what’s the most Machiavellian thing you’ve seen or done at work?

A few years back, we talked about Machiavellian things we’ve seen done at work — self-serving schemes or manipulation that you watched being carried out (or carried out yourself!).

The stories were amazing, including someone who pretended to be Canadian for months in order to get a day off for Canadian Thanksgiving, someone who submitted his awful boss’s resume to a bunch of recruiters (it worked and the boss left for a new job), and someone who learned that if she occasionally showed up to work without makeup , her boss would insist she must be sick and make her take the day off (paid).

Let’s do it again. We’re looking for stories of underhanded machinations, double-dealing, and conniving in the workplace.

{ 747 comments… read them below }

  1. NPC117*

    An old boss use to tell me that if I failed to get work scheduled for the crews, then they wouldn’t be able to put food on the table. I learned from others in the office that he rolled this chestnut out when he was close to a bonus threshold.

    1. Problem!*

      I had a subcontractor pull this BS about how they’d have to make their employees work extra overtime and through the holidays and how they’d have to charge us extra to cover their overtime pay. Our solution was to offer to personally apologize to their crews for the extra work as we walked toward their production floor. The sub managed to set a land speed record of back pedaling on that one.

    2. pally*

      Yeah my old boss did something similar.
      If we encountered a problem (product development) or had a sudden short deadline given to us, we would balk. Then boss would say “We need to accomplish this or, we’ll just close the doors.” Meaning, shut down the company.

      It gets old after years of hearing that.

      1. Alter_ego*

        If I thought my company was that close to financial collapse at all times, I’d for sure be looking for a new job

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

      I had a manager in retail who used to use the district manager coming in as an excuse to get people to work harder/get stuff he wanted done. Sometimes the district manager came, sometimes she didn’t. I had worked in the company longer than my manager had and had a great relationship with the district manager. Finally, I had enough, looked my boss in the eye, and said, “If she’s coming, that’s fine- my department is in order and I’m not worried that she’ll find any major problems. I’m always happy to have her point out the little things that need improvement.” He never pulled that nonsense again.

  2. Bird Lady*

    I worked with a rather difficult employee, but being in different departments, was able to manage the situation. Our state mandated sexual harassment prevention training, and I was asked to deliver make-up training for anyone who could not attend the main session. He did not want to attend, so brought his work phone and laptop and continued to take business calls throughout the training in hopes I would excuse him. Because some of our grant funding was dependent upon us being in compliance, I did not excuse him from the training.

    He was one of the reasons why I left. There were no consequences for his behavior; he was considered “a genius” by the woman running our HR. As someone who was sexually harassed in another workplace, I no longer felt safe at this job.

    I left shortly before the Covid pandemic, and he reached out to me on a business related issue. He had placed his supervisor’s title in his own signature line hoping that he would be just given her position as she was transitioning to another role within the organization. His hope was that by assuming the title, he would just be given it.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      So his hope is that he’ll get the VP’s job responsibilities but still be paid as his own role, since everyone assumes he was already promoted? I feel like that’s the worst of all worlds, but I’ve never been very ambitious.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Until he can parlay it into a VP position at another company (ever wondered how companies end up with useless senior hires?)

    2. Tisserande d'Encre*

      > His hope was that by assuming the title, he would just be given it
      I mean, it worked on Superstore

  3. lunchtime caller*

    I was once hired at the same time as another coworker, but for the lower version of the role while she was in the higher version. She then proceeded to spend every day complaining about the job, so I would always tell her she was so right, she deserved better than that job, they didn’t appreciate her, she should follow her bliss, etc. I think it only took a couple of months before she was applying elsewhere, and I agreed that she totally didn’t need to give this place any warning because they didn’t deserve it. Not long after, they were in urgent need of someone to fill that higher version of the role, and why yes I was free and able to fill it, no problem boss.

    1. anytime anywhere*

      Ohhh I did something similar a few years back. I took over a department with existing staff, one of whom worked in our back office and was always unhappy about everything, nosy about what everyone else was doing, constantly complaining about her workload, etc. This is the type of place where you can’t get rid of anyone, no matter how terrible they are at their job. So I started agreeing with her on some stuff- yes, the new way of doing things is so much less efficient, yes, the customers are so much less patient, yes, it really is such hard work for the low pay. Shortly thereafter, she decided to take early retirement to enjoy her life. It was such a breath of fresh air the week after she left- it was like a cloud had been lifted off the entire department!

  4. Beth**

    I had a colleague in a previous role who would sometimes deliberately do her work slowly and then “need” to do overtime to catch up. Strangely, the needed overtime always happened in the pay period before Christmas or the pay period before she was going on vacation.

    Our boss never figured out what was going on but the rest of the team were very well aware.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Back in the day, a friend of mine always “had” to work so late her job paid for dinner and a ride home. But she also spent a decent amount of the work day on the phone with friends! Hmm.

      1. Whomever*

        Oh man. So I used to work on Wall Street and one the thing the big Investment Banks did was have a line of car service cars for those who worked late, with the company paying directly. People abused this like crazy; going out for dinner and getting drunk and then going back and using one of the cars to get home, since no one ever verified. Some of these could be pricy (eg NYC to CT).

        This went away in 2008 and the financial crisis and they started requiring an actual expense report to justify the rides.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Having worked in corporate strategy for an F100 where people were counseled for walking out the door at 6 p.m. after arriving at 7 a.m. – the expectation was you would work at least until 9 p.m., I have no problems with people going out to dinner and then using the cars. All I ever got when I worked late was – hmmm. Nothing.

          1. tw1968*

            Agreed! Take advantage! I used to hear folks complain about unions because someone’s friend’s brother working for an auto mfr would exploit some loophole like (IIRC-I may not be) taking Friday off then working Saturday and getting OT for those hours. I said, do you think their CEO who’s being paid tens/hundreds of millions a year, is really doing work worth that much? LET these guys who do all the grunt work make a few extra bucks–thousands of workers getting a few extra bucks won’t even be 1% of the CEO pay.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              Exactly. The pay rate for the CEOs is insane…and the line workers are the ones who destroy their bodies to build the bodies.

              1. Machiavellito*

                once, the agency I worked for was very much on the wrong side of an issue. we were defending something that was really quite illegal. there was a very well-known nonprofit on the other side. I just copied our whole file and called them anonymously and asked if they wanted it. they did and I left it at a particular street corner. that illegal thing we were defending never happened and the nonprofit won. even now, knowing that I risked my job and other things, I’m glad I did it!

              2. TootsNYC*

                CEOs pay consultants money to argue for why they should be paid more. And they often pay those consultants with the corporation’s money.

          2. Laser99*

            I’ve always wondered what would happen if one just worked 40 hours a week—you know, like a normal person—in one of those places. Would they boot you out?

            1. The glass is half empty*

              Even if they don’t fire you, I can think of a few things that could happen. You risk being managed out as a poor performer, skipped for promotions, being on top of the layoff list, transferred to department from hell, etc. How much do you need the steady income of that paycheck?

        2. Ally McBeal*

          I also used to work on Wall St, but post-2008 and for a startup sellside firm. We could expense taxis/car services home if we worked past (I think) 9pm for a legitimate purpose, like writing an analysis of an earnings report or logistics prep for an upcoming conference. Our quirky rule was that we could only order dinner if we were PLANNING to work past 8pm, which sometimes you could plan for but sometimes you couldn’t, or you thought you would need to work late but your boss ended up releasing you early. Most people didn’t abuse it though, or abused it infrequently enough that it wasn’t a big deal. All the penny pinching seemed more than a little silly when our senior analysts all made above $1M/year before bonuses.

          After Hurricane Sandy we were told we still needed to come into the office but that we could expense the round-trip car service regardless of where we lived. Not that you could get through to any car services; their phones rang off the hook for DAYS. I was lucky to live around the corner from one and just sat in their lobby until they could call me a car.

    2. Open Secret*

      We had one of those, too. our boss caught on. But the work needed to be done. So it was handed off to me.
      But yeah, Ima take 15-30 extra minutes that day for lunch when I did all my stuff and half of hers in less than a day.
      So even though I didn’t need (not want) OT, it all came out even.

    3. Cat Tree*

      It’s possible that your boss knew but just didn’t mind, especially if it was just a couple times a year.

      1. Jaydee*

        That was my thought. If it only happens a couple times a year, and she’s otherwise a good worker, it’s probably not worth the boss’s energy to try to stop it.

        It’s also possible she was genuinely trying to catch up right before being out of office for holiday or vacation. I’ve definitely been known to work very, very late the night or two before a vacation just trying to tie up loose ends and make sure everything is caught up so whoever is covering me has less to deal with. I was salaried exempt so no overtime pay. But it wasn’t about the pay for me, it was a genuine terror that balls would get dropped because I took time off.

        1. Dek*

          Depending on how cool the boss was, I could see it being a thing where she knew the employee deserved a raise/bonus, but wasn’t in a position to grant it, so looked the other way.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yeah I had a co-worker like this who was artificially inflating his payslips with unnecessary overtime. Our boss was aware and tacitly encouraged it. The reason was that he needed 3 months of payslips for a mortgage application, which he was telling the mortgage company this was regular overtime he received every month, so they’d count it towards his salary (not sure if other places work the same as the UK, here they will lend a multiple such as 4x of your salary). The boss thought she was just helping him out and I don’t think she realised she was assisting in defrauding both the company and the mortgage company.

        1. pixeldeth*

          Oof sounds like he wound up with a bigger mortgage than he could handle on his salary though…punishment fits the crime?

        2. fhqwhgads*

          In my experience, we’d have to show more like a year’s worth to prove that’s really “regular”.

      3. Beth**

        No, I am pretty sure he didn’t know. He was the nicest boss I ever had but also a serious rule follower (cricket umpire in his spare time). So he would never have condoned defrauding our public sector employer.

        Colleague was pretty open about what she was doing, plus the overtime was timed so that she would receive it before Christmas/her vacation. So if she had a vacation in July, she would work the overtime in May so it would show up in her June pay cheque and she could spend it in July. It was well planned and deliberate.

    4. GeekGirl*

      I used to work with a detective who always served search warrants at 1430, half an hour before his end of watch time. Guaranteed him at least five hours overtime, usually more. He peeved the captain in a crime control meeting and got transferred out of Homicide into a unit that never got overtime. Oops.

  5. Lab Boss*

    I was a low-level manager and was offered a promotion, and negotiated for a higher salary than offered. We agreed on the amount, but the company “couldn’t possibly give me that much money all at once” so half the raise had to wait until the start of the new fiscal year, in a few months. I had a commitment that “by the end of the first month of the new year, you’ll be at $X.”

    We also did our annual raises company-wide at the start of the fiscal year. I knew that “by the end of the first month” meant they wouldn’t give me my full new salary until the very end of the month, so I hatched a plan. The system automatically included me when calculating the department’s raise budget. I knew, though, that no matter what raise I got at the start of the month, I would end the month with a salary of exactly the agreed-upon $X. So I asked my boss to give me the lowest possible raise she could without triggering a performance investigation and use the entire rest of the money budgeted for my raise, to give my team raises instead.

    It worked like an absolute charm, and I have absolutely no regrets. I still have the form letter I got that year, with a bunch of boilerplate about how valuable I am before announcing I was being rewarded with a 0.1% raise.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I appreciate people saying I used my powers for good, but I’ll be honest and say I just find deep personal satisfaction in finding loopholes through systems that annoy me, and in making sure my team stays satisfied enough that I don’t have to deal with the hiring process :D

      1. SweetestCin*

        Sometimes what is good for the individual is also good for the team. They’re not 100% exclusionary, and I think its pretty cool when recognized by someone and used accordingly!

  6. CR*

    Well, I found out I was being fired when my boss secretly told every other employee to work from home that day. Around 10AM I wondered where everybody was, and when I messaged my coworker to see what was up she told me they were told to stay at home. That’s when I knew. They kept me waiting another hour before actually firing me! Super fun times.

    1. anon for this one*

      This happened once on my team except I was one of the ones told to work from home. I didn’t get the message until I was already en route to work so I had to find a random coffee shop to work from for a couple of hours. It was such a sh*tty thing to do to all of us, and especially our coworker who got let go. I still wonder how he’s doing tbh but it feels odd to reach out.

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        What is the point of this subterfuge? So that nobody is physically there to see the fired employee walk out with their box of personal belongings?

        1. AnonForThis*

          That’s my guess, though a poor job of doing it. When I was still working in-office, my department handled it by calling last-minute almost-all-team meetings in conference rooms, for everyone except the fired person and whoever was handling them in the firing/walking-out.

          The meetings were basically ‘we are letting X go and staying out of the office until they clean out their desk and leave’. Unfortunately that gets awkward after a while so for the first one, the manager also announced that (without telling me first) someone else had gotten the role I applied for so I had to sit there and remain composed while facing that I missed what would have been a life-changing promotion at the time.

          For the second meeting, they were letting go two of our upper managers (including the person who dropped the news on the missed promotion), so a ton of people got sent to a major conference room in a separate building, including (nicely) a catered lunch to go with it. It took the firing team a while for them to hunt down one of the two so this was a good thing, as we were sidelined for a couple hours with this. Had no real idea what it could have been, we assumed some major audit or compliance finding or something serious.

          1. Desk Dragon*

            My company did something similar (only once that I know of, but I’m remote now so I’m not sure), and they phrased it as “giving them privacy” while they cleared out their desk.

          2. starsaphire*

            I got caught in the crossfire of one of these.

            They did the “sudden all-hands department meeting in a conference room” thing as they were about to lay off three longtime employees.

            Except that, because they were also trying to “strengthen the veil” between contractors and FTEs, the contractors were NOT invited to the all-hands meeting.

            So here we were, the three of us contractors, at our desks with heads down, frantically messaging each other “WTF?!?!” as the sobbing employees cleaned out their desks.

            So. Uncomfortable.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            My old company we were doing training sessions in preparation for a future reorg (but they didn’t tell us that, just framed it as FYI cross training rather than “these are tasks that will become yours because we are laying off half of you.” One morning half of us were in a training session and people started getting texts from people not in the session that they were getting let go. By the time we were done with our session and got back to our desks most of them were gone.

            Except one employee (who probably should have been let go years ago as she was useless) who was going through every paper on her desk one by one and handing them off to the boss, who was like, “don’t worry about it, we’ll go through it later.” It was supremely awkward.

        2. Potoooooooo*

          I could value in keeping non-essential personnel away if they expected things could go very sideways, but not as a matter of routine course.

          It would almost have to be a “you’re being fired into the custody of the police” situation, in my opinion.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, I can’t imagine jumping through all these hoops for a routine firing/layoff. Is unemployment considered so contagious they needed a quarantine procedure??

        3. Ally McBeal*

          Honestly, as someone who is easily embarrassed (and gets all red in the face and sometimes cries), I’ve appreciated being fired in an otherwise empty office. I’ve been fired twice, once from a waitressing gig where I could go straight out the back door from the manager’s office without passing any kitchen staff or my fellow servers, and once from an office job, but my office was at a bar (I worked in corporate for a small chain of bars in my city) and once again I could slip out a side door without running into any coworkers. I don’t think employers do this out of compassion, but it’s worked well for me.

      2. BubbleTea*

        Having been the colleague who was let go suddenly (well, from my colleagues’ perspectives – I knew it was coming), do reach out. I was quite hurt that literally no one ever contacted me other than the one person who’d come with me to my probation review to support me. It was like I just got erased from everyone’s memory and I never saw or heard from them again.

        1. Random Dice*


          You can say “I didn’t want to cause you distress by reminding you of this place, but think warmly of you.”

        2. Chief Pontiac*

          I agree with reaching out to co-workers that have been let go. Maybe not that day, unless you are best friends, but definitely the next week. It can be something as simple as sending an e-mail telling your former co-worker that the place isn’t the same without them and you will keep your eyes open for another job. I’ve had it both ways where I became a non-person and also where my co-workers checked up on me. I can honestly say that it was the hardest when I became a non-person.

      3. OMG, Bees!*

        In my career in IT, I would often hear about someone about to fired/terminated in advance so I could change their accounts. Still feel bad about 1 guy who I was told on a Wednesday that he was being let go end of Friday… and he had just told me that week he got a new apartment for himself and his family (parents and siblings, unmarried). Took everything to bite my tongue and not tell him.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      That’s just crappy management. I know you didn’t feel that way at the time, but you are better off out of there.

      Oh noes, we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable when we fire someone so we will make everyone but the person being fired work from home. They’ll never figure it out.

      1. CR*

        Thanks – it was devastating at the time, and I was so traumatized by that horrible job. But now I’m in a much, much better job. :)

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      A (somewhat) similar thing happened to my husband. He works for a national company, and received a head’s up that the company was going to close all offices in our state (someone from another office in our state tipped him off). He had a video call scheduled with some folks from corporate, which he now knew was to tell him, so when they asked him how he was doing that day he said, “Great! Tomorrow is my birthday!” (it actually was) and they immediately became uncomfortable.

      He actually wasn’t fired, they just asked him to transfer to an office in another state. He declined and is now in a better job.

      1. Jamoche*

        Best Manager Ever was told that his project was going to be shut down, but don’t tell the team, because they wanted to reassign them to other teams. Now, we were all specialists, and had zero overlap with or interest in what the other teams did, plus recruiters were circling like sharks – all of Silicon Valley knew our new leadership was driving us to the brink. Even if we had gone to those teams, they wouldn’t have appreciated having to train us as if we were total newbies, when a new outside hire would’ve been useful from day one.

        BME earned the title of Best by coming straight from that meeting and telling us exactly what was going on, and that he’d help with resumes. We all had new jobs within weeks.

    4. Orora*

      At one firm, there was an All Hands meeting over lunch. I was hungry and looking forward to eating. As I leave my desk, an exec I knew by sight, but didn’t know personally, asked to speak to me. He called me into a room and I was laid off. Everyone who was laid off had to go back to their desks and clean them out in an hour while the rest of the company learned of the layoffs during the meeting. So not only was I unemployed, I was unemployed and hangry. But it all turned out OK because I got severance and had a new job a month later. About 4 months later the company closed completely and there was no severance for any remaining employees, including that exec.

      1. JustaTech*

        That sounds awful!
        In my industry there are tales of a small company that was going under that kindly took everyone out to lunch, “Don’t forget your coat and bags!” and then when they got back to the office the doors were padlocked shut – everyone was laid off, and they were eventually mailed the contents of their desks.
        (I think the locking up was to prevent people from stealing the valuable lab equipment.)

    5. pope suburban*

      I had a temp assignment a lot like this once. I was told when I was assigned that it was temp-to-hire, I asked about the process on the temp-to-hire date, and I was told it was not temp-to-hire, even though the agency and everyone I was actually working with had been told it was. I stayed there for another six months because my work was fine and there were no problems. I come in one Monday and have trouble logging into my email, but I figure we’re just having problems and our IT guy would get to it when he came in. I worked for a couple of hours before I got a call at my desk from the temp agency- apparently, the notoriously dysfunctional company controller had called a last-minute meeting with them late Friday after I’d left and cancelled the contract. I had to then go to everyone and tell them I could not finish the projects I was working on for them. They were uniformly shocked and upset, and one of the younger scientists even cried (I think she could relate, being early-career too). I had to go to my agency’s office and get debriefed, which absolutely sucked. The silver lining was that the controller’s behavior got her blackballed from that temp agency forever; at least everyone knew this was not my fault.

    6. sara*

      I worked a job where our daily insane busy time was 7am-930am, doing tasks that could only be done before opening to the public. One day, it was around 8am and our boss instead pulled us into a meeting downstairs (far away from our office but was our usual department meeting room). Boss left for a bit, HR person came in with some snacks. Then about 15 min of wild speculation and also stressing about all the work we needed to do. Then boss and his boss came and let us know that a coworker had been fired and we were down here while he was being escorted out by security.

      Turns out he’d had a nearly-violent altercation/screaming match with our boss the night before (the latest in a long line of disciplinary things), hence the security escort etc. Which in our field (non-profit tourist attraction) was very unusual – a firing in general was unusual (I realize now after being out of that job that he should have been fired years earlier), let alone such a dramatic one.

      But we all got snacks and also were allowed to open our section a bit later (it was a quiet weekday so not a huge deal) than the rest of the building.

    7. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      In library school, I interned at a nearby academic library. The library director decided they didn’t need an electronics resources librarian and decided to fire the ERL to free up budget money. She called everyone, interns and student workers included, into the conference room to announce this budget-saving measure while HR had the ERL sign a resignation form and security waited nearby to escort him out, lest he try to abscond with the best stapler.

      So it was especially awkward for the director (and in retrospect, hilarious) when on his way out, the ERL, my husband, came into the conference room to ask me if I wanted to go home now or if he should pick me up after my shift was over. Everyone stared at the director as she suddenly found the wood grain of the conference table super interesting.

      1. Anonomatopoeia*

        Oh no. Also, oh my god that is retrospectively AMAZING. I hope she got the outcome she deserved.

        (WHO NEEDS electronic resources? I mean, we have all these books! They are all anyone could need! Pssh internet schminternet.)

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          Or – the internet runs itself, why do we a ERL? Everyone knows how to use the internet….

      2. Barefoot Librarian*

        I was an ERL myself for a few years. I wonder how many hours/days it took for someone to find a dead link or proxy stanza that needed updated and no one had any idea how to fix it. The electronic resources sphere is a black box to a lot of librarians and one that few people want to cross train on.

    8. Non-compliant*

      They tried to do something similar when I was let go (restructuring).
      Middle manager got everyone ready to go on a walk but they didn’t invite me as ordered.
      I guess my bosses didn’t realize that other people liked me and invited me along too.
      My boss had to instead say to everyone that I was staying behind.
      Had my let go meeting.
      Jokes on them because I just went around the block in the opposite direction that everyone else was going to run into them and tell them the news.
      I wished I left on my own terms because that place was toxic and poorly run, but I was really upset that they handled it that way when I knew that a similar “letting go” episode of a former coworker really demoralized the rest of the team, that I had just reported that middle manager for sexual harassment a week prior, and my partner had just left for a better opportunity so it felt like retaliation in those last two points.

      1. Jamoche*

        I got included in the layoff list for reasons that I am totally sure had absolutely nothing to do with the epic shouting match I’d had with my grandboss – he started it, and he was wrong. Also I’m female and he’s sexist. But really, it was just one of those things, why, they had 20 pages of stats on the laid off personnel to prove it!

        But then they sent me back to my desk, and I went out to lunch with my team, which was when my manager discovered what had happened, and only got walked out an hour after that.

    9. StephChi*

      That happened to me. The company I worked for told my direct report to stay home that day. She told me that she stayed home because she didn’t feel well. I was laid off that afternoon, along with a bunch of other people, and figured out that later that she must have known before I did that they were letting me go.

    10. Mornington Crescent*

      That happened to me too when I was let go from a job, but I was grateful not to have to face all of my colleagues as I was a crying mess. It was awful.

      I got a much better job within a month and I’m still there 15 months later. In a twisted way, they did me a huge favour!

  7. juliebulie*

    I worked in a field that is heavily regulated (although, based on recent news, apparently not regulated enough). Federal inspectors would visit us several times a month to inspect our documented procedures (we were something of a problem for them).

    My boss wanted me to make a document change and then FALSIFY (copy/paste from previous documents) the inspectors’ signatures on them. It is possible that we could have gotten away with it, but I refused to do it. I wasn’t getting my hands dirty for those people.

    My boss had already deceived them by setting up a binder with covers and spines emblazoned with “Winter Teapot Procedures” and she was damn lucky they didn’t ask to look inside. There were pages, but they weren’t about winter.

    1. InSearchOf9000*

      That reminds me of an old job where they’d load all the noncompliant equipment into a truck and drive it off site for the iso audits. Once the audit was over, the equipment would be driven back and loaded back into the warehouse.
      I did have to refuse to xerox signatures with altered dates one year, because folks weren’t following a procedure. Luckily they backed down when I demanded the request be made in writing.

      1. Helen_of_the_Midwest*

        This reminds me of the public high school I attended. One of our phy ed options was gymnastics, but most of our gymnastics equipment consisted of hand-me-downs from private gymnastics places–as in, equipment they were getting rid of, sometimes for safety reasons. The teacher was quite open with us students about this. Unsurprisingly, I got injured in this class badly enough that the teacher tried to fail me because I couldn’t participate anymore. She only let me pass because it was my last semester of high school and I needed the credit to graduate. The injury had more to do with a lack of supervision/proper teaching than it did with equipment, but yikes, it was not a good situation.

          1. Helen_of_the_Midwest*

            Yes, exactly. And then, when she realized she couldn’t fail me, she had me write a paper to make up for all the gymnastics I wasn’t doing. I turned it in right before I graduated . . . and then I found out from a younger student in the class that after I graduated, the teacher read the paper and wanted to fail me for “plagiarism” because “no high schooler can write like this.” (Graduation was a few days before younger students finished classes. Also, I did not plagiarize; I just had a big vocabulary for a teenager.)

            1. Anonomatopoeia*

              I once got a zero on an assignment, torching my grade for the quarter, on the basis that I plagiarized, because the assignment was to not look anything up but ask my parents to describe something, and my parents, both academics in arts and humanities fields with ginormous vocabularies, used their native manner of expression while I wrote everything down. Since no one’s parents could possibly have said all this, I clearly had plagiarized. Zero! No excuses, no opportunity for remediation. CHEATING GETS A ZERO.

              (My mom still does not know this story; I was too embarrassed to tell them at the time and I mean, when would I have mentioned it later. It’s probably just as well because there’s an okay chance one or the other of them would have showed up and punched that asshat in the entire face if I had and no middle schooler needs a parent in jail.)

            2. BatManDan*

              Alternatively, I wrote an paper in English class in, IIRC, 11th grade, which received a B even though there were no red marks on it. When I inquired how to improve, in order to receive an A on the next one, the teacher said “It’s the best paper I’ve ever seen in 20 years of teaching, but I know you could have done better.” WTH?

                1. skeptic53*

                  I my senior year of high school I was in a calculus class with 12 students in it. The teacher firmly believed in giving only 10% A’s. Two students in the class were math prodigies, they never missed a single question on all the quizzes and exams. Both got 800 on the math SAT. One went to MIT on scholarship and the other was offered scholarships to Harvard and Stanford but went to BYU because she was Mormon. Anyway, there was no way any of the rest of us could get anything higher than B+ for the class. If you missed ONE question on ONE quiz for the quarter, you got a B+

            3. Chirpy*

              This was a huge fear for me all through school, I dumbed down so many papers to avoid being accused of plagiarism. I just read a lot as a kid, including significant portions of the encyclopedia because I was bored.

            4. NotJane*

              I always made pretty good grades in my high school science class but got a zero on a big project. The project consisted of writing a paper then making a model of the subject matter. I can’t remember exactly what it was (maybe some kind of laser?) but the teacher said since the model was so good there was no way I did it myself because there’s no way someone is good at science AND art.

      2. Shay Simmons*

        There is a persistent legend in the United States Marine Corps that a certain air group came back from Desert Storm with 50 more vehicles than what they deployed with. These were discreetly moved to a different part of the base when the quarterly inventories were performed.

        It wasn’t quite the same magnitude, but I returned from a training exercise with 12th Marines in Korea with an extra jeep (this was pre-Humvee). Evidently the Air Force can’t count.

        Unfortunately we had to give it back. My Motor T NCO never forgave me.

        1. NotJane*

          I had a friend who came back from Desert Storm with a dog, who definitely did not deploy with them, lol.

          1. Shay Simmons*

            Usually it’s weapons. I’m not sure how he pulled it off because he returned flat on his back aboard a hospital ship, but somehow my dad brought home a Mauser in 1945.

    2. juliebulie*

      Eh, that wasn’t so much “Machiavellian” as just wrong. Sorry. I can’t actually think of a single Machiavellian campaign or tactic that I have ever witnessed at work.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        I have a tiny one that worked. The person who ordered drinks for their department always ordered an extra flat of cranberry juice that she took home. Everyone knew it but no one ever said anything…. Saved her a whole $10…. She was lucky no one really cared.

    3. Curious*

      So, your boss was ordering you to commit a crime. I don’t think that you should comply — unless you work for Barone Sanitation, or in the Hench universe.

      1. juliebulie*

        I said, “it’s too bad you don’t know how to do it.” Most software baffled and confused him.

    4. ferrina*

      I had a boss that tried to get the receptionist to sign documentation committing to not use certain information in a certain way, when Boss knew darn well that was exactly the way we intended to use the information. Basically she wanted Receptionist to take the fall for the breach of contract.

      Receptionist smelled a rat, and refused to sign anything on the grounds that he was “just a receptionist”. He sent it back to Boss to sign. She tried to send it to me, but I was “too busy” to work on the project. Boss refused to make herself liable for the breach of contract (though she’d been happy to let me and Receptionist do it), and eventually the project got canceled.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Machiavellian me would have documented that pressure and stashed it for future use.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I am confused. Presumably the receptionist was not authorized to sign contract on behalf of the company. Sign for deliveries? Sure. Not even distantly the same thing. So any signature would be on behalf of the receptionist personally, who presumably is not personally misusing that information. If anything, I would think the issue here is fraud. I am surprised the boss didn’t put an illegible scrawl, and then simply deny having signed it. Or better yet, pay a homeless guy twenty bucks to sign it. Because intentionally having an unauthorized person sign it and then represent this as being authorized is no more and no less fraudulent based on who that unauthorized person was.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I assume the plan was to blame the receptionist for the misuse of the information, and say “you knew we weren’t meant to do that, you signed this document!”

          1. Zelda*

            Or claim that the receptionist, who had no authority to promise anything on the company’s behalf, did it anyway, didn’t tell anyone, and presented himself to the contractual partner as being an authorized representative. So, basically blame the receptionist for fraud in causing the contractual partner to believe they had a binding agreement when they didn’t.

        2. ferrina*

          I’m not going to say that boss was the brightest. She just wanted someone to sign for it and wanted to make sure that person wasn’t her. The Receptionist was available for some special projects, so he had whatever authority she granted him for that project. But no, he definitely wasn’t in a role where he could ensure that the company followed the contract.

      1. Dina*

        Made me think of my time working in medical devices (and how raked over the coals behaviour like that would get you at that workplace).

          1. dot*

            I got an Indeed message for a Boeing position a couple days ago and my immediate thought was, I bet they are gonna have a hard time hiring right now.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Just watched an interesting Frontline episode about them last night, so this was my first thought too.

  8. Inkiavelli*

    I befriended a colleague I did not particularly like because his wife worked in an industry I was desperate to break into.
    We became friendly and got to know his wife, a couple of years later she offered to refer me for a role in her industry.
    I got in and the three of us are still friends (-ish).

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      You need to punch it up a bit: It turns out she didn’t like this guy either, but she did like you, and the two of you are now married, raising your kids in a McMansion.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My bestie (of 24 years this summer) and I met because we were both being woo’ed by the same fellow, who was being a jerk about it, and we decided that we liked each other way better than we liked him. I don’t think anyone I know has heard from him in like 22 of the 24 years.

        1. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

          Oh hey! I have a story like that too, except my bestie and I ended up being queer and marrying each other…

  9. CindyLou*

    We had a newish CIO who was pretty terrible. He asked for feedback from the department to address during a townhall meeting. I, as the department admin, was responsible for requesting it from the team. I told everyone it was completely anonymous, and it was.

    I received really negative feedback including, “Who the hell do you think you are?” I compiled all the feedback and sent it out to the whole department. The townhall meeting was cancelled, and I probably narrowly avoided a PIP.

    That guy got walked out by security not long later.

    1. Confused*

      Sorry I dont understand the feedback part.

      Did the staff give the feedback? Why did you narrowly avoid PIP since you did your job?

      did the CIO get walked out or the person who wrote that feedback got walked out?

      1. CindyLou*

        Good questions!

        The staff gave the feedback, and I compiled it.

        I think I was about to go on a PIP because I handed out the feedback to the department, but I avoided it because all the managers were too busy trying to deal with the feedback.

        The CIO got walked out.

        1. zinzarin*

          So you weren’t supposed to share the feedback with the department–just the CIO–and your oversharing is what might have earned you the PIP?

          1. ferrina*

            No, it’s assumed that the feedback should always be shared with the Powers That Be so they can control the narrative (I’ve been charged with collecting/analyzing internal feedback at multiple companies). At the very least, you need someone to screen the feedback for anything absolutely inappropriate.

            CindyLou, you are lucky to have dodged that PIP/firing, but I’m also laughing hysterically. I wish I could have done this to certain C-people I’ve worked with!

            1. not nice, don't care*

              I always use the ‘other’ fields in feedback forms to…provide feedback. Most folks know there is rarely true anonymity in these requests, but I have a lot of political capital and a rep for finding (legal/legit)ways to make company malefactors very uncomfortable when crossed.
              I love crafting responses that play warring administrative factions against each other. I know how they pore over every last comment, and enjoy imagining them meeting to review feedback and trying to spin responses that cast them in (truthful) bad light.

        2. CindyLou*

          I think I was supposed to share the feedback, but I didn’t vet it first. It was really bad feedback.

      2. Venus*

        My understanding is:
        Staff gave the feedback, and OP might have got a PIP because terrible managers are rarely logical.
        CIO would have been walked out given that he was terrible (and it sounds like a lot of staff gave feedback so wouldn’t have been only one person).

    2. Queen Elizabeth I*

      LOL @ Who the hell do you think you are? In my mind that’s the entirety of the feedback.

  10. Library Anoshe*

    I once worked at a location with a boss who was terrible in several ways. One of the ways was that she had made a weekend rotation schedule so that she and her best friend got EVERY single holiday weekend off, even though it was supposed to be equitable. So one weekend team had to work every Easter, Memorial day, Labor Day, Thanskgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. But she and her bestie got all of those off. When I brought this up, that no other location in the city had a weekend rotation (2 weeks on weekends, 2 weeks off weekends) that was like this and that it would ALWAYS fall this way looking years into the future, she retaliated.

