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

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 coworker was putting fake mistakes in the writer’s work so the coworker could tell their boss the writer was bad at her job? Here’s the update.

I do have an update about my manager’s minion intentionally changing my work in order to make it look like I was making mistakes.

I replied back to my manager and cced Julia with a copy of my screenshot and framed it as “there must be an issue with our system because this is what it looked like after I finished it at 2 pm yesterday.” I then told them I would be sending the same email to the entire team and reaching out to IT to ensure everyone was aware to take screenshots and hopefully the issue could be fixed quickly.

Julia approached me after I sent out this communication and asked why I even thought to take screenshots in the first place. I replied that I had noticed a lot of the mistakes she was finding were things I knew I had done correctly so I wanted to see if there was possibly a glitch in the system. I’m sure she didn’t buy this but at least she knows she can’t get away with this behavior any longer now that everyone is taking screenshots.

IT did reply back to the concern and said according to their records, the last action on the record was mine and it wasn’t touched again until Julia updated it. In my brain, this is pretty clear evidence of what Julia is doing but to my manager, this just means the system is glitching and it looks different on Julia’s screen (insert eye roll here).

Julia has ended up getting a promotion on the team (again, eye roll) and I’m looking for a new position because this is clearly a toxic dynamic. Feedback has been provided to Cecilia’s director about her strange relationship with Julia from all of my coworkers and me but nothing has been done to separate them. The most we’ve seen is they’ve stopped posting photos together on social media but the favoritism is still obvious. I would think at the very least Julia would’ve been moved to a different team.

As for my coworkers, Julia has successfully alienated herself from the entire team. Everyone is friendly and professional towards her but she is definitely not getting happy hour invites and sits in Cecilia’s office at lunch. I’m sure she believes she is the victim but I can’t say that I feel the same.

Good luck to everyone out there looking for new positions! It’s rough out there – sending good vibes.

{ 142 comments… read them below }

  1. LatteGal*

    Was looking forward to this update! But such a bummer to hear Julia got reward for her bad behavior. I hope OP gets a better role!

    I always like to think that the Julia’s of the world may do well now but long term they won’t. Keep your head up!

    1. ferrina*

      Definitely appreciate this update! Unfortunately, it was exactly as I expected. OP handled this beautifully (looping in IT and alerting the rest of the team), but the boss bent over backward to protect the favorite, and upper management didn’t care.
      This sucks, and isn’t going to change. OP deserves better. Good luck to them in their job search!!

      1. mb*

        It’s entirely possible, given the clear friendship between Julia and the manager, and given the manager’s lack of professionalism and management skills, that the manager is even involved in the scheme to make the other employees look bad. I wouldn’t have said that before, but given this update it seems like they both knew what the jig was and it was a plan to get Julia promoted and potentially get rid of anyone they didn’t like.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          This sounds plausible. Oh everyone’s work is terrible and Julia has to spend soooo much time fixing it. She’s the only one qualified for this promotion. And the highers up have no clue. Or don’t care.

        2. another_scientist*

          but that would be so shortsighted of the manager! Once you get rid of the people who did solid work, you are left with Julia who seemingly can only make herself look smart by tearing down others? At some point, the team you manage will have zero productivity and you will get in trouble – how would the manager not see that outcome?

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            They don’t see that. They only see building their own little empire. And the people are competent enough that work will still get done. You don’t need rockstars for this to work, you need competent. Nothing says Julia is not competent at her job, just that she is supreme at sabotaging others to make herself look better.

            Also the higher ups seem to not care. New good people will come and leave, but the churn won’t matter as long as the work gets done.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              From the first letter, it sounds like Julia doesn’t actually do any job other than be BFFs with the manager and sabotage coworkers.

            2. Reluctant Mezzo*

              This isn’t always the case. In one office, I was let go but the daughter of the boss was kept. I knew who was actually doing the work. It was little surprise when the office closed down about a year later.

        3. Snow Globe*

          You know, that didn’t occur to me before, but now that I think about it, it seems to make sense! I don’t necessarily think the manager is planning on getting rid all of the other employees, but something that makes Julia look so much more competent than everyone else, so she can give Julia a promotion and raises? I can see it.

