I have a manager that continually lies.

She became our manager about 8 months ago. I started at the corporation two weeks later. I'm 28 and relatively new in my profession. The situations where she lies are numerous and included in practically every interaction, but I will describe just a few so that you can get the picture.

  1. She constantly says things like "Colleague A says you are lazy" or "Colleague B said you botched Task123" when you are alone with her. None are remotely true and we learned not to speak to her about anything, but it took us a month to realize she was playing some divide and conquer game among us.

  2. After a very successful project, the manager ditched our points because we didn't do some tasks that didn't exist. When confronted, she replied that these were "hidden tasks" and ditched the points anyway.

  3. She would accuse me via email of failing tasks assigned to my colleagues or even other departments. To quote the style of emails: "We have to rethink your performance bonus (25% of my salary) because YOU did so badly in Task5432". After several such situations I escalated this behaviour to higher management, but nothing was ever done. Since then she refused to put anything she says in email. She still comes to say these things to me in person, though.

  4. After the first 3 months I had an assessment meeting and I asked about a laptop that was promised to me when I was signing up. I half expected some bs about cost-cutting and waiting another month, but she just asked me "Do you have it in writing?" and literally laughed in my face.

  5. My friend was planning a vacation, and the manager kept dodging the approval for 3 months. After the matter escalated, she finally agreed 2 days before the planned date, refused to accept any changes (these are the dates in the application form, these are the dates she is approving) and when my friend said that she was unable to organize anything at such short notice, she was told that she could stay at home "like normal people do".

  6. In my second performance review 2 weeks ago (again, closed door, no witnesses), after listening for 3 hours about what a bad and sub-standard employee I am (all my customers are super happy with me and I have exceeded all my targets), she wrote down in her report that during that conversation I said that the entire company is a bad place and that it is misusing and abusing its employees. I didn't mention a single word about the company (good or bad). When I objected that this was not what I said, she told me that "it doesn't matter". I reported this to the HR, but nothing has been done so far. They asked me to make a formal statement, which I still don't know how to formulate.

Most of the team already resigned and I have just handed in my resignation (in electronic form because with another colleague she pretended she had never got his), but I have a 4 month notice period and I am already a nervous wreck. My colleagues warned me that it's going to get worse. I can't focus on anything and I am afraid that my tasks will be affected. I take pride in my work and would still like to perform well despite the circumstances.

What steps can I take to protect myself and others from this manager?

  • 48
    You say you have a 4 month notice period. Is this written into your contract? What are the consequences if you don't fulfill it? At this point walking out the door may be your best option. – David K Aug 9 at 16:00
  • 18
    What do you mean by "ditched our points"? – Chad Aug 9 at 19:25
  • 2
    The 4 month notice period here is a bit confusing for me. Is this a clause in the contract or local custom? What happens if you don't serve it out? – Myles Aug 9 at 19:32
  • 1
    @Myles And yes: notice depends on position and how much time you worked there. In IT (my sector) you start with 1 month and you end up at a maximum of 4 if you are not in a management position, 6 months if you are. 4 months of notice for having worked little more than half an year is quite a lot anyway. – Bakuriu Aug 9 at 21:26
  • 4
    If the 4-month notice period is the only thing holding you and most of your team at the job, do you have any opportunity of coordinating with your team to work to rule? Your manager is being evaluated by your output, and it's in a callous way rational for the upper management to pay no attention to the complaints as long as you deliver the product. Best-case you make the manager's poor performance noticed, worst-case you stop worrying and save your health for the next job. Sometimes taking pride in your work is bad even for the company. – Therac Aug 10 at 7:49

10 Answers 10

I reported this to the HR, but nothing has been done so far. They asked me to make a formal statement, which I still don't know how to formulate.

Take what you've written here, remove as much emotion from it as you can so that it is just a list of facts and send that. If you have dates for each of the incidents, even better. If there are any of these incidents for which there are witnesses, mention their names but don't contact them.

(For avoidance of doubt, you don't contact them because that's something that HR will do if they decide to take an investigation forwards. It would not be appropriate for you, an obviously involved party, to be the one gathering the evidence used in a formal investigation).

