my boss says my work is bad, but all evidence says the opposite

A reader writes:

I qualified as an accountant about 2.5 years ago and started a new job. I moved from a mid-level firm to a firm that’s one of the best in the industry for the niche field I’m in.

My line manager (let’s call him Sam) didn’t interview me, and from the first time I met him, he has consistently told me this job will be a big step up for me and that I’d be playing catch-up. I thought nothing of this at the time because I agreed and felt ready for the challenge.

I was put on a sort of informal reporting process within a few weeks of starting, attending quarterly reviews with Sam. Colleagues who had trained internally at the firm and who were at the same level as me didn’t have this. I’m working in a niche sector, so the only way to really learn is on the job. I therefore took these reviews as a positive — aren’t I lucky that Sam wants to help me catch up and is taking time out of his busy schedule to talk about my progress regularly?

I passed my probation period, but Sam said it was a very close call and I was underperforming. In particular, I needed to work on my attention to detail. I agreed with this feedback and have really stepped up my game over the last two years, regularly working 18-hour days and making sure my work is flawless before it is sent to anyone. My chargeable hours are 50% higher than anyone else in my team (at any level). I regularly cover for Sam in meetings when he can’t make them and have built working relationships with all his clients. Basically for the last two years, work and proving I’m not falling behind has been the biggest area in my life.

Recently I had an annual review and Sam again told me I’m underperforming. I was told that although my attention to detail had improved, my technical knowledge was not as would be expected at my level. I asked for an example and Sam gave me a particular report that I had sent to the client, with him cc’d. Turned out that this report had been produced by another director in the business (with 35 years experience as opposed to my 2.5) and I had just emailed it on to the client. I pointed this out to Sam and asked for other examples, and he said he couldn’t think of any. I asked for a follow-up meeting in a few weeks to give him time to come up with examples, and he basically said no.

I’m disappointed that I’m being held to this sort of standard and it feels unfair. I feel like I’m now good at my job, and have “caught up.” I’m doing more complex work and longer hours than my peers. All the written feedback I have received from others in the team has been glowing. Colleagues at the firm at similar levels to me are not being held to the same standard as me. Most of all I’m demotivated by the feedback and the way it was given without examples.

Am I being soft and is Sam really just trying to help me catch up, or does it sound like Sam has made his mind up about me being not good enough, regardless of how I perform?

It sure sounds like Sam wants you to believe you’re not good enough, regardless of how you perform. Whether he actually thinks that himself is a different mystery.

To review: Your billable hours are 50% higher than anyone else on your team, at any level. You regularly cover for Sam in meetings, and all your feedback from everyone else is glowing. The only example Sam could give you of your allegedly subpar work was from a report that, oops, turned out to be written by a director with 35 years of experience. There are no other examples.

It’s possible that there’s more to it than this and Sam just sucks at providing feedback. Maybe your work is below where it should be and Sam happens to be better positioned than anyone else to see that, which is why his feedback is different than everyone else’s. In theory you could be working 18-hour days (!) and still struggling.

But I doubt it. I doubt it because he can’t actually explain his feedback to you. He’s very, very comfortable criticizing you — and has been from day one — but when push came to shove, the only example he could provide turned out not even to be your work. When you asked for other examples, he refused.

So while it’s possible that there are legitimate issues with your work, it sounds awfully unlikely. It sounds more likely that the issue, for some reason, is Sam.

Is there someone else you can talk to about what’s going on — someone who sees enough of your work to know whether Sam is full of crap, or someone with the authority to look into it themselves? Ideally someone with the authority and standing to get you moved out from under Sam if, as it seems, he’s tearing down your performance for no reason? Or who can at least get you real feedback with concrete examples about your work, not someone else’s?

Something here doesn’t smell right.

{ 407 comments… read them below }

    1. juliebulie*

      Well, he’s discovered that when he criticizes OP, she works harder. 18 hour days?? 50% more billing hours than anyone else? Yes. It’s possible that OP would have work just as hard without Sam’s criticism, but from Sam’s perspective, his tactics are working.

      1. sleep some time*

        Yeah. He negged OP, and got great results for him.

        OP, get out of this job. Run, do not walk. The damage this is doing to your mental health will take years to heal.

        1. Specks*

          Before you get out of the company, try your best to just get out from under Sam. Talk to anyone above Sam you have rapport with. Bring all this evidence. Approach it in a curious, positive manner. It is very clear that Sam sucks and will not change, and you can’t stay working under him.

          If they refuse to do anything and you’re stuck under Sam, pull back on your hours drastically — he will never, ever appreciate you and all the hours you’re putting in will never lead to a promotion or compensation or even a fair assessment. Use those hours to do a very intensive job search instead and go somewhere where your drive will be valued.

          One last question: OP, are you a woman or a person of color or an immigrant in a field that’s mostly not? (Nothing indicating this in the letter at all, though — just pure speculation). If you are, that’s something to consider as driving Sam’s reaction and might help make a stronger case to management that you’re being discriminated against and need to move.

          1. QuinleyThorne*

            Yeah, this is the first place my brain went too. It could be unrelated, but in the event it isn’t, you may have to approach HR with this one (assuming they’re competent).

          2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Yep, I went there too, right off! Since mind-reading is still in the sci-fi realm, it’s impossible to tell if a manager is criticizing an employee because of their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, appearance or any other factor that doesn’t have one single thing to do with that employee’s actual competence on the job. An obvious exception to this would, of course, be the case of a manager who comes right out and says or writes that they’d never keep, much less promote or recommend for a raise, anyone who’s ____________ (fill in the blank with any of the above-mentioned factors), but this is becoming rarer as more companies realize that keeping managers like that is a one-way ticket to a whopping lawsuit and PR nightmare.

            Still…depending on the company culture, this could very well be a case of discrimination. Most puzzling to me is that OP’s manager seems to be using generalizations (what, exactly, DOES “underperforming” mean in this case?); the one example cited turned out to be one for which OP was NOT responsible. Frankly, it sounds as if Sam trying to get OP demoralized enough to leave on their own (no unemployment benefits that way, after all!)

            OP, how invested are you in continuing to work for this company? If you have a solid record, might it be better for you to look into going elsewhere to a job where your hard work and dedication will be appreciated? Nobody likes to feel that they’ve been manipulated or bullied into leaving a job, but there’s a point at which staying becomes a “sunk cost fallacy” situation. Only you, OP, can decide if you’re at that point or not.

          3. Kindred Spirit*

            “One last question: OP, are you a woman or a person of color or an immigrant in a field that’s mostly not?”

            That was my first thought too, and I would include gender non-conforming, or someone who varies from what Sam thinks is the norm. If Sam is biased, you can work yourself to the bone and not overcome that.

            Maybe there is enough there to pursue a discrimination claim. At the very least, get out from being managed by him, even if it means going to another firm.

          4. TootsNYC*

            It may also be that Sam has a permanent resentment because he wasn’t allowed to make the decision to hire the LW. Either he had someone in mind, or he just didn’t like being shut out.

            1. selena81*

              I think that happened on my last job: I was good at the job and my colleagues liked me, but my manager refused to give me work or talk with me so of course I failed eventually.

              HR tried to move me to another department, who were initially enthusiastic but suddenly withdrew (after talking to him?)

              I was depressed for a long time after that: I liked the job and it would have been a fantastic career opportunity. And this petulant AH took that from me and immediately hired a former employee from his own previous job.

          5. I’maNiceLady*

            I immediately thought exactly the same thing – OP’s identity on some level is surely reflected in the minority in an environment where Sam is in the majority. Gender identity, race, religion… Sam’s got hang ups that go waaaay beyond OP as an individual.

          6. e271828*

            My mind went straight to this possibility. The Sams of the world are very, very invested in making sure the non-Sams are kept in their place.

            Also, stop putting in the extra work for Sam and use that time to search for another position in the same firm or at a different one. Sam is a hosebag.

      2. Sans Serif*

        Exactly what I was coming here to say. He’s taking advantage of you. And he loves that he has the power to do so. Get out. Find someone sane to work for.

      3. Tracy*

        I worked for a guy who tried this. Every time we asked for a small accomodation for being overworked (vets with 25%+ on call) he would neg us and tell us we were incompetent and didn’t care about our patients then threaten us with double on call (50%+) and working appointments on Saturdays as well. The only thing this guy listened to was half the vets quitting at once and I don’t know if any actual changes were made. We just had to find new jobs which was honestly the best thing we ever did for ourselves.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          Evil petty managers do so much unchecked damage to organizations. My spouse is having to leave a job she excels at, not because of the violent patrons or the frequent hate crimes, but because of a megalomanical mid-level manager who thinks bullying staff (although the ones who are male and the few gender-conforming females seem to be rewarded) is just good tactics.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        If the 50% more billable hours is because of the 18 hour days, the “more billable” isn’t really a notable accomplishment since it’s just math. Unless everyone there work 18 hour days.
        If not, OP should ease up on the extra hours. Don’t work yourself tired if no one even appreciates it.
        Get feedback from someone much more reasonable than Sam, who sounds super vendetta-ey.

        1. Allonge*

          OP should ease up on the hours either way.

          18 hours a day is not sustainable in any fashion, even with the most appreciative boss (which OP does not have, to say the least).

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            This. And exhaustion from long hours can lead to inaccurate work, which will make OP’s situation worse.

        2. KateM*

          I was wondering how much the others work! If others work 8-hour days, and OP works 18-hour ones which is 125% more, but have only 50% more billable work, then OP isn’t very effective.

        3. selena81*

          Yeah, I was wondering about that.
          If everyone else works 12 hour days (which is already crazy much) and OP does 18 hours there is a good chance OPs work is objectively pretty bad. And spreading it out over more billable hours just makes the output/hour even worse.

          If that ‘50% more hours’ metric has a strong quality element to it then it is different. OP should still stop with this ridiculously packed work-schedule, but in that case they probably have a lot of standing to say ‘i bring in plenty of money for this company and deserve respect’

    2. Indica*

      A friend of mine was in a similar situation. Turns out his boss was furious that the guy was hired without the boss’ input. My friend was put on a PIP that, in his words, ‘no one on earth could have passed. It was impossible to achieve’. He pulled HR in and parted ways with the company with the understanding that they wouldn’t contest his unemployment.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I’ve seen that happen. He got hired without the big boss’ explicit blessing; there was nothing he could do to fix the situation, she saw his presence as a personal insult and was absolutely committed to getting him fired.

        And it’s happened to me. Pro tip: do not disprove your boss’ PhD thesis. Could have told the dude that 2+2=4, he would have spent the next half an hour lambasting me for failing to explicitly state that I was working in base 10. If you’re going to make such careless errors, you really ought to rethink your future plans, science isn’t for you…

        There are some problems that are best solved with a good pair of running shoes. This is one of them. You can’t convince someone you’re good at your job if their psychological and/or material safety depends on believing that you suck.

        1. OP*

          *dusts off running shoes and CV*

          Thank you for your advise, I’ll be prioritising my mental health going forward and job searching with the spare time.

          1. Aspen*

            If I may ask with no judgement- how are you physically working 18 hour days?
            Assuming you maybe have an hour to commute and an hour to get ready for work in the morning that only leaves you 4 hours to sleep (assuming you get home and immediately go to bed) with no time whatsoever to relax or recharge, see family or friends or do anything that you enjoy.

        2. Mari*

          Reasons I didn’t get into PhD…. Never show up your Master’s supervisor….no matter what. Even if you’re the nibling of the incredibly hard to get ‘give a talk’ author the supervisor spent a year trying to entice to give a talk. Sup was so proud of doing it, they didn’t tell us WHO was coming… and when I, lowly MA student, was greeted with “Hello darling, how are you? Saw your mum last week, she sent something for you” I was F*&%ed…

          Can’t get into PhD when your sup won’t recommend and blackens your name in the field…

          1. Ariaflame*

            As someone in Academia, I can’t actually remember any time where anyone indicated that a student should not get any supervision by anyone. I mean maybe academics in the USA have more free time for this sort of petty stuff but it’s not something I’ve encountered here.

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              Admittedly I’ve only worked in the USA, but in every academic department I’ve been in (n=3, reputations ranging from viper’s nest to uncommonly collegial), and also every academic sub-field (I’m a techie/data person so I get around scientifically), there were at least a couple of professors who were known for being at least that petty. That story doesn’t surprise me at all.

              I’m much happier working in industry. I’m kind of nostalgic for the true research end of R&D, but oh boy am I grateful to not have to deal with those “big personalities” anymore.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            That’s exactly where that came from. And it’s good advice, whether you’re dealing with a bad boss or high explosives. =)

      2. TootsNYC*

        this was my thought.
        Sam has a permanent chip on his shoulder over not having hired his subordiante.

    3. JobHopper*

      Bear with me here. Music and skill based example.

      Military Band training required a singing skills test to pass. My former roommate was a skilled musician on his/her instrument…we desperately needed that instrument…they had to sing augmented intervals to hit major, and so on (kind of like aiming for 8 feet instead of 6 in the long jump, )
      School dropped them…. military sent them to another job and 2 weeks later they were OJT on their instrument,got the desired job permanently. stayed until enlistment was over by their own choice.

      P struggled but they took another path to get what they truly deserved including awards and promotions

      So short version…don’t be gaslit, own your strengths, note anything that *might* need fixing, find an objective manager or mentor, and make a choice that is best for you.

      And please stop 12+ hr workdays for your health.

    4. Laser99*

      Sam is either threatened by the LW’s performance, or trying to squeeze more work out of her. Probably both. Whatever she does, he will never be satisfied.

  1. Jessica*

    I will say that although it sounds like you’re doing a bang-up job, there is a large body of research showing that 18-hour days do not actually improve people’s productivity. It also sounds like you’ve been on overkill mode and pouring your entire life into this job since you started, and that’s not sustainable indefinitely. Whatever your plan is, it should include some plan to scale back to doing a reasonable amount of work. There’s obviously something wrong with Sam, and whatever it is, your 100-hour weeks are not going to fix it.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      YES! Please stop putting in 18 hour days and start putting in no more than 10 hour days. Yes , your billable hours would drop, but 50% more than everyone else has nothing to do with your skills and everything to do with the unhealthy amount of time you are spending working.

      Sam sucks and isn’t going to change. Go over his head and also start job hunting using some of the time you free up after you stop working 18 HOUR DAYS!!!

    2. Cmdrshprd*

      I agree to me the 18 hr work days is not the “accomplishment/brag” OP seems to think it is, taking OP at their word that literally only leaves 6 hrs a day for sleep, eating, bathing, relaxing (I don’t think they are doing), etc….

      OP is on track to burn out soon and in big fashion.

      Being at a big firm I can understand that working a lot is the norm, but honestly working 12 hours a day still seems like a lot, but certainly more manageable having 12 hours a day for stuff versus only 6.

      I wonder if the other coworkers have found a better balance that will allow them to keep it up for longer.

      At the end of the day it seems like OP is running a 100 yd dash/sprint and leaving everyone behind right now, but everyone else is running at a marathon pace and will eventually catch up and pass her.

      It is certainly possible and even likely that Sam sucks, but also getting praise from others not privy to the details and only seeing OP’s end product may not be the best judges of OPs skill.

    3. Wilbur*

      Definitely sounds like a recipe for burnout. Maybe the issue is the number of hours-if you’re taking 16 hours to complete something that should only take 10, then the fact that your billable hours are 50% higher than everyone else stops looking like a good thing. I’m guessing Sam is the issue though, but I’d recommend pulling back a bit. You could probably cut back to 10-20% more billable hours than everyone else and still get the same accolades, it sounds like you’ve built a reputation.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I was going to say the same thing. If OP is working 100% more hours than other people, but only has 50% more billable hours, maybe that’s Sam’s issue.

        But probably not. It sounds like Sam is never going to be happy. OP should take her niche skills to someone who can appreciate them.

        1. HB*

          I’m in accounting and can basically guarantee that OP is not working 100% more hours than other people. Busy season minimums are 60 hour weeks which on a 5 day schedule is 12 hours. If OP is working 18 hours on some days, then that’s just a 50% increase.

          And yes, that does track with a 50% more billable quota but in accounting it’s volume that matters. At higher levels it’s not possible to be 100% billable because of the amount of various administrative work that comes in. Therefore in order to get more billable hours you just have to work more hours. This sucks and leads back to Wilbur’s comment that burnout is coming if not already there.

          1. Saberise*

            Except they have implied that has been the norm for 2 years. None of the CPAs I know work 60+ hours year around. Just during tax season.

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              My guess is accounting consultant and not Tax CPA. I think similar to lawyers there is almost always work to do and billable hour quotas to meet/surpass for bonuses, and to get promoted.

      2. Lizzianna*

        Yeah, I had the same thought. I’m not an accountant, but I’ve worked in law firms that bill by the hour. We frequently had to write-off hours because we couldn’t justify billing, say, 10 hours, for a task that should have taken 7. It became a performance issue if people were consistently over-billing. It’s not just the hours billed, it’s how much of that work that the firm can justify charging the client for based on the work that’s being delivered.

        I don’t know if that’s what’s going on here, but I’ve seen a lot of new lawyers think the answer is just to work more without looking hard at the quality.

        But if that is the issue, Sam is being a bad manager by no laying that out.

        1. selena81*

          It would make sense for Sam to be pissed if OP is billing a gargantuan amount of hours to the company but brings in mediocre work and he is having to constantly manually adjusting down the amount of hours that they’ll actually bill to the client.

          He’s still a bad manager for being cagey about his complaints, seemingly expecting OP to figure out by themselves that ‘working 50% better than my colleagues’ is almost never possible (‘almost’ in that there are teams where 1 person does all the actual work, but that person rarely gets acknowledgment or rewards)

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Seriously – it’s time to “act your wage” – stop working the 18 hour days.

      Do your 8 hours, and look for another firm to work for with the other 10. Or, live your life.

      I would personally be getting the heck out of Sam’s team. Whether that means transferring within the company or finding another company to work for, vote with your feet for better management.

    5. tree frog*

      I know that somewhere around hour 12 my attention to detail would take a nosedive. It sounds like the LW has been fuelled by anxiety and adrenalin and has been remarkably successful but how they’ve lasted so long at this pace is beyond me.

      1. planetmort*

        I work a job where we work shifts where we require good attention to detail throughout the workflow and day. We are explicitly not *allowed* to work more than 10 hours without fairly high level managerial approval. The whole reason is exactly this: we are much more likely to make mistakes and become careless after our 10.

