update: my boss keeps asking me to do things that aggravate our community partners

Remember the letter-writer whose boss kept asking them to do things that aggravated their community partners? Here’s the update.

I wanted to wait to offer my update after I was settled in my new job.

As you and the commenters predicted, this was a bad situation. Fergus was a bully, but one thing I realized is that he was also someone who over-promised and then expected to bully (or have someone else bully) others to do what he wanted. So telling Org A he could get Org B to do something but not asking Org B, things like that.

He was the same way with staff, because all of the staff were part-time workers (25 or 30 hours a week) with no PTO or benefits, but everyone was hired with the promise that he would turn the job into a full-time job if we could prove ourselves.

I liked the part-time hours (for me, 25 hours a week) because of family obligations, but other staff did not. However, my job did not work well at all in 25 hours a week. Not just the quantity of the work but also because I was dealing with a lot of outside partners, scheduling meetings, calls, and so forth, and that’s hard to do when you work part-time and everyone else is working full-time. So I was already interviewing by the time “The Project” happened.

Fergus was contacted by an outside partner who wanted to find a contractor who could help them create a new program for their nonprofit. He convinced them that they could pay us to do it for them (quite a bit of money — I saw the documentation). He decided I should handle The Project, even though it was completely out of my area of expertise. I pushed back because of my workload, but he said he would move some of my tasks to others so I could do The Project.

The Project involved me spending one day a week at the partner organization’s office for eight weeks, plus followup emails, phone calls, and zoom meetings. He refused to increase my hours and only transferred some small easy tasks, so I was trying to cram the rest of my job into 20 hours a week. I was stressed out, pushing things ahead, and generally frustrated, but I did enjoy The Project and the people there and thought it would look good on my resume (it did, eventually) so I made it all work.

When The Project was over, Fergus called me in for a meeting where he was very complimentary — he, like a lot of manipulative people, could lay on the compliments when he wanted — until he said that the most impressive part was how I was able to do the rest of my job in only 20 hours a week which made him realize I didn’t need to work 25 hours unless I was working on a special project! So he was cutting my hours to 20, effective immediately.

Somehow he managed to act shocked and offended when I got a new job and gave my notice six weeks later.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. PropJoe*

    Eff around and find out, indeed.

    Glad that LW was able to leave and I’m hoping the new place is more functional and healthy than the one in the correspondence.

      1. Ellie*

        Total piece of work. I bet he thought he had OP wrapped around his little finger. Good work OP in getting yourself out of there.

  2. Dragon_Dreamer*

    … Fergus needs a craniorectal inversion. Also, some major consequences, but of course the organization won’t get rid of him.

    He is a disgusting human being.

  3. goddessoftransitory*

    Can’t wait for the company to realize that Fergus not being there is 100% more efficient then him being employed by them. What? It’s his own math!

  4. Project Maniac-ger*

    I hope Fergus donates his brain to science because I want to know how people think and act like that with no fear of repercussions.

    1. Fikly*

      It’s quite simple: they act this way because this behavior has yet to get them repercussions, and often they are rewarded for it. Because they are cis straight white men.

      1. Antilles*

        Along these lines, you might note that *he* wasn’t the one trying to cram the entire job into 20 hours rather than the normal 25…but I’ll bet he was the one who got Board Praise for successfully landing “quite a bit of money” for The Project.

      2. Overit*

        My last boss was Ferga. She was a lesbian woman. She excelled at bsing her way thru life.

        1. BaffledBystander*

          Yep humans gonna human. There are some unpleasant tasks none of us would like to do but do anyway because we’re paid to, it builds character, it makes us happy in the long run, etc. Fergi prioritize getting out of annoying tasks over literally everything. Honestly, I (almost) feel bad for them because they’re getting a pretty crap version of the human experience.

    2. Dittany*

      Because they haven’t *faced* any repercussions. At least, not any that mattered to them.

    3. Observer*

      I want to know how people think and act like that with no fear of repercussions.

