updates: I’m in trouble for occasionally arriving a few minutes late, and more

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. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I’m in trouble for occasionally arriving a few minutes late

Regretfully, this was indeed a red flag indicating a toxic workplace. Although I am now routinely 15-20 minutes early every day, my coworkers’ attitudes toward me don’t appear to have changed. In the past week, I’ve overheard my manager calling me “kind of stupid” on a conference call and another coworker accidentally sending me an insulting teams message about me before quickly deleting it (not the first time). Mysteriously, the coffee mugs I keep bringing from home keep getting broken, and either an employee of two decades who trained me on something and then signed off on it being done correctly every week for three months just wasn’t paying attention, or they deliberately trained me wrong to try to get me fired as I was called into my manager’s office for “somehow f***ing this up for an entire fiscal quarter” and put on a performance improvement plan which included feedback about both “asking too many questions” and “not asking enough questions.” In my monthly check-ins with management I’m routinely criticized for not being engaged enough with my colleagues. I wonder why.

Anyway, I’m actively looking for a new job at the moment, hoping to get out before they invent a reason to fire me. I haven’t bothered talking to HR as both times I’ve been fired in my life were immediately preceded by me complaining to HR “anonymously” about a manager’s behavior. There’s really nothing to be done here other than get out before they get rid of me. What a mess.

2. Can I say I can’t come into the office because I have to look after my dog?

For the most part, this hasn’t been an issue over the past few months. My husband and I have been able to schedule our days in the office in a way that works for us and meets our workplace requirements, and we both have flexibility in moving our days around if we need to. While I still mostly do Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the office, I’m in today (Monday) for a client meeting later, and I knew about it far in advance so my husband and I were able to rearrange our days as needed. He’ll go in Thursday this week and I’ll work from home on that day. But if I’d been asked to do it on Friday, it wouldn’t have been possible to rearrange the days at such short notice — not just because of the dog, but because it also wouldn’t have been enough notice for my husband (who has to book a desk in work, would have to rearrange his schedule, etc.).

There also haven’t really been any other situations like the one I described in my email, thank goodness. I get plenty of notice when I have to be in the office or when I have a client meeting on a day that isn’t one of my Designated Days. So all’s well that ends well!

(I will also say – I don’t live in the U.S., and I find work/life balance much better in Ireland where I live and work. I think when I wrote in I was more concerned about refusing to do things last-minute on my days working from home rather than about the fact that I do have to look after my dog. Most people here very much understand responsibilities outside work and I’ve come to learn that at least in my workplace, my outside responsibilities, even sometimes including my dog, are very much reasonable excuses for last-minute requests.)

Commenter Hush42’s answer was the most helpful: “I think that the fact that OP was given almost no notice regarding the Monday meeting is a factor. I don’t think it’s always reasonable to say, “No, I can’t ever come in on a Monday because of my dog” but it is reasonable to require advance notice so that they can make appropriate arrangements for the dog for that day.

In my company, we only have one WFH day and it’s always Fridays. I wouldn’t bat an eye if I asked my team members on Thursday to come in on Friday and they said no, I have to take care of my dog. But if I gave them a weeks notice, then I would definitely question it. I think that there has only been one Friday in the year since we’ve been back in the office where I required them to come in, and they were given lots advance notice.”

3. I’m embarrassed when people ask how my job search is going (#4 at the link)

I wrote in this past January about being embarrassed to tell people I was struggling with job searching at a time when there was constant headline news about how desperate companies were to hire. My job search ended up lasting about six months in total, with a lot of false starts, but in the end I got two job offers in the same week and am really happy with the position I accepted! The search felt never-ending while I was in it, but now feels like a pretty short period of my life overall.

Kudos to anyone out there currently in the thick of it with job hunting, it really is a terrible experience that makes you feel disconnected from humanity (how many form fields can one person be expected to fill out on an application they will never hear another word about!) and I know how hard you are working for what feels like no reward.

4. Hiring for a job requiring a religious background (#4 at the link)

I used the script and advice from you and other readers, focusing on candidates’ knowledge of the religion and not on their faith. We ended up hiring someone who I found out later actually was no longer a believer but had extensive knowledge on the topic and brought everything else we needed to the table, enabling us to create a great product. Thank you for the good advice.