    She accused a family member of mine of indecent exposure in the location and used her bestie as her “witness”. This absolutely didn’t happen. My family member was able to avoid a police charge only with sufficient pleading from myself and promising that I would take them for counseling regardless.

    It was utterly humiliating and accomplished just what she wanted, as I thereafter kept my head down, my mouth shut, avoided her as much as I was able and applied for other roles. Fortunately, word got around about this incident and others that revealed her highly unethical management, and she was “asked to retire” early.

    1. Professional_Lurker*

      That… I have no words. There’s being an arsehole at work, and *potentially getting someone on an offenders’ list.* That… wow.

      1. Library Anoshe*

        It was alleged to occur in an area with poor camera angles/camera coverage. But at the same time, was in a pretty public, well-travelled area with other staff, who saw nothing of the sort, sitting 10s of feet away.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Ummmm, accusing someone of a crime falsely strikes me as slander. This boss was walking on real thin ice.

  11. Professional_Lurker*

    Not exactly work, but I used to do something similar as the “no makeup = day off” one. My junior/senior year of high school, I went to a private school with a *lot* of after-school required events — at least two a week. It was exhausting, and mostly pointless — a lot of them were for “announcements” that could have been an email or posted to the bulletin board.

    Around that time, I began my (still ongoing) struggle with periodic insomnia. I mentioned it to guidance councilor once when I ran into her in the student lounge, and she excused me from the mandatory event that afternoon. And a light bulb went off. I was rather into makeup in high school, but if I ever wanted to get out of a required event, I’d make sure not to wear any that day and swing by the office at a time I knew she’d see me. I missed so many of those things my senior year, but she never marked me absent.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I learned that certain colours made me look like death warmed over when I was a teen (army green, for one – when I was in the Reserves, people would ask if I was okay and suggest I lie down for awhile until I felt better).

      Used that to leave work early for an interview. Olive green sweater + “feeling nauseous” = “please go home!”

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        Reassure us that you changed into a different top in a more flattering color for the interview!

      2. Auntie Social*

        At my old law firm, around 4:00 p.m. the office manager would start asking people to work late. My friend would blot off her lipstick and blush, and muss her hair just a little. The office manager would look at her and say “no, we’ve worked you enough today” and look for other victims. At 5:00 in the elevator she’d put on her lipstick and brush her hair, and by the time the elevator hit the lobby she was gorgeous again!! He never figured it out. And when her boss needed OT, she did it without complaining.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        I believe that you and I have similar complexions! I might have to invest in army green if I want to leave an event early!

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          I have a friend like this! She has a beautiful olive complexion, and army green is just the worst possible colour for her. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people – except that she actually is in the army.

          1. Shay Simmons*

            I had my colors done when I was a second lt, and now I wonder why – because they sure as hell weren’t tan and olive drab.

      4. Princess Sparklepony*

        I never used it to get out of work, but yellow is the color that hates me. I borrowed a sister’s yellow dress one day when I worked retail. As fate would have it, there was a Mary Kay convention in town. I got so many people offering me a free makeover. Finally, I started answering – No, it’s the dress color. It’s a borrowed dress and I’m never wearing it again! There was at least a solid 5 hours of offers for free Mary Kay makeup tutorials. No amount of Mary Kay was ever going to counteract the effect of that dress! :D

    2. Frinkfrink*

      Hahaha! I once accidentally did something similar in high school. I wanted to get out of school that day so decided to fake being sick. I’d coincidentally forgotten to put my blush on that day and when I walked into the nurse’s office she took one look at me, said “Oh no, you’re so pale!” and made me lie down. Shortly after I got to go home and enjoy my day off.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      I did this in college. Apparently I look very different with makeup vs. without (under-eye circles and dark eyelids) so if I showed up to a class without makeup and told the prof I was feeling under the weather, they would immediately back away and demand I go back to my dorm.

      It feels a little weird knowing my regular face must look like I have the flu, but I’m going to look on the bright side and assume my makeup skills must be good. :D

      1. Mrspotatohead*

        no it’s because college students are almost as bad as toddlers when it comes to spreading illness. If I had a student tell me they felt sick, I don’t care if the look like they could take on the world, I am kicking them out of my class. I had one student who told me she threw up before class and the only way I could get her to leave was to threaten to fail her on her daily quiz. I do not want whatever plague is going around the dorms this week

        1. JustaTech*

          When I had some kind of horrific bronchitis in college I wrote a note in big red letters on the outside of all of my final exams “I am very sick. Decontaminate before grading!”
          Not that the professors could have possibly failed to notice me coughing up a lung for two solid weeks.

      2. BlueSwimmer*

        I worked at a religious school where the only way you could use leave was if you called the principal in the morning before school and he thought your symptoms were bad enough to allow you to stay home (because a monk with no medical background who has lived in a seminary since he was a teenager is so knowledgeable about medical issues, especially those faced by women.)

        In order to take a day off for an interview at another school, I started building my imaginary illness two days before, putting a combo of purple and grey eye shadow under my eyes to simulate dark circles and talking about how awful I felt.

        I hated being so sneaky but they set it up that way by not giving us actual leave that we could use as needed. I got the job in public school, doubled my salary, and now 25 years later as a school administrator I tell people that their leave is a benefit to use for their needs and they don’t need to justify taking a day off if needed.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I’ve always found that if you tell a supervisor you have stomach flu and it’s coming out of both ends, they will tell you to stay home. Not that I’ve ever faked that excuse…. although I may have exaggerated a upset stomach/hangover….

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Heh, that no makeup one reminded me of an old Cathy cartoon where she does just that.

    5. WeirdChemist*

      Ha, at an old job where I was the only woman for a while, I could definitely get away with a “I don’t feel well” and a vague gesture to my abdomen; they would all look at me in fear, as if my uterus would explode on them at any moment and practically shove me out the door to go home lol

      1. Janeric*

        Similarly, in high school, the gym class allowed you to sit out twice per semester with no impact to your grade. I intended to tell the (older, male, very unused to teaching female students) teacher,
        “Hey, I’m going to sit out today because I have to finish an assignment for another class.” but he didn’t let me get past the word “have” before encouraging me to go sit in the library “and work on schoolwork or something” with no impact to my grade.

        I used this information… judiciously.

      2. Random Dice*

        “they would all look at me in fear, as if my uterus would explode on them at any moment”

        This made me laugh

    6. time_ebbs*

      My high school had seniors who served as ushers who checked-in everyone at required events (boarding school with a lot of speakers and other enrichment events). One or two of the ushers were then required to stay outside of the theater or gym until 15 minutes past the start of the event to check-in the stragglers. I realized quite quickly that no adult was making sure the ushers actually stayed for the event and most of the events were held at locations near the backway off campus. So I volunteered to be the straggler usher and then would sneak off campus until the event was over if I thought the event was going to be boring.

    7. Bunch Harmon*

      My middle and high schools were in separate wings of the same building, and they shared a nurse. When I was 13, I had my first migraine. She let me rest in a room with only a cot, and then went out for a smoke break. I threw up from the pain – on the floor, because there was no where else to go. For the next five years, she sent me home any time I said I had a headache. I was pretty straight laced, but I used that to my advantage a couple of times.

      1. littlehope*

        I have EDS, so I’m super hypermobile and can do things with my joints that joints really Should Not Do. When I was a kid, before the disabling symptoms really kicked in and long before I was diagnosed, I just thought it was a Cool Weird Thing, and very useful for getting out of class; I used to pop my thumb joint out, which looks really visibly gross and wrong, and then go, “MISS, I’ve HURT my HAND,” and get sent to the office.
        Only problem with that was, it looks *really* alarming if you don’t know I’m just a bendy freak, so a couple of times I had to backpedal real fast to avoid getting sent to A&E.

        1. Calyx*

          I just read a fantasy series by a woman with EDS about a heroine with EDS. It was fun. Rebecca Yarros, Empyrean, I think.

        2. KB*

          When I was at school, I was known to be one of a useless teacher’s favourite students so one day I was asked to distract her while one of the other kids used their hypermobile joints to look as if they had dislocated their elbow. I’ve never seen anyone look as green as that teacher did, and almost the entire class had to go and escort their friend to the school nurse. Unsurprisingly, none of them made it back for the end of the lesson, and I got chocolate for my role in the whole thing.

          I have SO many stories about that teacher. She was just dreadful and should never have been hired.

    8. t-vex*

      When I was in high school I had a suuper high metabolism so my regular body temperature was 99.1 F. Anytime I wanted to get out of class I’d put on a sad face and pop over to the nurse’s station. She’d take my temperature and say Hmm, you’re a little warm, you should go home. Worked every time.

  12. Strict Extension*

    I worked in a specialty retail industry for many years. It’s common practice in the industry to include as part of the compensation package a monthly store credit. At another store in our community, a department manager who worked at her store for years never used her store credit, just letting it accrue. When she left, she cashed it all in to basically clean out the department’s stock and used it to start a rival wholesale business.

      1. Strict Extension*

        Sadly, her departure was at least in part due to seeing the writing on the wall regarding the overall fate of the business. They may have had a policy change, but they definitely never hired to replace her, didn’t have much other staff in the first place, and were closed entirely within a year.

      1. Strict Extension*

        I’m not sure how much advance planning there was. I think not using the credit was initially because she was also aggressively courting vendors and in this industry, vendors love sending samples. I had her position at my store, and after a few years, I could ask for almost anything I wanted for free, and I didn’t chase clout anywhere near the degree she did. Combine not needing to buy any new products along with getting credit for being a team player who had the business’s best interests at heart, and not using her credit was a good self-serving move even without this final checkmate.

  13. Garth*

    I’ve doctored records and emails to either make myself look better or make my work enemies look worse. I haven’t been caught, but it really hasn’t helped me either.

      1. Garth*

        Yes, this was a long time ago when I was young and (very) stupid. I would love to blame a toxic workplace but it was my own insecurities and anxiety.

    1. Random Dice*

      I guess technically Machiavelli was about fraud and lying, though really it has to be clever, and in service to a greater scheme of power acquisition.

      I think you might just be a liar who commits fraud.

  14. Anon for this*

    So one time, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ (by the CEO) to give one of my team members a raise, even though he had been working his butt off for YEARS and was severely under paid. The outgoing CFO (I was the controller) said, well, that’s why you have financial discretion.
    So I bumped his pay every week until right before the new CFO started. No one ever looked at the numbers for my department anyway, so I don’t know why the CEO cared so much.

    At the same place, the Sales team used to charge all kinds of personal stuff (family xmas presents!) to the company and the CEO didn’t care. So I started taking my team to really expensive lunches and charging them to the Sales department.

    Same place, unsurprisingly, and I think I’ve posted this before, we had an A/P & Payroll person who loudly talked on the phone (personal calls) ALL THE TIME, while typing studiously, so she could pretend she was working. I had just gotten there, didn’t know my team or anyone well yet, but this was driving me crazy, along with everyone else. I talked to her about it repeatedly, with no change. Finally, I called the guy from my first comment above into my office and said “break her phone. Don’t make it obvious, but make sure her phone doesn’t work.” He got such a big smile and suddenly she was complaining about her phone. I just said if she needed to make a work call she could use my phone. She never did. She left soon after.

    I don’t regret any of them!

    1. Iain C*

      I did similar with a colleague who spent all day chatting with his boyfriend in a very different timezone. We wouldn’t have cared if his work was up to scratch as well.

      Oddly the next week he complained about the internet being broken. “Hmm, webpage X Y and Z that we need for work are all fine..?”.

      Nobody else cared that the msn messenger login url now resolved to…

  15. pally*

    During the height of the COVID, we discovered that our supply of N95 masks had been ‘replaced’.

    Each box was still on the shelf as normal. The boxes were all the same weight and ‘sounded’ right when shaken.

    Only, the masks themselves had been removed and pieces of cardboard substituted.

    Betting someone got a pretty penny for those masks.

      1. Laser99*

        There sure is. This is like vendors who raise the price of essentials like bottled water and batteries during an emergency.

      1. Zelda*

        And profiteering. Just taking something is bad enough, but an essential supply during a life-and-death crisis– it’s evil.

  16. Medieval Peasant*

    In a previous job I used to assist with travel arrangements, entering guests into the system and booking flights. I would say 90% of all travel requests were simple, routine, and polite, but the remaining 10% was absolute entitled nonsense: haughty demands for first class upgrades (definitely not within budget), impossible seating arrangements, requests for additional tickets for friends and family who weren’t even part of the organization (?!) and so on. Sometimes the airline offered no option for choice anyway, but wherever possible, I took pains to stick these knuckleheads in a middle seat in coach, preferably next to the lavatory. I always wished I could have seen their faces upon reading the email confirmation.

    I realize this is not exactly a brilliant Machiavellian power play, but it does remind me that I should never be given the least shred of power, lest I actually use it.

    1. ferrina*

      Nah, I feel like if someone is rude to the person booking their travel (whoever that person is), they are playing with fire.

      Allegedly this happened: My mom was standing in line at the customer service desk behind the rudest customer ever. The customer was berating the customer service rep who worked for the airline, cutting him off, swearing at him, and generally making his life hell. From what my mom could tell, the customer had been late to his flight and the rep was trying to rebook him. After about 15 minutes of the rep being flawlessly polite and the customer abusing him, the customer was rebooked and his bag was checked. He huffed off, and the rep called my mom to the desk. My mom looked back at the customer, who was storming off, and said “I can’t believe he treated you like that! That was awful!”

      The rep smiled slightly. “It’s okay,” he said. “He’s going to Las Vegas; his bags are going to Denver.”

      1. Glad I'm not in the rat-race any more*

        My husband hates folks that are rude to the front-facing airline personnel, especially when either the weather has screwed everyone over or someone is being rude when the problem is their own fault. He’s always polite and commiserative to the airline folks when it’s his turn, then does what he calls “the friendly brontosaurus” after: stands off to the side, out of the range of the mess at the desk but within eyesight, and will share eye-rolls and headshakes w/ the airline worker when they handle an asshat. It tends to get him first in line when they start calling standbys, or if he’s asked for an upgrade.

        1. PhyllisB*

          I know about the being rude to a worker because of weather. I used to be a long distance operator and I remember one particularly rude man who was mad because he couldn’t get a call through to Florida. They were in the middle of a hurricane. I tried to politely inform him of this but he insisted I could call “around the storm” and get through. I told him that wasn’t possible and he blew a gasket because the “idiot operator” didn’t know how to do a simple thing. I have never been so glad to transfer a customer in my life. I don’t know how she got through to him, just glad I didn’t have to deal with him anymore.

        2. Dino Nerd*

          I am delighted by the phrase “friendly brontosaurus” and the description of what that entails.

        3. Betsy*

          This reminds me of a story. It could seem Machiavellian, but I didn’t plan any of it.

          My partner was traveling to Europe for work, and I was going along. Partner had business class ticket, and I had coach. We asked at the podium (this was back in the day when you “checked in” at the gate) if I could get a business class ticket. They said no, so no biggie – we just went to the airline’s airport lounge to wait for boarding time. I had to use the restroom, and while I was in there, I saw three of the women from the check in area at the gate, and we chatted for a minute. The funny thing is that I was still very shy back then, and I normally wouldn’t have talked to strangers, but at that point, they weren’t total strangers to me, so I guess it felt “safe.” I think I remember complimenting one of the women of her… shoes? bag? something like that.

          Partner and I went back out to the gate area when it was closer to boarding time, and I thought I would get in line just to be sure I had an aisle seat assigned. When I got to the front of the line, before I could say anything, one of the women from the restroom told me to step over to the side and wait there. So I did, and she came over a minute later with a business class ticket, shoved it in my hand, and told me not to tell anyone about it. I was pretty happy, so I thanked her quietly and walked back over to my partner. Business class was awesome!

        4. cityMouse*

          “The friendly brontosaurus”! I haven’t heard that term in ages, makes me smile for sure!

        5. sad dinosaur*

          And the sad thing is that there was no Brontosaurus anymore. Basically two sets of people described the same dinosaur, one in Europe, one in the USA both with different names. So they had to decide which name to call it and it was called Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus was not really used for a long while. BUT in 2015 a new large study was published and it showed that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus are distinct species… So Brontesaurus lives again!
          Incidentally what dinosaur’s call is “Heathcliff, Heathcliff!”?
          A Brontësaurus…

        6. Laser99*

          There’s a reality show on A&E set in various airports and the amount of people who lose their minds over weather situations is wild. There is also a good number who get drunk at the bar and are then furious they missed their flight(threatening to sue is the default).

        1. linger*

          Års, Denmark, or Arsoli, Italy, if you wanted the destination to send a clearer message.

  17. nnn*

    My friend had a manager who valued his authority, but also wasn’t very good at finding solutions to problems.

    So she started presenting problems to him as “How would you like me to handle this? Should I do [optimal solution]? [Suboptimal solution]? Something else?”

    Always optimal solution first and suboptimal solution second, and he would always pick the optimal solution.

    Then, after some time passed, she started occasionally using “Should I do [thing I want to do]? [Thing I don’t want to do]? Something else?” And he’d always pick the first option.

    And if she wanted to stall for time, she wouldn’t present options at all. She’d just say “How would you like me to handle this?” and wait patiently for an answer, which took some time because he wasn’t good at actually coming up with answers.

    1. new post, same name*

      This is actually a smart business practice, it’s called “Leading Up.” I do it All. The. Time. You can amass quite a kingdom of authority, and save your sanity at the same time using this approach.

    2. Jen*

      Oh my Lord, this is exactly how you parent toddlers: “Would you like to wear your coat or carry it?” (and the three year old chooses “wear it”, rather than the hassle of carrying it, and no discussion of leaving it home even enters into the discussion). I’m absolutely delighted that it could work on an adult.

        1. I Have RBF*


          “Cake or Death”
          “Cake please”
          “Sorry, we’re all out of cake”
          “Ummmm… what was the third choice then?”

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I’ve found this works on customers who can’t make up their minds on toppings: don’t say “we’ve got X kinds of veggies.” Say “Would you like onions or peppers?” Even if it’s neither it helps clear the mental overload.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          If I was dithering that much, I would be relieved by that question, because it would simplify things.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          When I worked at a department store in Handbags, we tried to keep all selections to three. More than that and the customer would dither more. So if they wanted to look at a fourth from the case, you kind of tried to get them to retire one of the three out as being not as good of a choice. (It wasn’t like there was a rule about not having more than three, it just made it easier for people to decide.) (At some jewelry stores there are actual rules about how many items you can have out to avoid grab and run theft.)

      2. Zombeyonce*

        Apparently my kid is too smart for this, because he always just says “no” like that was an option.

        1. Clisby*

          Depending on where you live, it could be. I live in South Carolina, so if a toddler refuses a coat? Not my problem. They won’t freeze to death.

        2. Generic Name*

          Same. None of the “tried and true” parenting techniques for preschoolers and toddlers worked on my kid. He saw straight through everything.

        3. Distracted Procrastinator*

          Like my kid with sandwiches. I’d ask “would you like it cut in rectangles or squares?” the reply? “octagons.” That wasn’t one of the options kid, but thanks for believing in me.

          1. C*

            omg I am dying, octagons! what! my kid came back with rhombus once, when he was still learning shapes and I was so stunned.

            1. JustaTech*

              I have a friend who uses “what shape do you want your sandwich” as a way to teach shapes!
              She’s also an engineer so probably could free-hand an octagon.

              1. Lexi Vipond*

                When I was quite small my mum would do a different shape from each quarter, to the mild bemusement of the neighbour who asked me one day what I’d had for my lunch and was told ‘a square and a circle and a triangle and a rectangle’.

              2. Random Dice*

                I think most of us could do an octagon. Just lightly press a long knife into the sandwich like a pizza with 8 pieces, to score it. Then cut straight lines between each of the spokes.

      3. BatManDan*

        Mom was a kindergarten / early ed teacher of many years. It works on toddlers. When she was still trying to use it on me at age 14, I called her out and learned the logical fallacy “begging the question.” Drove her crazy that I wouldn’t fall for it any more. (lovely woman, but she was the sort to coach an adult on the best way to tie shoes.)

    3. Artemesia*


      I taught adult learning and one assignment of these students (who were mostly working professionals) was to use operant conditioning to change the behavior of someone. Many came in with examples like this of changing their boss’s behavior — or sometime their admin’s behavior. One told me that he was about to fire his admin because of how difficult she was to work with but after a week of shaped positive reinforcement and no negative feedback she was now pleasant and doing the job as he wished.

      1. Lisa Simpson*

        I had a coworker who kept a bowl of chocolates that she shared anytime someone gave her an answer that she liked. I am still impressed!

    4. Orange You Glad*

      I have a boss who is very long-winded and will go on tangents when meeting about something. I have been known to strike up a conversation with him about something unnecessary but I know will get him worked up in order to kill the last 2 hours of the day that I don’t want to work.

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh I had a teacher like that in high school – if you asked just the right question he was like a windup duck, you could get him going in a completely different direction for the whole class period.

        1. Betsy*

          My high school Spanish teacher came from Cuba. We had a substitute once who told us, if we wanted to wind up the regular teacher, we should ask her about Castro. She went on and on until class ended.

          1. NotJane*

            My high school algebra teach was a retired horse trainer so all we had to do was start a conversation about horses and that was the lecture for the day!

        2. Finn*

          You just reminded me of a teacher in my school. He was famous for his 45-minute-long talks about wasted time… I didn’t have him in classes much, sadly.

    5. Chirpy*

      I used to do this with a coworker who absolutely would not commit to picking a lunchtime when we needed to coordinate for coverage. After one day where she kept saying “oh, I’ll go in a minute” and then never did, meaning I didn’t get to go to lunch until 3:00, I started using the method I learned working with small children at summer camp: basically, I gave her a forced choice. “Do you want to go to lunch at 11, or noon?”

      She still thought she had a choice, and I got to eat at a normal time (and she couldn’t choose 11:30, which was the most obnoxious since 11:30-12:30 was one of the busiest times of day.)

  18. Kristin*

    The place: a small, non-accredited aviation museum.
    Me: a recent grad with a Master’s in Archives and Information Science (in my 4os – career change).
    The culprit: a longtime volunteer who had been disciplined (for harassment), then dismissed.

    I was working at my first contract archives position with the aim toward bringing this museum up to the standard needed for AAM (American Alliance of Museums) accreditation, when someone on the board, without my knowledge and for no explanation, brought back this talkative, know-it-all volunteer who tried to foist upon me some Air Force cataloging handbook (this was not an Air Force museum) and who peppered me and the project supervisor with feisty emails about leadership, aviation history etc. I ended up telling him and the board that I did not need this distraction from my grant-funded work, for which I was to set the parameters, and the volunteer backed off (after whining that he had been “fired again!”).

    After the conclusion of my paid project, I remained a volunteer and the new board brought him back! After spending ten minutes pleading for me to work for him (on his knees, no less), he spread rumors that I was going to “take over the museum!” He was put in charge of cataloging, and was interviewing archivists for a new project. (HE was going to interview me? No.) Once he had his twenty-somethings under his control he bad-mouthed me to them, and they told me about it.

    I rolled my eyes and walked away, and soon accepted contracts from NASA! (They approached me; I didn’t approach them.) After imposing this inappropriate Air Force (I almost typed Farce) cataloging scheme on the museum’s collection, the museum dissolved and their collections were split between other local museums. This volunteer took credit for all my work but has since “retired” (knock on wood).

    1. Popcorn*

      I didn’t know there was an accreditation process for museums! What kind of stuff did your work involve for that? In any case, NASA sounds like a step up from that position.

        1. Popcorn*

          Oh that’s really interesting, thank you! Hopefully future me remembers to look into what the equivalent in my country looks like.

    2. I'm great at doing stuff*

      So that guy basically tanked the museum. Well done in the Machiavellian department, sir. On the other hand, he seems too dumb to be truly Machiavellian.

      1. Suburban mom*

        It surprises me when people go Machiavellian over small, dumb things, or in the wrong way. Like the post about “hills people die on” – they defend bad processes and policies.

        My kid was in an extra-curricular activity that annoyingly met a few exit up the highway – ugh! It only met once a month or so and I could see my kid ending it in about 2 years. A nearby friend joined with her kids and got certified to lead the local organization in order to move all the activities closer to where we lived…. ? It’s 4 years later and her kids are still active members, good for her!

          1. Flare*

            I dunno, if you’re somewhere rural there might only be an exit every several or many miles. A few exits cityward from my rural hometown, 105 miles from the nearest metro area, is maybe 50 miles.

          2. linger*

            On an expressway (esp. in the USA) “a few exits” can still equate to an inconvenient distance, and possibly also expense in tolls.
            Whether all this manoeuvring was worthwhile mostly depends on how far the activity location was from the school’s catchment area; it wouldn’t be so great if the outcome was to move it further away from the other participants.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Now I kinda want to know if the Museum letter where the guy was taking stuff home and refusing to return it ever really got resolved. I know there were updates that they were working on it but I don’t remember if it ever actually happened and they got all the stuff back.

    4. OrigCassandra*

      Oh my GOSH I actually know which museum this is (don’t worry, won’t divulge) and I was always curious about what went down.

      I’m glad you got out to something better!

  19. Edward Williams*

    Years ago:
    Employee X complained to boss: “Employee Y has terrible bad breath — I just can’t stand it.”
    Boss called employee Y in; employee Y went to dentist (he went to dentist regularly in any case); dentist provided letter saying Y has no oral or dental problems which often cause bad breath. Meanwhile, boss quietly (but at expense of considerable political capital) inquired discreetly of other colleagues “Do you notice Y has bad breath?” All said “Why, no, not at all.” In due course, it transpired that X, a vicious backstabbing office politician, fabricated the accusation. Boss, much to his credit, fired X.

    1. Andromeda*

      How would this even benefit X if it were true? And why would boss ask around to coworkers, rather than craft an excuse to be around Y and observe bad breath/lack of bad breath himself? This whole situation seems weirdly primary school.

      1. Tex*

        X employee was hoping to keep Y employee away from the boss. Probably hoping boss would be disgusted by the halitosis and voluntarily keep away from Y.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      My face doesn’t know what expression to make to this story.


      Like, is having halitosis such a bad thing that a person might lose their job over it? And that if there is an accusation of halitosis that’s false, it’s bad enough to get fired? What if the guy just had eggs that morning he was complained about? I’m confused.

    3. Luanne Platter*

      This seems a bit odd. Y should not have needed a letter from his dentist about bad breath (which is entirely subjective and could have been caused by his lunch). Boss should not have asked other colleagues about Y’s breath (like seriously, what??) and this shouldn’t have escalated into firing X. If X had performance or company-culture problems, there’s probably several valid reasons for terming X rather than complaints about another’s breath.

    4. bmorepm*

      It’s horrifying that the boss approached employee y about this based on one person’s say so to begin with. huge error in judgement.

      1. House On The Rock*

        Yeah, this is less Big Political Power Move and more incredibly weird and overreaching boss. I can’t imagine asking/telling your employee to get a letter from their dentist (or go to the dentist…or any healthcare provider). I get wanting the “fake bad breath reporter” to get their comeuppance, but the boss was really out of line here, yikes.

    5. Laser99*

      The last sentence makes me so happy. I was bracing myself for something like, “The boss rolled his eyes. The end.”

  20. Beepboop*

    As a new grad trying to break into my field, I was really struggling to find work without any experience.

    Finally, after 2 months of back and forth, I got offered a 6 month internship. Which then they bailed on to make it a 3 month internship, with an option for them to renew another 3 months if they liked me.

    Turns out that 3 months of internship experience was all I needed to get loads of interviews in the industry, and they were very shocked when I declined their meetings to “discuss renewing me” as I was already interviewing for full time work.

    1. Burning hoops*

      This is something that frustrated me during school. I was in school for IT and already had the skills for basic helpdesk work. I couldn’t get an interview at all because I didn’t have a degree or experience. Eventually I found a 6 week internship. Immediately I was getting job offers and now I constantly have recruiters ignore my “not looking for work” on LinkedIn.

      My I win the lotto plan is to open a computer repair shop and exclusively hire high school and college students who are interested in IT just so they could get work experience so they don’t have to do the silly song and dance I had to for years.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Ha! That’s my whole win the lottery plan too! Start a company that only hires new college and high school grads with no experience, give them that experience, so other short-sighted and stupid employers will finally hire them and give them the careers they deserve.

        1. Oh yeah, Me again*

          Mine is to buy/start a shoe factory in the US, and then I could: earn money on my investment, provide manufacturing jobs in the US and finally, finally get shoes that FIT my FEET!

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Expand that to stay at home parents trying to reenter the work force, and I’ll invest some of my theoretical Powerball jackpot too.

  21. Miss Marple*

    My boss absolutely LOVES saying no, even when it makes little sense. It’s a shoot first, ask questions never situation. I’ve taken to calling her (in my head and to my friend in another department) First Name “Yeah But” Last Name.

    Last fall we had a week that was exceptionally quiet, and it’s scheduled far in advance. Think fall break at a university. My coworkers and I were hoping to plan getaways to work remotely, since we absolutely did not need to be in the office that week (I think the building even closed early). About six weeks before the break, I checked in with “Yeah But” to see if we’d be working from home the whole week, as we had the previous year, so I could book flights to a beautiful little town where my family has a house. My plan was to go there with a friend who lives driving distance from the town.

    Now, I knew if I said “Hey, I’d like to book flights, my friend and I want to chill at a house with a beautiful view that week since we’re going to be WFH anyway” she’d find some ridiculous reason I needed to stay in our city. As it was, when I cautiously asked her which days we might possibly work from home that week, she immediately sensed I was asking so I could get away and said “maybe some days, I’m not sure yet.” (One of her superpowers is sensing when someone wants something. All the better for her to say no to.)

    Backstory: My great aunt, who was basically a grandmother to me (which “Yeah But” knows), died earlier in 2023.

    So I replied, “Okay, it’s just, my family would really like to come together at my great aunt’s favorite place to scatter her ashes.” It wasn’t 100% a lie because it WAS her favorite place, but my family is not sentimental at all and would never gather for such a purpose.

    This only kind of worked–she still took forever to confirm the dates, by which point airfare was more expensive. I think I got her to confirm barely three weeks ahead. But I kept saying “Sorry, my parents are hounding me about this, they’re trying to plan a little ceremony, it would mean a lot to my mom if I’m there,” etc. and finally I guess she felt she couldn’t hold out anymore and confirmed with us–surprise, surprise–that we could work from home the entire week.

    When I got back to the office and she asked how the ceremony was, I just said it was beautiful but it would make me too emotional to talk about so I’d rather not.

    1. Toast*

      It would have been Machiavellian if you asked her if you could work from the office that week because you had something nearby after work every day that week and it would be way easier for you. Then have her tell you no, that you must work from home that week since she likes to tell people no!

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I was sure it was going to be “I knew she said no to everything, so I asked her for the opposite of what I wanted.”

      1. Miss Marple*

        Brilliant, I will absolutely use this tactic next time! Although she’s quite a lonely person and I think the office is the only area in her life where she feels she can exert a lot of control, so it might backfire. She’s a weird one.

  22. Curly*

    A former boss called a co-workers wife pretending to be me and told her we were having an affair. We were NOT!
    She resigned shortly after that little stunt!

    1. Cubicles and Chimeras*

      nosy me wants to know so much more about this, sounds like just the tip of the iceberg.

      Why on earth did she do that? How did she get caught out by the wife/coworker? How’d people react at work?

  23. CTA*

    At a former employer, there was a Director who thought I was incompetent. She also thought that any follow up question I asked about tickets she submitted was rooted in incompetence or insubordination, so she would reply in ways that would “explain how business concepts work” in a put-down sort of way and would also not answer any of the valid questions I asked. She truly just wanted me to do what she had written even when it didn’t make sense.

    My approach was to not push her to actually read my questions again. I already did my due diligence by following up. There’s a chance she was overwhelmed by working from home and the pandemic (this was in 2020), but I have only so much patience. We all have difficulties to work through, but that’s no excuse to treat others poorly. I think she didn’t like me because I tried to stick to some boundaries. I’m a Web Developer. Common boundaries are once a request is submitted, then it shouldn’t be changed unless absolutely necessary and even then you should check in first with the person who is working on your request. I tried to be flexible with her requests, but she was really pushing things and making it impossible to get any work done.

    Most of the time she’d reply along the lines of “that’s correct” when I asked for clarification, so I’d just do what she asked. My work had to go through at least two other people for approval. I knew those other people would also ask the same questions I did, so I’d let her handle the fallout…I was only doing what she confirmed was correct.

    One time, a C-suite exec was reviewing my work and he had the same questions I did…and yes this Director actually committed in writing that she thought I was “questioning the request” when I had sent her my valid questions…and then she accused me of doing the request wrong and changing the wrong thing on the website…and C-suite exec told her thing she said I changed had always looked like that.

    PS – I received a job offer shortly after this last incident, so I escaped and left this employer in the lurch during their busy period.

  24. Never the Twain*

    When I was rather younger, and back in the days when going to the pub on someone’s last day was de rigueur, one colleague refused to go back to the office at two o’clock. “All that’s going to happen is that [senior manager] will say what a great contribution I’ve made and how sorry you all are to lose me, and he doesn’t even know who I am.”
    The answer, obvious to anyone awash with beer, was to take a random other colleague and put them forward as the leaver, whereupon the farewell went exactly as predicted (ROC even took the leaving gift of a squash racket, and I’m not sure that ever got to its intended recipient).
    Had we been slightly more sober, we’d have chosen someone who wasn’t himself scheduled to leave a couple of weeks later, but as he said on his own leaving day “What can they do to me?”
    The answer was nothing, and in fact the same senior manager trotted out the same platitudes to the same departing worker as he had a fortnight earlier, with never an eyelid batted on either side.

