about the upcoming re-org and I’ve heard concerns about the company’s stability, what should we tell them? could you provide some more transparency around our finances so people don’t think this is a prelude to layoffs?” and Bob took it upon himself to come up with this solution.

    2. Properlike*

      Bob is the one in authority. More likely, someone he considers friends or family gave the suggestion that the company would appreciate more transparency around decision-making, and Bob – having lost all boundaries between “work” and “personal” – enthusiastically ran with it in the worst possible way. Now he’s feeling burned… and doubling down on “transparency” because he’s got a crackpot therapist who “also knows business.”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        To be fair, he is being transparent, just in a way that nobody wanted, needed, or expected.

  8. Falling Diphthong*

    Great illustration of how the person in the office who is loudest about their tragic circumstances usually isn’t the person in the office going through the toughest time. They’re just the person who has embraced the role of Most Suffering Llama Herder.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      And even if it’s true that Bob is Suffering the Most—what exactly are his employees supposed to do about that? Not go to him for help with problems? Not ask any questions? Not disagree with him? Not quit? Just WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME, Bob?

  9. Frickityfrack*

    I’m not sure this therapist is even getting the therapy part right. I’ve had some therapists that were…meh, but I cannot imagine any of them agreeing to do something this bananas. Facilitate a session with my family, sure, but with work? Aaaabsolutely not. I suspect Bob may have deliberately sought out a therapist who would just go along with whatever he wants, not someone who would actually help him in any meaningful way.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I mean therapy sessions usually have the client doing more talking than the patient. A three hour session where no one got to talk until afterwards sounds less like a therapy session and more like a lecture.

      1. Satan’s Panties*

        That’s why I left one therapist. After the first three or so sessions, it became, I got five minutes to tell how the previous week had gone, then forty minutes of her talking nonstop. I felt like I was in class and should have been taking notes. Wasn’t getting me anywhere, and the last straw was her saying, “As an only child, you…” I’m *not* an only child. I wonder if she had me confused with another patient.

        My point? A therapist should never make someone feel put on the spot. They should not lecture, and they should not take sides. And three hours of one person talking is crazeballs.

  10. JMac*

    If there are people who could push back on Bob, those people need to give him a come to Jesus about his behaviour. If he is dealing with personal struggles, he needs to take a leave of absence to deal with it and not make it his employees’ problem. This is so far beyond acceptable I don’t even know what I’d do in a similar situation.

    1. ferrina*

      There aren’t people that can push back. There are theoretically people that can push back, but that’s different. I’ve been in the room where these conversations happen:

      Bob: I heard your concerns about transparency, and I think we should have an all-company meeting to share the new strategy.
      Reasonable Person(RP): Great!
      Bob: I invited Casey McNutter to speak- they have a lot of business experience and are good at this.
      RP: Um….isn’t McNutter your personal therapist? I don’t think that’s a good idea to mix business and personal things to this degree.
      Bob: Of course it is! You said that people wanted transparency- this is important to open discussion! People need to see my thought process and how hard this has been on me!
      RP: This has been hard on a lot of people….
      Bob: They’re not running the company though! They don’t have the weight of everyone’s livelihoods in the balance! I think it’s important for them to know what that feels like, since many of them won’t ever know how hard it is to be at the top.
      RP: But-
      Bob: Are we still talking about this? Because we have other things on the agenda.

    2. XF1013*

      Yes! Reading this letter, I kept thinking that Bob’s judgment is so poor that he should not be in a position where he manages anyone. And if he’s feeling overwhelmed with too many work responsibilities, well, there’s a way to solve both problems at once.

  11. ZSD*

    Is this at all an ethical breach by the therapist? I realize that he was disclosing Bob’s information with Bob’s consent (insistence?), but this still seems ethically shady.
    Also, the therapist seems pretty incompetent. Shouldn’t he have gently suggested that Bob consider alternative approaches beyond…whatever this was supposed to be?

    1. Czhorat*

      I don’t think there’s anything unethical about it, but I don’t think there’s anything helpful about it either.