{ 82 comments… read them below }

      1. Pizza Rat*

        When I read the letter, the first thing I thought of was someone (and probably someone popular) just decided that LW1 was someone they didn’t like. A friend of mine refers to this as BEC–B*tch eating crackers. Someone gets pissed no matter what that person does. “Look at that b*tch eating crackers,” as if that’s the worst thing in the world.

    1. Roy*

      For real! I hope they are OK. That sounds like a ridiculous amount of snakiness from their manager and coworkers when they were putting in solid work otherwise.

    2. JubJubTheIguana*

      Obviously I’m not going to not take any LW at their word, but whenever I see these “literally everyone is out to get me for no reason” letters/posts, I dearly wish I could hear the other people’s version of events.

      1. JubJubTheIguana*

        I want to be clear that I’m not getting at the LW! I want to be supportive but sometimes being supportive means suggesting something self reflection or seeking professional help.

        The fact the LW has been fired from four jobs in a row where everyone was out to get them is a major red flag.

        And the LW claims all this started just because once a week they’d arrive at 8.02, but they also said that sometimes their commute would take 45 minutes longer than anticipated, that sometimes they’d be “very late”, and that they’d had four separate formal warnings for repeated severe lateness. It’s really obvious that LW’s lateness was a much more serious problem than they’re willing to admit to, and framing it as “yet again everyone is out to get me for no reason” indicates issues that really need to be explored with a mental health professional.

          1. tamarack etc.*

            It’s a good principle not to question the letter writer for the veracity of their report and perceptions. Questioning for their actual statements should be fine, but as long as it involves speculation (which is the case for the “fired four times” bit here) it’s just not conducive to a good discussion.

            In cases that fall in the grey area – red flags galore, but it would take speculation to spin a counter-narrative, I think the correct thing to do is to not comment.

          2. DyneinWalking*

            Commenters can get weird about this, but Alison is usually fine with comments like that of JubJubTheIguana (based on which conversations were shut down and which weren’t). So long a its actually based on information from the letter it’s no issue – and it’s perfectly ok to get that information by reading between the lines and noting weird patterns and wordings (Alison does that herself sometimes! And it’s one of the reasons why her advice is usually so good).

            Basically, you have to accept the events as fact (you don’t get to say “but no boss would demand someone’s liver!”), but you are free to disagree with the letter writer’s perception (here, that perception is “my lateness is reasonable and people are out to get me”).

            The real problem is when people don’t base their speculations on any clues in the letter and state that speculation simply for the reason that “it could be what is happening here!”, and then don’t even explain how that changes the advice.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          If LW has been for so many times, there’s some issue, either in: 1) LW, 2) the jobs LW is getting and LW needs to think about that when selecting this next one. I don’t know if there’s anything discrimination related in there (can happen) but either way, if this isn’t a one-off LW needs to figure out what it is and address it (get accommodations if there’s a disability, be more selective for positive workplace – and figure out what that looks like and what red flags to avoid — about companies and bosses next time, work on time management, etc). I feel bad for them, but “the last couple times I got fired” bit really did stand out to me, especially since it sounded like similar circumstances rather than simple bad fit.

          Being laid off multiple times isn’t uncommon (a lot of that depends on field—some fields or industries do common layoffs, and the same people can get caught in the churn cycles, especially if getting new jobs quickly) but being fired repeatedly is.

          1. Blaise*

            I’m glad someone else said it because I was thinking the same thing. When similar situations keep happening, you have to notice what the common denominator is…

        2. Purpleshark*

          My aunt would complain about coworkers side-eyeing her for being late, However, she by her own admission would roll up to work with a bag of fast food breakfast. In my workplace, I have noticed (I’m not in management so I can only roll my eyes) that coworkers who arrive late and complain about traffic often have a local coffee shop cup in hand.

      2. Bast*

        I didn’t see where LW said they have been fired 4 times. LW mentioned being fired twice at other jobs after anonymously complaining to HR, and if they get fired from this one, it makes three? Unless there is a part my mind skipped over, entirely possible as I haven’t finished my coffee yet and it’s Friday.

