update: my coworkers want me to turn down my raise

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

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

Remember the letter-writer whose coworkers wanted them to turn down their raise? Here’s the update.

Thanks so much for your advice and the help from the commenters. I wouldn’t have previously considered my workplace toxic but it was helpful to learn that many people saw it differently. Honestly, Mo is great at the job we do, she’s highly regarded in our field, and she was a wonderful mentor to me when I started, but she just isn’t a good manager (in a flustered, reactive way, not an evil genius as some suggested!). And my coworkers were great too, really supportive and kind and we’ve shared tears and laughter over many years. I used to love my job and would never have thought about leaving! It was hard for me to accept how drastic and widespread the changes to our culture had been, especially as it had really only been about 60 working days for me between the departure of the last manager and the letter I received.

A few people queried how the salaries of the four senior people who left were the same as a 50% raise for a part time employee. The managers who left took a lot of the clients with them, so the business did have a decline in revenue. If I left, it would have been even worse for the business as I was bringing in about twice what I cost. We also tried several times to hire people to do the management tasks that needed to be reallocated, but most people quit within a few weeks of being hired (and everyone but Mo could see why).

I swallowed my resentment, took your advice, and reached out to my coworkers. The letter was ridiculous but I can understand why they were angry and that I was an easy target for that anger. I let them know that I still wanted to support them and that I’d join them if they wanted to take a stand (against Mo). I explained how I had secured the raise from Mo, gave them the contact details of the lawyer who helped me with my new contract, and I suggested that the other people who had been given access to the payroll and accounting info do the maths themselves. The hostility towards me seemed to fade to indifference. Or so I thought.

Before all this mess, our annual company picnic had been organised for a few weeks after I received the letter. This had usually been a fun day of relaxed team bonding and I was hoping it would be a time to connect and move past the awkwardness. My family and I turned up at the park and…no one else did. Yep, 29 adults decided to ghost me and have their picnic elsewhere. I went home, cried, and ate the pan of brownies I had made to share.

Once I stopped feeling sick from brownie overdose, I realised that my colleagues had done me a favor. I was no longer torn by ideas of loyalty, fairness and doing the right thing. So I stayed at the job while I got my freelance business started and I kept things as civil and professional as I could muster.

After a month I resigned, calmly and without the “screw you all!!” I wanted to say. My own business has been going well so far and I’m earning close to what I was earning before the management change. I wish I could say that I’m glad I took the high road and things are working out for me and I’m happy, but I miss the company that I loved for many years and I’m still grieving.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

      1. Bruneschelli*

        To give 6th grade girls credit, at least 3 out of the 29 of them would have broken ranks and told an adult (source- was one, and did so back in the day). I am so sorry that there were no adults to protect the OP. What a crappy hateful undeserved pile-on. Ugh!

        1. edda ed*

          It might, it might not. Sometimes what you’re grieving is the friendship that ended due to betrayal. Knowing your former friend is an ass probably helps a lot with accepting that the friendship truly is over, though.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        And that just reinforces Alison’s frequent warnings about the tendency of a toxic workplace to warp the values, perspective and even common sense of employees who stay there too long! In this case, once-friendly people started acting like middle-school bullies and were manipulated into blaming the OP for THEIR lack of raises and excessive work assignments. This does NOT absolve these individuals of their responsibility to behave like adults – nothing can do that – but it does explain how they reached the point that the OP describes.

        OP, as I’m sure you know, you need to give yourself time to mourn and grieve for the loss of your once friendly colleagues, then begin to accept that they are no longer the people you once knew and have turned into individuals who, if you met them for the first time today, would NOT be people you’d WANT to befriend. Eventually, with perspective, you’ll very likely reach a point of quietly sad acceptance, put this behind you as something that you’ll always remember but is no longer in the forefront of your mind or your life. If you do reach that point, they will have ceased to have power over your present or your future – a very desirable state for you.

        1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*


          Divide and conquer is a classic evil manager technique, and it worked very well here.

      1. Jojo77*

        What might be most interesting is that Mo apparently joined in the picnic antics, which heavily implies that someone else looped them in to what everyone else was planning.

        As much as it sucked to find out like this, LW is absolutely better off without any of these people in their life. What do you want to bet, without LW using up “all the extra money for raises,” the rest of the team still hasn’t seen any pay increases?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Or Mo planned them from the get go. Sounds like cutting the LW off in order to retain the toxic loyalty of the rest of the office.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Someone else down below suggested just one person changing and emailing out info to a changed location; what if that person was Mo or Mo’s assistant (if they had one)?

          1. darsynia*

            Some email nonsense along that vein happened for my husband recently as he’d requested information from our high school, CCing me and a couple of staff. One of the staffers didn’t recognize my name/didn’t realize he and I shared a last name, and when they responded, they removed him from the email list! They said, ‘Hey ladies, how do I respond to this?’ with some stuff they would *not* have said if they knew his wife was in the email chain.

            One thing’s for sure, there’s no way that wasn’t deliberate (his removal), and there’s no way that the that LW’s coworkers ALL decided not to show up without it being a concerted effort. My money’s on an email, because specifically calling everyone is way more work, when an email would suffice. I’d love to know WTF that email said (or, if I’m wrong, what on Earth was said on those phone calls)!

            1. Blarg*

              I had this happen once, when I cc’d my personal email in a message to my bosses. I did this openly, because I was part time and in school, and this was when you only checked work email when physically at work. Boss replied all, took my work email off the email chain, but missed I ‘d cc’d myself. And said “either she deals with [the issue I was raising] or she quits.” Was helpful to know that’s how she felt. I did end up leaving, but got to do so on my terms. I don’t think boss or anyone ever realized I was even on that email.

            2. Mister_L*

              Thanks to this site if follow a simple rule when it comes to work e-mail.
              Can’t remember if I literally read it here or just paraphrased it based on advice.

              “Always write e-mails as if you had to read them out loud in front of a court, because some day you might have to.”

          2. darsynia*

            Some email nonsense along that vein happened for my husband recently as he’d requested information from our high school, CCing me and a couple of staff. One of the staffers didn’t recognize my name/didn’t realize he and I shared a last name, and when they responded, they removed him from the email list! They said, ‘Hey ladies, how do I respond to this?’ with some stuff they would *not* have said if they knew his wife was in the email chain.