    6. Claire*

      Not only that, but there is research showing that this many hours of work actually results in NEGATIVE productivity- mistakes get made that need to be corrected. OP if you want to improve, work fewer hours.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        I was going to say the same. Doing *more* work doesn’t necessarily mean doing *better* work. Especially if you’re only leaving yourself 6 hours a day to sleep, eat, shower, and occasionally get some exercise and fresh air – these are all things you need in order to do your best work!

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          I agree, but it seems in OPs type of work with billable hours it is more likely that as long as it is not terrible/sloppy that more billable hours of good/decent is preferred over less billable hours of perfect/best work.

          Maybe Sam does want less hours but better/best quality, but the business overall might be more interested in more hours of good quality.

      2. Awkwardness*

        Definitely fewer hours.

        The type of feedback, without proper examples, is unfair and not helpful and it is unlikely that OP will be able to grow under Sam. He does not seem to be interested in mentoring OP or actually developing her skills through proper feedback. But that does not mean he is automatically in the wrong about OPs quality of work.
        As some have pointed out, 150% of billable hours when maybe working 200% of your colleagues’ time, is not a good baseline. With 18-hour days it is likely that there are mistakes that could have been avoided with more time off as sleep or training.
        Does OP know of what they are capable when working the regular hours of coworkers?

        OP, please ask others for feedback and do not let allow Sam to skew your perception of good work. If you are willing to give up every boundary (which includes enough sleep!), then he will take advantage of you.
        This is a bit like the meme with the carrot on a stick.

      3. selena81*

        exactly: going from like 70 to 50 hours a week made the factory *more* productive because there were far less defective bombs that had to be discarded
        (this was during WW2)

        Most people seem to think of working more hours as merely diminishing returns (less output per hour, eventually down to zero).
        But working while you’re tired all the time will always give suboptimal outcomes.

    7. Specks*

      So glad someone brought this up! A lot of young people are under the impression that living on the job is a good thing. And the reality is, it’s going to burn you out completely, destroy your health, and damage your career in the long run. Ask me how I know…

      OP, I would spend some of the freed up hours in therapy, too. There’s something that’s driving you to go a very unreasonable distance for approval (from someone who will likely never give it). That kind of stuff often harkens back to some childhood trauma with demanding or withholding parents and having to prove yourself to be loved. It’s really worth exploring with a therapist.

      1. Anonymous Eye Roll*

        What a strange take. Realizing you’ve been overdoing it for a boss who resents you = childhood trauma survivor who needs therapy? This comment says a whole lot about you, and not a thing about the OP.

        1. Kella*

          I’d say Specks made a bit of a jump but working 18-hour days *on a regular basis* is way beyond overdoing it. It’s self-destructive. The concern here is that OP heard that they were underperforming and needed to work on their attention to detail and translated that into “I am not allowed to have a life outside of work, or even an opportunity to sleep enough on a consistent basis.” It takes a strong, emotion-based motivator to drive you to that conclusion and even stronger to execute it. It may not be childhood trauma but it’s definitely worth asking where that drive is coming from.

          1. selena81*

            my take is that a mentally healthy person would try to lie to any boss who demands 18 hours (and immediately start job-hunting, obviously).
            There is a reason there are so many comedy sketches about office-people pretending to work late in order to impress their manager: everyone knows it’s about insecure bosses and not about output.

            in this case OP seems to be the one pushing for 18 hours, and seems to think that’ll improve their performance, and that’s all pretty concerning, regardless of childhood trauma.

        2. Phryne*

          Nah, they are right. Working 18 hour days for a boss who will keep giving negative reviews and not even give a reason is self destructive and obsessive. Therapy is not a bad word, a lot of people could use some time with a therapist and feel better even without big problems in their lives and your attitude towards the suggestion says a lot about you, and not much good.
          OP is a very good example of a someone who needs to stop running and look inwards for a moment and the best way to do that is with professional aid.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Most people would not work those hours, especially not voluntarily. Crunch time all the time? For a boss that doesn’t appreciate it? There’s something going on there and it’s worth paying a pro to help unpack it.

    8. Frankie*

      To add, OP may be providing too many billable hours through the inefficiencies that are causing the 18 hour days and blowing the clients’ budgets, with those hours having to be written off. However Sam should make that clear if it’s happening.

      1. But what to call me?*

        Given how strongly Sam seems to want OP to believe that there are problems with OP’s work, it seems likely that Sam would make it clear if that was happening, because that would be a pretty clear cut way to prove his case. As it is, all he came up with was a problem with someone else’s work. That suggests to me that at the very least there’s nothing so concrete to point to.

        That’s not to say that OP should keep working 18 hour days. OP, please stop and really think about what this job is doing for you that makes it worth squeezing the whole rest of your life, including sleeping, into 6 hours per day. If you can’t come up with a truly satisfying answer to that question (like maybe doing this job for 4 more months will set you up to retire next year in your dream destination and never work again for the rest of your life, or maybe it’s the only thing between you and homelessness), go find a job that doesn’t require you to spend more time working than many people even spend awake.

        1. selena81*

          I may be completely off-base (and I apologize to OP if I am).
          But I do wonder if Sam and OPs coworkers did mention that it were a looooot of hours and OP misunderstood what they were getting at and brushed it off (‘no no, I got this’) or mistook their hints for a compliment (‘i bill 50% more than average? well, thank you!’)

    9. Earlk*

      Personally, if my employees were regularly putting in that many more hours than typically required my first reaction would be to review the amount of work they have compared to others at the same level and if there wasn’t any particular disparity I would assume the extra time they’re putting in is because they’re not actually capable of the job. Maybe some of the feedback is flying over the lw’s head because they think 18 hour days are something to be proud of and there’s other elements of their working style which is putting the manager off that they don’t recognise as criticisms

      1. amoeba*

        But they do more work – 50% more billable hours, to be precise! Which is how work is measured in those fields, isn’t it? (LW clarified elsewhere that write-offs for her aren’t higher than for others and the 50% more are after those).

  2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    If I were you I’d be putting all these accomplishments on my resume and pursuing a better offer. Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

    1. pomme de terre*

      100%. No one should work 18 hour days, because it’s awful for the person AND for the business. (Tired people make mistakes.) I’m sure you have done enough at your current job to find a comparable, if not better, position. At least try for some kind of internal transfer. You shouldn’t continue to work under Sam. He’s going to mess you up, personally and professionally.

      1. JustAnotherCommenter*

        My jaw actually dropped at the mention of 18 hour days. Even in industries where long days are normal (ex. the film industry) – regularly pulling 18 hour days is not only unreasonable but completely unsustainable.

        OP is going to burn themselves out trying to be a superstar for a black hole of a boss.

    2. DogMom24*

      Agreed – I was interviewed and hired by the Senior Manager at my last job, and soon realized that the director was not a fan of me. I reported to the Senior Manager for most of my time, but as he was exiting he told me that our boss (Director) never really thought I could do the job. Coincidentally, I was “laid off” as part of restructuring six weeks after the Senior Manager left. I already had a foot out the door, so getting let go with severance was really a win-win!

    3. Momma Bear*

      I agree. 18 hr days (?!) and is trusted to cover for the boss, but is constantly “underperforming”? Sam has a chip on his shoulder about something and LW should take these skills where they will be better appreciated.

      1. Artemesia*

        Surely a competent accountant can find another position. I’d start working 10 hour days with strong focus and productivity and use the extra time to locate a job where someone isn’t treating you like this.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I would be careful with this for sure but it might be worth it for OP to lay it out for Sam. I mean, obviously not the “looking for another job” part, but the part about how she’s been working 18 hours a day and would it make more sense for her to cut back her hours so she can really focus on what he wants her to improve instead of casting such a wide net. I imagine it wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation so (never mind, don’t tell Sam any of this) it might be better to just silently start working less (this is exactly what “quiet quitting” was invented for) and take more time for your job search, as Artemesia says, and to give yourself some time to take care of your own needs. I hope you are able to get weekends free, at least, and are not also working 36-hour weekends on top of your 18-hour workdays.

          All my fingers crossed for you, OP!

    4. Rex Libris*

      This. My guess is that Sam feels threatened by the OP’s competence, given their relatively short experience, and has decided this is the way to “keep them in their place.” 18 hour days because your boss has gaslighted you into thinking your work sucks is abuse. Get out.

      1. Miette*

        THIS! Sam is negging you for a reason–are you a member of a race, sexuality, gender, etc. he may have a problem with? Are you physically attractive and he’s got a chip on his shoulder about teaching you a lesson based on this perceived “pretty privilege”? Even if he’s just a sh*tty manager, he’s going to destroy some part of you with this kind of treatment, whether it’s your mental health, your concept of business norms, your self-confidence, your enthusiasm for the work, or something else. GTFO when you can.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Negging and gaslighting were the first two things that came to mind when reading this letter. And it’s particularly triggering as I’m going through this now with a colleague who, fortunately, is not actually my boss or grandboss but is still making life miserable for my team and a lot of other colleagues on my level, while the execs here don’t seem to notice how terrible this person is.


          OP, you attend the meetings Sam “can’t” attend? How many meetings do you attend for him? One every couple of months or a couple a week? Are you basically doing his job for him while he takes the credit for your work? If you’re doing such a terrible job, why is it that Sam thinks it’s just fine for you to attend meetings for him? Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for him to attend them with you so that he can keep an eye on what you’re doing and help you learn to do your own job better? (Yup, I agree with AAM that something here doesn’t smell right.)

          You said, “aren’t I lucky that Sam wants to help me catch up and is taking time out of his busy schedule to talk about my progress regularly?” I read this as either sarcasm on your part (I am fluent in sarcasm) or something he actually said to you. If it’s the second one, I’m guessing there are countless more examples of him being condescending to you. (Which suuuuuuucks, I’m so sorry.)

          How many hours a day/week do the others at your firm work compared to you? Are most ppl putting in 18-hour days? Do you have contact with others at your firm? You said that others on your level aren’t held to the same standards that Sam is holding you to – do you know that because you’ve spoken to them about it? By Sam telling you that you’re underperforming and you almost didn’t pass probation, I bet he’s counting on you to feel bad about that and not tell anyone, but I bet if you were to mention what Sam said to one of your colleagues they would be surprised to hear it. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t suffer in silence, try to get a baseline for what others think of you, not just Sam.

          I definitely recommend getting away from Sam however you can. This might mean brushing up your resume and applying to positions elsewhere (after over two years on the job, this wouldn’t be an odd thing to do anyway), or, if you really like where you are and want to stay there, it could mean talking to someone else at your firm about what’s going on in an attempt to be reassigned to a different supervisor. I already said you might want to talk to your colleagues, but is there also someone higher up at the firm that you’d feel comfortable bringing this up with? You’d want to tread carefully here, because you wouldn’t want to talk about this with one of Sam’s work buddies or someone who thinks Sam is a brilliant accountant and wonderful manager, but maybe there’s a supervisor on a different team who you’d rather work with who would be willing to move you to their team, or an exec who would be able to see what’s going on and push for your reassignment. And try to be very matter of fact about what you tell this person, don’t seem like you’re just complaining to them or gossiping, but rather trying to solve a business problem. Sure, that business problem might be “One of the star performers in the firm is being given feedback that’s not constructive [truthful],” but it’s still a problem.

          Whatever you do, OP, I really hope you update us when you get away from Sam. It’s so hard, I hope you can get strength from AAM and the commentariat.

          1. Jay*

            This was my take.
            The OP is doing a significant portion of Sam’s job for him and Sam is working to keep them too exhausted, isolated, and demoralized to do anything about it.
            It might be worth checking out if there has been a lot of turnover in that position particularly. Especially if the position is so specialized that no one else in the company other than the OP and Sam know what the two of them really do all day.
            If every new person in your position seems to somehow work themselves into a frenzy for a short period of high accomplishment, then burn out and quit only to be quickly replaced might mean that he does this regularly.

            1. selena81*

              there is definitely a possibility that Sam is taking advantage of the fact that only he and OP do their niche-job: presumably very few people would notice if he shoves everything on OPs plate.

    5. kiki*

      Yeah, even the least malicious interpretation (LW genuinely came in with a lot of weaknesses and Sam is just slow to realize that they’ve majorly changed) is an uphill battle it doesn’t sound is worth fighting. Especially because 18 hour days are unsustainable– I have a feeling if LW steps back at all, even to a still-wild amount of work like 12 hours, Sam will only notice the step back from their previous performance and not r\ealize they’re still achieving more than their peers.

    6. WeirdChemist*

      Yep, I’ve worked for a Sam before. It was really hard to change jobs because I felt like I was a bad employee with no transferable skills, plus the toll Old Boss was taking on my mental health made finding motivation to make a change extremely difficult.

      Turns out I’m not the lazy incompetent moron my Old Boss had me convinced I was, and I’m absolutely knocking it out of the park at my new position!

      Please leave this job LW, or at least move teams to a new manager or something! And cut out the 18 hr days, even if you *do* have real attention-to-detail problems, burnout won’t help…

      1. Tracy*

        Same here! My last boss used to blame every client complaint, no matter how ludicrous, on communication problems from me. I quit and my new job requires meticulous communication with upset people all day and my new employer thinks I’m absolutely amazing. Plus I make twice as much!

        1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          In my case everyone was happy with my work except Sam. He was the only one with consistent complaints when 9 out of the other 10 were happy. It did not go unnoticed.

      2. Nea*

        This! OP, I’m yet another success story of “I used to work for someone who constantly undermined me and called me incompetent, I believed them and believed that my work was no good… only to go to a different department and become their rock star.”

        You can do it! IF you get out before you burn out or you start believing his nonsense.

    7. Blame It On The Weatherman*

      Yes the most generous interpretation is probably that Sam has no idea how to manage and thinks that just constantly disparaging someone is the only way to light a fire under their work. That alone is enough reason to hit the bricks. The other possibilities only get worse – it’s personal, he’s biased in some way, he’s got some scheme of his own… who knows. And frankly, who cares, what matters is he sucks.

      And OP NEVER work 18 hour days for anything! Never allow some disapproval, fictional or real, to tempt you to burn your whole life at this altar of indifferent criticism. Work 8 hour days and log off. Rebuild your mental health, relationships, imagination, interests. Nothing is worth it but especially not this.

  3. Purely Allegorical*

    I would do what you can to move to a different manager. Sam is holding you back, perhaps intentionally, and you will always be ‘playing catch up’ with him. You could also try approaching your grandboss and laying this out for them, but that is highly dependent on the personalities involved.

    I understand the desire to have a strong record at the best place for your niche field, but if moving managers isn’t feasible then I would start job hunting. This isn’t sustainable and Sam sounds like he has it out for you. (Plus your work-life balance honestly sounds terrible…do you want to keep doing that for a manager/place that doesn’t value it?)

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yep. Plan A: get transferred under a different manager, away from Sam. Plan B if this company can’t make that happen: get a new job. Look at it this way – you’ve reported to Sam for this long and he’s not pleased with you, but he’s not able to help you understand what you would need to do in order to be more acceptable. You’re not going to be able to flourish and grow under him, even if he’s correct that there’s things you need to do better. Some people just never can overcome a first impression. How long are you going to let Sam ruin your career?

      1. Observer*

        Yep. Plan A: get transferred under a different manager, away from Sam. Plan B if this company can’t make that happen: get a new job

        This. This x 1,000

      2. betsyohs*

        ^^^^ THIS! Such a great way to frame it. Sam’s inability to tell you what you would need to do in order to improve means that you will never progress under him. Get out and find a manager who takes your dedication and hard work and gives you useful guidance, mentoring, and all the things you need to take your career where you want it to go.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        This. Part of being a good manager is seeing when your report has taken on your feedback for doing things better, and has done well in them, and then helping them continue to improve and stretch. Sam just seems to be determined to be negative about LW, which is not going to serve LW at all. They won’t be able to learn and grow at all under him. LW, you need to get out, because Sam is going to stall your career, and you don’t need or deserve that!

      4. selena81*

        yes! even if OP somehow really suck it should be pretty obvious by now that Sam can’t help them improve.

    2. Typing All The Time*

      Agreed. Save any emails or records involving any clients who acknowledge and/or pleased with your work. This is proof that you do have a solid track record.

    3. Heffalump*

      I heard the expression “has it in for you” decades ago. Interestingly, I’ve heard “has it out for you,” which clearly means the same thing, only in the last few years.

      Does Sam treat everyone this way? I suspect not. I’d be curious to know why he has it in/out for the LW.

  4. Snark*

    If Sam really thinks attention to detail is a problem, or that you don’t have enough technical knowledge, it would sure make sense for him to stop making you work so many billable hours so you can take more time and do some training, but he isn’t doing that. I WONDER WHY

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      And he’d also move forward with a PIP and then firing. Because those are the next logical steps if what Sam said was legitimate.

      It’s like dating someone who tells you all the time that you’re horrible but will never break up with you and doesn’t want you to go.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        It in fact sounds like the most recent Captain Awkward letter, which was about such a relationship.

        1. Ama*

          That was the worst relationship email she’s had in a while — and the poor LW thought it was all their fault that they couldn’t make it work with that emotionally abusive d-bag.

        2. Csethiro Ceredin*

          I thought of that one too. Both are infuriating to read, and I hope it’s of some comfort to the OPs to see the columnists getting angry about it.

    2. Beth*

      Yeah, if Sam was genuinely seeing issues and working in good faith, this pattern wouldn’t make sense.

      The most generous-to-Sam possible interpretation I see here is something I’ve seen before in a few workplaces. Team member A is underperforming. Manager B recognizes it, names it, and sets up structures around it: extra reviews, extra oversight, extra training, notes on their probationary period review, possibly even a PIP. A improves and their work is now meeting or exceeding expectations. But nothing really forces B to sit down and reevaluate the evidence, so B continues to think of A as underperforming. In this scenario B is a bad manager, but a manageably bad one–I’ve seen a few A’s get recognition by sitting down, sharing stats on their performance, sharing positive feedback they’ve received over the last few months, and explicitly asking their manager to consider the possibility that they’ve improved.

      But it’s hard to believe that Sam is a B. If you really believe your team member is underperforming, you don’t trust them with a massive workload and ask them to cover for you when you’re out. Sam seems more like a pick-up artist who’s discovered negging: he’s keeping his star employee be insecure and and caught up in proving themselves, rather than letting them build confidence that might lead them to expect things like promotions or work/life balance.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I’ve also seen someone come in and make a pretty noticeable mistake, and then the manager can just never, ever get over that impression even if it doesn’t happen again. Since Sam didn’t hire OP anyway, he may have written them off at that point and been waiting ever since to replace them with someone he picks.