        This is tricky for me. Having lived through work places that are toxic, I 100% believe there are places that will tear you a new one for being 2 minutes late once…while someone else is routinely 30 minutes, an hour, etc late and it is conveniently never mentioned. I also have seen plenty of workplace bullying, both IRL and on this site — ie: popular and well liked employee quits or is fired, the replacement is treated like garbage and constantly compared unfavorably to Old Employee. Either LW is in a really toxic industry and needs to vet their next job VERY well to make sure they aren’t entering another viper’s nest OR it really is the LW and they need to look in the mirror and figure out what’s really going on. It can also be a mix of both with LW needing to mitigate their damages to survive a toxic workplace as best as they can by not adding any fuel to the fire. It seems like LW is at least trying to make it on time to work, so is trying to mitigate their damages to some extent. I’m having a hard time coming up with a scenario where calling an employee “kind of stupid” is ever acceptable. I’ve heard this couched in other terminology, but I’ve never heard a manager come right out and directly call someone stupid, and I’ve worked in some questionable places. This leads me to believe this MAY not be a great environment.

        1. Qwerty*

          I think JubJubTheIguana* mixed up the number of “toxic” jobs with firings. In the original letter, the OP said they quit “the worst job I ever had”. So you’ve got the two firings from toxic jobs + one quitting a toxic job + one where OP thinks they are getting fired and calls toxic.

          I feel like if the entire team plus manager were out to get OP that they would be gone already. There was a final warning issued in the first three months – plenty of companies just wouldn’t put in the effort if someone was having issues that quickly into their tenure. OP is regularly getting negative feedback. They don’t need to make up a reason to let this person go, there’s enough of a case to do so. Toxic workplaces tend to be quick to fire without really requiring much of a reason.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            No, at toxic workplaces they don’t want you to leave but they will neg you so you don’t ask for a pay rise and gaslight you into thinking you’re crap so you don’t dare look elsewhere because who else would put up with you. Then they get angry if you do actually leave.
            The workplace that lets you go when you’re obviously not a good fit is a good place to work, just not the right place for you.

            1. Quill*

              Also, a long stint at a toxic workplace can make you… kinda bad at your job for a while. Built up anxiety and exhaustion are not good for job performance.

              So that could explain “quit one toxic job, didn’t meet performance expectations at a second” very easily.

              LW didn’t say that any of the firings were recent, however. They could have been years ago, in another industry. (Or in a very different position, etc.) Just that its happened twice and at both jobs there were already enough problems that they went to HR.

            2. Bast*

              This has been my experience as well. Toxic places will break you down and have you genuinely thinking you aren’t good enough to go anywhere else, or make you think you’re the crazy one and you should just be thankful that they’re willing to put up with you…because no one else will. In my experience as well, Toxic Job tended to have trouble hiring folks due to the relatively low pay and no benefits. As such, they didn’t really want to lose the people who were putting up with these conditions, because they knew they’d have a hard time trying to fill the role. They had no problem crapping all over you, but you leaving was the last thing they wanted. If you did, they talked crap about you for months after no matter how good you had been.

      3. Crunchy Granola*

        If you read the rest of the comments, you’ll see a lot of people saying they’ve had simlar experiences. There are a lot of toxic workplaces and people out there.

        1. Bast*

          I 100% agree that toxic places exist, and have worked in places that function like this, however, I have also worked with people who are never the problem. They have issues at every single job they work at and refuse to look at the common denominator. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. This letter makes it hard to tell, as LW also mentions a couple of other jobs where they had problems. No work environment is perfect, but when someone moves jobs and continues to have problems in multiple jobs, it can speak to something else going on, unless that individual just has incredibly bad luck.

        2. Alternative Person*

          Yeah, I’ve had a contract not renewed at one place and been functionally pushed out at another. I’ll be honest, I didn’t go about things in the best possible way but at the same time, the PTB were not going to give me a break anyways. First place, management wanted sycophants not staff, second was more concerned about keeping the peace than holding staff accountable.

          Even my current job is showing signs of wanting squeaky wheels to pipe down (along with other issues). I’ve been lucky in the sense I’ve lasted a decent amount of time tenure wise and kept up my qualifications/certificates that I should be able to make a decent enough move (have two interviews lined up!), but I’m also fed-up that I’m having to move again to get away from toxicity.

          After a certain point, no amount of self-reflection and improvement will save you. You can only hope to do better at the next place.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes!!!! I’m horrified for OP and I sure hope OP finds a job somewhere with normal people who treat others like fellow human beings.