            One thing’s for sure, there’s no way that wasn’t deliberate (his removal), and there’s no way that the that LW’s coworkers ALL decided not to show up without it being a concerted effort. My money’s on an email, because specifically calling everyone is way more work, when an email would suffice. I’d love to know WTF that email said (or, if I’m wrong, what on Earth was said on those phone calls)!

            (note: I thought I hit enter, didn’t get a ‘moderated comments’ notif or anything, but nothing showed up! So if this gets double posted I’m sorry!

            1. 2 Cents*

              I just want to know what level of petty these high school ladies reached for them to be gossiping about your husband like this. Some people have waaaayyyy too much time on their hands.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s also possible 1 person did that —rescheduled it and left her off the notification list. The others might have been told she decided not to come. But we will never know.

        1. Candi*

          “Before all this mess, our annual company picnic had been organised for a few weeks after I received the letter.”

          It sounds like it was set in effective stone before all this went down. So either no one questioned why it was being rescheduled at essentially the last minute, which I will not buy, or it was a group agreement even if the plot began with one person.

          What a bunch of brats.

    1. lovehater*

      We have a worst boss of 2023, but we need worst co-workers. That takes coordination and planning. Really awful to do to someone.

      1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

        What a perfect comment. Not only is it true, but it also works as a bit of workplace Jacques Cousteau narration.

  1. Rainsomg*

    Your co-workers should be ashamed of themselves. I know it’s hard to not take it personally, but please don’t- it says way more about them than it does about you.

    I’m glad you are out of that environment

    Lot’s of virtual hugs & good energy!

    1. Bringerofbrownies*

      In a really unfair and unacceptable way, I do understand that for them it’s probably easier to blame LW than it is to admit the workplace and manager suck. After all, they’re going to have to continue to go there 5 days a week 8 hours a day, and if it’s in a smaller city or town there are few options for leaving and finding another job. Better to “remain ignorant” (even willfully) than admit you want to leave and then do the hard work of doing so. Some people value comfort, no matter how abysmal is it, to the fear of the unknown.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Oh yeah, the group mentality means they can see themselves as noble and to blame the LW for taking more than her “fair share”.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Crabs in a bucket. And now they get to do OP’s tasks, too. And still no raise. And guess what, nobody will be able to get a raise, advocate for him/herself, or face the wrath of the Crab Consortium.
          It’s the plot of Mad Max: Fury Road.
          Immortal Joe controls the water.
          Instead of fighting him for it, they fight each other for the muddy splashes he gives them.
          Furiosa: we don’t have to live like this.
          People: Shun the Disruptor!

    2. Tio*

      I would absolutely love to see how many “raises” manifested after OP left. I bet none. I wonder if they gave them an in-house victim to blame or if they blamed OP after she left and now they have no one to ghost at parties.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Well, given that OP said they brought in double what they cost (unclear if that was pre or post raise)……..
        Predicting no raises as loosing OP lost the company even more incoming funds.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Oh definitely no raises, but I wish I were a fly on the wall to see how Mo ends up passing the blame for the lost revenue, and I assume the splitting of OP’s job duties among everyone.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        According to OP who is being given information from Mo.
        I think there is just as much chance money problems statement is a lie/power tactic. But it doesn’t matter.
        The people who stayed believe it, because their whole professional life view is based on it.
        OP got money because she “stole” it from the company and from them. So yeah, now they have OP’s work tasks too. But there is no money, because there cannot be money, because then they would be wrong. And when does group think/mob mentality ever land on “oh, crap, never mind.”

        1. Candi*

          “And when does group think/mob mentality ever land on “oh, crap, never mind.”

          Only when it’s applied with a sledgehammer AND the mob has something to lose, right now. And the sledgehammer has to be applied via Summon Bigger Fish.

      3. Hot Flash Gordon*

        I would normally never wish that people lose their jobs, but I hope this business folds and all those brats have to face the fun of job searching.

  2. Hills to Die on*

    Wow – I am sorry this happened to you. I hope it makes space for better people and real friends to come into your life. You did a great job at how you handled it and I wish all good things for you.

  3. No name just shook*

    “My family and I turned up at the park and…no one else did. Yep, 29 adults decided to ghost me and have their picnic elsewhere. I went home, cried, and ate the pan of brownies I had made to share.”

    This is why I have trust issues.

    In the meantime, I hope they were the Dolly Parton Mix brownies… if you are going to eat a pan, eat a pan of GOOD brownies.

    They didn’t deserve your brownies anyway

    1. Nia*

      I’m trying to imagine one of the coworkers telling me the picnic story and being all proud of it. How do you even get that detached from reality? And even once you were, where are all their friends and family telling them not to do it because of how bananapants it is?

      1. Violin squeaks*

        For sure, this. A girl tried to do this to me in high school for the group meal before a dance. People with morals told me about it.

        1. IAAL*

          I had a friend TELL me that she and another friend were planning a surprise party for my birthday. The day of the supposed party comes around, she calls me to say that it had to be cancelled, and the next day I learned that everyone who would have been at the party…had a party without me.

            1. IAAL*

              Believe it or not, that wasn’t the worst thing that happened that weekend! And I had serious trust issues before then. So… no? But don’t worry; this is already a big topic of conversation with my therapist!

      2. Expelliarmus*

        The part of me that is grasping at straws to not consider these people as monsters can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t so much a conscious group effort but the case of people individually deciding not to go because they didn’t want to see OP and be reminded of her raise (not that it’s okay of course, but sometimes people have their resentments), and everyone else just happened to have the same idea.

        Again, not saying what happened was okay, but I feel like even here we get letters about people being like “I don’t want to see this person because they remind me of something that upsets me (like the OP whose coworker slept with her partner or the OP who didn’t want to see her boss at her sendoff party)”

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          All 29? that is giving too much grace to people who don’t deserve it. Remember before this they all signed a letter to OP telling her to give up her raise. That was voluntary and coordinated. It is not a stretch to believe the picnic thing was also.