  • 17
    Also, ask them what is required for a 'formal statement' to be made - because it sounds like they're giving you the runaround for what you can/cannot submit to HR. – Zibbobz Aug 9 at 16:23
  • 3
    If you give a formal statement to HR, it is likely it will get filed and never read again unless a lawsuit is filed at some point in the future and they need it as CYA document. – Jamie Clinton Aug 9 at 19:29
  • 2
    @JamieClinton That is a very good point. Make copies of what you sent to HR. Including any emails you may have already sent. – Zibbobz Aug 9 at 19:43
  • 10
    ...while you look for a new job – rath Aug 9 at 21:14
  • 1
    In this particular report, I have discussed only the situation no 6. While I have written records of other escalations, I have been asked to make a statement about this particular meeting. I do not know how to make it, because if I focus on the lie, it will be put as a "misunderstanding". It doesn't do justice to the fact that being forced to listen to false accusations/implications about my bad work for 3h (I was not allowed to leave the room, unless for water or toilet) and having to take it calmly (because if I become aggressive, I am the bad one) is an extremely harrowing experience. – MyDisplayName Aug 10 at 9:19

Okay..... this is straightforward so I'll go over it point by point

1.She constantly says "Colleague A says you are lazy", "Colleague B said you botched Task123" when you are alone with her. None are remotely true and we learnt not to speak to her about anything, but it took us a month to realize she was playing some divide and conquer game between us.

When something like this happens, document it, and get in writing from the colleague who was accused of saying this, and send an email to the manager "Dear manager, after our conversation where you told me that Dave thinks I'm lazy, I followed up with Dave who says this is not the case. Please do not engage in office gossip like this in the future"

You could also have Dave send an email at the same time. "Dear manager, MyDisplayName came to me with some concerns stemming from you telling him that I think he's lazy. That is not the case, and I have never said such a thing. Please do not use me as a justification for your opinions.

2.After a very successful project, the manager ditched our points because we didn't do some tasks that didn't exist. When confronted, she replied that these were "hidden tasks" and ditched the points anyway.

Again, an email:

"Dear manager, the tasks that you are referring to are not documented, have not been documented, were not listed as our goals and are therefore unachievable. This clearly is not justification for ditching our points, as this affects our performance ratings, I strongly suggest you review.

3.She would accuse me via email of failing tasks assigned to my colleagues or even other departments. To quote the style of emails: "We have to rethink your performance bonus (25% of my salary) because YOU did so badly in Task5432". After several such situations I escalated this behaviour to higher management, but nothing was ever done. Since then she refused to put anything she says in email. She still comes to say these things to me in person, though.

It was good that you escalated this, but since she's wisened up, you need to as well. Just because SHE won't put it in writing doesn't mean that you can't.

**Whenever she has a conversation that is off the record, follow up with an email starting with **

"Dear manager, as per our discussion..." Then outline everything she said. She will either have to respond, and you'll have a record, or she will not respond, and you will have a record of her lack of response, which can also be used as evidence.

4.After first 3 months I had an assessment meeting, and I asked about a laptop that was promised to me when I was signing up. I half expected some bs about cost-cutting and waiting another month, but she just asked me "Do you have it in writing?" and literally laughed in my face.

Thus, the point I made above* "Dear manager, as per our discussion..."

5.My friend was planning a vacation, and the manager kept dodging the approval for 3 months. After the matter escalated, she finally agreed 2 days before the planned date, refused to accept any changes (these are the dates in the application form, these are the dates she is approving) and when my friend said that she is unable to organize anything at such short notice, she heard that she could stay at home "like normal people do".

Again.... "Dear Manager..." and CC HR

6.In my second performance review 2 weeks ago (again, closed door, no witnesses), after listening for 3h about how bad and sub-standard employee I am (all my Customers are super happy with me, all my targets are exceeded), she wrote down in her report that during that conversation I said that the entire company is a bad place and that it is misusing and abusing its employees. I didn't mention a single word about the company (good or bad). When I objected that this is not what I said, she told me that "it doesn't matter". I reported this to the HR, but nothing has been done so far. They asked me to make a formal statement, which I still don't know how to formulate.

Again, right after the review, before she can file it....*

"Dear manager, your claims that XYZ are blatantly false."

Do this kind of thing, and build a file. Have your colleagues do the same and then... AS A GROUP go to HR.

In this case... if you follow the advice above and document everything and go to HR as a group, you may get somewhere.

