How do we expose the way our manager has been treating everyone?
October 9, 2012 12:22 AM   Subscribe

When is enough, enough? Manager of my workplace creating havoc on a daily basis, responsible for high turnover rate, and abusing her perks on top of it? What do you do when it is unanimous that you have a horrible boss?

I have worked for a company (I won't say which) for a year and about 2 months now. I started as a part time employee and worked my way into lower level management. This began to take place when our original manager moved back to her home state, California, leaving her position.

In her place, they promoted the assistant manager who had been there less time than me, and even less than one of the supervisors; my coworker, Heather, has been with the company 4 years and has yet to receive a promotion even though she makes most of the money in the hierarchy and has the most knowledge about what we sell and how our store operates. I can't fathom why she's been snubbed.

Since becoming the manager, her nerves have really began to come out. Frequent customers who have seen her in busy times have mentioned her nervousness; they notice it, sense the tension. When she is nervous, everyone is stressed. She always looks a bit sweaty in these times... like she's just obsessing until her body reacts. Just this past weekend she whipped something out of my hands that someone bought in a tizzy, knocking her items out of my hands, and onto the floor... right in front of a customer because I wasn't "fast enough." She seems to have constant anxiety about work and no friends, husband, or children outside of work. It is very hard to enjoy work with how she acts.

On a day she is away from the store, she will call up to four times. She wrote a girl up for her manicure not being "professional." She constantly tries to nitpick her way into getting associates she does not like, in trouble. There is inconsistency in what she enforces.

When she calls, she asks about general business and then goes over a checklist of outlets to begin writing people up. She asks about certain employees, what everyone's wearing, did they leave their locker open... she LOOKS for ridiculous ways to get people in trouble. Then, she proceeds to gossip. She has kept me on the phone for 45 minutes regularly when I have things to do and not much time to do them. We are not supposed to gossip, she says.

Yet with all concerns, someone always knows about it before we do. Word gets around because she tells everyone negative things about the person she is going to confront. Sometimes we do not even directly get to hear them, they are behind our backs. Whether it be their hair, nails, shirts not ironed to her standards, toe nail polish having a small chip, over-all style of dress, etc. She once said she would not promote Heather because she had a stain on her shirt one day; the result of a spraying of perfume that left a brief wet spot on her silk blouse. Last time our District Manager visited, she did not say anything about dress code. She thought everyone looked great. My manager, on the other hand, is never satisfied.

When she talks of herself, it is VERY highly. She says "I used to be rich once" and "I used to work for Chanel." She's looking down on everyone. She doesn't even make her sales goals. She believes she can do no wrong, that sales are better when she is in the store, that she radiates joy and constantly says she wants our workplace to be "a happy, fun place." All of us agree, it is far from it. The job we've all once loved... has become hell. So much so that we have all contemplated leaving. I would love to stay and work part time when I go to finish college... but if something doesn't change, I'm leaving for good.

When she is in our store, she refuses to do physical work. She spends 6 or 7 of her 8 hours... in the office chair doing imaginary reports/eating cookies and taking 15 minute breaks that last 35 minutes, hour lunches that last an hour and a half, and has been failing to document comp time she has definitely already taken. She also does not like people to have scheduled breaks, although her's is always priority. She's left hours early numerous times, but I notice she doesn't document them fully. These are on peak days, too.

The micromanaging is frustrating. Girls are leaving in tears, part time people are leaving in droves, managers are crying, worrying they will lose their jobs over trivial matters, we are about to lose 5 out of our 8 people!! She's writing girls up for wearing flip flops (when they're doing worse things like being tardy/calling in/not showing up), having chipped nail polish (but maybe good performance), etc. Such petty things! She will interrogate you and bring you to the back of the store for practically forever and she trusts no one, and says so.

If you don't agree with her or gossip with her, she turns on you. She loved the new assistant until she disagreed about a matter of writing a girl up for wearing flip flops who's father just died a week later. All the sudden she was not to be trusted. She told us to watch her. She told me she thought she left the safe undone one morning when she put the drawers in the registers for her as a favor after a meeting since she closed the night before. It wasn't open, but the handle was "cocked" according to her although she kept mentioning "but I'm not sure." She told my DM as if she was, to give the assistant a final warning. She wanted her gone so she fabricated the story. All of the girls think she's uncomfortable to be around with shifty eyes and she scans you up and down to look for flaws in your appearance when you talk with her up close.