          OP gave them a chance at coordinated action when the tasks were being redistributed. They refused. Then got mad at OP.

        2. mlem*

          Yeah, I’m left confused — was there definitely a picnic held elsewhere? Did the coworkers *admit* to this? How would that conversation even have gone?? (I can envision other scenarios but want to be careful about “comment fanfic”.)

          1. Sloanicota*

            I almost wondered if it was some kind of mistake because it seemed to weird (and also because where was Mo?).

          2. OP*

            There was definitely a picnic elsewhere. My guess is that the handful of people who organized the picnic came up with the ghosting plan and just sent a change-of-location email to everyone but me, and others didn’t realise I wasn’t told. I saw several “Thanks for organising, it was great!” emails afterwards.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Thanks for explaining. This makes sense, and is resoundingly awful :(

              I’m glad you’re no longer there, and that your freelance business is going well! Grief is tough, and it makes sense to me that you miss the good times you had at the company, from before everything went sour.

            2. Enai*

              Wow. I realise I’m late in this, but it can’t be said enough: you’re better off away from that toxic place. What jerks these organisers are.

            3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              That’s actually what I assumed when I read it. I kind of assumed it was 1 or 2 people who realized they had the power to make it look like every person at the office hates the OP enough to do this. 29 people is too many to feel confident that you could tell each of them of this ghosting plan and no one would let it slip to the OP. Not even someone trying to be a good person, just someone who likes to be at the center of drama. Think: “omg OP, I totally shouldn’t tell you this, Co-Worker 1 and 2 would be soooo upset at me, but Co-Worker 1 and 2 decided to move the picnic and not tell you. And I just felt you should know how much they hate you. Aren’t they terrible? Aren’t you soooo mad at them?”

              But you COULD rely on most people to believe that things were so awkward between OP and other coworkers that the OP decided not to come at the last minute. And “Oops! Looks like there was a typo in OP’s email on the location change. I am soooo sorry. Obviously it soooo wasn’t on purpose.” gives the culprits deniability if their actions were uncovered.

      3. Ama*

        Yeah I think if I were hired to replace OP and found out they did this to her I would be reopening my job search.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          True that. I mean, the update says that they’ve struggled to find and keep new staff. Although Mo’s mismanagement is probably a big part of that, it’s very possible that “oh, you’re all made of bees” is a contributing factor.

      4. Rebekah*

        It’s so mean I almost wonder if one person changed the picnic place and quietly left OP off the group email, and then everyone else just assumed OP decided not to show up. One person being a piece of work seems a little less likely than 29.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          That’s a reasonable hypothesis. Or even a couple of them got together to do this and most were unaware.
          But hey, they could all be a-holes.

          1. Budgie Buddy*

            What is consistent across all scenarios is that absolutely no one was in OP’s corner at that workplace ever. Indifference often amounts to the same result as malice.

              1. Dinwar*

                Ultimately it doesn’t matter, though. Either through malice, mistakes, or apathy they have created an environment that 1) is hemorrhaging major players, 2) cannot keep new staff, and 3) has completely shut down inter-staff communication (seriously, not ONE PERSON could contact the LW??).

                At that point it’s perfectly fair to stop caring about who feels what. You’ve been pushed so far out of the group that your political capital here is negative. Best option is to cut and run.

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Betting it was organized – and the other coworkers just told family that “oh, don’t know why but the location was changed.” I’m not going to think the families are evil for not telling OP about a change in location for an event for third Spouse’s Job.

        The other coworkers are all the worst though, and now we have another reason why the other owners left.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          The family members are not involved and probably barely registered the change in venue.

          This makes more sense as only one or two people orchestrating this by changing the venue and everyone else not realizing one person was left off the invite. 29 people so immature to agree to ghosting a coworker (and no one breaking ranks to warn her) seems less likely to me than one or two even though the power of the group can be strong.

    2. Eulerian*

      Yeah this gave me flashbacks to multiple (!) incidents and cliques from my schooldays.

      So sorry, OP, it feels horrible I know. I’m glad it’s going well for you and hope you find your feet soon or some colleages / networks to replace some of the feeling / camaraderie / purpose you’ve lost.

      1. Bringerofbrownies*

        It’s truly an amazing realization I only came to in my 30’s that there are grown adults who still act like they’re in middle school.

        1. MtnLaurel*

          yes, that answered my question to whatever became of the bullies when they grew up. They became adult bullies.

    3. lovehater*

      100%. I would be totally normal but smile in a cheshire cat way to keep them slightly unnerved and off kilter, waiting for me to act. Trust has been broken. Let them be paranoid…did she mess with the coffee creamer? Did she replace all my pen ink cartridges with empty ones so that none of my pens work all at once?

    4. Moths*

      Oh my gosh, yes on the Dolly Parton brownie mix! I discovered that a few months ago and it’s become my go to, over the Ghiradelli’s that I used to use. I picked up some of the sweet cornbread mix now and am looking forward to trying that too.

  4. Ashley*

    I’m curious if it’s clear that the other employees didn’t come because they were lashing out at OP or because they were upset with the company and their own circunstances. If it was an event for during off hours, I also probably wouldn’t spend my free time at a company event if I felt the company and boss had been unfair to me (ESPECIALLY if a sticking point is that I’m spending more time on work than I think fair already).

    1. Ashley*

      (to be fair, it was unclear to me when reading if the implication is that they all just went elsewhere rather than do a company event or if they literally planned their own event elsewhere. If the latter, obviously an act focused on being petty).

      1. Sindirella*

        It doesn’t matter if they all just went elsewhere rather than do a company event or if they literally planned their own event elsewhere. Either way, they didn’t include the LW. Either way it was a targeted act against one person. There is no other way to interpret the implications here.

        1. Alice*

          “Either way it was a targeted act against one person” — I mean, all it takes is one unhinged party organizer telling everyone-except-OP, “hey, last-minute date/location change because of a park permit issue, meet at this time/place instead.” That would be targeted bullying, but not coordinated bullying.
          I’m also wondering why Mo the owner didn’t show up at the planned time and date for the annual company picnic, along with OP. Did Mo get invited to the new picnic? Or did Mo just not show up? I think that annual picnics are optional for employees but for the owner I think they really have to come in the circumstances.
          Anyway, what a nightmare OP, I’m glad you are working elsewhere now.