KEEP COPIES OF ALL OF THIS EVIDENCE OFF SITE IN CASE HR IS COMPLICIT AND YOU NEED TO SEE A LAWYER

  • 16
    I agree with advice to document and CYA on everything, but It is absolutely not a given that "HR is your friend in this instance". OP has contacted management and HR before and not received any support. Chances are that the toxic manager was expressly hired to get rid of the employees and HR is fully complicit. – Michael Borgwardt Aug 9 at 15:04
  • 4
    If I could upvote this ten times I would: for serial liars documentation is your strongest ammunition... and if the issue does rise to the courts... well again, documentation is your strongest ammunition. @MichaelBorgwardt "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." When the options are conspiracy or incompetence... I lean towards the latter. – TemporalWolf Aug 9 at 17:58
  • 6
    "Dear manager, after our conversation where you told me that Dave thinks I'm lazy, I followed up with Dave who says this is not the case. Please do not engage in office gossip like this in the future" -- I'd probably drop that last sentence. Just lay out the facts. – Keith Thompson Aug 9 at 23:47
  • 3
    "Just because SHE won't put it in writing doesn't mean that you can't." She has absolutely no problem lying about the conversation, though. How would you respond to a written "There was no such discussion" response? – Celos Aug 10 at 6:46
  • This is a good advice, thank you. I did try that approach for a while. I heard that I am losing my time and being unproductive. When I tried to use it in a conflict situation, she denied ever saying what I wrote in email. She said that it is my words and not hers, and another manager who was part of this conversation explained that it is a matter of "she said, I said" and he cannot randomly decide who to believe. – MyDisplayName Aug 10 at 9:03

I'm going to take a shot in the dark here and say that, This new manager may have been hired with the only aim to save the company you work for money thus trying to cut bonuses as you have mentioned and maybe even cutting staff whether it be via resignation or dismissal. Although fiddling the system, this sort of thing does happen more often than you think.

It's very likely even after you contact HR with a formal statement that nothing will be done afterwards.

My colleagues warned me it's going to get worse

Do what you can to sort it in the following 4 months, try writing the formal statement. Mention everything you have here without any of the personal emotion. Get proof from emails, colleagues anything that you can. If all else fails pack your bags and don't look back once the four months are over.

  • 7
    I would suggest that HR is gotten involved with the leverage of any more offenses and that four months becomes four hours. – Joshua Aug 9 at 15:21

"but I have 4 month notice period and I am already a nervous wreck"

Stop. Look at this more objectively; your health comes first. You've handed in your notice. You've removed any long term commitments to this company, so let's make sure you don't pay any long term costs.

Not knowing the exact country you're in, I don't know the laws that apply to references; but in any case the first thing I'd suggest is that you get personal contact details of someone there who will provide you a positive reference - who clearly isn't going to be your new manager. You'll need this for future roles. (Some companies ask for 10 years of references - and you can't tell how long your next role will last for).

HR will also be required to provide references; and depending on country they may or may not be allowed to give more than you worked during specific dates. So it's best that any issues with your manager DO NOT INVOLVE HR. The last thing you want is a reference that includes that you reported your previous manager for anything.

So - how do you make it so that you don't become a nervous wreck?

  1. Use any remaining holiday. The time off will relax you, and not being in the toxic environment will help.
  2. Use sick days (as required). Don't use this too much, because HR will get them and it'll go to your reference - BUT health first.
  3. Stop thinking about your manager, or even the company. If she wants to be negative and play a divide and conquer game, then don't play it. If she says something negative about anyone, I'd just walk off any say "that's nice"; Do not take the bait, and as tempting as it might be to reply "you should hear what they have to say about you" it's just going to make you more stressed.
  4. Request HR to finish early. Your notice period is there to protect you from suddenly having no income, and the company from suddenly having no one able to work. If they want you gone, they'll cut it short if you give them the option.
  5. Get some headphones. If you can't hear your manager, then her words can't impact your stress. Change your email settings to forward all her emails to a folder that you check once a week. This way anything negative will be dealt with on your terms, not hers. If it's urgent, then you'll be interrupted sooner.
  • Thank you. There is a lot of good advice here. A.d. 4 - I do not think that they want me/us gone. Whenever someone hands in their notice there is a lot of haggling, empty promises, guilt-trips that stretch for weeks, refusal to accept and in the one case - pretending to never have received it. – MyDisplayName Aug 10 at 9:09
  • @MyDisplayName It may still be worth a try; you've nothing to lose asking them to cut it by a month or more - and if they ask why, then I would just respond "health reasons". – UKMonkey Aug 10 at 11:09

Follow up with HR and ask for a meeting in person to discuss these issues. If you are offered an exit interview ask if a member of HR can be present. It seems like you’ve done the right thing by getting out. Although with enough information, you could raise a formal grievance against the manager as you should not have to deal with these and should have a fair chance to have your side of the story heard.