She got what she wanted when the assistant put in her two weeks. She told me "between you and me, I'm so happy she quit." As if she planned it. She knows a young employee's father. She would come to work like a zombie because she stays up all night. So my manager takes the liberty of regularly calling her father and relaying everything to him (including all of the store's dirty laundry) so she will be punished. That is not her place, and it is none of her business outside of work.

She works 9-6 shifts continuously for two weeks and does not schedule herself to close. She is not fair, abuses her salary position and she does not clock in and out so there is no way to trace her leaving early when she is not supposed to.

When our DM sees our turnover rate, she will probably have questions for us, we expect. We want to say the truth; it's our manager. Yet we are terrified of the consequences. We have the girls who quit to vouch for this fact, and we're all on the same page, but what the heck happens when/if we speak up? My apologies for the looooong explanation but there's just so much going on. I have not been the target of this behavior nor have I been written up but I am sick of seeing it happen to my coworkers.
posted by Chelsaroo650 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: As a side note, she also puts down other managers who are far more experienced than her. After returning from a manager's convention, she kept talking about her superiors saying how immature, or fat, or how tired they looked, or how bad they were at speaking and then praises herself highly. She is always complaining she's tired, has a headache, then leaves for an extra break, but we can't say/do that.
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 12:29 AM on October 9, 2012

If the district manager asks, you speak up. What's the worst that could happen? You get fired from a job you hate, which you were already considering quitting?
posted by Joh at 12:34 AM on October 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

It's been more than enough. This manager needs her comeuppance and all of you have very little to lose at this rate since work performance is no longer a decent indicator of ongoing employment. Expose her, but all of you should be prepared to find future work (maybe in a different branch?) some other place.
posted by Hawk V at 12:56 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely speak up if the district manager asks, but be clear what it is you're going to say.

Like, in actuality, your assistant manager not having a husband or kids ---> not your business.
Her being sweaty ---> complaint that makes you look petty
Your not enjoying work --> not the DM's problem; if work was fun they wouldn't need to pay you to be there
Heather not getting promoted --> not your business; in fact, you're blaming that on your assistant manager when she's not the one who made the choice between her and Heather
Your NEW MANAGER calling to check in on the store on days off --> weird but not too weird
Her bragging --> annoying, but again, not your problem
Eating cookies on her break --> wtf, who cares? the real problem is that she's misusing company time
Not doing physical labor --> depending on the store you're working at, that might no longer be her job if she's a manager. Same with closing.
Her calling the other employee's dad --> depends on the store you're working at; I could see that as an informal way of getting that particular employee to shape up without having to formally reprimand her

Here's what you can say, and be taken seriously:

1. The assistant manager is unprofessional around customers, and berates her employees
2. The dress code is inconsistently enforced
3. She misuses company time by taking longer than average breaks and lunches and does not accurately document her hours
4. She discourages employees from taking their allowed breaks, and penalizes them for doing so
5. She harasses employees into quitting

You're also going to want to check in on how much of what you are saying is gossip/hear say.
posted by spunweb at 1:10 AM on October 9, 2012 [46 favorites]

Agree with spunweb - go back through what you just wrote to us and try to boil it down into key points. Remove the majority of the emotion. Make it both powerful and professional. Make it clear to the DM that the rest of you are anxious to run the store as a tight, unified ship.
posted by mannequito at 1:23 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well obviously, I wouldn't mention anything about her personal life, but it's out there and it makes her crazy and no I wouldn't mention her being sweaty, but it's nuts how stressed she gets, just making the point. Nobody is enjoying work, but we used to... before she was in charge. I won't mention the Heather thing either, I know they are not relevant. But it seems crappy on the company's part. She has been a manager for 7 months now but she is calling, talking for an hour practically. To the point it is interfering with our business operations, to gossip - not discuss business. Yes, it is clear I dislike her but why should I not? She did it to herself with her comments. That's more to explain her personality type. She's eating ALL THE TIME. Not on her break. We can't do it, but she's sitting back there eating everyone else's food and doesn't replace it all the time. These are my pet peeves which I understand are not technicalities, but contribute to her being hard to work with.