      There are some situation where you have to wonder. Like the guy, Howell, the other day who doesn’t seem to understand that he is the common denominator in all his job losses and rejections. In this case, however, it’s pretty simple. He doesn’t fear repercussions because he does not personally face any.

      Of course he is going to be UTTERLY SHOCKED if a new Board comes in and decides to clean house…

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Except in Howell’s case, he *has* experienced repercussions. Howell has been unemployed for 2 years (the LW suggested that this was at least partially due to his behavior) and just nuked a job offer (entirely due to his own behavior). I imagine that very soon Fergus will be experiencing the repercussions of losing one of his best employees thanks to his own bad behavior.

        It’s not a lack of repercussions, it’s a lack of *accountability*.

        (Content warning for racist/misogynist/anti-poor talking points)

        This is a world where minorities and the poor are told they responsible for their own misfortune (lazy, culture of poverty/violence/criminality, won’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps) and ALSO that they also don’t deserve their successes (because affirmative action! welfare! woke culture!). Of course, at the same time, cis white men are told that all their successes are earned (I worked hard, nose to the grindstone! No one ever handed me anything! I didn’t sleep my way to the top) and their failures are someone else’s fault (I didn’t get into my choice of college because of a black man/white men are the ones who are really discriminated against/the job offer was pulled because of misandry).

        1. Random Dice*


          I had never put those two shitty messages back to back like that.

          It’s startling and spot on.

        2. Observer*

          Except in Howell’s case, he *has* experienced repercussions

          True. That’s why in his case I agree that you have to wonder. He’s getting slapped upside the head and still can’t see it. Why?

          But this guy? He’s being protected.

          I imagine that very soon Fergus will be experiencing the repercussions of losing one of his best employees thanks to his own bad behavior.

          I don’t think so. Because his Board is cushioning it.And he doesn’t really care about the mission – he cares about *himself* and his ability to boss people around. As long as keeps his job with no check, nothing else is going to matter to him.

    4. Nemo*

      It’s a very specific (yet oddly common) personality type, where almost all focus is on never being the loser or the sucker in any scenario. Even in the above, where he engineered a near-impossible situation to make himself look good and set up the LW to be the fall guy, the most important thing to him when the LW managed to succeed anyway (to both their benefits) was to screw them over on hours just to make clear who REALLY benefitted. Repercussions are other people’s problem, he’s just here to win and win and win.

        1. Jackalope*

          That’s a good point. The most logical reaction would have been to give the OP MORE hours, not cut them, and let them work on special projects more. That would have been something that would have possibly helped the organization out quite a bit.

        2. ThatOtherClare*

          Yep. Because subconsciously, deep down in the back of his brain, he knows he’s not all that. So anybody else’s successes, no matter how small and insignificant, are a threat.

          People who are threatening him need to be cut down for his safety, and he doesn’t need to feel any remorse – by his justification they’re simply experiencing the natural consequences of threatening a person.

  5. ariel*

    So glad you’re out OP! I’d be sooooo tempted to write a letter explicating how terrible he is to the board, but better to be done and dusted, I’m sure – good riddance!!

    1. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

      If the board cares they will call her. usually they don’t see personnel issues as their problem to solve. if he can find another sucker to burn through and burn out as far as they are concerned he is doing his job.

      stuff like this though is why we need to normalize job hopping. employers like this assume they can get away with this because it is SO BAD to leave a job quickly.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I read that as “Ferengi,” and then realized my mistake. That said, I can totally imagine Fergus as a Ferengi.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        The Ferengi at least have principles, though. It sounds to me like Fergus doesn’t have any.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m pretty sure one of the Rules of Acquisition says not to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Cutting the hours of the employee who pulls off a major win is not a good long-term strategy.