  1. Bookworm*

    #3: Thanks for sharing. I’m about 6 months in of no work and am hoping things will change with the new year. Your update gave me some hope. :)

      1. Jolene*

        Yes, hang in there! I’ve always thought it would be so great to see the future and know when you’d get a job – so you could not worry and just enjoy the time off!

    1. Lost in Translation*

      I’m on month 8… here’s hoping for better news for all of us searchers in the next few weeks!

    2. Pizza Rat*

      I feel you. I was out of work for a while from the end of 2022 to mid-2023. It’s a jungle out there.

      Sometimes there’s a brief uptick in hiring between Xmas and New Year’s as people need to spend their budgets. After the holiday break, it should pick up more as well.

      It’s gotten harder in the past few years. Hang tight.

  2. Sharpie*

    LW1, that sounds absolutely horrible and I hope you find a new job very very soon! Please send in a further update when you do get to leave this circus far behind you!

    Jedi hugs in the meantime, we’re all on your side!

  3. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

    #1 which included feedback about both “asking too many questions” and “not asking enough questions.”

    I’ve been in a situation like this where you can do no right and it suuuuuuucked. Hoping the next time we hear from you, you’re thriving in a healthy workplace!

    1. BubbleTea*

      Same. I commented on the original post about my horrible ex-job that this situation reminded me of, and in this update the “manager just plain doesn’t like me” part is also very familiar.

        1. Auk*

          Same here – one day the feedback was ‘You looked too worried when you spoke to me’ and a few days later ‘You didn’t look worried enough when you spoke with me’. That was the tip of a very toxic iceberg of micromanagement red flags and boy am I glad I no longer work there.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I’m having flashbacks to my previous job where a director treated me like the dirt on her shoe. Oddly, the company seemed surprised I left.

        Some places just want a punching bag, I guess. Or they were upset they didn’t have the joy of firing me first…

    2. anon today*

      This feedback is like when I, then a student, was working in a unit called something like ‘student development’, and was told in my performance review “there’s a time and place for critical thinking, and this isn’t it”.

  4. Taxes Schmaxes*

    “I was called into my manager’s office for ‘somehow f***ing this up for an entire fiscal quarter.'”

    That is the manager’s error then. They should be catching mistakes before an entire quarter.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This, plus calling the OP stupid on a conference call makes me think of the bananapants office that literally had a duncecap! This place is a hellhole that runs on humiliation rituals.

      1. pope suburban*

        Yep. The hellmouth on which I worked was like this. I would say that we had more…castes of employees than one single scapegoat, but the go-to person to kick in the teeth was me. Because the boss thought all office staff were just some kind of boondoggle, and that I, with the lowest-ranked job there, just had to be “kind of stupid.” Fundamentally the environment was one of mistrust, which suited the boss just fine because then we could not band together to advocate for ourselves (Incidentally, that I would stand up to him, however rarely, was a big reason he didn’t like me- the rest was bog-standard misogyny), nor would we have the confidence to seek out employment elsewhere. Even knowing that the environment was dysfunctional, the three miserable years I spent there ruined my mental health. Being aware of the poison only carries you so far, and I hope that LW finds a new job and runs far, far away from this nightmare workplace and the evil clowns who choose to stay there and perpetuate the toxicity.

        1. People Can Be Garbage*

          I completely agree. A culture that perpetuates the erosion of trust is doomed, especially if it’s controlled from the top. Get out as soon as you can, LW1.

        2. People Can Be Garbage*

          I agree. A culture that perpetuates the erosion of trust is doomed, especially if it’s coming from the top. I hope you can get out of there LW1.

    2. Rose*

      Right?! It’s crazy they’re even pretending this is an issue with OP when someone with decades of experience was signing off on this every week. I’d say LW should point this out but it seems clear logic and reason are not really relevant in this situation.

    3. Johanna Cabal*

      If OP made such a terrible mistake that it ruined an entire quarter, why weren’t they fired on the spot?

      1. Quill*

        Two things I can think of: 1) Mistake not all that dire (consistently wrong application of an internal whatever meaning that the fiscal quarter needs to have its numbers rerun but no actual money was lost) or 2) wanting to have the replacement on hand before firing

        (The one time I got fired they waited until I was literally two hours into training my replacement. Who I obviously did not know was my replacement.)