All of the things you have listed I can say... are things I can verify straight from her; what she's said, done, things I was involved in, and how she handled getting someone to quit. Not gossip one bit.
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 1:24 AM on October 9, 2012

Equally important, alongside leaving emotion at the door, is that you document everything. Having had my fair share of poor managers back in my days in retail, I know from glorious experience that being able to give the dates, times and salient details of problematic interactions is paramount to getting something done about it (or in my case successfully appealing the findings of a rigged disciplinary hearing).
posted by gmb at 3:04 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Document things. Keep a log of specific instances that are inappropriate. That will give you something to show the District Manager.

What you've written here is general employee grousing. Sounds like you're not having fun at work and you don't like your boss. If you don't want to be sent to look for a job elsewhere, stop complaining and use the system that is in place - write up your boss when she does bad shit (though obviously, don't put any paperwork through, just record everything precisely).
posted by paperzach at 3:51 AM on October 9, 2012

Talk to the DM, definitely, but I wholeheartedly agree with spunweb that you're going to have to streamline your case. Stick to the things she's doing that violate rules and that the DM would be concerned about, and leave out the circumstantial "nobody likes her"-style evidence, as frustrating as those things might be to you and your coworkers.

She brags? Annoying, but irrelevant here. She seems nervous all the time? Not ideal in a manager or a customer-facing role, but sort of unfair for you to complain about. She eats all the time? Unless your company has explicit and otherwise-strictly-enforced rules against eating on the job, and/or she writes people up for doing the same, this just makes you look petty and weakens your argument. She has no friends or family? Irrelevant and kind of mean and gossipy and unprofessional of you to even mention this. She writes up employees for flip flops and unprofessional manicures? No shit she does; most workplaces have conservative rules about manicures and do not allow sandals of any sort, and if you all work in a retail store, especially a clothing store, image is even more important. Only mention this if she's going too far beyond the actual dress code (e.g. she enforces rules about earring size when no such rule exists in the employee handbook) or regularly letting certain employees get away with dress code violations that other employees consistently get written up for.

Focus on specific things she does that are violations or that affect your work, e.g. she takes long breaks but doesn't allow employees to take any; she calls you in the back for irrelevant stuff when you have work to do; you have reason to believe she's lying on her timecard. If she's said harassing/inappropriate things to you or your coworkers, document them and mention them to the DM. When you tell the DM about these things, stick as closely as you can to how things happened (and would have looked to a third party observer). This is a report, not an editorial.

Think performance, not personality. You can't fire someone for being an asshole. You can fire someone for inconsistently/ineffectively managing her team due to assholery.

Do not participate in gossip yourself. If other employees complain about her to you, definitely listen, but be diplomatic and don't indulge in any "she's a bitch" judgments or any speculation on her personal life. You're not defending her, far from it; you're being the more professional person and building a solid case. (In fact, tell your coworkers this if they come to you. Complaining to each other doesn't solve anything. Documenting and then discussing with higher-ups can.)

And, unfortunately, you might have to start looking for another job anyway. Broken work environments are notoriously hard to repair, even if the problem can be pinned on one person. Best of luck.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:18 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Document things, yes, but try very hard to reduce it to stuff that directly, negatively influences your own work situation and the efficiency of your work. Your irritation about her in general has little place in the context (nor in this question, to be frank), you're risking to weaken your case by including non-essential things.
posted by Namlit at 5:22 AM on October 9, 2012

Man, welcome to my life.

I hate to be a downer, but be realistic and don't expect anything to change. When I've worked places like this, it almost always comes out that the manager has something on a higher-up so they will never, ever be fired - though YMMV of course.

Like others have said, stick to the factual stuff and keep track of her hours, if you really want to fight this. Unfortunately, though, these processes move veeery slowly (if at all), and if you're already this tired of it, it might be time to move on.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:32 AM on October 9, 2012

Having been in a similar situation:

Nothing's going to happen until you go over her head. If you go over her head, nothing's going to happen unless: You have the backing of a couple additional people who can corroborate your story; You've documented as much of this as you can; and finally, and perhaps most importantly, her supervisors already have at least a rough idea that she might be kind of a problem.