      A client is allowed to waive as much of their privacy as they want. That doesn’t mean it makes sense for the therapist to charge for three hours of therapy to lecture their employees.

      1. Gerry Kaey*

        I think coercing someone into a therapy session is pretty unethical. I don’t know if it’s unethical in the sense of “lose his license,” but at least by my ethical models, this is extremely uncool behavior.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          Since none of the employees spoke or were asked to speak, it seems more like a lecture than a therapy session.

    2. Naomi*

      Leaving aside the disclosure of Bob’s info, I’m pretty sure it’s an ethical breach to act as both Bob’s therapist and his business coach, because it creates a conflict of interest when what’s good for the business isn’t what’s good for Bob or vice versa. (As seen here, in making the restructure plans the All About Bob Show.) I have to wonder whose idea this was, because if the therapist has a side hustle as a business coach and suggested that a patient hire him, that is a GIANT red flag about his professional ethics.

      1. Rage*

        The ethical violation comes from acting as Bob’s therapist AND acting as the coach for *his employees.* He could coach Bob all he wants on management styles if Bob asked and he wants to. But coaching his employees….that’s the issue.

    3. constant_craving*

      Potentially. But “therapist” is an unregulated title. If he’s licensed, then there are potentially consequences for actions such as these, but it’s entirely possible he just calls himself a therapist.

      1. Kay*

        Depends on the country/state. It’s a licensed profession where I am, but we only know what Bob’s guy’s title is from OP’s description. I’m constantly correcting people that I’m a counsellor and not a therapist because they don’t understand there’s a legal distinction between the two.

  12. ReallyBadPerson*

    I’m no therapist, but I can recognize a good narcissist/supplier scenario when I see one.
    Get out get out get out!

  13. TootsNYC*

    this reminds me of certain people who seem to have believed their own press.

    They’ve gotten such positive attention that it becomes the only thing they see, and they have lost any healthy skepticism toward it. And they allow the praise to drown out everything else.

  14. Rage*

    I’m curious as to what, exactly, are the credentials of this “therapist” – because this is such a blatant breach of ethical standards for mental health professionals that *I* am going to need a session with my clinical supervisor to simply recover from reading it. If this therapist is indeed licensed and practicing with that license in OP’s state, then she probably has standing to report her concerns to that licensing body, whatever it is.

    If a client of mine asked me to do this, I’d be hard-pressed not to laugh him/her out of my office, but I would definitely refuse, and give a stern lecture on boundaries and ethics.

    1. Mama Llama*

      I’m curious, too.

      OP says, “The ‘business coach’ began describing his credentials, where it was revealed that he is a therapist by training… It became clear by the way this ‘coach’ spoke that he is, in fact, Bob’s personal therapist who also happens to have some business training, and who Bob hired to give us this message. ”

      A dirty secret in the field is that it is not uncommon for people who have lost their licenses or who do not want to be beholden to ethical standards to become “coaches” of various kinds. Having been a “therapist by training” does not necessarily mean they are a currently licensed therapist. I’m also very curious what OP means when they say “it became clear” that the individual was Bob’s personal therapist.

    2. EJane*

      Oooo I knew there was going to be a fellow therapist who had some *thoughts* to share in the comments.
      I may have to bring this to MY supervisor for a good laugh/groan of despair at the state of the world.
      I also STRONGLY agree with reporting concerns to the licensing body in that state, citing ethical concerns; not only is this almost certainly a breach of patient confidentiality–even WITH Bob’s consent–it’s an egregious step out of the individual’s area of authority and expertise.

      Oooh. That makes me ANGRY.

  15. idwtpaun*

    I’m a bit confused and curious about how Bob can be the owner but still have people above him. Does this mean he’s the owner, but decided to bring in other (presumably more experienced or skilled) people to be the C-suite, but then retained some sort of middle management position?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      theoretically has people high up who could push back on him, the reality is that he makes the final decisions on most everything.

      He has people who are high up but are still slightly below him. I get the feeling LW is a lot lower in the food chain that these people are.

      1. idwtpaun*

        Ah, that makes more sense, thanks! I think I got confused by the use of “my manager” for Bob, which made it seem like he’s in the middle of the hierarchy instead of at the top.