    1. Kes*

      I’m surprised the solution to that wasn’t to have someone else take his place in turn… I’m just imagining a whole chain of people pretending to be someone else who’s leaving until the department runs out of people or the senior manager runs into one of the “leavers” still in the office a few weeks later

    2. Dhaskoi*

      I don’t know what explanation I like better – if the manager was truly clueless or if they knew and played along.

  25. InSearchOf9000*

    Way back when I worked for a big tech company, we had a set of parts that had a horrible failure rate. They’d pass the first set of hipot and such, but invariably would break and have to be sent back to the beginning of the line. I was an amazing generator of static electricity, even when wearing grounded shoes, grounding myself, and testing on the grounding meter. So whenever we had something that needed that part, I would pull the inventory – because no matter how carefully I handled it, it’d get zapped. And then it usually /would/ fail hipot, so we’d only have to backtrack 2 stations.

    Eventually they ran through the bad batch of inventory and the part stopped being so tetchy. But I still tended to tap the parts whenever I saw them.

      1. Dhaskoi*

        InSearchOf9000 worked on a production line which had parts coming through that were *just* good enough to pass initial testing but would break at the final test – after the work had been done, causing lost of time to be wasted. InSearchOf9000 would handle the parts right after they came on the production line, using their natural static electricity to ‘break’ them early so they got replaced before all the work was done, reducing lost time.

        (If the parts had been up to spec, static electricity would have had no effect – basically this was an extra test).

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Thanks for this explanation! I was also a bit confused by this one, but now it makes sense. What a great application of a static electricity superpower.

  26. awardcommittee*

    I once volunteered for an awards committee with 5-6 other folks who were overcommitted and uninterested in the committee. We were all supposed to advertise the award. I carefully advertised very heavily in my department and wasn’t shy about suggesting 2 people who I thought would be great for the award. I even provided some text and info folks could use in nomination letters. These 2 people also happened to be my mentors. I even mentioned it so some external collaborators.

    No-one else on the committee ever got around to advertising the award and the two awards went to my mentors who got 6x more nominations than anyone else. The awards were $10,000 each!

    I left the org right after the awards came in, but you better believe I got glowing recommendations from those folks! The whole thing left me with a deep appreciation for how much power someone can have when no-one else cares.

  27. Kjolis*

    In the late 90s I was an intern at a magazine. A publicist was hired to invite celebrities to a party the magazine was hosting. He created a one sheet of celebrities that were supposedly coming and told me to fax it to a bunch of other publicists/agents. I did as I was told, but then one of the fax receivers called him and said something like “take my client’s name off this, they’re not coming.” He blamed it on me and claimed “an overzealous intern” had included the name, even though he had created the one sheet and gave me the fax numbers. When I confronted him about it, he said “Don’t take it personally! If I wanted to make it personal, I would’ve included your name.”

    At the party, I was working coat check. He came up to me and said “when you spot a celebrity, find me so I can walk them through the party so press can take pictures.”

    But whenever I spotted a celebrity enter the club, I did nothing but check their coats. If the publicist wanted them, he could find them, as far as I was concerned.

    I guess he didn’t, because there was very little press about the event the next day.

    1. Beth*

      I love this! He threw you under the bus and then put you in a position to slash the tires while he was driving it.

      1. Kjolis*

        Yep. In the end his behavior did me a favor though – made me realize I never wanted to work in that kind of industry.

  28. Medium Sized Manager*

    When we were in person, I would take my team members out to lunch once a quarter-ish. The business purpose was to talk about their specific goals/celebrate what they have accomplished, but it also meant a free lunch for me. I was the only manager to take advantage of this for some reason, but my team absolutely loved it because it was usually just an hour of yapping and laughing instead of stiff business talk.

    To this day, it’s still a running joke in the office how much I loved x restaurant because I would tell them they can pick or we can default to my favorite local spot.

    1. Oh yeah, Me again*

      I read that first sentence as “When we were in prison. . . ” and was so disappointed when this turned out to be regular office story. I think we definitely need to start including some prison stories in this site. Prison is a work environment, after all, with a lot of dynamics in common with to your run-of-the-mill dysfunctional office/factory/warehouse but intensified. And I bet we’d get the best Machiavellian antics of all from prison stories!

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        I can see it now… Let me tell you about the time I didn’t check in on Epstein in Rikers….

      2. Hlao-roo*

        If you haven’t read it already, check out the “interview with a prison librarian” post from October 28, 2015. Very interesting look at working at a prison. The librarian also interacted in the comments under the name “Oryx”

  29. Bike Shorts*

    When I worked as a baker at a small-ish independent bakery, the owners decided that we would start wholesaling our baked goods to all of the local branches of a prolific chain coffee shop. Our production went through the roof, but we were a shop known for doing everything from scratch, so some processes became absolutely ridiculous. One of these was zesting citrus fruit for flavoring our scones and muffins. Zesting became someone’s full-time (absolutely torturous) job. We went through a case of lemons and half a case of oranges every single day just for their zest. All of our microplanes were as dull as could be after a few short weeks of this, making the job of zesting even more difficult. Our bakery manager at the time found a fancy French company that produced packages of frozen zest, but she was afraid the owners wouldn’t go for it. So she prepared two batches of lemon scones to compare the fresh zest with the frozen zest… except she didn’t. She actually used the frozen zest in both batches. The owners were amazed that they couldn’t taste the difference and agreed to switch to using the frozen zest. It saved us so much unpleasant physical labor, I think back so fondly on that manager’s actions.

    1. Don P.*

      But now I want to know if maybe you really couldn’t tell the difference. Seems like a big jump to cook the demo (fudge the demo? No, those are both stupid baking jokes and I refuse).

      1. Bike Shorts*

        Nope you couldn’t really tell! And we’re all pretty snobby about this stuff.

        I would still use fresh zest for something like a bit of garnish on the top of the glaze on top of a cookie. But for inside the cookie dough? Frozen zest has the same effect as fresh. The main disadvantage of the frozen is that it doesn’t look as nice or as bright and gets kinda clumpy from the condensation.

    2. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      As someone who had to once spend all day every day for a week zesting key limes for an ill-conceived event, I am absolutely loving everything about this!

  30. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    An acquaintance of mine (Lisa) had a vicious running war with another (totally incompetent, unqualified and basically evil) VP (Brad) who was in charge of contracting and procurement for a company that did a lot of work for the government. My friend started, amplified and enhanced a rumor that Brad was taking kickbacks, and then anonymously reported it to the fraud, waste and abuse hotline for the federal agency they worked with, and supported it with some (true) information that made Brad look very bad. The feds started an investigation and brought it to the general counsel and Chief Compliance Officer (who Lisa knew already hated Brad, but who until then couldn’t fire him) who was then able to dig really deeply into Brad and fire him for other reasons.

    Lisa confided in me that her intention all along was to get it back to the CCO, and the easiest way to do that was to have it come in from the outside from the feds.

    1. Artemesia*

      I didn’t try to make many incompetent or awful co-workers look bad, but there was one I did nail. He was in many ways excellent, but in many ways awful. I was in a position where I could protect him when his contract came up for renewal every 3 years. And I did that and it required a lot of convincing because those at the top really wanted him gone.

      And then this guy shafted me several times. He embarrassed me in front of a group by telling them something I had shared in confidence. He actually changed the dimensions of my office under construction next to his by telling the builders to move the wall here thus adding a foot to his space and making my very narrow when it was already going to be fairly narrow. etc. So the next time he was up for renewal I just kept my mouth shut. Didn’t say a negative word. Just didn’t go to the matts for him. and he was gone.

        1. Artemesia*

          LOL. Actually I had made my own little sliver of an office — long and narrow so a desk nest and then a meeting table space — work for me so I didn’t. But to have had my office shrink by several inches when it was already narrow did PO me enough for him to lose my protection. He never knew he only had a job because I had championed him at each renewal.

    2. Despachito*

      Wow, that is pretty nasty even if Brad was a piece of work. I do not think I like that, it was a pretty low blow.

      1. Loredena*

        I don’t know, she said the info was true, and when the CCO investigated he found evidence that was reason to fire. Sounds to me like it was just a convoluted path but a reasonable result

        1. Sacred Ground*

          She “started, amplified, and enhanced a rumor” that included some true information. That’s not exactly righteous whistleblowing. It is absolutely Machiavellian. And a reminder why Machiavelli isn’t exactly considered a heroic figure.

  31. Anonymous for this one*

    I had a horrible new-ish coworker who was arrogant, dictatorial, and verbally abusive. He seemed to feel that company made promises to him during the interview process that it had no intention of keeping, especially in view of what an exceptionally talented person he was. That wasn’t my experience of how the company operated but, hey, I didn’t sit in on his interview and couldn’t comment. In any event, he decided to take out his frustration on anyone he could. Since we had to work closely together, I was his frequent target.

    One day after work, I decided to google him and see if his high opinion of himself was grounded in reality, and I found his Facebook page. He (idiotically, in my opinion) had made all his posts public, and I found a treasure trove of posts complaining about the company, a detailed description of his job search to get out of this job, and his plans to take proprietary information with him when he went.

    I screencapped all of the best of his posts and texted them to an anonymous number the company had for internal complaints/issues. To my astonishment, the company didn’t immediately fire him, but HR landed on him with both feet and he was utterly miserable until he did eventually leave.

  32. Seal*

    Early in my career, I worked in a department that recycled a lot of paper daily; as such, we had a large recycle bin near the door. People from other departments on the floor would also dump their office recycling there. One of these departments had an admin assistant who was absolutely terrible at her job and a bit odd to boot. I came back from lunch one day to find her rummaging through our recycle bin and assumed that she was looking for something she accidentally tossed. A few days later, she did it again. A few days after that, she did it AGAIN. It got to the point that she was going through our recycling a couple of times a week and spending a good 10-15 minutes digging through the bin every time. I asked her once what she was looking for and she said “nothing – I’m just looking!”. Finally, one of my coworkers and I had had enough of her snooping. My coworker wrote a note to me on the office’s official memo paper (this was back in the days before email) that said “I caught the admin assistant going through the recycling again – should we tell her boss?”, crumpled it up and stuck it a few layers down in the bin. The recycle bin diving stopped immediately, but the dirty looks continued for months.

    1. JanetM*

      Because of FERPA, we got a locked recycle bin in my former department, so we could dispose of uncollected Scantron sheets.

    2. MikeM_inMD*

      “Noting – I’m just looking.”

      “For what? Because this looks suspiciously close to corporate espionage.”

    3. Sitting Pretty*

      This reminds me of me, I’m embarrassed to admit. Back in the early days of my job, we had to print everything. Like every email to or from a student, every form, every approval, all to go in their files. I couldn’t abide the slaughter of so many forests for these stupid files. I work at a university so I was constantly digging through the recycling bins for paper I could use in my printer.

      There were so many old academic articles that professors were constantly purging that I was able to find reams of one-sided stuff that wasn’t sensitive. And of course anything sensitive went back in (or into the shredder).

      But I was forever explaining myself to anyone walking by who caught me shoulder deep in the bins. “Oh I’m just trying to find some old paper to use in my printer!” “Doing my part to save the environment by using old flyers for scratch paper!” or whatever.

      Everyone knew me as the office bin weirdo and they had all heard my explanation a hundred times but I couldn’t stop myself from saying it over again every time. Everyone just smiled politely and walked on by.

      Good Lord, what a happy day it was when we finally switched to electronic filing.

      1. Betsy*

        I only print on completely blank paper when I have to. Otherwise, I have a huge stock of already used paper that’s blank on one side. Good enough for most things!

      2. t-vex*

        When I resigned my first post-college job the boss accepted graciously and asked me to put it in writing. So I composed a very nice letter… and wrote it out by hand on the back of a discarded document. She laughed her butt off and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.

      3. tangerineRose*

        In college, I used to use paper from the recycling boxes as paper to make notes on. There was a big hole punch in the building I usually was in. I could only really use 1 side of each page, but it was free!

  33. Krangle*

    This is *bad* Machiavellian, but at one point my wife’s grand-boss attempted to lay off her position and was overridden by management on teams she supported.

    Later on, my wife had to file a sexual harassment complaint against another coworker, which the grand-boss asked for documentation on to deal with (they’re under the HR umbrella, so that isn’t too weird).

    In reality, still seeking to reduce headcount, the grand-boss not only sat on the complaint, but encouraged the subject of the complaint (“Robin”) to file a formal harassment complaint against my wife’s boss for a dispute the two had been involved in. When this came through, the grand-boss “apologized” for the delays in reporting the sexual harassment, but said there’s no way he’d allow it to be reported or documented further as it would just come across as retaliation; his goal was to try to pressure my wife to resign by making it feel like she had negative institutional support.

    She had already been job searching and had a better job lined up, so it wound up working out well for her, but I am pissed off that the grand-boss basically got exactly what he wanted out of the deal.

  34. Data Maven*

    This is pretty common, but I manage multiple ‘shared’ inboxes (think llamagroomers@organization.com and teapotdesign@orginization.com) and early on I created email signatures of ‘Llama Groomer Team’ and ‘Teapot Design Team’ so that people don’t realize it’s just one person managing and answering emails. It’s really helpful to see how people treat others when they think it’s just a low-level admin and also it helps me defer ‘blame’ when people are needlessly upset.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes! I have one of those. And it’s really funny to see people send the same situation to it multiple times. I’ve explained it as “They send it three or four times, like they think there’s a whole team back here and we never talk to each other. News flash – it’s just me, and I talk to myself ALL THE TIME.” (They’ve also reported mailbox-me to actual-me when they didn’t like the answers, and of course I’m very supportive of myself.)

      1. Data Maven*

        My favorite is when they don’t like mailbox-me and actual-me’s response so I loop my boss in and then they either
        1) My boss let’s them know that actual me is the ‘team’ and they are second hand embarrassed that they told on themselves.
        2) They respond only to my boss in very pleasant tones who then forwards to me and asks me to reply-all to the forward.

      2. Susie Occasionally Fun*

        Yes, we have a number of emails that all point to our ticketing system, for which I do the triage. So someone sent a ridiculous demand to llamacouncilors@place.org, I saw the request was not something our org did, and didn’t even bother assigning it onward. I sent them a polite “nope”. Then the same request—it looked like they’d just cut and pasted the whole thing—went to alpacatherapists@place.org, which put it in our ticketing system. I pulled it out the queue and cut and pasted my own polite “nope”. This went on for about three more addresses until they gave up.

    2. not nice, don't care*

      I do the same for the service I provide. The person who formerly did my job was super people-y/ass-kissy to higher ups, and I really wanted to move away from personality-based favoritism in providing the service.
      Thank goodness I was allowed to completely rework most of the job and now have a phone line, trouble ticket queue, and team email between me and the expectation to cheese demanding ‘clients’.

    3. Glazed Donut*

      My favorite is when I reply to someone’s email and CC myself on it (when they don’t know I’m the responder from the nameless account) to either give myself more time to come up with an answer or to be a little more “no, I’m the actual director of this, and what generic email says is true” firm.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Nice! I’ve only rarely outed myself and gone “let me check with the manager of the things” though; most of the people who mail my inbox are the reason that my actual name isn’t attached to the mailbox, because I don’t want them to know who I am and start emailing me directly (or worse, giving patients my name) :P

        1. Betsy*

          That’s where I went wrong! Now the people I have helped with ABC software thinks I can do anything IT-related. Nope, actually there are quite a few people on our IT team who do different things. :-)

  35. TouristTown*

    I worked for a gift shop and a coffee shop in a tourist town through high school and college, which had a massive celebration on July 4th. My first summer working there, I was scheduled for July 4th. It was awful, we were completely slammed, very demanding tourists, didn’t get a break, late to close, etc. We weren’t allowed to call off on July 4th, but if we weren’t scheduled for that day they wouldn’t call us in. Before the following summer, I looked up when July 4th fell on the calendar (let’s say it was on a Tuesday), and told the owners that I couldn’t work any Tuesdays that summer because I was taking an art class. They were fine with that and didn’t ask for any information to verify this class and made Tuesdays my day off, so I avoided working July 4th. I continued to have random one day a week art classes that just so happened to fall on the same day of the week July 4th also fell on for the next eight years while I worked for them, and they never caught on or questioned it. This was over 20 years ago, and I still have zero regrets.

  36. AnonyMoose*

    I worked at a dog daycare during college and grad school. Suddenly everyone was getting closing and then opening shifts back to back, especially on the weekends. The manager was really good, especially with everyone’s schedules so no one said anything and I guess we just assumed it was a staffing issue or something? Finally after a while someone asked why he kept doing back to back shifts. Turns out one of the newer hirers had told him that people enjoyed working back to back. No idea why the manager believed him. Turns out the new employee also worked as a bartender a couple blocks away on Saturday nights. So would go from our evening shift to bartending, to working the morning shift on Sundays so he could slack off and even sleep during his shift.

    I noticed one Sunday, having worked with the same dogs the night before, they weren’t all being let out, bedding wasn’t being washed, and couldn’t even tell if a dog had gotten their food. Mentioned it to the manager and he reviewed the security camera footage. Guy was gone after that.

    1. Workerbee*

      Retroactive ire on that guy. Like, go ahead, mess up your own life – don’t involve animals wholly dependent on you in the process.

  37. Frinkfrink*

    A couple of decades ago, right after I was hired at a previous job, I was placed on a committee that was to produce a report that the organization required all its components to submit every other year. As such, the report was agonized over word by word, and was the most tedious and boring of committees I have ever been on. We all dreaded being assigned to this committee.

    One day, a committee member brought up an objection to one word in the write-up, asking if it really was what we wanted to say, then sat back and watched the rest of the committee argue for 45 minutes until we came up with a replacement for the word.

    Two weeks later, when the committee met again, he brought up the exact same comment over the new word, then sat back and watched for another 45 minutes as we argued ourselves back around to the original word.

    I had a suspicion about his motives the second time but as the new hire I didn’t feel confident in questioning him. He retired two months later so I never got the chance to ask, but looking back twenty years, I see you, sir. I see you and I respect you.

    1. a giant ant*


      (sorry it’s a Brooklyn 99 joke but I think it fits perfectly here)

  38. Stuart Foote*

    I had a supervisor once who pushed extremely hard for his (generally underpaid) team to get raises. There was one woman in particular he felt was underpaid, but the company just told him that a significant raise wasn’t in the budget. (This company tended to hire people right out of college for cheap, but then not give them much in the way of raises so their compensation stayed low). So he emailed them telling them that since they were paying a female employee less than male employees doing the same work, the company was in violation of the Equal Pay Act. Obviously having a manager stating that in an email would leave the company wide open to a potential lawsuit, so she got her raise.

  39. Name Anxiety*

    I had a manager who’s office shared a wall with my and my peer coworker’s offices. She would call us in individually to “chat” (she believed that we were turning the rest of the staff against her because we were well-liked) and scream and threaten us. Then would call the other person in and imply that the first person had told her “all about” what we were doing and we’d better “cut the bullshit right now” because it would be terrible if our good reputations were “tarnished with bullshit.” Neither of us ever caved, mostly because we had already heard the entirety of the other conversation through the wall and knew who to actually trust. I left the organization first and wrote a burn it all down response to the “exit interview” questionnaire I was reluctantly sent by HR and just happened to CC the CEO and two other members of the executive team who graciously allowed me to work out my notice period before confronting the manager.

  40. Poison I.V. drip*

    I’m a department head in local government and I’m a few years from retirement. I’m in the process of acquiring the funds and equipment to do a particular project that will be a *perfect* part-time job for me after I retire, until I can collect full Social Security benefits.

    1. Emby*

      that just sounds like–corruption, and diverting goverment funds and work for the future benefit of a current government employee, instead of using the bid process. But what do I know

      1. Poison I.V. drip*

        It’s work that needs to be done, and all procurement is following the rules. Also, there’s nothing stopping the department from hiring someone else to do the work instead of me.

      2. NothingIsLittle*

        It sounds like they’re just acquiring the necessary approvals and resources for the project to occur when they’re retiring, not manipulating who will be hired to do the job. With how long it takes to get big projects approved, I don’t see anything wrong with ensuring the scheduling for a necessary project lines up in a convenient way.

  41. Emby*

    I’m supposed to go into the office one day a week. The office is over an hour commute for me and all I do when I’m there is have virtual meetings (like so many others) and it all feels so pointless. So whenever my small child shows even the slightest signs of being sick (read: all the time), I mention that kiddo brought home yet another bug from school. I then get told I don’t need to come in that day.

    1. anytime anywhere*

      Oh, same. I took a job in early COVID days, then found out the office I would eventually have to go to was moving and it would be a 1.25 hour commute each way. So, any time either of my kids were sick, or we had a leaky pipe, or school early dismissal, I always used the excuse. Never mind that my husband’s office is 10 minutes from our house and he could have easily managed most of this :D

  42. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    I got what I thought was going to be a great job with a good career path, only to be told after two months that they were having me on for one year only. Basically, they wanted me to bring in my expertise, run the department for a year, keep documentation, and then they would pivot to having a generalist cover my responsibilities using “whatever resources I created.” So I wrote everything in French; no one else at the company spoke a lick of French.

    1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

      I should mention that my written/spoken French is also barely functional (I can read at just below fluent levels). So it really was a pretty awful broken language, but one I perfectly understood and I was the only one reviewing those documents for the year. They didn’t even bother having a transition meeting with me; they really thought they could just take my laptop and pick up where I left off.

    2. Artemesia*

      I know someone brought in to get a start up started up — he constructed the entire web presence for an on line sales company with almost no pay but stock options galore and was fired a day before those options vested — so they stole his labor for a year. It was with deep satisfaction when it turned out that the low rent person they hired to maintain his work wasn’t very good and the company went our of business the next year. If only he had known French.

  43. Amaryllis*

    My friend was teaching 1st grade. Near the end of the schoolyear her principal told her she would be teaching 3rd grade the following year and told friend to ask the teacher she was taking over for if she was leaving any of her supplies behind for my friend to use. Current 3rd grade teacher had no idea she wasn’t returning the next year when friend asked and they both realized the principal had used friend to let her coworker know her contract wasn’t going to be renewed. Not only did my friend do the dirty work, but she also now knew the rug could be pulled from under her at any time.

  44. Not Jane*

    I think this is more plain petty than truly Machiavellian but here goes. Several years ago I worked as a program manager for a not for profit association, that like most non profits, had a level of disfunction. I had a close colleague who managed some of the program aspects with me, between the two of us we held every detail. (My direct boss was nice but ineffectual.) One of our projects involved the purchase of a number of gift cards to a high end department store as incentives for some research surveys we were conducting. We bought way more than we needed as it turned out, but figured we’d use them eventually as rewards or prizes for something else.

    Several months later our ceo retired, they hired a new one who wanted to clean house; they forced my grandboss (and my mentor) to quit, hired a new director who became my boss, and my new boss took a dislike to my wonderful colleague and fired them. (My colleague sued them for wrongful dismissal and won; my mentor became ED of a rival association; but those are other stories!)

    So. No one but me knew anything about all our projects, and I had hundreds and hundreds of dollars of gift cards in my hand already budgeted, expensed, not needed and forgotten, that no one knew about.

    Readers, I spent them on several articles of gorgeous clothing I couldn’t have justified paying for on my own. I do not regret a thing. (And yes I don’t work there anymore. )

    1. StarTrek Nutcase*

      So a shitty boss who treats a coworker horribly justifies thievery? Got it. I’m all about getting revenge (petty, malicious, or nuclear) but draw the line at criminal acts – but obviously others feel differently.

  45. ACG*

    I used to work at a very large retailer that was notorious for not hiring full time employees, regardless of the need. There *was* a loophole where if you worked full time hours for a set number of time (I believe 8 weeks) your status would automatically change to full time, so they were usually very careful with employee scheduling to make sure that didn’t happen (they did this by giving you full time hours for 7 weeks then the 8th week barely scheduling you). My supervisor was dead set on making me full time and it just so happened they were changing over the scheduling system so our schedules weren’t being watched as closely *and* we had to override our time clock punches for every shift…so my supervisor basically told me to make sure I worked 9-5 every day I was scheduled for the next 2 months. It worked, my status rolled over with no blowback.

    1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      My brother worked for a similar retailer. Someone didn’t pay attention to scheduling when they were short staffed and a higher up realized Brother was about to hit the mark that would roll him over to being full time, which also came with benefits.

      All of a sudden, there was a pile of customer complaints about Brother and the manager had “no choice” but to fire him for misconduct. Brother said he’d never had a complaint against him before and thought the timing was suspicious, but willing to give the manager the benefit of the doubt. That is, until the manager offered to rehire him right after firing him.

  46. Petty (cash)*

    This might be more petty than Machiavellian. I’ve worked in the finance department for several arts organization who work with contemporary artists. Artists can be very, very difficult and huge pains in the a$$. If they are particularly horrid to my coworkers, or generally unpleasant and unnecessarily demanding, and they’re receiving a cash per diem I will give them all large bills ($100s and $50s) rather than $20s and $10s. Larger bills are harder to break, especially if you’re only spending a small amount, and some places where we’re located won’t even take bills larger than a $20.

  47. Bad Wolf*

    I was called in for jury duty. Knowing that the day will be mostly waiting around, I brought a book that I never made time for but felt I probably should read one day – Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE. One of the solicitors looked at the jacket cover, then at me. He said something like “wow, you really don’t want to be here.” We both laughed, and I was dismissed immediately. Never even got past the first chapter.

    1. Silver Robin*


      I do feel the need to put this somewhere in the comments though: the current meaning of Machiavellian comes from people’s interpretations of The Prince. I get why, but that book is absolutely not his actual world view. It was a tailored application letter, written in exile, to the guy who had kicked out the previous government for whom Machiavelli had worked. Machiavelli just wanted his job back; he was a public servant and a nerd about it.

      If anyone is curious as to his actual positions on how governments should work, check out Discourses on Levy. His ideal is a mix of dictator (one person rule), oligarchy (elite rule), and democracy (popular rule). He has a stronger dose of realism rather than idealism, true, but the guy gave us modern political science, with a focus on empirical evidence, and I feel so bad that his name has become equivalent to “scheming, ambitious, and cutthroat”.

    2. Big Bird*

      This is not Machiavellian but related to jury duty. In the US at least they seem to want people on juries who have absolutely no knowledge of whatever area the case pertains to–allegedly so people will render their verdict solely on the evidence presented at trial and not on any personal knowledge. I was called for jury duty and certainly did not want to be there. I purely innocently brought my “Celestial Navigation for Yachtsman” book to study in preparation for an upcoming offshore sailing race. I made it all the way into the actual jury box but was knocked out by an attorney’s preemptory challenge, for which no reason need be provided. Turns out the case was a civil case brought by a person who was injured on a floating dock at a marina and was suing said marina for damages. I could not have planned it any better had I tried.

      1. Clisby*

        Possibly for civil trials. I’ve served on a couple of juries in criminal cases, and it wasn’t the case there. To be fair, most people don’t have specific knowledge of murder and armed robbery.

      2. Elsewise*

        A good friend of mine was dismissed because she’d done an undergraduate thesis on the fallibility of earwitness testimony. It was a gang-related murder trial scheduled to take five months and involving some really tragic circumstances (there were kids involved), so she wasn’t really bothered to be missing that.

      3. Shay Simmons*

        I spent a tour as the squadron SAACO (Substance and Alcohol Abuse Control Officer, aka, the pp patrol) and have been rejected for both juries I was called for as they were trials on drug-related charges.

      4. Anon for Jury Duty*

        Well, but it’s hard to gauge these things. I had jury duty a couple of months ago, and the voir dire was for a civil case to assess damages from someone injured on a construction site. They kept someone whose own father was currently pursuing a lawsuit after being injured on a construction site and someone else whose uncle was a personal injury lawyer in the same court system. I briefly alluded to temping as a legal secretary at one point and they cut me.

      5. Gumby*

        I would like to know where these places are that allow you to read during jury selection so I can move there. Because the times I have had to go, once we were moved to a room where they started questioning potential jurors for a specific case we were not allowed to read, work on computers, have our phones out, take notes… Basically we were supposed to sit quietly and listen as they asked groups of 20 jurors at a time the same questions over and over. I mentally composed novel-length replies to their questions but so far they have always had a full jury before they got to me. (There was a huge room that we sat in before they pulled groups out for specific cases but that room had 2 people checking us in and 200 potential jurors so even though we could read there no one paid any attention to what we read.)

        1. Bad Wolf*

          In my case, I was reading the book in the waiting area. Then got called into a courtroom with a smaller group of potential jurors. When we were still getting situated, I sat in the front row with the book in my lap and one of the attorneys saw it. I put it away once the jury selection started. But I wasn’t even asked any questions. Just dismissed. It’s very possible, he didn’t like the look of me for entirely different reasons. But I will always tell the story that it was my choice in reading material.

    3. Pony tailed wonder*

      I used to do something similar in the 90’s when I would go to autograph sessions for my local hockey team. I hated getting hit on by random guys when I couldn’t leave without losing my place in line so I started bringing books about serial killers to read in line.

  48. Abundant Shrimp*

    I’ve got two from my younger days

    OldJob#1 – after I’d given notice, my airhead boss called me into his office to tell me how I’d be missed and so forth. I was leaving at the tail end of a mass exodus and me giving notice prompted the management to finally decide to post open positions to all of us that had left. On the whiteboard in my boss’s office was a list of positions to be posted, along with the base pay, which for my replacement happened to be 30% higher than mine. He was supposed to wipe the board clean after the previous late night’s manager discussion, but forgot. He begged me not to tell anyone about this proof of how underpaid we all were. So I only told two people, right before I left. I told it to each of them separately and swore each to secrecy. Just like I planned, within a couple of days, everybody in the department knew. There was a minor uprising and they had to fly the CIO in from the opposite cost for pep talk. Sadly, this didn’t end in salary readjustments for everyone like I’d hoped. CIO flew in, gave everyone a lot of BS about how their base pay really was 130% of what they thought it was, counting the benefits, and left.

    OldJob#2 – we had a deranged CIO who sent out a spreadsheet for everyone to nominate their teammates for awards to be given out at the next townhall. Along with positive things, he included what he thought were funny awards like “biggest drama queen” and such. I overheard my (very cliquish and gossipy) teammates talking about them all nominating the one unpopular guy on the team for Biggest Drama Queen. That did not sit well with me. I was close friends with both our boss and grandboss. Went to the boss and asked if the management could pull a reverse “Carrie White wins prom queen” and give the biggest drama queen award to me, because I would not care, but the guy my teammate wanted to get it would in fact care deeply to the point of falling apart. (I did not even like the guy! I just thought it was super unprofessional and not something anyone deserved done to them.) Boss said he’d talk to grandboss and they’d figure out a solution. At the townhall, grandboss announced that “we’d replaced some of the awards” with inoffensive things like “Best hair” (that they gave to the office Casanova, who was flattered). Granted, my relationship with my teammates never recovered from when, after the meeting, they asked each other “who tf got the funny awards canceled” and I was walking past and responded with “me. I did.” but I haven’t seen any of them in a decade or more and truly do not care.

    1. anytime anywhere*

      Yes! You’re my hero for crashing the awards and saving that poor guy. I agree that even when I don’t like someone, being mean for no reason other than to make someone upset is BS. Also, I hate work awards like this.

  49. Artemesia*

    This is not precisely self serving in a personal way but I once wired a meeting to prevent a new policy going through that I and others didn’t want. The Division Head wanted the department to support a policy that I and others felt was a bad idea. We didn’t want to openly oppose it. So three of us agreed we would oppose it covertly by amplifying any concerns raised.

    The meeting started and the policy was presented. One very senior person raised a small issue and so I said ‘I hadn’t thought of it before, but Ida Long has raised an excellent point . . . and then built on that. Another person not in on it agreed and raised another concern and one of my fellow conspirators jumped on that. By the time we were through agreeing with and praising the insightful contributions of others in the group, the proposal was defeated and those who got the credit were the people who had initially voice minor concerns.

    It worked so well that I used the same technique to get someone selected for a major honor that the CEO thought had been wired for his favorite.

  50. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Well my comment got eaten so apologies if this reposts.
    The short version:
    Machiavellian is a little strong. But I once worked as an AR/billing assistant in a small firm where we were at the front and AP was at the back, down the hall. Obviously we had to work together and pass stuff back and forth, and to do this we had to walk down the hall past the boss’ office. If he saw us walking past empty-handed, we’d get scolded for “just walking back and forth to chit-chat”. So I learned to always carry a spare file folder or sheaf of papers, so that when I had made my delivery I’d have something to carry back on the return journey. It worked a treat and I shared this with the AP person, who was also constantly getting scolded for random crap (the place was a classic Small Business Special Hell).

    We eventually both got fired a few weeks after starting.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        They never did come up with a plausible excuse! We both got unemployment and, eventually, better jobs elsewhere.

    1. Not Australian*

      In the bad old days before I retired, this was known as ‘taking a file for a walk’ and was a fairly common tactic. I had one co-worker who would cheerfully take a file for a walk to a distant part of the building, leave it on a friend’s desk for a couple of hours, and vanish: when she returned her hair would be newly-set and she would smell of the salon. She thought her male bosses wouldn’t notice…

  51. Rachel*

    Removed. Please stop scolding people in the comments. It sounds like you should pass this post by. Thank you. – Alison

  52. Roy G. Biv*

    Previous job’s team manager, Buck, wanted to assign his buddy to a desirable market, but there was already a nice, personable, effective, and might I add successful, person located in that market, Stan. Stan was great. Customers loved Stan, coworkers loved Stan. Stan always exceeded all his metrics.