        2. Hohumdrum*

          Wait, *is* it? It sounds like everyone just decided not to go, I don’t understand how that’s a commentary on OP unless it was a picnic for OP or primarily organized by her? It’s not clear anyone excluded her on purpose, or that she factored into anyone’s decision not to go at all. The company is not that big, it’s not impossible everyone just decided not to go on their own, or everyone assumed everyone else had heard through the grapevine they weren’t going- that’s the kind of stuff that’s very easy to slip through the cracks, especially as OP isn’t there every day. I wonder if OP accidentally left something out that clarifies what made her think the not coming to the picnic was intended as direct cruelty towards her.

          1. Andromeda*

            OP mentions elsewhere in comments that she saw “thanks for organising” emails after the fact, so some kind of work-related event did happen without her.

    2. The Terrible Tom*

      Sure, but a 29-strong united front that leaves out LW…it really doesn’t seem that plausible that happened by accident after the LW attempted to help them.

      1. Hohumdrum*

        Oh see I think that’s very plausible actually. If a big group of people are deciding in smaller conversations “you know what? You’re right forget the party, maybe I won’t go either” and LW isn’t there every day that seems highly likely she would unintentionally be left out that way. It’s happened to me before.

        I’m curious if LW left something out that clarifies how she knew it was meant as a direct cruelty towards her specifically, and not just a general FU to the company.

        1. OP*

          To clarify, they all went to a picnic together on the scheduled day, just at a different location to the one I had been told. There was a “Thanks for organising, it was great!” email trail that went around afterwards.

          1. Hohumdrum*

            Ahh I see yes, that’s absolutely a targeted kick in the teeth then! Glad you got away from that environment.

  5. Momma Bear*

    The picnic thing…wow. I’m practically speechless.

    I’m glad you’re doing better OP. They took resentment to a whole new level.

    It’s OK to grieve what you had back then but unfortunately it sounds like it was long gone before you quit. Try to look at it as an era that was over and when you needed to do right by you, you moved on.

  6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Heavens. You are well out of it.

    Mo might have been a mentor once to you, but when she threw you under the bus to your coworkers, all goodwill ended.

    I know you miss your old company, but your old company doesn’t exist anymore, What remains is Mo’s fiefdom filled with toddlers.

    Best of luck to your own endeavors.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      “What remains is Mo’s fiefdom filled with toddlers”

      Okay – that’s too funny (but from the description) also too true a description of that bunch.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh toddlers on their own or in a really small group are really kind and empathetic. But I can say as a former preschool teacher, you get a charismatic kid with not a lot of scruples in that group of toddlers and they can go all Lord of the Flies in a heartbeat.

        2. Double A*

          My toddler is ruder, but it’s to your face and tends to involves things like stealing the food you were literally putting in your mouth, licking it, and then throwing it on the floor.

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      “What remains is Mo’s fiefdom filled with toddlers.”

      This phrase is a winner! Please accept one pan of Dolly Parton brownies as your award.

    1. Hermione Danger*

      I read your comment as “What in the double-fried fuckfire…” and I am HERE for that descriptor.

  7. Dinoweeds*

    As the lovely Michelle Obama says, “When they go low, we go high.” Cheers to you for taking the high road and getting yourself out of there. I’m sorry that things went the way they did, but you deserve so much better. Sending you internet hugs if you want them.

  8. Heart&Vine*

    So… these people did not feel emboldened to rally against the person directly causing them misery but were happy to rally against the one person who had the moxie to stand up for herself? Yikes. I guess it’s easier to create a scapegoat than take initiative.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      OP didn’t have the power to fire them. So they rallied against the safest person.

      Laughs on them because I wonder how much business was lost when OP left.

      1. Observer*

        Laughs on them because I wonder how much business was lost when OP left.

        Laugh is also on them, because the way things are gong, these people are going to find themselves with even MORE unpaid work, culminating in being out of a job. And I would be far from shocked if they didn’t have a hard time with getting unemployment, and possibly even their taxes because all of this stuff is being handled by amateurs who have no idea what they are doing under a boss that thinks that cutting costs illegally (thus possibly not remitting income taxes, not paying unemployment taxers, or not filing tax paperwork properly) is a smart way to manage.

        OP, the one thing I would do it check and make sure that your payroll taxes have been properly withheld, reported and remitted. You don’t want to be the one tangling with the IRS, if it comes to that.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “Laugh is also on them, because the way things are gong, these people are going to find themselves with even MORE unpaid work, culminating in being out of a job.”

          Oh, I’m sure they’ll just blame OP for having the temerity to leave them with all that extra work she used to do.

          Awful people gonna find ways to keep being awful.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, I’m sure they’ll just blame OP for having the temerity to leave them with all that extra work she used to do.

            They will still be out of a job.

            Although one would hope that reality would shock them back into some semblance of reasonable behavior.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And since they’re already having trouble finding and keeping new staff to take on the work, they’ve basically just all landed themselves with the OP’s work on top of everything they’re already expected to do. And I would bet that raises either didn’t materialize after OP left or were very small.

        [insert You Played Yourself gif]

    2. JaneDough(not)*

      Keep in mind that taking action against the person who created their misery (boss) could have resulted in layoffs / firings — and no one wants to risk that. So it’s safer to be angry with someone else.

      This, though lamentable, is very human. (I don’t condone it, I’m just explaining it.) It’s akin to a person whose spouse has strayed being angrier with the affair-person than with the spouse; after all, the cheated-on person loved the spouse for a long time and invested a lot in the marriage. Far too painful to accept “I wasted a lot of time, energy, and emotion on someone who wasn’t worthy of it / who didn’t care nearly as much about me”; far easier to direct all or most of the rage and pain at the affair-person.

    3. Dinwar*

      That’s the insidious thing about toxic environments. They shift norms. Normally on this blog this comes out as “Is this normal?” type questions, but what you’re talking about is another–far worse–example.