    2. Thunder Kitten*

      high up does not mean above. probably more like senior execs / advisors who can still be fired

      1. ferrina*

        And more important- can be overridden and ignored.
        That way Bob can say that he has people that will speak truth to him- the unspoken part is that he doesn’t bother to listen.

      2. Antilles*

        Exactly. Bob has some senior execs who are allowed latitude to run their departments and have enough standing to ask questions, raise issues, or suggest alternatives if they disagree with a decision…but at the end of the day, he’s got the ultimate authority and everybody knows it.

      3. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        Could it also mean angel investors or silent partners? That is, folks who have no say in management but to whom he has fiduciary responsibility?

        1. Antilles*

          It could mean that, but unfortunately for OP, outside investors or partners are only going to care about impact on the bottom line. As long as Bob’s therapy sessions don’t result in a drop in profits or some costly lawsuit or etc, they’re just going to shrug it off.

    3. Ashley*

      I read it as high up, so high ranking people in the company but not Bob’s superiors. So managers whose opinion he would generally seek and listen to their feedback.
      That said, I don’t know why Bob doesn’t higher a new VP, CEO, or someone in operations to take some work load off of him.

  16. Roberta*

    definitely an ethical breach by creating a dual relationship deliberately, especially without disclosing it upfront.
    This wasn’t a situation where he was an outside consultant and only realized he was Bob’s therapist and Bob was working for his client. Accidents happen. The therapist knew what the setup was and still said this was a good idea.
    It is disappointing but I am not shocked at this point..

  17. Delta Delta*

    Oh goodness. This … isn’t good. If the restructuring plan seems fine and you’re able to do the work with no issue with the work, it doesn’t seem like you need to get out yesterday. But yeah, this isn’t going to get better and it does feel like time to look for a new position. Bob isn’t going to be able to have boundaries and it could become weirder and more toxic before it gets better. Ugh.

    1. ferrina*

      Agree with this- this is time to plan your exit, but not necessarily bolt.

      But it won’t get better. I’ve met many Bobs in my life, and not a single one has ever gotten better.

  18. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I work in government so getting initiatives from the current elected official du jour is common. Whatever they wanna do is just do AWESOME and AMAZING whereas to us it’s just another day at the office.

    We don’t need a motivational lecture on how to do our jobs, but I figure the speeches are more for the current administration to feel better than they are informative for us. My biggest pet peeve is that all these short-term faces assume I haven’t been doing my job since before they got here and THEY will be the ones to really get me motivated. “That’s why I’m here,” is what one of them said.

    No, dude (it’s always a man), I’ve been doing this job decades before you got your work ID and I’ll be doing it long after you’re gone. You’re ideas are a dime a dozen so I need to put myself on autopilot to do what you want so I can get my other responsibility done – the ones you don’t know or care about.

    So insulting! I’d always meant to write AAM about it, but I don’t think there’s an answer to other people’s stupidity and insensitivity.

  19. SereneScientist*

    My first ever job was at a small business where the owner pulled something a bit like this, not with her therapist, but someone she knew that did business strategy consulting. Honestly, that daylong workshop became a weird back-and-forth of us employees talking about how much pressure we were under to manage up to the owner while she essentially complained that she (being the micromanager she was) carried the full weight of selling work for the firm. It was pretty inappropriate in hindsight and didn’t actually improve anything work-wise, the dynamics continued to be tremendously toxic up until I left. LW, only you can judge what’s a move that makes sense for you but this feels like bad news all the way around and not worth your sanity/health/wellbeing if Bob continues down this path.

  20. Ann O'Nemity*

    This is bringing terrible flashbacks of when a previous boss worked with an “executive coach.” This person also led strategy sessions for the team, guilted us about how hard the boss was working compared to us, gave us assignments to “interrogate our assumptions” and share feelings, and just generally filled the boss’s head with batshit ideas about what good leadership was supposed to look like.

    I share all this because it seriously screwed up a functioning workplace for awhile, but ultimately things fizzled out and went back to normal. There is hope this isn’t permanent for the LW. Still, job searching isn’t a bad idea just in case!