    3. Cmdrshprd*

      “stop making you work so many billable hours so you can take more time and do some training,”

      If the system is what I think it is, I don’t think Sam is actually making OP work so many hours, but rather OP is choosing to take those hours on. My guess is the company has tiered incentive bonus structure for hitting/passing certain billable hour targets. Likely the work is always there and it is up to OP to decide how much they can/want to take on.

      I do think Sam might be wrong, but it is possible for OP to be a bit under the target levels wanted by Sam but not enough to merit a PIP.

      Like Sam wants people to be at a B or above, OP is at a C, and PIP level is at a D.

      1. HonorBox*

        But it is incumbent on Sam, as a manager, to explain to OP not only what the target levels are but also help them find ways to get there. If Sam can only cite one example of “underperforming” that is actually someone else’s mistake, Sam is in the wrong. If OP doesn’t know the path to get from C to B or above, that’s not giving them a fair shake and is terrible management.

        1. Laser99*

          It’s time for the LW to go over his head. Either the powers that be know he’s doing this and are fine with it, or they don’t know and will not be fine with it. Then the LW can plot her next move.

  5. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

    let me guess…. Sam is a middle age man and you are a young 20-something woman?

    1. cabbagepants*

      In my male-dominated industry, Sams are thick on the ground, and yes, this stereotype generally holds. The Sams are bullies who target whoever they see as most likely to take it. I’ve learned to push back but it takes healthy management who can see past the posturing to the actual output.

    2. Presea*

      That definitely crossed my mind too. Or OP is a person of color and Sam is white, or some other axis of obvious negative bias. If I were OP, I’d be documenting absolutely every interaction with Sam that smells even the tiniest bit fishy, just in case it can be used as proof of a pattern of discrimination down the line, as well as to help OP make clearer-headed decisions about what kind of person Sam is.

      1. ABJ*

        Came here to say the same. Sam is picking on you for a reason that has nothing to do with work.

      2. Ms. Elaneous*

        If I were OP, I’d be documenting absolutely every interaction with Sam that smells even the tiniest bit fishy, ..

        yes, yes, yes

      3. Observer*

        <i. If I were OP, I’d be documenting absolutely every interaction with Sam that smells even the tiniest bit fishy, just in case it can be used as proof of a pattern of discrimination down the line, as well as to help OP make clearer-headed decisions about what kind of person Sam is.

        Agreed and was coming to say the same.

        Also, it might help the LW even aside from proving discrimination, in moving to a different position within the company of if Sam tries to push the LW out.

      4. ArtsNerd*

        Yes, I had a boss who was very invested in “putting me in my place” in the past because I was secure in my expertise and he wasn’t. I wasn’t even particularly young, just young-looking and female-shaped. I was constantly stroking his ego, which was exhausting. Ended up needing to move on.

        It’s starting again in my current role — I have a habit of accidentally pissing off someone in my management chain for reasons that frequently surprise me, baffle my team, and send my supervisor into damage control my behalf. The source of this one is harder to pin down, but my speculation is that there’s an internalized ableism component.

        Whatever the cause, things have escalated to the point where I have to be very, very careful to protect my rights under the ADA. I foresee this only resolving by my leaving the job, which is a real bummer.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yep. I don’t think age is relevant, but I clocked that Sam is a dude and LW is a woman. He’s negging her and she’s questioning her own judgment and whether she’s being “soft”. She will never be good enough.

    4. Mrs. Potts*

      I had a similar thought reading this – OP is a young woman/a fat person/a racial minority. Tale as old as time. I’m a fat lady myself and have met soooo many Sams over the years.

      1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

        Agree. I highly doubt Sam and OP are both cisgender white males. It’s possible, but unlikely.

    5. Shoes*

      LW doesn’t have to be in her 20s. LW could just be younger.

      Ultimately Sam wants LW gone but in the mean time will accept undermining their confidence and possibly minimizing LW’s profile at the at company. (I am familiar with this.)

    6. Southern Ladybug*

      OP if there is a difference in the race/gender of Sam and yourself please look into more documentation. Particularly if these other peers not held to the same standard are the same race/gender as Sam….

      Regardless – even if you are both similar in backgrounds, Sam is holding you back. You need a new manager or different company.

      It’s not you. It’s Sam.

    7. daffodil*

      glad someone else brought this up. OP, if you are a member of any protected class, start documenting and maybe have a conversation with HR.

    8. OP*

      OP here – I am a late 20s woman of colour, and Sam is an early 50s white male… unfortunately this perspective never crossed my mind. But now that I think about it, I am the only POC in a team of over forty people. Such a shame, as there is no non-combative / productive way to raise this kind of issue. Sam is the global head of the sector I’m in – right at the top of the foodchain. Someone who brings in so much money that I don’t think HR would ever consider taking my side over his. I think it may be best to look for a new role!

      1. Katherine*

        Ooof. I wish I found this surprising. So sorry. I hope you can find a new job quickly and I look forward to the update where you tell us how happy you are working normal hours and not being abused. :)

      2. Tracy*

        OP, please consider reading the Issendei Sick Systems blog post. It’s about how abusers and toxic employers manipulate you, keep you too exhausted to think and make you feel incompetent to keep you from leaving. He’s getting 18 hours of work out of you and it will never be enough. I worked for a 50 year old white male Sam in my 30’s (cishet white female) as an experienced professional and he tried all the crap Sam is pulling on you. I don’t know if I can share a link, but if you just Google the terms above it will come up.

        1. OP*

          Thanks very much, found the article and this seems like a fantastic read – will read it tonight!

      3. Petty Betty*

        It can be done if you have the right kind of back up. You can consult with the EEOC or your local equal rights agency (if you’re a US resident) for more advice and options.

        1. Properlike*

          YES. Document EVERYTHING, retroactively. Consult with an employment lawyer ASAP.

          Doesn’t matter how much he makes; they’re breaking the law. Prepare yourself to move on — accountants are in demand! — because this is not okay. But also prepare to get what is owed to you for Sam’s bull**** discriminatory activity.

      4. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Oh my….OP, take it from a woman (albeit, I’m not a POC) who’s been in the workforce over 20 years in a white, male dominant industry. Your age, your gender, AND your race, along with the fact you’re also the only POC on the team, really sounds like all of that (maybe some, but likely all) comes into play. Ugh, and the overall position you’re in, along with Sam’s position in the company, your best bet is to move on and look for a job elsewhere. I hate that being the best move for you, but your assessment of the situation is likely right. Very unfair, but yeah, that still happens in today’s world.

      5. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ugh, I’m so so sorry to hear that, OP. Then I guess my suggestion in another thread about asking to move to a different team prob won’t be all that helpful. I hope you can find a role somewhere that absolutely knows how brilliant and hardworking you are.

      6. Specks*

        O.M.G. Yes, that is 100% it. Document, document, document. Take this to an employment lawyer — this is a wet dream of a lawsuit, but even if you don’t want to sue, they can guide you to get all your proof in order and get a good recommendation or negotiate some sort of severance or what Sam is allowed to say. Sam is a racist, sexist prick who is threatened by you and he will never, ever get over it. If there is no one above him to move you to a different supervisor, you really have to leave. Pull back on the hours drastically and put your tremendous star energy into a job search. And when you do job search, pay attention to the team’s diversity.

        1. Specks*

          And as for non-combative way to confront, I do think a lawyer will help you there too. HR is there to protect the company and when it’s so obvious that there’s discrimination, Sam might just be put into his place.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, that was my thought, too.

            The fact that you are the ONLY POC in a team of 40 is going to be really, really important as it presents a really solid context of an organization that is, *at best*, inept at non-discrimination.

            I mean, I suspect that it’s more than ineptitude, but even if it’s “just” that, it’s still a really bad place for them to be in.

            1. Properlike*


              OP, I am so glad you were able to get to the point where it didn’t occur to you that someone could be this overtly racist and sexist, but unfortunately, no one else here is surprised. Please bring in the lawyer, because your norms on what is acceptable have not yet developed for the larger world and I worry that you could unwittingly settle for FAR LESS than you deserve.

      7. Askew*

        First of all OP, document everything. Everything you’ve said here, dates, keep it updated with every interaction with Sam and how the way you’re treated differs from your peers. I believe you that there’s no non combative way to raise this, but if he tries to push you out before you’re ready you can get a lawyer and a settlement.

        Secondly, yes new job. He’s got you doubting yourself but you’re a rockstar and have trained at one of the top firms in your niche – definitely time to jump ship. Think about what you want from your next move.

        Finally, is there anyone senior at the firm you have good rapport with who isn’t a middle aged white guy? Ask them for advice. They might have useful advice, or they might be able to give you leads for new jobs within their network.

        I’m sorry you’re in this position, you don’t deserve it.

      8. Jennifer Strange*

        I’m really sorry you’re in this situation. It definitely seems like Sam was destined to keep you down regardless of your performance. I hope you find something better soon!

      9. Warrior Princess Xena*

        You are the one in the environment, so you’ve got the closest understanding of what you’ve got. That said, I’m going to borrow from the fabulous Captain Awkward and say that right now, the only reason things are being non-combative/productive is because you are working very very hard to keep them that way (18!!! hour days). Ultimately I don’t think that you’re going to see an improvement without leaving or pushing back on the nonsense that Sam is currently dishing out. The problem already exists, and if you choose to take the steps that you have a legal and moral right to, know that any combativeness/drama that comes up is not because of you. It’s because Sam is being a jerk and the people around him are either not seeing or actively enabling him in his jerkiness.

        If you find that you Do No Want to deal with the additional stress and drama of pushing back on This Guy, I don’t blame you, because it’s a shame that you would be subject to more stress in the process of making your life less stressful. But I do agree with other commenters that a couple of words with your nearest EEOC representative might be a good move, even if it’s just to scope out what can be done.

      10. Nesprin*

        Ooof. It’s so hard to consider that a person who you work with and respect and like could be discriminating against you. Especially when you internalize that you could just work harder to solve all the problems, and when Sam has some power in the heirarchy.

        You deserve better, and you do have the right to fight for what you’re owed- EEOC complaints and labor lawyers are there for a reason. That said, getting away from Sam’s management or possibly your company are options as well. Either way, I’d echo all the other commenters that documenting your interactions are the best way to protect yourself.

        1. OP*

          This comment about “respecting” Sam and internalising working harder hit home – I think in a professional environment, with someone who is good at their job and intelligent, it’s so difficult to process and comprehend that there might be discrimination because of the colour of my skin, or my gender, or my background. I have no control over those things so that seems ridiculous! It’s not something I ever thought would happen in 2024 among intelligent, well respected professionals. I’ll be documenting actions and feedback going forward. Really grateful for everyones feedback and advice.

          1. Andromeda*

            Not sure if this will help, but Sam’s being a discriminatory d-bag demonstrates that he is a lot less respectable and intelligent than he seemed when you first joined. I know myself to be very susceptible to projected authority, especially intellectual authority, so I thought it was worth pointing out. This guy isn’t showing professionalism and isn’t worthy of your respect.

      11. Productivity Pigeon*

        Ugh ugh ugh.

        They’re using you and you deserve so much better than this!

      12. Blame It On The Weatherman*

        Yup this is as I predicted. He’s got a win-win going where he either crushes your spirit and drives you out (which he will use as evidence that you ‘couldn’t hack it’) or forces you to work 1,000 times harder for scraps (which also reinforces his view that you don’t deserve to be there or be treated as an equal).

        The game has been rigged against you, so stop Boxer the Horsing yourself into trying to work hard enough to beat it!

      13. glitter writer*

        This disparity was my absolute first guess when I read your story, and I’m so very, very sorry I was right. Please find someone and -place that values you the way they should!

      14. Ellie*

        OK, I don’t think you should spend another minute doubting yourself here OP. He’s biased against you, because of your age, your gender, or your race (or all three). You should seriously consider contacting HR, but don’t hesitate to move on if it’s in your interests to.

      15. TeaCoziesRUs*

        EXCELLENT. That means when you take all of your documentation of exploitation and harassment to a good employment lawyer your company will be willing to play ball.

        Mwa ha ha ha.

        * retracts claws, bears fangs in nice, wide smile on your behalf *

        Go get ’em, OP. You’re worth FAR more than Sam can ever see.

      16. ArtsNerd*

        I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. The fact that you’re the only(!) POC and receiving this treatment means it’s probably a very good idea to consult with an employment lawyer regards to discrimination. Whether to pursue legal action or not is 100% your call, but this is egregious enough it’s worth having a conversation.

        Please know that this is very, very much a Sam problem and not your fault at all. And to be clear, it’s highly possible that Sam doesn’t even realize what he’s doing, really. Unconscious bias is insidious but this is manifesting in abusive behavior toward you. You deserve better than this treatment.

      1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

        Agree! I could see it at certain times of the year, based on some accountants I know, but not regularly!

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Exactly. Is anyone else working 18 hour days regularly? Probably not.

      You have internalized that you are failing so you are trying to outwork everyone else. the result will be burn out. 18 hour days is not sustainable.

      Sam wants you to fail for whatever reason. He sucks and isn’t going to change. Only you can decide if this what you want to put up with for this particular job. If not, do you just want a change of manager or do you want out completely before your norms are totally warped by this looney tune?

    2. Harper*

      Yes, this. 18 hour days are completely unreasonable and unsustainable.

      LW: do you feel the 18 hour days are necessary in order to ensure the accuracy of your work before turning it in? I wonder if this is giving Sam some discomfort, like maybe you’re succeeding but at great personal cost? Just a thought. In general, it does sound like he’s being unfair, but just wanted to offer this perspective.

      1. gmg22*

        If Sam can’t even be bothered to come up with actual specific examples of work the LW (as opposed to someone else) did that he thinks needs improvement, he doesn’t sound like the kind of manager who cares if LW is having to work a lot of extra hours.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        do you feel the 18 hour days are necessary in order to ensure the accuracy of your work before turning it in?

        This stood out to me. If you’re finding yourself needing to put in overtime in order to produce the work that is only expected to take you a normal workday, that can potentially mean the job is just not a good match for your skills.

        Often it means you weren’t trained and the expectation of high performance with zero tools is unrealistic! But I’ve seen my fair share of entry level associates (in accounting specifically) wash out because they just didn’t “get it”, and were better suited for a different company or function.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Also, I have seen someone who worked 12 hour days because they felt like they were making a lot of mistakes and needed to “prove” their work — and when I told them very firmly that no one expected them to work 12 hour days, and furthermore I wanted them to stop setting the bar at 12 hour days, because I wanted an 8-hour-day job… their attention to detail improved and the rate of mistakes went down. (And I think the improved quality of work meant that overall we got more work from them, because less time was spent re-doing things.) If you’re worried about making mistakes, you should focus on getting eight or nine hours of sleep, and having time that isn’t work to let your brain recharge.

      3. Observer*

        wonder if this is giving Sam some discomfort, like maybe you’re succeeding but at great personal cost?

        If that were his problem, he should say that. This is an adult with supposed experience in managing not an incoherent child.

        And there is absolutely ZERO excuse for specifically claiming that the LW is doing work incorrectly.

        n general, it does sound like he’s being unfair, but just wanted to offer this perspective.

        Why? It’s clearly not an accurate reflection of what is going on. All it does is push the OP to give a “benefit of the doubt” to someone who clearly does not deserve it.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I gasped at this. I was pulling 12-14 hours days at my last (awful) job and it was absolutely horrible, I can’t imagine 18 hour days (regularly!).

    4. Spiders Everywhere*

      OP, my strongest piece of short-term advice is to call in sick and spend the whole day getting as much sleep as you physically can. There’s no way you’re getting enough rest on 18 hour days, and sleep deprivation can affect your psychological state in ways that are hard to recognize when you’re in the middle of it. There’s a reason it’s used as a form of coercive control and even torture!

  6. cabbagepants*

    I don’t want to veer to far into fan fiction, so I’ll just related my own experience.

    I’ve had several people in my career like Sam. They were all much more senior than me and used to being treated as experts in their niche. When I am hired into the same niche, instead of responding with mentoring and partnership, they put me down. I guess they felt threatened or something.

    How things go will depend on the rest of your org. In one job, the Sam was old buddies with our boss, so boss joined Sam in pretending that Sam was Supreme Expert and I was Bumbling Novice. I quit. In my current job, Sam taking out his insecurities on me just highlighted how redundant he had become (due to choosing to not grow for over a decade) and eventually he was managed out.

    Good luck out there.

    1. Mid*

      Yeah, I’ve seen a similar dynamic. Either the Niche Expert is threatened and doesn’t want anyone to encroach on their territory, or they were brought up in an “eat your young” kind of environment and feel like they need to continue the cycle of bullying the next generation, or they don’t want you to recognize the value of your niche skills, or some combination of all three.

      People like that don’t change, and don’t typically get better to work for. Take your niche skills and go out and prosper elsewhere.

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      This is the most likely example. Been there done that from the other end (sorry but it’s hard to react appropriately in the moment!).

      I am surprised the comments are acting like Sam is this horrible manager or is doing some -ism at worst. In reality, it’s most likely what you described. In fact, it’s very common for junior people in many roles.

      There is also the huge caveat I’m surprised I’m not seeing that after a certain point, fair or not, hours work stops being a predictor of performance.

      To your point, I’ve had this before as a manager. I think for me, I didn’t realize how much expertise I had until I was talking to someone 10 years+ younger than me and learning all of the things they didn’t know, and it becomes too much when there is a project with 100 moving parts and you have someone barely following it despite being the best hire. It also overlaps with how technical so many corporate roles have gotten. 20 years ago when I was doing that stuff, we had time to chill and vlookup everything in excel. Now it’s an API into a system that feeds into SQL and maybe into an automated email or dashboard or into a template for a letter or something. Way more steps, more complicated, now you need to know all of the computer programs along the way, have access to them, etc. It’s alot. Sometimes it’s too much to train someone in on the fly

      So what happens is you stop involving junior staff in stuff because some new problem came up and you have a day to troubleshoot and find the solution. The stakes are too high for a newer person to not find the solution in that one day. So you just keep them off it.

      then come review time and they’re telling you they excelled at their projects, which is technically true, but what they don’t appreciate is they did all of the routine stuff but you couldn’t even give them the “real” work (yet). Or they did a senior-level project and talk about it like it’s this huge thing, not realizing that you’re always doing things like that at the senior level

      That’s the dynamics of the workplace in many white collar jobs. I will close saying that I’m tired of this getting described as “toxic” or like some huge flaw when it’s just the way many jobs are. Many I read too much job advice on reddit too but I feel like some people think anything where they don’t just process orders alone in a corner is “bad management” and it’s tiring to explain that it’s not. You just can’t implant 20 years experience into a fresh grad’s head.