      People are astonishingly adaptable. We can get used to anything. And we’re tribal. Once we get used to it, we start considering deviations to be inherently wrong. After all, this is how Us does things. Them does things differently. And Them is inherently bad. You’re not bad, right? So you do things the way Us does things. If your norms shift far enough, you can easily find yourself in a situation where you become angry at the person who’s trying to fix the toxic environment, merely because you identify as a member of the group.

      You can see this tendency in yourself sometimes. Whenever a new policy comes out the initial reaction is “Ugh, why do this? Everything was fine!!” type frustration–even if we acknowledge that the new way is better. Most of the time this is fine, it’s a normal human reaction, but when it happens in a toxic environment even good people will start to act to preserve the toxicity.

      That’s one reason to leave toxic environment quickly: So you don’t become infected.

  9. Critical Rolls*

    That’s… I just… yikes. I thought these people were unreasonable before, but they are so! much! worse! than that. I’d call the behavior childish, but I think my preschooler would object. These are the people who keep American late-stage capitalism ticking merrily along, with an extra twist of cruelty that would make Regina George gasp.

    I respect your grief, and you’re seeing it correctly. The iteration of this company that you liked is fully and completely gone.

    1. AGD*

      I really feel for you, OP. My first five years at a previous workplace were wonderful, and then my next five years were not and when I was the only person to point out that things were getting unnecessarily negative and punitive, I got thrown under the bus. I left, and I’m still trying to make sense of how those could have been the same place with mostly the same people.

  10. Observer*

    I can see why you are grieving. That’s some load of toxicity. But, you are right – the behavior was so bizarre that it’s given you the gift of clarity.

    I’m glad your business is doing well. And I’m glad that you left with your dignity intact.

    Lastly, I think it would be really helpful to you to get the same clarity about Mo as you have about the rest of your coworkers. She may not be an evil genius, but she is *not* a good person. And I actually doubt that she is *that* great of a mentor. It’s not just that she’s an incompetent manager who is disorganized and inappropriately reactive. And you really need to think clearly about what you can take of her advice.

    Keep in mind that in this saga she showed willingness to exploit and manipulate people and to do illegal things. She also flat out lied. And she’s also apparently totally incapable of any level of self-reflection and unwilling to ever change her behavior. How do you trust someone like that?

    If you have to work with her in the future, be very careful and take precautions. There is a reason that the other owners were able to take their clients with them.

    1. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      Plus 1000 to this comment, OP. Especially this part:

      Keep in mind that in this saga she showed willingness to exploit and manipulate people and to do illegal things. She also flat out lied. And she’s also apparently totally incapable of any level of self-reflection and unwilling to ever change her behavior. How do you trust someone like that?

      I’m sorry this happened to you, OP. You didn’t deserve any of that happening to you. I’m glad your own business has been growing and doing well, but I’d also be mourning if I were in your shoes. I hope it gets easier soon.

  11. Veryanon*

    What the actual f***? Oh, LW, I’m so glad you’re out of there. Words actually fail me; I can’t believe your former coworkers did that. No one deserves that treatment!

  12. Salsa Your Face*

    Now that OP has left, I wonder if any of their raise money has actually been reallocated to the rest of the company? My guess is no, and that Mo has come up with some other excuse to avoid increasing compensation.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      LOL. Of course not. Mo definitely found another excuse. The only difference is that the coworkers have no one to turn against now.

    2. Lilo*

      OP said they brought in twice their salary, so my guess is the remaining employees maybe even got a paycut. Sounds like this place is in a death spiral.

  13. Ellie Rose*

    you’ve shown several now that you have solid morals and will stand up for yourself AND reach out to help others. You have handled yourself so well; it’s admirable.

    honestly, I think they’re cowards and resent you for *not* being one too. they want to punish you for not capitulating to their (unreasonable) demands because you’re a safer, easier target than their boss.

    I’m so sorry that your exit from this company you used to be happy at was so fraught. it was not your fault at all.

    1. Elle*

      “ I think they’re cowards and resent you for not being one too”

      I think you hit the nail on the head here.

  14. Ellis Bell*

    There’s no way they turned into such raging arseholes in just the past few months, all of a sudden. Their arseholish tendencies were always right there under a thin veneer of civility and self interest, just waiting for the right circumstances to set them free.

    1. JaneDough(not)*

      Respectfully disagreeing. Major stress and unfairness can bring out the worst in a person — and each one of us has bad qualities as well as good.

      Mo really pushed their buttons by upping the workload and by being a jerk with regard to the raises. Work = survival; anyone who interferes with a person’s survival is going to activate the worst parts of that person’s psyche (the anxiety, fear, aggression, etc.).

      In no way am I defending the childishness and hostility of the picnic fiasco — but I do think these colleagues weren’t more bad than good, and that we’re seeing them at their worst, when their survival was threatened.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I wouldn’t say that they weren’t more bad than good, either actually. I can’t think of anyone I would accuse of that! In fact that’s exactly what makes this type of behavior so hard to predict; the idea that you can be this ridiculous and unfair when under stress is easy to hide under some good traits. All it takes is the absence of a crisis.

        1. JaneDough(not)*

          I think that each one of us is capable of rotten behavior — behavior that would surprise those who know us best, and surprise ourselves — under the right stressor. Not one of us is built to withstand the heaviest weight — and job-career-salary-survival is a pretty heavy one.

          So, again, not condoning the picnic fiasco but arguing very strongly that these people were probably no different from any other mostly decent group of mostly decent colleagues. In other words, each one’s quantity of hidden-arsehole-ness is probably average. I think that’s where I disagree (respectfully) with you; I’m thinking that I might be older than you and therefore I might have experienced more bad behavior than you (I don’t mean that condescendingly — just a fact that a longer time on Earth has the potential to expose us to more of everything).

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I wonder at your assumption there! Well, to answer it: I have worked in a number of unionized workplaces over the past twenty seven years, which isn’t the longest amount of experience a worker can have, but it isn’t a short “time on earth” either. The work was sometimes extremely exploitative and managers made Mo’s approach look tame, but the idea of throwing one of our colleagues under a bus would have been considered horrifying by people who made less than minimum wage (this was before a minimum wage was introduced in the UK). So it’s probably not the length of my experience that makes my opinion differ, but the types of people I have experience with.