    Manager tells his buddy to go ahead a relocate to that area, because that job will be available by end of year. And it was. Manager lays off Stan two weeks before Christmas. “Sorry, Stan. We’re consolidating markets.” We all knew it was coming, but had no way warn Stan. It would have been obvious the warning was coming from inside the team, so we just had to watch this slow motion execution unfold. It still makes me feel scummy to have been a bystander.

    There was karma though — two years later the buddy left the company to join the direct competition, and his new job was the same level as Buck. So Buck and buddy were locked in a fierce battle for market share. I wish them all the success they deserve.

    1. ZK*

      My husband’s boss pulled something similar on him. But the joke was on the boss, because according to friends still there, the buddy never actually showed up and the management spot my husband was in remained vacant for months while they tried to find someone to run it. Went from being the most profitable location in the state to the bottom. A lot of that had to do with the gas and oil companies pulling out of the county prior to a big election issue, but the DM who was responsible for the lack of manager was blamed and transferred to a a much less profitable market where his bonus options tanked hard. My husband got out of that line and is much happier now.

  53. DawnShadow*

    Several years ago I worked at a small independent grocery store. I was – I thought at the time – lucky enough to get out of cashiering and into the easiest (as in, least amount of gross cleaning and/or heavy lifting) department, where there was an inexplicable (to the outsider) fairly heavy turnaround in the third position, behind the manager and a very long time employee.

    The long time employee was incredibly sweet, nice, and even-tempered. In a workplace where people were stressed, pissy, and cliquish on their best days, and threw tantrums on their worst, where managers never had any sort of management training and were all just winging it, EVERYBODY loved her. It was quite an accomplishment!

    The only problem with her was, she never DID anything she didn’t feel like doing. She spend most of her time smoking weed behind the building and then slowly cleaning shelves in our department, higher than a kite. Anything she did not care to learn, like keeping track of lines and ordering them, stocking anything in a hard to reach or hard to find place, remembering what was on end caps, she just would not do … occasionally she would not even stock anything at all (she would joyfully open boxes, record the contents in the wrong place, and then put everything in backstock, even if the shelves were empty). She was always so apologetic, and would say “Oh I’m sorry, I am so dumb!” and soon either you would be apologizing and reassuring her, or the rest of the employees would be angry at you for being “mean” to her. She was a master.

    This meant that all of the actual work fell on the rest of the department (all one of me, as the newest member of the team). But no one else would hear a word against her, she was such a nice person! Everyone loved her! (Yeah, she was high all the time! Of course she was laid back!). My department manager knew the score, but she also knew that the general manager would never hear a word against this person, and she had given up trying to make her do anything.

    The real kicker was, they never really gave her much of a raise, because she didn’t do anything, but she’d been there forever so they were never going to fire her – and they explained to me very solemnly that they could never give the newest member of the department more money than she made, because she had seniority. Thus the surprising turnover in what seemed like the best department, was explained.

    I moved on from there eventually – I stayed much too long in a job where they made a big deal about raising your hourly pay by 25 cents, thinking that eventually they would notice my hard work – but whenever I go back in to shop, she’s still there, and the third position in the department is always someone new.

  54. anon in uk*

    We hired Jennifer (pseudonym) as a new manager about a decade ago and to great effect. She was the most efficient person we’d ever hired, and soon enough her entire team were working in such an organised and logical fashion that our entire workplace started getting highlighted on covers of trade magazines and that. Most of us were delighted. Except for the longest-serving manager, Barbara (pseudonym), who was approaching retirement. On the surface, Barbara acted pleased. Below the surface, she must have been experiencing a howling, raging envy.

    Barbara began, basically, a targeted gaslighting campaign against Jennifer. She got out her old set of master keys to the office from about 25 years ago and started periodically letting herself into Jennifer’s office very early in the morning. In there, she would just do tiny things. Removing one object temporarily. Erasing the whiteboard. Switching the locations of two folders. Adjusting the angle of the computer monitor by like 5 degrees. One thing a time, every month or so on an unpredictable schedule, some of them meant to sabotage Jennifer a little bit, most just meant to throw her off guard. Barbara even tried to get into Jennifer’s email a few times by pretending it was an emergency and Jennifer had authorised it, though this never worked.

    Jennifer said nothing but had obviously noticed. She began keeping extra lists, and when those didn’t solve the problem, she started going to a neurologist and a psychiatrist. Neither of them found anything wrong except for a new chronic headache pattern that they attributed to increased stress. It’s not in Jennifer’s nature to be suspicious, but she heard a rumour that Barbara had been spotted going into her office, and she started wondering. Eventually Jennifer started documenting the possible incidents. Then she pretended to go on vacation and spent an entire night and early morning in her office being quiet until Barbara came in.

    Jennifer had the locks changed and then wrote up a meticulous letter for HR. HR pleaded with Jennifer to keep it secret, but by that point everyone knew about Barbara’s campaign of psychological warfare. HR ought to have have taken it more seriously. What they did was call in Barbara and tell her to stop. Barbara remained with us until she retired about four years later, though by that point everyone else was giving her an outsized amount of distance. Jennifer got promoted with CFO and is getting fewer headaches, but still more than before Barbara tried all this nonsense.

    1. NameRequired*

      She was caught waging systematic psychological warfare and HR was just like “hey stop that”?????

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Finding a new job is more appealing to me than faking a vacation and spending an entire night (plus some of the morning) in the office. I am in awe of Jennifer!

      1. Hobbling Up A Hill*

        I think proving to yourself as well as to HR that you aren’t losing your marbles is worth a lot more than faking a vacation and spending a night in the office.

        Leaving might have been easier but it might have left some doubt in Jennifer’s mind about the situation. This didn’t.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Oh, I absolutely agree! If I were in that situation, I think I would have concluded I needed a lower-stress job, left that company, and always had lingering doubts about my sanity. I’m glad Jennifer has great problem-solving skills and was able to catch Barbara.

        2. LivesinaShoe*

          But – like, a CAMERA would also have worked? If it recorded to her phone or beeped when there was motion?

    3. Cat*

      The term gaslighting gets thrown about a lot, and can often be misapplied, but a systematic campaign to cause someone to doubt their perception of reality is the kind of thing the term was actually made for…

      1. Loud Quitting*

        The movie with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman (and young Angela Lansbury!) is incredible.

    4. ragazza*

      I’m assuming this was in the days before you could get an affordable wireless camera. What dedication.

  55. ConstantlyComic*

    A few years ago, my workplace’s finance department implemented a new set of cash handling procedures that led to more accountability but were a hassle for frontline staff. The crux of the procedures was that only one person could be allowed to handle cash at a time, and anytime that person changed, it had to be logged. The problem was that finance did not tell anyone how they wanted that logged and wanted us to hold off on creating our own procedures or documentation until they trained our department on the new cash handling standards. Which makes sense and would have been fine if they hadn’t told us to start with the new cash handling procedure ASAP and wouldn’t give a date for the training.

    At this time, the only method we had to log cash transactions over a period of time was a bulky end-of-day report that usually took about 10 to 15 minutes to assemble properly, so every time there was a shift change, we had to run that report and go through the process of putting it together, which meant there were multiple 10-15 minute periods a day where we just couldn’t take cash, and while we had ideas on how to streamline it, we couldn’t until finance gave the okay. No one was happy about this, but my grandboss told us to just keep assembling these bulky, thick reports and sending all of them to Finance, and that things would change pretty soon. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, Finance emailed my grandboss asking for us to stop sending them so much paper, and she told them that it was the only way we had to record cash transactions, so we’d have to keep doing it until we got the training or could develop our own documentation.

    Not only did we get the okay to create our own documentation (which, once we knew what information they actually wanted, was very easy to make and streamline the whole process), when we did eventually get training on the new procedures two years later, our documentation was used as an example of the best way to do it.

    1. Jojo*

      This had me thinking it was more malicious compliance, but now I’m wondering if malicious compliance is just a subset of things that are Machiavellian.

      1. ConstantlyComic*

        I think malicious compliance can be Machiavellian, but isn’t always. Admittedly what my grandboss did is kinda borderline, but it definitely felt great at the time.

  56. Jeannalola*

    I once had an actual nurse that I assigned to go to a hospice patient’s home to get some papers signed. She said she could not because her daughter was killed in a car accident on that same road and she could not go there. Turned out she never had a daughter, just made it up. Of course this was the same actual nurse who faked a handwritten doctor’s note that she had the “flue.”

  57. La Triviata*

    Years ago, the place I worked needed to find a new ED. The outgoing ED found a more-or-less qualified person who would take over and keep the outgoing ED on contract as a consultant. The incoming ED had done some shady things in his old job. The Board was scheduled to meet at a luxury resort to, basically, rubber-stamp the incoming ED. The morning they were scheduled to meet, each Board member received a copy of the newspaper which had an article about the incoming ED’s shady practices which left the old job with a non-functional computer system.

    They found someone else.

    (I don’t know if the newspapers delivered to each Boad member were folded to show off the article, but I wouldn’t be surprised)

  58. stacers*

    The summer after I graduated high school (early ’90s), I got a job as the managers’ assistant at a (chain) grocery store, doing things like decorating for holidays, setting up displays, writing signs. Every Wednesday morning, I had to go through that week’s sales flyer and make sure we had at least two of every product listed. Corporate would send a ‘mystery’ shopper through that day to make sure we had the item available for purchase.
    Often, we’d be missing a couple of the items because they already sold out, and I was supposed to call around the city to other stores and barter for a few of the items so we could put them on the shelf. I’d ask for, say, a couple of cans of the tomato paste on sale and they’d need some boxes of the pasta. Then I’d have to drive over to make the exchange, so I was supposed to start with the closest stores to make it quick. Well, one day I had to have a parent drop me off because my car was broken. So one of the managers let me use her new, sporty car — it was just a del Sol or a Miata or something, but much better than my old Chevette.
    Thereafter, I always had a parent drop me off on Wednesdays and I always started my bartering with the farthest flung stores. Why not get paid to zip around my medium-sized city in a convertible?

    1. Panicked*

      My first car was a Del Sol! In lime green, with a great cd player in it. It was a fantastically fun car and I don’t blame you for wanting to drive it!

  59. ferrina*

    I accidentally created a shadow government. I had an incompetent boss who was promoted way beyond her experience. She had no clue what she was doing, so she just found excuses not to do work until everyone forgot it was assigned to her. She also had a tendency to just repeat whatever other people said, and to take the side of the most recent person who had spoken to her.

    I quickly figured out that I could get her to greenlight my ideas by letting her put her name on them. I would prepare a carefully researched and thought-out PowerPoint and share it with her as “hey, here’s a thought that occurred to little old me. I wanted to share it with you to see what you thought- can you dispense your wisdom, O Great Strategic Leader?” She would immediately put her name on it, share it with her boss (she never had her own ideas to share with her boss, so she loved stealing my ideas), then would graciously “allow” me to lead the initiative. I would pretend to be honored, then do her job for her and get the policies I wanted. As long as I always framed it as Seeking Her Guidance and “Gosh, I’d love to do this, thanks!”, she would give me free rein. Within a year, I was doing 80% of her job and functionally running the entire department, making all strategic decisions and setting almost all of the policies.

    I don’t think she ever figured it out.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      What about getting credit for all this work, though? Did her boss ever figure it out? Or were you happy enough just to be doing all these good works?

      1. ferrina*

        She wasn’t going to give me credit for anything I did, and if I didn’t implement the work, she was going to do something incredibly stupid that would make my life harder.

        I was definitely playing the long game. I knew I would never get recognized at that company and would always be underpaid, but the job market was terrible. So I spent a year under this boss, racked up the accomplishments for my resume, then got a job at a bigger and better company with the same title as my (now ex)boss. She actually tried to counter offer with a 20% raise, but I laughed (good naturedly) and pointed out that 1) the company hadn’t given me a raise in 3 years at that point and 20% didn’t even put me at market value for the work I did, and 2) I was getting a 60% raise by going to the new company– putting my new compensation more than 10k higher than her. The look on her face was priceless!

        For added karma, after I left it became immediately apparent how I had actually been keeping the department running. They had 80% turnover in the first year. The boss stopped answering her phone calls or email. Last I heard, they were having to rebuild the department from the ground up. The grandboss that promoted the incompetent boss got unceremoniously booted, and the CEO that had allowed the grandboss’s incompetency got forced out about a year after that. Turned out that I wasn’t the only person running a shadow government at that company- under the incompetent leader, there was a whole layer of highly competent women (and one man) who were running departments because their boss couldn’t be bothered, and no one was rewarding these people that were keeping the company running. So the competent and unrewarded people left. Two other people left within two weeks that I left, and they had also been de facto running their departments. The three of us, er, may or may not have known about each other’s job searches and served as references for each other.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      “I accidentally created a shadow government.” is an excellent first sentence for a novel.

  60. ExCon(sultant)*

    I (woman, 5’10” tall) had a client (man, about 5’6″ tall) who seemed to have two completely different and opposite attitudes toward me. Sometimes, he thought my ideas were great and that I was the best thing to come along since sliced bread. Other times, he hated my ideas and looked at me as if I were moldy bread. I assumed for a while that his reaction was based on the specific thing I was telling him, but after seeing him react both ways to the SAME idea, I realized that his positive reactions always came about when we were sitting down and his negative reactions always came when we were standing up. After that, I made sure we never had another hallway conversation. I had all kinds of excuses to sit down, from needing to sit to find a piece of paper I had to show him to a bad knee that no one had known I had. It worked like a charm!

      1. Silver Robin*

        extra pathetic because the dude knows she is taller than him. It is purely optics of the moment. Just absurd

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          Probably not. He most likely just felt vaguely bad in the moment and attributed the feeling to her idea instead of his bruised ego, like a child who decides socks are evil because he’s unaware that he missed his nap.

  61. Jennifer Strange*

    I work for an organization that recently partnered with a local library to host a Drag Queen Storytime. As you can imagine, this brought people out of the woodwork to email us and call us disgusting, groomers, etc. Most of them sent a single email, so it was easy enough to delete and ignore. But one man just. would. not. stop. Even after the event was over, he continued to harangue us. Finally I copied his email and signed it up for every drag queen and LGBTQ+ newsletter I could find on the internet. The emails stopped after that.

    1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      I’m uneasy with this one, because what if the reason he stopped bothering you was that he’d switched to bothering the other people you’d told him about?

  62. frenchblue*

    I had a boss who really liked to take credit for anything she possibly could. She didn’t care if you were right there in the room, she would proudly boast about how *she* put so much time into *her* (your) work, even when she literally just learned about it an hour before.
    Well, one time, I had researched, purchased, and learned some highly technical equipment over a period of about 3 months. This was equipment I spent years learning, and she barely knew what it even did. Her and I were in my workroom one day, when our director came by with an unexpected guest: a close friend of hers, the Mayor of our city. My boss immediately started trying to impress the Mayor with my new equipment. He was intrigued, and started asking questions. I happily stepped out of the way to allow her to stumble through completely incoherent answers, clearly demonstrating just how little she knew about my machines. As I watched the director’s disapproving face, the Mayor asked a final question: “What does this button do?” My boss stumbled something about it being an important part of the machine, started rambling about the many purposes the machine serves, clearly trying to come up with an answer, before she looked at me and said “Can you remind me what this button does? I haven’t used it this week!”
    I smiled and said, “That’s the power button.”

  63. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I used to really go above and beyond and volunteer for as much as I had time for. Now, I just complete the work that absolutely needs doing and otherwise goof off. AAM is my biggest thing for goofing off. Why should I care when I’m paid pennies.

    1. Bast*

      At Old Job, I used to go above and beyond the required 40 hours per week (salaried employee). I’d regularly be checking and answering emails at 10 PM or coming in hours early to finish something. Well, despite my work always being done as much as it could be, me doing other people’s work, and the fact that I was generally ahead of the game and gave them no reason to complain, they started to nitpick how many hours you put in. It wasn’t a problem if it was in their favor — if I worked a 50 hour week no one cared, but heaven forbid I leave an hour early for a doctor’s appointment. Heck, they even started complaining about people 15 minutes short or so. They also started to make it harder to work from home (which used to be no big deal), complaining in general about people using sick time, etc. So, if they were going to nitpick, so was I. I started to work 40 hours on the dot. No more, no less. I’d clock out right at 40 and go home — no more late emails, no more coming in early.

  64. STEM PhD, industry stan*

    When I was in college, the head of my major’s department was…the textbook definition of a narcissist. She made the national press for this one.

    The school had implemented a new policy, intended to increase racial diversity: if a faculty candidate of color made the short list but wasn’t selected, the school would create a second position for them, using a special fund for this purpose. My major department got one of these, a Black man. The department head, loudly, repeatedly, and in writing, made sure everyone knew that he was not to be collaborated with or given access to shared resources, on pain of joining him in exile. He was denied tenure, and sued.

    Thing was, she was just as loud about her motivations for doing so. I honestly have no idea if racism was involved, but it didn’t have to be. Because textbook narcissist, she was angry that she wasn’t given veto power over this hire, and she was stuck with this guy who had failed the legitimate search that she had run and was smearing his disgusting failure cooties all over her precious department. Of course she was going to do everything in her power to destroy him. This was kind of a hobby for her. She did it routinely.

    That’s just academia for you, but the Machiavellian part: the paragraph above was the school’s actual defense. They had a good-sized stack of discrimination suits from the whole rainbow of protected classes, and a much bigger stack of internal complaints, spanning many years. Your Honor, she’s an equal opportunity nightmare, that’s not illegal…

    The school was annoyed that it made the news, so she was forced to step down as department head. She installed her husband in the position. Academia. How I do not miss thee.

  65. K*

    (Fair warning: this is fairly problematic and I hate that I had to do this)

    A number of years ago, I worked for a grandboss for whom I just could not do anything right. Seemingly, no matter how hard I tried or how many ways I tried to make things right for him, nothing doing. I tried to buck up, I tried to put on a big, confident face every time he tore me down, I tried being more independent and forging ahead on projects (despite being quite junior), etc.

    He was also a huge Japanophile, to the point of special order a brand of Japanese tea and keeping a special kind of water heater on his desk so he could brew the perfect cup on demand. He had lived there for several years, only moved back because his wife and kid were miserable. Unrelated to this story, several years later I heard that they split up and he was basically on the next flight to Tokyo.

    By coincidence, I happened to be travelling in Japan part way through the year, and in the midst of running through the train station, it hit me. This was a guy who LOVED the (creepy af) idea of being the powerful white man with women bowing to his every request and serving him tea.

    I came back with a whole new approach. Rather than coming into his office with a plan sketched out and options drafted, I would request a meeting with him so he could “coach” “poor, little old me” on “how I could best move this forward”. Because (of course* I was a helpless, pretty young thing, and I needed his manly help and protection to move the project forward.

    Worked like a charm.

    …and I got out of there as soon as humanly possible.

    ..with his help of course, because whitty-bitty ol’ me couldn’t possibly get a job in the Big Bad World by myself.

    1. Andromeda*

      Do what you have to do to get yours and get out. I hate seeing people blame women for their survival responses to the shitty attitudes of guys in power, and I’m in a mood right now because I just read an old comments section where people were tearing into women for using “I have a boyfriend” as a tactic to avoid getting hit on or harrassed.

    2. anytime anywhere*

      I hate to say that…this isn’t that bad. Other folks have shared similar stories here, I’ve definitely played dumb to let a male boss/supervisor “save” me, and I suspect many other women have done the same. As Andromeda says- do what you have to do to get yours.

    3. ferrina*

      Seconding other commentors- do what you have to to get fair treatment.

      The other thing that makes me laugh is that people like this always feel like they are a brilliant leader, when in reality they’re getting played like a xylophone- so easy even a child can do it.

    4. ThatOtherClare*

      Another woman chiming in to say “Been there, done that, hated every minute of it and it worked fantastically.”

      I still have to do this with my IT department. If I ask “Can you please update my graphics drivers so software X can run on my computer?” I get told that can’t be the issue, with a slimy heaped glob of “How did you break it, you moron?” as subtext; and it takes a week to fix. If I send them a janky screenshot of the pop-up saying “Update driver Y in order to run software X” and say “Please, please help, I’m so stuck and have no idea what this could possibly mean!” then they’ll heroically swoop in to rescue the poor damsel in distress and ‘fix’ it for me that day.

      At this point I honestly just consider it something I’m paid to do in order for the business to run smoothly, like flattering our important business partners, or spending an extra 10 minutes chatting to one of our contractors because she bumps us up the delivery queue when I do.

      1. yet another alison*

        What happens if you send the screenshot with “Please update my graphics drivers so software X can run on my computer”?

    5. Chirpy*

      Yup, the coworker who refuses to help me, to the point of purposely making my job harder, will of course swoop in to “help” when he can look like a hero while doing it….

  66. PBJ*

    I had an non-exempt hourly paid employee who was in the habit of racking up overtime continuously when I took over as their manager. The previous manager had tried to fix the problem and eventually given up when they knew they were moving on. In my first 2 weeks, they clocked in for an extra 11 hours. They weren’t doing any extra work, just working slowly and treating everything like a fire to fight…and giving themselves a nice pay rise each week. I’d crack down on the overtime and they would behave for a month or so, and then the overtime would start to creep back in. I fixed the problem, but they didn’t go down without a fight. I could write a thesis on all the other Machiavellian stunts they pulled!

  67. The non profit lies*

    I took over for an ED that was fired from a non profit. During my time there, trying to “clean up” the messes he made I discovered he:

    1). Pretended he got sponsorships for events by just adding local business logos to marketing about said events. (Part of the ED bonus was on sponsorship totals). He actually had ZERO sponsorships and these businesses were confused when I went to speak to them.

    2). Counted volunteer hours and donated goods in total money he raised (part of the bonus was based on how much actual cash money was raised).

    So…he got a bonus the two years he was there even though none of the money or sponsorship existed that earned him the bonus. And me….trying to sort out the mess, never received a bonus because I didn’t retain our sponsorships and cash donations from when this guy was there. (I left after 14 months).

    1. Artemesia*

      I love it. You discover he has no money coming in and no sponsorships and you fail to match up to the high levels you discovered never existed. Great board.

  68. Potato*

    A few years back, my company was doing a compensation study. For years, there had been requests from staff that the company release salary band information, and the company had finally promised to share salary bands for staff once the study was done.

    Well, the study was completed and suddenly the company reversed its decision and said they wouldn’t be sharing the salary bands after all. Fine.

    A colleague and I put together a google spreadsheet with salary info (current salary, starting salary, years worked, demographic info, etc.) and shared it with our closer colleagues so those who were interested could share their salaries (no pressure). When my boss found out and said he felt obligated to inform HR, we released it on the all-staff slack channel.

    We didn’t make any friends in HR that day, and ultimately only about 10% of staff chose to fill it out. But a few weeks later, the company released the salary bands, and I sent a (public) sugary sweet thank you to our HR team for supporting pay equity.

  69. KG*

    My husband and I had two babies back to back in Utah- a family forward state. We’d moved there after my husband had been recruited there by someone who really liked his leadership style, but then that person transferred somewhere else.

    When he took his paternity leave- federally protected leave- I overheard a phone call he had with the new boss where my husband said, “Susan, I’m sorry but we’ve been on the phone so frequently I don’t think you’re remembering I’m on paternity leave?” and I JUST KNEW he was going to be axed for taking the leave and making firm work/life boundaries. He was not rude. I could hear the offense in her voice.

    A few weeks later, the NB shifted a Super Nice Utah religious man to be my husband’s new assistant manager. He was super nice to your face and so supportive of my husband and our new family.

    “Leave early, your poor new wife with two little babies!! No worries, boss.” With a big wide smile.
    Meanwhile, Super Nice Utah Man was badmouthing my husband to the big boss for “leaving early often,”etc. My husband was out in months and Super Nice Man got the job. Meanwhile we’ve both worked for the same company and we’ve never seen even THE worst managers been moved out so quickly/ they are given support and training now- and we actually still work with them- just not in UT.

  70. Cookingishungrychemistry*

    wasn’t me but a guy I knew

    he was a fan of certain “mind altering vegetation” as was his coworker. He agreed to sell some to his coworker and soon became “the guy” at the auto repair place. One of the managers noticed him always having quick little chats with his coworkers and ran in the complete wrong direction with it and thought my friend was trying to organize a union and he (the manager) was going to stop that. So my friend was terrified he was going to get fired until he realized that retaliating against him for selling pot was totally legal but retaliating against him for pro union activity wasn’t. And so, to protect himself from being fired for being mistaken as a union organizer he organized a union

    1. Not Australian*

      That’s a movie (or a TV show) that needs to be made, preferably with Tom Hanks somewhere in the cast!

  71. Alex*

    I had a coworker who was known for trying to get out of doing any kind of work, especially anything she viewed as “low level” even though she wasn’t in a particularly senior position. Every year, there was a very large task that needed to be done by a one-person department, and so everyone in the office, including managers, took turns helping out with the task. It wasn’t a glamorous task but it needed to be done.

    Well, Lazy Bones here decided that if she did the task poorly, they wouldn’t ask her to do it anymore and she could get out of doing her share. This was NOT a complicated task–very clerical. I’m 100% sure she could have done it correctly if she tried. But she managed to mess it up horribly and surprise surprise, all of her work had to be re-done by everyone else.

    BUT. Her plan to get out of it didn’t work, because she was so universally hated by everyone in the office that we were all willing to re-do her work on the sly just to make sure she didn’t get her way. So we all participated in this farce wherein she would be asked to take a shift doing the task, and someone else would do extra to make up for it. Because. Principles.

  72. not nice, don't care*

    The vile human-shaped bully who owned a fabric import warehouse that supplied red-carpet designers, one day decided that I should be punished for informing a coworker of her state & federal rights as an employee.
    The (Canadian) owner was in the process of having a house built (in the US) and would brag about cheating the bank and insurance company, also bragged about cheating customers, then compounded her vileness by cheating employees (pretending not to understand US vs Canadian employment laws).
    She stormed into the warehouse, on blast about watching me on camera and all my ‘crimes’ (i.e. talking to my coworker). That was enough. After a lovely screaming match where I ended my employment by threatening to have her deported for fraud, then walking out, I proceeded to share the documentation I had copied with her customers, and shared other relevant info with her bank & insurance company.
    She ended up having to close her US warehouse and lost her biggest customer. So cathartic. Would totally do again.

    1. tiny potato*

      (For a second I thought your first sentence meant that the warehouse supplied fabric to people who design red carpets! And I was going, “Huh, I didn’t know that was a job… are the red carpets really that fancy? They usually look pretty plain red to me…”)

  73. rural juror*

    Several years ago my company (Company A) was going through “voluntary buyouts” — they were trying to reduce overall headcount, so they offered a buyout to anyone over 50 with 15 years of experience at the company. The buyout was going to be followed, it was presumed, by additional layoffs if necessary.

    My friend “Lancelot” qualified, but he wasn’t interested in taking the buyout. Until it was suggested, not so subtly or kindly, that he reconsider — apparently, his department needed to reduce another person, and if it didn’t come now it would come later in the form of a layoff (where the terms, it was assumed, would not be so generous).

    So Lance took the buyout, had a nice celebratory “thanks for all your years of service” send off on a Friday afternoon … and on Monday, news broke that he had been triumphantly hired (to much fanfare, and a promotion) at our company’s chief competitor, literally located down the block. He got to keep his generous buyout at Company A *and* now had a plush new job at Company B.

    Lance is now everyone’s hero.

    1. Seawren*

      My father was in a similar situation. He was a senior exec, beloved by all the people who worked for him. Another exec saw his popularity as a threat and convinced the CEO to let him go, but they were super worried he would take his entire department (IT) with him if he was fired, so they bribed him to leave voluntarily by offering a full year’s salary PLUS starting his pension immediately (the good old days of Freedom 55!). He had a new job within 6 weeks, so spent a year making 3x his old salary.

      1. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

        He should have taken the whole IT department with him anyway.

  74. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    I was an urban high school teacher and we were required to participate for 4 hours in extra curricular activities. A group of us did so, but not to the principles satisfaction so we were all forced to spend a Saturday at a famous museum to “chaperone” our students. We all arrived at 10 am and when the museum doors opened we all walked directly to the museum cafeteria, bought a drink and did not move. At 2 pm we all got up and walked out the door. The boss was not pleased, but we did our hours.

    Petty yes, absolutely satisfying.

        1. Good Enough For Government Work*

          They probably had the time of their lives, if they liked the museum.

    1. Office Chinchilla*

      I just had a flashback to the summer I was a camp counselor at an overnight camp. A big day trip event was a trip to the Jersey Shore, where the main events were 1) shopping in town and 2) hanging out on the beach. There needed to be one counselor accompanying every four kids or so. The kids were AMPED to go shopping and a couple other counselors and I figured out pretty quick that if we said we wanted to go to the beach first and then shopping, we’d get a few really chill kids that we didn’t mind hanging out with and everyone else would get the hyperactive hormone devils.

      1. Office Chinchilla*

        Should have mentioned: They wanted to go shopping for candy, which they weren’t normally allowed to have.

  75. zerothoughts*

    At my friend’s old job, there was an employee who never passed their professional licensing exam. Every time the test came around, he would get one of the spots from the company to take the test, and every time he failed. At one point, he left town (while still working there) to get a graduate degree unrelated to their field. The staff was confused, but offered to cross train him in roles that would be similar to that degree and he declined. This was brushed off by the big wigs, but one of his coworkers was disgruntled and did some digging. It turned out the employee had never received a bachelor’s degree, and this “graduate program” was him going back to school to get it. So the reason he always “failed” the licensing exam was because he didn’t qualify to take it. I guess he would just relax at home those days. HR went to the college town to fire him in person. Why HR didn’t catch on to this without the help of an entry level worker, I’m not sure.

  76. Alexis Rose*

    This may be more petty than Machiavellian, but I’m sure the Prince would still approve.

    Back when I was just finished grad school, I stayed on as an online TA for one more semester. After the students’ deadline to submit assignments, TAs only had a few days turnaround time to provide grades and feedback . The previous five semesters I had done this role were fabulous, and I had even been given an award for my work. This particular semester, there was a new course coordinator and she gave absolutely zero leeway for delays in submitting feedback to students. Normally, I was on time and thorough in feedback, but this particular assignment was going to be delayed.

    I had already told all my students that this particular assignment feel right over my graduation weekend and that I would be a couple days later than usual in getting their assignments graded. The course coordinator could not let this go and kept emailing me about it, and I responded that yes, I would be delayed because of all the time commitments around preparing for and attending the graduation festivities, plus my mom was visiting from out of town. I was very clear that I had a plan, my students were informed, and that it was all in hand. She could not accept this.

    I got incredibly fed up so when she emailed me while I was literally sitting, gowned and capped, waiting for my turn to walk across the stage and get my degree, I wrote a fake out of office message to the tune of “Thank you for your message! I am celebrating my graduation from Program this weekend, and will therefore be slower than usual in responding to emails. Thank you for your patience while I celebrate this milestone with my friends and loved ones.”

    I didn’t hear from her again, delivered the feedback on the timeline I provided to my students, and all was well.

  77. Small industry*

    I think by far the most Machiavellian I experienced while working in book publishing is the time that the president of one company created a fancy new important position, and hired someone senior from a competing publisher — which opened up a position at the competing publisher. The president’s partner (already working at the competing publisher) took that position, quite a big promotion. And within a year the person the president had brought over from the competing publisher was fired. All that just to get a big new job for their partner.

  78. Jane*

    Years ago, at one of my previous jobs, I was called in for a sit-down with my boss and the coworker/friend who’d recommended me for the position where Boss proceeded to air out all of her grievances against me–these ranged from “you are incredibly sloppy and don’t know how to clean up after yourself” (read: I had left a coffee mug in the sink one time for maybe 15 minutes) to “everyone in the office can hear you when you laugh and it’s extremely disruptive.” It was maybe the most uncomfortable I’d been in a workplace situation at that point in my adult life; Coworker/Friend looked like she wanted to crawl into a hole the entire time it was happening. I had been at this job for maybe two to three months and spent the rest of the day feeling incredibly embarrassed.
    On my drive home that day, I got a call from Coworker/Friend. The first thing she said was “So I bet you’re wondering where that tirade from Boss came from.” Turns out, our logistics manager had had his annual review the day before, and during said review, he trashed everyone else in the office to make himself look good! I was completely blindsided because this guy had been nothing but mild-mannered and pleasant in all of my interactions with him prior to this.

  79. Alexis Rose*

    Another example came to mind:

    When I worked as an Executive Assistant, if anyone was ever rude or mean to me when they were asking for an appointment with my Boss, I would offer the most outrageous possible meeting times. One person in particular was just miserable to deal with so I told them to send an email that Boss could look at when he had time or that I could offer a 15 minute appointment in approximately 20 months. When he spluttered about it: “Oops, sorry, that time has actually just been booked for another meeting, so the next available appointment is now in 26 months”.

    One or two people complained to Boss about this. He laughed and laughed when I explained and said that he was more than happy leaving the scheduling to me, however I saw fit to do it.