      1. Kella*

        None of that sounds at all related to what OP is experiencing.

        If your reports are excelling at the work you trained them to do and assigned to them… then they are excelling. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have the full picture of all the parts that they *could* be doing. You didn’t ask them to do it so they aren’t underperforming by not doing it. If you’re giving them poor performance ratings because they didn’t do work they were never assigned, that *is* bad management. And if they were supposed to do that work but they were never trained on how to do it, that is also bad management.

        I have noticed that in a lot of your comments, you describe dysfunctional work environments and explain that it’s “just the way that it is” even though you consistently get responses from people for whom have never experienced the same thing or only experienced it at overall dysfunctional jobs. It seems to be a pattern that your experience is far less universal than you think it is.

      2. some_coder*

        i am saving this comment because it shows the other side as well. not everything happens because of ill intend.
        this might or might not be the situation OP is in. but this comment is still a good poin of view from the other side. (i can also relate to this because some seniors of mine have way more experience in some parts of their work which i don’t understand and i also have some experience some juniors don’t have)

      3. bamcheeks*

        This is such an odd description of how expertise works. Yes, of course I know more than my assistant and have a much bigger contextual and historical understanding of the work we’re doing than he does. That’s also why I get paid nearly twice his salary and have a different job title and job description.

        You sound like you’re judging people you manager against *your* job description rather than theirs, which is just a really bizarre thing to be doing.

      4. Andromeda*

        Well, yes, of course your junior staff aren’t going to be doing senior level projects consistently. If they were, they would be senior level, or at least deserve a pay rise.

        But I think there might be some wires crossed here. What would you expect of a junior or associate employee, for them to accurately say that they were excelling?

    3. Starlike*

      I’ve had a similar situation, and it turned out that a big part of it was that my supervisor had gotten wind of coming layoffs and figured if she could get me on a PIP, I’d be on the block instead of her. I was sick from the stress and ended up resigning, but laid out a pretty clear and documented case for harassment in my exit interview and guess who was laid off the next week?

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      OP answered a comment above. OP is female, young and a POC (only POC on the team of 40). Sam is male, 50s, and white. So yeah, sexism plus.

    2. Frankie*

      OP if you’re salaried, calculate what you’re making per hour, and this may start to make more sense.
      You deserve better.

      1. anonymouse*

        came here to say this. whatever the answer to this conundrum is, STOP working 18 hour days!

    1. Elbe*

      Yes. I really hope that the LW takes this treatment as a hint to invest less in her work situation. It doesn’t sound like they’re going to value her or appreciate the sacrifices that she’s making.

  7. MI Dawn*

    I’m wondering if Sam is miffed because he didn’t interview OP and, for whatever reason, dislikes them (they had another candidate in mind, gender issues, they only wanted older persons, etc).

    OP, working 18 hour days is RIDICULOUS!!! Please look at your self and determine why you are letting this one person destroy your confidence, your work-life balance and your health.

    1. MI Dawn*

      Nesting fail – this wasn’t meant to be a response to Grayson, though it fits anyway. :)

    2. A Poster Has No Name*

      This was my first thought, too. Sam wanted to hire someone else and is hoping the OP will quit on their own.

      And, yes, working 18 hours for this guy will get you nowhere but exhausted & burnt out. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation, because Sam is the one that sucks here, not you.

    3. gmg22*

      Agreed. Misogyny is likely to be at play here, but also the more specific possibility that Sam had a different candidate in mind. I’ve been in that situation once or twice over my career and it’s so aggravating that stubborn managers can’t just LET IT GO and figure out how to build a good working relationship with the human who is in front of them.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      Your idea sounds very plausible to me. I had a job once where I wasn’t interviewed by the person I was supposed to be working for, and she decided she didn’t like me because I didn’t have other skills she was looking for.

    5. Breaking up is hard to due*

      I was in a similar situation to OP. The Hiring Manager wanted to hire a different person, but her manager loved me and told her to hiring me instead. My manager treated me like crap from Day 1 and frequently told me how she wished she could have hired the other person. A really not fun situation to be in.

      I ended up getting let go after about a year. The hiring manager blamed me for a mistake she made and my fate was sealed. Fortunately, I had been job hunting and found a new job within weeks (with more money).

      OP – this is not going to get any better. You need to get out ASAP.

    6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, some people really like control. So if they’re not the ones to choose their staff, they can get weird about things.

      And 100% agree about the 18-hour days. It seems like no matter what you do, Sam won’t be happy. So there’s no sense in lighting yourself on fire to win his approval. It hasn’t worked so far, and there’s no reason to think it’ll work in the future. There is no benefit to continuing down this path of overwork.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      It could even be tension with whoever did interview the LW and a determination to dislike anybody they’d choose.

      But whatever the reason, I really don’t think the LW is going to impress Sam, no matter what they do. Sam has clearly made up their mind

    8. BubbleTea*

      The “hired by a different manager” situation happened to me, and I was eventually fired just before the end of my probation period for a series of petty issues that no one else was ever even spoken to about. We were both white women in our 20s so it wasn’t about age, race or gender in that case (but she did seem to feel threatened by me – one complaint was that I had too many ideas without manager approval. Not that I followed them without checking first, just that I had them).

  8. Ruby*

    How else is Sam going to get OP to work those 18-hour days? I swear, some bosses think negging is a legitimate management technique.

  9. mlem*

    Sam says LW is underperforming. This prompts high-quality work, 18-hour days, and lots of money rolling in from LW’s billable hours. From the most cynical perspective, Sam has no reason to change the feedback, because it’s getting positive results *for Sam*.

    LW absolutely should pull back to normal-for-the-industry hours, involve a higher-level manager or HR, and evaluate options for getting out.

    1. HonorBox*

      You’re right about the normal-for-the-industry hours… if Sam isn’t going to recognize the amount of work and success, why would a person choose to put in that time. I think it is worth pointing out the billable hours when management/HR is brought in.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Since Sam will continue to neg and be unhappy with LW’s performance no matter what they do, LW 100% should stop working themselves to the bone. It’s a never ending moving of the goal posts.

  10. H.Regalis*

    It sounds Sam wants you to feel bad about yourself and doubt your own abilities so he can keep you under his thumb.

    1. Bird names*

      Right, I mean otherwise you might consider switching either to a different department or even a different employer altogether.
      You certainly have every right to expect your contributions be acknowledged graciously or look for greener pastures instead.

    2. anon for this*

      I agree. The last time I (a woman) got treated like this, it was by a guy who was trying to persuade me to date him and not consider any other men. It was basically negging.

  11. Jane Bingley*

    Three questions come to mind for me: are you a woman or gender-non-conforming? Are you a person of colour? Are you well paid relative to your colleagues?

    If one or both of the first two, it can be hard to prove discrimination, but you’ve got one heck of a case. I’d start getting as much of this in writing as possible. Send emails summarizing your conversations with Sam after each time you meet about your performance. Loop HR in now, name specifically that you’re concerned this might be due to discrimination, and keep them posted.

    If the third, you can definitely make whatever you’re currently making or more somewhere else, and keep humane hours as well. Don’t hesitate to run. Let them underpay and overwork someone else.

    1. a raging ball of distinction*

      OR OP could be earning less and Sam doesn’t want them to realize or think they’re worth more. I’ll stop inventing possibilities, but it’s Not Good either way.

      OP, if we’re assuming correctly that something about you is Noticeably Different from Sam (and most of the other people on your team?), please seek out other folks at your company and in your field who are Noticeably Different in similar ways for a reality check and the moral support you deserve.

  12. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, Sam is not a very good manager, leader, mentor, coach, advocate, take your pick. He might not even be a good subject matter expert. But Sam *is* very good at self-preservation, and you will be his handy excuse.

    So take one lesson from Sam, and focus on your own needs and wants. He will not change his mind, no matter what you do or how many people say great things about you. Some challenges are worth accepting; from what you wrote, this one isn’t. Trying to get Sam to come around will only further drain you and waste your time.

  13. HonorBox*

    OP I’d strongly suggest following the advice and soon. If you’d have written in at the very start of your tenure asking if it was normal for Sam to make the observations he had about getting you experience, I’d say that is normal and your approach to that observation was sensible. But now that you have experience and have gotten better at your job, Sam’s observations about you haven’t followed. Sam isn’t seeing the success in your billing, the time you’re putting in, the progress you’ve made, and hearing what others are saying about the quality of your work, that’s a problem. And the cherry on the top is that the only data that Sam can provide that you’re underperforming is a single report that was prepared by someone else, that’s a huge problem.

    You need to speak to someone above Sam because your progress is going to be halted at that firm. Sam’s not evaluating you with understanding that you’ve changed, gotten better, and have made positive steps. You’re not getting a fair evaluation. And to be clear, fair could also mean pointing out actual data that show areas for continued improvement. But you’re not getting that.

    1. HonorBox*

      Also when you speak to someone else, be sure to point out that you’re covering for Sam in meetings. That should provide some additional context that you’re well thought of enough to be in those meetings, but clearly Sam isn’t giving you a fair shake when it is time to provide evaluations for raises.

  14. OtterB*

    I agree with trying to find someone who can help you get out from under Sam. I wonder if Sam wants to keep you since you are performing so well and is therefore trying to make it seem you’re not good enough for an internal transfer.

    1. noncommittal anonymous*

      I wonder if part of this is a ploy to keep OP. At least in many places, you can’t be transferred if your supervisor says you’re underperforming, as a way to keep underperformers from just hopping around the company and never being accountable. That’s not OP’s situation, of course, but that same system might keep her under Sam’s control.

  15. CTA*

    Sam sounds like the type of person who likes to position himself as a thoughtful person, but he really isn’t. Telling you that you barely made it out of your probation period…was that really necessary? IMO that would just make someone very worried for really no reason.

    Sam reminds me of another person I encountered in life. Let’s call this person Ann. Ann really liked to position herself as thoughtful…asking you how it’s going…offering suggestions for projects…coaching you through some projects. But any sort of constructive feedback that I would give to Ann or if I had a differing opinion, then I was then problem because I was “disagreeable” and “sabotaging the project.” Oh, and Ann would try to weaponize any vulnerability that I disclosed, such as “I feel sad today because of X reason.” Ann wanted to feel and look important by being right all the time and being perfect in comparison to others. IMO, this is what Sam is trying to do to you. Good for you for pushing back at you annual review. Is there anyway for you to get a new manager?

  16. Jenn*

    I’ve had bosses like this. Outwardly lying saying I didn’t do work when I have a paper trail. They just want an excuse to fire you. I’d start looking for sure.

  17. Black cat lady*

    You mention that Sam did not interview you. He probably has his nose out of joint that you were hired without his input. This is not going to get better. You need to transfer managers or go to another firm. Oh, and 18 hour days are a fast track to burnout. Please try and move within your firm AND strike a better life/work balance.

  18. She of Many Hats*

    I would be concerned that his reviews are a way to avoid paying you your actual worth, that bad reviews/needs improvement comments means he only has to give you the barest cost-of-living wage increases plus he’s getting essentially free 10 hours of OT daily.

    I would speak with other supervisors, perhaps that director with 35 years of experience in your niche, about what are realistic expectations for “getting up to speed” and mastering the role you are in. And talk $$$ with them to ensure you are Not being short-changed either in professional development or salary development.

    Once you have a better idea of what is realistic and what is doable long-term (and it ain’t 18hr days), you can decide if you want to stay with Sam, move away from him within the company, or find a better boss at another company within your niche.

  19. Possum's Mom*

    Sounds like Sam’s criticism is pushing you to provide 24-hour days so that he won’t have anything left on his plate. If he “lets” you cover him in meetings, your work can’t be that bad, sooooo why is he a necessary part of your company? Think about it. You should hold Sam’s position at your company since you’re already doing his work for him.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      eh, I think some people misunderstood “covering” to mean “covered when he made a mistake that came out, I made up a reason to brush the mistake under the carpet”

      That would make OP worthy of way more status at this job, but they’re covering as in “going to meeting.” I don’t think that is the gotcha I see some commenters thinking it is. Maybe I just worked at weird places, but it’s pretty normal for the upper manager to dole out meetings to people or dial into things and leave after the first few meetings? Especially if it’s a billable Accounting type job where you’re having the same conversations repeatedly with different clients? No value is added by having someone senior sitting there when they could be doing higher level work.

      “You should hold Sam’s position at your company since you’re already doing his work for him.” – that’s not what it is though? I mean, any other manager have people come back from calls with a list of new projects or niche questions they can’t handle? That wouldn’t be “doing my job.” That’s just them saving me sitting there for an hour just for that one minute part where I am needed.

  20. Extroverted Bean Counter*

    I think regardless of what’s going on with Sam, LW should look for a new job.

    Is this a larger organization with different departments, where LW could look into an internal promotion/lateral move? This is very common at my corporation within F&A – tons of people will have a role for 2-3 years and then go try something else in the org.

    But this isn’t a sustainable pace of work for the LW. If they are in fact doing high quality work and are outperforming their colleagues, the work is going unappreciated and they should find somewhere that appreciates it. If instead the LW is having to work incredibly hard and is billing too many hours for similar work to their peers (something that is very common among new accountants – lots of people in this profession are very hard, diligent workers but are not technically proficient or particularly talented at this, and compensate by putting in 2x the time), it would still be good to find a different role with perhaps fewer, or different, responsibilities and different expectations.

    1. A woman never gets a break*

      I suspect it’s the latter. See it in many professions. Takes twice as long for the same result so billed more hours.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If that is still the case after TWO YEARS then Sam is doing a lousy job of managing and training. And the advice to find a way to report to someone else stands unchanged.

  21. pally*

    I doubt that Sam is on the level here. He’d provide concrete examples of what you need to do to “meet standards” if he was.

    Underperforming? Compared to what or to whom?

    Your technical knowledge isn’t as expected at your level? Certainly Sam can point to someone at your level that does possess sufficient technical knowledge -right?

    Wonder what Sam’s boss thinks of the OP’s work.

  22. Dido*

    Honestly, if you have to work 18 hour days to produce work at the same standard everyone else does in an 8 hour day, the job might not actually be a good fit for you…

    1. Sarah*

      We don’t know if everyone else is working 8 hours a day, abd OP is outperforming everyone.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      But then, wouldn’t that be Sam’s feedback? “LW, the quality of your work product is good, the issue is that you take twice as long to complete that work than it should take.” There is also no chance that LW’s work across the 18 hour days is of a consistent quality (diminishing returns and all).

      However, that isn’t what Sam is flagging as a problem. And that is what is eyebrow raise inducing here.

    3. Observer*

      Honestly, if you have to work 18 hour days to produce work at the same standard everyone else does in an 8 hour day, the job might not actually be a good fit for you…

      Which is not actually relevant, because that’s not what’s happening. They are producing 50% *more* billable hours than anyone on their team. They are also doing such good work that Sam confused a report does by someone with *35 years* of experience for theirs.

      1. BubbleTea*

        50% more billable hours in 18 hour days isn’t very surprising. Even if everyone else is working 12 hour days, which I hope they’re not routinely doing, that’s 50% more hours.

        1. Observer*

          True. But it does mean that they are not taking 18 hours to do work that others can do in 8. And the quality of the work is also notable.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      But the OP is doing 50% more work than anyone else (at least, in terms of billings), so it can’t be that they take longer to do the same standard of work, once you factor in the exhaustion and burn-out that 18 hour days does to you.

    5. Corporate Lawyer*

      TBH, I had the same thought. When you bill your time to clients, the clients do not appreciate paying more for you to do a task than for someone else to do the same task, and it’s possible Sam may be getting that feedback from clients. (Having been on both sides of the equation – billing my time when I worked in Big Law and reviewing Big Law invoices now that I’m in-house counsel – I’m very familiar with that dynamic.)

      HOWEVER, even if that’s part of what’s going on, Sam still sucks, and I 100% agree with everyone who is advising OP to look into reporting to someone other than Sam or, if that isn’t possible, look for a new job. If billing too much time for certain tasks were part of the problem, then Sam would need to name that and work with OP to correct/mitigate it instead of coming up with BS, unhelpful reasons why OP is “underperforming.”

    6. gmg22*

      The LW is working very long hours, but they are also working 50% more billable hours than everyone else — that means more demonstrable work product (you can’t bill for what you can’t show the client you did). This isn’t a productivity problem, it’s a manager with unrealistic expectations problem.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      You’re possibly looking at it from the wrong perspective. There are two: 1) OPs work was not up to scratch in X hours and they have to work X+ hours to make it up to the same standard. Or, 2) OP’s work was so good, that when she was unfairly criticised (for gender and sex related reasons) the only “improvement” that could be made is just doing more stuff and working longer hours. Given that Sam was prejudiced from the get-go, that OP has surpassed others by working longer (that’s impressive because it’s not easy to outperform people on less rest, but yeah they probably would be even more effective doing same hours), and that Sam has implied he would not have hired her and held her to a completely different standards … I’m going with perspective 2. Especially since perspective 1 wouldn’t work anyway; if you’re not good at the role, working longer hours doesn’t impart more ability.

  23. Glazed Donut*

    It sounds like having more hours/more billable hours is a mark of being successful. I am not familiar with accounting – can someone help me understand this?
    (I would perhaps think, without context, that more hours means work is less efficient but that doesn’t seem to be implied in any of this)

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I don’t work in a billable hour accounting function, so I can’t speak to the “billable” part of that.

      But I can say that in my corporate accounting career thus far, if you’re working overtime to put out the expected quality of work when everyone else can get it done in a standard work day, that is indeed seen as less efficient and that there is a problem (not enough training? not the right skill set?)

    2. Gabs*

      For accountants, billable hours is time an employee works on a file that is then directly billed to the client. Billing Managers would take that time spent on files, and invoice the clients reflectively.
      An example of when this would be an issue is if you’re working on a Corp Year End – which should take an accountant approx. 6-8 hours (depending on complexity), however the accountant puts in 18hours on the file. Unless there is something crazy abnormal that the billing manager can explain to the client why their invoice is SO much higher than prior year, they would likely have to eat that time spent on the file by the accountant. From a billing perspective, they would be losing time spent on a file that they cannot recoup reasonably on the invoice.