          1. JustaTech*

            I remember reading a fairy tale once about a cruel farmer with a kind wife or daughter, who somehow is gifted a fairy cow, who produces the most amazing milk, in vast quantities, and all her calves grow up to be equally amazing cows, and he becomes rich off their milk, but is still a nasty cruel guy, so one day he decides that if the milk is so great, what must the meat be like?
            And the cow, who had put up with all his crap for decades, takes all her offspring and they walk back to fairyland through the bottom of a pond, leaving him with nothing.
            Just shows that there have been Fergi forever.

            1. Part time lab tech*

              I think I read a version of this story in my big book of fairy tales from the 1980s. In it, the cow grew sadder as her offspring was sold and produced less milk each year until the farmer decided to kill her. The Green maiden of lake then called the cow and all her calves back into the lake except the last calf. This was given to the kind farmhand couple as a reward for their kindness and became the first of a sturdy black Welsh breed.

  6. Sloanicota*

    Part time can be so great when it works, but a lot of people warned me “it’s usually the salary is part time, not the workload.” My org was so confused that I was not looking to move up to FT and was thus invulnerable to their pretense that they would some day make it happen if I was really, really good. The best part time schedule for me was 2 full days, with no work on the other 3 days of the week … the best schedule for most orgs is 10-3 every day (ie, it’s not really going to feel part time to you, and you’re not really going to be able to do anything else). Also watch out for part time salaried vs hourly if that means you’ll be expected to go above and beyond as necessary. Also … they could choose to offer benefits to part timers if they wanted, especially if their whole staffing model is structured around it. I’m sorry you were being taken advantage of, OP.

    1. OP*

      That 10 to 3 slot! So true! That was part of my problem, because it still felt like it took the whole day (though it did make it easier to drop my kids off at school). Plus it felt like every other day someone I wanted to meet with only had a slot at 4pm, or the event I needed to attend was at 9:30 across town, etc etc.

    2. Tau*

      It can even happen with nothing nefarious involved. We hired a PT product manager for my team – role was originally FT but she wanted PT as she had small kids and the hiring manager went “sure we can make this work!” But nobody had really thought through the details of how the role could be reduced, how to manage the expected meetings in 50-60% of the weekly time, and she was also doing a bit of a role switch and had to learn a lot of new material… it became clear pretty quickly that we’d accidentally set her up to fail, because she just could not manage the necessary work *and* getting up to speed with what we were doing in the hours she had. She ended up quitting during her probation period.

    3. Chriama*

      Yes, I experienced this when I taught English. It was 25 hours a week, which I assumed meant I’d have a 3-day work week. Instead, lunch and recess were not considered work time so a full school day from 8-3 was only about 5.5 hours. And since the daily schedule was based on some internal rotation system and not just Monday-Friday, I basically worked full time with a random half day off once or twice a week. So my monthly income put me below the poverty line and my schedule was too irregular to get a second job, but I got to go home at lunch sometimes. I love the idea of part-time work, but if I were to do it again I’d ask really critical questions about how it’s actually expected to work, and I would insist on a few full-time days rather than 4 or 5 shorter days.

  7. Jaunty Banana Hat I*


    I’d say I’m surprised, but I’m not. So glad you got out of there!!

  8. I should really pick a name*

    I’m choosing to believe that your new job is with the outside partner because you did such a great job on their project.

  9. Luanne Platter*

    “You did such a great job managing the impossible that I’m going to cut your hours (and pay). Congrats!”
    I hope to see Fergus in the running for worst boss of the year.
    Congrats on the new job, OP!

    1. OrigCassandra*

      I was gonna say.

      “You did great so I’m gonna punish you!” Helluva job, Fergus. What magnificent perspective-taking.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Exactly this. The OP pulled off a minor miracle and the thanks she got was a pay cut! What a douchecanoe.

      2. Melicious*

        You’re doing a great job! Please continue to do it with more stress and 20% less pay!!

        1. JustaTech*

          “Look what an amazing job the team did under near-impossible circumstances! Just shows that you didn’t need all of those resources in the first place!”