  80. Waitress*

    I waitressed at a small restaurant. Wednesday nights were trivia nights, which meant it was busy; it was my regular night alone with another waiter. I don’t remember his name anymore, we’ll call him Dave. Dave was a jerk. Not a team player, very self-centered, but the restaurant owner loved him. The restaurant was on two floors, with the bar (where trivia was located) on the main floor and the restaurant on the upper level—weeknights there were only two servers for the whole place, and we just alternated as tables came in no matter where they sat. The bartender would let us k ow when a table in the bar wanted food, and after I’d been working ~4 months tables started requesting me (which was what I was told at the time). I was proud to be requested, it was literally the only positive reinforcement I ever got at that job (outside of tips). This continued for a few weeks, until Dave threw a fit to the owner. Owner makes it a rule that no one can request servers anymore. Bartender then says that the literal request is “not Dave”. Owner then decides that he wants to talk to any of the tables that don’t want Dave. Which doesn’t actually solve the problem; those tables still don’t want to be served by Dave, but the owner refuses to honor the request. On trivia night, there was one big table—a family, lively people to serve and great tippers—that preferred me. Now that they weren’t allowed to request their server, when it looked like they were close to being ready Dave would start skipping tables so that it would be his turn once that big table was ready. So I’d end up taking 5-6 small tables in a row while he manipulated his way into getting the big table for himself. And there was nothing I could do about it because the owner was on his side and Dave would rip me a new one whenever he felt like it. This was in a sub-minimum state so our hourly wage was $2, so tips were of the utmost importance

  81. vb*

    Years ago, I was working a minimum wage job in a construction-adjacent industry. It was a small business, just three employees (including me) and the owner, and it was run partly out of the owner’s home. The owner wanted to write off her entire monthly rent as a business expense, not just the percentage based on business use, and so her idea was that she would raise my salary by the amount of her rent, and I would pay her rent with the extra. That way she could claim it as a payroll expense.

    Her pitch to me was, “Your stated salary will be higher, so you can use that to negotiate a better salary with your next job!” I reminded her that it’s illegal for employers in our state to ask for a salary history. She said, “Well, okay, there’s no upside for you, but there are no downsides either.” I told her that if my stated salary increased, my income-based student loan payments would go up and my income tax would go up. Also I would be helping her to commit fraud, so there were a couple of downsides. After that she stopped asking.

  82. Pretty as a Princess*

    Had a sales guy at my first job in the late 90s who used to take ALL his calls and listen to ALL his VM on speaker. LOUDLY. We were a small company with a cube farm. This was the days before caller ID.

    So one day some of us called when we knew he was out and left a VM saying something along the lines of “Hi Fergus, I went to my doctor and the rash is all cleared up.”

    He never listened to his VM on speaker again.

    1. Cinn*

      Omg this has just reminded me of something from an old job. I’m gonna use your rash example of a VM for anonymity reasons.

      Our work voice mail system used to say something like “leave a message for [name of person you called]”. So one of my coworkers heard that and followed it up with something childish so that it went like “[name] has a nasty rash”.

      Slight problem was that when the other person listed to their VM it went “message from [name of person who called] has a nasty rash”. He laughed so hard when listening he redialled to put it on speaker for us all. The look on the face of the guy who left the message was priceless. He could not take it at all.

  83. Zombeyonce*

    This is very low on the Machiavellian scale, but when I don’t feel up to putting in my all at work, I just don’t wear mascara. It makes me look tired compared to my regular look that my boss thinks I’m exhausted and gives me a lot of leeway.

  84. it's taken 5 years but I can laugh about it now*

    A few years ago, I worked for a group that operated a very busy public facility. My office was on the edge of the common room where meals were served, and at least 300 people came daily for lunch.

    We were a small staff, and when my boss decided to lay me off, she and our staff accountant came into my office around 11:30am, told me I was being let go, and told me to leave immediately.

    Since I’d have to walk through the common area where folks were already lining up for lunch, it made sense to me that I’d say goodbye to all the people who I’d gotten to know over the years. I took my time, hugging people, telling them I’d been laid off, saying goodbye. The whole time I was doing this, our staff accountant was following me around saying “you need to leave, you can’t do this, stop telling people you were laid off.”

    But it was a public facility and I was just a member of the public.

  85. Whistleblower (& short-timer)*

    I was once the victim of this kind of tactic…

    At my first “big girl job” out of college, I worked as an HR assistant. I had a pretty solid relationship with the CIO and knew he would have my back if a situation called for it. It was the kind of company where the owner would try to blame EVERYTHING on a low-level HR assistant and the CIO would always stick his neck out for me. Toxic… but I wasn’t looking for a new job yet.

    The VP of HR left so we had to hire a new one. We hired a serious contender for the World’s Worst Person Award. The new VP prided herself on helping companies do illegal things. The owner, who had wanted to fire all of his non-white employees for a while, was thrilled and hired her. On the VP’s first day, she went on a rampage against the two HR assistants (I was one of them) because we were young, and therefore “stupid.” She also went on a rampage in the IT department and personally got in the face of the CIO and screamed at how his staff was “too politically correct.”

    Slowly the already-toxic culture grew more toxic, but I naively was not searching for a job. One day on LinkedIn I noticed a great opportunity for a close friend of mine and commented to ask for more information. The CIO came to me later in the day and asked about it. I told him the truth- I was not looking for another job but I love helping friends find positions if I can. The CIO was under immense pressure to fire half his team and replace them with white employees, but had made “no progress” (aka he was trying to protect their jobs as long as he could). The next time the VP of HR came to yell at him, he chose that moment to let her know that I was looking for a new job. The VP didn’t bother him again and his team stayed completely intact.

    For another 2 months, I dealt with accusations of being an “idiot short-timer” while I frantically started my job search. I found something quickly and got out of there. I saw the company got sued a few years later for “blatant racial discrimination and xenophobia,” and I may or may not have tipped victims off that it was a real possibility. The lawsuit was a success.

  86. Statler von Waldorf*

    Ok, the statute of limitations has run out on this story and the non-disclosure agreement has expired, so I think I’ll share it. For the record, I do not recommend duplicating this stunt, it really hurt and could have gone much, much worse. I also apologize for the length, I’ve edited it down a bit,

    For the background, I was queer male working at a trucking company as an office manager / bookkeeper. The shop manager was a stereotypical redneck bigot, a former hockey player might have been good enough to go pro, but then he was injured in a drunk driving incident (he was the driver) and that cost him his shot. He didn’t just have a chip on his shoulder over this, he had the whole tree.

    To say we didn’t get along was the understatement. I hated that ignorant bastard, and he thought I was a godless sodomite. (He actually called me that to my face, and out of respect to Alison I won’t go into what he called me to my back.) Management was wishy-washy and didn’t want to get involved. However, I had bills to pay, and the job paid extremely well, so I sucked it up for several years until things changed.

    One day I was processing the exit paperwork for a mechanic, and he warned me that I needed to watch my ass. The shop manager was tired of me “flaunting my sinful lifestyle,” and he was planning on jumping me to “show me my place.” The mechanic didn’t know the details, but he wasn’t cool with this and that’s a big part of why he quit. So if I’m telling this story I have to thank Carlos, he might have literally saved my life with that move. Thank you Carlos, I owe you one.

    The other bit of background info required is that I reconciled company credit cards as part of my job. There was a fairly strict no-alcohol policy at this company, and on the last months statement the shop manager had a charge at the government liquor store. I had emailed him about this, but he simply ignored my emails about this. So armed with these two things, I made my crazy plan.

    Right before five at the end of the day, I told the dispatcher that I was heading to the shop to talk about this credit card charge, and not to lock up before I came back. Then I went to the shop to “talk about the credit card.” But I didn’t. Instead, when we went to his office to talk about the credit card, I let unleash several years of contempt on this man. I told him that he was never that good an athlete and it’s really too bad that he peaked in high school. I told him that the word on the street was his wife was fucking around on him because he couldn’t satisfy her. Then I told him that I knew that was because he was secretly a gay man living in the closet, and that he would be so much happier if he just admitted it. That did it.

    Next thing I remember I was lying on the floor crying and bleeding. I was missing teeth, and it hurt to breathe, because he had laid his steel-toed boots into me and broken several of my ribs. Two of the mechanics had pulled him off of me, and a third called 911. Then I pulled out the other part of my “plan” and all I did was repeat the same phrase over and over. “I just wanted to talk to him about his credit card purchase.” I told the owner that. I told the paramedic that.
    I told the cops that. That was my mantra, and I just kept repeating it between the tears.

    No one believed him when he claimed that I picked the fight. He was arrested, and I was told he ended up taking a plea deal. After he took the deal, which included publicly admitting fault, he was fired for cause.

    I quit the next day on the advice of council after I lawyered up, and I ended up getting an extremely generous settlement of of the deal. (I actually ended up working for that law firm, but that’s a different story.) I healed, but sadly my left knee never really recovered and I still walk with a slight limp to this day. The shop manager moved shorty afterwards, and I never heard from or about him again.

    1. anywhere but here*

      Was it worth it? I’m very sorry that you ended up with permanent damage from this man’s violence.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        I’ve been asking myself that question for years now. Was there a better way to handle this? Almost certainly. Do I still have nightmares about that day? Yes. Would I recommend doing this to anyone in my situation? Not a effing chance, I would strongly encourage anyone else in a similar situation to find another way.

        That said, I’m still alive many years later and able to share this story. If I had done nothing, I honestly don’t think I’d be able to say the same. Even with a bum knee, I do find that being alive is worth it most days. Also, the bulk of that settlement paid for most of my now-adult children’s educational funds. If that education helps them ensure that they never have to go through what I did, my pain and suffering was absolutely worth it.

    2. NameRequired*

      I am agape at the sheer audacity of this move, the line between impressed and horrified has never been thinner.

      I am very glad to hear that other than the limp you have recovered completely.

      1. Silver Robin*

        “the line between impressed and horrified has never been thinner” — exactly that.

        I am so glad you made it through and are still here to tell the story, Statler.

    3. Raging Iron Thunder*

      I see what you mean by what you said in the start of your post. Jeebus. Sorry about your knee and teeth.

    4. Calyx*

      I am so sorry. Wicked plan, yes, and I hope that guy reaped all the karma possible, but I’m so sorry you were hurt.

    5. Formerly Ella Vader*

      I’m amazed that you maintained the presence of mind to remember to talk about the credit-card thing after you were assaulted.

      Well, okay, I’m just amazed in general.

      Use your powers for good!

  87. Pippa*

    Years ago I worked on a small disfunctional team on which the part-time clerk wielded a disproportionate amount of power and used it to her advantage and to hurt others in petty ways. We once spent many unnecessary minutes discussing something minor. Since the clerk wasn’t getting her way and wouldn’t allow us to move on, the manager suggested putting the matter to a vote. The clerk stink-eyed some people into voting her way but the vote ended in a 6-6 tie. After a bit more discussion, I suggested another vote. This round, I raised both my hands and the clerk was defeated in a 7-6 vote. Friends, there were only 12 people in the room. I’m still amazed and laughing.

  88. KareninHR*

    A coworker and I were trained at the same on how to create a report with the intention that she would be primarily responsible and I would be her back-up. But she refused to learn how to do it and would throw tantrums every other week when this report was due, so I ended up being the one to do it. But there was a catch – she was in charge of submitting the report (which is why she should have been in charge of building the report), so when I was done building it, I had to email it to her to upload it. I knew that the file name couldn’t contain spaces, but I intentionally saved it with a space in the name, just to make her take the added step of renaming it. I think this is more petty than Machiavellian. But every time I sent it she asked me to remove the spaces from the name, and I would conveniently forget the next time I sent it to her. I never once sent it to her correctly in the entire year from when this process began to when she was finally let go for her poor attitude. I have since inherited full responsibility for the report, but I’m so proud of myself every time I have to save the file (and I do save it correctly now).

  89. Chaotic chemist*

    I am hourly and the company I work for uses an online time sheet that is fairly automated. It’s pretty straight forward as far as punching in and out during the day, it will automatically add your accrued PTO hours each week, and lets you put in time off requests.
    In 2021 when I got pregnant and about to go in Short Term Disability (my maternity leave for 12 weeks, 6 weeks paid at a percentage decreased) I was informed that I would not accrue PTO hours during that time since I wouldn’t be working or on a vacation.
    However, during my time off I was noticing random small bumps in pay during my time off.
    Upon returning I found out that my manager “forgot” *wink wink* so set my profile to short term disability leave and left it as is. So not only did I get paid the holiday pay I would have missed out on during that three month stretch, but I returned with a significant amount of PTO I could use almost immediately.

  90. whyblue*

    My department and a very similar department in a different branch are locked in an epic power struggle. Since my boss is very conflict avoidant, he loses every time and does not seem to realize it. My grandboss, who both departments report to, refuses to do anything – either shutting down the little games the other department is constantly playing or dissolving our department and calling it a day.

    So a while ago, I started a new initiative. On my boss’ urging, I involved the other department and they were all for it – until the moment they were supposed to deliver input, then their support just quietly died. Still, the initiative is successful.

    A year and a half later, my boss told me that the other department had come up with a new idea that would be very close to my initiative. He told them to align with me, to make sure it didn’t damage the existing thing.

    That alignment never happened. Instead, they chose to present their great new idea in a large meeting with our internal customers.

    Now from past experience, I know one of their strategies is to just do whatever they want and then go “Woops! Misunderstanding! Miscommunication! So sorry!” before starting the same thing all over again with the next topic.

    So I chose to ask all the uncomfortable questions right there in the big meeting (mind you, I kept it absolutely professional). I did get in trouble for not presenting a united front towards our customers, but it was so worth it. Since then, I have not had any miscommunication / misunderstanding issues with them. Sorry, not sorry!

  91. Voice Mail*

    Back in the day before cell phones and VIOP systems, I would have periods where I would ask for someone to take messages instead of leaving me a voicemail because the ringing interrupted the detail work I was doing. One afternoon the receptionist refused to take a message a put someone in my voicemail. After asking them again, and them repeating putting people in my voice mail twice more that afternoon, I called our phone folks and asked them to disconnect my voicemail. After that they had to take a message every time someone called for me instead a couple of times a month. They created so much more work for themselves because they wouldn’t listen on afternoon.

  92. Free at Last*

    I used to work for a company that had quarterly town halls, and slido was used to submit questions. Most of my time there was great, but the last year sucked due to mismanagement by the head of my department.

    The code for the quarterly town hall for my department never changed. Occasionally I’d enter the code to see if there was an upcoming town hall. Recently, there was. I asked a question if there was any truth to the rumor that the parent company was planning to divest itself of the subsidiary company, which I worked for. Other people submitting questions could give a thumbs up or down for the questions. I logged in from multiple devices, and liked my question as many times as I could. The day before and of the meeting, another 20 or so liked my question. The questions are answered in order of popularity, so my question was at the top of the list.

    There is no rumor. I made it up. And probably made some people rather verklempt.

    I regret nothing.

  93. GrifterHunter*

    I worked for a terribly run early-stage startup a few years ago. We brought on an interim COO to help with fundraising and operations. She turned out to be 100% useless (her main “strategy” that she presented to us was “you guys should think about working more quickly”) but she managed to make way more $$$ than any staff members for working mayyybe 1 hour a week. Within one year, after failing to secure any additional funding or make any meaningful operational contributions, she had managed to cut all staff down to half time (to “lengthen the runway”), participate in several board uprisings, and eventually remove the CEO/founder. She remains at her full pay. There is so much more to this story and I hope that one day someone will make an investigative podcast about this very small time grifter.

  94. HonorBox*

    Maybe not quite as bad as others, but while buying a car once, the salesperson went back and forth to “manager” several times and we couldn’t get aligned on price, as happens in that awful process. Not that big a deal. It wasn’t urgent on our end. So after the second back and forth, we told him we understood, the deal wasn’t going to work out, and that we’d come back and look another time. As we got up and he dropped a “you don’t want me to get fired do you” on us. We didn’t reply. As we continued to walk out of the showroom, we ran into the manager who inquired as to why we were leaving. We just shared that we couldn’t get aligned on price and we’d maybe be back. He then spent several minutes telling us how the salesperson had just returned from vacation and he wanted to get this guy the sale so he could start his month off on the right foot, and couldn’t we help him out.

    Needless to say, we didn’t get this guy off to the right start for the month, nor did we consider any other vehicle from them ever.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      That’s an absolutely insane pitch. We’re not going to change anything about the offer you didn’t like, but maybe you could feel bad enough for us that you’ll reconsider walking away from it?

  95. Amity*

    Years ago, I worked as a cashier at a department store that had its own credit card. Cashiers got a $2 bonus for each credit card we got customers to sign up for and management touted this as a way to kinda sorta get a raise in our (minimum wage, of course) pay.

    During one of my shifts they were running a little competition where the last cashier to call the management office to inform them of a credit card application they’d collected before 4:00 got an extra cash bonus. I snagged a completed application at like 3:45 and was about to call it in when I saw a cashier at another station make their call. I snuck away from my station, waited until 3:58, and called in my application where no one could overhear me. I got the bonus.

  96. nora*

    Me, a frontline client services worker: “Our client is having a problem. I did some research and here are a few very reasonable and workable solutions. Please sign off on one.”

    Boss, who never talks to clients and hasn’t done casework since before I was born: “Those are all stupid. You should do this other totally unworkable, possibly illegal thing instead.”

    [long pause]

    Me: “Our client is having a problem. What if we did this totally unworkable, possibly illegal thing to fix it?”

    Boss: “That’s stupid.”


    Me: “We could do one of these other things instead…”

    Boss: “Perfect! I love them! You really need to do more research before you talk to me about these things.”

    [Repeat until I quit in a flood of relieved tears.]

  97. ArtsNerd*

    This is SO VERY long but I’m really proud of it:

    I used to be the first menu option in our phone tree that was a human and not a recording, so I got ALL THE CALLS. Except the recordings were also my voice, explaining the things that 70% of people were calling about. It was a new cinema in a new development that google maps hadn’t quite caught up with yet (despite our best and increasingly desperate efforts.) So instead of pressing 1 to hear me read out our showtimes (8 screens! And I trip over my words so that was absolutely brutal to record every week), or pressing 2 to hear me explain where we were located and how to get there, they would press 3 to hear me say those same things but in a decidedly more frazzled tone.

    I also got the lion’s share of customer complaints which were not my department, but I tried to resolve the best I could. (Fun fact: for that particular chain of cinemas, the customer service number went straight to our deputy COO so you got much better service by calling the “faceless” corporate number than trying to bypass the system.)

    For the 3% of calls that were actually relevant to the core part of my job (marketing and rental events), I hated hated HATED using the phone. I have audio processing disorder and a poor verbal memory so I *vastly* preferred email so I could actually understand and track the relevant info in a very busy, distracting environment.

    But the phone. Never. Stopped. It got so bad at one point early on that I was literally hiding under my desk having a full-on mental breakdown.

    So… I turned off the ringer and just checked voice mail at regular intervals. Sifting through the voicemails was a lot better, but still taking up way too much of my time and attention.

    So then, I updated my outgoing message. Up front I said the best way to reach me was email and gave my easy-to-spell alias email address. And then spelled out that email address, letter by letter. Then as an alternate means of contact, gave my official, absurd email address of longname.longnonphoneticlastname@longparentcompanyname-which-was-also-hard-to-spell-and-had-no-brand-recognition.com. Then I let folks know if they wanted showtimes, the best thing to do was to hang up and call back and press 1 on the menu options. And if they wanted directions they should call back and press 2, and if they wanted customer service….

    At the very end, I said “and to skip this message in the future, press pound.” I timed it to be the longest, most excruciating outgoing message our system would allow without cutting me off to make sure I weeded out everyone but people who REALLY invested in leaving a voice mail.

    It was SO effective I never stressed out about the phone again. (Don’t worry, most of our partners and coworkers had my cell number.*)

    1. ArtsNerd*

      *Except one, who was a studio rep trying to set up a filmmaker q&a with a director you’ve probably heard of. Her message started with “Wow, that was… long.” I called her back so fast with so many apologies and made sure we were DELIGHTFUL to work with.

      Tl; dr: had a breakdown about incessant calls not relevant to me, made it excruciating to reach me by phone.

  98. Emma*

    My former manager has a story of being a relatively junior woman with a male boss, and in the way that often happens, she got asked to do a lot of admin things that weren’t supposed to be part of her job and that her male peers weren’t asked to do.

    On one occasion, she was asked to book a hotel for her boss. Which she did, uncomplainingly. She found him a hotel very close to the relevant venue… but it was the kind of hotel that’s more usually booked by the hour than for the night.

    Her boss never asked her to do admin tasks again.

  99. ZinniaOhZinnia*

    My employer at a small nonprofit told me that due to the federal changes around what constitutes a “manager’s salary” she would have to cut my already very low pay by $10,000— but wanted me to keep doing the same amount of work, unaware that some projects I was handling were outside of my department that I was doing as a favor for the manager of that department.

    So, I said GREAT let me cut out all this additional work I was doing as a favor to you! Now my schedule will be streamlined and you can find someone else to lead tours, to lead multiple volunteer groups (a piece we rely on for large amounts of donations), and you can find someone else to do all that. I also tipped off the manager of that department. She went on the warpath because she is overbooked and doesn’t have enough staff.

    Guess who got to keep her salary and all the work she liked doing? (me).

    Later on, I had to leave the org as it turns out they (hopefully unknowingly) exposed me to toxic chemicals and asbestos and there were serious legal and health concerns, but for that brief moment in time, I felt like a winner.

  100. Elle Woods*

    I was on a committee with Kelly, who was a major league narcissist. A couple of higher ups believed she could do no wrong, including the VP who had assigned people to this committee. That VP designated Kelly as chair. During the course of our committee tenure, she would purposely leave people off informational emails, misrepresent data, take credit for others’ ideas, fail to send documentation needed for us to make informed decisions and recommendations, overrode majority decisions, etc. It was a nightmare.

    Our final task was to write up a report detailing our findings and recommendations. Kelly insisted that she be the one to write and submit it to the C-suite. She sent it to the rest of us on the committee at the last minute and asked us to review it for typos and factual errors. I, along with three of the other four committee members, were out of the office the week she did this so the only person who was around to review it was Heather.

    Heather and Kelly did not get along at all, so she used it as her opportunity to get back at Kelly. She left typos like “asses” instead of “assess” and “penis” instead of “pen is” in the report. The best blow though was that Heather added text that said, “Although this committee discussed the issues contained within this report, I served as chair and made the final call on all decisions, overriding the committee when I felt it was necessary. And, as chair of this committee, all errors contained within this report are mine and mine alone.”

    Kelly didn’t bother to review Heather’s changes and sent it along to the VP, who was not at all pleased with the quality of the report or that Kelly had basically run roughshod over everyone. I’m still in touch with people who work there and last I heard, Kelly hasn’t been asked to serve on any committees since then and has been denied promotion opportunities at least three times.

  101. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I have to think about this long and hard. In a 50 year career I’ve seen some beauts, and even compiled 200 “Dinner Table Stories” – which I never published.

    All I will say is that I saw a lot of stunts. And now, happily retired and financially secure, I’d rather forget about ’em.

    1. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

      But we want to read your Dinner Table Stories!
      Publishing on Amazon looks to be quite do-able.

      1. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

        BTW- congrats on retirement. I only survived in the corporate world for 36 years, and retired “early” at 62.

  102. Samantha Parkington*

    I once worked in a setting where the middle manager hated one of the bosses (who was a legit nice guy) and went out of her way to make sure he never got anything that he wanted or would be helpful for actual work. The boss asked middle manager to reach out to IT to see if something he wanted for a project was possible. She forwarded him the response from IT that read, “That sounds impossible, but here are some things you need to consider.” She included a snarky “Sorry!” and copied an admin on the forward. When the admin read the email she noticed the “im” on “impossible” was a different color than the rest of the message. This middle manager had edited the email before forwarding and what the IT person had actually said was, “That sounds possible….”

      1. StarTrek Nutcase*

        I quit over an altered email. At 3 pm, I sent an email to my supervisor (Myra) and cc’d my dept head (Sue) & HR specialist (Amy) regarding a significant error by A that had federal regs repercussions and indicating it was corrected & noting steps to avoid said error in future. At 4:55, Myra asked to see me. She said Sue (her boss) had wanted me reprimanded for my email. Long story short, Amy had altered my email when she
        responded to Sue. It was easy enough to pull up my original & compare for Amy’s alterations. I was furious, and at that moment Sue called to verify Myra had reprimanded me. Myra told Sue what had actually occurred and ended the call. I quit on the spot, explaining I could no longer work for such a lazy ignorant ass like Sue.

        I pointed out I was solely responsible for AR of $2.5 million/month, had uncovered another $1.75 million in underpayments prior to my tenure, and had also successfully taken over AR for a clinic & managed to work out with Medicaid a repayment plan for 3 yrs of fraud by the prior clinic AR staff. I then pointed out Amy had been on several PIPs and moved around within HR due to her screwups. All this to say, if Sue so easily looked to blame me and not Amy as well as not willing to check the original email, then I was leaving. Myra was upset & caught between her boss & me, but I’d had it. I packed up 8 yrs of personal belongings and out of the parking lot in 10 mins. Never regretted it.

        Coincidentally, 2 wks later I had to go in to HR to sign some form and Amy had to assist. She asked me what had caused me to quit so suddenly. I told her and loved her expression, especially when I made clear my opinion of her. (I was planning to retire within a year, and had my finances in order so quitting really didn’t affect me.)

  103. Mango Freak*

    Since Machiavelli said it’s better to be feared than loved, if you have to choose, I think this counts:

    Our Finance and Operations department are bizarre–no transparency, no written policies, very mercurial man-behind-the-curtain. (Fully remote company so there’s no “swinging by the office.”) Us admins aren’t in their department–they specifically rejected that proposal–but we still process a lot of expenses for them. One woman, the lowest on the Finance ladder I guess, liaises between us and them each month.

    Ladder Lady has no long-term memory and/or her toxic department has beaten it out of her, idk–she’s a lovely person, but regularly acts like we’ve messed up because we didn’t follow some rule that wasn’t a rule the previous 6 months. Like, I’ll have a Post-It on my monitor saying the exact opposite, and she won’t acknowledge that anything’s been changed. That’s one of the things I CANnot stand and do not abide.

    Fortunately, again: I DO NOT WORK FOR THAT TEAM. I am helping them out. If they want to fire me for doing expenses very well but not their BS moving-target basically-impossible way, my actual high-level boss will probably raise an eyebrow. So I have cowed this woman by behaving like a colleague instead of a subordinate. I do the job my way (better and more efficiently than they were doing it), I point it out when an instruction goes against previous guidelines, and if they want me to change something for no reason I just…don’t. They can change it themselves if it’s real.

    Bottom line: this nice person is now afraid of me and Slacks the other admins to do unnecessary extra work but avoids me.


  104. Ostrich Herder*

    My manager hates making decisions, so they often ask me what they should get for lunch. They’re also a bit of a micromanager, and constantly change my priorities minute-to-minute, so I start on a dozen things and finish none of them. On days when they’re really in my hair, I usually suggest a beloved local restaurant known for their huge portions and slow service. It takes my manager out-of-office for about an hour and a half while eating, and after they return, they usually have a “training webinar” that requires a closed door and lots of focus – which is, in fact, a nap on their office couch to sleep off the food coma. It doesn’t work every time, but when it works, it works!

  105. Margaret Cavendish*

    This one is more “malicious compliance” than actually Machiavellian, but I still find it very satisfying.

    I had a government job where my team operated as consultants – technically we had a place in our main office, but in reality we were supposed to be out in the ministries most of the time. So our manager decided we didn’t need security passes to the main office, since we were never going to be there. This policy was apparently fixed, immutable, never ever ever going to change.

    Except of course we were there fairly often – for team meetings, for days when our clients were unavailable, days when we had no clients, and so on. The receptionist could let us in easily enough, but we also needed security cards to get back out. A lot of people handled this by leaving with someone else, or asking someone who sat near the door to open it for them. But I decided it would be rude to interrupt people’s work just because they happened to be sitting near the door. So – I called my manager instead. Every time. “Hi Fergus, I’m going for lunch now, can you let me out? Heading off to a client meeting for an hour, can you let me out? Leaving for the day, bye! Oh, can you come and let me out? Thanks so much!”

    It took two days to reverse the the policy and get everyone their passcards.

  106. Gremvatar*

    I was fired from my job by a “restructuring artist” that convinced the CEO that I, along with several others, were no longer needed. One of those terminated had left a good job at the behest of the CEO only to be let go a week later. Our industry is highly regulated, and my role involved compliance, so I filed an anonymous complaint with the regulator and provided very specific places to look. 4 months later inspectors showed up unannounced. Six months after my termination a notice was posted on the regulator site of deficiencies and “findings” and the CEO decided to take a leave of absence. I was informed by a director (who would also be let go shortly after) that the CEO had no idea of the deficiencies (despite repeated warnings) and couldn’t believe that the turnaround artist he hired was then hired as CEO.

    1. Kay*

      Oooo – I had an encounter with one of those “restructuring artists” once. I’m still hoping he got what he deserved. Here’s lookin’ at you Monty.

  107. Honor Harrington*

    Ah… Craig the Slimeball… such good memories.

    Things Craig did:
    1. Mentioned on Monday that the team as a whole including him got a pool of bonus money. Any money not given to the team became his bonus. Gave everyone small bonuses. Invited everyone to come see the new BMW he paid cash for with his bonus on Friday.
    2.had 2 employees get other jobs at the company. Called the hiring managers and persuaded them to rescind the offer. He couldn’t let the good employees leave because they were doing the work
    3. “Managed up” with faked data, then threatened to leave unless he was promoted, got promoted.
    4. Told long involved stories including picture of his sex life. Threatened to register a sexual discrimination complaint when someone asked him not to.

    Eventual C. Slimeball got found out, and developed a terrible reputation at VeryBigCo. No one would hire him and few even were willing to work with him. Finally, he persuaded a colleague who had Become Important to go to bat for him to hire him for a new roll. Important Colleague really had to sweat it, promising that C. Slimeball had changed his ways and become loyal and trustworthy. Was allowed to offer C. Slimeball the job. C. Slimeball took the offer and used it to negotiate a job offer at a competitor. Two years later, the tried to come back to VeryBigCo, but found he was on the Do Not Hire list. He’d burned a bridge in too ugly a way when he screwed over Important Colleague on the job.

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      That seems like the very definition of F*ck Around and Find Out. Well done, Craig!

  108. Nene Poppy*

    Our heritage venue has a new grad – Mads, who has p*ss*ed everyone off, and I do mean everyone.
    Mads is a big self-promoter. Linkedin profiles claims to be managing certain aspects of the venue when they are not.
    Mads doesn’t have management, conservation or curatorial experience.
    Mads was hired to do admin and SOME social media but ignores the admin because they are ‘a social media expert’.

    They recently sent out the new social media plan for the upcoming weeks but did so when no one was available to provide content or fact check. We figure it was intentional. Mads seems to be in a lot of the social media posts.

    While the venue’s director was on holiday, it was UK Chocolate Tea Pot Week.
    Mads decided to do a social media tie-in even though our venue has nothing to do with chocolate or tea pots.
    The longest serving admin (and tetchiest) suggested a china tea service (still in the box) in the executive office.
    Tetch didn’t tell Mads that the set was presented, as a personal gift, to our director by a well known ceramics designer.
    Away Mads went, wrote up some irrelevant content and posted photos of themselves using the set.

    The director, while still on holiday, saw the post and is now fuming.

    Tetch pulled off the greatest Mrs Danvers move EVER. Turns out Tetch even took the photos!

    (Mrs Danvers, housekeeper in Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It is the costume/fancy dress ball scene. Great preformance by Judith Anderson in the Hitchcock version.)

    1. Sapientia*

      There is also a very nice musical version of Rebecca. Might only be in German, though.

  109. Anonymous Commenter 562*

    I’m not sure if this counts, but here goes.

    A long time ago, I was the assistant to a company founder. They weren’t a jerk, but they were so demanding that during my interviews, I was explicitly warned several times and told they would understand if I wanted to back out of the process. But unemployment was sky high, and I needed to work. I messed up while talking with HR and lowballed my salary. Although the job was often not busy, after about a month there, I started putting a few hours of overtime on my timecard every pay period. No one ever mentioned it.

  110. Mop*

    I got a new job as an admin/receptionist, and the Friday before I started, I received a call at 5pm from the office manager that I wouldn’t report to her, I’d report to the executive assistant, and she had an hour’s worth of thoughts and feelings about it. Warning bells immediately.

    We had a lot of issues with accounts going unpaid, and services/benefits/accounts getting frozen. At the same time, we mysteriously could afford new furniture in the office, and the old furniture disappeared overnight.

    She tried to pawn off a bill for a printer (the big office printers that are a few thousand dollars) as “leftover from when our other branch closed, that’s not our bill, file it under this other budget”. I checked serial numbers and found the printer in our office. I confronted her, she told me we were over budget and not to say anything, so I went to my manager. She was let go with a month’s notice a couple days later.

    I went back to check the cameras (I did not have access prior to this, I was now taking over some of her duties) and heard her giving her own address to movers for the old furniture that had been replaced. I also found where she’d given herself several iPhones on the company phone bill, and gym benefits for several friends of hers that did not qualify for the gym as they were contractors, not full time employees. Went to my manager with this information, and I never saw her again. I took over her job and it paid enough to get me moved across country for my dream job a year later.

    I found out later from the IT guy that she’d pushed HARD for me to get the admin job over other candidates because “she works retail, she can’t be very smart”. I’m a software engineer, I just had really bad interview anxiety at the time and couldn’t land a job in my field. I’m not sure who was more Machiavellian in this situation, but it was a wild ride.

    1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      She must not have ever worked retail if that’s what she thought. If there’s one thing I learned working retail, it’s never underestimate the creativity of staff and their ability to uncover (or create) shenanigans.

  111. Shirts*

    I worked at a place where we had a lot of company branded polo shirts, and my department manager loved nothing more then a free shirt. For whatever reason most of the group ended up wearing matching shirts fairly often, but the manager rarely matched. The manager was convinced we did this intentionally but I will tell you I was not calling my colleagues to screw with this guy at this level, but one day I realized I could. We had an event and I had to order special branded shirts with a few colors to pick from. I asked manager what color he wanted. To everyone else I mentioned what color manager order and we all just happened to pick the same color which was not what the manager picked. He never did get to match his group.