      1. bumblebee*

        Thanks for the explanation, that is interesting. If I’m understanding correctly, it sounds like having more billable hours in general is good, since that’s how the company makes its money, but ideally you’d want that to mean a person is completing a lot of projects each in a reasonable time vs doing lots of billable hours on a single project (that doesn’t need that many)?

        1. bumblebee*

          Hit submit too soon but meant to add: of course, from the OP’s letter we don’t know where they fall in that regard

        2. Frankie*

          It’s not always good. Clients don’t always have unending cash to throw at inefficient accounting. It’s hard to say what is happening with OP but no accounting firms I worked at would accept 18 hours days on the regular as it would be hard to convince clients their accounts need so many hours.

          1. OP*

            If there is a surplus of hours, it wouldn’t be billed to the client, it would be written off. My write offs / recovery are on par with the rest of my team so I don’t think this is the issue.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This is really interesting! I hadn’t considered that high billable hours could potentially be not good.

        1. A woman never gets a break*

          I suspect it’s the latter. See it in many professions. Takes twice as long for the same result so billed more hours.

    3. Just Me*

      Billable (or chargeable) hours are hours spent working on a client’s job. But that doesn’t mean the client actually gets billed for that much. If I am working on a job, and it takes me 20 hours, but the partner knows he can only charge the equivalent of 10-12 hours, the extra 8-10 hours I billed to the client get written off. Write offs are not necessarily a big deal when you start out, but it is assumed you’ll get faster and more efficient with experience, and your write off hours will go down. So turning in the most billable hours is only a good thing if the clients are actually getting charged for all of those hours.

      Also, in 30 years as an accountant, I have never known anyone who regularly works 18 hour days, even during tax season. That would never fly in my firm. We aren’t supposed to work more than 12 hours in a day ever, and those days are rare. Non tax season, we are expected to keep regular 8 hour days except in a big emergency. OP, get out quickly if this is expected of you! If it isn’t expected, just stop doing it. It is terrible for both your physical and mental well being.

      1. OP*

        Thank you, this is a really interesting perspective. A firm that monitors and regulates hours to that degree sounds like a dream! I’ve taken this feedback onboard and will definitely be reducing my hours, prioritising my mental health and using some of the extra free time to job search. Thanks again for your comment.

  24. Saberise*

    So I’m not super familiar with how chargeable hours work with hours worked. If they stopped working 18 hour days wouldn’t their chargeable hours be a lot lower. So instead of 50% more than anyone else they would be much lower than anyone else if they were only working 8 hours?

  25. Colorado*

    Sam has been threatened by you since day 1. Maybe because your hiring wasn’t his decision? It sucks. Take Alison’s advice and get another opinion by someone who knows your work. Send us an update!

  26. Jin*

    You have been killing yourself for two years working insane hours to prove to Sam you’re capable. He still doesn’t think so. Even if you’re performing below standards as he says, he’s either not willing or not capable himself of coaching you or helping you improve. If you are performing at an acceptable or high level, he’s already demonstrated he’s not going to be convinced of that.

    Whether he’s right or not (and really sounds like he’s not), this is not a sustainable position to be in and you should start looking for other jobs right away.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Yeah, this was basically what I was thinking. Whatever the full story here, I think the LW should be jobsearching.

      It sounds like Sam has decided the LW isn’t up to the job, whether this is because of some prejudice against her or because he is sulking that he didn’t get to choose her or because he looked at her CV and figured this job would be difficult/a big change for her or because she made some mistakes in her first year and he closed his mind to any changes after this. Either that or he is a bully and manipulator who is criticising her in order to manipulate her into working unsustainable hours.

      And even if Sam actually has a point and she is underperforming in some area, well, if you have to work 18 hours and are still struggling (which doesn’t at all sound like the case here, given that she is trusted to cover for Sam in meetings, but let’s pretend) and your boss is not willing to be precise about exactly where you are falling short or give you any support to help you improve, well, in that case, it’s probably a good idea to move on, too.

      A job where you are working 18 hour days! and where your boss is constantly critical but makes no effort to help you improve is not somewhere you want to remain.

      I know “get another job” is far easier said than done but I do think the LW should be at least checking to see what’s out there. I suspect she could find something that didn’t involve such shocking hours and where she wasn’t being constantly undermined and likely manipulated.

      1. OP*

        Thank you for your advise. I’ll definitely be looking to see what’s out there and in the meantime prioritising my mental health.

  27. frenchblue*

    Sam saying OP passed probation by a “close call” already sounds off to me. Almost passive-aggressive or vindictive. I can’t articulate why, but I think it feels way more personal than it should, or patronizing? Like Sam expects OP to get on their knees and weep with joy at being granted the chance.
    I would definitely be looking to move managers or jobs.

  28. M2*

    I would ask around and talk to others.

    I am not saying this is what is happening but there is someone on a different team that I work with often. They have been here a few years but their former line manager did not manage them so they have a new manager. The above person is at senior level.

    They work crazy hours and think they are doing a lot of work but they aren’t getting done what needs to get done. What should take them 1-2 hours takes them 8. What should take 10 minutes will take them 1-2 hours. I am not joking. The organization has given the training and a coach, but it’s still difficult. And it is hard to fire anyone. I don’t care what it says on here, it takes my organization 6-12 months to let you go and even then we don’t say someone is fired. If anything is not done correctly that 6-12 month period starts again. They usually get a severance too.

    Although I am more senior than them now, I am not their manager but they have negatively impacted my departments. Their former line manager never gave them a performance review and their new manager sounds like yours a bit telling them their work is not up to par but this person strongly thinks they are doing good work. People talk behind their backs. I have given constructive criticism but they are hostile afterwards. It isn’t worth it to say what everyone is thinking or give feedback if the person refuses to change. The person also will say things like, “I have been doing this for x years. I have a degree in this subject.” Who cares! If you can’t do the work it doesn’t matter.

    I work a lot of hours sometimes but just because you work longer hours does not mean you are working smarter. What you get done in 18 hours can someone else get done in less? I would find out.

    You need more guidance and feedback can you go to more colleagues and listen to what they have to say? When the person above asked around I was the only one who was honest but really I toned it down a lot. They basically told me I didn’t know what I was talking about because I don’t have a degree their niche field.

    On another note some managers do get jealous and don’t want to mentor or help you grow. That does happen. My goal is always to have those on my teams grow either by promotions or running the department if I leave or even leave for something more senior. If they want to stay in their role forever fine, but I want that to be their choice and not because they weren’t given feedback and the tools to move up or move out.

    Ask colleagues and managers. Listen. Might you switch managers or move to a different department? Your manager doesn’t sound great as they don’t have concrete examples to give you and are not talking to you about these 18 hour days.

    Wishing you the best!

    1. OP*

      This is really helpful advise, thank you. I have spoken to other Senior people in my team who have reflected positively on the work I’ve done for them. My recovery (chargeable hours billed as opposed to written off) is also on par with the rest of my team. I do think more open and honest conversations with those in the team that I trust could be helpful though, if anything to gather specifics on how I can improve.

      1. lost academic*

        So, your chargeable is 50% higher than the rest of your team but your recovery is on par? That’s a problem to solve and you need actionable feedback to do it. You have to address two problems, in fact – one, the fact that you’ve got that disparity in reality, but two, that it’s visible that you do (to Sam and probably to others). That means that you’re not seen as an efficient, growing employee. You might well be, but if it doesn’t look it, it doesn’t matter. I would also take a look at how your recovery has been trending – if that’s been steadily improving it’s a good sign, but if it’s been pretty stable for awhile it’s time to change something about how you’re working.

        1. OP*

          Sorry, just to explain – if I bill 6 hours, and 3 are written off, my recovery would be 50%. If I bill 10 hours and 5 are written off, my recovery would still be 50%. In your experience should an increase in billable hours mean an increase in recovery rate?

          1. lost academic*

            The way you put it in your first comment, the recovery was in hours, not a percentage.

            In my field, I don’t want time to be written off – I want time billed to the project to be estimated correctly, worked by the right person, at the right rate. That’s not always going to be possible – maybe I’m putting someone on a project that needs to use it as a learning opportunity and it will take them more time, or they make a mistake I’m not willing or able to bill to the client under the existing scope but it takes additional time to get fixed by someone, or maybe we just made a judgment error in the scope. We use nonbillable project codes for training that can be used for time that’s actually training to do work if it can’t actually be billed so that we’re capturing it in a way that allows us to evaluate staff utilization. We use utilization rates rather than annual billable goals but the time that isn’t billable is never supposed to be written off time, it’s supposed to be time you needed to spend doing truly nonbillable work – administrative tasks, invoice review, business development, educational or training time, etc.

            I can’t really speak to the specifics in your field because I don’t know what the expected profit margins are for staff at various levels, different work, companies overall, and I know there’s a wide variance across industries. So I can’t really answer your question about an increase in billable hours resulting in an increased recovery rate, but in general if I saw someone working that much more in a given period, I would assume it was all work that really could be billed or why the hell would they be working that much versus passing it off to someone who had more capacity (and the ability to do the work)? For us, there’s really a set amount of nonbillable work that usually happens in a given period outside of things like annual training or conferences or whatever. If I’ve got someone with 2-3 years of experience and they documented 40 hours in a week, I’d expected typically 90% of that time to be valid billable hours, with some variability. If they put down 50 or 60 hours on a timesheet, I’d really assume that all that extra time was all billable (and would not result in a write off).

        2. HB*

          “That’s a problem to solve and you need actionable feedback to do it.”

          No. Recovery (where I am it’s called realization) is a percentage. If I bill 500 hours and have 75% realization then that means the firm charged 375 hours and wrote off 125.

          If OP has 50% more *billable* hours but identical realization, then the firm would be charging 187.5 more hours for her work than mine.

          If OP had *worse* realization, then the fact that she had more billable hours would be diluted. My firm used to use 1.5 as a benchmark meaning they wanted you to be 75% billable and 75% realizable. But if you had 100% realization, then technically you only needed to be 50% billable. Or if you had 50% realization, you needed to be 100% billable. Those extremes don’t work in practice though.

  29. ragazza*

    A similar thing happened to me years ago at a job. I requested a meeting with my boss and grand-boss, during which I pressed my boss to give examples of my subpar work. Aside from one, which in the context of the amount of work I was doing was hardly indicative of the quality of my contributions, he couldn’t come up with any. Long story short, I got moved to a different manager and that guy (who I found out later was known among other coworkers as a huge jerk and a rabid misogynist) quit to go to law school.

    So it might be worth forcing your boss to come up with justifications in front of HIS boss, or HR.

  30. Cyprus*

    Yeah, 95% chance there is something fishy going on with Sam. The 18-hour days did stick out to me though as a potential explanation. You might be turning in flawless work, but is it taking you 8-10 hours extra a day to complete that work compared to your peers? Are you spending so much time on this that it’s preventing you from taking on other work/clients/higher level work?

    I’ve previously had employees where this was a concern. They were completing their work but staying later than the rest of the team to do so. I had to explain on multiple occasions that, even if the quality of their work was good, taking that much time to complete it was a performance concern.

    I’ve never worked a job with billable hours though, so perhaps that context changes things.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I took that as “nobody is perfect, but Sam unreasonably expects perfection, so I have to work double the hours so there are never any mistakes, ever”. Like the LW is bending over backwards and triple checking work in a way that is not expected of anyone else. (See the 35 year director still making mistakes.) And LW is only just now starting to suspect they will never be good enough.

    2. OP*

      I think this is a fair perspective. My recoverables (the amount of my chargeable hours billed) are on par with others in the team, but perhaps I need to ease off on the hours and try and turn things around more swiftly. Thanks for your advice.

  31. The Baconing*

    I wonder if OP has asked Sam for help establishing metrics with solid, quantifiable end results that would show growth/progress in such a way as to fulfill Sam’s guidelines for being ‘caught up’?

    If OP did give that a try and Sam refused or the end result was poor, I think it would go a long way in proving that it really is Sam and not the OP. Also, if Sam can’t provide help establishing those milestones, it might go a long way in working with the company to try to move to a different manager.

    1. OP*

      My concern with this is how reasonable and achievable the metrics would be. Thank you for your advice though, I’ll definitely think it over.

      1. lost academic*

        This discussion is making me reflect on a chat I had with friend who moved from consulting to industry and up a couple positions over the last few years. We were discussing the perceived and real differences between consulting and industry positions, and one that’s both different but actually similar is the concept that it actually matters MORE what your management chain THINKS of you and your work then any quantifiable metric. Managing the perception of your priorities, your work, your goals, your commitment to certain strategies or initiatives, etc – those are actually more important in reality then the billability. In consulting it’s just a little harder to see that (but it’s critical once you’re out of a truly junior role), and it’s paramount in industry.

        OP, I think no matter how much we all try to advise on your work and feedback and things you can do that are measurable, I think you might just be in an untenable position with Sam and some of your comments about his role and position solidified that for me. If you can’t change his mind about you, it doesn’t matter at this company what else you’re doing on paper. And you may or may not be able to change his mind. You should definitely consider the work-specific advice I and everyone else has given you, but the reality is that I think your BEST possible outcome, where Sam does a 180 on you, is unrealistic, and maybe the next best thing would be passive acceptance or neglect of you. So…. do what you need to do to protect your reputation and improve your workflow, consider the political side and what you might have been able to do differently in hindsight for next time, and get out. Don’t burn any bridges (including with Sam) but focus on the next step.

  32. Chairman of the Bored*

    Seems like a “Mattingly, I thought I told you to trim those sideburns!” situation at this point.

    I wouldn’t put much effort into trying to change Sam’s mind, and would instead job hunt a bit and put together a case to present to *his* boss if his concerns ever get escalated that high.

  33. Penguin*

    This happened to me – being told my writing quality needed to “uplevel” with no specific direction as to what was insufficient, and when I tried new things in an attempt to “uplevel” was not given feedback about the things I worked to change. Then I was put on a performance improvement plan and I took the severance because it is impossible to make someone happy who refuses to outline the standards and clarify what is insufficient about the work.

    Talk to HR and also start applying for other jobs. You should not have to work 50% more than anyone else.

  34. r.*

    I think its likely there’s bad work here — but it isn’t LWs work.

    I am at a loss how a manager could tolerate employees working 18 hour work days regularly, including things not part of their core competency like covering for the manager, then turn around and critique people for lack of attention to detail, and consider themselves a competent manager.

    That works ocassionally, but at one point degradation sets in inevitably. Places like Goldman Sachs (of course; who else would it be?) did a lot of work to basically how much attention to detail you can wring out of junior analysts fresh out of college, but even they arrived to the conclusion that a) at one point you just need to let them rest, and b) this only works for junior analysts in the intensity they were doing it. For knowledge work, the toll of overwork increases with as we age.

    So if you’re working employees to the point where the whipwranglers as GS would be like, “wait a sec, that’s not really a productive thing you’re doing there anymore”, then you, uh, might have certain issues with your management methodology.

  35. Yup*

    Regularly putting in 18-hour days as normal is ringing all kinds of bells for me, over and above the Sam issue. You simply cannot perform well while working like this on a regular basis. This is humanly unsustainable, and trying to prove your worth by spending your life in the office (and not spending time sleeping and not-working) is a recipe for burnout. And if you burn out, your company will not care one iota.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly this. There’s a real risk that the LW’s ridiculous hours are leading her to be much slower than she otherwise would be. There’s no way she’s not sleep deprived. We know that sleep deprivation is bad for cognition. It’s possible that 10 hours of tasks (made up number) are taking 18 hours because of exhaustion.

      LW, please take a few weeks totally off work as soon as you can!

      1. OP*

        Thank you for your advise – will definitely be taking a step back and prioritising my mental health.

        1. Elbe*

          How frequently do you work such long days? Does this happen multiple times a week, or just one day during month-end close?

          Working one or two very long days a month isn’t uncommon for some roles, and a different company may have the same needs. But if it’s happening more regular than that, it’s probably an issue with your current company and I think you can find better elsewhere.

  36. Grith*

    Sam is getting 18 hour days, 50% higher quantity of billable hours and effectively a junior working as his deputy out of you. And he is presumably not paying you a penny extra for all that additional work and profitability.

    This stinks of just being a bad management technique, and unfortunately, it’s one that you’re validating. First thing you need to do is cut back to a more reasonable number of hours – worst case scenario, the feedback is unchanged and you suddenly get your evenings back. Best case, he realises this “negging” management technique isn’t working on you any more and/or stops seeing you as being so inefficient you need to work 18 hour days.

  37. Siege*

    Sam is negging you into doing more for less. I’m guessing you’re not getting paid for ten hours of OT a day, and that means Sam has two employees for the price of one – he just has to treat you like crap to get it, which he’s very comfortable doing. This is a win for Sam, and it may have been a win for you at one time as you learned about your area of work but it now categorically is not, and you should take whatever steps you need to to focus on yourself.

  38. Ellen*

    I agree with everyone that the fact that Sam can’t give you any feedback is pretty damning.

    But there are a few things that stuck out to me: that you agreed with Sam that you would need to play catch-up in this job; that you agreed with his feedback that you needed better attention to detail; and that you’re working 18-hour days in order to complete your work. Is it possible that you’re still lacking that attention to detail, or that your colleagues are completing similar work in 8- or 10-hour days? If either of those was the case, I could see why Sam would be concerned. (Although, again, he should be able to explain it if that’s the case.)

    Most likely it’s a problem with him, but the fact that you agreed with his criticism in the past and are working such long hours stuck out to me as unusual!

    1. OP*

      *dusts off running shoes and CV*

      Thank you for your advise, I’ll be prioritising my mental health going forward and job searching with the spare time.

    2. OP*

      I think agreeing with Sam’s criticism in the past was because he’s been doing this job for 40 years and I’m very new. Had no reason to doubt that the feedback given at the outset (especially on day 1) wasn’t in my best interests.

  39. Goldenrod*

    Agreeing with the other commenters (and Alison) that the problem is Sam.

    It seems clear that he was biased against you from the start. This is one of my biggest frustrations with the work world – Sam gets to tell the story of your work performance, due to his positional power. In this case, the story he tells is pure fiction.

    You just need to get away from Sam. He is invested in his made-up story about you being a failure, and he will never see you a different way.

    I hope we get an update. Good luck!

    1. Launch*

      It seems clear that he was biased against you from the start. This is one of my biggest frustrations with the work world – Sam gets to tell the story of your work performance, due to his positional power. In this case, the story he tells is pure fiction.

      You just need to get away from Sam. He is invested in his made-up story about you being a failure, and he will never see you a different way.