Otherwise you might just want to leave. I know that's not the answer you're looking for but that's really about the size of it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:59 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Tell the DM if they want to know why people are quitting, ask those people. It's pretty common for companies to have exit interviews with departing employees, and those are the people with the motivation to tell their perspective on the manager, and they are the people with the least to lose.

Then, when someone is quitting, be sure to tell them to inform the DM specifically why.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:03 AM on October 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

If your retail environment is anything like the retail environments where I have worked, your District Manager is going to care about the following list of things, in order:

1. Is your store meeting its goals?
2. There is no number 2.

If your store is hitting all its sales numbers, and getting good attachment scores, and below the acceptable loss threshold (or whatever), your DM doesn't give a shit about your boss's breaks or the dress code or gossip, because they don't have to report those things to the Regional Manager. Your best bet in terms of getting traction with the DM is tying your staff turnover to any performance weaknesses your store might have. See if you can get a look at your numbers over the past few months/quarters and if any of them are below minimum (or even trending down towards minimum), point that out to your DM when they ask you what is up with the turnover. "Yeah, well, we are really short-staffed, so Manager says to hurry up our transactions, and now we don't have enough time to ask every customer if they'd like to get another pair of jeans for half price. She also has not trained any of the new people we are hiring on upselling the Product Protection Plans."
posted by Rock Steady at 6:39 AM on October 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yes, well, welcome to the world of work. I have a saying, if you're having a good time and really enjoy you work, wait, it will change. If you hate your job and your boss is a nightmare, wait, it will change.

Do you really think your DM will question you about the turnover? Why? Wouldn't she question your Manager?

It sucks being a cog in a machine. But there it is, we all are. She was promoted for a reason, so complaining to the person who promoted her is suicide. There is something about this person that management likes.

So you have a choice. Either you hang out where you are, and suck it up, or you leave for greener pastures.

If you like your store and you're on a management track, just do your job and don't worry about anyone else there. Don't gossip about this woman, don't moan about her with other employees.

If you're lucky, she'll get moved to another store and the next manager may be someone you enjoy working with. Yes, it sucks that this woman is such a mess, but how much of that affects YOU?

You don't work for her, you work for you. Don't take this so much to heart. You know how she is and for right now you want to work in that store, so you have to put up with it.

As for other people, let them fight their own battles.

I've stuck my neck out for other people and all it ever got me was beheadded. Interstingly enough, the people I defended, when asked if what I was saying was true, would inevitably deny it, leaving me to twist in the wind.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:02 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Recruit the rest of the staff to resign en masse. Management will surely be curious about why. Then, obviously be prepared to leave if that's how the thing goes. Why subject yourself to abuse from an incompetent?
posted by txmon at 7:32 AM on October 9, 2012

Tell the business manager about things that could affect the business. Couch the conversations in those terms -- profits, customer loyalty, losing good employees. Use facts. Bad morale is a serious problem, but if it's not costing the company money (yet), the DM might not be persuaded by it.
posted by wryly at 1:32 PM on October 9, 2012

Was Heather not promoted because a manager wouldn't be making sales, and they see that she's clearly a better asset as a salesperson? If so, it's probably not unreasonable that she was passed over for a promotion.

Being a manager comes with more responsibility and perks to balance that out. Regardless of whether your boss is a good manager or not, only a martyr would continue to work closing shifts or standing for 8 hours a day when their new position no longer stipulates they do so. You said that she's salary, which means that she's expected to get her work done in the time it takes to do so, not that she should stick around for an extra 15-30 minutes doing nothing because it's "fair" to you or anyone else to do so.

Also, I would be nervous managing a bunch of people who felt like they deserved my job, too. That's a really unfortunate thing, and while ideally she would rise above it, has that been the sentiment from the get-go, that she's unworthy to do her job? That probably comes across; it certainly does in some of the petty things you say about her.