  112. HavenRose*

    Our company is really big on safety. Huge on safety. So whenever something annoys me that meets a technical definition of unsafe, I fill out a near miss form since the company treats those seriously. I’ve filled out one when another department made one of our employees stand in a very inconvenient place that we all hated and complained about. Since it would force the employee to literally bend backwards at the waist to do their job, Near Miss. They adjusted the position within a week. People cutting through out tiny parking lot instead of using the designated sidewalks when I need to back out? Near Miss. The pettiest one I filled out was for the metal bin in a restroom stall that wasn’t closed correctly so I scraped my arm on a sharp corner – no blood, so Near Miss.

  113. Academic glass half full*

    oh I guess this counts. About ten years ago I moved across the country for a plum job in an R1 institution.
    It took less than a few weeks to realize my department was in disarray due to absentee management of a year including my direct report who was the ring-leader of no or poorly done work. These were union and clerical positions. Their work impacted other departments but no one ratted them out.
    I started a PIP on the department manager.
    While that was going on I had one-on-ones with everyone else encouraging them to grow noting they were not in these dead-end jobs. I successfully got new jobs for six employees.
    The department manager had no one to manage and therefore could be made accountable for her own work.
    I am please to report the department manager moved on to another institution and my department is fully staffed with people who want to be there.

  114. Bird names*

    Used the micromanaging tendencies of a boss to get him to stop berating a co-worker:
    We were all in a call to do a last minute check of documents that needed to be handed in the following day.
    He found a mistake in a calculation that needed to be corrected and started to berate the co-worker instead of just pointing it out and letting her make a quick adjustment. I could hear her voice wavering a bit and the next time he drew breath I jumped in with a fabricated urgent question about formatting or something for a document I had prepared. Quickly shared my screen so focus would be on that document instead. He happily spent about 10 minutes picking his way through the text, enough time for my co-worker to correct things and take a moment to pull herself together. Neither of them noticed as far as I can tell.

    1. Sleve*

      Is it really Machiavellian if you’re throwing yourself in front of the bus to save your co-worker? Whatever it is, you have my applause. Damn fine work.

      1. Bird names*

        Thanks and good question. I was rather proud of it since I am not good at thinking on my feet most times. I suppose it qualifies as minor subterfuge at least :D

      2. Bird names*

        Right, forgot to clarify a minor point:
        The stuff he changed in the text was on the level of suggesting a synonym here or slightly re-writing a sentence there. He got to feel helpful without having much of a reason to further rant and so he calmed down as well. It was basically less a case of “drawing his ire” as just making sure we more or less stayed on track. Everyone could recover and we even finished the call on time. :)

  115. An Australian in London*

    Australian bank in the early 2000s. IT paid overtime for after-hours and weekend work.

    One worker volunteered to pick up almost all of the after-hours change requests. He supplemented his official income by about 60% through this.

    It was an open secret in his team that he was the one scheduling change requests after-hours even though most of them could be done during business hours. Somehow he got away with this for over two years before the bank finally realised they had paid him close to $200k of unneeded overtime.

    I think he did lose his job over it but I never heard of any further consequences.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Man if he’d been slightly more circumspect – schedule a quarter of your change requests for after hours, or a tenth. Spread it out a bit.

  116. pope suburban*

    I had a temp assignment a lot like this once. I was told when I was assigned that it was temp-to-hire, I asked about the process on the temp-to-hire date, and I was told it was not temp-to-hire, even though the agency and everyone I was actually working with had been told it was. I stayed there for another six months because my work was fine and there were no problems. I come in one Monday and have trouble logging into my email, but I figure we’re just having problems and our IT guy would get to it when he came in. I worked for a couple of hours before I got a call at my desk from the temp agency- apparently, the notoriously dysfunctional company controller had called a last-minute meeting with them late Friday after I’d left and cancelled the contract. I had to then go to everyone and tell them I could not finish the projects I was working on for them. They were uniformly shocked and upset, and one of the younger scientists even cried (I think she could relate, being early-career too). I had to go to my agency’s office and get debriefed, which absolutely sucked. The silver lining was that the controller’s behavior got her blackballed from that temp agency forever; at least everyone knew this was not my fault.

  117. Nosmo King*

    I never did send in my Friday good news because I didn’t have much time off between gigs, so here is the “before” part of the story.

    I was in a midlevel management role at a conservative institution that grew more and more conservative over the time I worked there. It was common knowledge that I am not conservative, but I managed a public function and I did my best to balance what the institution wanted vs. my own moral beliefs. Last spring I started hearing rumors that they were going to move me out of my office to a new hire, for whom there was no actual opening or need, they just wanted to hire him because he is a good Christian white man (I am female). Nobody actually ever told me this straight up, least of all my actual boss. One day a staffer called me and said “Okay how to do want to arrange your move to this other location?” so not only did they move me out, they were moving me to another building!

    Luckily for me I had friends all over the org, so I knew this was coming, and had started rage-applying to other jobs long before the move was set. I marched into my boss’s office, gave him my notice, went on vacation for 2 weeks, then came back and worked 4 more days. I moved out of my office and out of the org altogether.

    When they finally replaced me it was with a nice conservative Christian white lady, so they got what they wanted. I realized then that I was simply being pushed out. I’m so much happier now, so we both got what we wanted. BUT STILL. The audacity.

  118. pally*

    Years ago, my sister worked as a receptionist at a public relations company.

    Her desk was in the middle of two wings. One wing housed the art/design folks and the other wing contained all of the planning/research/exec folks.

    Seems folks in each wing were actively working to destroy the professional reputations and careers of folks in the other wing. Multiple people engaged in these exploits. They spent significant time during the workday doing this.

    My sister was treated like neutral territory (thank goodness!). These people would drop by and chat with her. And share their exploits. She was horrified. Some of the things they shared were borderline illegal.

    She quit without another job lined up. She wanted nothing to do with these people.

  119. Magenta*

    I lived in Europe for a decade, and spent some time teaching English to businesspeople. For a while, I worked for an agency run by a husband and wife team, who were truly terrible people. The male owner, Fred, was American, and his wife was from said European country. They were disrespectful to all of their employees and ruled by manipulation. However, the staff was nice and the people I taught were great too. I survived there because I am pretty much immune to manipulation (I know all the tricks of the trade – but I generally use my powers for good, not evil).
    I was given the assignment to teach a private three week high level English class to two businessmen. I was told to prepare using the new-to-me textbook A. However, I was apparently not paying attention and prepared using textbook B, which I had used before.
    I discovered my mistake the evening before the class started. I knew I would be yelled at by Fred, but I decided to be honest and come clean about my mistake. The only way to win the manipulation game is not to play.
    So, a half hour before the class started the next day, I went in to see Fred. I told him that I had made an error and prepared for the class using the wrong textbook. I admitted that the mistake was all my fault, apologized, and asked him how I should proceed. He seemed taken aback that I had admitted my mistake, but still yelled at me for a while. I just stayed calm and waited for his further instruction. He eventually stopped yelling and just told me to use textbook B.
    I taught that class and it went great. The two students loved me. And, in the post-class assessment, one of the students commented on how much he liked textbook B.

  120. Khai of the Fortress of the Winds*

    Years ago I managed a retail store. One of my staff was a really terrible human. I mean someone who had a mail-order girlfriend who spoke no English, belonged to a scary cult, had unpleasant customer service skills. He once stopped up the toilet, somehow managed to tangle the stopper chain so it wouldn’t stop running, and then didn’t tell anyone about it so it flooded the entire store. The staff called him Slug Boy.
    Anyway, one of our part-timers was leaving. Her husband managed a local hotel (for difficult owners) and they were leaving for a dream job managing a luxury ski-resort in another state. Slug Boy had a degree in accounting. The husband, as his last act at the hotel, hired Slug Boy as the night auditor at the hotel.

      1. Terranovan*

        Khai said that the husband managed the hotel “for difficult owners”, which I’m inferring is that the owners made Husband’s job difficult.

  121. TheBunny*

    We had an inspection coming up at a job I was at years ago.

    Some of the documents were old and needed to be updated (literally internal “skills” inventories sent out to employees asking them to rate their own proficiency) and instead of sending them to employees my boss asked me to just “fix” the dates.

    I did…BUT did a really bad job so there was no way we would ever be able to use the documents and sent them to him.

    He replied telling me that the documents looked forged…um, yeah…and that I didn’t do a great job. I replied it wasn’t a skill I had and that the ability to forge documents wasn’t covered in the interview.

    He dropped it at that point.

    It was literally the only way I could think of to get out of forging the documents.

  122. Johnny Thunders*

    So in my past life I was a negotiator for our teacher’s union. We had written up some language that would’ve allowed non-gestational partners/same sex couples/adoptive parents to use more sick days when a baby/foster kid came along. We weren’t asking to expand maternity leave, just asking for parity. We went back and forth over this for several sessions, until admin finally gave us what they called their final proposal. It contained most of the allowable sick days we had asked for…and, if you read it very, very literally, doubled the amount of sick days the person who gave birth could actually use. Absolutely not something they meant to do, and happened almost entirely because they were trying not to use words like “non-gestational” because that was “too confusing.” So I kept my mouth shut, signed off on it, and had a lot of fun a year later when a woman put in for extended maternity leave, was denied, filed a grievance, and we won.

  123. FoggyBalrog*

    A colleague claimed to be so overworked his department head hired a full time temp to do his job so he could focus on his special projects. Turns out he wasn’t doing any work except for himself. He started his own business as a consultant while collecting a salary. A client of ours ran into him at the beach where he was selling fish from a food cart (another bizarre side hustle I presume) during a work day, he was found out and fired. Last I heard he was running for mayor in his home town.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Selling fish from a food cart is going to be my go to excuse for wanting a day off.

  124. Anon for this one*

    Our deliverable was a thing that was produced quarterly, due x number of days after the end of the quarter (which is important because we couldn’t begin work on it until the end of the quarter due to an earlier thing it was dependent on, so it wasn’t possible to start earlier). The deadline was ‘x’ days after the end of the quarter for a long time, and then the business decided x was too long and we would begin a project to streamline the work to reduce x by 25%.

    Process improvements were still underway when it was announced to us that next quarter the new deadline would be y (the shorter time). We pulled out all the stops to meet the new deadline – late nights, weekends etc. When we met this extremely aggressive deadline we were told that in fact the business just wanted to know if it was possible and we’d proved that it was, and that the real deadline was still the original x. A lot of overtime was submitted for the nights and weekends, but they refused to pay it on the grounds that there wasn’t a genuine business reason for the rush. It turned out a manager had unilaterally done this without direction of senior management.

    1. Bird names*

      Was there any turnover thanks to this stunt? I imagine most did not take well to the fake deadline a loss of pay.

    2. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Oh, that’s super illegal. They have to pay for work they got, even if they didn’t actually want it.

  125. Irish Teacher.*

    Very minor, but in my first teaching job in a school that quite honestly, was like one of those comedies about out of control students, there was one day when a large number of teachers were absent (I suspect that was related to the previous information; one teacher there was trying to figure out when was the last time somebody stuck it out until retirement as everybody there got out as soon as possible) and the principal was trying to find cover for all the classes.

    I realised I was available at two of the times he was looking for cover for and one of those times, the class he was looking for cover for…it was for the class noted for being the worst in the school, where a student had brought fireworks into the classroom a week or so previously (fireworks are illegal in Ireland, to make it even worse), so I went to the office and told him I was free at the other time and could cover the other class if needed, since I knew it was highly unlikely he would ask me to give up both my free classes in the one day and with that offer I could avoid the class I really didn’t want to deal with while looking like I was willing to put myself out.

  126. Cherry Sours*

    I worked for a health care company which gave employees a paid day off for their birthday, and we loved this. We also worked alternate holidays. Worked great, until it didn’t.

    One employee pointed out that she worked Christmas two years ago, and took another coworkers shift the previous Christmas so he could be with his terminally ill child for the holiday. This year, she felt, she should have off, but both she and other employee were on the schedule to work this year.

    Management brings a new employee to meet their coworkers (we’d been short-staffed for a few months, so this was a pleasant surprise.) Lo and behold, new employee’s birthday fell on Christmas…which meant first employee would have to work every Christmas until she left the company.

    Management creates the schedules…could have asked others to jump in and cover at least part of the shift…they did it all the time. Instead, they immediately declared a mortitorium on time-off requests for the next two months. The scheduler, a week later, took off for three weeks. While it was likely comp time and a use-it-or-lose-it-scenario, the optics of this were pathetic. Needless to say, they lost the long-time employee because management simply couldn’t be bothered to spend 30 minutes reworking the schedule.

  127. TaterTotsForTheWin*

    I once worked with a guy who applied for the job because our office location was one mile up the street from a plot of land he’d bought, and he was building a house there from the ground up. After getting hired, for the next two years he would spend at least half of every workday (and often more) either at the job site, going back and forth to meeting contractors, picking up building materials, or on the phone with the builders. It took him literally like 5 minutes to drive there or back so he did that all day every day. We paid this no-morals guy a full time salary (& benefits) to build a house while doing zero work for us. And our oblivious clueless boss never said a word about it. It sure imploded morale for the rest of us though that had to watch it happen while we all worked hard to keep the business going.

    1. Not Australian*

      You employed Tony Petrocelli? [Dated TV reference for those very slightly over 21… ]

  128. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

    I used to work for a company that was contracted (long-term) by clients to staff their facilities, usually brand new facilities or newly-opened branches. Our company also bought furniture, equipment, appliances, supplies, etc. for these facilities, as part of our contract was to get new facilities ready for business. This was initially paid for by the company and invoiced to the client for later reimbursement.

    The client whose facility I was assigned to dragged their feet on paying their invoices for the start up costs. There was always some reason they couldn’t pay this month. After a year and a half, the client decided it was cheaper to just break the contract and pay the early termination penalty than reimburse us for the equipment, furniture, computers, and everything else.

    (Side note: The early termination penalty was intended to cover any outstanding invoices so we wouldn’t have to juggle who paid for what printer during the transition. In this case it didn’t come anywhere close to covering what the company spent on unpaid invoices from start up costs.)

    The company owner (grandboss) was Not Happy. So she gave my boss a company credit card, a small budget, and orders to go buy “suitable” replacements for everything in the office. My boss absolutely loves auctions, thrift stores, flea markets, and freecycle so he was ecstatic. He took me and two other employees and for a week, we went around buying replacements that were half junk. Those really nice four digit office chairs were replaced by old desk chairs he found at a school auction. High end computers replaced with Gateways from the 90s, swanky printing centers replaced with almost antique all-in-ones from an office foreclosure auction, industrial metal shelving replaced with flat pack bookshelves posted on craigslist. We replaced everything down to the potted plants and coffee cups.

    Grandboss loaded all the good stuff into a couple moving trucks she had parked on site and we moved all the lesser quality replacements into the facility. Then grandboss and boss drove the trucks back to the company’s offices. Employees were offered first chance at the office furniture, computers, and misc supplies while the company kept the larger equipment for other use. Every employee got at least one nice upgrade for their office, the break room got new drink dispensers, and there were so many small office supplies we were directed to take home as much as we wanted (almost 20 years later, I think I still have some of the gel rollerball pens I took).

    The client was reportedly very upset when they strolled into their facility to find all that fancy new equipment they thought they were getting for almost-free turned out to be old and crappy. I mean, all of the replacements were serviceable for their intended purpose, which our contract stated we would provide. It’s just that what we left them was more reflective of the early termination penalty budget.

  129. crabby pm*

    I worked for a company that had a yearly all-hands meeting during which a long slate of internal awards were given out. I got tired of the same people getting them so I started having my team spend our weekly team meeting writing nominations for people on the team. The next all hands meeting? Everyone on my team won awards.

    Now, these award nominations were vetted and cleared by my manager and the upper management team, so it’s not like we were stuffing the ballot box. But no one else was nominating people and so it’d be up to the managers to nominate folks so they’d look at who won the last time and say “oh, yeah, they’re working on project X and that’s important, they should get these awards”. all we did was give them a different slate of people to look at.

    no one ever caught on.

  130. GingerJ1 ‍✈️*

    I did this, and am still rather proud of it, TBH.

    I was a major in a public affairs office in the command headquarters, and we had a media training unit. Or really, just this one guy. Anyway, it was very good training, helped folks (especially higher-ranking officers and high-level government civilians) get acquainted with the ins and outs of being interviewed, with mock on-camera interviews and such, and gave them appropriate strategies for doing them.

    One of our subordinate units, out in Arizona I think, wanted to know whether our guy (a GS civilian) could travel out there and do the training for a LOT of people, rather than having all of them travel to Ohio.

    I asked the guy and he flatly refused. No. Not gonna happen. We don’t do that.

    This was an utterly ridiculous stand to take. He was just planning to sit in his lair and wait for customers to show up? (I heard through the grapevine that he ran a gun shop or something on the side, and that’s why he didn’t want to travel. To that I say, tough toenails; figure it out.)

    So: I told our boss, the colonel, that I wanted to ask the PENTAGON media training unit if they’d travel to Arizona to train this whole raft of folks, wanted to make sure it was okay with her.

    Colonel: Wait, why don’t we just have Jim do it?
    Me (all innocent-like): Oh, he told me we don’t do that.

    So, yeah, Jim got his butt sent out to Arizona to do his fricking job.

  131. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    As soon as I walked in the door, my co-worker, Debbie Downer had a list of complaints, mostly minor that had nothing to do with me. Even before I could take my coat off and pour a coffee she was following me with her complaints. So I started telling her that she needs to talk to the director because he has the final authority on everything. So….she started waiting for the director to arrive and pounced. “We have no llama juice and we need some ASAP”. He started coming in a different door to avoid her but I could see his car arrive and would tell her so she was still ambushing him. Finally, she got what she wanted which was a staff meeting and everyone was asked if they had any problems. She spoke for almost 15 minutes without pausing for breath about her issues., mostly very minor things. Finally, the director asked if anyone else had something to add, no one did. He held her back after the meeting and said that he only wanted to hear about issues if they had gone through the proper channels and hadn’t been resolved. She was a little upset so I mentioned in passing that he reads all of his emails. So he started getting daily emails. I left my job shortly and don’t know if the emails worked out for her.

  132. Danananaassistant*

    I had a manager who had a large all staff meeting about how none of us were allowed to tell him no. That he was in charge (there was a board above him) and was doing what was best.

    I was the assistant manager.

    But after that meeting if I said “no” I would have to endure a lecture (up to two hours!) about how I couldn’t tell him that.

    The thing was, he’d come in from a state with very lax labor laws and the state he was now working in had very protective of the employee labor laws. So like 80% of the time I was telling him no was because it was illegal in our state, which I knew because I’d been working there for longer.

    So moving forward when he’d tell me something I would bite back my “no” and instead say “I will absolutely look into that for you, that sounds like a good idea,” and then go back to my desk, access a legitimate site that outlined why it was illegal, wait a day and bring him the print off with “bad news boss, it looks like there might be some problems with doing x. How would you like me to proceed?”

    Stopped getting lectured about saying no. (Still got lectured about other things. Happily have since left. I can tell my current manager no and he won’t throw a hissy.)

  133. Nat20*

    Back when we were dating, my now-husband was the manager of a marina on a lake, and I also briefly worked there for a few months while I was in between jobs. The marina had ~20 pontoon boats for daily rentals, as well as some kayaks, paddleboards, etc.

    As I’m sure many can attest, some people turn into absolute monsters when they’re on vacation. The level of rudeness and entitlement we’d see from renters on a daily basis (as well as people with their own boat tbh) was staggering. Some people, of course, were awesome.

    Fortunately, all the staff knew the ins and outs of every single rental boat pretty intimately since we had to move them around so often, and it wasn’t a uniform fleet by any means. (Not exactly a high-end marina, but a popular spot.) So we all knew which boats were biggest, fastest, which ones had the best features or seating, which ones had the most reliable motors, and which ones… ahem, didn’t. And we had complete control over which boats to rent out to which customers.

    “Hello? Hi Mr. Smith, how’s the fishing? Oh no, your boat, the worst rental in the fleet, broke down on the other side of this gigantic lake?? Shocking! Let me see if any of the dock hands you were a total asshole to are available to come rescue you…. hopefully you won’t have to wait too long… oh look, it might rain…”

  134. Day Job Haver*

    So how about “inadvertently Machiavellian”?

    At my first non-retail real world job (customer service, essentially taking phone orders and processing email and snail mail orders, which yes, were a thing in the late 90s), I was sort of chugging along as a valued contributor and I think at that point a team lead, but you know, didn’t love it, and there were parts of the job that drove me nuts (yarr).

    With that said — dress was business casual. One day I came in wearing a suit, but only because I was leaving right from work to go to the symphony! I swear I didn’t mean anything by it, and I probably told a co-worker or two what was up, but not the boss or grand-boss.

    They surmised that I was interviewing on my lunch hour, must have looked at what they were paying me, and about a week later, off schedule, not tied to a performance review, they gave me what had to have been about an 8-10% raise! Just like I [didn’t] plan it, but had I known that would have worked, I certainly would have.

    1. Ess Ess*

      Haha… I used to be passive aggressive and do something similar, but on purpose. If I was unhappy with something my boss was doing, I would wear my interview-level clothing to work for the day. I wouldn’t say anything about it, but they would suddenly be very reasonable about workloads again.

  135. ArtsNerd*

    Oh and a much shorter one from a different job:

    Shortly after his peak, a rep for Glenn Beck asked about renting the venue where I worked. I was legitimately delighted to let them know we were already booked for those dates, and she sounded annoyed and asked me if I had any recommendations for similar venues. There are only so many options in our city, so I dutifully talked up the one closest in capacity to ours, a beautiful historic theater with a top-notch staff and tech capabilities not too far away in a thriving, hip neighborhood… that also just happened to be predominantly Black and probably *terrifying* to his audience.

  136. PMPMP*

    I’ve been waiting for this exact question. My old boss was constantly encouraging me to read Machiavelli’s The Prince so I would understand his management style.

    No, I’m not joking.

    Yes, he was as awful as he sounds and probably worse. I will leave the rest to your imaginations.

      1. PMPMP*

        -Asked me to work for free after I was the first person laid off during the pandemic because “that’s what owners do.” I was not an owner and if offered I would not have accepted.

        -Encouraged us to essentially charge clients as much as possible to see what we could get away with. If they pushed back he would just lower the invoice to a more appropriate amount and cite an administrative error.

        -We were not allowed to say no to requests from clients. Ever. Even if it wasn’t a type of work the company did. (It regularly resulted in disasters.)

        -After I quit for obvious reasons, I spoke with a friend that still worked there. She said morale was horrible, and on a call he actually said if people didn’t start acting happier he’d fire them. Essentially, “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” He did not see the irony in this.

        These are just a few snippets. I was very young when I started. I put up with that crap for 8 years. Once I learned better I ran.

    1. Sleve*

      What a moron. Il Principe is a guide to maintaining power over a princedom, not a guide to leadership. If you’re not the highest power in a company with princedom-level revenue, following Machiavelli’s outline in Il Principe is just a recipe for getting nothing done, and will eventually get you fired. A Machiavelli fan who doesn’t hold absolute power is far better off weaponising the Discourses on Livy.

  137. JP*

    I had a college job in our athletics facility back when AOL Instant Messenger was really popular. The guy I worked for was a nepotism hire, and made some sexually charged comments to / about me that were very upsetting. I should have reported it, but again, nepotism hire, so I didn’t. He also spent a lot of time on the one work computer that we had in the office having explicit conversations on AIM with randos. I managed to catch glimpses of his screen and memorized his username, then went back to my dorm that night and, with a friend, created a throw away AIM account. I messaged him threatening to contact his wife and tell her what he did at work all day. I had hoped that it’d scare him into not being a creep, but I don’t think it did much. I wasn’t the only person he was inappropriate towards, and his reputation was pretty well cemented across campus by the time I left.

    I’m not proud about that whole thing, not because it was ineffective, but because it was so immature and could have backfired terribly. Though, I guess handling it the mature and correct way could also have backfired terribly as well.

  138. LTR, FTP*

    Years ago I worked as a PM for a terrible, terrible agency. I started as a contractor, getting paid a quite decent hourly rate, and after a few months they offered me the job full time. They were rather desperate for help, so when I negotiated the full time job, my hourly rate stayed the same but I was shifted to W2 status with benefits. This meant that I was getting paid significantly more than the other PMs that were doing the same work.

    It was an awful place to work! Everything was an emergency, we had to stay super late all the time, it was disorganized, morale was terrible. I only put up with it because I was making really good money, but I hated it there. I cried every Sunday night.

    Eventually, I heard thru the rumor mill that we weren’t going to make our numbers that quarter and that some staff would be cut. Not gonna lie, I was thrilled at the idea of them giving me a severance package to walk away. And I knew I was going to be on the chopping block since I had such a high salary. Sure enough, I was laid off.

    The next day, the other two PMs took me out to lunch. They wondered why I was the one picked to get the axe. I took that opportunity to tell them *exactly* how much I made, which turned out to be almost double what they were each earning.

    They both quit within a month, leaving the agency with no PMs at all. Mwahahahahahahah!!!!

  139. Chart Wars*

    I was the receptionist and admin for a college metal health office. This was back when everything was paper charts. We still got audited by the state and the department of health regularly. Their inspections were random and could happen at any time. I was also the HIPAA compliance officer and did chart audits monthly to be prepared when we had random inspections. The clinicians would get their charts back with a few corrections here and there, like missing dates or codes, nothing major. I also did all their transcriptions and filing.

    One of the clinical staff “Katie” got upset that I sent back her chart with errors. She was really confrontational about basically everything and was good at getting people whipped up over little stuff. She went to the head of the college clinic (some Dean who didn’t care or know how clinics worked) and said I wasn’t certified to touch any client communications or charts and that there was “no reason at all” for me to be handling client charts or info. She said my job was to “sort the mail and lock up at night.” So he told the clinic director that I wasn’t to touch anything client related. We both tried to argue that handling clinical information was literally my job, but he said that I had no reason to be handling client documents. The clinical director said to follow his instructions and not touch anything to do with clients. So I didn’t. And charts piled up, people missed appointments, insurance billing didn’t go out, and I spent a month sitting in the back room reading (on the good couch), taking our therapy dog for daily walk around campus, and going on coffee runs, and of course sorting the mail and locking up at night. After two weeks the clinical staff minus Katie went to the Dean and begged to allow me to do my job again. He said Katie was right and I didn’t have the authority to touch clinical records which was incorrect but whatever. The rest of the staff started icing her out when the clinicians including Kate were instructed to start staying late to get their transcripts and charts done. In response Katie filed a complaint that I wasn’t doing my job and was “sitting around all day.” By week 5 Katie demanded I be fired for not doing my job, citing the charting backlog. This got escalated to the head of student services and HR with an emergency meeting where Katie raised and ranted that I was spending all day reading and walking the dog I said “but Katie, there’s no reason at all for me to be handling charts or client info. My job is to sort the mail and lock up at night, which I’ve been doing.” Long story short, we also failed an inspection because of this. HR was very confused as to why and how this happened. She stepped in and explained my job and certifications and responsibilities to the Dean and was very concerned about why I’d been told not to do my duties. I was excused from the meeting with instructions to get back to work. I was allowed to use interns to catch up the backlog and worked there for years without another incident. Katie didn’t stay long after that.

  140. Just About Done*

    I had a busy body coworker that just was never working and I had to pick up the slack. I liked my job but couldn’t take it anymore so I started looking. I realized there was a job the was almost exactly what said coworker was currently supposed to be doing. It was too long of a drive for me but I printed the listing to a printer near her desk. She took the bait! She got a new job closer to home, I kept my job and love it even more. It’s been over 10 years and I plan on staying until retirement.

  141. Euphony*

    A grand boss in another department thought they would take advantage whilst my grand boss was on medical leave and made a land grab for my team’s responsibilities. My manager was NOT pleased to discover a near carbon copy of her job role posted as a vacancy, especially as the new job took all the fun creative parts of the role, but couldn’t stop it. My grand boss retaliated by claiming we needed more help to handle all the new interdepartmental collaboration, so now my team had 2 direct managers plus a manager in the other department.
    I don’t think this would have gone well under any circumstances, but both new hires turned out to be completely and utterly awful. Indirect manager was a micromanaging and incompetent control freak. New direct manager was a bullying control freak. Within a month they were having regular screaming matches and then ranting to the rest of us afterwards. We did our best to keep our heads down, stay out of the crossfire and attempt to get at least some work done.
    8 weeks in, both of them complained about the other to HR and several grand bosses. And then told us all about exactly what they’d said – giving us a PERFECT opportunity to get our stories straight before anyone asked our opinion.
    So we told HR and the grand bosses that all the bullying and conflict was Direct Manager’s fault, whilst carefully picking examples that showed how incompetent Indirect Manager was. The resulting fallout caused both to be gone within the month (one fired, one resigned/pushed) and all the job responsibilities were handed back to our original team, causing an instant improvement in work quality. We subsequently won an award for “team spirit” and had a very celebratory meal out at the company’s expense.

    1. Euphony*

      Postscript: Both original grand bosses were also gone within 6 months – one took early retirement on medical grounds and the other “left to pursue other opportunities”.

  142. Penny*

    I had a friend at work I’d confided in about previous PTSD I’d had years ago triggered by events at work – which I’d had therapy for and felt largely healed having had many good jobs since. And I mean that – I know what bad feels like and I really was OK. But then she told our boss I was mentally unstable and – surprise – was selected for promotion rather than me. When I got upset about the process I was told (both by her and boss) that this was evidence of my psychological issues and that I needed more therapy. When I said my PTSD was under control I was told I was lying to myself. It took leaving to realise that it wasn’t actually my issue and to regain perspective and that I had been treated poorly.

  143. Arctic Grue*

    I used to work at a little charter school that was generally a great place to teach, though it had some quirks. They hired teachers year to year, so while most people had the option to stay, your contract would not be renewed if you hadn’t met certain benchmarks or were otherwise not a good fit.

    I taught tenth grade English. The eleventh grade teacher was…not great. She didn’t seem to take the job seriously, made fun of me for doing things like reading emails from admin and attending mandatory meetings, and generally had a mean girl attitude toward colleagues and students. However, she has a fancy advanced degree from a school with a recognizable name (though I later found out that she had only attended a year long program and her degree wasn’t as fancy as she made it out to seem. Frequently.) She also refused to allow me to teach a novel I had great materials for because she’d already “dibs”ed it for her curriculum, even though she got to teach eight moves and I got to choose one.

    I heard gossip that after both of us finished our first year, she had not impressed admin and was not going to get her contract renewed, but that enough people had “respect for her pedigree” that she squeaked through.

    Her room was right next to mine, and since she taught eleventh grade, all her students had been mine the year before. She would trash talk them, and me, in the staff lounge, wondering aloud what I’d even taught them, even though I knew I’d taught them well. It was obnoxious.

    One thing this school took very seriously was student hours. Each teacher was required to set aside two hours per week to be available to students. No appointment required, they were just listed on your syllabus and everyone knew where to find you for those two hours. You could do them before or after school, both at once or different days, any day of the week, but they were a huge part of how this school operated.

    Well. She was never at her student hours. I knew this because my room was next to hers and I’d see her leave every day as soon as the school day ended. And because students would come by her room for help, find her gone, and come ask me instead for help. I spent a lot of time helping her students during time that was not even my student hours.

    One day one of my favorite sweetheart students came by and asked me where she was. I knew she had left, because I’d seen her. I said I didn’t know. He seemed concerned, and said that he had arranged to meet with her during student hours today. I confirmed with him that he had a specific appointment with her today, and that it was her student hours.

    I then acted very concerned. What a strange and worrying situation! Where could she be??? I told him he needed to go downstairs to the principal right away, explain that he’d made an appointment with her and arranged to come during her student hours, but now he couldn’t find her!

    She was not hired back the next year.

  144. And another thing*

    Had a boss who, if you just brought him a solution wouldn’t accept it. Would have to come up with his own. Sometimes it was doable, rarely it was better.

    I started showing up with the problem, then would tell him three solutions I saw but that I needed help to know how to proceed. Standard was: One solution would be obviously wrong but very cheap. One would be very expensive and only partially work. One would be reasonable and work.

    Obviously he’d tell me to go with the reasonable one. Which would’ve been the single one I would’ve brought to him before. Sometimes was a pain to think of but always worked.

  145. Catabouda*

    This is very tame, but I worked for a department that simply wouldn’t order good pens. Like only the $1.99 for a box of 50 type that didn’t work most of the time.

    I had regular monthly meetings with a different department and one month I forgot to bring a pen. A person on the other team showed me where their supplies were and said grab one.

    You have to be a pen nerd like me to understand, but their pens were amazeballs. Different colors, styles, grips. So I forgot my pen every month and took one of theirs each time and built up a collection of great pens.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      A friend of mine works in a school where they have a pen club.

      Every month, each member takes a turn to buy everyone in the club their own favorite pen. She has discovered some new great pens as a result. I never knew there were pen nerds!

  146. Midwest Manager*

    While working in an investigative role for a municipal commission, I encountered a woman working for a local blue collar business. Shortly afterward (a matter of a week or two), she broke her foot while getting off of a piece of equipment; she notified us that she would be off work for the entire summer, noting that her time & bills would be covered by worker’s comp. In the course of the investigation (which had no connection to the injury) I noticed that 2 yrs prior, she had also had a worker’s comp injury in late spring and was off work for the full summer. My boss and I went back and forth on whether this could have been intentional—-would she really intentionally sustain a work injury so she could have the summer off with full pay? Who would do that?? Suppose you wound up with a more serious injury than you intended? Seemed unlikely. Nope. The woman developed a crush on me and started asking to come over for drinks and hang out. After I declined and explained that would be professionally inappropriate, she left me a couple of drunk, middle of the night voice mail messages, including one where she boasted about her cunning scheme to have paid summers off. I wanted to report it to her company, but my boss had a different interpretation of the confidential nature of our job and ordered me to stand down. (And that was only one of the reasons that I quit that job shortly thereafter)

  147. Jengineer*

    I hired in as a blue-collar worker at the company I’ve been with for 35 years (five job changes and an engineering degree later, I’m in a data expert role). I was new and fairly inexperienced, so I liked to get confirmation that my plans to fix something were correct.