          1. ferrina*

            I had a boss do this to me. I was the clear front runner for a promotion, so several months before it came up my boss put me on a “not a PIP, just a place for feedback so you can improve”. It included only negative things- my boss refused to write anything positive because “that’s what I expect you to do”. It could be anything from “you sent an email on Thursday instead of Wednesday” to “Boss looked bad in a meeting where she didn’t have up-to-date information (which was readily available if she had gone to the file instead of making assumptions)”. Pure burn book.

            Well, Boss’s Golden Child got the promotion. Even though she didn’t actually have the required experience and had never led a project by herself (something that I was doing frequently). She didn’t have basic knowledge of industry terms, business strategies or management, but was put in charge of a revenue-generating department of 10 people. It worked for a little while when I did all her work for her, but once I left for greener pastures, it all fell apart.

      2. BellaStella*

        This is in line with what I was going to say. Brilliant work OP and good luck forgetting about this toxic dynamic soon.

      3. My Useless 2 Cents*

        I was unsure in the update how much upper management was really told. To me it sounds like the relationship/favoritism was brought up to upper management, which they decided to ignore. Not necessarily that Julia is falsifying records to look good and Cecilia is intentionally covering it up to protect her… here’s the proof.

        If it’s the first, the issue could be and often is written off by upper management as “personality conflict” and OP might continue to try and show upper management that this is more and really bad for the company. After 10 years with the company, is there anyone else with clout (that she has a good relationship with) that she could sit down with and talk the issue over and/or persuade to help?

        If it’s the second, there really isn’t anything to do but move along.

    2. HugeTractsofLand*

      Yeah, it’s satisfying to think what will happen to Julia if Celia ever leaves, since she’s managed to (rightfully) PO her whole department. To all the Julias out there: one person’s favor isn’t worth it!

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        So far it is. She gets promotions which mean more money and you know she isn’t actually doing higher level responsibilities because Celia probably protects her from that.

      2. Super Duper Anon*

        Honestly in the short term it won’t even be that satisfying if Celia leaves because Julia can either follow her or use her as a reference to get another job. It will bite both of them in the butt long term. The more people they step on on as they move around, the more of a chance those people will spread out as they get new jobs. All it takes is for one person to remember either how manipulative Julia was or what a bad manager Celia was to block them entry to a job down the road. Word spreads, people who you screw over can come back to haunt yo later.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      People like Julia always blow themselves up. Always. It just takes a long time. People who are able to get other jobs move away from the situation and don’t see the comeuppance, but it does happen.

      Plus the Julias of the world are always scheming and plotting rather than actually enjoying anything. You’d feel bad for them if it weren’t for the fact that they’ve damaged other people’s careers.

      1. Smithy*

        100% this.

        First of all – if that comeuppance is in 2 or 10 years, who wants to spend that much time in their own life waiting for that to happen? When they say the best revenge is a life lived well, genuinely a huge part of that is just not spending that much time waiting for the other shoe to drop.

        I will also add, I know someone who has gotten a lot of promotions they’re not truly qualified for and as a result has meant that they’ve often not invested in developing or keeping staff that would benefit them on their rise to the top. Because of that, with every new promotion – she has her “yes people” but not really talented people who she could have invested in along the way. And whether that’s out of insecurity or just a lack of sophistication, I’ve found joy in my life in not thinking about it.

        What I do know (from experience and then gossip from people still working with her), is that she works insane hours to meet job responsibilities of positions she’s not really prepared for. She’s not been the best person for these jobs in a while, and so she compensates by regularly working 80-hour weeks, having high anxiety, and living a constant crisis cycle. Sure, she’s getting promotions, but she’s living a life I certainly have no desire to have.

    4. Dina*

      >> I always like to think that the Julia’s of the world may do well now but long term they won’t.

      I once literally watched this happen from afar a year or so after I left a toxic workplace. It was ultimately very gratifying, although I didn’t appreciate the bad position it put my other colleagues in for that year or so.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Very clever of OP to rope in IT and CC all their coworkers. Two can play at the disingenuous game.

    1. Kay*

      What do you mean? OP was clearly concerned about a glitch, and IT is in charge of computer issues, isn’t it? /s But no really, with a boss this biased, the petty yet plausibly deniable response is the best option. As much as I love Allison’s usual straightforward conflict resolution style, I doubt that style would end well for OP in this situation.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I think it would be worth it for the OP to meet with the IT Manager and explain what is happening, and ask the IT Manager to highlight this to their chain of command.