          2. Andromeda*

            …I don’t think you mean it that way, but do be aware that last comment may come off as very condescending regardless. It definitely got my back up instinctively (just as a comment — not making any assumptions about you as a person).

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Maybe so, but there are also people who are generally selfish and unpleasant, but the environmental/societal pressures make them keep that in check because they know it will harm them. When those pressures relax or disappear, those people feel comfortable letting their jerk flag fly. (See: racists who know when to refrain from racist comments.)

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed and I’m betting the other owners spent an enormous amount of time being the adults in the room – until they burned out from the extra energy expenditures and left for greener pastures.

      OP did well to follow with her dignity and reputation intact instead of riding the sinking ship all the way down.

  15. Lilo*

    Sounds like Mo was a horrible business owner. You don’t alienate the people who bring in the revenue, there’s just no way that makes any sense. I’m glad OP recognized their own worth and got out. I would expect that business to close soon.

  16. Falling Diphthong*

    Our ability to quickly adapt to any set of social norms as just how things are, they all do this, etc, really is astonishing.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Sometimes it’s like being put in a pot of water. The heat goes up so gradually and you don’t notice until suddenly you’re boiling.

  17. Lacey*

    That’s wild. I remember once a coworker negotiated for way more starting vacation time than the rest of us got. We didn’t resent her – we just wished we’d thought of it!

    And in this case – they should have been kicking themselves for not joining you when you asked. Not mad at you for succeeding!

    I’m glad freelancing is going well though and I hope it just keeps getting better.

  18. Coffee Protein Drink*

    I am flabbergasted that adults would do such a thing and Mo…telling people someone took all he raise budget? That’s on her, not you, LW. None of that BS should ever have happened.

    So very glad you are out of there and may your freelancing continue to succeed!

  19. Florp*

    OP, I now harbor a secret fantasy that your freelance career goes so well you buy your former company for a bargain basement price, come back as everyone’s boss, and freak them out completely by being a consummate professional and excellent manager.

  20. OrigCassandra*

    Hey, OP. I just wanted to say that I have also grieved for workplaces that were in hindsight pretty awful. I don’t know how common that is; I do know it does happen, especially when the circumstances around leaving were not the greatest.

    I hope the grief lifts. For me, writing it out — forming and telling the story — was helpful in moving me onward.

  21. Lainey L. L-C*

    I’m so confused about the company picnic thing. I would assume the boss (M0) would come if its a company picnic, so why didn’t she? Did OP organize this picnic? How would they all know that OP is going?

    1. Cheap ass rolling with it*

      OP states in an earlier comment: They moved the picnic location without telling her.

  22. Lola Bananapants*

    I am glad you got all the brownies. THEY DO NOT DESERVE YOUR BROWNIES.

    I recently left a toxic workplace that was killing me. Even a year later, even though I am working at a good place now that treats me well, I am still grieving the things I loved about my old job, and still have survivor’s guilt over having left good people behind who have to deal with even more crap because I left. I completely understand where you are coming from, and just wanted to send you some empathy vibes.

    Congratulations on your new business – I hope you succeed at it beyond your wildest dreams!

  23. I Am On Email*

    OP they treated you awfully and I am so sorry you had to go through that. I hope we get another update in a years time about your business has continued and is thriving.

    The revenge fantasy part of me hopes that
    one or two of your old coworkers eventually reach out for career advice / references / networking recommendations and you can reject them (and mentally give them the middle finger).

      1. Observer*

        And they got your coworkers to make you quit, saving the extra they agreed to pay.

        Which proves that she is NOT a genius – the OP was bringing in double their salary. So losing them was not going to do the business any good.

        Penny wise and dollar foolish is a real thing, but not among people who are actually smart.

    1. Looper*

      Except it seems like they don’t have business? Cutting costs is all well and good assuming you have revenue coming in, but it seems like Mo is not competent/capable of bringing in work. Evil? Maybe. Genius? Not by a long shot. More like an opportunist willing to exploit.

      1. I Have RBF*

        IMO, you can’t really “cut costs” to profit if the “costs” you are cutting is people, again and again. Layoffs, the most drastic form of this, only appear to increase profit for one quarter. Then, as less work gets done and morale is in the tank, with more people leaving as they get burned out.

        Yes, sometimes you over-hire and need to trim a little, a small layoff and reorg, and maybe phase out a business unit and start a different one. But massive and repeated layoffs are a big sign that the company is circling the drain.

        IMO, I rarely see companies that have massive, > 10% layoffs even really get back to their feet without a complete change of management at the top, including the board. This is why I get pretty alarmed when I see big name companies gutting their workforces. Unless they manage to do a really successful pivot, which is really hard with a large company, they will probably spend the next ten years trying to cut their way to profit, and wonder why it doesn’t work. You need the people to make, sell and service the product. IP without people only has value in a bankruptcy proceeding, IMO.

  24. Looper*

    I’m so sorry that happened to you LW. It’s even sadder to think that all your old coworkers would rather debase themselves with juvenile behavior, and continue to be undervalued, underpaid, and exploited than listen to your very rational advice. Sadder yet is that if they don’t recoup the revenue you earned them along with all the other business they lost, all of them will be without jobs. It’s wild how much people will suffer through because taking a couple hours a week to update your resume and send out a few job applications is “too much”. I’m so glad you got out and your freelance work is gaining momentum, wishing you success, joy, and support in your work!

  25. Talk is cheap... please have exact change.*

    Wow. LW, I am so sorry you were treated that way. That’s truly awful. All the best to you as you’ve moved forward from that hot mess.

  26. Fluffy Fish*

    I so sorry you were treated so poorly. You’re coworker certainly decided that you were representative of the problem, not the company. Childish, misguided and frankly, mean.

    If it helps to depersonalize it, maybe reframe the picnic as people didn’t come to the company picnic rather than people came explicitly to avoid you.

    Glad you have moved on and are doing so well!

  27. Danish*

    Crabs in a bucket, all of them. Glad you got out, but I’m so sorry your time there ended on such a terrible note.