    I didn’t want to ask my boss what to do outright, as he would tell me to do something that was a waste of time (I had found that he and other bosses often had their pet thing to try first, even if it made no sense under the circumstances). So, I’d stick my head in his office door, and, as though I were continuing a conversation, say, “So you wanted me to refurbish the glockenspiel, right?” And, he’d say yes and I’d feel reasonably sure I was on the right path, or at least not a terribly wrong one. It wouldn’t have worked with a smarter boss (and I wouldn’t have tried it).

  148. The Curse of the Zoom Meetings*

    Every day, my boss’s boss’s boss would microwave frozen fish for 5 minutes in our open-floor-plan office.

    1. GingerJ1 ‍✈️*

      ….and now I’m waiting to hear about your Machiavellian scheme to kill him and hide the body…


    2. learnedthehardway*

      Not work related, but when I was an first year undergrad student, my roommate had a boyfriend who was a literal Nazi (as in the product of grandparents who were literally part of Nazi breeding programs, whose parents clearly adhered to the ideology, resulting in him – who also clearly adhered to the ideology). Anyway, he was obnoxious.

      Whenever he came over, I would make salmon salad sandwiches in our tiny dorm room, drain the cans in the bathroom sink, and leave the tin in our open garbage pail. He and roommate would soon decide to go over to his dorm. At which point, I would clean everything up and spray scent absorbing stuff around, so the room went back to smelling normal. Sure enough, he soon refused to come over at all, and my roommate had to spend her time at his dorm.

  149. LisaD*

    Oh man, I’m a little bit late to the thread so I hope Alison sees this, because I have a hell of an example.

    I was, for a time, the most senior woman at a startup with an all-male C-suite. (I was a Director.) So, I was pretty thrilled when I was asked to be on the hiring committee for an executive role where we’d be interviewing a finalist who was a woman with an outstanding resume! Not that a man couldn’t have been the best fit for the job, but we made a product largely used by young women, so I was excited to potentially have a highly-qualified woman in an influential role. I liked the candidate in interviews—let’s call her Cersei—and voted to hire her.

    Upon being given an offer, Cersei immediately asked the CEO to place me and my team under her on the org chart. The CEO left it up to me. For reasons related to my team’s core job functions, not to Cersei herself, I politely declined to have my team moved out of the organization we were already in. Still, I made a point of supporting Cersei in her new role, and urged my entire team to do the same. We even moved to a different section of the office so Cersei and her new hires wouldn’t be siloed by themselves in a mostly empty area.

    With my desk quite near Cersei’s office, we chatted a lot and started to get pretty close. She’d ask me for advice on managing her team or on navigating tensions between the C-suite executives. If there was a particularly stressful day, she often ordered pastries for our two teams to share.

    Pretty soon, Cersei hired a highly qualified woman for a Director-level role that would work closely with me—basically, the “me” for her team. I’ll call this woman Daenerys. We got off to a little bit of a rough start after I asked her if she received an email I sent and she took it as criticism for not checking her work email on the weekend, but it was a minor disagreement that was resolved within minutes, not days. Still, it seemed like she was holding a grudge, because Daenerys started coming up with bizarre reasons to oppose everything I supported and support everything I opposed.

    I genuinely thought I was losing my mind for a while, because this was SUCH a qualified person, her CV absolutely blew mine out of the water, but her opinions just didn’t seem rational at all to me. And Cersei wasn’t entirely happy with Daenerys, either. Cersei kept calling me into her office to ask how I thought she should handle various forms of insubordination or underperformance by Daenerys. Eventually, Cersei got so fed up she wanted to fire Daenerys, but another executive stepped in and convinced the CEO to let him transfer Daenerys onto his team instead. Daenerys seemed to be taking the whole situation in stride, and became a high performer on her new team.

    We also suddenly seemed to be getting along a lot better. We started chatting informally more often. One day she invited me out to coffee.

    That’s when the Machiavellian scheme was finally exposed: Cersei told Daenerys before she was hired that I was “going to destroy the company” and that Daenerys’s official title was her job in name only. Her real job was to get rid of me by either getting me fired or convincing me to quit. The whole time I was sympathizing with Cersei as she complained to me about struggling to get Daenerys to do her job… the job she wasn’t doing was my own professional assassination! And when Daenerys almost got fired, it was because she’d told Cersei that after observing my performance she didn’t agree that I was a danger to the company and she wasn’t going to keep trying to push me out.

    Did Daenerys have receipts? You bet she did. Cersei had put all of this in writing on Slack. Entire completely made-up stories about me related to Daenerys as if they had just happened. “Just ran into her in the kitchen, guess what she said to me,” followed by things I had never said.

    Cersei was VERY convincing (she had me fooled too!) so Daenerys thought for sure I must really be some sort of awful, dangerous saboteur when she first started, and when she started to have her doubts about Cersei, she did some research before acting on them. When she started asking around, she learned that Cersei had done something like this at several other companies, with the victim always being a younger woman in a leadership role slightly lower on the org chart than her own.

    Daenerys printed out all the Slack transcripts, slapped them on the CEO’s desk, and promptly quit.

    When the CEO confronted Cersei, she cried and threatened self-harm, leading him to choose not to fire her out of concern for her well-being. She was offered short or long term disability leave, but refused it, and continued working.

    I stayed at the company long enough to participate in a liquidity event, then left for a job in a different industry. Cersei also left on her own, and has since passed away.

    As far as I can tell, the entire reason for this bizarre, months-long campaign to get rid of me was that I had declined to move my team under her leadership when she was first hired. I asked her directly what I’d done to upset her, the CEO asked her directly, another executive who had a good relationship with her asked her directly, and she was not able to come up with an answer, so I’m left with the assumption that my original sin was that I felt it made more business sense to keep my team in the department where it had always been.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Well, or it was because you were a younger woman in a leadership role slightly lower in the org chart than Cercei, nothing else. Abusive people want control. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

    2. Bird names*

      Yep, I concur with Mad Harry Crewe.
      Abuse happens because you encounter an abuser. You existed in her vicinity and that was sufficient for her. I’m sorry she put you through that.

  150. zolk*

    A (now former, for obvious reasons) colleague was buying product on their personal card, getting reimbursed, and then returning 20-30% of it for profit. As far as I am aware this lasted years before they were caught, and went to trial.

  151. Ally McBeal*

    I don’t know if this is necessarily Machiavellian, but I tend to dress pretty casually at work and wear very little makeup (brow tint and that’s it), so it’s really obvious when I am interviewing because I dress up more and at least put on some mascara. I realized a few years back that if you dress up for all medical appointments and tell all your coworkers “it’s in case I meet a cute doctor,” no one will think twice when you start interviewing. And no one’s going to dig for details about a medical appointment like they might if you pretended to have a date after work. Plus, you know, I might actually meet a cute doctor someday!

    1. LTR, FTP*

      I had a coworker that would say they were dressed up (for interviewing) because they were going to a funeral!!

  152. Anony7373*

    How do you get a hold of someone’s resume? How do you even submit that anonymously to a recruiter? I want to do that to my colleague.

  153. GingerJ1 ‍✈️*

    Not REALLY related, but amusing.

    A coworker once asked me how to spell “Mickey Valley.” I puzzled over this for a bit until the lightbulb went on. “You mean Machiavelli?” Yep.

  154. A*

    I have to credit my boss for the concept, but I definitely have perfected the execution.

    We work in a very meeting-happy office. On my boss’s direction I literally have to schedule blocks of time on my calendar so I can get my work done between meetings. All of these time blocks have been given titles to make them sound like standing meetings (nevermind that I am the only attendee). I’ve pretty much made myself unavailable for any real meetings on Fridays, which happen to be one of my WFH days, thus I get to stay in my PJs all day on Fridays and peacefully tackle my to-do list. And if I want to take a long weekend, no guilt or hassle over having to reschedule meetings.

    Side benefit – when someone contacts me for a meeting saying they are having trouble finding time on my calendar, I immediately offer to move one of my standing meetings for 1. I’m often met with such gratitude and praise for my flexibility!

    1. Katherine*

      I’m rising in ranks the longer I’m with my current company and I’m starting to get pulled into more and more meeting and I’m definitely going to start doing this!

  155. Lia*

    I was a registrar for a large high school. My principal wanted me to change a grade from C to A for an athlete. I refused and told him the teacher has to make that request with a Dean’s ok. It didn’t happen. Principal lasted a year.

  156. The joy the joy*

    I was a project manager sandwiched between a boss and senior analyst who had worked together for years and resented this foreign young newbie. They made it impossible for me to manage anything by meeting privately and changing the plans we’d agreed to or making new ones without telling me. Eventually, realising the situation was hopeless, I resigned. They set up an expensive lunch for the three of us and some other senior non-supportive for my last day and it gave me great pleasure to not show up and imagine it slowly dawning on them that I wasn’t going to. Of course I made a lame excuse and they enjoyed the lunch anyway so there were no hard feelings but I like to think my last action exercised just a little bit of control over them.

  157. Regina*

    I once worked at an office where my dad was high-level management for a different company within the same corporation, and his office had a guy they wanted to fire, but for some reason they felt like they needed a “good” enough reason to get rid of him. Apparently it was well-known that he was a total pig to women, so they (“they,” in this case, being the old boys’ club that comprised the upper levels of management) decided to transfer him to a predominately-female office, so he would be reported for sexual harassment and could subsequently be fired.

    The office they moved him to? Mine.

    So here comes a guy I think is a friend of my father’s, transferred into our department at management level, who is just instantly disgusting – dirty jokes, misogynistic comments, gross innuendos every time he opened his mouth, inappropriate touching, and heavy implications that eventually, he had expectations beyond “just joking around.”

    Everyone was so thrown off by how comfortably, openly gross he was being, and his known ties to the corporate offices (and my dad!!!), and tbh, how completely and totally unfazed the other manager in the office (also male) was about all of this happening directly in front of his face, that we ended up just…living like that for several months, until one day he said something so disgusting to me on his way out of the office that my normally extremely soft-spoken coworker snapped and called our boss’s boss’s boss and just started shouting at him at the top of her lungs.

    The guy was fired the following morning, and the corporate boys’ club was very casual about announcing, “Man, we wish you would have said something sooner! We wanted to fire him, but we needed a good reason, so we figured if we put him around women, he’d be gone in five minutes. But then nobody reported anything!”

    Not a single one of them – including my own father – ever understood why we were all completely infuriated about having been deliberately set up to be sexually harassed so that they could get rid of a guy they no longer wanted in the clique without having to be the bad guys about it.

    1. Beth*

      I hope you ripped your dad a new one. “Sure, go abuse my daughter! It’s much better than me having to do something mildly inconvenient.”

    2. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Some warning would have been nice. (“Look, we’re trying to get rid of this guy. He likes to harass women, so as soon as he says or does something off, you can flip the switch.”)

  158. RandomName*

    maybe not exactly machiavellian?
    I worked in a psychiatric hospital and there was one nurse who hated having to draw blood (and work in general).
    Anytime I asked for blood tests, it was the same : “patient is too agitated currently, will be done later” (later meaning whoever is there tomorrow).
    Once I asked for a blood tests to be done ASAP (dangerously low sodium if anyone is curious, can kill, and symptoms may include agitation). Was of course told “too agitated” (which he was not).
    So I answered sweetly “yes, of course I understand the situation. Well, even though it’s an emergency it can’t be helped. I’ll let the prescription stand so you can try in an hour or so. Make sure to document thoroughly on your end too!”
    Fifteen minutes later she called and told me the tubes were on their way to the lab.

  159. The week off*

    One of my (usually) dependable employees pulled a stunt once. I was pretty new as the GM. She’s part time, but does a daily task that takes about two hours. She can do this any time of day, and usually chooses night. It involves uploading data we put in during the day, and it has to be done on site. Sometimes there is a lot of new data, sometimes not a lot. Still has to be done daily. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday she works an additional shift. On those days, she can do the task during her shift.

    Last Thanksgiving, she asked for the three additional shift days off, and I said yes. We made arrangements for the daily tasks to be covered.

    So on Monday of the week in question, I uploaded a ton of data I needed for Tuesday. On Tuesday, none was transported to the appropriate place. I got to looking, and realized, on the previous Friday, she had done (ahead of time) the daily task for each day between Friday-Wednesday. By doing this, she got the whole week off without actually asking for it.

    Except she got caught, and had to come in that afternoon and upload all the data we missed. She was totally honest and told me the old GM would never have caught it.

    1. Jazam99*

      I need more explanation here. There was data on Tuesday but not transported for a day she was absent? She loaded data in advance for Friday-Wednesday, did this stop Tuesday’s data loading?
      Did she get time off on Monday and Tuesday before asking for additional days off? What would have happened if the leave was refused?

  160. Anon for This*

    I work in international education, managing study tours both to and from the U.S. The tour in this story was for government officials from another country to visit a medium-sized American city and learn best practices in urban planning and municipal development, and the participants were everyone from office clerks in far-flung governorates to (literally) two cabinet-level ministers who had daily interactions with their home country’s president. These two ministers spent the entire time trying to outdo each other and impress the rest of us. A few examples:
    – One of them brought his wife, which was expressly forbidden by the donor funding this tour. He managed to convince his home country’s president to pay for her room instead. (The other was unmarried.)
    – One of them insisted he could only stay in One Specific Hotel, which was several miles from the hotel where everyone else was staying, for Reasons. I thought he might have been committing some kind of fraud, but the other people on the tour told us it was just so he could accrue rewards points at that chain. (LOL.)
    – The each insisted on a private car. Upon learning that the other had been given an equivalent car, one of them then insisted that his bodyguard needed a separate private car. Which, ya know, sort of negated the whole point of the bodyguard. But whatever.
    – One of them made a huge deal about needing to leave early because of A Crisis at home. There was no crisis, as far as any of us could tell. I guess it worked out for him, though, because he was the only major minister not sacked in the next cabinet reshuffle a year later.
    – One of them wanted to see a horse farm — like, soooooo badly wanted to see a horse farm. I have no earthly idea why, but I will forever remember the moment when our field director — who was accompanying the group — told him “We’ll look around” in his native language before promptly turning around to me and saying “Don’t even try looking” in English. (Despite his impressive formal credentials, he knew not a word of English.) I normally dislike this field director intensely, but she was incredible in that moment.
    – We visited a recycling facility. One of the ministers didn’t want to go into the facility because he was afraid of getting his suit dirty — despite being told repeatedly that we would be visiting this location and asked to wear “grungy” clothes that day — and disappeared to shopping mall instead. That is, until he learned that his fellow minister was at the recycling facility with the group. He appeared out of thin air mid-tour, and one of his peons had to give him her hard hat. (We found her another.)
    – They both complained endlessly about the interpreters we hired, with each one pretending to be discreet so the other wouldn’t know. No one else had a problem, and they had both supposedly studied English extensively. (See earlier note: neither one knew a word.)

    So, anyway, after dealing with their increasingly bizarre requests for two weeks, we got approval from the tour’s sponsor and from our HQ to award them both a “certificate of appreciation” instead of a “certificate of completion” at the end of the program. We could plausibly claim it was because their presence had enhanced the profile of the group, but we knew it would drive them crazy that everyone else had “completed” the program while they had merely “been appreciated.” One of them is dead now, and I cannot say I am sorry about that.

    1. Anon for This*

      I suppose I should add that none of these specialized requests were communicated ahead of time. They simply landed and began barking orders from the airport curb (yes, literally — from the curb, when there was no private car for them).

  161. Ciela*

    What about someone who thinks they are being slick, but EVERYONE sees through them?
    We have someone, “Bubble”, whose main task is to write up job tickets. These take on average 3 minutes to do. This person will do 10-12 in an entire day! 25-30 a day are what is needed to keep the work flowing at a smooth pace. So they just get further, and further, and further behind. But they can’t do any more! They are just too busy! (making personal calls for hours a day). Then when they are out for a day, someone else, normally one of the owners, will see the backlog, and write up ALL the job tickets in a single morning. It normally takes new hires 1-2 weeks before they come to my in confidence, whispering, “Bubble doesn’t do any work, does she?”

  162. Angry Baker*

    I use to work at a grocery store as an overnight baker and for the most part there would only be me and the grocery stockers in the store overnight
    Usually by the time morning and the morning people came they would usually come in with high spirits and talk my ear off and stop me from finishing my work but honestly I would be pretty tired by that time and didn’t feel like talking much I just wanted to finish up and leave since I would work 12 hours most days
    so I just stopped talking to the morning people whenever they would say hello I would look at them and walk away not saying anything whenever they would ask me about the product I would stop take 5 extra seconds before turning around and then sigh dramatically before answering in the shortest way possible eventually everyone in the department stopped talking to me and they soon spread to the rest of the store not to bother me because I was “mean & rude”
    I realized it had the added benefit that managers would no longer talk to me unless they had to. I was no longer reprimanded for wearing headphones, I was no longer told to wear my name tag (they didn’t want customers to know my name in complaints though I never had any, ) whenever we were busy I was never given extra work because the manager didn’t want to bother me, and when the regional manger would come (he was a dick who loved to pile impossible work on people and then make them cry when they couldnt do what was asked and any trying to reason with him would be considered rude) they would send me home early because they didn’t want to risk me saying anything to him, when we would get a new department manager or new store management they would never bother me unless they had to.
    They never knew that every day I would take a hour lunch break laughing and joking my head off with the grocery stockers and feed them any extra cookies I had!

  163. ThatOtherClare*

    Early in my gardening* career, I worked on a small team as a junior gardener. Arnold, one of the senior gardeners, was very good at mowing lawns, but absolutely nothing else. He used to try and hide this by taking every possible opportunity to show off to the lead gardener and make everyone else look bad. *(changed for anonymity)

    Arnold would make sure he was the one to ‘train’ the junior gardeners how to use the ride-on mower. He’d intentionally do a really incomplete job of it so they looked and felt dumb when they were struggling. He’d hide the ride-ons and the push mowers so that even seniors looked slow or occasionally resorted to using scythes. He’d take the best new communal tools and hide them or set them up weirdly so only he could use them.

    He’d also leap up and volunteer to ‘help’ people without being asked, and do a really patchy job but tell them he was finished. Then when the lead gardener asked why the job was incomplete, Arnold would leap in and say they were really slow and struggling, and so he’d taken all this time out of his own heavy workload to help them as much as he could, but that he couldn’t possibly do it all! The person needed to take responsibility for their own work, not be sloppy in checking things. Or did they not know how to finish a lawn? They could always ask him if they needed help, he was right there!

    The most common way he’d undermine you was to interpret your question in the dumbest way possible. As a new junior gardener I’d ask questions like “Where do I plug in this hose?”. What I meant was “Where is the tap located on this property?”. Arnold’s answer would be to roll his eyes and say “In a tap.” in the most derisive tone possible. He’d make a point to do it in front of the well meaning but naive lead gardener, who would then leap in and say “Clare! You really should understand watering by now, especially with your experience. Here, you can borrow my textbook on watering.”. I would want to sink into the soil.

    Eventually I caught on and started interacting with him as little as possible, but the senior gardeners took longer because there were fewer opportunities to make them look dumb as rocks. That was, until the year of the Spring Festival. He messed with the gardens of every person on the team, to the point where even the lead gardener was mad with him.

    I walked into the office one morning to find him discussing one of my gardens with the lead and the seniors. He instantly took the opportunity to try and wrong-foot me, barking “How did you do this lawn?” (meaning “Did you mow in lines or circles?”). With a slow smile I replied “It’s a freshly cut lawn, Arnold. I used a mower.” The lead gleefully leapt in with “Yes, exactly Arnold. It was done with a mower. Clearly. That’s extremely obvious. It’s a very elegant looking lawn too, we should start doing more of them that way.” The rest of the seniors were openly grinning with wide-eyed glee. Arnold sulked quitly for the rest of the meeting and we got a lot done.

    I recieved a lot more help than usual from the other seniors to fix my gardens in time for the festival, and I gave as much as I could in return. I think they learned from the whole experience, because soon afterwards they banded together and froze Arnold out. He left for greener pastures and the whole team was much more efficient from then on.

  164. Overbooked*

    Not mine, but my late mother’s. Her strategy was to volunteer to write up documentation, guessing – correctly – that nobody reads the fine print.

    I was a Cold War kid, terrified into nightmares by the prospect of nuclear annihilation. My elementary school’s PTA had a fairly rabid lady in charge of Civil Defense. She was not reassuring; in fact, she made things worse. We were drilled on trooping into the basement cafeteria to huddle with our hands over the backs of our necks. We were issued aluminum dog tags, presumably so that any survivors could pick them out of the cinders and know who we’d been. We were instructed to *walk home* if the bombs started to fly. What home could there be? I’d seen the photographs from Japan; I knew we’d be vaporized. So, when the scheduled time to revise the PTA’s bylaws rolled around, my mother stepped up… and simply omitted the position of Civil Defense officer from the new version, which was duly circulated and approved. The rabid lady was not pleased, and my mother was called a commie, but still: triumph.

    Fast forward to her committee work attempting (eventually successfully) to unionize the drastically overworked faculty at the new community college where she’d started teaching. Again, she wrote up everything, sliding in all the things she felt were needed, gently, subtly, and always circulating each draft. Although the administration was repeatedly surprised by what they’d agreed to, they were never surprised enough to learn to read her fine print.

    She went on to teach technical writing. I hope she passed her tools along to at least a few next-generation subversives.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      More than once, I have been told by hiring managers to make changes to job descriptions. Usually, that is fine – there are definitely things that can be clarified or enhanced that will better reflect the position. Once in a while, though, we get a hiring manager (or committee) that insists on multiple rounds of changes, most of them fairly pointless.

      After the 8th round of changes with one client, I accidentally put forward the 2nd draft of the job description. The committee approved it unanimously, because we “finally got it right”. I did not correct them.

    2. Aussie AAM fan*

      Thie reminds me of my grandfather, who always volunteered to be the secretary of committees as he said the secretary is the one with the ultimate power as they keep the meeting minutes.

  165. Bella Goth*

    At my last healthcare job, we had a new director who was making some big vendor decisions a few months into his tenure. This guy definitely had his mind made up and was 100% going to go with vendor A, and it was obvious to all of us, except vendor B. This decision was drawn out to last 6+ months so he could basically get wined and dined as much as possible by both vendors. Eventually, the holidays roll around, and vendor B is going to throw the staff a big fancy Christmas party. “Someone” finally mentioned to vendor B that this was all for nothing, and we all (middle management) got a big long scolding message from Mr. director about how we weren’t supposed to tell company B about “our decision making process.” This was a grown man who makes at least 200k a year just trying to get as many free meals as possible. There was no decision making process, he made the decisions and just dragged us all along. Luckily that place is well in my rearview, although it being healthcare I often think back that this was all very unethical.

  166. TheCompanyWasPurchasedIDidntApply*

    I worked for a company that had an account with a car service. I used the service regularly for legitimate work reasons, but also occasionally for personal use. At first, I would meticulously correct the car service to charge me for my personal rides, but after I saw how how the finance department paid the bill (pages and pages of trips, no way they validated the purpose of all of them), I decided to let Murdach pick up the bill.

  167. Peanut Hamper*

    I was in charge of ordering office and bathroom supplies at an old job. I ordered all of them from a large online supplier and used one of those “Get 6% back” sites (like Rakuten, but not Rakuten) whenever I ordered supplies. Except that instead of signing up with our company email address, I used my personal address. Turns out that 6% back over five years of ordering pens and toilet paper is about $700, which is not a lot, but was welcome considering how paltry my salary was.

  168. readmymind*

    I used the “HR is there to protect the company not you” thing to my advantage. Had a terrible coworker with a long history of bullying, explosive temper, random angry diatribes, you name it. No one would do anything about it because he was so impossible to deal with, they just swept it under the rug for years and it became a normal part of working there, to have to walk on eggshells around this guy. He finally made me his target over some petty crap, and I acted like I was really afraid of him to HR. I sent lots of very calm but concerned emails about how I was worried his behavior would escalate to the point of violence against me, and asking how I could keep myself safe, saying I hoped I wouldn’t have to quit my job to get away from him like other people had, etc. Everything I said about him was true, but in fact I wasn’t scared at all, just fed up. I never complained or asked them to do anything about him. I just kept up the “oh gosh, I don’t know what to do, can you help me figure out how to work safely around this mean, unpredictable person who could be dangerous?” act. My goal was to make them decide for themselves that keeping him there was too risky by effectively laying a paper trail with tons of information about his problematic behavior over the years and going on record expressing all this very believable fear for my safety. As I hoped, they ended up firing him or paying him off to leave. Maybe they were just sick of my emails. Whatever, it worked and for the rest of the time I was there things were so much better.

  169. Machiavellito*

    Another thing I did once was, someone from personnel took me aside in the hall and whispered in my ear that she knew that a guy who was in my orientation class, and had been hired the same day as me, was hired for a ton more money than me, even though she thought we had the same experience level. Just because he was a guy. She then told me that if I ever told anyone her name, she would deny it.

    I’m female, and this guy was tall and handsome. He only ever talked to women who wore a lot of makeup and tight dresses. which I did not. So he saw me in the hall all the time, (this was about a year into our mutual employment,) and never spoke to me. Which I didn’t mind at all. He wasn’t on my team, and not everyone from every department talked to everyone else in the hall.

    One day, after this conversation with the woman from personnel, I put on a semi-tight sort of revealing, but still work appropriate, although just barely, dress, did my hair and painted my face. I poked my head in his office door. He was perfectly friendly, whereas he had never spoken to me in the whole year or so we’d been there. He was kind of flirty and very friendly.

    I said hey Joe, I heard you’re the SME on X Y and Z issues! That you had a whole lot of experience with this before you came here. He said oh no, I actually only had one class on that in school but never did that for work! I smiled, inwardly cheering, and said oh sorry for the mistake. Nice to see you. Have a great day.

    I went to my supervisor, and my supervisor’s supervisor, and they said it would be taken care of. But one day I ran into the head of the whole department in the hall. He started to say something I thought was going to be supportive. He said, I understand you are requesting a pay raise to be commensurate with Joe. I have no doubt that, and I thought he was going to say something like my supervisor said, which was I have no doubt of course that we can resolve this no problem. Instead he said he had no doubt that he would prevail, and that I would not be having my salary raised to be the same as Joe’s. At that time I had no idea that I was at cross purposes with him. I had received plenty of awards for my work, and there was no reason for me not to be paid the same as Joe.

    So I contacted our eeo office, and they did an investigation. I got not only the raise, but back pay, and also something I had never thought about. Which was all of my old pay stubs replaced by new pay stubs, as if I had been paid the proper amount from the very beginning. Because it would affect my retirement many many years down the road.

    Had I not gotten that proof from Joe himself, by putting on the dress and the makeup, I would not have been able to prove that he did not have the experience that they wanted to rely on to justify their discrimination. He never did speak to me again, but since I never put on the dress and the makeup again, I don’t know if he even recognized me in the hall or noticed me. Just like he never had the entire first year! But even if he didn’t speak to me because he was pissed that I got him to tell the truth by playing to his weak spot, too bad.

  170. harmonybat*

    It failed, but a previous manager tried to get me to sign off on someone else’s performance review so I’d get a lower score… the week before my workplace made furlough decisions based on performance reviews, which she knew was coming. She kept trying that kind of underhanded ish until she left, and she never managed to notice I didn’t fall for it. She even got really mad when I went to her boss the VP when she didn’t approve or decline my pto request for over nine months and I needed an answer before my hotel reservations became non-refundable.

  171. frostysnowman*

    I was on maternity leave, and it was a couple of days before I was to return to work when one of the higher ups called to warn me that I was going to be let go as soon as I was back in the office. I worked from home at the time. I was stunned – I’d been there for years, had helped them get the company get off the ground, never had a bad review, etc.. After I was upset for a while, I got mad. First thing that Monday, I laid the groundwork. I emailed every single buyer and assistant buyer I worked with. I told them how excited I was to be back from leave and that I was looking forward to traveling to see everyone soon to show them the new trends and products I knew were coming out. I didn’t get fired that day, but I did the next morning, so that afternoon I got to email everyone again to say nevermind, I just got laid off, I hoped to see all of them again, yada yada. It the company look like crap, and when I got a new job and started doing business with many of those same customers at the new place, several of them told me they stopped doing business with my previous employer because of what they’d done to me. Ha!

  172. Peri peri chicken*

    I was on a very unusual contract that I negotiated for a short term gig that became more permanent. It was illegal to renew it more than twice without changing me to the permanent (unionised but not as favourable) contract. I used to make sure I had lots of ongoing very critical work every time my contract was up for renewal so my boss could genuinely have kittens that I was a critical employee. She had lots of capital (and I was a great employee) so I managed to retain the highly favourable contract for 8 glorious years (7 bonus years). Every now and then someone would notice the anomaly and contact me about it and I would act panicked and they would reassure me I was fine till the end of contract, but to be aware it would change. About 6 months into my permanent contract I randomly discussed a career Segway within the company with a colleague… I suspect my boss heard about this and the next week she found a way to give me a 30% raise! Some of my colleagues knew about the unusual contract I was on but I told no one about the 30% pay rise!!!

  173. Meg*

    This is a series of Machiavellian moves I witnessed that beautifully backfired on the schemer.

    I was hired for an office job at the same time as another worker, Cersei. Our positions had the same title and a pool of similar duties that were split based on what desk you sat at. Front desk was first to help customers in person and did approximately half the tasks, and back desk was first to answer phones and did the other half. I was given front desk.

    Cersei immediately ingratiated herself with management and began complaining about how busy she was doing the most important work in the office. Management began reassigning her tasks to me so she would have more time, until the split was basically 75% of tasks assigned to front desk and 25% to back desk. I was also very overworked but didn’t complain; when I asked for help I was generally ignored anyway because Cersei had already convinced everyone she was the busiest. On her days off, I covered her tasks as well as mine, but she did not do the same on my days off, so my first day back every week I was met with two days of backlog on top of my normal heavier workload.

    Then it was announced that Cersei had been given a promotion and raise because of all her hard work. And since she was now senior to me, they wanted to make her the face of the office to customers, so effective immediately she was taking my place at the front desk and I would move to back desk.

    I spent several glorious weeks doing 25% of the work while she floundered trying to do all the tasks she had gotten reassigned to front desk. I was nicer than she had been and still covered her tasks on her days off. And gradually things for reassigned until the work was split evenly again, but not long after that I found a job in a much less toxic office.

  174. YouDontKnowMeToday*

    At one point mid-pandemic, my company was selling a highly in-demand piece of electronics. They’d offered pre-orders on this device, and once it released, continued to list it as “Available, In Stock” on the company website. internally and externally – i.e. the one that salespeople would use to order this product for customers. Every customer and every employee who placed an order saw that it was in stock, available in the warehouse, ready to ship.

    Here’s the kicker: I’d pre-ordered one myself, as soon as those pre-orders opened up. And I was waiting a very long time on my “in stock” device. And then, one day, I received an email that I could expect to receive my product… in another month or two. Probably.

    Shortly thereafter, some mysterious benefactor provided all of this information to an industry-specific media outlet.

    And wouldn’t you know it, my order subsequently shipped within the week.

    1. YouDontKnowMeToday*

      For the record if you think you know what this product is, you’re wrong but it’s a really good guess.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        My first guess was a pulse oximeter, but I don’t know anything about your industry, so I’d expect to be wrong. Thanks for a great story, though.

        1. YouDontKnowMeToday*

          I think probably there were not all that many personal pulse oximeter preorders during the pandemic.

          But I don’t know anything about your industry.

  175. Lionheart26*

    I was deputy director at a large organisation. Our director Cindy had a meeting scheduled with an employee, Bob, who was a lovely guy but was dealing with some issues with his department. Bob liked to process things by scheduling meetings where he could monopolise the time complaining for a full hour about what was wrong with job, his marriage etc.
    On this day, we weren’t in the mood and didn’t have time for Bob-nanigans. So we hatched a plan that halfway through the meeting I would interrupt and say an important call had come in and I needed Cindy.
    At the appointed time, I went next door and … they weren’t there. I checked Bob’s office, the conference rooms, I ran around the whole building. By the time I found them in a disused office, I was feeling quite worked up. Also, I knew that a regular phone call wasn’t going to work as an interruption any more (how would I have known to look for Cindy in this random office?). So I BURST in, looked around, said “oh it’s you guys! I’m so sorry to interrupt. But listen, have you seen Fergus?? I can’t find him anywhere and we’ve got a hell of an emergency”. Here is where I paused for Cindy to follow my lead and say “no but perhaps I can help. So sorry Bob, we’ll have to pick this up later”. Unfortunately Cindy did NOT pick up what I was putting down and said “What’s the emergency?”.
    I did manage to successfully extricate Cindy from the meeting, but she and I decided that would be the end of our scheming days.

  176. StarTrek Nutcase*

    I worked in an office where the supervisor was a certifiable witch. Despite my assurances that I just wanted a job for 2 years to get me to full retirement, she clearly felt threatened by my prior experience and skills (which did easily surpass hers but I was burned out & just wanted to do good work each day & leave). I even had resorted to asking the dept. head to please not compliment my work ever as it made things uncomfortable (he didn’t ask how & it was clear he knew it was due to my supervisor).