      Objectively speaking, it’s a security issue, it’s bad for the business operations, it’s fraud, and it’s the head of IT’s business to make sure the company is protected.

      It may also have the effect of getting the head of IT to ask why the heck this behaviour is being tolerated in whatever functional area the OP works in – that might call some attention to the issues from another direction.

      1. Ellie*

        I think you overestimate how much power an IT manager has. Since Julia is being protected by her boss, it would be her boss’s boss that you’d have to go to. If they are a reasonably IT savvy person with a strong moral backbone then that would be worth doing. But otherwise, they’re not going to really understand what the IT manager is saying and will likely take the excuse of ‘gremlin in the system’ and go with it. The favouritism is much more blatant and easier to prove than the fraud is, and they’re not interested in pursuing that either.

        OP is doing the right thing by getting out as soon as possible.

        1. Em*

          Yeah, people loooove to call anything a bug and move on. I’m in IT and the amount of people who blame the tool/platform/program for glaringly obvious human error or intervention is laughable.

  3. Certaintroublemaker*

    “to my manager, this just means the system is glitching and it looks different on Julia’s screen (insert eye roll here). Julia has ended up getting a promotion on the team (again, eye roll)”

    I don’t know if my eyes would ever return! Yikes. Best of luck with finding a new and better job! (Or for Julia and her bestest buddy to leave.)

    1. Quill*

      Yeah, my eyes would be rolling down the hall, but having reread the letter? This is probably the best we could ask for – cutting off a bad performance review at the knees while OP looks for a job not filled with Julia’s and Celias.

    2. pally*

      If the system is glitching, and things look different on Julia’s screen…then all the more reason for folks to be taking screen shots.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I wish someone (other than OP, who has his/her part at this point) said, “weird, we better have IT look at her system. Let’s have a meeting tomorrow and and share screens so we and IT can all see what Julia is seeing.

      But really, why? The definition of insanity and all that.

      My friend is married to a Julia.

      His reality is the only reality. He is never wrong.

      He: Joe Jones from X TV show died yesterday.
      I: Really? That’s weird cuz Bob Warbles, the guy who played Dude died yesterday.
      He: No, Joe Jones played dude and he died.
      Me: Bob Warbles played Dude. He died.
      He: No. Joe Jones played dude.
      Me: (thanks, therapy!) Oh! you are being you. I’m done now.
      He walks out on the deck with his phone. Comes back in two minutes later.
      Guess what! Bob, the guy who played Y is alive.

      It’s not funny, it’s not cute. It is a pathological inability to be wrong.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Thank you.
          I have just saved that link. I will go back to it to calm myself down.

    4. darsynia*

      NGL if I worked for someone who was this deliberately obtuse or this actually stupid (ah yes. A technical glitch that only happens in one very narrow situation, obviously that has to be it. Can’t be the person who next has access!!), I’d hope to move and and then root for the company to fail. Petty and childish, sure, but at that point, you’re just following the guidelines of your work environment.

  4. wondermint*

    “…to my manager, this just means the system is glitching and it looks different on Julia’s screen.”

    Talk about total denial and/or poor understanding of how computers work

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        It’s worth considering that the manager is trying to push people out so she can have a whole team of Julias.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I wondered about that, because their relationship is one of those lightning in a bottle situations where, if they hadn’t met, they would not be what they became together.
          Julia would be her subversive, sabotaging self.
          Jane would be a inept, ineffectual manager.
          Like Wells and Fargo, Sears and Roebuck, Hewlett and Packard, Leopold and Loeb, Smith and Hickock.
          The relationship transcends normal coworkers and normal people; it is symbiotic. Whether that reaches into the physical is unknown, but it is probably the most important relationship in both their lives.

      2. JSPA*

        Yeah. If (for example) Julia and Cecilia are working a big con job, I’d expect them to either undermine the potential squeaky wheels, or encourage them to self-select out, so they can bring in more of their own people.

        Otherwise, this seems like a lot of effort just to mess with a coworker, y’know?

      3. Looper*

        You’d be surprised how much behavior is driven by insecurity and a desire to have friends. Sadly, this entire problem might be rooted in something as pathetic as the boss not having the Sweet 16 party she imagined.

    1. ferrina*

      100% denial. If the manager thought it was an IT issue, they would have called in IT and/or told Julia to work with IT to get it fixed. This was just mental gymnastics to protect their favorite.