          I have actually seen people say this about hospitals during COVID and it is disgusting.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      OP was actually happy working part-time. Having her hours cut might have been OK, but Fergus should have given her a hefty pay rise. It would have made more sense to assign more special projects.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Not when she was expected to do the same work in less time, for no additional compensation.

  10. Festively Dressed Earl*

    I really hope the other employees under Fergus’s thumb watched LW and took notes. A mass exodus would be wonderful.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yes, this type of information would definitely be part of my decision-making about whether to stay or go. If someone treats other people badly, there’s good odds they’ll do it to you, too, if they think it’ll benefit them. Or they just wanna.

    2. Naomi*

      I wonder how many of them are already looking around at their coworkers and noticing that no one has successfully “proved themselves” worthy of moving up to full time.

      1. OP*

        After a few months I asked my longest-serving coworker about this (why he is still there I don’t know, I really don’t) and he started laughing.

    3. Overit*

      Agreed. When I quit my Ferga job, an excellent colleague asked me why. I told her and she then realized Ferga was pulling the same crap on her. She started lookinflg and found a new and much better job and quit right after me. A second excellent colleague called me at that point and I told her what was what. She was gone in 2 months.
      Ferga is still there and she will undoubtedly retire from there in 20 years, still with 100% turnover every 18 months.

  11. Parenthesis Guy*

    “Until he said that the most impressive part was how I was able to do the rest of my job in only 20 hours a week which made him realize I didn’t need to work 25 hours unless I was working on a special project! So he was cutting my hours to 20, effective immediately.”

    To be fair, that’s reasonable. It’s just that you deserved a 25% raise in return. So, if you were making $20 an hour for 25 hours, now you’d be making $25 an hour for 20 hours, coming out to the same amount. You should be rewarded for being more efficient, not punished.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Considering the amount of revenue she brought in, the raise should be a lot more than 25%, coming out to be an actual raise.

    2. OP*

      My theory (and I have no proof of this, to be honest) is that Fergus, who always had cash flow problems, was using the money from The Project to pay me during those eight weeks (it was more than enough to cover it) and once that money stopped coming in, didn’t want to have to start paying my wages out of his regular budget again so he cut my hours. It was purely a cash flow/budget thing to him.

    3. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      Just because someone manages the impossible for a short time, doesn’t mean it’s sustainable long term. I feel like it’s similar to saying “oh look, this is how fast you can sprint over 100m, I now expect you to maintain that speed over a marathon.” It doesn’t really work like that

      1. Missa Brevis*

        So true. I think my boss is getting tired of hearing the phrase ‘possible but not sustainable’ from me about changes to our workload, but I’m going to keep saying it as long as it’s true, because if we load too much more work on our current excellent, dedicated employees without hiring more people, our current employees are going to burn out and leave and even after we hire more people at that point, they will be less efficient and make more mistakes simply because they’re new and inexperienced.

        We’ve had some unexpected periods of very high workload recently and managed to tackle them, but it left everybody drained and frustrated, and even aside from long-term concerns, I’m not even sure we could repeat that performance if asked to try within the next few months.

        (Nightmare workload OP from yesterday is experiencing the absolute worst-case version of what I’m afraid will happen and they have all my sympathy)

  12. Richard Hershberger*

    Rereading the original letter, what jumped out at me was “He’d tell you that he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t take no for an answer” is if this were a good thing. I would classify it more as him telling us who he is, and that we should believe him.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Sometimes people wear their red flags as a badge of pride, and I appreciate that in a person. I kind of worry about what’s going on with them that they can’t even recognize that it’s something to be ashamed of, but it does allow me to steer well clear.

  13. Cinn*

    Holy moly I’m glad you got out of there. Sounds like a nightmare!

    Also the last part reminds me of a manager at OldJob who – mid meeting – went off on “oh when deadline came up on this project the staff pulled some sixteen hour days to meet it, why dont we run projects like that all the time?” And yes, he did mean trying to get staff to work that much every day. -_-

  14. Kes*

    I feel like I’m still reading the machiavellian thread lol.