      This is a perfect summary of so much that is wrong with employment, with the nonsense that poor OP is being inflicted with, and with the many variations of Sam I’ve seen in my time.

      OP, the problem is Sam. You need to get away from him yesterday. Sure, this could be a case of Sam being completely unreasonable in his expectations, but his inability to actually provide an example of your supposedly sub-par work tells you all you need to know: there’s nothing wrong with your work (quite the opposite), and Sam knows it.

  40. owen*

    also… what about your compensation? if sam is treating you in this manner i highly doubt he’s pushing for your compensation to be increased in line with your output, and you are most likely losing out on actual monetary benefit as well as the negative mental and physical health impact of regular 18 hour days and being continually told you are not good enough. are you now earning below your peers who you are consistently billing more than?

  41. Someguy*

    To echo everyone else: 18 hour days are not sustainable and may become counterproductive.

    Out of curiosity, what does LW get our of the extra (9?) hours they are working?
    • are they able to do more focused work because there are fewer interruptions/distractions (perhaps explicitly time when not dealing with Sam)?
    • are deadlines/workloads such that they only way to do the work, pause, and review the work requires absurd hours?
    • more billable hours generally?

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I wonder how many of those 18 hours are spent filling in for Sam at meetings, and if those meeting hours are billable or not. In either case, time spent in meetings covering for Sam is time the OP is not working on their own expected deliverables. While this won’t account for 10 extra hours every day, it could easily account for an extra 10 hours per week, without any reduction in expected workload.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      I would say 18 hours days are almost certainly counterproductive. I remember my Leaving Cert. year, I was probably at school, doing homework or studying 10-12 hours a day and honestly, I could barely remember parts of that year, I was so tired. It was only years later, it occurred to me that I might have done better in my exams by working a bit less (I did well, but yeah). I cannot imagine anybody working to their full capacity while doing 18 hour days. Unless they are working from home and have a partner or parent taking care of all the household chores, it is unlikely they are getting more than 4 or 5 hours sleep a night. That’s just not sustainable is going to have a negative impact on their productivity and attention to details.

  42. Poison I.V. drip*

    Sam: “You lack attention to detail.”

    Also Sam: [cites the wrong person’s work as evidence]

    Seriously, I’m mortified if I forget to include an attachment, misattributing somebody’s work would have me looking at retiring in shame.

    1. Not saying Sam is right btw*

      Depends, did OP send the wrong doc or not? That is, did someone else make the doc and then OP sent that one by accident

      1. amoeba*

        There is absolutely nothing in the letter to suggest that reading of the situation! The OP forwarded a document that somebody else wrote and the boss criticised the content of said document. Not the fact that OP had forwarded it.

        1. Not saying Sam is right btw*

          “Sam gave me a particular report that I had sent to the client, with him cc’d. Turned out that this report had been produced by another director in the business (with 35 years experience as opposed to my 2.5) and I had just emailed it on to the client.”

          Respectfully, it is literally the situation I described. yes, the doc was made by someone with more experience, but that doesn’t make it the right document for the circumstances & the boss would be correct in looking askance at that.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            Except that wasn’t what happened.

            Sam took issue with the content of the report when he thought OP had written it.

            1. Not saying Sam is right btw*

              There are three options:

              1. Sam only had a problem with the report when he thought OP had written it.

              2. Sam had a problem with the report because it was wrong & OP “just sent it on”.

              3. Sam had a problem with OP only because the report was valid for some other use and he was upset that OP “just sent it on” without verifying, i.e. OP sent along old documents.

              It could be #1 but if there’s any chance that it could be 2 or 3, OP shouldn’t include that in their discussion because if it does turn out OP messed up, Sam sounds like the kind of person to use that one mistake to ignore everything else OP is saying. But “just sending on” the wrong document does sound like a valid error & it does no good to the OP to ignore that possibility.

  43. Coffee Protein Drink*

    Sam seems to feel threatened. When one person is the only person giving negative feedback, that says a lot.

    This isn’t a management style, it’s borderline gaslighting, making LW doubt themselves.

    Also, 18 hour days is not enough to include meals, sleep, or bathroom breaks. Please stop!

    1. phira*

      Like, sorry to reply to my own comment here, but if you work an 18 hour day then you are essentially working an entire part-time work week in a single day. This is outrageous. No. Don’t do this. Oh no.

      1. OP*

        18 hour days aren’t that unusual, is it? Point taken though – its not benefitting anyone but the Sam’s of the world and my priority needs to be my mental health.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I can’t speak for accounting, but 18 hour days are VERY unusual in my experience, unless it’s an infrequent one-off. It’s one thing if you worked an 18 hour day right before a big project was due, but doing it regularly isn’t good for you.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I’ll speak for myself, and I’m not an accountant, but I’m rarely even AWAKE for 18 hours a day. Much less at work. And even in accounting during the busy season, there’s a point of diminishing returns – at some point your brain is just not functioning at a high enough level to do good work.

        3. Productivity Pigeon*

          I’m former management consultant. 18 hours days as not common and not normal.

        4. DisneyChannelThis*

          5 work days a week times 8 hours a day is a “standard” 40 hour week. Many jobs add a 30min-60min unpaid lunch time each of those 5 days as well.

          Even if just one day a week at 18hrs, that’s too much.
          18*5 is a 90hr work week.
          18*3+2*8 is a 70 hour week.
          18*1+4*8 is a 50 hour week.

          In your 20s and 30s especially, is a good time to invest in your physical and mental well being, the habits you can form then will carry through the rest of your life. Physical decline starts eventually, the more you can make good habits and investments into health *now* the better off you will be in your 50s, 60s, 70s. Don’t sacrifice time each day for well being to your job(s). Try out new hobbies, find relaxing and meaningful things that aren’t work. Carry those with you for the next several decades.

        5. anon_sighing*

          Surely, this is a joke? Can I ask kindly why you think 18 hour days aren’t unusual? I notice from your spelling in other comments that you aren’t US-based (colour vs color), so would this be cultural? I know enough about the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada to know it’s not normal there and I’m not even from there…the only place where an 18 hr day would be “normal” is South Korea…and all S. Korean colleagues I’ve had through the years *know* that they have the lowest productivity among OECD countries in relation to hours worked (and they work the highest hours).

          So I really wonder why you think it’s normal when the country that’s known for absurdly long work hours is self-aware.

        6. Beth*

          Yes, 18 hour days are very unusual. Salaried roles often stretch the 40 hour work week a little–it’s not uncommon for me to work a 45 hour week, which means 9 hour days. Some industries push harder than others, of course; things like big law, consulting, and medicine are known for having long hours, especially for junior staff. But those are edge cases that are widely known for burning people out and having a high attrition rate. Most people can’t and won’t do that regularly.

          It’s more common to work an occasional long day, e.g. to typically work 8-9 hours but go into the night when there’s a sudden emergency that needs to be resolved ASAP. But even then, I’ve never gone over a 12 hour day. An 18 hour work day only leaves you 6 hours in the day to commute home, spend time with family and friends, do chores like bathing/cooking/cleaning, and sleep. Very few people would be willing to do that even occasionally.

        7. Jin*

          I am not in accounting but worked a high intensity job early in my career – 70-85 hours a week. Six days a week. I don’t think I ever worked 18 hours straight during that time; even then I maxed out at like 14 hours a day and that was brutal, with an average of like 13 (8am-9pm).

          Friend, how are you doing laundry? Eating? You can’t be sleeping enough.

          1. OP*

            Point taken guys – I will cut back, prioritise my mental health and reassess! I think working at this firm for a little while has potentially warped my reality. Thank you all for your kind comments.

            1. clockworks*

              Unfortunately, OP, we’re past potentially. Consistent 18 hour days may well put you in the hospital due to various complications from sleep deprivation. It’s like trying to function while drunk. This is an all of your health issue – physical and emotional, as well as mental health. Take care of yourself and get time to sleep again so your brain can make reasonable decisions again.

            2. Ritxa*

              OP I can advise to network inside and outside your company. It seems you are yet to gather more insider, informal information on how your industry / company functions. If you are off about the usual hours, you need to brush up on those, also salaries, packages, perks etc. This is also attention to detail, believe me as someone who slept on those critical info far too long. There are industry networks, professional women networks, POC networks

        8. Observer*

          18 hour days aren’t that unusual, is it?

          Perhaps with the exception of some sectors of investment banking and law firms (which are both known for chewing people up and spitting them out), this is absolutely unusual.

          And it’s toxic and unsustainable. It’s not just a matter of your mental health. It just not possible for a typical, otherwise physically healthy person to fulfill their physical needs, never mind have any sort of relationship or outside obligations.

        9. Boof*

          In my medical residency (which generally adhered to several of the negative stereotypes about medical residency) there were a few 18 hr shifts on inpatient service. It’s long enough ago that i don’t remember details (plus i swore “been there, done that; never again” to myself and picked a place that doesn’t really do that to anyone) but those were for one month, max, at a time. Do not recommend 80 hr work weeks as a long term plan to anyone; i only did it because it had a time limit (3 years) and it did beef up my clinical skills by sheer, vaguely terrifying volume, but not the way i’d run training anymore now that “i’m in charge” (ish)

        10. Quandong*

          Um. I have never ever worked an 18 hour day in my life, even at the busiest time for my industry. I haven’t even worked for 12 hours in any one day.

          OP I think your idea of what is normal for working hours is seriously warped by your experience and/or your company.

          For your health and wellbeing, please don’t accept this as normal!

        11. KateM*

          You do realize that there are 24 hours in a day? And that 18-hour workday leaves you 6 hours for sleep, commute, breakfast/dinner and everything else?

        12. londonedit*

          I mean, I work in publishing and not in accountancy/law/banking/emergency medicine but I have never, ever in my life heard of anyone in my industry working 18-hour days. Fairly sure that would translate to less than minimum wage if you converted my salary into an hourly rate. I can’t imagine working one 18-hour day, let alone doing it every day. In my industry the general attitude is that if you’re struggling to fit your work into a normal working week (which here in the UK is usually 35 or 37.5 hours) then you need to have a conversation with your manager, because something is clearly wrong with your workload and you most likely need support. Working 18-hour days would be so far outside the norm that I can’t even imagine what my boss would say if I told him that’s what I’d done.

        13. Inconvenient Indian*

          I’ll reply as someone who worked 18 hour days regularly for a number of years just so you can measure my career against yours. 18 hour days was normal for me as a soldier on operations. It wasn’t normal during most training periods – but during ops, definitely. I’ll also note that we were given drugs to support us staying awake and alert during those times. That said, you don’t sound military and, even if you were, I’d question the necessity of 18-hour (or longer) shifts for our payroll clerks or budget officers. So OP – are you on life and death operations and given drugs to keep you awake and alert?

  44. Endless Worker*

    While it sounds like sexism or racism is a possibility, I had a similar situation as a white male reporting into another white male. This was just part of his deluded management strategy. I transferred to another team and all of a sudden became a top performer all while working many fewer hours. I highly recommend trying to transfer teams or look for another role if that’s not possible. This job will eventually harm your self esteem if it hasn’t already.

  45. AnonInCanada*

    Something smells fishy, alright. Do we know OP’s gender? Could it be that Sam has some sexist bias because in his mind “a woman should never outperform a man” and is knocking OP’s self-esteem down in a show of superiority? Or is it ageism–“how dare this young’un have such impeccable attention to detail, better knock ’em down a few pegs?”

    Whatever it is, it’s not on OP. It’s 100% of this dirtbag Sam. Maybe OP can find another job in the same industry so they can stay far away from this unappreciative jerk. I’m sorry OP has to deal with this.

    1. OP*

      Thanks for your kind works. As mentioned in other comments I am a woman of colour in my 20s and Sam is a white male in his 50s – I didn’t think about it from that perspective unfortunately and it would be a real shame if that’s what happening here.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “I am a woman of colour in my 20s and Sam is a white male in his 50s”

        OP, you buried the lede!!!!

        This is MASSIVELY relevant, and I’m so sorry you have to deal with this, but I feel like you must consider that it is EXTREMELY likely that Sam is biased against you based on both your gender and your race. Which (in America, anyway) is illegal, but hard to prove, of course. But my god. This is almost definitely a factor in Sam’s bullshit treatment of you. And something you could pursue legally, were you so inclined.

      2. Boof*

        I have to admit, sometimes I think the “what about the demographics” comments are fishing and it’s not always true, But this kind of reads like an unfortunate bingo card. You have a dude questioning your qualifications apparently without any merit and from your perceptions (which honestly strike me as very forgiving and like you automatically self reflect first and don’t speculate someone else is the problem without a thesis level of proof) judging you by a double standard; STINKS OF BIAS :(

      3. Boof*

        … are you by any chance paid less than your colleagues who just happen to be more like sam in appearance for doing similar work? Have you asked your colleagues about their salary? If you don’t know, please start making inquiries to those who are are on a similar level to you and/or more junior

  46. tree frog*

    Sam sounds a lot like a manager I once had who was angry that he hadn’t hired me himself and took every opportunity to make my life worse. He would accuse me of things I hadn’t done and wouldn’t be able to back them up, but would constantly tell me about complaints he had received from others about times I had supposedly refused work and other fictions.

    This Sam seems like he might be on a similar power trip. Even if his feedback isn’t 100% made up (which it sounds like it could well be), it sounds like he’s not going to be happy no matter how much time and energy you pour into this job. Don’t let this weird, petty man hold your well-being hostage.

  47. A Simple Narwhal*

    Whether it’s for a good reason or not (and I suspect not), Sam absolutely does not want you to succeed and will never allow you to. You need another manager, and if that means leaving the company then unfortunately so be it. I know that “just get another job” isn’t easy or fast advice, but there is no amount of time or effort that will make Sam treat you like a person. It sucks, but Sam sucks even more and isn’t going to change.

    I really hope you can get out before you are permanently affected, physically and/or mentally, those 18 hour days are not good for you. Sending good thoughts your way!

  48. Trawna*

    Sounds like Sam had the perfect reason for doing what he did – to turn OP into an insecure super-performing workhorse who makes him look good. Heaven-forbid OP regain their confidence and change jobs or teams!

    OP – you are a star. Take your wonderful self to a better job before you burnout.

  49. Happy Pineapple*

    I’ve had a very similar experience in the past. Direct manager reviewed me as underperforming while not being able to give any examples of shortcomings or how I could improve. Meanwhile all my deadlines are being reached and I’m receiving praise from everyone else.

    There’s nothing you can do except change managers or jobs. Your manager either thinks you will never be good enough or else, wrongly, thinks the way to get good employees to become stellar employees is to motivate them with criticism.

  50. zlionsfan*

    My experience has been that when someone in your chain of command thinks you need a PIP and everyone else thinks you’re doing great work, that person has decided that you will not succeed under them, and that the only way to resolve the problem is for one of you to leave, either for another team or for another company.

    If you are not in a situation where someone above Sam can stop what he is doing, then it’s probably best for you to get out from under him. If you feel good about the rest of the firm (environment, team members, folks on other teams, work hours), then trying to move to another team is probably worth looking into. If anything else about the firm doesn’t seem right, it might be better just to look elsewhere, especially if Sam has support – if upper management knows about Sam and he’s still there, they’re part of the problem.

    1. OP*

      Unfortunately, Sam is upper management! But thank you for your advise, think its time to find a new role.

  51. Gnomes*

    Anyone else feel like this boss/employee relationship has all the hallmarks of a classic abusive relationship? Make the person feel like they aren’t good enough and that they’re lucky to be here, make the person spend all of their time and attention (18 hour days?!?) focused on changing themselves to do and be better, give the person small bits of positive feedback and praise (how does OP know their billable hours are so much higher?), but then keep them off kilter and insecure so that they continue to put all of their time and effort into doing and being better in order to live up to the (impossible) standards and requirements that the abuser has set….

    It must be really really nice to have (and have had for the last 2.5 years) this super high performer making him look good for the last 2.5 years.

    OP, if I were you, I would go to your boss’s boss, tell them how you’ve been treated. Tell them that you’ve been doing your boss’s work for him. Put them on notice how you’ve been treated and what has been asked of you. Ask them if this is appropriate behavior for your boss. Because I don’t think it is, and you need to waive a flag here. You can’t sustain this. Either you need a new boss, or you need a new job.

    Good luck!!!

  52. Petty Betty*

    You will never be caught up to Sam’s standards because Sam is going to continually move the goalposts. It’s time to move on, whether that’s transferring out from under Sam’s purview or out of the company entirely, you have got to go.

    In the meantime, go above Sam’s head. Head to HR and discuss the “catch up” commentary from the beginning, and how much you’ve worked to “catch up”, and describe everything you have in this letter, how you’re covering for him when you need to, how you’re receiving glowing feedback from others, etc., yet Sam is still saying you aren’t where he thinks you should be, but can’t give you examples of anything concrete about your failings and that you think there’s a bias meant to keep you down and that you’d like your evaluations done fairly by someone else and you’d like to be transferred to someone other than Sam.

    Stop working 18 hour days. Stop covering for Sam when he can’t attend meetings. Sorry, if you’re failing so much that he feels you need to be “catching up”, then you can’t possibly be attending meetings on his behalf. Leverage those glowing reviews into recommendations or references and start job hunting.

    1. OP*

      Thank you – that’s really helpful advise. You’re right – no more covering in meetings. As mentioned in other comments, there isn’t another team I can transition into unfortunately, however will be prioritising my mental health and looking for new roles.

  53. anotherfan*

    I had the same thing happen — working harder than anybody else, no problems from other managers, worked with a coach on my own time — and my specific manager’s criticism was very non-specific: “do better,” “you’re not reaching the bar I expect,” “you know what you should do, you’re a professional, aren’t you?” They were tactics of a bullying boss, who often pulls out one victim chosen for whatever reason and leans hard into them until they quit, then they move on to someone else. I don’t come from a dysfunctional family so abuse was new to me, but I remember leaving my boss’s office, where I was convinced I was the worst employee who had ever been hired and, once the door closed, thinking “what did I just agree to? that’s nuts.”

    There was never any kind of formal discipline like a PIP. We used to call this kind of thing “double secret probation.”

    At that point, I figured I was going to be fired anyway and had no recourse with my boss and scheduled a meeting with my bosses boss and we had a very nice chat where he said that he noticed I did more work than other people in the office and we talked about ‘first impressions’ and he asked what I’d like to be the outcome of our discussion. I said I loved my job, but I didn’t think I could work successfully with my current manager and to give me a chance somewhere else, and he did.

    It worked out for me but ymmv. Just one scenario for you to consider.