    2. Angstrom*

      At worst, different settings could cause formatting changes, but there would not be content changes.

      1. wondermint*

        Yeah we’re not talking about “the font isn’t right [because this is a new computer and I don’t have all fonts installed on my machine].”

        We’re talking about the symbols, entities and codes (computers speak for the letters on your screen) aren’t right and that doesn’t happen magically.

        Julia sucks but Cecilia sucks more!

      2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I can *imagine* systems where things would look different on different peoples’ screens (records are caching weirdly, or one database I worked with had very granular permissions and even numerical searches would only show records you had access to, so, for example, if you had “view only records I have created,” you could get a search showing that there were only five clients in California, when in reality there were hundreds or thousands — thankfully, in the instances where we were using the granular permissions, it mostly didn’t matter that the users getting the incorrect totals didn’t have the right numbers, but we got confused tickets about it periodically). But it’s definitely in the realm of “weird edge case that I would consider and then discard” and Occam’s Razor would suggest user error or malice.

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I’ve been in desktop publishing since it became a thing. From the beginning, 200 page Word documents can have different line, paragraph and page breaks.
        That’s it.

    3. Phony Genius*

      The LW, following Alison’s advice, gave Celia/Cecilia* a chance to either acknowledge what Julia was doing or to look completely clueless about computers. She chose the latter.

      * Did anybody else notice that the manager was called “Celia” in the original letter and is now being called “Cecilia” in the update? I know it makes little difference, but I wasn’t sure which name I should go with above.

      1. linger*

        Update wins, for a manager you’d describe as
        “… breaking my heart / You’re shaking my confidence daily …”

    4. Dulcinea47*

      a system that “glitches” in a way that introduces random errors would be kind of a huge deal and fixing it would be top priority, I’d think… hence I’m kind of surprised that IT didn’t end up escalating this/ being more direct about the fact that what Julia claims is impossible.

      1. Nebula*

        I don’t really see why IT would need to escalate this unless Cecilia insisted they needed to fix this (non-existent) problem. Which it seems she hasn’t, despite her conclusion that there’s this ‘glitch’ on Julia’s screen, so as far as they’re concerned, it’s dealt with.

        1. Antilles*

          Exactly. OP asked what was going on with this file, we answered that Julia last edited it. The manager might be claiming it’s a glitch to avoid responsibility, but that’s not my circus, not my monkeys, I’m not touching that.

          It’s also possible that Cecilia’s “it was a glitch” was said in a different medium than the original email chain so IT isn’t even aware of it.

      2. IT lurker*

        Yes, I do wonder about IT’s response! If that came to my attention, I’d be turning the software upside-down to figure it out.

        If “the system just looks different to Julia” then that 100% needs to be sorted and fixed too. I’d be wanting to follow up with her about that.

        (I likely wouldn’t let my conclusions that Julia is changing the database and blaming it on the system go. But that might depend on how much power IT has with people above Cecilia.)

        1. I should really pick a name*

          IT was probably asked “When did this change”, answered the question and moved on with their lives.
          The problem isn’t on their end, so there’s no need for them to investigate.

        2. cardigarden*

          IT probably told her it was Julia, but to everyone else she’s saying “oh, whatever shall we do about this weird glitch that no one can seem to fix? Oh well, moving on”

          1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

            Yeah. And it’s not like IT wants to get involved in somebody else’s stupid office politics game.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I know very little about IT departments, but my impression is that, given the opportunity, IT would run away from this particular office politics game like their collective shoes were on fire.

        3. HonorBox*

          Depending on the IT department and as you noted, how much power they have with people above, I do think it would be awesome for them to jump into the fray a little more to discuss how the framing of this is impossible. The change was made and there’s probably a nearly zero chance that it would be showing up different on someone else’s computer.

        4. Ellie*

          As they say in IT, the problem is with the user interface. As in, with the user, who sits in front of the interface, which is working perfectly. That’s not their domain to fix, and I’m sure they’re well used to being blamed so that managers can save face.

          1. Ope*

            My husband was once told by IT that they had isolated the problem. When he asked what it was they told him it was located between the keyboard and the floor… i.e him sitting in his chair, lol.

      3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        I don’t think IT has any idea what Julia claims. OP (not Julia) asked them to research what happened, they returned with an answer. They don’t know there’s a lying problem and they don’t know boss’ excuse. *Boss* would have to escalate it with IT and that ain’t gonna happen.