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Oh man things actually went back to normal??? Mind sharing how that actually happened? My thought was that this would be the start of a mad decline, not a weird temporary stray from the path, especially since Bob seems to be able to act as he sees fit unchecked.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        My boss stopped seeing the executive coach because things at work were getting worse instead of better. The approach was tanking morale and productivity.

        To provide more context – my boss hired the executive coach when we were going through some big changes at work. My boss was feeling overwhelmed and struggling with some hard decisions. At first my boss seemed to really appreciate the coach’s support and advice. She drank the kool aid. But the longer it went on, and the deeper we got into the process, the more skeptical my boss became. There wasn’t a big watershed moment, but my boss’s involvement with the coach tapered off and things drifted back to normal.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Bosses are SUPPOSED to work harder than their reports. Not on the same level, or on the same tasks, of course, but that is why they are bosses!

      I refuse to be guilted into feeling responsible for a grown adult’s inability to manage their work/life balance or whatever. I’m here to earn a paycheck and support my boss in a professional manner within the outlines of the business, not cradle them like Dumbo’s mom because the world is so, so cruel to them.

    3. ccsquared*

      So my experience with a senior leader bringing in his coach isn’t quite as bad, but it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth and makes me think in general, this is a really bad idea.

      The coach was brought in to talk to our leadership team and then later the whole org right before layoffs, and his whole message was about having the right mindset. I don’t know that the message itself was all that bad but the delivery and the timing together felt really tone deaf. High-level leaders need to realize they’re outliers in what motivates them because it’s probably not what resonates with the vast majority of people.

      Also, anyone who thinks that the same mental toughness developed by soldiers and others whose jobs involve literally putting their lives on the line should be required of people who sell enterprise software can kindly fuck right off.

  21. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Ahh, Main Character syndrome. He’s the most important thing in the world so why *shouldn’t* you want to know his struggles and side quests and goals?

    You lot having issues? Oh come on, you’re NPCs, you’re there to support the main character’s questline.

    1. ferrina*

      Everyone knows NPCs don’t do anything but stand there and wait for the Main Character to lead them! NPCs don’t have any goals, or side quests, or challenges….

      okay, now I need to go watch some Viva La Dirt League

  22. Elektra*

    This… seems very reminiscent of the show/podcast “The Therapist Next Door”… is there any way this could be another fanfiction letter (I seem to recall there was another one a while back)? I just am really hoping this is not real because this is seriously bananapants.

    1. Elektra*

      Edit: I just remembered that story is based on a true set of events, so even if this letter is related, it could very likely be real. :(

  23. cabbagepants*

    I’ve had therapists who were pushy and arrogant enough to think that this sort of thing could be a good idea and who pushed hard to get over-involved in life outside of the therapy session. So sadly it feels possible to me that this therapist has gotten his hooks into Bob and convinced him that this all is a good idea.

    What to do about it is really hard. Bob is basically in an emotionally abusive relationship at this point. You can try one conversation with him about how not-ok this is, but be prepared for major payback. maybe it’s best to just job search.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I’m wondering if printing this column off and dropping it on Bob’s chair might bring him up short. Make sure that there are no witnesses or cameras, of course, or that you already have a new job.

      Because it would be perfect payback for the 10 page screed and the 1000 word email. Sheesh.

  24. olddog*

    It sounds like there was assumption that therapist is Bob’s individual therapist, but not confirmation. Organizational psychologists and would like have some type of meeting with Bob or other leadership to get the lay of the land before providing a psychologically informed business plan. This may not be true but seems a reasonable explanation to consider as well. Bob’s post mtg behavior is obviously out of touch and bonkers, of course.

  25. hiptobesquare*

    Is this an instance where bringing this to the attention of board (perhaps anonymously or as a group) would be useful. It sounds like Bob has jumped the shark.

  26. olddog*

    I don’t see any ethical breach here and certainly no grounds to report to a licensing board. This doesn’t mean the mtg was effective or helpful though.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Are you a therapist? Are you familiar with the ethics of that profession?
      Sounds like you are not.