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, I had a recent oversight that involved having to reclassify about 20 donations to my org. Our (soon to be retired yay!) CFO complains a lot about having to reclassify any donations; she claims it is very time consuming to change them in the accounting software, but, like, to change ONE field for a small number of donations…well, I have no sympathy for her whining about it.

      Anyway, she is supposed to review all our donations when they come in but she didn’t notice the oversight either, nor did my (excellent) boss, but boss had been out on maternity leave during most of the time these donations came in so I’ll give her a pass on that. Anyway, they both acted like this was some HUUUUUUUGE deal (I’m guessing Boss was mostly acting this way because of CFO’s reaction to it) and I’m like, well, it was easily fixable (CFO complaints not withstanding) and I did realize it eventually and owned up to it. But given that they missed the errors too I refuse to take 100% of the blame for it; I’ll take 80% and pay more attention in the future. And also I hope the new CFO doesn’t complain so much about making 20 little changes to some accounting records if (when) this comes up again.

  5. SereneScientist*

    LW1, I’m really sorry the situation is truly this awful. I hope you’ll take it to heart that you are absolutely *not* the problem here and wish you a speedy job hunt for a new role.

  6. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    LW1 – this is pretty classic bullying behavior and I hope you get out very soon. If you’re remotely in a situation to leave, do it because this is only going to get significantly more demoralizing.

    My thoughts are with you. I was in a similar situation 10 years ago and it SUUUUUCKED!

  7. Jesshereforthecomments*

    LW 1, I would bet not considering how dysfunctional your org is, but I’ve been surprised before. If you are asked to do some sort of exit interview with HR or can ask them to do that, I would recommend it.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I’m not sure I’d bother. If they cared about a functional work environment, they’d do something about it now, not after one of their newest victims gets bullied out of the company based on a nonsensical PIP they probably had to sign off on.

  8. Throwaway Account*

    I worked for a city and they had the same toxic approach to time and being late (and to so many things). 1 minute late was late and if you were late 4 times in a calendar year you had to meet with HR to explain yourself!

    That was just one red flag among many! I’m so sorry OP and wishing you success in moving on. And be kind to yourself when you do move on, it is going to take time to decompress from the toxic job!

    Best to you!

    1. People Can Be Garbage*

      There is a city work environment where if you are one SECOND late, they force you to take PTO for the time it takes them to figure out how to handle that. Everyone is strongly encouraged to call in sick when running late rather than show up a second late.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I worked at a place like that. If hourly staff clocked in a minute late three times in a quarter, they’d be “counseled” by management.

        Said management was surprised when one morning during a minor fire that caused the building to need to be evacuated, hourly staff were rushing upstairs to clock in before evacuating the building.

  9. works with realtors*

    LW1 – I’ve been in your place and feel so awful anyone has to go through that. I hope 2024 ushers in another update with good news!!

  10. Saturday*

    LW1, I’m sorry you have had to deal with that! The people you work with are horrible. Sending you good wishes for finding something else very soon!

  11. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 That’s so stressful for you. Your coworkers and manager evidently can’t move on from those earlier 3 months when you were late. Now they want you gone and they are being unpleasant about it.

    I’d be concerned – including wrt future reference checks – that you said you’d quit the previous job because it was the worst you’d ever had and also that you’ve been fired from 2 previous jobs after conflicts with your manager.
    Have you been unlucky (at least) 4 times with fit/personality clash, or are you in a role where you tend to chaff at the lack of independence, or want something else?

    I recommend in your next job that you quickly note anything that you manager criticises, whether that is actual work product or time-keeping, phone use, dress code etc and make sure you do what she wants promptly. Taking action, even though it was after 4 warnings, should have been ok after what seems a really trivial matter, but unless there were other issues you didn’t mention, this was apparently enough to ruin your rep there.
    As you’ve experienced, sometimes things you or most of us posting think unimportant can irritate a particular manager & coworkers and make a bad early impression that lingers, festers and ruins another job for you.

    1. Ticotac*

      One of the two times they’ve been fired could include the previous horrible job.

      I also would say that, in the future, they shouldn’t so much focus on fixing an issue promptly, but rather do a thorough research into the culture of a prospective job place so that they don’t end up in the kind of place where their manager calls them “kind of stupid.” The fact that they were given a warning for being one minute late, when actually they had been there at least five minutes early and were just waiting for the 2FA email that would allow them to clock in, speaks of a completely unreasonable culture.