    5. Observer*

      “…to my manager, this just means the system is glitching and it looks different on Julia’s screen.”

      Talk about total denial and/or poor understanding of how computers work

      Or it’s another attempt at protecting Julia.

    6. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      It’s not stated, but what do you bet the “glitch” went away as soon as it was proven to exist? Shockingly the software fixed itself as soon as someone noticed a problem? We call them “bugs”, but they don’t actually disappear as soon as you shine a light on them. If the”glitch” went away without someone doing something to fix it, it was never a glitch. (Not that it was a terribly believable theory to begin with, but this should *prove* that it wasn’t a software problem)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Julia has moved on to another way of sabotaging work. Or just stopped once she got the promotion because why bother now?

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          People like Julia never stop doing things like this. It’s all they know. A promotion just means there’s additional people she needs to undermine.

      2. Gumby*

        We call them “bugs”, but they don’t actually disappear as soon as you shine a light on them.

        Having worked in SQA, there were from time to time bugs that miraculously didn’t appear when there was a developer standing behind you looking at the screen so you could show them the totally reproducible bug. We chalked that up to ‘developer rays’ affecting the computer. Bad managers, however, do not have developer rays to spare so it probably wasn’t that in this case. (Usually the source of the bugs was found and ‘developer rays’ was the one step in reproducing the bug that you were only semi-aware that you were doing but didn’t do once someone was looking over your shoulder. Occasionally it was a seemingly unrelated setting.)

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I don’t computerspeak but when something is not working on my computer, all I have to do is ask my IT whizz partner to come and have a look. The computer promptly starts behaving itself.

      3. Trillian*

        > We call them “bugs”, but they don’t actually disappear as soon as you shine a light on them

        There are bugs and there are cockroaches …

      1. nona*

        It’s 2023, so you have more systems of software working together than ever before. And its a patchwork of stuff rolling into other ones. Its going to glitch *more*, because you don’t know if was a data entry error in System A or a time out in System B that is causing the data to display incorrectly in System C from what you can see in System D.

      2. Double A*

        I mean… they do. But they don’t for just one person, in consistent ways that never happen for anyone else.

        Our main website was glitchy for 5 days. People couldn’t connect consistently, pages timed out, things didn’t save. I have no idea what the problem was, but it was affecting everyone and IT had to fix it so I’m assuming they had some idea what was going on. And we’ve all experienced things like timeouts meaning information didn’t transmit or got lost. But yeah, glitches like Julia’s are… not that.

      3. Two Dog Night*

        Outlook somehow renamed my sent items folder “Contacts”, and it won’t let me change it back. Tell me again how computers don’t glitch.

        (That’s not what’s happening in OP’s situation. But weird shit does happen.)

      4. Nightengale*

        The electronic health record system I use at work, which is used in many locations nationally (internationally?) has a letter writing function under a tab labeled “communications.” Following a software update several months ago, letters started in that function get stored under a tab labeled “worker’s compensation.” Even if the patient has never been involved with workers compensation and is in fact only 5 years old. If you look for the letter under the “communications” tab you can see it but not edit it.

        There is also a function to access old records that appears sometimes but not all the time it should, also following a software update.

        Frankly this system glitched less a decade ago.

  5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Your company is aware of Celia and Julia’s relationship, they are doing nothing. Julia changing your work is not the only problem here. Time to spread your wings and fly.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. Yes, it may take awhile — the job market is highly variable right now. Check out the AAM archives for good advice, and search aggressively.

      Do not trust either Julia or Celia at all. Document everything. Continue acquiring allies in your organization. Work your network.

      Best of luck to you in the new year and send us an update when you find a new job.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Agreed. If this sort of thing is going unchecked, OP’s company isn’t a good place to work. This was one of the situations I asked for an update on, and I really wish it had gone better.

  6. Angstrom*

    Good for you for protecting yourself and your other colleagues.
    I have a hard time understanding that kind of malicious behavor. Giving people credit for their work is part of Being Professional 101. To deliberately sabotage someone’s work is downright evil.

  7. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Best of luck on your quest for a new position.

    As my mother used to say…living well is the best revenge.

  8. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

    It always amazes me how people like Julia think they are so clever and no one would ever put two and two together that she was changing documents. I guess technically it’s working for her but in a competent workplace, she’d be gone.

    Sorry OP, hopefully you find something else soon!

