angry ex told my boss I’m a drug addict, manager lets employee insult me, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. An angry ex emailed my boss saying I’m a drug addict

I had a great job as a systems analyst working remotely, but this job coincided with some drama in my personal life. I was dealing with a messy breakup with my ex-partner — I ran a background check on him and learned that he had lied about much of his past, and pretty much everything else. I asked him to move out, and he eventually did, but not without a fight. In a moment of stupidity, I decided to send a group text to about 10 mutual friends of ours and let them know that he was a fraud and a liar, essentially everything I had discovered from the background check.

As a form of retaliation, I suppose, he then emailed my boss and the HR director at the company I worked at and told them I was a drug addict who was goofing off on the clock. He also said that when I was in the hospital, I actually wasn’t, which was a lie. But the whole thing changed my boss’ tune about me entirely, and they began to ask questions.

The reason my ex had their email addresses is because I was in the emergency room a few months prior and I gave him their contact information. I thought it would show that I really was incapacitated, because I was, and my partner could help communicate updates to my boss. Big mistake there.

When my boss started asking for documentation on the hospital visit, I provided it, but then they noticed that my hospital visit was only for three days, but I was out for five days. I needed a few days to recover, so I don’t see what the problem was, but they became very suspicious and in a moment of stress and pressure, I “quit” for health reasons.

How should I have handled that differently? I asked for my job back a few weeks later, explaining that my ex was trying to ruin my reputation, but they didn’t seem interested in taking me on again.

Your boss and HR suck. People generally need additional time to recover after whatever caused a three-day hospital stay; it’s very common to need to be at home for at least a few days after being discharged from a multi-night hospitalization! Even if that wasn’t immediately obvious to them, it should have been once you pointed it out.

I’m curious how things had been going in that job before your ex’s email, and what your relationship with your boss was like. Typically when an employee is in good standing, an email from a stranger with an obvious agenda won’t carry a lot of weight (assuming reasonably competent management — a key caveat), so I’m curious if there had already been any issues that were putting a strain on things at work. I say that not to blame you — you were the victim of a vindictive ex-partner — but simply because I’m trying to make sense of how your boss and HR ended up where they did. Either way, though, their response was horrible. Did they express any concern for you or just move into accusatory mode?

As for what you could have done differently … ideally you wouldn’t have quit, and instead just calmly held firm on the truth: “I was hospitalized for three days and then had two days of recovery at home. I’d be happy to get you documentation from my doctor if it’s needed.” But I wouldn’t second-guess yourself; it sounds like a deeply stressful situation where you had been betrayed on multiple levels by a partner, and then your job started in on you too. Don’t beat yourself up for not making optimal decisions during something like that.

2. My boss lets my employee insult me in meeting after meeting

I am a middle manager in a small nonprofit, having taken over an underperforming team two years ago. I am under a great deal of pressure to perform at a high level while turning them around.

They are not turning. I put the lowest performer on a PIP six months ago and have weekly meetings with the employee and my boss, the organization’s director. We are a small org and she acts as HR.

The HR/PIP meetings are unbearable. My employee spends them insulting me and my boss tells me repeatedly that I cannot respond defensively because that will “affect the process.” One on one, my boss tells me that this process isn’t about me, and my employee has to say her piece. But I can’t imagine repeatedly insulting my boss to her boss and remaining employed. It doesn’t sit right with me. That, and the fact that this has dragged on for six months, has made me question my boss’s actions in this whole matter. Am I correct to question this and should I be looking to get out?

You should be looking to get out. A six-month PIP with no signs of ending? A boss who tells you to sit through meeting after meeting to be insulted so the employee can “say her piece”? She’s said her piece. Repeatedly. PIPs are not couples counseling where everyone gets out all their feelings; they’re intended to be action-oriented — here’s what needs to change, here’s the timeline for when the change must happen by, and here are the consequences if it doesn’t. A couple of months maximum (often ideally less) and with a focus on action, not endless discussions. And on top of that, you’ve been charged with turning around an underperforming team and this is what happens when you try to meet that mandate? And on top of that, the head of the org isn’t willing to act when action is needed (and I’d bet that shows up in a ton of places, not just in managing low performers) — and she wants you to operate in the same way.

Tell your boss (who doesn’t know what she’s doing) that it’s time for the PIP to come to an end and a decision made about this person’s employment. But meanwhile, this isn’t a job — or an organization — structured in a way where you can succeed. Get out and go work somewhere that doesn’t expect managers to manage without giving them the tools to do it.

3. Pressured to sign safety releases against my judgment

The summer I turned 18, I was a junior camp counselor at a sleepaway camp. The campers in my bunk were only four years younger and often out of control (to the point of escaping the bunk repeatedly after curfew). The camp had arranged for their whole age group (multiple bunks of rising high school freshmen) to go on an overnight camping trip, complete with rafting and rock-climbing, organized by our nature counselor but run by a separate outdoor adventure company.

That company required legal waivers for every camper. And so, before we left camp, all of us counselors were given the waivers for the campers in our bunk and told to sign them. The other counselors basically did as they were told, but I didn’t want to sign anything without reading and understanding it. (Recall, I’d just turned 18. This was probably the first legal document I would have been signing in my entire life.) So, I read it, and it asked me to affirm that the camper named could do the activity safely and responsibly and that I knew of no reason they shouldn’t participate, and that I would be responsible for anything that happened. And, frankly, I didn’t trust that some of these kids would act appropriately and not put themselves or others in danger.

I was already getting hassled by more senior camp staff for reading the document (they just wanted quick signatures to get the task done, and the senior counselor in my bunk was out that day). I said I wasn’t comfortable signing and explained why. They tried to pressure me into it, multiple ways. They tried to claim it wasn’t any different than what I’d already agreed to by taking the counselor job. (I think the phrase “in loco parentis” was used.) Somehow I held my ground, at least somewhat — I may have signed a form or two, but not for any campers I didn’t trust … and I think ultimately I put up enough of a fuss that they got some other sucker to sign, or did it themselves. I don’t think anyone ever took my concern about the campers’ participation seriously, though … and it was probably luck more than anything else that nothing majorly bad ended up happening on the trip.

What could I have done here? What should I have done? What should they have done? This is bonkers, right?

You were absolutely right to refuse to sign those forms, and good for you for holding firm in the face of pressure — something that a lot of people find hard to do at 18 (hell, something a lot of people find hard to do at 45). People sometimes like to act as if signing a legal document is no big deal — but believe me, if that were the case, then they wouldn’t need you to sign it at all. The fact that they want you to is what tells you it matters, and you should take it seriously.

I also question if you even had the legal authority to sign on behalf of those campers. Those sound like forms that should have been signed by their parents or guardians; I doubt you even had the legal standing to attest to what the forms said, even if you wanted to. The camp should have coordinated to get the forms signed by parents before camp even started.

You did the right thing. You can always say, “I’m not comfortable signing this.”  You were right to refuse — and whoever signed instead of you was probably in the wrong.

4. Navigating small social/networking circles as a manager

I’m a mid-level manager in a professional field that requires a significant training period that’s historically relatively conservative and male-dominated; my particular niche still is heavily weighed to men, especially in leadership roles.

I found my current job when Petunia, a woman I did my training and was friendly with, reached out when a staff opening happened. I was then promoted during the pandemic, so I became Petunia’s boss.

Another woman, Iris, also trained with me and Petunia and works in the same field but a different company. She started inviting a group of women in our field to meet at local restaurants monthly to discuss life over dinner. We talk about work stresses and it is helpful to hear shared perspectives; it has been going on for maybe a year and a half at this point. It’s really nice because there aren’t many women to meet and not any women managers nearby.

Iris knows Petunia, my direct report, is now going through a divorce with small kids at home and wants to invite her too. I feel conflicted. Iris and I are good friends. My answer to Iris was that she can definitely invite Petunia but I should probably bow out of the group as I don’t want to give the appearance of favoritism since I’m the boss. Truthfully, I’ve always been careful about what I’ve said in this venue anyway but would feel totally unable to talk about things, as I’m very private at work and furthermore, even if I wasn’t her supervisor, I wouldn’t want to hang with Petunia.

Iris opted to not invite Petunia so I could come. Now I feel guilty. Did I mess up?

No! You’ve been a part of the group for a year and a half. You explained that you couldn’t continue to participate if they invited Petunia — for very sound reasons — and they opted to ensure that you, an existing member, could remain in the group you’re already in. That’s reasonable. You also didn’t demand they not invite Petunia; you explained what it would mean for you, and they made a decision from there. That’s also reasonable.

That said, if this is practical, maybe you could encourage Petunia and other junior women you work with to form their own group. You could explain the value you’ve gotten from the one you’re part of and suggest they might do something similar.

5. When should I disclose MS?

I have recently been diagnosed with MS. I have a lot of social credit saved at my current workplace so it is not begrudged if I need to take time for a flare. I don’t have many symptoms and rarely need to take time off, but that could change at some point in the future.

If I decide to move jobs, when should I disclose my condition and is it dishonest to “hide” it until it becomes a problem?

You don’t need to disclose it at all until/unless there are specific accommodations you want to ask for. And even then, you generally wouldn’t need to disclose the condition itself, just that you have a need for medical accommodations. (Some people prefer to name the condition, figuring it helps people to have context and understand what’s going on, but that’s completely up to you and your sense of what will be easiest in your particular workplace.)

That’s not dishonest; your personal medical information isn’t your employer’s business.

{ 254 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #3 – Former camp counselor.

    Firstly, THANK YOU for refusing to sign those forms. I’m only sorry that it didn’t have the effect of making the camp administration see reasons, but at least you tried! And, yes, I understand that you were basically protecting yourself. But as a parent I *want* counselors who have enough sense to understand the gravity of signing something and to realize that maybe some of these kids are NOT safe to do this thing (at least not without a lot more oversight than you could provide.)

    You are completely correct that the camp’s behavior was bonkers. Shockingly common, but still insane.

    And they were wrong to claim that the signature was no different than what you signed up for when you signed on to be a counselor. The whole “in loco parentis” thing is the concept that you are standing in for their parents. Even if you *and* the parents had agreed that you, the counselor, should act in that capacity (which is actually unlikely), that doesn’t mean that you have therefore automatically agreed to take on responsibility for any and all activities, much less agreed that all of these kids are actually suitable for all those activities. In fact, if you *were* supposed to be acting in loco parentis, it would be even worse for you to sign those forms for kids you don’t trust. Because someone in that role is supposed to act with the level of responsibility one expects from a sane parent.

    Basically, the camp administration was trying to bamboozle you with mis-applications of real concepts.

    1. MK*

      “in loco parentis” means that you are in charge of a minor and have a similar duty of care as their parents would, not that you have temporary custody, and especially not that you have the same authority. The camp likely wanted the waiver as a protection against liabilit, should something happen becuaee of the children misbehaving, though I cannot see it holding up legally anyway: “the 18-year-old that I hired assured me the children wouldn’t misbehave” is not a good defense.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It’s completely bizarre on the part of the organisation running the activities and the camp. A waiver signed by the fourteen year old themself would probably have more legal standing than one signed by one of the camp counsellors. And if someone from the camp actually could sign off a waiver, why wasn’t one of the directors doing it?

        1. Cabbagepants*

          Because then if something goes wrong, the camp can try to throw the counselor under the bus.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I get that’s what they were trying to do, I just can’t imagine how anyone could think for a second how that might work. I’m a parent with an injured child and I want someone to cover medical expenses– am I going to go after 18yo counsellors, or the camp organisation which employs them, organised the activity, told the counsellors to sign the waiver and presumably has some sort of insurance? As a dastardly plot, it has all the critical thinking of a two-year-old putting their hands over their face and claiming to be invisible.

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              Yes why was the separate outdoor adventure company okay with camp counselors signing the waiver? If something goes wrong, its not just the camp being sued, its the adventure company. They should have known better. Or their lawyers should have.

              Whole thing was sketch. OP, you were amazing. Excellent handling of the situation.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                And more to the point, it isn’t the camp counselor doing the suing. The bit about “in loco parentis” is likely the key point. The camp thought, or was willing to pretend, that this meant the counselors could waive the actual parents’ right to sue. This is just one of the many reasons why these waivers are waste paper.

                1. Observer*

                  The camp thought, or was willing to pretend, that this meant the counselors could waive the actual parents’ right to sue.

                  If they were thinking at all, it was *definitely* “pretending”. Because the minute you start thinking about this stuff, you know that this is not how this stuff works.

              2. I can read anything except the room*

                I would be willing to bet this outdoor adventure company doesn’t scrutinize the signatures to see who signed them or determine if the person signing had the correct authority to sign. They probably have an 18-year-old of their own who is just trained to collect the forms and verify that “the waivers are signed.”

                They obviously should be doing more due diligence than that, but given how they apparently operate and that this practice of teenaged counselors signing off on all the waivers doesn’t cause any snags, that’s the most likely scenario.

            2. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Yet this is often the case with liability clauses. I was having a party at a venue. They wanted me to take on *all liability*. I had visions of the kitchen catching fire and burning the place down and them trying to hold me liable. I crossed out the clause and wrote in a reasonable liability clause.

              On a lesser note, when selling two condos with different stages they also wanted me to be fully liable for any injuries or damage. People – It’s an empty condo and I’m not even there!!