    1. OP*

      It must have taken so much courage for you to speak to your bosses boss – well done for doing that. Your experience is really heartwarming and reassuring. Unfortunately, Sam is the head of the Sector and really the top of the food chain in Europe at the firm I’m in.

  54. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    I worked for a Sam. My work was excellent, and I got praise from outside services/clients that specifically mentioned my work. But according to Sam, I was an underperformer. The issue was that Sam did not like women and particulary POC in positions of authority. Fortunately my work was good enough to withstand Sam and eventually their negativity lessened but simmered on a lower burner. The LW has been there long enough to develop an excellent work reputation. Maybe it’s time to cash in some of those chips and speak with Sam’s manager. Show them your output and feedback and ask excactly how you can improve.

  55. Smuckers*

    What is the ratio of hours your coworkers working/billing compared to you? How many hours does your average coworker put in?

    Working an 18 hour day should result in closer to a doubling of billable hours if the ratios are the same and your coworkers work more sustainable 8-9 hour days.

    For example, if your average coworker puts in a 9 hour day and bills 8 hours, and it takes you 18 hours to bill 12 hours, then all those extra hours are not helping you much. To me, that says that there is some sort of struggle there, you’ve taken on a disproportionate share of non-billable tasks, or those extra hours are not productive because you’re too tired.

    1. OP*

      The terminology was that I “regularly” work 18 hour days – not every day that I work is an 18 hour day. There is another metric that’s used to assess how much of the chargeable time recorded is recovered (the recovery), and my recovery is on par with other in the team. Thanks for your advise though, its good to receive insights into what the possible causes may be.

  56. StarTrek Nutcase*

    To me, it sounds like Sam doesn’t want you confident but rather concerned. I had a supervisor who consistently tried to find “examples” of things she said I did wrong – but like Sam couldn’t. I firmly believe she felt threatened by me. In my case, I had better skills & experience but had deliberately taken a low level job to simply coast my last years to retirement. My work was excellent though easy (always praised by higher uppers, which she hated) but nothing I said could convince her even if she got hit by a bus I would *never* accept her job. After 1 yr, I changed departments simply to get away from her.

    LW needs to spend some time seriously considering who’s the problem – her or Sam. I suspect Sam.

  57. I edit everything*

    Sam: OP, why have you cut back on your hours?
    OP: I really took your advice to heart, boss, and I’m using the extra time to improve my technical knowledge, just like you wanted. If you have some examples of my work that you think could be improved or more specific shortcomings to help me focus my efforts, that would be helpful.
    Sam: I really think just doing the work will be most helpful.
    OP: Well, I looked into that, and it turns out productivity actually improves if you’re not working 18-hour days, so I figure that’s a great place to start. Give m some improvements you’d like to see, and a time frame, and we can check in. What do you say?
    Sam: ……

    1. OP*

      *copies and pastes comment to use as a script*

      Thank you very much – this is incredibly helpful.

      1. lost academic*

        Please don’t say that. It’s definitely going to be seen as passive aggressive and since Sam is your manager, you can’t win anything by saying something like this.

          1. lost academic*

            Someone who is as Sam is described above is not going to take the words delivered in any tone as something to be received on its merits by a subordinate.

            (Also, we’ve all really focused on the long hours but I went back and noticed that Sam has not apparently noticed or commented on anything indicating they are either positive or negative – including any comment about the work volume – so it’s probably entirely out of place unless there’s new information.)

        1. Boof*

          I think OP is awesome and forewarned that there is no pleasing Sam, OP might be able to pull off a series of cheery blowoffs to Sam – come in with their own performance review of themselves “I set a goal to not work more than (40 hours? whatever is normal in the industry) and still generate (Y billable hours – where Y is something that is on par with peers) and I achieved it!” (sam grumbles) “I understood that’s what (peers) are doing, is there a reason you’re expecting I do something different?” etc etc – become the master of touting how good your metrics actually are, soft call outs when held to a different standard, then waltz out of there once something better is lined up. Hard to do but IDK, might keep Sam on his backheel until you can find something better.

          1. Boof*

            Offer to pull in peers and other folks as needed to assist your case if Sam flat out lies about what others are doing and/or thinking about your work, too! “wow that’s not what I heard at all, let’s go get them here and we can straighten this out!”

  58. gmg22*

    Lot of commenters here jumping to the assumption that LW must just be “taking too many hours” to get their work done. If so, why wouldn’t Sam have just straight up said: “LW, you need to improve your efficiency”? Instead, the negative feedback was based on an alleged error by LW (that was actually made by someone else). Failing that, wouldn’t other colleagues/directors depending on timely inputs have said something? Instead, we’re told that “all the written feedback I have received from others in the team has been glowing.” No one at this company has said they have a problem with LW except Sam. That would be very unlikely to be the case were LW actually not getting things done fast enough to keep up with workflow.

    1. OP*

      The alleged error in the report was “use of a double negative” too. Cherry on the cake! Thank you for your advice.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        And many of us wouldn’t even have caught that. Or assumed it was just a typo, nothing to be concerned about it.

    2. lost academic*

      I’ll play devil’s advocate to this comment (which also might be true):

      * Sam is clearly not providing useful feedback, so not providing feedback about the efficiency might just be on par with the poor management. Lots of reasons – including not caring if OP improves, particularly if OPs metrics aren’t part of his to a large enough extent.
      * Sam as the line manager has a different relationship in all likelihood then others on the team. In my case, if I’m using staff that don’t report to me on my projects, I only NEED to care that I get quality work when I need it and for the billed time I expect (assuming I’m responsible for the budget). I don’t need to concern myself with how long it really took to get to me as long as it didn’t create any problems for my budget or timeline and I really don’t need to care if it was efficient if OP’s improvement as an employee isn’t under my purview.
      * In my field, the most common response to problems working with project staff is just radio silence (or only a comment of some type to that person’s line manager). There’s not a ton of direct negative feedback – some of it’s just avoidance, but those people won’t work with you again if they don’t have to, so that’s really the only sign that there MIGHT be a problem. So positive feedback is more likely and certainly more clear and memorable.

  59. Ms. Anne Thropy*

    Get out. You shouldn’t be working 18 hour days no matter what the feedback is. Sam has found a way to get you to work the hours of two employees for the salary of one, and still doubt yourself.

  60. OP*

    Thank you for this advise, it’s really helpful and has put things into perspective for me. I think it’s so easy to believe that feedback received from Managers is always 100% accurate and a reflection of the facts on the ground. This has helped me to understand that (A) that might not be the case!, and (B) even if it is, leaving doesn’t mean I’m giving up / admitting defeat.

    Unfortunately Sam is the most senior person in my Sector at the firm, and brings in a lot of money for the firm. There’s not a team I can switch to that wouldn’t be in his remit. I’ll take the advice of scaling back the hours, prioritising my mental health and using some of the additional time to job hunt.

    Thank you again – this feels like a massive weight off my shoulders.

    1. Bird names*

      I am so sorry that you’re dealing with this LW. Fingers crossed for a workable solution, whatever you decide and hopefully much fewer hours for you going forward.
      It’s not admitting defeat to put yourself first. That is in fact that best longterm move you can make for yourself and your life.
      “Laziness does not exist” by Dr. Devon Price helps both address the cultural mindset that underpins most of todays approach to work and also highlights how marginalization unfortunately primes us for burnout and overwork.
      Best of luck!

    2. Dedicated1776*

      Making some assumptions here, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong: You aren’t in the US, and you work in advisory, not assurance. I’ve only worked assurance and industry in the US, but I’ve been doing it for 19 years, and I can say Sam sounds like a jackass, and those hours are insane. I don’t think I’ve ever worked a day that long unless you include travel time. Not sure about where you are, but accountants are very in-demand here. Just get out.

    3. J!*

      Girl, get out. Find another job, there is no reason you should be working this much more than your colleagues for so little reward.

    4. Goldenrod*

      By the way, just based on your comments on this page, you sound like an absolutely lovely and deserving person.

      Please send us an update when you (inevitably) land somewhere better, with a boss who values and appreciates you!

  61. Slaw*

    I’m sorry, but “regularly working 18 hour days” is not a badge of honor. It’s not healthy and you’re chasing a ghost that was created by your own mental image of what success and good work looks like, since your manager has done you no favors of any kind in helping you crystallize what those landmarks actually are.

    I suspect you probably aren’t giving us the whole story, and with your emphasis on how many hours you work, how much time you cover, and how many billable hours you have, you’re equating “I work a lot” to “I do good work”.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      I’m wondering what it involves, maybe 60%-70% of my job is automating stuff; everyone is always resistant and says there are too many contingencies, not realizing you can actually build all of them into a code/process. I’ve cringed at what I’ve seen people do manually. Sometimes they never thought to ask what could be automated because they think it’s impossible. But oftentimes it’s something as simple as adding a mass upload option or an additional window to a proprietary software. We have no way of knowing specifically what OP is working 18 hours on, but traditionally more junior Accounting work and any sort of financial transaction are the low-hanging fruit for my team

    2. anon_sighing*

      On 18 hrs a day work, that leaves a few hours for sleep so there is the possibility that LW is a tad touchier…esp since work is their whole life at this point. But if they’re fresh out of school, sometimes time worked = productivity doesn’t signal to me that they’re leaving something out. This is something many people think – “I work two jobs” is a common badge of “working hard” (even if they’re only doing it to make ends meat). Wasn’t there a letter last week about work-life balance and forcing people out of the office at 5pm to ensure everyone’s only working 9-5pm? There were even people in the comments who expressed they were guilt-tripped when they left work on time, even when their work was done, because others were staying later.

      The difference between “I stayed latest” and “I did the best work” is clear to you and I and maybe many others, but I don’t think it’s universal. (Frankly, if your hours are 9-5pm and you need 9-9pm to do your work – either you’re very slow or you have too much work, both things that should be addressed…but another conversation altogether).

  62. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I strongly suggest that OP have a long talk with Sam and clearly lay out what they have been doing and show results from others. Then say if their work is a problem, then they should not be covering for him in meetings, not work 18 hour days and ask him for very specific things in details that they can work to improve. I would also suggest that the OP take any negative feedback from Sam and the good results that they have done to whomever is higher than Sam. For some reason Sam has had it out for OP since they began. Maybe because they didn’t train through the company and so Sam just automatically thinks they are bad, and cant he cant get over that or something else is going on. either way Sam is not a good manager.

  63. Midwestern Communicator*

    Hi OP! I’m a younger woman who just moved out of a position like this – my much older manager was just handed me during a re-org, and started my time under him with “well I didn’t get to choose you”

    It sounds like you’ve documented everything that you’ve accomplished and have great working relationships. I would either 1. realize that Sam is never going promote you or help you move up, but you like your job so you’re okay staying. 2. Try to use internal contacts to move up and/or out to a different position in your company. 3. Take all the really great experience you have here and find a better job where you can leverage your experience for career opportunities.

    For me – I ended up internally networking and taking a role in the same industry but from a different viewpoint. I knew that my old manager wasn’t going to give me the opportunity to grow and get promoted, and that it was a no-win situation.

    I’m really sorry you’re going through this – but I would definitely write down how he’s a bad manager and what to look for when you’re looking for a new position or become a manager yourself. Every experience can be a learning one (and it sounds like you did a great job learning in this one!

    Wish you the best of luck!

  64. RJ*

    OP, I am an industry accountant and have known many Sams in my career. He is the issue, not you, as it benefits him directly to have you exactly in the position you are in. Plus, his behavior is exactly how some old school public accountants function to keep staff accountants in their roles longer than they should. He needs you working those 18 hours day working as you do but believing your work is inferior to cover his own KPIs. Run away from this place as quick as you can.

  65. Contemplating a switch*

    I posted about this in the open thread recently, but your situation is a lot like one happening in my office right now. I got hired at the same time as another person with the same job title, and we quickly picked up that our then-boss (who is now our grandboss) seemed to be giving her a higher workload and then was harsher on her results. I found out recently that the boss put my co-worker on a performance plan before her first year was up, which that co-worker passed, despite us having a pretty cyclical job where it takes a year to learn everything.

    It’s been nearly three years now and that bias our grandboss had against her never went away. The difference with your situation, OP, is that recently our grandboss found an excuse to badly berate her the night before an event my co-worker was running and then gave her notice that she wouldn’t be renewing her contract the next Monday. We’re protected by our union, but it’s basically a firing with a lot of notice (weird, I know). My co-worker was well liked in the office and she was slower at some tasks, but always did finish by the deadlines, and was incredibly good at other important aspects of the job. It’s been such a hit to morale that I know multiple people planning on leaving.

    I would second that you should ask around for the opinions of some trusted co-workers. Do they have the same concerns Sam has and they haven’t mentioned it? Is there something important you’re missing? Further, as many other commenters have mentioned, does it really seem like you need to work such long hours to get everything done? It may be good to have a reality check to make sure there isn’t anything about your performance that isn’t obvious. In the end, though, I would start looking for other jobs before Sam finds a reason to let you go. Other co-workers I’ve talked to have never been able to figure out the reason why our grandboss dislikes my one co-worker so much, and in the end it doesn’t matter- our grandboss has the power and she’s using it in a way we all find hurtful. Same goes for Sam; in the end you have to do what’s best for you, no matter his reasoning.

  66. DrSalty*

    Sounds like it’s time to move on from this learning opportunity to somewhere they will appreciate your work!

  67. pally*

    Oh, Sam’s plan is clear: denigrate OP to the point that OP doesn’t believe they qualify to do any other jobs. Then bask in the glory of OP’s accomplishments.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      I wish I saw less of these sort of takes in comment sections. I feel like every time a manager says something that isn’t perfectly worded, we get loads of “your boss is the worst ever” type comments. There is no reason to take it that far at all. Not everything is a fatal flaw or a red flag or toxic boss. In this case it’s very possible Sam will provide concrete examples if OP goes back to him. It’s also possible that some of the issues are visible to others in certain roles and they can also be asked

      1. Observer*

        In this case it’s very possible Sam will provide concrete examples if OP goes back to him. I

        Even though he could only come up with ONE example the first time he was asked, and it wasn’t even the OP’s work? And then despite being asked again he couldn’t come up with ANYTHING?

        No. He doesn’t *have* any examples.

        1. I just posted why can't I remember my username*

          My question is, if it wasn’t OP’s work, did they still send it? because if OP sent along someone else’s work, that may be a problem.

  68. Ames*

    There’s a difference in chargeable hours and billable hours. It’s possible that OP is killing Sam’s budget on client matters and he’s not articulating that clearly.

  69. AthenaC*

    Many accountants suck at providing feedback. From reading what you wrote, here are a couple possibilities:

    – In working all those hours, you are going WAY over budget for your tasks and are sinking the profitability of your jobs. If that’s the case, then of course that’s what Sam should be saying … but as I noted accountants can really suck at providing feedback. Question I would encourage you to ask: How do I find the time budget for my tasks and what is the communication protocol when I know I’m going to go over?
    – Your work is good overall but showing signs of exhaustion (i.e. sloppiness and decreased attention to detail). There’s a level of detail review that you should be expected to be pretty solid at, but at the end of the day it’s not worth your time to comb over things again and again to catch every little thing. Some of that is what the review process is for. I encourage my team members to take another look (but just ONE look and it should take no more than 20ish minutes) and then just pass it to me.
    – Sam is incompetent and is using you as a scapegoat. I wish it weren’t but this is so, so common.

    If it’s not one of the first two things, this may be an unsolvable problem at this place and you should probably move on. When you move on, the story I would tell is “no room for growth” or a “mismatch between the technical skills I had and the skills they needed” (i.e. they needed more junior people and you had worked your way up to being more senior) or something like that.

    1. lost academic*

      I don’t know how it works in finance, but in other billable fields – I can’t just bill extra hours and time outside of budget to my client because someone is taking 50% more time then it should. I would expect that to be early and often feedback to OP about the budget and I’d have thought the hours would end up on a nonbillable code (another problem) or written off (which will make Sam and others look bad) – so I’d really love to know how it works there / in this field and what OP has been told.

      1. AthenaC*

        You’re absolutely correct – I have one team member on one of my projects who decided (without any instruction from me) to work until midnight one night. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was “just going over his items again.”

        First of all, “just going over his items” should have taken at most 45 minutes. Second of all, his level of quality self-review isn’t very good. But how I have about 8 hours of “billable time” that I have to write off because nothing productive actually got done with it.

        Now that’s an extreme, albeit real-life example, but the possibility that OP was doing something along those lines was the first thing I thought of.

    2. anon_sighing*

      I wonder if LW is taking extra jobs or assignments and working them – because it did strike me as odd they could just bill hours because they wanted to work more. However, LW did ask Sam for examples of under-performance and there seemed to be none beyond that report — the sloppiness and lack of attention to detail would be easy to nail them on.

      1. lost academic*

        It’s odd, sure, but it can also just be a Sam issue of bad management and poor preparation for a review. Perhaps there are examples of actual problems that Sam didn’t document, but it’s also possible that Sam has an impression of these problems and is fitting aspects of his interactions with OP/OP’s work into that pattern – but without documentation. Tons of managers really don’t do hardly any real documentation so it’s awfully easy to not see problems that are a pattern or make assumptions that there’s a bigger pattern then there really is. It’s still on Sam to provide the examples (but since we’ve established Sam as unreliable in terms of management) OP would be best served by tracking all feedback (including making notes on verbal feedback) of all types.

        1. anon_sighing*

          It’s strange because telling someone repeatedly they’re under-performing (meaning he knows this, has seen it somewhere, something is triggering this assessment) without any feedback (how to address it, where it is, refusing to find examples after LW asks) just feels like a jerk move. I think that’s why it’s hard to accept it as incompetence and it leans toward malicious, either intentional or unintentional. It’s hard to accept that the guy wouldn’t just go “you’re not performing to standard, your work isn’t neat and detailed. It would help for you to review it more. NEXT!”

          However you make an excellent point, re: “Sam has an impression of these problems and is fitting aspects of his interactions with OP/OP’s work into that pattern” — he may think LW is aware of them. I am prone to “knowing what the problem is” but not telling anyone…or anticipating an issue with something based on previous experience with whatever it is and over-correcting. I wonder if Sam’s still thinking of the LW who was a rookie who made a ton of mistakes and can’t accept their growth – could lead to doubting their work or looking at it with an overly critical eye.

          1. OP*

            This is a really helpful perspective, thank you for sharing, I’ll keep it in mind. I think a general air of underperforming is lazy management to be honest, but perhaps I need to try harder to ask Sam to nail down specifics.