    2. I'm A Therapist, Get Me Out of Here*

      If the boss hired the therapist in a business context (which it sounds like he did, from the letter), this is a dual relationship. Completely unethical on the therapist’s part. The therapist is there to emotionally support the client and empower them to fight their own battles, not to come into work and lecture the person’s recalcitrant employees.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is referred to as a dual relationship, when a therapist inserts themselves into another part of a client’s life be it social, professional, sexual…there are different branches. But it is level 101 unethical and any therapist intending to keep their license would know that and never offer to do this.

    4. therapist*

      The ethical breach described above is related to “dual relationships”– meaning that a person is my therapy client and, also, I have another relationship with them. The most obvious example is that I can’t have a therapy patient who is also my boyfriend. But it is also true that I can’t have a therapy patient who is a business colleague; I can’t treat my hairdresser, for example. And I can’t do business coaching for them, or get involved in the details of their professional life, as their therapist. Some therapists do also work as “business coaches” or “executive trainers,” but SEPARATELY from their work with individual clients.

    5. JelloStapler*

      Are you a counselor or social worker? Conflicting relationship and scope of practice number one. Number two, even if not the licensing board, really really bad judgment as a counselor. But as someone said, there is suspicion the therapist is NOT licensed and may be a “life coach”.

    6. JelloStapler*

      As a social worker, I think there are plenty of red flags that at least a LISW/LISW-C/LSW board would be concerned about so I can imagine a Counseling board would be too.

    7. Seconds*

      We once discovered that our marriage counselor had a specific need for some rather unusual training that I could provide. We volunteered that I could provide him that training over lunch at a nearby restaurant.

      He said no, that it was against the ethics code for us to be seen in public together (even though it was my idea).

      I did offer him some training, in the office after a session. About five minutes of it. Once. And that was all he would accept. (Fortunately, it turned out to be all he needed!)

      So if that was beyond the pale, I can say that this would be too!

  27. Engineer*

    This is like, 2 steps behind “my boss is dating my dad and wants me to go to therapy with them” levels of dysfunction. Which is to say, get out while the getting’s good. Whatever the job once was, it’s not anymore, and you’re getting a *very* clear look at how things are going to go in the future. You owe it to yourself not to get sucked into that.

    1. Ferris Mewler*

      I was going to say I couldn’t decide whether this was worse than the letter you mentioned, or not. I think this might be worse!

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes. Bob has held up his vision of the company’s future and unless the LW wants to change their title to “Minion,” it’s time to leave.

  28. olddog*

    It seems that it is not a known fact that therapist is Bob’s personal therapist. Organizational psychologists exist and typically would talk to an owner/boss/leadership to get the lay of the land and existing issues before sharing a business plan. This may not be the case, but it seems like a reasonable explanation to consider as well.
    The execution may or may not have been good however.

    1. therapist*

      That is true– if the therapist is some sort of hired consultant, that’s different from him actually being Bob’s individual therapist.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      LW says it became clear that this is Bob’s therapist.

      Let’s take LWs at their word per the site rules.

      Even so, the advice to LW would not change one bit.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Then why would they spend 3 hours talking about ONE person’s mental health?

      Nahh, this is Main Character Syndrome and Bob needs to suddenly have his staff leave.

  29. RVA Cat*

    This is so bananapants but what makes it worse is that the rational thing for Bob to here is…sell the business. Now it’s more likely he’s going to full banana three-piece suit it right into bankruptcy.

  30. olddog*

    Could have been organizational psychologist and not Bob’s individual therapist. Org psychologists meet with leadership often to get handle on the issues before making recommendations

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      You keep harping on this. I’m not sure what your point is. How would that change the fact that this is completely bananapants?

      “Oh, it’s an organizational psychologist. Okay, in that case, the 1,000 word late night email and ten page manifesto are perfectly normal and just part of the process.”

      Is that what you really mean to be saying here? Or are you actually Bob? Or Bob’s therapist?

    2. BellyButton*

      I am in Org Development, and while not an organizational psychologist I have worked with many and am familiar with the practices. No actual Org psychologist would have done this.