    And this is why the recommendation is, when you are given too much work, to ask for prioritization but let some things fall if they can’t be done in the normal amount of time. Because when you “make things work” all shitty bosses like this see is that it can work this way

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’ve learned the hard way to be careful about setting precedents. Volunteer to do something a couple times and everyone expects you to do it forever. In an ideal world, people who step up in a crisis would get rewarded and go back to normal when the crisis has passed. Instead, there is a legitimate chance they end up being expected to do the crisis-level amount of work all the time. It’s a great way to motivate your staff to *not* go the extra mile, since it can come with zero benefits and some major drawbacks.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “Volunteer to do something a couple times and everyone expects you to do it forever.”

        This is so true, and the worse the office culture, the more it happens. I’ve had a few jobs where the only way to ever stop doing some weird added-on task was to quit the job entirely.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          It sucks, because I like to think I’m a generally nice person and good colleague. I’m totally open to helping other people and a nice benefit is that people are generally pretty willing to help me if I need it. But I’ve been consciously pulling back on offering to take stuff on, particularly if there’s a risk it will cause me problems later. It’s not how I’d ideally operate, but I have some teammates who don’t volunteer for anything. Like, at all (though a few others will). And I don’t want to be the one picking up a really disproportionate amount of the slack forever because people just expect that I will.

        2. So True*

          Its amazing how much dumber I am at this job than the 3 previous places. Took me 25 years to learn, but each time I left it was because by the end I was doing the work of at least 3 people for the pay of about 1/3. Now if I hear, “does anyone know how to…” or “The…is broken” or “I wish someone…” I just keep my mouth shut & keep doing what I’m paid to do. Much less stress.

      2. JustaTech*

        I remember at one of my very first jobs (in a bookstore) my mom told me off because I said I tidied up the kitchen while I made a pot of coffee (because I was new and not allowed on the register alone). “Don’t let them expect that of you!”
        At my current job I’m constantly asked to do all kinds of stuff for our social committee and the only way I’ve gotten out of it is that now I have a toddler and so the person who asks is willing to take “I can’t, I don’t have time with the baby”.
        But of course that’s really the nuclear option with actual work tasks rather than “hey, will you bake pies for Pi Day?”
        (I loved our old pi day competition, but we don’t have enough people and there is no way in heck I am staying up all night to make pies because our VP is sad that our site is a ghost of its former self.)

    2. Big headache*

      100% agreed. I was saying an “Ouch!” when I read the sentence – ‘so I made it all work….’.

      The onus is not on employees to carry the weight off the company or a project on their shoulders. Do not stand in the way of gravity…. Let things fall. Else no one will know there was a problem and you went above and beyond and bent over backwards t oget it resolved. IT’s not your job!

  15. see you anon*

    Big oof! So glad that you got out of there, OP.
    I was in a similar position to OP at a previous job. During the height of lockdown, I wasn’t comfortable going on-site to perform certain duties (weekly bank deposit, etc.), which my manager took over because she could drive (I am dependent on transit). When things levelled out, and it looked like things were beginning to reopen, I was presented with the option of being downsized from FT (40hrs/week) to PT (20-25hrs/week) PLUS a pay cut of $4/hour, or to be laid off with 3 weeks’ severance. I was barely making “living wage” at the time, and was ready to leave before lockdown hit, but decided to “ride it out” when we thought the outbreak was only going to last a couple of months. Like OP, I took the option to leave, and my manager was very upset that I declined to stay on as a consultant to train my replacement.
    Good riddance to bad managers (and toxic workplaces)!

  16. Ink*

    SO glad you made it out the other end! Just reading this feels like I’m getting secondary burnout, you rock for surviving and turning the mess into something that benefited you in the long run.