    1. MonteCristo*

      I don’t think its about cleverness so much as they are banking on the person not making a fuss. We have it bashed into our heads from tiny children “not to tattle”, “don’t cause a scene”, “forgive and forget” etc, and a lot of back actors use that (in my opinion, purposeful) conditioning to their advantage.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        “Don’t rock the boat”, “Don’t be a drama queen”, “Don’t throw people under the bus”, “Reporting would cause drama” which is what OP was worried about in the first letter.

        Our culture is weirdly against people receiving consequences for their actions and very into blaming victims for being victimized. Voicing the problem somehow means you are the troublemaker.

        1. Clare*

          It’s a subconscious fear thing. If your victimisation/illness/poverty is somehow your fault then it won’t happen to me. If it’s just bad luck, then it could happen to me. I have no control over the situation. That’s way too scary for many people to contemplate. Blaming the victim gives people the illusion of control over their lives.

    2. Antilles*

      It could also be that she knows Cecilia won’t care and will have her back no matter what.

      Basically, just like the linked letter of “my horrible intern is the VP’s son” except it’s purely favoritism rather than actual nepotism.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It’s working fine for Julia, who even gets promoted; it’s the OP who has to leave.
      Probably Julia only does this because she knows her manager buddy will defend her 100% and higher management don’t care.
      A disfunctional, toxic workplace.

  9. The dark months*

    I’m glad OP was able to squash Julia’s terribleness. The relationship between Julia and her manager was brought to the higher ups attention, but did that include the issue with her altering peoples work? Good luck with the job hunt.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Good question. Though if Celia’s boss also sucks, it might not have made any difference.

      If HR doesn’t suck, consider looping them in, in case there is retaliation.

  10. Bluz*

    Ugh. I can’t believe that terrible people are rewarded but I’m not surprised since they probably manipulated their way to the top. I hope karma gets them. I wish OP good luck on finding a better job with a better work environment

  11. HugeTractsofLand*

    I shall henceforth refer to any mysterious glitch as a “Julia” as in “Shoot, my filters got Julia’d, let me just reset them.”

    Good luck on the job hunt!

  12. Sosha*

    I’m mad Julia got promoted despite not knowing that most software has a “this was last modified by user XYZ” functionality. And was questioning why OP would need to take screenshots? The stupidest people think they are so smart.

  13. Sparkles McFadden*

    Thank you for the update! I am sorry there hasn’t been a better outcome for you, but I can’t say I am surprised. I’ve seen this pattern far too many times. I did enjoy the part where Julia asked you why you thought to take screenshots. People like this always think they’re beyond clever. Because the boss buys into their nonsense, they think no one will figure out their brilliant scheme. At least you and all of your coworkers are on the same page. That makes a big difference in the day to day quality of life in the workplace. The Julias of the world eventually blow themselves up, but it takes a long time to happen. Unfortunately, moving on is usually the best solution.

    Best of luck with your job search and wishing you a happy 2024!

    1. Observer*

      I did enjoy the part where Julia asked you why you thought to take screenshots.

      Yeah, that takes a real level of chutzpah!

      OP, I hope you find a better job, at a better company!

      1. Nea*

        I loved that part. “However did you manage to find unquestionable proof that you’re doing things correctly? That completely ruined my cunning plan!”

  14. Meemur*

    The fact Julia even asked why LW would take screenshots, eurgh. I hate that your company has swept this under the carpet and I hope you find something else soon. Good luck! The Julias of this world always get caught in the end

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yeah I would have looked Julia in the eye and said, “Because I knew someone was sabotaging me. This is not a glitch.” Keep eye contact for a beat so she can memorize my shape in that moment.

      1. Observer*

        In my head, I would totally do that. But I think that OP was smart to handle it the way they did.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I love that Julia either thought this was a subtle way to check if OP was on to her, or has really became this shamelessly blatant. I don’t think life is going to be kind to Julia’s sense of diplomacy, once her jig is up.