  31. I'm A Therapist, Get Me Out of Here*

    As a licensed social worker, I am convinced that I have worked with/received referrals from therapists like Bob’s. I think we all know what the most reasonable solution is: Each employee must draft a therapist to come in and speak at length to a captive audience about their (the employee’s) personal and workplace struggles. I’m just kidding. OP should run.

    1. Yoyoyo*

      Licensed social worker here too, and while I have an inkling that this person trained as a therapist but is now a “life coach,” I’m sad to agree with you that I have known many incompetent and unethical therapists over the years. It is much more common than we would like to believe!

  32. A Simple Narwhal*

    Yikes, I think this office is full of bees waving red flags.

    I totally understand the struggle with working at a job that used to be awesome, but no longer is. I stayed at a job like that long after I should have left because I kept hoping that the company would go back to its awesome ways – it used to be great, I used to be happy and thriving, surely it could be that way again, right?

    Except it never did. No amount of trying or hoping ever made things the way they used to be, and sadly it seems like this might be the case here too, or at least where things are heading. From where I’m standing, it sounds like in order to fix the issue(s), Bob would need to be checked or reined in (or removed even), and the organization is built in a way that no one is able to do that. And since Bob is unlikely to suddenly stop doing this and is instead far more likely to descend further into petty tyrant-ness, it’s a safe bet that this is only the tip of the iceberg, not a lone speedbump.

    It sucks, but I think OP should start getting their lifeboat ready.

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      +1 I too have stayed too long at a job because it used to be awesome but at some point it no longer was, and I kept hoping it would go back to being awesome but it never did. It’s kind of like other relationships in your life that have changed for the worse over time – maybe your partner/friend/group of friends changed, or maybe you changed, but for whatever reason this relationship is no longer good for you despite your best efforts to save or improve it. Even though you still remember and long for the good times, it’s time to go.

      OP, it sounds to me like it’s time to go.

    2. Deborah*

      Yeah, my first real job was AMAZING – for about a year, and then gradually everything got worse and worse. Finally they did a restructuring and we were all going to make less money, and in fact management made us all go to a talk by a business coach where we all had to read Who Moved My Cheese? And while it was not the point of the talk, I realized that indeed my cheese had moved too much and I found a new job.

  33. She of Many Hats*

    The three hour tou—meeting aside, if the company is narrowing its mission, there will be employees whose area of expertise is not needed in the new structure. Get your resume all updated and reconnect with your networking contacts. Your area of expertise may remain relevant to the new structure but you may find the culture and parts of the job you currently enjoy are gone. As Allison said, you don’t have to accept any interviews or offers but you’ll be ready if things change for the worse.

  34. I Have RBF*

    Bob, and his “therapist”/coach, both have full, formal, banana suits, with jacket, hat, waistcoat, trousers, cumberbund, tie, and spats.

    Sounds to me like Bob is going full-on midlife crisis and is dragging his company with him.

    How many other people are looking for the exits? Because Bob has pretty much boundary stomped everyone, dragging them into his own psychodrama unwillingly.

    I’m trying to envision someone like Bezos or Zuckerberg doing this, and I can’t.

    I probably would have gotten myself fired by now for my level of “WTF, Bob, WTF?” that would have burst past my filters in the first meeting.

    You need to job hunt, I fear, unless someone with enough clout can get Bob away from his bananapants therapist-coach and have a “Come to Jesus back to reality” talk with him.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Meanwhile the fact we could see Musk doing this (except he’s too arrogant to have a therapist) is yet another red flag.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yep. I can see how that egotistical narcissist bananapants fashionista would totally do this.

  35. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    Someone needs to report Bob’s therapist to the licensing board for unethical behavior.

  36. Jojo*

    Whenever my mom is trying to control someone, but can’t get what she wants, her next step is “lets go see a therapist”. The quiet part that she doesn’t say is “so they will convince you to do what I’m saying”. This situation seems similar, Bob is having problems, and Bob is using his therapist to convince his employees that they need to work harder so he can work less. Its manipulative and probably a bit abusive. And for a therapist to take part in this? Nope.