  17. Dek*

    Gotta love it when a boss is shocked by employees not being pleased to be told they’ll be paid less.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      It’s not like people rely on their income to do stuff like pay rent and buy food, and a drop in income could seriously screw them over. /sarcasm

  18. OP*

    So my new job is not with the outside partner — though they said over and over that they wished they could hire me but didn’t have the funding. But I was already interviewing and at the job I most wanted one of the interview panelist brought up how they’d like to do a program like The Project in the future and I got to say, “as it happens, I just helped Outside Partner set up that kind of program.” They offered me the job two days later. And so far it is amazingly different in terms of hours, pay, and stress. (And my former colleague told me that Fergus is already complaining that my replacement can’t do all the things I did)

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That’s still a win in my book, OP! I hope you’re in a mental space where you can laugh about Fergus being ridiculous.

    2. Lisa*

      “at the job I most wanted one of the interview panelist brought up how they’d like to do a program like The Project in the future and I got to say, “as it happens, I just helped Outside Partner set up that kind of program.””

      That’s so awesome. Congrats on the much better new job!

    3. Momma Bear*

      Fergus messed around and found out. I’m glad it worked out for you in the long-run, OP. You got the experience they needed and the much better job you deserved.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Wow, PhD in School of Crappy Companies parlayed into a full time position.
      It’s like you took courses in Shitty Management, Lies and Manipulation, Bully v Threaten.
      Your individual coursework/internship at The Project Limited really you ahead.

    5. Worldwalker*

      I’m so glad to hear that!

      I wonder what Fergus is going to do when all the competent people do the same, and he’s left with half-trained people and the ones who only stay because they’re not good enough to get new jobs?

  19. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    Wow, that was going so well … UNBELIEVABLE. I really wanted you to say that outside partner hired you, but that was still a good ending. Congrats, LW.

  20. Goldenrod*

    One thing that I have found to be extremely consistent in my years in the work world – it’s the worst bosses who are always the most shocked when you leave.

    Great job getting out while the getting was good, OP!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I figure they’ve somehow convinced themselves that what they’re doing is totally fine and they’re awesome. It’s hard to break that delusion.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Oh yeah, OP didn’t need to be there 25 hours a week. It’s a win/win for OP and the company! Think of all the things you can do with the extra five hours a week! You weren’t relying on 100% of your paycheck. You can take 80% and the rest will help the company. Aren’t you proud of yourself?

  21. ConstantlyComic*

    Sounds like Fergus’s head is so far up his butt it’s coming back out of his mouth. Good on you for getting out of there, OP

      1. ConstantlyComic*

        I don’t remember where I first heard that phrase but it stuck in my head like a really catchy song and now I love using it when I can so I can inflict this psychic damage on others.

  22. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I’ve replied to a few comments along the way, read them all, and now I’m at the bottom and still wondering WTF I just read.
    It’s like an M. Night Shyamalan episode of The Office.
    Oh, you did this impossible task on top of all your work?
    It was a success?
    You know what that means?
    YES…I’m getting a….
    Paycut of 20%. Well done!

  23. RJ*

    Fergus is the perfect example of a sociopathic manager. Glad you’re out of there, OP and good luck at your new job. You’ve shown resiliency and I hope you’ve moved on to better pastures.

  24. ILoveMyManager*

    Does your OldJob have a presence on Glassdoor? This would be valuable info for potential job applicants. And also board members.

  25. 2024*

    It is very very rare for my jaw to literally drop at these stories, but this one did it. I mean….!!!!

  26. CoffeeCat*

    THAT IS INSANE. Wow, you made the impossible work short term? Enjoy your reward of A PAY CUT. I can’t even. Thrilled for you that you’ve gotten out. Spread the word on Glassdoor or similar to help the next poor soul.

  27. Congrats*

    Fergus sounds like a real piece of work. Glad you at least could use the project on your resume and get out. Congrats!

  28. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    I’m glad you’re out of there and I sincerely hope the other employees can leave when possible, Fergus is terrible.

  29. Miette*

    I have nothing constructive to say other than: what an absolute tool. You’re better off gone–well done.

Comments are closed.