I’m not sure what country you’re based in but in the UK, if you’ve been working for a certain period of time and feel that you have been forced out of your job you can take your employer to a tribunal on grounds of constructive dismissal. I know you didn’t work with your employer for long but this may be useful for others in the same position.

In the meantime try and avoid any unnecessary contact with said manager as it doesn’t seem that anything will be good enough. Keep your head down and do your work, don’t give any reason for anyone to believe what your manager has said is true.

Philip Kendall and Twyxz already gave good answers on what can you do and what can be running behind.

My advice is, when you elevated the issue to HR elevate it to a manager of your manager (grand-manager) and ask whether they want run costs low and kill the department, or they want the department running efficiently and for slightly higher costs. If you don't get the answer, elevate to grand-grand-manager, atc.

Expect any answer, but even the worst one (we want to cancel the department for as cheaper as possible) is good for you - you have no doubt about what's going on. If your situation is as bad, find help and send the invoice to your HR.

If you want to do your job as good as possible:

  • Find anything that calms your nerves down and focus on it.
  • Require everything in written. If the manager doesn't write you, write them and CC it to your grand-manager, HR and file it. "Dear manager, following your demand to do <this>, <that> and <that> from today's meeting I am about to do <ThisAndThat>". "Dear manager, following your demand from <timestamp> to do <this>, what tasks, previously assigned to me, shall I postpone?"

If Twyxz is right, go visit your GP and ask for sick-holiday, use all your holiday time and leave the company as soon as possible.

Your manager suffers from mental problems in my non-specialist opinion. Namely she's an psycho. You are describing psychopath behaviour.

Walk away. Disengage from any and all communication with this person. You are already a target for her. Things will only get worse if you resist actively or just sit there and take her abuse.

If confrontation is unavoidable, turn the discussion on her. Point out her flaws in her behaviour, looks, speech patterns whatever to get her to stop abusing you and focusing on herself.

Start reading on how to deal with psychopathic behaviour in the workplace. I'm not a specialist, but a psychologist will be able to help you more than stackexchange could. Mental health is not a trivial matter and having a psycho as a boss will destroy yours.

Stay safe and stay sane. HR will probably do nothing since her manager doesnt care who she hurts as long as she gets results.

She sounds really awful. I wonder if management above her or even lateral to her knows about this? It might be helpful if you bring them into this because it's clear the toxicity is detrimental to your company and the team isn't going to be productive, especially if they're all leaving.

It's good that you are able to identify these issues and have done what you can, but I suspect a dysfunction of this caliber goes beyond your power within the organization. Get management involved.

Try to be as clinical as you can in the rest of your work and focus on your customer. If management comes through maybe this situation can be salvaged and if not, then you have already submitted your resignation.

Request a transfer.

It may be too late as you've already handed in your notice, but if your company has other teams doing similar work then you can ask to be moved to one of those teams. Exactly how you request the transfer will vary depending on your company structure. If you already have a relationship with the manager of another team, then you could approach that manager informally and ask them to request the transfer. Alternatively you could approach HR, explain that the relationship between yourself and your manager has broken down to the stage that it is affecting your health and your work and request the transfer that way.

You should skip your manager, HR, and her manager, talk to the highest level person in the company you can find. Get a meeting on their calendar, and then politely inform them that this manager is killing the company with their behavior. Inform them you no longer have a stake in this because you have already submitted your notice. Tell them this manager is lying and cheating and has already resulted in several valuable employees leaving. Feel free to tell them you lack a lot of evidence because this individual is not using company email to discuss things because they do not want a 'paper trail'.

Ask this high up individual if they can grant you immediate relief because you believe this individual is going to retaliate against you. You should also seek an employment lawyer in your jurisdiction and document every interaction with this individual. If one sided recording are legal, make them of all verbal interactions. Print and archive all emails.

protected by Masked Man Aug 9 at 16:10

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.