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                I told that to a friend of mine who had a friend who wanted to hold faith healing services at his house. I said, ‘if anything goes wrong, who is going to get sued? The faith healer with no assets or you with the house?’. He refused to have the services there, and I was very happy for him.

              2. Freya*

                I add things like “except where such things cannot be excluded under Australian law” to the waivers I am given on a regular basis. Generally because they’re attempting to exclude liability for things that aren’t allowed to be excluded under Australian law – section 139a of the Competition And Consumer Act 2010 limits liability exclusions in contracts for recreational services to ‘personal injury’ and ‘death’; broader exclusions like ‘any injury, loss, damage, death, economic loss whatsoever’ will render the whole thing void (such as in the case Alameddine v Glenworth Valley Riding Pty Ltd [2015] NSWCA 219). Waivers that are complicated and not explained in plain language don’t tend to hold up in court here. If it’s obvious I wouldn’t be able to understand it given the time frame and resources I have, then it might not hold up either. Waivers signed by minors are not an enforceable contract, since they’re not a contract for necessities. And even if I have signed a waiver, that does not exclude the duty of care of the persons attempting to evade responsibility for negligence – the waiver will hold up if I was injured as a result of the usual risks associated with the activity I’m participating in, but not if the injuries were due to the negligence of the people running that activity.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Of course it wouldn’t have held up legally, for countless reasons. Many organizations imagine waivers to be magic ‘get out of liability’ papers. This is merely a particularly silly example.

        1. Antilles*

          Many organizations imagine waivers to be magic ‘get out of liability’ papers.
          Some do, but plenty of smarter organizations recognize that waivers aren’t actually magic BUT still serve a purpose as a deterrent. There’s a lot of people for whom the mere presence of a Signed Form With Legalese (or the close cousin, posted signage on the wall) can itself deter legal action even if said form isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            A social group I used to be part of, with branches across the world, used the same waivers for Canada as the US (and probably most other places). We noted this is silly because in Canada waivers are *entirely* useless for preventing people suing; you cannot in fact waive your right. (It’s been said Canadians sue less mostly because we’re not scrambling to find a way to pay the medical bill).

            But, as you observe, I did note it does mean saying “Yes, I knew there was a risk.” And it did help people pay attention to safety issues. Thankfully, the regional group was already good about safety rules; we had enough (minor) injuries with full safety precautions in place it was easy to mentally visualise the consequences of ignoring them.

            1. Rainy*

              I’m pretty sure I used to be a part of that same group, and even within the US some of those waivers aren’t appropriate due to individual state laws.

              And don’t get me started about the excuses the group has used over the years to duck responsibility for genuine damages caused to members as a result of policies that anyone could tell would eventually result in tragedy.

            2. Annie*

              Y’all, IAAL – waivers are not useless in Canada. You can very much sign a document waiving your right to sue and it can very much act as a complete bar to a claim in negligence.

            3. Freya*

              The waivers I’ve written, I’ve always made sure that the people handing out the waivers to be signed explained that the waiver meant that “if you do something, that we didn’t ask you to do, and it was silly, it’s not our fault” because that’s what I want the signer to be aware of – that I’m not excluding liability for me doing dumb stuff or asking people to do dumb stuff, but I am for people doing the dumb things they do of their own accord. And I specifically exclude myself from liability for people doing (clearly listed) potentially dangerous things without having their skill level checked by me or someone I trust.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Exactly. There are so many “contracts” we sign that aren’t legally enforceable but deter lawsuits anyway. End user license agreements, liability waivers, and (until recently) non-compete agreements are frequently tossed out in court, but if you don’t know that you don’t bring the lawsuit.

        2. Ashley*

          I would also hazard a guess if there is language about signing the waiver willingly it would be pretty easy to show that was not the case.
          Unfortunately, the signed waiver often still means you are stuck hiring a lawyer to defend yourself but it helps you achievable a favorable outcome if you were pressured by your employer.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, giving this to the 18 year old counselors to sign, rather than someone higher up, smacks of trying to insert a layer of deniability just in case anything went wrong.

      4. AnonInCanada*

        Definitely. But there’s a reason why that camp was putting all this pressure on that 18-year-old camp counselor to sign that document: 1) they’re 18, therefore they’re legally capable of being held to a contract, and 2) as you said, the camp is trying to put the onus on said 18-year-old to absolve them from liability, should something happen to said campers whose mischief may end up injuring themselves and others.

        Would it stand up in court if something happened? Likely not, but that doesn’t mean that poor 18-year-old wouldn’t have to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on lawyers to defend themselves. OP did the right thing by refusing to become the potential scapegoat in case anything happened by signing that waiver. That’s something between the camp’s management and the campers’ parents to establish liability. Not OP’s.

    2. Chirpy*

      This. As former camp staff myself, this is insane. Those forms should have been signed by the campers’ legal guardians before they got to camp, not some counselor. Is this camp ACA (American Camping Association) certified? Because I doubt that would pass an audit. This camp could lose accreditation for something like this.

      If I remember correctly, when I took kids off-site for a multi-day trip, if something had happened I was supposed to call the camp director to sign anything. I think I was given a folder of permission slips signed by the parents/guardians that I could have shown a hospital to get a kid treated, but I was definitely not supposed to sign anything on their behalf.

      1. Name Anxiety*

        Having been through an accreditation summer as an activity head, I absolutely agree! No way this would pass an audit, and completely out of whack with what well-run camps would do. I would seriously question the directors and also bring it to the board of the camp. I highly doubt that this was ever an approved policy by competent people.

      2. CowWhisperer*

        Yup. I worked at a camp that had students with risky behaviors – albeit younger than the LW’s campers – and our first step onsite or off was ‘contact the director ASAP’. For anything serious, parents were contacted to give permission.

        As a parent, if I found out my kid was showing risky behaviors like running away after curfew and the camp sent them to an off-site potentially high risk activity without my explicit permission, I’d be going to their board even if everything went great.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          ehh, she said sneaking out of the bunk after curfew. that’s not necessarily running away. I went to camp and our last year as campers (the next year you became a junior counselor at 14), we were sneaking out because we were hormonal teenagers and wanted to hang in the boy’s cabin. thankfully nothing actually happened while hanging out with the equally hormonal boys.

    3. English Rose*

      Exactly. And just imagine the ramifications if one of these adventure trips ended in tragedy for one of the young people. Good for you for not signing.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      I’ve sent my kids away to multiple overnight camps (fortunately none of which would pull something like this!) If I learned the camp counselor was signing a waiver like that for my kids I would be FURIOUS. OP, I just want to say that you have got a terrific head on your shoulders and some serious courage to have said no in this situation; know that you did the right thing!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I would be furious at their supervisors, of course, not the counselors. Why on earth would the adventure company even accept something like that?

    5. CityMouse*

      The idea the camp could foist personal liability for campers onto an 18 year old employee is just utterly bonkers.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Seriously. And I can’t imagine the third-party adventure company – or their insurance company – would have been okay with it either.

        I just can’t see a world where “we require a liability waiver for each camper” means “we’ll have one 18-year-old take responsibility for a dozen 12-year olds.” That’s…not how these things work.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Exactly – it’s the parents’/legal guardians’ responsibility to sign these sorts of forms. In fact, an employee of the camp could not possibly sign the forms – it would be a total conflict of interest. Not to mention that the parents’/guardians’ contract for services is with the CAMP, no the individual employee. So a form like that wouldn’t mean anything to a court.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        They can’t. But they might not be smart enough to realize that. There is a lot of magical thinking in many people’s concept of how the law works. This is true even of highly educated professionals. Doctors are generally completely clueless about how medical malpractice works. You would think this to be a topic they would take an interest in.

    6. Bumblebee*

      So true! My youngest is headed to camp next week and we’ve already gotten the waivers from the whitewater rafting company to sign. I trust the scout leaders going with him implicitly, but I still wouldn’t want them signing on his behalf!

    7. Lab Boss*

      I’ll chime in with other past counselors to say their request was absolute nonsense. I’ve been working and volunteering at summer camps for over 2 decades at this point and have NEVER seen camp staff signing any kind of liability waiver on behalf of the campers. If an activity, especially an off-property trip, requires special permission, that comes from the parents/guardians, not some random college kid giving up his summer.

      More broadly: Thank you for standing up for safety. Considering that a big part of the camp staff job is “making fun,” it can be very hard to pivot from that to suddenly shutting down the good times train for safety reasons- especially when everyone else is telling you that you’re wrong.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        I have so many questions about this! Did the parents even know about this offsite trip? If yes, why didn’t they sign the waivers? If not, then why was this trip even considered? And as I said above, did the adventure company know this was going on? The whole thing is shady as f***.

        OP, you were absolutely right to refuse to sign. The only other thing I would suggest, if you had a time machine to go back for a do-over, would be to report this to someone fairly high up at the camp. But seriously, even taking the stand that you did was amazing – you should be really proud that you stood up for yourself like that.

      2. Quill*

        I only worked day camps when I was a teen but anyone other than the legal guardian doing paperwork is a PROBLEM.

    8. PleaseNo*

      3, my dad taught me to read everything that I am signing before I sign it. it started around when I was your age also. it’s very important that you do so, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. over the years it has saved me hundreds of dollars, kept me out of insecure products, found mistakes that the company wasn’t aware of, and helped some small businesses improve their statements. some people have complained about the time it takes me to read through the documents, but I don’t care. as Allison says, it’s a legal document and there’s a reason they need you to signify you’ve read and understood it.

      I really commend you on reading the document and refusing to sign it when you didn’t feel comfortable doing so. it’s the start of something that will help protect you for the rest of your life. thank you for modeling appropriate behavior despite all the peer pressure and negative views you received. we need more people like you in the world, for many reasons.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        “my dad taught me to read everything that I am signing before I sign it”

        Me, too. When Mr T and I bought our house, we weren’t married yet, so the language in the contract was super important. (Especially since the $150K down payment came from the sale of my house. If something happened to Mr T before we got married, his parents would get the house and even if I had liked those Threatening to Boycott Our Wedding Jerks Who Didn’t Like How I Eat Bacon, I would not have wanted them to have my house and my money.)

        I had sent the realtor the language we got from a lawyer (something like joint tenants with right of survivorship) three weeks before close.

        A week before closing, I got a copy of the contract and they had only Mr T as the owner. I wrote back and said they needed to fix that before closing.

        We got to the closing, which was on a Friday afternoon, and they still hadn’t fixed it. I knew because I spent ten minutes reading the entire contract.

        The person running the closing tried to get me to sign and told me they would fix everything on Monday, but I said nope, we will wait for you to fix it now.

        It took almost an hour, I think, before they got it right and we signed, but I regret nothing.

        1. Jack Russell Terrier*

          Yup – me too! I read everything before signing. My Realtor has become a friend and I’ve known him for over 20 years. He says I’m the only one that does read everything. I hold everyone up. But otherwise, I can’t know what it says – even if I’ve read it in an email and with property it’s far too important.

          He would have stood by me in your closing.

          I’ve even asked him to get stagers to change their liability clauses!

      2. I can read anything except the room*

        The number of times I’ve ignored people’s visible amusement when I’m actually reading a legal document… in many cases I’m quite sure they were not intending to communicate impatience or pressure me into signing without reading. Just genuinely surprised and amused, like “how cute/quaint!”

      3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Sometimes the people who hand me a form to sign, and are surprised I stop to read it first, don’t even know what it says. My “favorite” was an otherwise competent doctor, who was offering me a potentially risky MS drug.

        I discussed it with the doctor, and had decided it was worth the risk. He then handed me several pages of information and a consent form, and was surprised when I asked for time to read it. When he came back, I asked a question, and discovered that I wasn’t just the first patient to read the form: the doctor hadn’t read it either.

        Fortunately, he was able to answer my question, but that moment of surprise was memorable.

    9. HonorBox*

      100% agree! As someone sending a child off to camp in a few weeks, I want to be the one to sign any sort of form, especially if it is one coming from a third party. There’s probably a mountain of difference between the counselor having “responsibility” for the children in their cabin and the counselor taking responsibility for the safety of someone they’re overseeing for a week.

      IANAL but I would have to imagine that you, as an employee, signing that liability form is probably not legal. Just as you wouldn’t be legal to sign a form authorizing a minor to rent a car.

    10. Quinalla*

      Wow, as a parent this is completely bizarre! I sign so many damn forms for everything for my kids, cannot imagine a camp, etc. having a counselor sign something like this! Good for you for pushing back!

      I did have one this wild, but I did refuse to sign something when I was in college serving as treasurer for my sorority that was in financial trouble and was going to close temporarily while money was sorted out. They wanted me to sign something as a member of the student board to let them keep folks from getting their transcripts I think it was (they couldn’t stop them from graduating I don’t think) until they paid their outstanding bills. While I thought folks should pay, I also knew that the non-student board had 100% mismanaged finances for years and this last ditch swipe at folks that likely couldn’t afford to pay anyway pissed me the hell off. They also AFTER closing the house then sent out a call for $$ from alumni and got tons of $$ as our alumni were well off. The board did not like the people in the house and wanted them gone. Anyway, I was pissed and refused to sign. I think they did get someone else on the student board to sign unfortunately, but I was glad I stood up to them at least a little.

      Oh and when they sent out an email to me right after I graduate asking me for $$ for the house I told them politely, but firmly to take me off the list and that it was incredibly out-of-touch to be asking ANYONE who was at the house when it closed for $$ ever. Good grief! We all had to scramble to find housing last minute as it was past the normal time when folks already had their dorms/apartments/etc. sorted, it was a mess.