  28. That's Not How You Spell That*

    OP, sorry your coworkers (and Mo, who didn’t do anything to make things better for them) were horrible yet again with the picnic ghosting, especially after you tried to help them. I can’t even imagine how crappy that felt.
    I’m glad to hear your freelancing is going well.

  29. Typing All The Time*

    I’m so sorry, OP. If another colleague had gotten the raise, your coworkers may have done the same thing to them. Remember, they choose not to advocate with you and probably assumed that you’d be turned down for a raise.

  30. black cat lady*

    A year from now will there still be a business? Four managers left and took clients. OP left, and was responsible for bringing in client money. The business is left with Mo – inefficient manager, and a bunch of resentful, overworked employees with the emotional maturity of six-graders.

    OP let us know how the business is doing this time next year – both your freelance and former place of employment. Best of luck!

  31. Chria*

    Mo is the big villain of this story. First she drove away 4 other senior managers, who took a large portion of the business revenue, with her toxic behaviour. She then continued to facilitate (and even directly cause) an even more toxic environment, leaving to the loss of another significant portion of revenue. Mo self-destructive and the sad fact is she’s dragging all the other employees down with her. It’s really unfortunate.

    1. Charlotte*

      Agree — I’m still stuck on “Mo became the sole owner but did not want to pick up the extra management tasks, so decided to distribute these to existing employees without any change to our pay” from the original post. Including PAYROLL?? Bananas. Hard for me to understand why the co-workers thought that was reasonable in the first place.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, indeed.

      Forget about Mo being a good mentor, she’s obviously a horrible human. She’s the perfect example of how *not* to behave.

      It may be a bit radical, but I’d go so far as to say that one sign of a toxic employer for me is that the employees are friend-friends with each other and build cliques. Being emotionally attached to your coworkers is a bad thing in my book.

      Generally people become friend-friends with their coworkers for two toxic reasons, the first is bonding together against bad management and the second is being so overworked that you have neither the time nor the energy to build any other social relationships.

      Sure, sometimes employees become friends because they genuinely like each other and enjoy working together, but that only works for as long as they don’t start treating those coworkers who prefer a greater separation of work and life any differently. As soon as employees start treating others differently at work based on whether they’re friends outside of work or not, that’s a red flag for a potentially toxic workplace.

      Being less emotionally invested in a company means that it’s much easier to leave without guilt. An employment relationship is a business relationship, emotions shouldn’t enter into it, even if I realize that they often do.

  32. LuckyPurpleSocks*

    I’ve also grieved the leaving a not-so-great job and co-workers before, and for me I think I was dealing with some cognitive dissonance. The job was super stressful, didn’t pay well, and some of my coworkers weren’t nice people, but I was scared to look for a new job so I convinced myself that it wasn’t so bad. And when I did leave for a new job, which was so much better all around, I still felt sad and my brain would try to justify why I felt that way about a bad job: “It’s because it was actually a really great place and the people were so nice, right? Why else would I be so sad to leave? Right?!?” But when I worked through it I realized that I was sad that I had let myself stay in an unhealthy situation for so long, and that I had let myself down by being scared and a pushover (for me are much more uncomfortable feelings to go through).

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

    OP, I just wanted to say that you are allowed to grieve and that your grief is natural. It’s not for what you left, but for what you deserved but didn’t get. While we’re all super proud of you and validate that your situation was toxic and awful, that doesn’t mean it’s not also sad. You might know that, for me it took a reminder so I’m just passing the reminder along to you in case it might be helpful.

    We’re rooting for you.

  34. Taking the High Road*

    “Once I stopped feeling sick from brownie overdose, I realised that my colleagues had done me a favor. I was no longer torn by ideas of loyalty, fairness and doing the right thing. So I stayed at the job while I got my freelance business started and I kept things as civil and professional as I could muster.”

    This is the type of person you are. This is the type of person I want to be… despite the urges to “give them what they deserve”, you took the high road, and I believe you are better for it.

    You can grieve for what was, hope that eventually they’ll see themselves for who THEY are and become better people, and maybe even regret their behavior towards you and realize what a great person that they lost when you left.

  35. Happy Pineapple*

    I would have stuck around with my 50% raise out of pure SPITE for these unreasonable and childish people. Cutting your losses and starting your own business sounds like a much healthier coping strategy.

  36. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    I’m so sorry you had to deal with that pettiness and nastiness, OP. I totally get grieving. I do hope that the business suffered as did your ex-colleagues when you left!

  37. Sparkles McFadden*

    Oh, OP, I am so sorry that happened to you. I would send you multiple pans of brownies if I could!

    I know I’m just some internet stranger, but I really do admire how you handled all of this. You are a great example of how to advocate for yourself at work. You also tried to share that information with your coworkers, which is kind and generous. It’s also a great idea because when everyone in the workplace is armed with knowledge, the workplace is better for everyone…unless your coworkers prefer to buy into the whole management scapegoat plan because that’s easier.

    It’s so hard to be the lone person, but please don’t doubt yourself. You did everything right, so grieve for the loss of that job, but don’t second-guess yourself about any of it. I’ve been through a similar situation and can tell you this: Job grief lasts a lot longer than you would expect, so be patient with yourself as well. Good luck with your business, and I hope 2024 brings you peace and joy.

  38. Hedgehug*

    During a time in which people keep quitting, and everyone is pissed off about extra work for no extra pay, why on earth would the company think a picnic was a good idea? I wouldn’t have gone either, sorry.

  39. lyonite*

    Wow. I wanted an update on this one, but this is not the update I wanted. (Except that you got out of there!) Good for you, OP, and for the rest of them, may their sock always slide down and their underwear ride up.

  40. Lurker*

    I’m sure you already know this, but I just wanted to chime in and say that you are not at fault for this, and I’m sorry this happened to you. You did everything in your power to help them and if they choose to be disrespectful and exclusionary in return that’s on them, not you. Wishing you the best.

  41. Not your grandma*

    Evil bees with a hive mind? Awful people blaming the wrong person for their lack of courage to stand up to Mo. Or is Mo the leader of the Borg? Either way, OP, you’re so much better off without them. Live long and prosper!