    LW, definitely have an escape plan.

  37. Inkognyto*

    Bob bought himself some loose comfy pants, and he loaded lots of bananas into them. He’d like to share them with you.

  38. John Smith*

    Alison, how’s your keyboard’s exclamation mark button? I was beginning to think it’d crack under the pressure!

  39. Silicon Valley Girl*

    Bushels of bananas everywhere!!!

    I’m especially impressed / amused / horrified by the 1,000 word email & 10 page doc Bob created & sent around. That’s some gumption alright.

  40. CommanderBanana*

    Is Bob’s name actually Kanye? Is he making everyone eat sushi for lunch and refusing to use the stairs?

  41. HonorBox*

    Cue the record scratch. What the actual hell? No one needs to hear from the boss’s therapist, and organizational changes that impact everyone, just to benefit the boss’s life are not the way things work.

    While looking for a new job, I would strongly consider getting your coworkers together to have a conversation with those who are above Bob. While making changes to benefit a company can make sense, are those who are “above” Bob really seeing the reasons for changes? If enough of the staff got together to highlight how bonkers this situation was and is, perhaps there is a person or two who could weigh in. Just the therapist thing is enough to say something. But when you factor in the email and 10-page document, this seems like something investors/board of directors/advisors would want to know about… likely because people are going to leave or there’s something that Bob is going through that might need to be addressed beyond what he’s doing now.

  42. BellyButton*

    This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so bananapants. I can’t imagine anyone thinking their employees’ don’t have their own work/life balance issues, every person on this earth is dealing with their own personal lives! It is bizarre and so self-centered to think anyone, outside of himself, has the responsibility to fix his personal issues. SMH.

    Morbid curiosity drives me to want to read that email! LOL

  43. epizeugma*

    Please consider filing a complaint to your regional credentialing body about this therapist-facilitated event. It is wildly unethical and his judgment of what services are appropriate to offer clients as a mental health provider may be seriously off. If you are in the US you can google “[state name] [his credential] license file a complaint” and will most likely find it.

  44. Nom*

    I didn’t think past letters could be topped, but this is truly one of the wildest I’ve seen on this site.

  45. Swampwitch*

    Do yourself a favor, from someone who worked in mental health for years, if you have the therapist’s name you can find their license info. Report them to the state. That’s wildly irresponsible and unethical.

  46. Vio*

    I know it’s generally not good to guess what the company in a letter is, but this is definitely Elan Musk right?

  47. Brevity*

    This is admittedly not original, but apt: How does Bob change a light bulb? He holds it up into the socket and the world revolves around him.

    Maybe instead of having a good-bye party when you resign, have a Bob Party. Make a banner that says “BOB IS AWESOME”, get everyone T-shirts that say “WE LOVE BOB”, get a cake with the legend “Bob’s Happiness is Our Responsibility”, get a life-size cardboard Bob and make up a game where the winner (well, “winner”) kisses it, etc. You and your coworkers can make bets on whether or not he’ll get it; whoever wins splits the pot with you fifty-fifty, as your going-away gift.

  48. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — I’m late getting to this, so I hope you’re reading this far down.

    As I read your letter, I started to wonder about the long-term stability of your company. You say there are other people high up in the organization, but Bob is dominant. What happens if anything happens to Bob? If he makes himself ill/burns himself out/says “screw it” and goes somewhere to sit on a beach, what would happen to the firm?

    I don’t suggest that you need to run like the wind at this point, but Alison’s right, it wouldn’t hurt to update your resume and take a discreet look at what else is out there. Good luck, and please send us an update.

  49. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Bizarre.
    Normally a therapist can’t recommend much to directly improve work conditions, just help with coping techniques.
    Only a business owner has the power to change his work exactly as the therapist recommends. So the therapist has advised their client how to make his life better – by making the lives of his employees worse.

    I’d RUN as soon as you can find another job.
    You know the owner is totally self-centered and without constraints on his actions. What will that therapist will advise next to reduce his stress?