    11. Nonanon*

      Bingo. Parents should have been signing those waivers, NOT counselors, ESPECIALLY not 18-year old first time counselors. TECHNICALLY someone on staff should be “in loco parentis” for emergencies (eg camper slips in the pool, hits their head, and needs to go to the ER; I BELIEVE summer camps/overnight programs have an “emergency” clause wherein they act in the participant’s best interest and may not contact parent/guardians until AFTER they’ve decided participant needs ER, which is not fun if you’re based in America and don’t know if you can afford medical bills but also takes liability off the program if they are unable to prevent a participant’s death).

    12. Cascadia*

      Former Camp Counselor and current administrator for an outdoor adventure organization serving youth. Agreed that this is totally bonkers! That is not what ‘in loco parentis’ means. You have no legal standing to sign paperwork for a child that is your camp counselor. I’m willing to bet good money that either the camp forgot to get these forms signed by the actual parents/guardians before camp started, or they decided to do this trip last minute and felt they had no way of getting the forms signed if the campers were already at camp. I’m guessing the outdoor adventure company had NO IDEA that the forms were being signed by their camp counselors, and probably wouldn’t have accepted them if they knew. It’s very common to just glance at a form and see a signature and put it in the completed file, without actually scrutinizing who signed it.

      I regularly collect signed waivers, and also act ‘in loco parentis’ for the youth in my program, and NONE of this is normal, expected or legal.

      1. Catfish Mke*

        That was where I was confused. Worked at all sorts of camps and while I’ve not been the paperwork guy there certainly was a bunch.
        It doesn’t make sense that this activity wouldn’t have either its own separate permission slip or be included in the list of things covered by the permission paperwork to register the camper in the first place.
        Well done for not signing.

  2. JB*

    #2 The director sounds like they’ve confused performance assessment for therapy, OP getting verbally abused isn’t productive at all and has a one sided benefit to the employee. If this has been going for six months with no progress then it’s simply not working.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I do see the argument for letting the employee say what they want and not getting into an argument that would distract from the performance discussion (I’m envisioning employee saying OP rambles on when setting tasks and no-one can follow and the response being they should ask for clarification if they don’t understand rather than pointing out it’s not true. Not insults like OP smells and I don’t like them).

      But yes, the problem is that it’s been 6 months with weekly meetings but they’re still there with apparently no end date.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Even then, I’d arguably say it’s not good for OP to have to sit there listening to the criticism while being told not to get defensive – I think it’s fair for the grandboss to give the employee a chance to give their side of the story (once, at least) but this set-up sounds batty.

      2. Coffee Protein Drink*

        The PIPs I’ve been tangential to were for 90 days, and one of those got fired after 60. There’s not much point in a PIP if there’s no deadline to change work quality/output or destructive behavior.

        1. MassMatt*

          I put several people through PIPs, they took a lot of work so no way would I want one going on for months without any results, nor would I tolerate insults. LW’s boss is either spineless or an idiot. Or why not both! Get out get out get out.

      3. ferrina*

        I agree with this take. There are instances where it makes sense to not respond to an employee’s insults- for example, the infamous LW who got “fired for taking initiative” ( And there’s times when what the manager sees as ‘insults’ are actually legitimate critiques that need to be taken seriously.

        But that’s all irrelevant because the employee shouldn’t be on an indefinite PIP!! Commenter Coffee Protein Drink put it really well- “There’s not much point in a PIP if there’s no deadline to change work quality/output or destructive behavior.”

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yes! I was actually thinking of that particular case when I mentioned letting the employee damage themself as one of the reasons a manager might just let them talk, but…the difference is that in that case, the employee was then terminated

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      What is with employers who think it’s fine for staff to insult their colleagues as just a routine part of being in the work world?

      Once in my career I was that person recruited for a higher-paying role and decided to go with the opportunity. Within weeks I knew it was the wrong place for me because of how sharply people talked about and to their colleagues.

      Early in my time there, I expressed my shock to my manager, the number two in leadership, about how people insulted each other in ways I wouldn’t have allowed even with the kids I used to work with. They shrugged like they had no control over the situation which amazed me. Later I heard the long-term CEO talk smack about a direct report in a conversation we were having about something unrelated.

      No. Just no. It was such a relief to get out of that place.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Ugh, I hate dealing with interpersonal abrasiveness, it brings out the worst in me and I start ruminating.

        I had a snippy email exchange with someone yesterday and it’s still bothering me. (I accidentally offended someone, I’m not exactly sure how. I asked to call them to apologize, and they just said “We’re good.” So… I guess that’s over? I still don’t know what I should/shouldn’t do in the future.)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m pretty sure the “process” is that after a period of weekly meetings in which the employee on the PIP can vent, one day she will say “OH! The problem is ME! I need to completely change what I’m doing!” which will only be arrived at through patience on the part of the top manager and anyone else she ropes into these meetings. And apparently it not happening within 6 months has not even dinged this theory of the process.

      Kind of like how when people predict the world will end on June 9th, and it doesn’t, they don’t conclude that all their ideas about how this would work are wrong and need to be abandoned. They conclude that there was a minor glitch but the apocalypse is still on course.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. A PIP is because someone is not doing their job. Allowing the person not doing their job to just deflect by making the meeting about the manager is not really doing the organization a darn bit of good. The person is still not doing their job plus they are empowered to think as long as they insult the manager they won’t have to do their job.

        OP your boss is a loon. Get out as soon as you can.

      2. El l*

        Well put.

        No wonder nothing’s getting done on this team. Terrible attitudes are being actively rewarded, and good ones leashed.

        Sounds like there’s a deep rot in the company culture. OP can’t fix that. Go.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      This is one of those “Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” situations, OP. I went through this at my last job where the head of the org hired a terrible c-level exec (liar, manipulator, you name it) and didn’t seem to care how terrible she was. I refused to play the games she was trying to get me to play and tried to rally my coworkers (other c-levels, even) to push back and talk to the CEO about what I saw and even though some of them did push back, the CEO wouldn’t do anything about her. Once I realized this, I knew for sure I too was in a “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” situation and worked hard to get out of there. Sounds like either the boss really likes this employee or has no idea how to manage (actually, I think that 2nd reason is true either way). It also sounds like you have been set up to fail; no wonder the dept was failing before you came in, if this is how your boss manages! She thought that having a new manager would turn everything around but of course we all know that if the boss isn’t supportive of and open to the changes being made by the new manager, nothing will get turned around. How very frustrating for you!

      Regardless as to why the boss has been a completely ineffective manager, I think you’d be better off elsewhere. As AAM says, it seems very unlikely that this is the only example of your boss being ineffective; I think it’s time to move on to a job where the bosses know what they’re doing. Check out some of AAM’s old posts about why toxic jobs can warp your sense of normal; while I wouldn’t go so far based on your letter as to say this job is toxic, some of the reasons in those posts are similar to why working under ineffective leadership can also warp your sense of normal.

      It seems like you already know it’s time to leave this job and were just looking for confirmation that you’ve made the right decision. I hope that means you’ve been job searching already and that your next opportunity is already in the pipeline. Best of luck, OP!

    5. jasmine*

      I’ve never been to couples therapy but I can’t imagine this would fly even there. Doesn’t sound like these meetings are to resolve work issues or feelings (since OP isn’t allowed to share theirs), it sounds like it’s just for the employee to vent about how unhappy they are.

    6. Digital Hubbub*

      This sounds like ‘Stop it or I’ll say stop it again’ parenting, only in the workplace.

    7. PIPptobs*

      Hi all, thanks for your comments. I am the OP. I can give you a little more context but also – rest assured I am actively seeking my next role.

      My boss was proceeding with caution because the underperforming employee had been given good reviews by my predecessor, who was also an underperformer. So while both my predecessor and my employee were doing a terrible job, my employee has several years of documentation saying she was great. I was told that this could create grounds for a lawsuit if termination moved too quickly.

      To give some insight on the insults, they are work-related but they are not constructive. So for example, my employee asked me a clarifying question on a task I did not assign to her. I didn’t know the answer and told her to ask the person that did. She doubled down and asked again, then a third time. I still didn’t know! So she relayed this conversation to my boss and mimicked my response by saying “uh, duhh, uh, duhh, uh duhh”. It was absolutely shocking. It had the tone of a schoolyard bully taunt, and I cannot believe it was accepted in a 21st century workplace.

      That was the incident that inspired me to write in to AAM and start job hunting. I hope my negative reviews of this person help my successor!

  3. jtr*

    LW1, while you didn’t have the most graceful response, perhaps, maybe you dodged a bullet. Your bosses had known and worked with you for how long? And their immediate response wasn’t to sit down and talk to you about the email, but to treat you with suspicion? I would think my first response would be to ask if you were ok and safe in your living situation.

    Gotta say, I think it’s pretty shady of them to just start treating you differently based on an email from an ex (or even current) partner of yours.

    1. MK*

      On the other hand, if management ignored a warning about an employee, one could just as easily call them negligent. Also, just because a warning comes from someone with a grudge doesn’t mean it has no basis. Only think how many legitimate complaints are dismissed because “disgruntled employee”. It’s not completely clear to me whether in this case OP’s manager asked her to address the concerns the email raised, or if they went into it with an accusatory attitude.

      Also, it certainly matters how long OP worked there, as well as how she was performing and if she had a good relationship with her manager. And her working remotely certainly matters; people often don’t feel they really know those they don’t interact in person with.

      1. Excel-sior*

        but the ‘warning’ didn’t come from a disgruntled former employee, it came from a disgruntled complete stranger.

        1. MK*

          Sure, and as such is less credible. But it’s still not a good idea to completely dismiss it/

          1. Simona*

            If I get a messsage from someone telling me my trusted employee is a drug addict I am going to ignore it except to notify the employee that someone is spreading things about them. Just some rando messaging this when it goes against everything you know about the person? I can’t imagine EVER doing that.

          2. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            jtr said they would talk to the employee about it with the main concern being for the employee’s safety. That’s not “ignoring a warning” nor is it “completely dismissing it.”

            Treat it as what it is: an unsolicited comment from someone unconnected to the company with a personal beef against your employee and is obviously intended to harm her reputation. They chose this random stranger’s word as somehow more credible than the person they actually know and work with.

            He claimed she’d not been in the hospital. She showed them proof that she was. That was all the proof they needed to see that he was lying. That should have been the end of the conversation.

            1. Observer*

              He claimed she’d not been in the hospital. She showed them proof that she was. That was all the proof they needed to see that he was lying. That should have been the end of the conversation.

              Yeah. That’s the key here. I can see being worried to completely dismiss a warning without doing some checking. But once you have clear evidence that a key piece of the accusation is wrong, you really need to drop it.

          3. jasmine*

            Yes it is. Employers should ignore all complaints that come from outside the company unless perhaps there’s a serious safety issue, in which case they can discreetly check public records for any crimes for which one is convicted (*not* accused).

            It’s dystopian to think your livelihood should depend on what’s going on outside of work. And if it was something that affected work, presumably it’d be noticed within the company and wouldn’t require outside tips.

      2. LateRiser*

        Sitting down and talking about the issue to find out what’s going on is the opposite of ignoring the warning, it’s investigating the claim. No one is advocating for management to ignore anything.

        1. MK*

          The comment I replied to said “it’s shady to just start treating you differently based on an email from an ex”, while OP said “the whole thing changed my boss’ tune about me entirely, and they began to ask questions”. Asking questions is not an inappropriate level of “treating the employee differently” after receiving an email with allegations against them, there nothing shady about that. I agree that the manager veered into “sucks” territory by questioning OP’s sick leave after a hospital stay.

          1. ecnaseener*

            If the letter stopped at “asking questions,” you might be right but keep reading… they asked questions, received documentation of the hospital stay which should’ve been enough, and then kept going. They implied that two days recuperating at home was fake. They made it clear they were very suspicious, to the point that LW didn’t feel it was worth trying to keep their job anymore.

            1. Ana Maus*

              They implied that two days recuperating at home was fake.

              This came up in comments a few weeks ago. In the US, there are a great many people who have the idea that once you are out of the hospital, you are completely fine and ready to resume all normal activities.

              With insurance companies booting you out as soon as they can get away with to save themselves money, they need to get over that.

              1. Boof*

                Honestly there’s no reason to keep someone in a hospital if they don’t need to be there; it’s a poor use of resources that geared for someone who is acutely ill and needs stabilization or intense skilled medical needs.
                BUT “you are no longer in need of intense medical intervention” and “you are well enough to go back to work” are two very different statements and it usually takes a little time to go from one to the other too! Definitely weird to question someone needing 2 more days after a hospital stay to recover, and if needed I bet most staff would be willing to give a note (and privately think your employer was bonkers for requiring one; I’m actually more used to signing a “release to work” than a “work excuse” these days)

                1. Toledo Mudhen*

                  I think Ana has a point. I was sent home from an abdominal hysterectomy less than two days after the surgery. They didn’t even care if my digestive system was completely working, just hurried me out the door.

                  Ten years ago, I worked on a GYN unit in a hospital. A total hysterectomy would have you admitted for five days.

                2. Clisby*

                  Exactly. When my husband had one kidney removed, he was out of the hospital in 4 or 5 days. He was advised not to go back to work for at least a month, and wasn’t cleared to drive for 6 weeks – but he definitely didn’t need be in the hospital for weeks.