  15. Old Lady manager*

    Sorry to hear this but laughing hard. IT is on it now. Where as before they would have monitored file access and that they file was changed, now that it is their glitch, they will track what actually changes on a file once it is submitted when someone is accessing it. Got to find that Glitch. Then tie it to the cost of hours lost/billed troubleshooting and redoing work so that the software vendor can be dealt with BUT once same COST is tied to an internal actor…Part of me hopes that Julia slips up and does it again to someone. I’m in IT. This is what I would do if you made this “My problem.” I would even be tempted if I were you to ask if IT could do this retroactively. If they have been monitoring files, they can show that the file size before and after Julia’s access has changed. Reading a file and finding a error should not change the file size.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      No, they’re not on it. You seem to think Cecilia told IT there is a glitch. But she did not, because she doesn’t actually care. She told *the team* there was a glitch as an excuse to cover for Julia.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      They don’t know its their glitch. They told OP they didn’t see a problem. Manager said it was glitch to OP but most likely did not say that to IT. Because she knows its not a glitch and asking IT to look for a glitch will uncover what Julia is doing. IT responding to OP is not enough to get the ball moving to prove to Boss’s Boss or higher that Julia is sabotaging work. IT did their work, they are on to real problems.

    3. IT lurker*

      Yes, see, this is me too. I cultivate good will by believing people when their computers are behaving strangely! But that also means that no one can hand-wave things away as a glitch and NOT have me look into it.

      And, honestly, the behavior mentioned is a Serious Problem if it’s actually happening, so I’d be following up. But I also have a lot of institutional power.

      At any rate, it was good thinking for the OP to loop IT in on things like this. Please everyone alert IT to all suspicious database behavior.

  16. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

    LW, I’m sorry to hear your update. Good luck getting out!

    You still don’t see the big picture here because you don’t think like a Julia type. You say you think Julia feels like a victim. I see that Julia got promoted and eats lunch with her BFF Cecilia every day in Cecilia’s office. That’s not a punishment. That’s exactly what she wants – if anything, she’s delighted. She doesn’t care about your happy hours. She gets more alone time with Cecilia to convince her how great she is and how much you all suck. There were no negative consequences to her little scheme – in fact, Cecilia had the opportunity to see the light and instead doubled down, which means she is even more in Julia’s corner now than before.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I worry about the future update where Cecilia starts a process to take some of them to task for “bullying” Julia as “retaliation” for her “finding” their errors…

  17. BellyButton*

    Thank you for the update!
    People like Julia baffle me. There is no part of my being that would intentionally hurt someone- emotionally, professionally, etc. I can’t understand how these people think or how they justify such malicious behavior.
    Life is hard enough without having someone intentionally doing things like this.
    Be kind!

    1. bamcheeks*

      People like Celia baffle me too! I can see how you can give people the benefit of the doubt when it’s things like, “she’s just too brusque” or “her attention to detail isn’t as good as it could be”, but when someone is clearly doing something that’s both malicious AND stupid, how do you not have a lightbulb moment?

  18. IT adjacent*

    OP, does the IT team know your manager is throwing them under the bus? If not, consider telling them. They can dig deeper and even add monitoring to Julia’s workstation.

  19. MuseumChick*

    So glad we got an update on this. I just wish it had been a better outcome for the OP. OP, I hope you find a fabulous new job soon and that you are very…..blunt in your exit interview with this company.

    Others have suggested it, but are your friendly with/trust anyone in the IT department that could dig into this more for you?

  20. Anne Shirley*

    I’m still naive enough to think that people will be swayed by evidence…or will at least end the charade. And I’m in the U.S., which makes me only more naive. I hope karma will sort this out. Good luck, OP.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Proof, even objective, solid proof, makes bosses like this more determined to protect the favorite. Everyone in the department is taking screenshots? You’re all ganging up on poor Julia! There were mistakes before you started taking screenshots, and now you’re doing this to make Julia look bad! You probably made mistakes on purpose to entrap Julia! It’s sun spot activity affecting only Julia’s computer and IT is lying about it! I wish I were kidding about this stuff, but the boss will tie herself up in knots to make Julia the innocent party. There’s really no way to deal with this beyond getting another job, or waiting for a regime change.

    2. BellyButton*

      After almost 30 yrs of working professionally I STILL believe that facts will win, and sometimes it does. When it doesn’t it reminds me that I am forever the optimist who believes that most people want to do the right thing. I have to keep believing that!

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You might want to read about cognitive dissonance. People do all kinds of crazy things to resolve conflicting ideas when they want them both to be true. Cecilia *was* swayed by the evidence, which is why she changed her excuses for Julia.

      There are 2 pieces of information: 1) Cecilia thinks Julia is great and 2) There is proof that the glitches Julia reported to Cecilia didn’t happen.