  50. Raida*

    I think Bob’s doing a good thing in being open and honest.
    I think he’s delivering it poorly – which is understandable because he’s made this very vulnerable situation for himself emotionally and any negative feelings on it he’s taking personally.

    Also I think his “coach” made a fatal mistake – the owner and the staff are different. You don’t tell staff they are *supposed* to care as much as the owner, or think about the poor, poor owner who has all the assets, higher base pay, etc.

    It’s an issue many owners run into – why don’t they all care and work hard? Don’t they know how important this all is?!
    The reality is – the staff have no buy-in. They have no shares, no profit sharing bonuses, they didn’t ideate the business, they didn’t put in their own money to build it, they didn’t spend three years getting it off the ground, they didn’t work 20 hr days with two jobs in the beginning – they do not and should not have the kind of emotional attachment to the business as an owner.

    The owner being stressed? Great, absolutely share that. Share how you want to trim your hours, share how you want to enjoy the fruits of your labours and spend time with your grandkids so you’re moving weekly meetings and shifting some tasks to a Director. Share how it’s not desirable to continue as-is so if the new approach isn’t working we’ll need to tweak it because otherwise I’m selling.

    But don’t suggest “you should work hard because poor Bob could use more support!” – very foolish

    1. Boof*

      Honestly I think even what you are saying is an overshare unless maybe it’s packaged a bit in a “Trying to model better worklife balance; and you should too!” type of message. The staff are not the boss’s friends, lifepartner, therapist, etc; they’re employees, they don’t need or, likely, want a front row seat to the boss’s emotions or private aspirations; it’s ok to give superficial personable levels of sharing, and things that relate to business and work environment, but 100% honesty “bring your whole self to work” isn’t really a good idea. You want to bring your best professional self to work and remember that having authority over folks doesn’t mean those folks should be an emotional dumping ground.

  51. Therapy Student*

    Hey, so as someone currently working on a master’s degree to become a therapist right now… OP, you need to report this therapist to his licensing board. He’s operating outside of his scope of practice and this is insanely unethical and inappropriate. If a client asked me to do this, I would shut it down so fast. I have NO IDEA why a therapist would agree to do this and I’m really troubled by this letter. This needs to be investigated because I’m willing to bet he’s done some other weird shady stuff. At the very least someone needs to sit down with him and tell him off, but if this isn’t a one-off he probably needs to have his license revoked.

  52. Dog momma*

    His PERSONAL THERAPIST?? A giant email followed by a 10 PAGE document?? Sounds like Bob has gone off the deep end. HIPPA violation by the therapist at the very least; report him. And how can you look him in the face every day..its beyond awkward and almost creepy imo.
    I don’t know what to do about your job, esp these days, guess I’d be looking… I’m just dumbfounded…

  53. Selena81*

    I clicked the link re therapists giving work-advice, and it hit pretty close to home.

    The reason I avoid therapy isn’t cost or an embarrassment about mental problems, but the fact that the most important thing *for me* at this stage of my life is to prove to myself I have value by holding down a job (i know there are a lot of problematic sentiments that can be attached to my choice of words), whereas all therapists I have worked with pressure me to make friends and not worry all that much about my job.

  54. Tobias Funke*

    Late to the party, but I am a therapist and I have declined to do less weird, less inappropriate things than this because of their weirdness and inappropriateness. This is beyond the pale (and yet not totally surprising).

  55. MCMonkeyBean*

    This is very, very, VERY weird. But if you have no issue with the restructure itself and just with the extremely weird meeting, and you have otherwise been happy at the job, I don’t think I’d jump ship unless you see signs that the weirdness was definitely not a one-off poor judgment call.

    For what it’s worth, I read the headline and thought every employee was to have their own individual therapy session with the boss’ therapist so while this 3 hour meeting was wildly out of line and very odd, at least it wasn’t that…

  56. Meghan*

    This is one of the single most bonkers, off the wall, things I’ve ever read or heard about any company/manager.

  57. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    Good God. Bob has clearly lost his everlasting mind and you need to immediately seek other employment. This will not get better until he leaves/is committed somewhere/ or drops down dead, whichever comes first.

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