    Anyway, if I suggested a way to simplify a task or reduce needless repetition, she’d barely let me get the suggestion out before just flat out denying it. So, I started only making such suggestions when he was in the room & could overhear. He always agreed which pissed her off but I would act oblivious. She was not a subtle person and I’m convinced she never realized it was deliberate on my part. Fortunately, I escaped her after 1.5 yrs and even worked another 7.5 yrs at that agency (taking advantage of a special retirement compensation benefit).

    1. Bird names*

      Well-timed obliviousness can do wonders. I’m glad you managed to get away from her though.

  177. Once upon a time*

    I once had a short-term office gig and became friendly with two women who were both excellent at their jobs. They didn’t know each other. Separately, each told me they were being harassed by the same senior VP. This was many years ago when there weren’t typically systems in place to protect workers who were targeted.

    The VP had just promoted one of them and then invited her to a conference, telling her he had booked adjacent hotel rooms. She was understandably scared. The experience of the other woman was that she’d been a temp and he’d recently arranged for her to get a full-time position. He was frequently leaning over her desk and touching her. She confided that she was a single mom who really needed the job and the benefits, and didn’t know what to do to make him stop.

    About a month later it was my last day at the job. I wrote and printed out an anonymous letter telling him he was known to be harassing women who worked there. The company had hundreds of employees with multiple identical printers and standard fonts so he wouldn’t know which department I worked in. I was vague and careful to protect the identities of my colleagues. I wrote that people had observed his harassment, that it was illegal, and I was watching him so he better stop. Then I put it in his mailbox before I walked out the door.

  178. KB*

    I used to work for local government and one man was a horrendous bully. He particularly targeted young women in the department for his terrible behaviour, so the day he announced he and one of the other men in the department were leaving to start their own business, everyone basically celebrated when they weren’t around. (They went out for lunch on their last day and never came back. Everyone else in the department sat down together to have afternoon to celebrate their departure.)

    Before they left, however, I came into the office early one day, the way I usually did. I sat down and then the two men arrived. As I watched, they got a box and went over to the stationery cupboard, literally scooping everything into the cupboard into the box, which one of them then took out to his car. I said nothing at the time, but went and told my boss once she arrived. She went with me to her manager to report it. I was told to keep track of when they did it and to work with the department secretary to get an idea of how much they were stealing if they did it again, which they did every single day until they left (the secretary had to keep putting in urgent stationery orders). They also printed 200 copies of their new business letterhead and even stole the telephone books (which will tell you how long ago this was).

    I did have my own Machiavallian success over the bully at one stage. His wife had just had a new baby, and he used that child as an excuse to be absent from the office minimum of once a week. If he came in at all, he had to leave because the child was unwell with an awful cough and wheeze. (I heard him boasting to his colleague that his kid had never been sick a day in his life, but nobody was going to stop him from leaving if he said the child was so ill.) So one day, just as he arrived for the day (an hour late), I mentioned to my female boss about this terrible illness I’d heard about on the radio during the drive in to work. It sounded really serious, and it was particularly prevalent among babies. My boss asked what it was, I said they were calling it Scottish Whistling Cough, that it was like Whooping Cough, but it had a higher mortality rate and no treatment or vaccine. The bully poked his head out of the kitchen where he was making coffee on the way to his office and asked what I was talking about, so I told him, in graphic detail, all the things I’d heard. I expressed my concern for his new baby given how much he had been absent during all her illnesses. He muttered something and rushed off to his office. The colleagues around me burst into laughter since they realised I was literally describing all of the symptoms he claimed his baby had been suffering and that I had made the whole thing up. He must have called his wife in a panic, and presumably she told him he was an idiot because he didn’t speak to me for an entire month – most peaceful month in that entire job!

    1. AnonAnon*

      HAHAHA! This is fantastic.

      I am currently in a situation at work where I suspect someone is stealing my ideas/work and presenting them at meetings. A co-worker and I hatched a plan to create a new, fake deliverable title because this guy is clueless. If the new, fake title gets back to either of us, then we know they are stealing my work.

  179. MeetMoot*

    My first full time job after high-school was in a small business where I was bullied by a much older colleague for months. One incident involved an email in which she said some awful (and brazen) things about me and another colleague in an email to our manager. Management did nothing and I jumped at the first opportunity to leave. In my exit interview I said the boss needed to fire her (I was the fifth person to leave because of her) but he was unreceptive. So in my final week I pulled the email up on my computer and purposefully left it for a colleague to see. Specifically, the biggest gossip in the office. When she asked me about it I asked her to not tell the others, but said it was why I was leaving. As predicted, the whole team learned of the bullying and was outraged, and my bully was made redundant within 3 months.

  180. o_gal*

    We were working on a major project, a total redesign of an online system. It was split into 9 phases, and phase 3 was a major milestone. That was when we would be able to demo that the entire system worked, front end to back end. The guy who was working the biggest and most prominent part was tasked to give the demo. For weeks everyone on the preject kept offering to help, but he kept turning us down, stating that it needed to be put together by him. So the big demo happens, to all the bigwigs, and it’s a huge success. Then they praised the demo guy, gave him spot awards and other recognition. Because he worked so hard with no help. One of the main factors in why I left the company 4 weeks later.

  181. J.*

    I was a teacher for a while at a very good private school with an excellent faculty — but headed by a crappy governing board, full of business people who knew nothing about education, and who sometimes saddled us with absolutely awful administrators.

    During a two-year stint of one particular administrator, this awful admin brought in an awful friend to lead two days of awful professional development sessions. The sessions were very basic, badly planned, and not at all appropriate for the context. Over lunch, we all groaned at what a waste of time and money it was. I mentioned that I had browsed the book table, where “PD Guru” was selling his self-published books on education. There was one especially terrible text on faculty management that was extremely demeaning to teachers.

    One of my colleagues asked for the title of the book, went and swiped it off the sale table, took it home, read it, and annotated it — thoroughly and in red ink – with scathing rebuttals. He returned it to the sale table the next day, with no one the wiser.

    A small thing, but so gratifying.

  182. Britpoptarts*

    All employees were allowed to park in the parking lot directly behind the workplace (a 3-minute, safe walk) until my old boss left and I got a new boss. Suddenly I was the only employee required to park several blocks away (a 15-20 minute walk), where shuttle busses were unreliable (both not coming on schedule and driving by people waiting to get on board) and the walk was known to be unsafe (several broad daylight snatch-and-grabs and attempted assaults, rapes). There was no shelter at the shuttle stop, either, so you could be standing in rain, snow, or 100 degree Fahrenheit weather for a while, waiting. He was blithe about the reliability of the shuttle, and he was also clearly eager to get me out and have his wife hired to my position, so I had a little think.

    The parking lot next to the one that was 3 minutes away had a gate and you had to pay quite a bit (I think it was $20/day) or produce a stamped ticket, and the stamp could go on the blank back side of the ticket. But it was also owned by my employer, it was usually mostly empty, and was only a 5 minute, safe walk away from work. So I got my ticket stamped (once) by a coworker who was sympathetic to hear about the change in policy and didn’t want me to risk having some creep jump out at me from some shrubberies on my way to or from my job, and I promptly made a photocopy of the stamp. For the next few months, while waiting for my resume and applications to appeal to a new employer, I stuck my parking gate ticket in the photocopier, attached with tape to a piece of copy paper, used my photocopy of the stamp, and stamped my own damn ticket. Best of all, I had free access to a photocopier, as my job involved making a LOT of copies, so I didn’t even have to pay 25 cents.

    I feel no shame for this, decades after the fact. Two weeks after I was supposed to be hiking to and from the less safe parking (or waiting in vain for shuttles every morning and afternoon), a student was assaulted and hurt pretty badly. My new boss acted super concerned and made noises about the incident (and a few others after that one), and I just said, “Oh, I’ve adjusted to my new parking area just fine.” Well, quite. :)

  183. Tegan*

    My team had a storage room with important equipment that was accessed by about a dozen staff. Corporate rolled out tightened security measures and re-keyed every door. Except the new keys to these super secure locks were expensive, thus we were only allotted TWO. For access, we were supposed to find someone with an assigned key or an Admin who had a master key. Didn’t matter how impractical that was, especially afterhours. Tried and tried explaining our jobs required routine access; we needed more keys. Nope.

    Just for grins, I checked to see if the lock could be slipped with a plastic card – because the old ones could. Yep! Took 30 seconds. We had a stack of $5 Starbuck cards left over as THANK YOUs from a program. Discretely gave those to relevant staff with a quick tutorial. We had no access problems after that.

    P.S. If you try this – the card can get damaged or bent, so don’t use a license or something you care about.

  184. Same Same*

    I worked at space camp in my 20’s where evening programming was called off due to weather. The goal was for the campers to have time with the telescopes viewing the night sky, but if there were clouds it typically shifted to a movie night, requiring fewer staff. This was essentially an evening “snow day” for overworked camp staff (albeit sad for the kids and science). One time scopes was called off and I immediately cracked open a beer to celebrate. About ten minutes later we were told the sky had unexpectedly cleared and we would continue with night telescope programs. Unfortunately, I had to let my manager know that I couldn’t work with the kids because I had consumed alcohol. This started a trend of “pulling a Same Same” and all my colleagues would immediately rush to consume alcohol the second scopes was called off so that they could be off the hook for the night if plans shifted.

  185. Former paralegal*

    Was it Machiavellian to always grab a sheet of paper when I wanted to go for a walk around my office, and also to swing my arms like I was trying to go faster but still be professional?

    If so, it worked delightfully: I needed a quick break and wanted a walk around the office and co-worker Cindy said something like, well don’t let ‘them’ see you with nothing to do! I explained that I knew how to handle ‘them’ – the attorneys, or office staff and management – and I showed her how I carried a few sheets of paper, sometimes even a blue pen that would signal “in-person signature needed” and how I walked looking purposeful.

    All this to go… to the bathroom? Or to look out a window on the other side of the office? Or to merely see something other than my cube?

    But literally that day I left Cindy with some papers, bent my elbows into “power walk” mode and walked over to say hi to office friends in the tech center who said, “nice to see you! You always look so busy walking around the office!” I was like, did Cindy call you to say that? They said no! It was just the impression that I gave, walking so purposefully and with documents.

    Sometimes impressions count!

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      This has unlocked a memory of camping with Girl Scouts when I was 11.

      After a meal, everyone had to clean up. There were clean up stations and not necessarily enough work for every girl, but just standing there would get you assigned to the grossest station. So I would walk purposely from table to table with a stack of napkins, set them down, turn around and pick up another stack I had set on another table and move them, go back to the other stack of napkins *and repeat.* I looked helpful but was very much not.

    2. Fluff*

      We called this boondoggling. Have some folder papers in your hand, walk briskly and set your face into resting “determined with a mix of anxiety” as you stride to your goal. Otherwise as a first year resident you were always pulled in to do something on top of all your other stuff. I think because they saw interns out and about it must have meant they were not busy enough. Boondoggle walk to your goal.

      Goal = cafeteria. Call room. etc.

      Boondoggling walking was one of the most important lessons we interns got from an ex-marine chief resident.

  186. Same Same*

    I spent 15 years at a public charter school with a narcissistic principal/founder. She once threw the keys to the school van at me while shouting that I was “manipulative” for needing to use it for a scheduled and approved field trip when she wanted it for personal use while her car was in the shop. My first couple of years I was constantly feeling undermined by her, she rarely supported the teachers and would side with parents in almost any incident.

    However, I learned that by writing her thank you notes for anything evenly remotely supportive, she became my biggest ally. “Thank you for letting me use the van for the field trip, the kids and I were grateful for your generosity”. “Thank you for supporting me in the meeting with Jimmy’s mother, I could tell you were really invested in what is best for the child.”

    These thank you notes were magic. She eventually asked me to replace her as head of school when she retired. I declined when I learned she would continue to serve as head of the board and retain an “emeritus” salary, but to this day am amazed how much a simple thank you note can ameliorate a difficult work relationship and even manage up.

  187. MarlaGreyson*

    More than a decade ago I worked for an elected representative and one of our duties was airport runs. If you were up in rotation, you were up, no excuses – the rep changed flights and is now arriving at 9 PM on a Saturday night instead of 3 PM on Friday? Tough, looks like you’re cancelling plans. Terrible storm coming? The rep is still going to want to go to the airport in the off chance the flight goes, so get over there to pick them up early. My coworkers were absolutely an “every person for themselves,” group and would never switch or be helpful in any way. Just a terrible, toxic environment. Anyway, this rep was always on the phone so usually had low battery and needed to have the phone charging using the cigarette lighter so they could make calls the whole drive. I was already working more than 80 hours a week between office time and events, and was beside myself that I could be forced to drive to the airport in all weather, especially on a tiny government salary where I was already overworked and exhausted, but there was no escaping the duty…..until my father said, “Well, we’ll just pull the spark plug for the cigarette lighter so it doesn’t work.” So we did, right before I was scheduled to drive the rep to a local event. It wasn’t a long drive but it was long enough that the phone ran out of battery, and while the rep was going bananas in the car that they couldn’t make calls, I innocently said, “Wow, this must be part of the electrical problem the mechanics can’t figure out. My heat doesn’t work either.” I was immediately and permanently pulled from the rotation of driving the rep, full stop. No airport runs, no driving them to events, nothing. Much grumbling from the rest of the weaselly staff, so our manager said I would be in charge of driving if it was an event that required a number of staff. That happened on a bitterly cold day in January…..in the morning my father showed me how to temporarily disconnect the heating system, so I drove to work, stopped around the corner, disconnected, drove to work and parked. Later that day my two coworkers were forced to ride in my car that was so cold we could practically see our breath. Both of them got rides back to the office with someone else, so I waited for them to leave before reconnecting, then drove back to work toasty warm.

    My father was a legend.

  188. Thing #1*

    Back whe I was an intern in Academia I used to have a lab director who was… not a great person, we will call him Greg.
    Being an intern, you were performing a lot of unpaid tasks in exchange for connections, experience and professional favors (like reference letters, grant opportunities). It was a niche field, so not so many people besides Greg you could go to in order to get your career started.
    Everyone else had a lot of trouble asking Greg for anything, he had a short fuse, a big ego, and any little thing that upset him could put you in the black list. He would stalk your social media for anything and everything that could get him mad.
    He also had a tendency to ask for really big things in compensation for anything you asked of him (oh you need me to give you a reference? how about you write this paper for me, I won’t credit you of course).
    But I figured how to work it in my favor. You see, He. LOVED. talking about himself. It put him in such a good mood, such a great mood he would forget to be mean for enough time to get his approval on something and leave his office unscathed. But how could you get him to talk about himself in the exact moment you needed to ask him something?
    Well, dear reader, he liked to paint. I liked to paint. Any time I needed to ask him something, I would upload a picture of a painting I made to my social media (he was constantly monitoring them remember?). I would get into his office, he would say esentially “I saw your new painting, which reminds me, look at this thing I made, aren’t I great?” I would “ooooh” and “aaaaaah” over the painting, ask whatever I wanted and go by my business.

  189. Assistant Coach*

    In a past position as a collegiate assistant sports coach, I worked for a terrible head coach (middle aged male) who had extremely narcissistic tendencies. He was extremely manipulative and controlling and would alternate between “love bombing” and berating me or athletes on the team over minor things and change directives after the fact to make it look like I didn’t follow instructions when I actually had. He’d also withhold necessary job information and tried to sabotage all my recruiting efforts and then berate me for “not recruiting.” Basically he was just a terrible, abusive person to work for. He treated me like garbage while praising the much less experienced younger male intern coach (you guessed it…I was a young female coach.) So you get the background here now. It was pretty clear he was threatened by my success (as a female much younger than him) and thus tried to bring me down to make himself feel better (which is weird bc he has had a lot of success in terms of athletic results at his previous position.)

    He did tons of manipulative stuff that would probably fit this post topic, but one of the weirdest examples of Machiavellian behavior by him was a time he lied about what sports info said about a post I made to promote an upcoming recruiting event on our team Twitter in order to try to sabotage the event (or who knows whatever other weird reasons he had for doing this.) I was organizing a recruiting day and had designed a flyer to promote the event (coming up later that week) and posted it on our team Twitter. I do not have a background in graphic design, but I felt like I did okay for making a basic flyer that looked decent and got the main info across in a time pinch.

    Head Coach was obsessed with appearance and looking flashy, but also just took every opportunity to be controlling and bring me down. Later in the day, after I just posted the flyer on Twitter, he told me he deleted that post because this guy who works in sports media dept thought it looked “too amateur”, so I should go see him to have him make improvements on it. I thought this was weird because Sports Media was overworked and usually was happy for any help by teams posting their own social media, but I headed over to their office. When I got there and spoke to the intern there she was like “yeah we never even saw that post with the flyer and also definitely did NOT say that about it. We are happy you’re saving us some work by doing that yourself.” I then confirmed with the guy the Head Coach said had said that about the flyer and he confirmed he never said that/hadn’t even seen it and didn’t care. He said the flyer looked fine, but he’d be happy to make a few tweaks for me to make some minor improvements. This confirmed my suspicion that he had lied about this as a weird control mechanism. The sports info people were not pleased that he was making up weird lies about fake feedback from them. The event was only like a few days away and this was more of a last ditch effort to try to get some more kids to sign up, so I don’t believe we ever got it modified to the head coach’s pleasing and reposted (or maybe we did for like a day after the media guy made those minor improvements?) in time, so we basically just missed out on that marketing avenue for the event.

    Thankfully this weird attempt to somewhat sabotage attendance at the event did not have much effect as the event was a big success as the largest recruiting event the team had ever held. I single handedly managed to get like 50 different recruits and their families to attend. We were a smaller school were roster numbers were the main thing the school cared about over actual athletic talent. He also tried to mess up the event by telling someone a wrong time and blaming me, but it overall still went very well despite him trying to mess it up. This was just a minor thing out of a myriad of issues making this job super toxic, so I quiet after the school year which royally pissed the head coach off and he ended up getting fired two years later, I suspect for lack of recruiting (sadly the school fired him for that rather than the myriad of abuse complaints made against him each year.) I now make more money doing a much lower stress job working like half the hours I worked at the coaching job. As far as I’m aware, Head Coach had to take a HS coaching job which was a big step down from his previous NCAA DI assistant/DII head coach jobs.

    Some other weird manipulative stuff he did included stealing meet itineraries off my desk that I had printed to give to my athletes and putting them on his clip board, so HE could give them to him (jokes on him, we found them and kids just took them) and stealing some files off my personal external hard drive and hiding them under a folder with a misleading title in the school share drive. I didn’t care because I’d had shared if he had asked and these were old weight lifting programs from a previous school I worked at that were a bit outdated and stuff I would not use anymore, but it did feel a bit icky that he took them and hid them under someone else’s name instead of just asking if he could see my past programs.

  190. Anon for this*

    Early in my career, I worked as an analyst at a quasi-government organization in a major metro area. The head of our division was quite bright, but a poor people-manager and advocate.

    Our salaries at the time were very low, there were no raises, and it was extremely challenging to make ends meet, even living cheaply with multiple roommates. As a group, my colleagues and I brought this up to The Boss several times, but he insisted he had could not increase salaries and didn’t see the value (he once famously noted that a raise of a few thousand dollars per year would just be “an extra $50 per pay check – what difference would it make??”) He would also heavily pressure everyone to attend the yearly holiday party, which we had to pay for and cost nearly $100 per person. Infuriating stuff.

    About a year into my tenure, there was an open position on the team, and Boss was interviewing to fill it. Late one Friday afternoon, I was at my desk in our open-plan office and printed a document to the office printer, which sat next to Boss’s glass-walled office. When I pulled the document off the printer, I saw a recently printed copy of an offer letter to a candidate for our group, at the same job title but with a salary $10,000 higher than what the rest of us were earning. I put the offer letter back on the printer and returned to my desk, incredulous. About a half hour later, I printed another document, went to pick it up at the printer and – lo and behold – there was another copy of the same offer letter to the same candidate, this time listing the lower salary all of us were then earning. Mystery solved: the earlier document had been printed in error, and all was well.

    Cut to six months later: the candidate was hired, we became friendly, and she disclosed her salary was in fact $10,000 more than the rest of us were making. Boss must have seen me pick up the real offer letter, panicked, and printed off a fake second copy to throw me off the scent. I left shortly after for a better-paying position with actual opportunity for advancement, but my former colleagues and I still laugh about this to this day.

  191. ReallyBadPerson*

    I am not typically a conniving person, but can definitely be vengeful when pushed to my limit. Back in the early 90s, I had a co-worker, Hosenozzle, whom I absolutely detested (he had sexually harassed me, and then, when I rebuffed him, kept doing all he could to undermine my work.)

    This company also had rather primitive scheduling software that allowed employees to log in or not to log in for certain time blocks. No one used it because they wanted everyone to be able log in at all hours if they needed to, so most managers forgot that it existed.

    One day, my boss gave me her password to perform a task for her while she was at an all day meeting. I stumbled upon the scheduling software while doing her task, created a new supervisor account, and assigned it the name of Hosenozzle’s actual supervisor, then used the account to lock Hosenozzle out of the system every other hour for the next week. It took two days before someone figured out what had happened, but no one attributed it to me.

  192. tiny potato*

    I once had a job in which I needed to produce publications that would go out in both English and French. When I would submit the texts to my boss, he would go over them in really picky but stupid ways, introducing changes that made the texts worse, etc. (I was confident in my judgment because I had worked in language fields for many years.) I eventually learned to simply draft the texts in his second language instead. He was a bit sensitive about his ability in that language, so he wouldn’t insist I draft them in his first language; but he’d read them much more cursorily, make few changes, and let me get on with things.

  193. Fake Kirkland Coffee*

    A decade or so back, in one of my first jobs out of college, I landed a specialist role on a broad team. My manager was an odd duck but she liked me because I had a specialist, tech-y background. She was the kind who would treat you really well if you were her one Golden Child, but as soon as someone else supplanted you, she became the micromanager from hell. No one else on my team got along with her. I ended up playing go-between with the rest of the team and her because she would treat me better than others.

    It was well known that this manager wanted to retire to a family villa in Central America. She talked about it all the time. There were pictures all over her office. This becomes pertinent in a bit.

    We had also gotten a new director in the past six months, who wanted to be very involved with our team. This is also pertinent in a bit.

    One day the manager came storming into my office where I was talking with a teammate. She wanted to know if we’d finished something that she never told us about. I calmly told her that I was in the middle of something but I could talk about it shortly. She raised her voice and started yelling and demanding we finish this thing by the end of the day because the client was demanding it. We all went silent, got to work, and finished the thing she needed us to get done. It was rough, but we did it, and with no advance warning.

    Meanwhile, I quietly called together the rest of the team (which was hard – the manager would absolutely snoop in our emails and Slack messages) To talk about what should be done. Everyone agreed that I was the least-suspect person on the team, so I called Director. “Remember those skip-level meetings you said you wanted to schedule with us? Can we have one of those? Immediately?” I gave her the brief rundown of what was happening. Apparently, Director turned around and called Assistant Director (manager’s boss) to ask “What is happening on your team?” Assistant Director turned around to call Manager and ask “Why is my boss asking about your team?”

    The next morning Manager sheepishly apologized for raising her voice and misrepresenting the project – apparently she’d known about the project for days but hadn’t passed it on to us. I heard through the grapevine later that when she tried to throw us under the bus, Assistant Director held her toes to the fire.

    Assistant Director then set up meetings with all of us. In the meeting with me, she pointedly asked, “How often does Manager talk about retirement?” I very honestly and truthfully said she talked about it more than she talked about work.

    Manager announced a month later that she was retiring, that her replacement had already been offered and accepted the position. Last I heard she never got to move to her tropical paradise. I also heard she tried asking around to find out who had spilled the beans, and never suspected it was me.

    I don’t always feel good about basically forcing someone out of their job, but she basically hammered the nails into her own coffin. I just told the truth, and used my power responsibly to shield my team.

  194. NativeFloridian*

    Had an IT coworker who was tired of things he said being misheard and panicked over, being reported as him not doing his job/doing it wrong, causing him to have to come in and explain himself for no particularly good reason to big boss. There were three individuals who he suspected, who both liked to complain and weren’t tech savvy. He intentionally said something in their presence he knew they would report – but he did so individually, and each time, it was something unique.

    He identified the culprit within two days.

  195. Goldenrod*

    This is the only Machiavellian thing I’ve ever done at work (which makes me disappointed in myself, frankly – why haven’t I been more cunning?). But I think anyone reading this story will agree that I had no other choice.

    Once upon a time, I had an evil boss with an evil chief-of-staff. Their favorite activities were gaslighting staff and assigning blame.

    Whenever she was away, boss always had me compose and activate her automatic vacation email message, which was unusual – every other executive I supported set their own vacation messages.

    However, this wasn’t the problem. The problem was that, I’d set it – and then a few days into her vacation, she would angrily accuse me of not setting it. I knew I wasn’t forgetting, or doing it wrong, but I couldn’t prove it.

    It got to the point where every time I set it, I would take screen shots, just to reassure myself that I wasn’t going crazy.

    Then, one day, while she was on vacation, I went into her email account to check that her vacation message was still active (because I was paranoid by this point) — and I noticed a big shiny pop-up button that said: “You are sending an automatic message for this account. DO YOU WANT TO TURN IT OFF?”

    All of a sudden, I had a flash of insight – boss had been mindlessly clicking that button, then getting furious that the automatic message wasn’t on. She was the type to impulsively click things on her computer, so I was sure this is what had been happening.

    But – I also knew that there was no way I could explain it. With a normal boss, I would have just said, “Hey, I think you are accidentally turning off your automatic message!” But this boss would never accept blame for anything, and I knew she would never be able to hear the truth.

    So – the next time it happened, I luckily missed her first messages about it, and the next time I answered the phone, it was her Chief of Staff saying, “You better get back to Boss! She’s very upset that her vacation message isn’t working!”

    I said, “Oh, no, it’s working. I’ll let her know.” Hung up, immediately went into Boss’ Outlook account, re-activated the message, exited out. Then sent a message to both of them from my own email saying, “Just tested it and it’s working fine. Maybe an Outlook glitch?”

    A few minutes later boss wrote back saying, “It’s working now. Must have been an Outlook glitch. I hate Outlook!”

    I regret nothing.

  196. Pdweasel*

    Not me, but a buddy of mine.

    She was an admin assistant for one of the Suits in Administration at my alma mater. Her boss was a notorious A-hole who was your best friend in the world when he wanted something from you, but would literally ignore you if he didn’t.

    She saw the writing on the wall when suddenly, she was no longer invited to meetings, projects were getting redistributed, and so on. She dusted off her résumé and started slowly cleaning out her desk so as not to be noticeable. When the day came, Suit gave her a dressing-down about how she was “unobservant” and “not diligent enough” for the role, but because he was nice, he’d give her the afternoon to pack her belongings. To which she replied, “That’s interesting, because I’d observed the writing on the wall for weeks now and figured out this was coming.” She then picked up her purse, turned in her badge, and walked out the door.

  197. RJ*

    My old boss was a total fraud. If you knew much about the work that we did, it was apparent she was out of her depth and should not be in her position. However, she had an amazing trick: constantly appearing to be harried and extremely busy. She would frantically run around the office with her laptop in hand, if you asked her a question ever she would put up a finger and say “2 minutes!” Most of the time this had the effect of getting the person to either forget the question or go looking somewhere else.

    This worked for YEARS. I still have coworkers who talk about how brilliant she was. She wasn’t! It was all a scam.

  198. notagain*

    One day I was really not looking forward to a boring meeting for a presentation that could have been an email. I got there first and turned the batteries in the projector remote backwards so the + was on the – side. The projector was mounted up way too high to reach by hand. The presenter even opened the remote and said “well there’s batteries in here”. It was cancelled and moved to another day I had already requested off.

  199. Alex*

    I don’t know about Macchiavellian, but I certainly make the most of my opportunities.

    One example is when I was still relatively new and poorly paid and was offered a short-term secondment. The team I was going to would be disbanded in 6 months and finding someone to take the role was challenging, so I was able to negotiate about a $20k p/a pay bump while I was over there.

    Now the rule for annual leave where I live is that it’s paid at the greater of either your regular salary or the average of last 12 months pay. Of course I saved up all my leave while I was there and pooled it along with what I had banked to go on holiday for a month and half immediately after my secondment ended, stretching my time on higher pay from 6 months to 7.5 months and paying for all the travel I was doing out of the excess.

    Of course, I now immediately tell this trick to anyone acting up or on higher duty allowances so they can take advantage of it too.

  200. Gak*

    My last name is Koch, which I am sharing because it is relevant for the story I am about to tell. It is also my dad’s last name, and has been my mom’s last name since she married my dad. She was working at the time she got married, and her secretary was NOT happy about not being invited to the wedding. So, while my mom was on her honeymoon, she had new business cards made that “accidentally” spelled her last name “Kock.” On my mom’s first day back, the secretary handed them to her with a sarcastic “Oops!” and a grin on her face that made it clear she knew exactly what she did.

  201. Fluff*

    I worked in a large medical system first job out of medical school. The managers / directors and big bosses reported to all clinicians (physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants), there was no funds for any raise. For the 3rd year. They made sure to mention “for all of us” meaning them. “We” as in “directors” and managers did not get raises either.

    Welp. Public university = public salaries. I did what I do best: research and plan. I went to the U’s library and found all their salaries for the past 5 years. They ALL got raises every year. Over the three years, those raises were quite significant.

    I made enough copies to tile every floor of those hospitals and left stacks in various break rooms, call rooms, and in nearby clinics. I created more chaos than Joker does for The Batman.

    The quitting was epic. The raises eventually came. By then I, like the Joker, was gone.

    I regret nothing.

  202. RamonaThePest*

    We were required to send out a grade level email newsletter to students’ parents. It was exceptionally unnecessary and extra work (I am fairly certain that no one read the state-mandated objectives for the week that were couched in extreme educationese and setting up the email blast was a PITA because many parents’ email providers would kick it back as spam, because of the number of emails–not to mention that parents wrote down their emails in illegible script. One year, it was “my turn” to take on this extra task. I used the same Microsoft Publisher template we created before our team went from 4 to 8 that I had previously used. It was professional, pretty clean and clear cut, and it was a pretty quick task when there were just four of us. A few years later, and it was “my turn” again with double the team. The requirements were that a) the newsletter now included not just the objectives, but constant emailed requests from admins and support staff to add this or that to the newsletter which would arrive randomly; as well as a photo of the students. (If you were so engaged in actually teaching, you’d take a photo at recess duty and caption it, “Students having fun at recess!” ) The previous team member had made making the newsletter incredibly cute via Powerpoint. I did not. I did not make sorting out the tech issues with parent emails and their providers a priority, although I did get to them in a reasonable amount of time (one week.) My Powerpoint newsletter was adequate but not so cute. I did not get asked again to take this on, which was fine with me. I did show up in off-contract hours to clean up the team member who was newly pregnant’s classroom at the end of the school year, and she showed up at my mother’s funeral because “I had always been there for her.”

  203. NotMyRealName*

    I worked for a large healthcare company with a co-worker who secretly worked as a realtor full time during our business hours. She told me she only wanted our company insurance and benefits (we also were paid very well). Meanwhile, she was rarely able to manage her work because she was constantly on her phone negotiating real estate deals. To our supervisor’s eyes, she appeared to be talking to her healthcare clients. Because we were part of a team, her unfinished work was spread between co-workers to finish. I saw her smiling picture in a local paper and read that she won an award for highest home sales within her RE company the year after I left my job.

  204. ImGoodLookin*

    We had a nasty workplace bully who raged at his coworkers and superiors frequently. Management was always averse to employee discipline for whatever reason. Then I became middle management and basically waited for him to rage at me. Kept the receipts, and he was finally gone the next day. It was just the last straw, though arguably he should’ve been gone well before that for so many reasons. I normally am not one to celebrate anyone losing their job, but in this case it made our workplace appreciably better, and I treated myself to a nice steak dinner for my trouble.

  205. Seenitall*

    I had hire three extraordinary people to be project coordinators. And for the first time in the company’s history (major Wall Street corporation) two of the three were men. I was flat out told by one of the salesmen, who the coordinator would work closely with, the he could not work with a male in that position, as he was used to (throughout his 20 year career) only women being in that position. My boss also told me flat out “get rid of him.” I explained that I could not do that because it would be sexual discrimination. About two months after hiring the coordinator, I got very sick with walking pneumonia and was out of work on a Thursday and Friday… then the weekend, so I came back into work on Monday, and my boss informed me that he had called the coordinator into his office and fired him. The reason? He had bad breath.

  206. Loud Quitting*

    My former boss (a white woman) told me (a woman of color) that I couldn’t get promoted because the white man who started on the same day as me wasn’t ready yet. Instead she made up a fake title for me and promised a ~7% salary bump, which never materialized.

    I became resentful and angry, ultimately wound up resigning over a different, much worse issue with her. This evidently sent “ripples,” per another coworker, through the department, because I am a top performer and generally well-liked by colleagues and clients.

    Long story short, I found another position at the same company, reporting through a different person but doing essentially the same work. I ran into my white male coworker the other day and shared this with him. In the course of our conversation, we learned that Former Boss had told each of us that we weren’t being promoted because the other one wasn’t ready yet. She was actively breeding resentment and division within the group, in some kind of twisted Machiavelli/Survivor/The Apprentice dynamic. I’m aware of at least one other instance where she did something similar.

    P.S. Grandboss learned of all this and promoted us both. Their exact words: “Why didn’t [Boss] take care of this before? I thought she was a good mentor.” The silence that followed was deafening. While I’m not thrilled at the ongoing implication that White Male and I are in lockstep career trajectories (our career interests are really different!), I’m trying to pick my battles here.

Comments are closed.