                3. TeratomasAreWeird*

                  Yeah, I was in the hospital for 2 days for abdominal surgery, and they released me pretty much as soon as I was able to pass gas. It was 6 *weeks* before I was able to return to work, and that was WFH in a fully reclined chair; it was months before I could sit up comfortably or drive.

                  (I actually lived in a long-stay hotel immediately after release because my apartment building doesn’t have elevators and “ready to be discharged” and “able to reach my 4th floor walkup” are two different standards.)

              2. Observer*

                In the US, there are a great many people who have the idea that once you are out of the hospital, you are completely fine and ready to resume all normal activities

                I don’t think that this is the case at all. Most people are perfectly well aware that getting out of the hospital does not mean that all is well. Which is why so many employers require documentation of “fitness” to return to work after a hospital stay.

                With insurance companies booting you out as soon as they can get away with to save themselves money,

                It’s not an insurance issue. After a certain point, it’s actually a medically bad idea to stay in the hospital – and it’s a huge waste of resources in most cases. Hospitals can be wondrous places for acute care, but that is a very different design than what is required for simple healing.

            2. Crooked Bird*

              They said “the whole thing changed my boss’s tune about me entirely, AND they started asking questions.” I really don’t interpret that as “the whole thing changed my boss’s tune about me entirely, BY WHICH I MEAN they started asking questions”–not at all. Most people can tell someone’s attitude toward them pretty well by small cues and interactions, and that’s the kind of thing that “changing their tune entirely” generally refers to, and we should trust an OP’s social read on their own situation unless we have reason not to. It seems likely to me the boss began exhibiting a suspicious attitude early in the process, and their later actions bear out that that was their general trajectory.

              tl;dr there’s nothing wrong with asking questions but HOW you ask them matters greatly, and I doubt these folks did it the right way!

            3. ferrina*

              Yes, it would be one thing if the boss was a little off for a couple weeks while they did the initial investigation. But the thing is- they did the investigation, got satisfactory answers, but then kept investigating. Even when LW showed them proof of innocence and explained the motivation of the emailer, the boss didn’t believe the LW. For me, that’s where it crossed the line- if the boss/HR made up their mind that LW is guilty, then that’s an untenable work environment.

          2. LateRiser*

            Sure, but I was referring to the part before that where it said “And their immediate response wasn’t to sit down and talk to you about the email, but to treat you with suspicion?” which it seemed you took to mean “ignore a warning”.

          3. Rex Libris*

            I work at a public library. If we started questioning our judgment and our knowledge of our staff every time a random stranger made up a wild story to try and cause trouble, we wouldn’t have any staff left.

            Either there was some previous pattern that caused them to question the OP’s conduct, or the managers were wildly off base and unprofessional. Probably the latter.

          4. Lenora Rose*

            You skipped right past “Changed my boss’s tune about me completely” even as you quoted it, to focus on the asking questions. But it’s also about what questions were asked.

            If an employee is doing their work, and their vindictive ex says they’re slacking and doing drugs, it’s EASY to verify the employee is doing their work and sober on the job; even a slight temporary increase in checking in is enough to verify. Treating them with suspicion at that point is, in fact, silly.

            And note, I’m not saying don’t do due diligence, I’m saying the due diligence is easy to do in a way that still supports the employee.

            Maybe I’m rankling because I know people* who’ve had someone vindictive try and go after their job by making claims to their boss. “Trust but verify” is fine, but this boss in this case ignored the trust part entirely, and was pretty shaky on the verify bit.

            * (It’s only like 3 people, but 3 is enough. One had a vindictive ex, one was a one-time online troll issue, one has been the target of a years long online harassment campaign.)

          5. JustaTech*

            It depends on what those questions are (or the tone of the questions). If the boss is asking “hey, what’s up with this person saying you’re an addict, are you OK?” that’s one thing. If it’s the boss asking “hey, LW, where can I score some [drug]?” or very unsubtly looking for track marks, then that’s another thing where it’s clear that the boss has taken the ex’s email at face value.

      3. CityMouse*

        As someone who was the target of a harassment campaign, sometimes it is important for the employer to immediately dismiss things or they participate in their employee’s harassment.

      4. Happy meal with extra happy*

        No. This is along the same logical fallacy lines of believing that every side deserves equal attention and review.

        1. WellRed*

          Right? It wouldn’t even occur to my work to question whether I’d actually stayed in the hospital.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Especially since–does it matter? Presumably the employee was using sick days, which is valid whether they were at the hospital, home with the sniffles, or shopping for groceries while picking up a prescription. It would be a weird thing to lie about, but it’s really not the employer’s business where they were when they were sick.

      5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Sitting down and going over the message isn’t ignoring it. But they took it as 100% true, not something that needed exploring. They just took the ex’s side without even hearing from OP.

        I agree with JTR above – OP dodged a bullet. The company poorly handled this. Getting out was a good choice. I hope by now you have something better with more competent management.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          Worse, they continued to treat the LW with suspicion after she’d showed document evidence that her ex was lying.

      6. Baunilha*

        How is an e-mail from an angry ex-boyfriend a warning, though? It’s not from a client or from a former employee who left on good terms, is just a rando yelling at clouds. Even if the ex said that the OP was planning, say, an attack at their workplace, any reasonable employer would weight the message against what they know of their employee.
        I wouldn’t do anything about it because I trust my team — if I had any concerns, I would be doing something about it regardless of such “warnings”.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Treating her differently during the investigation was wrong. However, an employee may have to investigate a complaint if they deem it sufficiently serious and believeable.

      It is an issue with working remotely, especially if you choose camera off etc, that your managers usually don’t know you as well or form as close a bond. You can form sufficient relationships for work, which is usually all that matters, but not for a serious complaint where your character is at issue rather than your deliverables.

      Any investigation should be done respectfully, whereas this organisation seem to have assumed guilty until proven innocent.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I agree. Certain people lose credibility as a result of their circumstances. “Angry ex-employee who was fired” will be taken with a grain of salt when they criticize a workplace; “angry ex boyfriend” should likewise. It’s disappointing they even followed up on what he said, if they were previously satisfied with the documentation / your work / whatever. They don’t have your back. All of us need to not negotiate with terrorists when angry exes send nudes/shocking info/whatever.

      1. Saturday*

        I’m guessing the boyfriend is a very, very good liar if he deceived everyone in his life for years. He probably managed to look like he wasn’t obviously out for revenge. Situation still should’ve been handled more carefully by the bosses though.

        1. MassMatt*

          Good liar/manipulator, knows someone at the LW’s work place, and/or leveraged ongoing issues LW was having with the boss or coworkers. The actions LW says the workplace took against her were a whole barge full of petty.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      LW, I’m so so so sorry this happened to you. I hope you are doing ok and able to put together your life after this awful breakup. Your bosses treated you absolutely abysmally and I hope you are able to find a new job/career where you don’t have to worry about people not believing you are in the hospital. You were right to quit, though, because once the bosses stopped trusting you I don’t think there was any way you could convince them to trust you again. Not to mention, you would always have doubt in your mind as to whether they were actually trusting you or not, and that, I should think, would really do a number on your own mental health.

      As it is I’m sure you will be suffering from some post-traumatic stress after this and second-guessing yourself and if your new job is equally not trusting as this one was. I hope you are able to get some help overcoming this, whether that be counseling or good friends and family who can help you through it. Best of luck, OP! I had to deal with a liar and manipulator at my last job and though I wasn’t dealing with her all the time, just having her around was really stressful and awful. Much worse to have someone like that in your personal life, ugh.

  4. Elsa*

    LW5 – I was diagnosed with MS over twenty years ago. MS can be very different for different people, and my case is mild. I hope yours will be as well. I have worked at many different places in those 20 years and never disclosed to my employers. I’ve explained any time I needed to take off (not much) with vague explanations, eg “I need to take off a few days for a medical treatment” and no one has ever asked follow up questions. And if people notice me limping or whatever, they are usually polite enough not to ask much about it.

    Good luck and wishing you good health!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      From experience with a serious health issue – don’t tell anyone anything that you don’t have to.

      I know for a fact that I would have lost out on business opportunities, had I disclosed my illness. Why? Because I got a piece of work entirely because the person who selected me to do the work later told me they had selected me (instead of their usual person) because their usual person had some health issues. Ironically, I was being treated for cancer the whole time I worked for them.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        learnedthehardway – did you drop them as a client when you found out? I would have, and I would have told them exactly why. They sound like real jerks.

  5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (insulted by underperformer) – Once again, the “recruited as a change agent but given no backing from management” rears its head. Anywhere this happens, you have a very low chance of succeeding in that role (due to the environment, not a reflection on the person in the role).

    I would have a direct conversation with the boss/’HR’ about this: look, it’s been 6 months. The PIP process isn’t achieving anything and there’s no improvement because you won’t allow me to respond to any of the venting. This isn’t constructive. We need to get a timeline down for the end of this process and stick to it and I need to be given the management authority to handle this.

    The boss’s motivation is either: they’re too “soft” and want to give the employee too many chances, they’re conflict-averse/lawsuit-averse (I don’t see any grounds for a lawsuit here but you know how people get) and are just paying lip service, or the boss is protecting the employee for some reason.

    Which is it?

    The first one is potentially solvable. The other two are not solvable IMO.

      1. Spring*

        Or the boss was never really on board with the OP making the changes they were hired to make.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      A past letter that really lingered for me was from an OP who turned down an offer to come in as a change agent. But, the company that she turned down didn’t believe her. She’d go to conferences and employees of the company would talk about how great everything was going to be once OP came on board and turned things around.

    2. Hyaline*

      And let’s say that this problem performer finally does get canned–the OP manages to convince HR/boss to put an end date with firm consequences in place and it actually sticks. Ok. Then what? She’s got a whole slate of other underperformers to put through the same tedious, unending process? The letter says they put the “lowest performer” on a PIP suggesting the rest of the team is not stellar. Seems to me that the big boss is not up to the decisions of real leadership.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes, the problem here is the boss and/or HR. In OP2’s place, I’d definitely have the conversation you recommend, but I wouldn’t pin any hopes on a satisfactory outcome.

      OP2, if you read this — this place hired you as a change agent, but they really don’t want change. Check the AAM archives for job search advice and start looking for your next position. Investing any more time in this outfit would be a waste.

  6. some person in asia*


    That is so infuriating! I can’t believe they believed essentially a nobody over their own employee and refused to even try to listen to your side. Is it possible to sue your ex for defamation that culminated in the loss of your job (even if it was because you quit)?

    1. Comment*

      Nothing about the letter said they believed a nobody. “Hey LW1. It says you were in the hospital for 3 days but took off the whole week. What happened?” “OMG I am stressing out and can’t do this and I quit.” Even though all we are getting is LW1’s perspective, which is of course already a skewed version of what happened, it’s pretty clear to me that they overreacted to the situation.

      1. metadata minion*

        Taking off a week for a three-day hospital stay is so normal that I’m seriously side-eye-ing them for even asking. Why do they need to know how much of the leave was spent in the hospital and how much was at home recovering? And if they can’t tell already that “X is a drug addict and goofing off rather than working” is nonsense, there are other problems with either the LW’s performance or management’s knowledge of how and what their employees are doing.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I am wondering whether LW perceived the questioning as more aggressive / suspicious than it actually was because they were so stressed and hair-triggery because of the awful situation with their ex, or whether there was some other out-of-character behaviour during that high-stress period that was alarming LW’s management. All of which would be completely understandable– finding out that someone you’re in an intimate relationship with has been lying to you is *incredibly* stressful, and makes you question all your relationships and everything you know on an absolutely granular level, even without the added toxicity of that person trying to threaten your livelihood and reputation. It’s a truly awful concatenation of events.

          1. bamcheeks*

            (Correction: perceived it as more aggressive / suspicious than it was intended to be, rather than it “was”, which suggests it was objectively not suspicious and LW was wrong. What I meant was rather a situation where management was more heavy-handed than was necessary but it felt even more punitive to LW because it arrived on top of an already stressful situation.)

        2. Cheetah*

          I think there’s something missing here. Either something’s off with the company or they were already eyeing LW. Alison asked how things were for the LW at work before all this happened, and I’m curious, too…

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I think this is fairly unempathetic. To realise your ex is trying to sabotage you by using the very contact information you provided them with, in a moment of vulnerabilty and trust, is going to be hugely distressing even if it has no traction. Then you realise it’s actually being taken seriously by the very people who control your paycheck; that not even documentation proving that it was bogus, is resetting anything. I agree that OP overreacted, but I truly understand why.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I’m not even sure they’re overreacting–her boss got an email from essentially a rando who accused OP of drug use/goofing off. This “fact” does not comport with OP’s actual behavior and work output. However, instead of dismissing this and letting OP know they got this message, they took it seriously and basically started investigating OP. I’d be quitting too, if they didn’t trust what they knew of me over some unhinged email they didn’t even ask about (thus giving OP the chance to say, “oh man, that’s from my ex, who is not taking our breakup well. Thank you for letting me know about this”.).

          1. Baunilha*

            Right? The fact that the company would even give such e-mail a thought at all!
            Either they already had issues with OP (in which case, they should address those regardless of the random e-mail) or they had no issues whatsoever and so wouldn’t pay any attention to the “accusation”.
            I’d be insulted too.