  42. Selena*

    Soooo these fools were inventive and organized enough to re-plan the picnic without you and make sure you wouldn’t know, but not to advocate for a better work distribution and/or fair pay for themselves? Talk about wasted energy. I’m so sorry OP. Good riddance to those people and that place!

  43. Nethwen*

    OP, I’m glad your new venture is going well.

    Don’t be surprised by how long it might take to heal from the loss of your previous job and all the other things. Anecdotally, 4-6 weeks for every year you were there is normal. So, if you worked there for 10 years, it might take 10-12 months before you start to feel free of the place and even longer before it’s just a memory without significant emotional impact.

    This isn’t to discourage you; it’s more to help you not feel annoyed with yourself that you aren’t “moving on” quickly enough, if that might be the trend of your internal dialogue.

  44. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP I’m glad you’re out of there but I fail to see how you can still say Mo was great. I don’t see any qualities. She was no good working with the other owners who all left, she betrayed you and fed you to the wolves, she couldn’t keep any replacement staff. She was nice to you when you started but has obviously changed drastically since then.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this.

      Mo betrayed your trust, she’s a great example of how *not* to behave. LW, I hope that your business continues to do well. I hope that someday not too far in the future you’ll be able to look back on all this with some emotional detachment. Living well really is the best revenge.

  45. Amy*

    My heart absolutely broke at the picnic and I had to try not to cry at work. I’ve totally been there and it is beyond a horrible feeling. Sending you huge, never-ending hugs, OP!!
    Ugh. Now I have to go find some happy news to binge on.

  46. RVA Cat*

    Mo pitted her workforce against each other much like George Russell did on The Gilded Age. You shouldn’t take management lessons from robber barons, no matter how hot they are with a well-groomed beard.

    1. Observer*

      You shouldn’t take management lessons from robber barons, no matter how hot they are with a well-groomed beard.

      Yes! Totally this.

  47. Still looking for a good name . . .*

    Somewhere, OP mentioned that all these 30 people were part-time. So I guess that means probably all or mostly women – more likely to have another breadwinner in the family, less likely to leave as soon as they can find full time work (Sure, there might be some trust funds, pensions, etc. but still) That’s a group that tends to be very easy to exploit with regard to compensation. And that – in itself – can lead to skewed norms (like going after co-worker instead of ridiculous boss) and eventually, totally contaminate the environment. I mean, it’s just SO idiotic, that the OPS of 4 additional hours of pay/week could have been distributed among 30 and made any difference whatsoever! These people lack LOGIC, as well as guts and manners. But what I wonder is: what happened to the 4 partners that left? Did some of then quit/retire/leave the area? But OP said they took clients with them., so I would have thought that at least a couple would have formed a new firm – why wouldn’t they have welcomed OP to join that venture?

    1. OP*

      We were all part time because the work is very emotionally taxing – you couldn’t do it 5 days a week and not go crazy. The work is also very in-demand and it pays very well, so part time works.

      Two managers semi retired and the other two formed their own individual businesses so they didn’t have to do any of the management tasks they had come to hate.

  48. Emily*

    OP, thank you for the update. I do think Mo is the worst here because of how she handled everything, but your previous co-workers are pretty awful too. You were clearly the scapegoat for their frustrations even though you tried to help them, (and encouraged them to advocate with you in the first place, which they turned down!). It does sound like a very toxic work place, and I am glad you are out of it. It’s so sorry that your co-workers used you as a scapegoat instead of advocating for themselves to Mo, but blaming you is easier for them than putting in the work of dealing with Mo. Shame on them!

  49. Blarg*

    I am having a frustrating day at work, with a new review/merit increase system that went … ok but not as well as I’d have liked for my team. (Some interrater reliability issues).

    So while that will still be disappointing and I will still push back, it is a good reminder that my org could be like this, my boss could be Mo, my coworkers could be OP’s coworkers, and there would be NO raises.

    Sorry this was your experience, OP. I hope that your freelance work is fulfilling and as one of the other updates said earlier this week, your new boss is awesome. They make brownies for you! :)

  50. Overit*

    OP — I just wanted to say that I understand your sense of grief over losing relationships at work.
    When I became pregnant, I was not expecting anyone to throw me a parade, but I was expecting happy to neutral reactions from my coworkers, most of whom were women and (I thought) my friends. I won’t go into the details but my boss and coworkers treated me shamefully during my pregnancy (which was difficult medically). Women I thought were my friends — people I had supported — made my days difficult and actually caused me physical distress on one occasion.

    It took me a long time to grasp that part of my disconnection (and eventual departure) from that job was part of a grief process. To this day, I cannot think about my pregnancy without a twinge of anger and sadness over the loss of friendships. And I hope they all rot in hell.

  51. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

    OP – I empathize with the grief you are feeling. It kind of reminds me that after one of my grandmothers died I was not really grieving her (she was not a nice woman – she played favorites and made it *very* clear I wasn’t a grandchild she liked) but I was grieving the relationship I would have wanted with a grandmother.

    1. allathian*

      That reaction of grieving the relationship you wish you could’ve had is very common among abuse survivors, like my dad. I’m not sure how bad it was in general, but he was a sleepwalker and his mom tied his hands to the sides of his bed to stop him going walkabout in the night, and in the end he couldn’t fall asleep without his hands tied to his bed. This would definitely count as abuse today, I’m not so sure about the late 40s when corporal punishment was a common and accepted way to discipline kids (it’s been illegal here since the mid-80s).

      My paternal grandma was a great grandparent, though. I strongly suspect that he was at least a little bit envious of the good relationship my sister and I had with her, and I know for a fact that when she died, he mourned the relationship he wished he’d had at least as much as he mourned her death. He’s also told me that he mourned the death of his MIL more than he ever mourned the death of his mom, mainly because his relationship with his MIL was good and drama-free.

  52. Michelle Smith*

    I had to pick my jaw back up off the ground after reading this update. I am shocked and appalled at the way you were treated. I understand you are still grieving, but I’m very happy you landed on your feet and I’m so sorry you experienced such gross behavior from the people at this company.

Comments are closed.