      Sure, try to avoid making a bad first impression, but most importantly do your best to avoid the kind of place where making a bad impression leads to having your personal coffee mugs broken (wtf?!?!?!).

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        The problem here is, the OP says she is trying to find another job asap before she is fired. This may mean grabbing the first half-way reasonable offer. Or rushing to do so after she has been fired.

        Even without such pressure, it can be difficult to dig out at an interview if the HM is unreasonable and the OP probably needs to stay at the next job for some time, if possible, for a good reference.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        She may just have had bad luck several times with managers and maybe coworkers too, or she may be frustrated with her type of role, e.g. wanting more independence and hence not fitting in.

      3. Pockets McGee*

        It can be hard to get a feel for culture, though.

        And some contexts just don’t have many jobs to apply for. (Eg, in my field, if you were diligently searching you’d find maximum 1 job every 3 weeks to apply for, and everyone else is going for it too.)

        I still think it’s important to try, though.

        Was so glad I checked recently. Saw a promising advert, and reached out via social media to an acquaintance who works there. They were upfront and pointed out some big problems with the culture. I trust their judgement, so decided not to apply. The application process would have taken about 3 days of my time. So glad to have avoided all that.

      4. Gemstones*

        “One of the two times they’ve been fired could include the previous horrible job.”

        No, LW mentioned quitting the previous horrible job. So that’s one horrible job they quit, two jobs they were fired from, and one horrible job where they’re on a PIP. It might also be a combo of factors. LW may not have the option of taking jobs at places with better work cultures…

  12. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    LW #1, my most heartfelt commiserations. My last job (of ten years) did this to me, also starting with the “she comes in late too much!!?!1!”, going downhill from there. Other than ramping up the job search, here’s what worked for me:
    * weekly meeting with a therapist
    * coming up with a pre-written list of the ways in which I didn’t suck, to repeat to myself like a mantra
    * taking every sick day I possibly could
    * on occasion, letting myself have the extended, hopeless cry. Deploy with care, because it has to be the exception and not the rule; but sometimes, it’s better to let yourself feel All The Feelings and get it, at least temporarily, out of your system
    * at the exit interview, I stuck to cold hard facts (basically a list of all the ways my employer had violated Federal law), with as little emotion as possible. Likewise, I didn’t Glassdoor their asses. For the sake of my mental health, it just wasn’t worth dredging up all that shit. Better to move on. These helped (first totally ripped this one off from Captain Awkward):

    1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxKl_1JAc9k
    2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaEjDk3lgcI

    You WILL find something better. You WILL find a job with people who aren’t mean girls. All the best wishes and Jedi hugs it is possible to give.

  13. Fishsticks*

    Regardless of how often LW #1 was late or how late they were, this still sounds like this is an unreasonable workplace environment that decided to make the LW their scapegoat to take all their office stress out on.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of “this one thing you do that isn’t actually a fireable offense since your work is good bothers us, so we’re going to start inventing a reason to fire you” and there’s really no way to come back from it once that harassment starts up – you need a new job ASAP. In my case, I admitted to struggling with an uptick in my longtime mental health concern… and immediately after that began getting a series of increasingly vague criticisms that didn’t touch on any of my actual work and couldn’t be improved in any reasonable way.

    When someone in charge wants you out, it’s common to try to make the environment so unpleasant the person quits and the company won’t have to pay unemployment (and therefore the boss/manager doesn’t have to justify firing you). I say run like heck and don’t look back.

  14. Slow Gin Lizz*

    I am sort of very casually looking for a new job. I love my boss and like a lot about where I work now and if anyone asks about my job search (anyone = my mother), I just say that I’m being super picky about where I apply so I have nothing to report. The fact that in several months of casual searching I found only one job listing that even remotely appeals to me and that even then I didn’t apply for it because it doesn’t appeal to me enough to leave my awesome boss is irrelevant. :-)

  15. Jupitergal*

    LW#1: Do we work at the same place?

    I, too, was put on a PIP that included feedback that I wasn’t engaging enough with co-workers (who also kept cancelling on me for our meetings; we worked remotely) and the feedback that I was both asking too many questions and not enough. This was only a few months after a stellar performance review.

    I seriously thought I was crazy for a while; that I was really as bad as they were saying. So I spoke to the woman who had my job before me and found out she went through a VERY similar thing!