            1. lost academic*

              To give Sam the most charitable treatment (a struggle) – it’s POSSIBLE that he’s never (or it’s been a long time such that it’s meaningless now) had someone starting from where you started from and just doesn’t know how to handle you at all. He’s using the wrong yardstick, the wrong expectation for the base of your knowledge, the wrong expectation for your ramp up, etc. This can be because he never knew it / was good at it, or because it was so long ago he just doesn’t remember at all what that looks like (which is one of the reasons that very senior people are bad frontline mentors for junior staff).

              A thought that just occurred to me that someone like Sam is likely to accept is to have you report to someone else on his team that’s more junior. Someone who can help you more directly, give you more regularly and immediate feedback, but still keeps your in his management chain/team and thus he generally still reaps the benefits from your work (and is also responsible if there are indeed problems). There’s a reason so much middle management exists in this world – it’s actually necessary. That’s an action you could probably take to his boss or HR and cast it entirely in the light of something that would be most beneficial for Sam, the team and the company (never make it about benefiting you unless it’s a distant third thing to mention).

  70. Aggretsuko*

    This is what happened to me, except mine has been far more brutal.

    People are telling me these days that my supervisors were unreasonable, but frankly, I can’t tell for sure if I would be perfectly okay if I was working for other people, or not. They have screwed with my head SO MUCH. I did everything they asked for and they still had complaints.

    Sounds like OP can’t do right no matter what they do with Sam.

  71. Sneaky Squirrel*

    LW, I echo others here when I say the best advice is to find somewhere that makes you happier and to scale back those hours. Sam might just suck. But if you’re concerned about your personal quality of work and technical skills, perhaps you could ask a more trusted peer for their thoughts or review any client feedback you might have received to see if there are any hints to deficiencies.

  72. lost academic*

    I’ve been working in the billable hours fields for decades so I’m going to address something that’s not central to the question – because there’s no need to discuss Sam’s management further – he is unwilling or unable to give useful feedback and it doesn’t matter which it is – OP, you aren’t going to get valid or useful actionable feedback or guidance here, so put that aside. Find a way away from him is paramount, whether it’s at another company or on another team.

    What stood out to ME as a manager of billable staff is the 18 hours and high billables and playing devil’s advocate, I have different advice for a potential issue here (and to be clear, I’m not saying I think the OP is in the following situation but it’s possible).

    I expect junior staff to need more time on regular tasks for some time and to need additional feedback to achieve the necessary quality work, and then I expect that the time to perform that work will decrease down to a certain standard amount as experience creates efficiency. So, I expect someone to be able to do more work at a certain quality in a given 8-10 hour day or work week as they gain experience. If I see someone who’s working insane hours with the same output and quality (even if it’s good or acceptable quality) then it’s a big red flag to me, because it means that they haven’t actually gotten any better at what they are doing because it’s still taking an unreasonable amount of time. That means that the work is not likely to get to the ideal quality consistently (because 18 hours is unreasonable consistently) and OP will never be able to take on additional work because there’s no time left in the day – and isn’t likely to be asked to do the more complex work . It also suggests to me that that person doesn’t understand what they’re really supposed to be doing and they’re just putting their head down and not working smarter, maybe ever. Even beyond this being bad work practice, this is an image you need to avoid because it’ll stay with you and it’s hard to shake.

    OP, you definitely do understand that you’re in an unfair management situation without valid or actionable feedback, but focus on getting out and making sure you’re working smarter and in line with appropriate expectations.

    1. FormerAcctingManager*

      I was a manager at a big four accounting firm, and I agree with this — OP’s letter shows a lot of red flags for me on how some of our newer or outside hires interpreted feedback (and how often the managers or people in position of providing that feedback were ill-equipped to do so). Working significantly more hours or longer than the rest of the team usually indicated poor performance or otherwise lagging behind expectations in my experience.
      Also, the nature of this field is that the managers are usually also accountants and not actually trained to be good managers so tend to not be great at articulating feedback. In particular, we often would discuss staff as a group and then one person would give the feedback agreed on, so wouldn’t actually have examples to provide for follow up questions on the spot. Refusing to meet with you again is out of the norm though. I would ask again or from someone else — but be prepared to hear that time spent working and the effort you are putting in are not the same as excelling at the job.

  73. NotARealManager*

    Are you an EMT, firefighter, ER medical provider, or working frontline on disaster relief? If the answer is no then do not work 18 hours a day (and even folks in those professions work with long rests between shifts).

    The Sams of the world will not care how hard or long you work and to me it reads like he’s tricked you into doing his job for him. Try to do what Alison suggested: see if someone else can give you honest feedback and then start looking for a new job.

  74. anon_sighing*

    Ah. You’re a young woman, probably POC. Sam immediately wanted to “mentor” you in a paternalistic fashion, maybe at first even thought he was doing you a favor. But then he realized you’re not some diversity hire and you know your stuff and now he’s embarrassed – not only was he wrong, your work is likely as good or on par with his or even better. So he negs you. Your work is fine but whoops, you misspelled “antidisestablishmentarianism” and that somehow a big deal. Your report looks good but, whoops, here are a bunch of controlling, superficial edits because he can’t find anything wrong.

    This goes goes on for months or even years and Sam gets in the habit of trying to keep you down. Your response to this? To work harder, which benefits Sam but also pisses him off because now you’ve got a larger body of good work that he can’t even pick flaws in.

    Whether I am wrong or right on your age, ethnicity, or gender, you’ve tolerated this childish behavior long enough. I don’t know if you can kick it up to someone above Sam or call a meeting between them all, but no offense, there’s nothing Sam can do to you if you do that he isn’t doing already (ruining your performance review by being childish). Other than that, I would just go. Spending 18 hours a day at work is not good for you; no wonder your billable hours are 50% more, you’re working a double shift and then some.

  75. Elbe*

    If you’re a manager who is giving negative feedback to an employee, but you can’t come up with even one example of the issues you claim are present… it seems like that should be a wake-up call that your assessments are inaccurate. If I were Sam, I’d be doing some soul searching right now.

    When people are completely without proof/examples, but are so certain they’re right that they will put it in a review, there’s usually some type of bias involved. Whether it’s because of gender or race or just because he didn’t hire the LW, it seems like Sam is evaluating the LW through a warped lens.

  76. Shandra*

    OP, if you know and can share, what was the reason Sam didn’t interview you for the position?

    I also wonder if Sam wanted someone else for your position.

    1. OP*

      Sam was unwell for the first round interview, and other seniors in his team (who report to him) interviewed me. One of them has since left the firm. For the second round interview, Sam was on sabbatical.

  77. Volunteer Enforcer*

    Sam sounds like a delightful (sarcasm) former manager of mine. if she was in the wrong mood I couldn’t do anything right. I’m lucky I got to move to a different satellite office and change managers. My replacement put in her notice and this manager has been even more like Sam to her if that’s even possible. Hang in there OP.

  78. Name_Required*

    Sam was butthurt at not being involved in the interviewing/hiring of the OP and nothing the OP does is ever going to be good enough because Sam is a child. OP you need to either ask for a transfer to another manager, or have a come to Jesus with Sam, and HIS boss, or… look for another place to work. It’s unlikely you’re going to achieve higher levels with Sam blocking the path.

  79. Fight Me Sam*

    Sam is giving of misogynist vibes to me. If I were LW, I’d start shopping around for another position then once successfully interviewing and being hired away, go back to Sam requesting more feedback then drop the bomb I’m leaving in 2 weeks, just a head’s up, sorry my performance has negatively impacted the company.

    Wonder how fast he’d backpedal

  80. IT Heathen*

    Sam sounds like he has a strong case of BEC – B*tch Eating Crackers.

    Anything you do will never be good enough. He would even criticize how you eat crackers.

  81. Cj*

    I’m not sure what you mean by qualified as an accountant, but if you got your CPA license, that is like gold right now. there is an extreme shortage of cpa, and also people with accounting degrees that don’t have their cpa, especially if they are working towards it.

    do not put up with some crap you are dealing with. there are a lot better firms out there to work for. I know I’m happier at a midsize firm than I ever would be at a larger place. no right now it sucks at five of our 25 tax people are out with serious illnesses either themselves or caring for ill family members, with two weeks left in tax season. at least it’s only a few months out of the year, and even now, I will not be working 18 hour days.

  82. Franziska*

    Sam feels threatened from OP’s performance and wants to keep him “in his place”. OP is probably not far from having all the competences and social network to get his job.

  83. Gibbie*

    On the flip side, 18 hour days may be seen to be an inability to work efficiently and billing 50% more may well be putting some clients over budget. Neither of those things are favorable. Though one would hope Sam would have been specific about that.

  84. Some2*

    Sam is probably bonusing based on the massive billable hours OP is submitting trying to “catch up.” Can’t let that money train slow down at all so he “negs” OP to keep it going. Pretty pathetic if you ask me.

  85. Mia*

    Oh man. Sam SUCKS. He’s clearly the problem: your work is supposedly so lacking, but also he can’t come up with a single concrete example. Or, you needed to fix your attention to detail, so you did, and he just immediately found something else to criticize. GET OUT. But also, DOCUMENT. I see that you’ve said he’s so high up that no one will take him on- but I’d let everyone know what he’s doing on your way out the door- with as much documentation as possible.

  86. CPA but a Little Bit Fun*

    I had a boss like this in public accounting. I was also in a niche area, and those of us in that department worked busy season hours almost year-round. My boss was a tax partner, and I never felt she understood the pressures on us vs. those just in tax or just in assurance.

    OP, find another firm or move into industry if you can (and want to). I make triple in industry what I made in public, and I work less than half the hours. I got my CPA license in my 40s, and I had a boatload of applicable experience going into public accounting, but it didn’t matter. I got weird non-feedback like you describe. It was hard to leave because my self image was shot after this, but it was so, so worth it.

    Accountants have the benefit of numerous good placement agencies for our field, so get connected with some of them, and get yourself out to somewhere you are appreciated. Obviously, you are a rock star, and another, better employer will be delighted to have you.

  87. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Sam is an idiot & feels threatened by you OP. There are far too many Sams out there & so far no one seems to have figured out how to stop them from being put in management positions of power. Protect your mental & physical health and just leave the jerk in the dust. I wouldn’t even give the standard two weeks notice, he doesn’t deserve it.

  88. Properlike*

    OP, is there someone above Sam that you know? Someone you can go to in order to ask “advice” about how to deal with his expectations? In a way that will clue in the senior-senior person that you need to be moved away from Sam ASAP?

    I am extremely worried for you right now. Even in Europe, none of what you’re reporting is normal, and “prioritize your mental health” is not the takeaway at this moment. Is there a former professor/instructor from your accounting program that you could go to? I think it’s so important to find one person who understands the industry, who can law out POINT BY POINT why what’s going on is not allowed, and can immediately direct you to resources (lawyer, government investigative body, etc.) to help you with this. You don’t have enough experience at this point to know how far into deep water you are at the moment, and you seem like a really great person who deserves to find a really great position at a place that’s sane!

  89. Raida*

    Sounds like Sam either had his mind made up and lacks the critical rational thinking required to change it, or is the type of manager that puts down his direct reports to keep them 1) grateful for a job 2) not expecting big raises 3) working harder 4) working longer 5) not questioning him 6) etc etc etc

    Can’t know for sure which it is, I would think a combination where he was originally pissy at the new hire because [reason LW doesn’t know like he wanted a different candidate or wasn’t involved in the hiring], plus is a bully anyway.

    Personally, as the total bastard I am, I’d be looking at catching up with his boss and discussing what has been laid out: higher metrics, longer hours, sit in place of manager in meetings, glowing feedback = Not Doing Well, with only one example which doesn’t stack up and a refusal to catch up and discuss when there’s more examples from which to work from.

    The manager isn’t giving LW the coaching required to tackle any work issues he raises, the feedback doesn’t align, the manager isn’t providing feedback *when* an issue occurs… I don’t know if this is a deliberate tactic or if he simply cannot get past some first impressions and is behaving irrationally, but either way I’d like to know what the options are here?

  90. Polka dot door*

    Sigh… I feel for you, OP.

    All the commentariat are right; document (good advice no matter where you are), cut back your hours (18hrs/day? Life is too short), AND get the heck outta there.

    That guy sounds like he needs to make life hard for you for any number of reasons (perhaps multiple reasons).

    He could be threatened by you, be racist, sexist, biased, power drunk, or it’s about something sense for his ego, meaning, you might be starting in the same position as he did or maybe even more senior than when he started out and he’s… jealous! So he’s acting out and needs to knock you down to make himself (re: his younger self) feel more competent.

    Either way, that’s pretty sad for someone who at this point in his career could easily choose to pass on his experience and knowledge as your mentor instead of a tormentor.

    Best of luck to you!

  91. I Have RBF*

    I’ve had managers like that, where nothing, and I mean nothing was ever good enough, or right enough, or any other nitpicky stuff that didn’t materially matter. Constant negging and criticism, then complaints about my “attitude” when I didn’t immediately crawl in obeisance. It was hell, and annihilated my self esteem.

    My advice?


    Update your resume and get the hell out of there. He will only destroy you, and the longer you stay, the worse the hit to your confidence and self esteem.

    It would be one thing if the errors he pointed out were material, and he recognized your improvement. But he doesn’t, and it looks like abusive nitpicking from where I sit.

  92. J*

    Sam is terrible at giving feedback. He should be able to cite examples.

    But one hypothesis I have is that maybe it’s taking OP far longer to complete tasks than it should. Are they completing 50% more work in those 50% more billable hours? Or just billing way more time than would be expected for tasks – which often is not a good thing and is indicative of someone working below expected standards (and can lead to projects running over budget and generally means the team is running ineffeciently).

    I once worked with somebody who, frankly, just was not capable of doing his job. Nice guy, genuinely trying hard, but wasn’t great at picking up the technical skills needed for the job, despite a ton of time we invested in training him. He used to work crazy hours and seemed to think that was a good look. It was not. It really shone a spotlight on just how much his skills were lacking because if he was working *that* many hours and still delivering subpar work, it was clear the problem was even worse than I suspected. This wasn’t a billable hours job, so different environment, but I have also worked a billable hours job in the past and while billing more was good, it was good only when you were being efficient/productive.

    All that said, if there are really issues, Sam should be able to explain them and give clear feedback. And OP only getting positive feedback from others does make it kind of suspicious. So maybe Sam just has a different work style and personality and made early judgments about OP that have just stuck. Which sucks, if that’s the case.

  93. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    I smell sexism (and maybe some other -isms mixed in for good measure). You are never going to be good enough for Sam. Whether it’s because you were picked over his preferred candidate or he just doesn’t accept people like you can be exceptional at this work.

    If you’re a member of a union, can you talk to your rep? Or someone else on Sam’s level who can go to bat for you and your work? You shouldn’t have to keep jumping through hoops that will never end.

  94. Tara*

    This could be me at my last job. Right down to being unable to provide examples of what I was doing wrong besides blaming me for other people’s mistakes. I was working hard, working long hours, genuinely doing my best, everyone else was happy with my work, and my boss still gave me the worst possible reviews “you’re not producing what I expect from your level” without being able to elaborate what exactly he was expecting.

    In the end he fired me. I filed for unemployment, he contested it. I appealed the contest, he fought my appeal, I got a lawyer and won because I had done nothing wrong and had been working in good faith. Some managers are just going to hate you regardless of what you do, because some people just suck in general. OP needs to start looking for a new job NOW and act as though boss is about to fire him, because I can see the writing on the wall.

  95. Flossie Bobbsey*

    I’m late to this, but it sounds like OP is on the employee side of two prior letters where the boss/LW was very, very in the wrong and treating an employee very poorly for personal reasons – “I’m jealous of my employee and it’s impacting how I treat her” and “Is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?” OP, I would get out now.

  96. K in Boston*

    I really need you and Tina from “an employee is out to get my star performer” to start your own consulting firm of Avenged Ex-Employees.

  97. funkynote*

    I can’t fathom 18 hour days…like how? Why?

    I get the occasional like 10 hour day or something, but 18 is craziness. You need to stop this for your own good. How do you have time to eat and relax? You only sleep 6 hours a night? This is insanity.

  98. An O'nymous*

    OP, I think you should be looking for a new role outside this company. I don’t think you’re going to enjoy working there or continue to learn with Sam as your manager, and I agree with other commenters, I think there’s some discrimination going on here.

    There is one thing that I want to pull out though as I think you’re misunderstanding/ thinking about billable hours in the wrong way. You say you have 50% higher billable hours than anyone in your team, and that your recovery rate is on par with the rest of your team. Taking these two things as accurate, all that means is that you’re working c50% more hours than the rest of your team, and I’m concerned that you don’t see that as a bad thing? I may be wrong, but I’d really think about what’s happening there; working more hours than the rest of your team doesn’t sound good.

    Think about it this way; if you worked a similar amount of hours as your peers, but your recovery rate was much higher leading to overall higher billable hours, that would be a very good thing. That would be rock star territory. What you’ve explained isn’t that!

    1. Mango Freak*

      Sorry, this was a bit glib! And I wrote it before I saw that you’re a woman of color OP–I know it’s not as simple as that, and there’s wild pressure on you to work harder than anyone else just to prove you meet even the baseline.

      But yeah, my overall point stands–as others have said–that there’s no point in doing EXTRA work for people who will never appreciate it (tangibly, with job security and remuneration). Do enough to survive and then thrive.

  99. Andromeda*

    I’m a bit baffled at the people jumping in to defend Sam, including those saying “well, accountants are bad at providing feedback”, while assuming that OP isn’t doing as well in her role as she thinks — when she *has* provided examples of other people saying her work is good.

    Assuming Sam’s also operating in good faith (and I do have suspicions there, but am trying not to let those cloud my interpretation), regardless of the culture, surely it’s his responsibility to tell her specifically what the problem is? Including if the issue itself is that she’s working far too many hours inefficiently? It sounds like this has been going on for a while, and in all that time nobody at her company has said to OP “hey, you need to stop working ridiculous long hours, it’s not helpful”. Whether OP *is* really excelling or not, he needs to pull his socks up and do his job as a manager, and it sounds like OP would happily follow instructions for improvement if they were given in a clear way.

    (Do all early-career accountants just stumble around without feedback or goals and hope they don’t get fired??)

  100. That_guy*

    I haven’t read the comments, and I’m sure I’m late to the party, but I hope there’s a follow-up to this one. I’m guessing that there is going to be something very shady going on behind the scenes.

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