          2. MassMatt*

            How do you know about OP’s actual behavior and work output? We are to take LW’s at their word and be kind here but the OP doesn’t say this.

      3. Silver Robin*

        I was in the hospital for a routine medical procedure that was slated for 3 days and was told before the procedure happened that I should then take 2 weeks off of work. My procedure involved surgery, hence the longer recovery time, I can imagine OP’s stay to be less medically invasive. But to begrudge OP two measly days after getting out of the hospital?? Really? I would not even question it. Of course they are going to want at least a day to sleep in their own bed, shower in their own bathroom, and chill out before returning to work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not even just their own bed and shower and chilling out! My husband was in the hospital for three nights 12 days ago and he’s still not recovered enough to return to work. They get you out as soon as you no longer need round the clock care from doctors and nurses; there’s still recovery from whatever you were in there for!

          1. Silver Robin*

            100%!!! I was going for the least intensive version just to say that even the barest minimum is a good enough reason to stay home. But you are totally right that most hospital stays require more recovery at home since the hospital is just for the most acute/dangerous part of the treatment.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          And…how many of us (who could afford to) took a day or two off from work after getting a COVID-19 and/or flu vaccine/booster?

          I know I did (or at least planned it so I could have the weekend to recover).

          Two days after being an inpatient is so, so minimal.

      4. TeratomasAreWeird*

        They asked for documentation that LW was sick (which sounds like it is *not* standard policy) solely because an angry ex made accusations. Unless LW had previously been untrustworthy, that is a significant lapse in judgement from their managers. I have a friend who quit her job of five years after being asked to provide a doctor’s note (contrary to company policy) because it was a clear demonstration that her manager didn’t trust her.

        Then they compound the error in judgement by asking why she took two days to recover from being in the hospital? That’s absolutely ridiculous. I was in the hospital for 2 days for a surgical procedure and was cleared to go back to WFH 6 *weeks* later. (I wasn’t cleared to drive for even longer.)

        I would have quit too, LW. I couldn’t trust managers that were that easily persuaded by a vindictive ex.

      5. Observer*

        “Hey LW1. It says you were in the hospital for 3 days but took off the whole week. What happened?”

        That is a question that makes absolutely no sense in this context. To start with, needing to take a day or two off after being in the hospital for *3 days* is SOOOO normal, that it is not reasonable to ask the question. In the context of “investigating” an accusation that the LW wasn’t in the hospital at all? No, the LW would be 100% correct to see just the question as being suspicious and not believing them.

    2. Generic Name*

      I have bad news for anyone who thinks lawsuits are a good fix for situations like this. They take a ton of time, emotional energy, and money. And even if you get awarded a financial judgement, that doesn’t mean you actually receive any money. The lawyers always get paid first, of course. And if the person who owes you money doesn’t pay on their own, it’s your responsibility to collect. So if they don’t voluntarily pay the judgement, you’ll be out your legal fees. But at least you’ll have a court document that says so-and-so owes you money.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        While you’re not wrong that lawsuits aren’t a miracle solution, I think you’re overstating how few companies pay legal judgements. Liens exist, and assets can be seized, so more companies than you think will pay a judgement off just to reduce the risk that a more valuable asset could be seized. It’s embarrassing to have your bank account frozen and have your payroll bounce due to the bank freezing your account to comply with a judicial order. These things take time, but it’s certainly not impossible to collect a settlement from a lawsuit from a client who doesn’t want to pay.

        None of this changes just how much time and emotional energy goes into a lawsuit, which you are absolutly right about. It’s almost never the best outcome. Also, you can’t get blood from a stone, so if there’s no money to seize, you are right that the lawsuit won’t get you anywhere. Still, I don’t think it’s either productive or true to state that lawsuits are not sometimes the best fix for a problem.

      2. MassMatt*

        Employment discrimination cases are especially difficult to win.

        It’s very strange how so much employer behavior in the US revolves around fear of being sued for firing someone when in most cases employees really have very little recourse.

  7. Not a lawyer butt*

    LW3, I never sign anything before I’ve read it, and if people try to hassle me to get me to hurry up I make sure to read it extra thoroughly.

    They may consider it only a formality, but the courts don’t.

    1. münchner kindl*

      Yes. LW is right that it was only luck that no kid / teen got injured this time, but with kids, accidents can happen even with less dangerous activities and more supervision.

      If counselor signs and an accident happens that could have been prevented – by not allowing teen Bob to do a dangerous activity because Bob is always goofing off and not showing any common sense – then the courts can prosecute counselor for criminal neglience or similar, which carries a long prison sentence.

      Additionally, any career with children, like teacher, are usually banned after such an accident, so a 18 year old giving in to pressure to just sign, can really ruin their live.

      Plus, if a goofball teen is allowed to go and does get injured, decent people will feel guilty about it – the teen may have to live with lifelong bodily consequences, too, because the adults who were supposed to protect him by saying “No, not this activity” didn’t.

      1. Catfish Mke*

        There isn’t a jurisdiction in the US that is gonna charge an 18 year old employee of a summer camp for criminal negligence.

    2. Helvetica*

      As a child of two lawyers – yes, this exactly. Signatures carry weight and I need to assess what I agree to before I sign anything.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        As a parent who signed field trip forms, it is wild to me that they are making a legal argument along the lines “Say your child is at second grade and the teacher decides to load everyone on the bus and go into the city for a spontaneous field trip–so long as the teacher signs a form for everyone saying it’s okay, it’s fine! Uh, in loco parentis, et cetera, other Latin phrases.”

        1. Miette*

          OMG THIS! I can’t imagine a lot of parents sent their kiddos to that camp being cool with LITERAL TEENAGERS signing release forms/permission forms for a trip offsite. This is such risky behavior–is that place still in business because WTF.

    3. Clearance Issues*

      the camp I worked for would have parents sign waivers prior to kids coming to camp. If there was an “extra” event off camp property, that got an extra waiver AND another explanation to the parents during drop off so they had the option to withdraw. none of that authority was with the 18+ counselors.

    4. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

      As a general rule, the more pressure there is to sign something without reading it, the more important it is to read it.

      Related rule: if they need an answer on this offer/deal/contract right now without time to consider it, the answer is no.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        I used to work at a law firm, and my bosses loved people who signed things without reading them. They made a lot of money from people like that.

        I strongly second both of these rules. People never push you to sign a document for no reason. If they are pushing hard for you to sign something, it’s almost NEVER in your best interest to do so.

  8. Mel99*

    As #4 is work related, is there not a concern that the employee is effectively missing out on external networking opportunities because her boss is going to the event? Like I totally get where LW is coming from and I think it’s probably the right choice, but it does still seem unfair when someone else in the exact same position whose manager *isn’t* going to the dinners would be able to benefit from them.

    I also think that while LW’s response of ‘you can invite her but I won’t go’ was objectively a very sensible response, but it also put the organiser in an awkward position where she kind of had to disinvite the employee to avoid drama. You can’t really bring a new person to a dinner and say ‘so [person you all know and like] isn’t able to come to these anymore because this person is coming instead’ and expect that to go well.

    Not saying LW did anything wrong, it’s a tricky situation and I think she made the right choices, but I also think it’s more complicated than it’s being made out.

    1. LW4*

      Hi, yes I do worry about excluding Petinia from networking. The dinners involve a lot of discussion about work place events and things that drive these women nuts. None are managers like me. I feel a lot of kindred ship (no you’re not crazy for feeling like you’re treated differently as a woman in this field!) but also lets me know how others are coping.

      Also Petunia doesn’t know about these dinners so no one was disinvited. Iris asked me before she talked to Petunia. The group is fluid and different people come at different times bc of work schedules so it wouldn’t be super obivous if I didn’t show up. Only Iris would know it’s because Petunia was there.

      1. Miss V*

        Since you’ve spent a fair amount of time with these women, I’m wondering if there’s any you think might make a good mentor for Petunia. This way she still gets to reap the benefits of you networking, but she’s actually getting one on one time and you’re avoiding the appearance of Petunia having extra time with you.

        1. LW4*

          Petunia and I are the same age (in fact she’s a bit younger) and solidly mid career. I’m not sure she’d want a mentor. It’s more that this circle isn’t explicitly networking and more a ton of social support.

      2. Smithy*

        I’m of the mind that as long as this is beneficial to you, then the stance you made was correct. It would no doubt diminish the true opportunity for both of you. Having peers you can vent with is genuinely helpful to get a marker on if your issues are at a median level issue or truly beyond. And so to completely take any option of that away from you, as well as to put Petunia in a place of potentially making the others in the group who know you uncomfortable to hear vents that might involve you – it doesn’t serve to give either of you the full benefit of the group.

        However, I would flag that if at some point this group stops being useful to you. You feel you need to monitor yourself so much that you get less and less out of it – then I think you always have the ability to proactive step away and tell Iris you think that Petunia would benefit from the group.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, it is too bad that Petunia shut herself out of a valuable networking opportunity when she helped OP get hired. I wonder if OP could suggest that Iris invite Petunia for a slightly different version of the event that OP will skip this time, either as a one-time thing or as an ongoing every-other-month type thing. Ideally Iris could invite her and a few other women once and then encourage them to keep it up.

      1. LW4*

        The alternating idea is a good one.

        The tricky thing is that Petunia is rather difficult in general in both professional/personal issues and I’m not sure how she’d react to it or understand why I’m hesitant to even alternate. I suspect it was why she wasn’t invited at the start of the group. (I was invited, Iris started and managed/invites)

        Additionally the group often vents about job stresses and others that they work with. I have never joined in this (bc I’m a manager and honestly really like where I work) but I’m relatively sure Petunia would complain loudly (as that’s her nature). I don’t want to hear about complaints second hand, if that makes sense? I feel like it’s mixing professional and personal boundaries.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          This is all fair. I agree that it’s too bad that Petunia is missing out on a networking opportunity, but since you have an established history with the group, it is valid to prioritize the benefits you are getting out of it over Petunia’s potential participation in something she isn’t even aware of. (Especially if she’s personally a bit difficult in a way that means inviting her would probably have the effect that you permanently would be unable to participate.)

          1. hobbydragon*

            If she has two little kids and is going through a divorce, I can’t imagine her wanting to spend the money on childcare AND a dinner out even if invited. In my mind, it just adds one more thing to her list to do that takes time away from all that life admin that is no longer being split between two adults.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I think that’s beyond the purview of the LW and everyone else. She might have the resources and appreciate an evening out. Let’s not suggest women should miss out on opportunities like this basically because they have domestic responsibilities, OK? The offer should still be there, provided there aren’t professional reasons for it not to be.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                I agree. We don’t know what her childcare situation or her finances are. We could even speculate the other way around, that it’s easier for her to go out because the father has the kids some nights anyway (which we don’t know either obviously! She’s the only one who knows if it fits her life at the moment).

        2. bamcheeks*

          LW4, I think you are kind for thinking about this, but no, you are not obliged to leave a private group that your employee might get benefit from. If this was a substantial, public, industry-related networking event and you were making a decision that meant your direct report was excluded, that would be one thing, but it sounds like it’s only just one step up from a group of friends meeting informally, and I think it would be a self-denial too far to give it up. I think you’re good!

      2. AngryOctopus*

        I mean, this can’t be the only networking/support opportunity in town. The group has chosen to make sure OP can continue to attend without the appearance of favoritism. OP can talk to Petunia and let her know about opportunities out there that don’t involve OP, should Petunia want such a thing and be having trouble finding it.

    3. Margaret Cavendish*

      LW’s response of ‘you can invite her but I won’t go’ was objectively a very sensible response, but it also put the organiser in an awkward position

      I don’t think that’s true. You could argue the opposite, that Iris put LW in an awkward position by asking the question. This meant that LW had to decide between staying in the group with Petunia there, leaving the group, or asking that Petunia not be invited. There are no good answers there either.

      But really I think the whole situation is awkward. You have an informal networking group, and the possibility of inviting a direct report of a current member – that’s an awkward decision, regardless of who raises it or what the outcome is. And if it can’t be avoided, I think it’s best to put it out in the open and come to a decision, rather than just pretending it isn’t there.

    4. Hyaline*

      I think there’s a lot of overthinking happening here—LW is part of an established group with a trusting rapport. Iris suggested an addition to the group that she sensibly ran by LW; LW sensibly shared reservations about adding this person. No harm, no foul. LW is not responsible for facilitating networking for Petunia and shouldn’t feel guilty. This isn’t even formal networking; it sounds much closer to a group of friends. Petunia is an adult and can make her own friends. If LW wants to make some introductions, that’s a kind but not necessary thing to do, and given a couple updates she’s given about Petunias tendency to complain about work, I can see why she’d prefer not to introduce her to her own friend pool.

      1. LW4*

        Thank you. This articulates exactly how I feel and confirms my tendency to overthink. I’ll put it aside and be happy with my friend group.

  9. The Prettiest Curse*

    #3 – I’m really curious about whether this would hold up in court if a child was injured and required expensive medical treatment. I assume the point of signing this agreement is to shift liability onto the employee and away from the camp. And I also assume that the parents sign some kind of legal release for their kid to do those activities. So presumably nobody would have any legal liability except for the teenage camp employee. Which is why this letter writer was entirely correct in not signing the agreements.