      There were 2 ways for Cecilia to resolve these conflicting ideas: 1) Realize Julia is not great and gave fake reports, which forces Cecilia to acknowledge she made a mistake in thinking Julia is great or 2) Come up with a reason that Julia is still great and the reported proof has a flaw. She chose #2 so she wouldn’t have to admit she made a mistake in judgment while also acknowledging the new information.

  21. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    I think finding a new position was always going to be the best move as long as Celia remained the manager. If I’m reading the original post right, Celia’s problems were very bad before Julia even entered the picture:

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

    That sounds like one of those “you’re internalizing bad ideas of workplace norms as long as you stay” sort of situations, even without factoring in Julia’s outrageous behavior. Good luck, OP–I hope you can find a better position soon!

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      I agree; re-reading the original post, it seems like Celia was a bad manager to begin with. She’s a “hot mess” who yells at people and badmouths them. Even without the Julia situation, it’s not a healthy workplace. Julia is the cherry on top of the excrement sundae. (She and Celia deserve each other.)

      Polish up that resume, burnish that LinkedIn profile and hit the job-hunt trail, LW! There are better workplaces out there.

  22. JaneDough(not)*

    LW, I’m guessing that everyone who reads this is
    —– angry (furious, enraged) on your behalf;
    —– sickened by the profound dysfunction of that workplace (it hired Julia; it’s not taking action against her even though there must be ample proof of her wrongdoing; and the manager’s manager, who knows about this, seems to be doing nothing); and
    —– rooting for you to find, at the very least, a good (sane) workplace and preferably a great one.

    Hang in there, and be sure to take good care of yourself.

  23. Foyer Office*

    I briefly worked in an office that had a very similar situation going on. That’s actually how I started reading AAM. I found the “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” advice pretty quickly, recognized it to be true, and immediately started applying for other jobs. I was only there for 6 months total, and three other people were hired and left within that same window. I heard others before us had even rage quit with nothing lined up. I almost did it myself. So many high level people at once that the higher ups did take some notice and shuffled them off to a less prestigious corner soon after I left.

    I’ll send you all my job search luck OP. I don’t need it right now. I actually found the best job of my life coming out of that hellscape!

  24. Sunflower*

    Not the update we wanted but I guess it’s real life and not a movie where the “bad guys” get there just desserts. Though I’m glad you contacted IT and told your coworkers watch out. Every little documentation can build something big, and who knows if it will help in the future.

  25. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    While I am glad you caught Julia, I don’t think you have mentioned it possibly being a glitch. That planted the thought in their heads and gave your manager an excuse not to do anything.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t agree, I think it was the best approach for sure. Saying outright that Julia was obviously lying about the issue would not likely lead anywhere useful. Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether the boss knows it wasn’t a glitch as long as OP got Julia to stop the behavior, which she did by making sure Julia knew she and others on the time were now taking screenshots to prove their work was correct.

  26. Emily*

    Thank you so much for the update, LW! I think you handled this perfectly. I also think you are making the correct move by looking for other jobs instead of trying to deal with Julia and Cecilia further. Clearly there are huge issues with your current employer.

  27. Avery*

    OP’s best move here is probably just trying to get away from this nest of bees, but I did think of one possible work-around for the Julia sabotaging her documents problem that can get at the issue without hopefully creating too much more drama:
    Say that, since obviously Julia’s computer has some issue where it renders documents incorrectly, she shouldn’t save changes to your documents on her computer anymore, since that’s caused problems like this a number of times now.
    It sticks with the polite fiction that it’s Julia’s computer at fault here and not Julia herself, but tells her not to mess with your stuff just the same. And it’s true that, if the problem really were Julia’s computer, that’s how you’d want to handle it as well (short of calling in IT help); just make sure she doesn’t cause errors in work that is not her own anymore, regardless of how those errors are caused.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles**

      …if the problem really were Julia’s computer, that’s how you’d want to handle it as well (short of calling in IT help)….

      I definitely would have urged IT to audit Julia’s computer to find the issue.

  28. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles**

    It would serve that company right if (1) the whole team quit all at once and (2) everyone cited the Celia-Julia dynamic in their exit interviews.

  29. Timothy*

    Sounds like IT’s dropping the ball here. They should be able to see what changes were made after the OP took her screenshot (that is, the addition of the ‘mistakes’) .. some workplaces really are toxic.

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