If her boss has told her that her job is to delegate the work to you and your coworkers, it's possible she's sitting around doing nothing because she isn't expected to be doing anything else but enforcing rules. That's her boss's fault for not imparting a better expectation of leadership. It may appear to you to be unfair that she's not stepping in and doing your job alongside you, and I understand your frustration that your coworkers are working hard and she's not, but being a good manager doesn't really mean that she should be a good salesperson or cashier, unfair as that seems. Does your boss have management experience, and is that why she was promoted so quickly? She could have been brought on with the promise of a quick promotion after she learned the ropes.

At a retail job I had out of college, I had a manager that I hated and eventually helped, with my coworkers, to convince my boss to fire her. (Clearly a dysfunctional company, because she should have been coached on the role instead of thrown under the bus by her subordinates and fired after ten years at the job.) After she was fired it turned out that I hated the job just as much without her there for a lot of good reasons. I understand that you were happy before this woman showed up, but I was happy my first year at the job and got more and more miserable as time went on—if this woman was fired, would you be any happier? Retail jobs are draining for a lot of people. I ended up being promoted and I found myself micromanaging in the same way she did because my coworkers, even the ones I considered close friends, were atrociously hard to manage because they hated their job too much to care and I was now the one getting blamed when someone failed to live up to the rules.

It sounds like you are hyper-focused on your manager without recognizing that working retail usually sucks. I agree that your manager sounds like she is a bad manager, but complaining about this with all your coworkers is only going to make you more miserable. Can you focus on letting this stuff go and address this with the DM, and try not to focus on how much you dislike this woman? That's a life skill that I wish I had more of at work; I still wake up crying from nightmares about the aforementioned job but I think if I had let it get to me less and stopped obsessing about who was getting away with what at that job it would have been massively beneficial to me years later.

I apologize for being antagonistic here, you deserve a good manager who helps the store hum along happily but it sounds like the upper management is to blame for not being more involved in training your manager to make that happen, it's hard not to be sympathetic to her when you say she has no friends or family and everyone is determined to hate her for doing the crappy job of being a middle manager.
posted by thesocietyfor at 3:01 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do good work, don't participate in gossip, and try to keep things running as smoothly as possible. If you hate your job (retail?), do what you can to make it better, and in retail, if you really hate it, leave. Work can be fun, but engaging in internal struggles make it awful. If she's really bad, they'll figure it out.
posted by theora55 at 4:50 PM on October 9, 2012

I don't have kids and my husband is currently working and living in another city and if anyone suggested that my stress at work had anything to do with me not having kids or a husband I would, to put it nicely, have nothing good to say about them. Unless I specifically said "I am stressed because I have no husband or children". Which I haven't. Because I'm not.

I totally get how frustrating your situation is, believe me, I do. But chances are good that for the rest of your life you're going to have to deal with difficult situations in the workplace at least a couple of times and you have to learn to deal with it in a professional manner.

That means taking all of the emotion out of it, as spunweb's excellent comment illustrates. You have no idea what her personal life is like, nor is it any of your business and some of the things you're saying about her are just as petty and mean as how you are describing her. I mean, sweating and eating a lot? Come on.

Even if every one of these things are true and verifiable, as you say, it still sounds petty for you to base your complaints on her being a frustrated old maid or stealing your food or whatever. If she's that bad, as you say, then chances are very good that her bad behavior extends into most every area of her life including her work life. That is what you can speak to and is again, pretty well outlined in spunweb's list (misusing company time, not allowing breaks, inappropriate calls to employees' family members etc).

This is a good situation where you can learn to rise above pettiness and personal attacks and deal with this in a professional manner, which will ultimately reflect well on you. Everyone else has already suggested how to do that, but it basically boils down to:

- leave the emotion out of it
- document everything in an objective manner, include dates, times etc.
- stop with the gossip and pettiness

It may very well be that you are just in a toxic environment, which sucks, but it happens. And in these cases there is unfortunately not a lot you can do apart from looking for another job. There does come a point where it's just not worth it and you are the only one that can know what that point is for you.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2012

Find another job. This is retail- they are not batting an eye at turnover, which is constant industry wide. One day she'll self-destruct, but there is no way of knowing when.
posted by spaltavian at 10:23 PM on October 9, 2012

« Older Hey, I Just Met You....   |   Tiny and powerful flashlight Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.