    1. münchner kindl*

      Yes – the camp going this route at all, instead of, as Allison said, making the parents sign before start of camp, shows that camp would throw the counselor under the bus, despite it really being the camp’s administration/ boss’ fault for taking the wrong approach. It looks as if camp wants teens to have fun and not complain to their parents “But I couldn’t go kayaking/ rafting/ canyoing” and parents then complaining to camp boss “I paid so much money for my kid to have fun, why was he not allowed?” and instead of boss saying “kid is thrill-seeking/ not listening to safety rules, so he couldn’t go”, they just pressure counselors to put their neck on the block.

      As parents, this is a good warning to check how much authority the camp counselors have to forbid things if teens are behaving stupid, and how the rules are generally: yes, it would be nice for your kid to go kayaking, but you don’t want them to get (permanently) injured because they are stupid at 14. Kid can still do the activity at 16 when they follow safety rules if counselor says “no” at 14, but not if they get injured at 14.

    2. Part time lab tech*

      In Australia, they are legally useless. Their use is chiefly to remind the parents that activity carries risk and get permission to call an ambulance/ take to emergency/ contact details. If the organisation/ employees/ volunteers are negligent/malicious, particularly if warned that there was a problem, they may still be liable if something goes wrong. IANAL though, parents were involved with Scouts and I was a Scout and Brownie.

      1. Part time lab tech*

        However, Australian emergency departments are bulk billed for anyone with a Medicare card. Also I have never heard of employees signing off for children and might kick up a fuss if someone did that for my children without my permission.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Presumably whatever the parents signed passed liability / responsibility to the camp organisation as an entity. I cannot imagine there is a court in the world which would accept the argument that Camp Inc is not legally responsible but Prunella Warbleworth, a low paid employee with no formal training or certification in child safety who was directed by Camp Inc to sign, is. Pretty much any situation where an individual employee is going to be held personally liable, they either need to be a member of a regulated profession who holds a personal licence and code of ethics, OR they’ve acted outside the bounds of their organisation’s directions, policies and protocol. You can’t just say, “sign this— ok, you’re liable now! Haha!”

      1. Antilles*

        The camp organization is still responsible for the kids. The waiver for the third-party outdoor adventure company is intended to protect that third-party adventure company, NOT the camp. So the parents might not be able to sue the adventure company, BUT they could still sue Camp Inc.
        And no, the fact that camp employee Prunella is the one who signed the paperwork and not the camp director doesn’t matter. Prunella was signing the paperwork as part of her job duties on behalf of Camp Inc, so they still hold the liability and legal responsibility.

        1. Simona*

          Correct. Employees are covered under liability policies. If an employee does something it is on the employer and the carrier of that org is the one that is going to field the claim.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I can imagine a camp, though, where the senior person thought this would magically protect the camp.

        It occurred to me upthread that probably what happened wasn’t a spontaneous decision to add an expensive activity, but a Tuesday night realization that the release forms for Wednesday’s trip apparently didn’t make it into the registration packet and so don’t exist, and someone was trying to come up with the appearance of a layer of completed paperwork while hoping nothing went wrong and caused anyone to examine the paperwork.

        1. Quill*

          I can easily imagine an organization going “but nothing bad WILL happen, so it’s just a piece of paper” as that comes up pretty often with risky but fun activities (kayaking, rock climbing)

        2. Catfish Mke*

          This is the only thing that makes sense. Usually this form is in the registration packet but oops we forgot what do we do

    4. Sloanicota*

      The intent is to shift blame away from the adventure course that’s a separate entity from the camp. It probably doesn’t mean OP would have been jailed for many years if something had happened to one of the kids, as others have said, but I understand the concern.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I think it’s unlikely that a teenage counsellor would get jailed because they signed a waiver saying a kid could do an activity safely and then the kid messed around and got hurt. At least in Ireland, the rule for claims along this line are “would a reasonably responsible parent have predicted/prevented this?” and I don’t think a court would say, “well, a reasonably responsible parent could have predicted their child would act up at an adventure camp and no responsible parent would have signed that slip.”

        That said, it’s not a responsibility any 18 year old should be expected to take and it sounds like there is a greater issue here with regards to the kids being sent on a trip when the counsellor did not think they could be trusted to behaved safely.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I assume that in practice the lawyers of any enraged parents would take one look at the penniless 18 year old, laugh derisively, and go straight for the camp and adventure company.

      I’m now pondering how these things are expensive, and I think they intended to have the parents sign months out–the cost would have been passed on in the fees they paid the camp–and realized the night before the trip that that hadn’t happened and they needed some forms which, at a glance, appeared to have a signature on them.

      1. doreen*

        I’m 100% sure that’s what it is – I signed waivers in person at all sorts of activities when my kids were young. Camping, rafting, skiing, skating rinks – but those places really only knew that someone signed the form. They didn’t actually know I was the parent.

    6. Rebecca*

      It likely wouldn’t have stood up in court, but even being put in the position where it went to court would be traumatic, exploitative, and unfair.

      I worked at an over night camp when I was 16 – 16! I had done a 3 week camp myself in the previous summer that was my ‘training’ but it was mostly a fun camp experience. The camp I worked at had a program where it worked to pair counselors one-on-one with campers with special needs so that they could have camp experiences. I was partnered – at 16 with zero formal training – with a 13 or 14 year old who had developmental delays and a severe form of epilepsy that meant it was dangerous for her to ever be alone, even while showering or sleeping. She was both taller and heavier than me, and I was often alone with her while she needed to shower or refused to participate in the group activities. I was the only counselor who was with her 24 hours a day for 7 full days, except for one 30 minute break a day. I slept in her room. She didn’t like me very much, which had very little to do with me and a lot to do with the fact that she was getting old enough to realize that she didn’t want to be monitered all the time but without the maturity to understand why she needed to be, so she was often ‘escaping’.

      I was fired that summer – my first real job, from a camp I loved and had been a camper at myself for year – because I did a bad job with her. They told me I was irresponsible and selfish, that I had risked a child’s life, that I should never be allowed to work with children again. My mother went to bat to make sure that none of that was ever put in writing – she threatened to take them to court. It was years before I really came to understand that I had been set up to fail and that I wasn’t what they said I was, but it was traumatic and terrible even without someone trying and failing to sue me.

      Now I’m a trained teacher and 17 years into my career, and there is no way I would think those circumstances were safe and reasonable for me to do NOW.

      Kudos to the OP for recognizing that the camp was in the wrong here and standing up for himself. I was too inexperienced and naive to do it for myself.

      1. better days ahead*

        Ugh, I’m so sorry that happened to you! The camp (and honestly, the kid’s parents*) were so in the wrong here.

        I’ll be honest, that camper should probably have not been at that particular camp. It seems like her parents should have sent her to a camp specifically for kids with more specialized needs like hers, or kept her home. Or, if they were hell bent on sending her to that specific camp, then sending along their own specially-trained minders (more than 1!) and not just relying on the camp to make do.

        *Maybe the kid’s parents didn’t realize this was the camp’s idea of providing for their daughter’s needs in which case, the camp was even more in the wrong.

    7. MCMonkeybean*

      Liability waivers are often already unenforceable, so while I am not a lawyer I feel extremely confident that a waiver signed on behalf of a child by an 18-year-old who had known them for like a week would be beyond worthless.

      1. Catfish Mke*

        If anything it’s evidence in the plaintiffs case!!! Defendant shows knowledge of wrongdoing by instead of having a responsible adult sign shifts that job to this teenager hahah yeah she’s a plaintiff witness

  10. Cybell*


    Are these insults personal attacks, or are they criticisms of your performance? By putting her on a PIP, you are criticizing her performance, and while toxic workplaces allow criticism to only flow down, healthy workplaces allow it to flow upwards. This is both fair and prevents a one-sided blaming for any issues.

    If these insults are complaints, the reason you are not being allowed to respond defensively is because these complaints are the defense, to the complaints in the PIP. Shutting down her defense makes for a one-sided blaming.

    Also, “But I can’t imagine repeatedly insulting my boss to her boss and remaining employed.”

    In healthy workplaces, valid criticisms and complaints about someone can be brought to one who has the power to act upon them.

    1. misspiggy*

      I can’t think of many valid complaints which would prevent one performing adequately at one’s job and which one’s line manager and grandboss would be unable to fix within six months, at a healthy workplace. Which is Allison’s point, it’s not a healthy workplace.

    2. Nebula*

      I feel like we have to take LW at their word that these are insults. Whatever it is, do you think having someone on a PIP for six months with no progress either way is a sign of a healthy workplace?

      1. MsM*

        Right. The situation is flawed enough on its own that I’m inclined to believe there’s nothing constructive happening in the meetings.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      This case sounds like the employee continually diverting attention in the PIP meetings from her performance issues by attacking the OP.

    4. bamcheeks*

      But if this were a healthy workplace, this wouldn’t have been going on for six months, because the first time LW’s employee raised these valid criticisms, LW or her boss would have said, “That’s a valid complaint, this is what we’re going to do about it”. If they were not valid criticisms, LW’s boss should have shut them down. There’s no healthy workplace where you get to criticise your boss for an hour a week for six months and nothing changes!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yep. Of course the employee should get a chance to have their say, but there’s no way it should have gone no this long and been this repetitive. That’s not serving anyone.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Exactly. This isn’t “being heard”. This is “WELL WHAT ABOUT ONE TIME WHEN OP WAS KIND OF MEAN TO ME ABOUT X???? WHAT ABOUT THAT???” over and over, and yet somehow managing to not address her performance issues (given that it’s six months and these are still happening). A two-way street means you can say your piece, others say their piece, and then you figure out how to address the issues and foster better performance. Not that the employee gets to complain endlessly about their manager and the manager gets to say nothing, and nothing ever changes.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      Even in that case, the boss should have intervened before now, either to amend or close the PIP, if they found that the employee’s complaints were justified and the LW was not being reasonable or to support the LW if they found that the complaints were not justified.

      I agree that the employee should have the right to defend themself and to make criticisms of the LW’s management if appropriate, but it shouldn’t be going on and on with resolution in either direction.

      It would be valid to say “your PIP requires you to do X, but you’ve made no moves in that direction. Why?” “Well, my manager consistently refuses to train me on it,” but then the response should be for the boss or HR to find out if that were true, arrange training for the employee and monitor them to see if that leads to an improvement, not to spend six months listening to the employee complaining about it and refuse to give the LW a chance to explain why they hadn’t trained her or to argue that they had and she was lying or whatever.

    6. Angstrom*

      If the employee’s criticism is a sincere, good-faith effort to improve the situation, the manager should listen and take it seriously.
      If the employee is just venting and is being deliberately insulting, that should be shut down immediately.

    7. Colette*

      This is off base.

      Yes, feedback flows both ways in a healthy organizaiton, but not during a PIP meeting! That’s a one-way conversation about performance. Yes, the employee might ask for clarification or provide insight into what’s going on, but there should be no discussion about the supervisor’s performance – it’s just not relevant to the discussion.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. This would be six months of weekly meetings in which manager states that she needs Grant to fly the wienermobile, it’s an essential part of this job, Grant replies that he has not been trained by manager on flying and doesn’t know how to do this with a weinermobile, and the top boss/HR saying “Good meeting, everyone feels heard, we’ll reconvene next week.” With no other steps.

      2. Seashell*

        I could see something like the big boss asking why the person on the PIP didn’t get certain work done and the person saying, “Well, LW didn’t get me the info I needed to do it” or “LW doesn’t assign me enough work.” But every week for months? Seems like any legitimate complaints would have been long since handled.

    8. Anne Shirley-Blythe*

      My guess is that they’re a hybrid–personalized attacks on LW’s management. e.g., wanting an employee to be attentive to detail becomes “you nitpick everything and are impossible to please.” Because, if they’re purely personal? Things are even more insane than we thought.

      Hope you find something much better soon, LW.

    9. HonorBox*

      It is one thing in a performance meeting to bring up things that are causing roadblocks to performance. But it is another to be critical of someone specifically. A PIP isn’t necessarily to be critical of performance. It is to show areas that need improvement and see that progress is being made.

      This reminds me of a similar situation in which an employee was ALWAYS ready with a reason for something not working, while also not seeing how they could have changed, adapted, or made it work. It wasn’t helpful for them to be critical of a process, a person, or technology that they just didn’t like.

      I agree that being defensive isn’t going to be helpful because it ends up in a circular argument and isn’t helpful in finding steps forward. But if we take the letter at its word, insulting someone’s boss isn’t going to be beneficial. The employee should be pointing out why progress might not be made in some cases and propose ideas for how to make things work.

    10. PIPprobs*

      Hi there, I am OP. I gave the most extreme insult example in a reply above. It was very extreme, hope you read it.

      In general, I would say the insults are work-related but unconstructive. The employee started in the PIP by saying my instructions were confusing, and I believe learned that she could simply not improve by continually saying that. However it has escalated to where I call it an insult due to her tone and her highly emotional behavior.

      I would also add that I am not frequently called confusing. If numerous people had trouble communicating with me – I’d get it and improve. I am the Director of Communications, and I think if my boss had any real concerns about me communicating poorly I would have had tasks removed, or she would be requesting to review comms before they go out to the general public. That hasn’t happened, so I am pretty unclear as to why she would think I can’t communicate well to this one person.

      I honestly believe there’s just a fear of firing someone.

      I agree with you that in a healthy workplace, feedback goes both ways. However I do think that track records should be taken into consideration, and my employee’s performance problems did not start when I joined the organization. Unfortunately my predecessor was also an underperformer, which is documented, but that person gave my employee positive reviews. So my employee first received feedback that she is underperforming from me. She feels slighted and is lashing out.