    I could see the writing on the wall so I started looking for a new job. I was determined to get every penny I could out of the place before they fired me, so I didn’t quit, as much as I really wanted to (and I was lucky enough to have the means to do so.) They fired me two weeks after my probation was up, despite doing everything they wanted in the PIP and more.

    Luckily, because my job search had already begun, I had a new job lined up three days later.

    And I hope my former boss gets weekly flat tires for the rest of his life.

    I am crossing my fingers for you!

  16. Fluffy Fish*

    OP1 – I’m glad you identified it as toxic and I just want to say on the scale of mild to showing up to a funeral with paperwork – it tops the funeral and is particularly ragingly childish. Breaking your coffee cups? What even is that?!

    I hope you find something else in the near future and are practicing a lot of self-care until then.

  17. Cynical B*

    While I always appreciate support during those times when I’m looking for work, I loathe being asked how the job search is going. Dude, when I find a new job, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.

    1. new old friend*

      Oof, yeah, same. Spent six months job hunting this past year and it was so demoralizing to keep having to tell people “yeah, nobody has even given me the time of day, thanks!”

      1. JustaTech*

        It’s right up there with “have you finished your book?” and “have you finished your dissertation/degree?”

        Dude, I will tell *everyone* when I am done. If you haven’t heard, it isn’t done and no, I don’t want to talk about it!

        (Only exception “hey, I don’t know if you’re still looking for a job, but I have a friend in another company who has an opening you’d be amazing for and they want to meet you”. If you have something actually substantive and relevant, yes please.)

    2. Angry socialist*

      Hard same! It took me 8 months to find a job so please for the love of mud stop asking. Job searching is bad enough.

  18. Pizza Rat*

    LW1, I hope you can get out of there soon. I find it very hard to believe that a few minutes late here and there is bad for morale.

    Regarding the PIP–being dinged for anything related to asking questions is so many red flags I can’t count that high. Someone should be looking at why you’re asking questions and either get you the answer or tell you where to get it.

    One of the most toxic and narcissistic bosses I ever had yelled at me for asking people on my project questions. I was only to ask her. When I did, she yelled at me because I should know the answer already.

  19. Jessica Ganschen*

    #1 – While the mugs are probably not the worst part, I would be the tiniest bit tempted to buy a shelf of identical dollar store mugs I didn’t care about and see exactly how many of them turned up “accidentally” broken. Just ten bucks for at least two weeks of entertainment!

    1. Brevity*

      Better yet, get the “unbreakable” kind, and see what they come up with to destroy it. Compliment them on their creativity in your goodbye message!

    2. Random Dice*

      While also being clear that this is EVIL BEES behavior. I mean, honestly, they break LW’s property?!

  20. StarTrek Nutcase*

    My first thought was LW1 is someone who doesn’t fit so-called social norms (like how introverts frequently don’t). My second was LW needs to consider very seriously her part of why she’s been fired twice and seems headed to #3. Is it (1) she has poor work habits or skills or (2) she needs to figure out how to identify jobs to avoid, or likely a combo of both. And finally, she needs to accept that part of any job is learning how to negotiate issues even when one shouldn’t have to (you can do a great job even without being “liked”).

    1. Dahlia*

      This is a job where people break her coffee mugs and call her stupid.

      I don’t think their reasons for firing her are reasonable or based in any part on her actual self.

  21. Anonymous For Now*

    While I think that LW#1 brings something to the equation, I also believe that there is something else going on.

    When I was a trainee many years ago and got a particular thing wrong, I told whoever pointed it out that someone training me had told me to do it that way. It turned out that depending on what type of account it was this was done one way or the other. No problem.

    And who asks too many and too few questions? If the LW is asking questions about basic things she should know by now and not asking questions on higher level functions but is making errors in those areas, that would make sense. However, it doesn’t appear that what she is being told actually does make sense.

    My suspicions are that either the LW replaced someone who had been there awhile and they left under sad or strange circumstances and people are taking it out on the LW or there was someone they wanted for the job and the manager was overruled for whatever reason and the LW was hired instead.

    Regardless, it sounds like a no win situation. I still think it would be wise for the LW to get some counseling even if it is only career counseling. Perhaps they are in the wrong industry or type of job.

  22. Random Dice*

    #4 What a cool update!

    I’m really impressed with the thoughtful approach, and your mature handling of the final candidate.

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