  11. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Re: 3, I think it was entirely reasonable for the external provider to require the waiver, but the paperwork should have been signed by each individual’s parents, not LW.

    It sounds as though camp management doesn’t understand liability (and possibly doesn’t understand safety).

    Fwiw, I doubt the documents would have held up in court if they had ever been relied upon, because it’s so obvious that the camp counselors were signing without understanding, probably without authority and possibly under duress.

    1. Rebecca*

      It wouldn’t have stood up in court, but even being put in the position where it went to court would be traumatic, exploitative, and unfair.

      I worked at an over night camp when I was 16 – 16! I had done a 3 week camp myself in the previous summer that was my ‘training’ but it was mostly a fun camp experience. The camp I worked at had a program where it worked to pair counselors one-on-one with campers with special needs so that they could have camp experiences. I was partnered – at 16 with zero formal training – with a 13 or 14 year old who had developmental delays and a severe form of epilepsy that meant it was dangerous for her to ever be alone, even while showering or sleeping. She was both taller and heavier than me, and I was often alone with her while she needed to shower or refused to participate in the group activities. I was the only counselor who was with her 24 hours a day for 7 full days, except for one 30 minute break a day. I slept in her room. She didn’t like me very much, which had very little to do with me and a lot to do with the fact that she was getting old enough to realize that she didn’t want to be monitered all the time but without the maturity to understand why she needed to be, so she was often ‘escaping’.

      I was fired that summer – my first real job, from a camp I loved and had been a camper at myself for year – because I did a bad job with her. They told me I was irresponsible and selfish, that I had risked a child’s life, that I should never be allowed to work with children again. My mother went to bat to make sure that none of that was ever put in writing – she threatened to take them to court. It was years before I really came to understand that I had been set up to fail and that I wasn’t what they said I was, but it was traumatic and terrible even without someone trying and failing to sue me.

      Now I’m a trained teacher and 17 years into my career, and there is no way I would think those circumstances were safe and reasonable for me to do NOW.

      Kudos to the OP for recognizing that the camp was in the wrong here and standing up for himself. I was too inexperienced and naive to do it for myself.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That is horrifying and I would argue those running the camp were “irresponsible and selfish and had risked a child’s life” by putting a 16 year old with no training in working with young people with special needs in charge of what was essentially a peer (16 and 13 year olds are not that far apart in age) with no backup.

        Even an adult should not be responsible for somebody 24/7.

        I worked for a while in a school for students with moderate to profound special educational needs. Once a week, 15/16 year old students from the two nearby secondary schools would come in to teach soccer skills to our students, but they were never left alone with them. At all times, our students were accompanied by a class teacher or special needs assistant who went to the P.E. hall with them and stood at the side watching. I think a teacher also accompanied the Transition Year students who were teaching the skills.

        We stood back and allowed the 15 and 16 year olds to run the show but we were always there to provide backup and dealt with any issues like taking a child to the toilet if he or she could not be responsible for getting there and back alone, removing any student that was acting up, etc. If a child had had an epileptic fit, it would have been our job to intervene, not that of the teens.

        I don’t think you are the one who should never be allowed to work with kids again. Even if you had done something neglectful/immature (and it doesn’t sound like you did), thoughtlessness at 16 would not indicate how responsible a carer somebody would be as an adult.

        1. Quill*

          Honestly if the kid needs to be monitored for a severe medical risk 24/7, someone with some kind of medical training and appropriate licensing should be doing that work. In reasonable shifts. The standards for training and also background checks have to be higher in a setting where you have a lot of kids with different medical risks as temporary residents than they would be at a day activity or school.

          The camp sounds like a nightmare, given that there is no way you have that kind of training as a 16 year old, supervising a peer or no.

      2. Catfish Mke*

        Dang you should stop calling that “getting fired” and instead refer to it as being emancipated because that’s some insane slavery days wet nurse type action.

  12. bamcheeks*

    LW1, this sounds really stressful and awful. What stands out to me is that you quit, “in a moment of stress and pressure”, but it was “several weeks” before you tried to rescind that. I’m also not sure what “quit” in quotation marks means— whether you were being pressured to quit specifically and didn’t feel that it was really your decision, or whether you couldn’t cope with being asked any questions about your absence because of the stress you were under and said you’d quit but didn’t mean it, or just that you stopped showing up for work or something.

    If you aren’t getting any mental health support, I think that’s something I would look for. Even if your boss and HR were being arsey, quitting is quite an extreme reaction, and one you apparently stuck to for several weeks. What that sounds like to me is quite a big breakdown, occasioned by the heavy stress you were under from an abusive breakup, and it makes me wonder what your perceptions were and whether your level of stress was coming through at work in other ways you weren’t aware of.

    This isn’t to criticise you or blame you. I just think that you haven’t quite sorted out in your head exactly what was going on, which is extremely normal when you’re going through a period of high stress and abuse, and it would be helpful to work through it with someone.

    Best of luck.

    1. The Magician's Auntie*

      This is what I was thinking too.
      I’m thinking that at the time of writing the letter, you were under immense, extraordinary stress as a result of abuse from your ex and from your bosses.
      I noticed that you referred to some of your actions as “stupid” or “a mistake”, and I want to say none of what happened is your fault. You were put it wildly difficult situations and were coping as best you could.
      I am so sorry you have been failed by these 3 people.
      Now… recovering. I strongly echo the suggestion of mental health support, and urge you to seek out whoever and whichever activities in your life will be very, very kind to you. Anyone who urges you to doubt yourself, even if they mean well, they might be wrong on that. You’re not the problem in this situation!
      Good luck.

    2. Yup*

      I keep trying to type a response out and erasing it, but I think this sums up my feelings about this situation, too.

      Your ex is looking for revenge and that is a form of abuse. I also wonder how much they were manipulating you while you were in the relationship, which may have messed up your ability to see where you are right and others are wrong. Your boss seems to be believing a man (a stranger!) over a woman (which I’m assuming you are?), which is totally a *thing* but just confounds the whole thing even more for you, I’m sure. It sounds like quitting was a way to make it all stop in the moment when it must have just been too overwhelming for you. Add to that your boss’s reaction to you taking time off for your health (and making you PROVE it!), and it all adds up to the abuse of your wellbeing by two key people in your life.

      I hope you get the time you need to heal and any therapy that may prove helpful to restoring your sense of self.

  13. English Rose*

    #LW2 – as soon as I read the words “six-months ago” in relation to the PIP I knew this was going to be a problem. When at small companies directors double up as HR without the expert knowledge and background, this is a recipe for dissatisfaction all round.
    Maybe a last attempt with the director to put an end date on the PIP with very specific requirements, but otherwise as others have said, you’re just not being given the tools or support to do the job you’ve been asked to do. Look elsewhere, and good luck. (And don’t stay long enough that it normalises this sort of behaviour.)

  14. Jam on Toast*

    LW3, you were right to withhold your signature. Good for you for seeing the risks and advocating for yourself and the campers to keep both of you safe (you from liability, and them from harm!). the camp leadership sucks.

  15. Seashell*

    LW1, I would have suggested that you speak to an attorney about this. It is possible that your ex defamed you. There might not be damages sufficient to bring suit against him, since you quit rather than be fired, but maybe a cease and desist letter would prevent that from happening again. I’m not sure if this was recent and he’s still disgruntled, but it may be worth considering.

    If you really were not using any drugs, you could have offered to be drug tested.

    1. bruh*

      Many, many years ago I was in a very similar situation – I had a former acquaintance threatening to send my boss an email telling them I was addicted to drugs. The complication was that I was, in fact, using drugs, and so the whole situation had all of these additional layers of guilt and fear and shame – so I quit. Seeking external help/validation seemed impossible when the accusations were true – it never occurred to me that it was still illegal to be blackmailing me.

      The letter writer meticulously avoids specifying whether or not they actually do use drugs – I wonder if that is contributing to her hesitance to try and prove her innocence.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    OP1: I’ve been through the aftermath of an abusive relationship with a guy and also the aftermath of walking out of a company due to horribly evil management. You, my friend, have had the dire situation of having them combined and I can’t imagine the pain you’re under.

    But, some advice from someone 20+ years on from the first and 12 years on from the second. You’re not stupid. Your gut reaction was to do whatever would spare you ongoing pain and suffering and that takes a lot of courage. I am willing to bet in years to come you’ll look back on that and go ‘yeah, actually I can be proud of myself’. It can however take a lot of counselling and if there’s any helpline or resource in your country that can help with dealing with getting away from abusive situations I recommend you give them a call for a quick chat.

    As for the work stuff? Your management are a bunch of absolute redacted. Sadly, they’re also unlikely to change their minds even if presented with the truth – they’re a distant relative of conspiracy theorists who’ll latch onto the first bad thing and cling to it. Continuing refusal only strengthens their resolve. It sucks, and I’ve been there and leaving was my only option.

    There’s plenty of companies and managers out there who won’t behave like this, in fact I’d say it’s a majority. Be kind to yourself, you’ve been through hell and you are not in any way to blame for any of this.

  17. Maggie*

    Would LOVE to see a camp try to argue they don’t have liability because an unrelated 18 year old signed a piece of paper.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I guarantee the entity being protected by the waiver was the third-party adventure course, not the camp itself.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think there’s two different things here– the existence of the waiver form is to protect the adventure course, but senior camp staff pressuring LW to sign it was presumably some wild belief that she would be personally responsible rather than Camp Inc. I can’t think of any other remotely plausible reason why senior camp staff would think junior counsellors were the best people to sign it rather than themselves.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it went:
        Adventure course is Wednesday. Late Tuesday afternoon, pulling together the wad of paperwork they have to hand over with the campers, someone discovered that, while they charged all the parents for this, they didn’t actually remember to put the forms in the camp packet. Cue furious printing of waivers, someone filling in the campers’ names, and trying to get all the cabin counselors to sign off for their cabin while flinging around Latin phrases gleaned from The Good Wife.

        I suspect that there was an element of hoping the liability passed off to the lowest ranked teenage staffers. But that the main thing was trying to fake a bunch of filled-out paperwork on a short time frame.

      3. Margaret Cavendish*

        Absolutely. The intent of the waiver was for the adventure company to make the *parents* aware of the activity and associated risks – there’s no way they intended for them to be batch-signed by an unrelated teenager as they were scrambling to get on the bus.

        This is 100% on the camp, likely trying to cover up a paperwork error as Falling Diphthong suggested.

  18. N C Kiddle*

    LW3, you’re asking what you could or should have done, and there really isn’t anything. You did everything right on your end. The problem was entirely on the camp organisation. They wanted you to put your signature to something without reading it? Already a red flag. It’s good to look at how you could have handled things differently, but no amount of different handling will make unreasonable people be reasonable.

  19. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, your boss sounds utterly and completely unreasonable if they expected you to come out of three days in the emergency room and go straight into work the next day. I would expect somebody to be out for a number of weeks after that. I know it depends on the reason for admission, but it sounds like your boss doesn’t know the details and I don’t think there is anything that would require emergency room admission that would have me expecting somebody back within the week.

    And that they changed their view on you after getting a string of allegations from a stranger, some of which it seems were easily disproved. That is bizarre on their part.

    LW2, I don’t think you are going to be able to manage effectively under these conditions. I could see your manager allowing this to happen once, either because they want to hear the other side (though that should probably be done in private without you there) and ensure the person isn’t being unfairly targetted or just to let them show themselves up and record what they are saying as evidence of how insubordinate they are and how they have shown themselves completely disinterested in meeting the requirements of the PIP. But in the first case, you then investigate any allegations and in the second, you either fire them or you make it clear to them that showing respect to colleagues is required for successfully completing the PIP and include it in deciding whether to retain them or not.

    Going on and on like this…makes it seem like your bosses have no intention of dealing with the issue and it reminds me a little of my work experience situation where I heard my boss completely undermine other members of staff to the children we were working with and occasionally excuse children from punishments imposed by other members of staff (“ah, he’s just in a bad mood. He probably had a fight with his girlfriend. You don’t have to do that”) and then couldn’t understand why certain kids didn’t behave for the rest of us like they did when she was present (there was one kid in particular who had learnt that so long as she behaved in front of the boss, she could do whatever she liked when the boss was away and then boss would then take her side, insisting we just weren’t handling her right because “she’s never like that for me and let her off any punishment).

    LW3, you are amazing. It sounds like you handled that perfectly. Honestly, I am in my 40s and I doubt I would have managed as well. At 18, I think I would probably have just done as I was told and then been absolutely terrified of the potential repercussions.

    I don’t think there is anything you should have done that you didn’t (and I say this as a teacher). What they should have done is a) probably gotten permission from the parents and b) listened to your concerns. And they certainly shouldn’t have implied an 18 year was “in loco parentis” to 14 year olds. That isn’t reasonable at all.

    It also sounds like you were alone with those kids far more than you should have been. That would be like me leaving a 6th year student in charge of a bunch of 2nd years and in this case, it sounds like putting them in charge of students with behavioural problems. That would not be reasonable at all. There should have been an adult to back you up (yeah, 18 is legally an adult but…the difference in maturity between a 17 and 18 year old isn’t that huge and being in charge of 14 year olds is a lot different than being in charge of 7 year olds; when I was in my mid-20s, I had students telling me “you can’t tell me what to do. You’re probably not any older than my sister”) and if the kids were really that badly behaved, there should have been consequences, like not going on that trip or being sent home from camp.

    LW5, it’s definitely not dishonest not to tell people your personal medical information.

    1. Mouse named Anon*

      Sadly this is a very American thing. To get out of the hospital and be expected back at work, immediately . I am not saying ALL places. A good number of decent employers would be ok with you taking a few more days off. But most places would expect you back in a few days. Places like call centers, retail, restaurants would expect you back right away.

  20. Simona*

    OP 1: As soon as a crazy ex started contacting my employer I would have said to them, listen this is what is happening. It happened to me. My ex husband started contacting my work saying all kinds of bananas things. I just was like…lol no, this guy is unhinged, it’s revenge. We had the company block his emails and security had a picture of him (he was contacting everyone…my therapist, saying I was showing signs of insanity, all KINDS of things) I feel for you, but don’t let him win, no matter how much anxiety you have about things, don’t make rash decisions going forward. I was in a years long custody battle so everything I did had to be PERFECT. It was stressful, but in the end, I got everything I wanted. Stay the course and good luck.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Of this batch, I would actually argue that #3 is the worst – pressuring a bunch of teenagers to falsify legal documents so they could cover their own butts about a safety issue related to a bunch of younger teenagers.

        I mean, I imagine that decision was made by some 20-year-old who was in charge of supervising the 18-year-olds. I can’t picture anyone at head office coming up with this scheme. But still, the 20-year-old was *acting* as a boss, so they get my nomination for Worst Boss of Today.

  21. Nowwhat465*

    LW #5 – I do not have MS but I do have a chronic medical condition that can be a bit embarrassing to talk about, and required me to request accommodations. Our HR team was incredibly vague with my managers, so it allowed a bit more privacy (think: may bring her own supportive furniture to work instead of orthopedic seat cushion, or may need to step out of meetings instead of urgent bathroom breaks). What I’ve gone with is I have a medical condition that occassionally flares up, and I may need to be remote some days and off camera so I can take meetings from my bed. The vast majority of people do not ask about it, and the small minority that does is understanding when I say that I don’t like discussing it outside of family.

  22. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “PIPs are not couples counseling”

    I want this on a plaque or a throw pillow.

    1. MsM*

      Definitely throw pillow. That way, you can point to it if they try to make you sit on the couch and talk out the latest round of grievances.

  23. HonorBox*

    OP2 – It is one thing to let an employee have an opportunity to share information. Getting defensive and arguing points is not ideal. That said, six months for a PIP is a long time. And weekly discussions should be focused on outcomes and steps to correct whatever is outlined in the PIP. There should also be a set end date on a PIP, at which time you’re determining how to proceed.

    You should talk to your boss separately and outline a couple of key points. First, they need to set an end point for the PIP. That’s for everyone’s sake. There’s no benefit to an employee for continuing to be under this scrutiny. Either they get it or they don’t. And second, your boss needs to acknowledge and support that if the employee has direct, professional feedback about something that is being discussed, they should be able to have their say. But sitting back and letting them complain or attack you isn’t part of the process that takes positive steps forward.

  24. Nonanon*

    Re LW 5:
    The one reason I don’t begrudge the IRS is because the branch my aunt works for has been really good with accommodations for her MS (her own words; I admittedly haven’t poked around enough to determine what exactly they’ve done). This is of course not true with every company, or even branches within the same government institution. I wish you all the best, and that you have as good an experience with accommodations from your employer.

  25. Czech Mate*

    LW 1 – That whole thing is ridiculous.

    1. Most employers should recognize that a random email from a stranger making allegations about an employee should be taken with a handful of salt. This happens in cases of DV and messy breakups. If the allegations *directly* relate to your work, then sure, they could probe into it–but if you’re a high-performing employee that they otherwise trust, then they wouldn’t have reason to give this too much weight.

    2. It shouldn’t matter if you went to the hospital or not, honestly. It also shouldn’t matter if you went to the hospital and took some time off to recover. It *also* shouldn’t matter what reason you had to go to the hospital. You’re allowed to take PTO. Tbh, if my company didn’t back me up, I’d probably quit on the spot, too. (It’s true, as others have said, that you could have offered to be drug tested if you weren’t on drugs, but that could of course open a big can of worms. If you live in a state where recreational cannabis is legal, and it’s on the drug test, that would perhaps show you’re not doing hard drugs but wouldn’t necessarily disprove that you hadn’t been goofing off on the clock. I’d steer clear of that.)

    Your ex’s behavior *does* sound alarming, so you should consider taking out a restraining order and documenting incidents in which he has tried to harm you. It’s also not a bad idea to speak to an attorney about this as well, because all of this is so egregious. Take care of yourself and know that the other parties are WAY in the wrong.

    1. Seashell*

      If the time off was specifically for sickness or under FMLA, then I think it does matter if she went to the hospital or not. I would think her doctor would have said when she could return to working or normal activities after discharge from the hospital (and it may even say in the discharge papers), so the two days would likely have been covered by that.

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

        Also any place I worked that you were out for 3+ days you needed to have a doctors note before coming back. Typically it would say OP was in hospital for 3 days and can come back X day (2 days after the hospital stay).

    2. Violet*

      Behaviors on both sides are alarming. Vindictiveness rarely brings the closure we are seeking. I feel bad for OP that it went this far.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Nope. If I found out my husband was secretly a smuggler, my sharing that info with everyone I know is not alarming. That’s letting everyone know the truth. It’s not vindictive either.

  26. Another Academic Librarian too*

    PIP. It is good to confirm that the 18 month PIP that my report was on was batshit insane. AND the meeting after meeting in which she accused me of abusing her emotionally and discriminating against her was ridiculous.
    The exact words they used were that she had a right to her “say.”
    I was coached to keep it simple. Stay within the tasks of the job.
    This was assigned.
    This was the date due.
    This was incomplete. This was inaccurate.
    Because this was a union position there was a step schedule.
    Each incident had a separate step schedule. Each one had an interval of 6 weeks of documentation.
    A verbal warning, a written warning, an investigation, rinse and repeat.
    I was not to show any reaction or emotion to any statement of the employee.
    Your HR sounds just like mine but they did explain that none of this was personal.
    It was super stressful and I took advantage of our employee counseling services.

  27. LadyWhistledownsSecretTwin*

    Regarding #2, you are deferring way too much to you boss on this. This sounds like a terribly disruptive and bad employee that they just won’t let you fire. Been there.

    Since you really need to start looking for a new job anyway, you have some freedom. When you work in a dysfunctional environment, sometimes you have to resort to dysfunctional approaches. The next time your employee insults you in a meeting, don’t wait for your boss. Advise them that the next time they are insubordinate, they will be terminated, regardless of PIP. Your boss won’t back you up, but the employee will be very angry. Then you start sabotaging their work, criticizing EVERYTHING they do. Make THEIR life hell as much as they have made yours hell. If you can’t directly fire them, this will likely either antagonize them into doing something so stupid even YOUR boss will allow you to fire them, or they will quit on their own.

    Either way it’s a win/win.Who knows, once you get rid of the problem employee, it is possible that you might still be able to turnaround the team

    1. Silver Robin*

      This is vindictive and unnecessary. Making threats you cannot follow through on is a bad strategy no matter what, and making threats in the workplace in general is deeply unhelpful.

      No need for OP to turn into toxic boss because this workplace is bananapants. OP can mentally check out instead and focus on leaving. Much less drama, much less energy required from OP.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, that would make the LW a bigger problem than the employee, in my opinion. Perhaps they would get away with it, since the boss seems unwilling to manage (or perhaps they wouldn’t; it might be that the boss is willing to protect this employee for some reason or they have a limit and while they are willing to tolerate moaning, they would not tolerate a manager bullying a report), but even then, I doubt the LW would want to become that sort of person and besides, doing stuff like that could follow them, even if they do get away with it. They really don’t want to apply to another job in the future and find one of their coworkers now works there and remembers them as “the manager who started sabotaging somebody’s work and made their life hell.”

  28. EngineeringFun*

    LW2 I had a similar situation of high stress and an employee insulting me during meetings. As things ratcheted up, I had less and less patience for this employee. Unfortunately my boss just kept doubling down and telling me to deal with it. Focus on getting the tasks done. Other managers were impressed with my teams progress and told me to drink more after work????? I made it 6 months and left. I feel like you’re in a bad spot. start looking elsewhere.

  29. anon't*

    #2 sounds like my spouse’s manager. Hired to take over for an incompetent line supervisor after managees were treated poorly enough that multiple grievances were filed and everyone is looking for other jobs. New manager is absolutely useless in her job, yet bridles at any hint of suggestion from the people she manages (i.e. experts with years of experience), then cries to upper admin about insubordinate workers.
    There is a lack of introspection or acknowledgement that staff may be expressing valid points about issues that affect their jobs. Just petty vindictiveness and self-pity for how awful she’s treated.

  30. Petty Betty*

    LW1: Having been in a somewhat similar position (stalker ex-husband who frequently would contact my supervisors and make up false allegations in order to get me fired from my job to “prove” I couldn’t “survive” without him so I would take him back, and then when I got into a new relationship, upped the ante as revenge), eventually, you probably would have had to leave that job. He had your manager’s contact information. He already made up one lie that your manager started questioning you about.

    With me, I was very open about my abusive ex-husband (in the beginning, my managers were aware of my abusive then-husband, and had actually banned him from coming onto property because of other issues). Once we separated and I had a restraining order, he would call “anonymously”, then personally threaten female managers in the parking lot for “protecting” me. It got to the point I quit to protect the workers. Then he got my new job out of my mother (because of course my mother didn’t believe I was being abused and stalked). So then the campaign started all over again, but luckily the new employer was very much aware ahead of time and had different safety rules in place so he couldn’t come into the building, but would still leave things on my vehicle (he didn’t have time to damage my vehicle with security patrolling so often). That job was a temporary job, so I left 6 months later and stopped telling my mother where I worked until my grandfather threatened to cut her off financially if she ever talked to my ex again.

    Sometimes, bad exes will do whatever they can to ruin you once the illusion of who they are has been shattered. All you can do is rebuild.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I’m sorry you went through that and really glad your grandfather had your back.

      1. Petty Betty*

        My grandfather was amazing. It is really weird to see how my mom turned out, until I realize that my grandma (his wife) did the bulk of the raising because he was a truck driver and didn’t spend much time at home because of his job, and my grandma was very traditional.

  31. Ayla K*

    Re LW#5: Only you can decide when it’s safe and necessary to disclose a medical condition or disability at work. If you need to request accommodations, make sure you focus on what you need from the company. An accommodation can look like a lot of different things, so think about what will be most helpful to you!

    Also, for Alison – I’m an HR director specializing in accommodations and leaves of absence, and I have a disability myself that I’ve had to navigate disclosing, so I’ve been on both sides of this. I’d be happy to do a chat/interview to share more info for the readers here!

  32. Catabouda*

    I’m surprised by how many people think 6 months is a long PIP process. I’ve worked for both medium and large companies and it’s never that quick. My current employer would have PIPs as long as a year on a regular basis, especially if it is a union employee.

    1. Observer*

      In those cases, the PIP is a very rigid and prescribed process and the LW would know where it’s going. That’s not this.

  33. Greta*

    Am I the only person thinking that the camp could have used this as an opportunity to encourage campers to follow the rules? Meaning, not being allowed to do the third-party activity is a consequence of being unruly. Maybe they weren’t doing enough to be sent home, but enough that meant the privilege of doing an activity is taken away. It wouldn’t be in the form of a waiver, but the camp counselor could weigh in on if each camper is a risk.

  34. Amanda*

    #3- former camp counselor

    I am also a former camp counselor. You were absolutely right to refuse to sign the waivers; the camp should never–I repeat NEVER– have asked that of you.

    I worked at a summer camp for 12 years, including multiple years as leadership staff. “In loco parentis” is a real thing — a legal concept where we are acting as parents and are responsible for campers safety and well-being; however, it’s intended to apply to cases of judgement. It means putting a stop to risky behavior. It means making sure the kids are eating and sleeping. It means providing appropriate first aid for an injury, including taking a camper to the hospital if it is warranted and making decisions on behalf of the camper and their parents about the camper’s medical care until such time as the parents can be reached.

    Personal example of the latter scenario: a camper had been under the weather (think flu-ish) for long enough that our nurse was concerned and wanted her to be seen. I brought her to urgent care, stayed with her the whole time, kept her calm, kept her parents informed. She had a fear of needles, so I urged the doctor to draw enough blood in this one draw for any and all tests he’d want run– that way we could be ‘one and done’. The doctor agreed, and included a test that he later said he otherwise would not have run, which turned out to be key in diagnosing the problem (though I don’t remember exactly what it was, it’s been ~5 years). Her dad arrived at the clinic before she was ready to be discharged; I verified his identity (as I would if it were a closing day) and he intended to take her to a hotel for the night, and make a decision the next morning about taking her home or letting her finish the session.

    Back to this scenario– this overnight trip should have been planned far enough in advance for the waivers to be sent to the parents to be signed. And there should have been an alternate plan for anyone whose parents did not consent, or were otherwise unable to participate. If that was not possible, then it should not have happened. Period.

    I’m curious if your camp was ACA accredited?

    1. Amanda*

      I should add, as part of the registration process parents consent to allow us to seek medical treatment on behalf of their child if necessary. We show a form at check-in.

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