I'll try to make this brief and whine free: a year ago I was contacted by my former boss who is now the head boss at my current org. He and one of the deputy directors pitched me an Operations role that was billed as senior and strategic and gave me the opportunity to get the kind of managerial experience I was seeking but unable to get in my old role.

Within 4 weeks of coming on to the new org, I had to onboard two new ops staff-- both worked in one of our satellite offices and were younger staff just starting out in their first office jobs. One of the employees struggled a lot and the other also hit a steep leaning curve but ultimately did well. The other never improved and I ended up supporting the deputy director's recommendation that she be terminated (she has since been re-employed in a role that is likely a better fit).

As can be expected this made things a bit difficult for the existing employee who had to take on a disproportionate share of the remaining work as we hired for the replacement. I tried to shield her from extra work in a few ways--most notably holding calls with all the program staff to suss out upcoming projects and request that they loop me in on any requests/needs for the remaining employee so we could keep the load manageable and I could step in.

You can probably guess that all the staff went over my head, made direct requests of the employee without my knowledge and she became burnt out pretty quickly. It's also important to know that she routinely downplayed her hours and actively courted additional work (and openly continued to work on projects I asked her not to). Although I work in our main site both the overworked employee and my deputy director work in the same office and see each other daily.

So to make a long story longer the overworked employee vented about me to another employee who went directly to our deputy director/my manager and related the complaints. My deputy director follows up with my (former) employee under the pretense of "just checking in". My employee is a sweet but utterly clueless mid-twenties girl who did what most people with their first serious job might do: she complained about me and the whole organization, thinking the boss actually cared and just lit into everything. As you might have guessed, within a week's time, the team I had left a career of 7 years to manage, was reassigned to someone else and over the coming weeks my portfolio was reduced even further. The job I now have doesn't resemble anything I would have left my prior job for and I've come to work for months now not knowing whether I would be fired by (I have a toddler-- sort of a big deal if I lose my job).

To her credit my (former) employee almost immediately understood what she had done wrong and, just before her reassignment, she and I discussed her comments and why they were harmful, how to express feelings in a professional context and how to speak to higher ups. I knew when the reassignment occurred that her comments were the "why" and I confronted my deputy director about it she denied it had anything to do with the reassignment, claiming she didn't even "remember" what was said. And I can totally accept that may not be the whole reason she reduced my portfolio or that she had an acceptable rationale for being guarded about the exchange even if I think it's absolutely insane to act upon the feedback, especially without giving me any feedback or chance to defend myself. My performance review was average -- no reprimands or serious concerns and I was also given a $1000 "raise".

There are a lot of other trust issues in the relationship and lately both our big boss and our chief of staff have become suspicious of the deputy director's behavior, how often she over-promises and under-delivers and how often that is often accompanied by her blaming someone else for her failure to deliver.

So this is the question: I'm not considering actively discussing the bad behavior and issues with our big boss but I am in the process of negotiating another offer and, given we had a prior working relationship and he recruited me, I'm nervous that I'll be pressed for details and I don't want to appear to bad mouth the deputy director but also don't want the big boss to regret hiring me or feel like I performed badly and that he could not recommend me for future opportunities. The world I work in is pretty small and he has a lot of cache and his recommendation and confidence are not things I want to lose. And I'd like to be able to bypass the bad deputy director for future recommendations. I know that many in the organization don't trust the deputy director and also feel she causes problems but others either don't feel that way or do but aren't corroborating.

So I can approach the discussion in a few ways when it comes up: say nothing and just say the role and org were not a good fit (and risk him pegging me as a poor performer, losing a quality recommendation and connection in my network); tell him directly that there's a lack of trust that has prompted me to leave; or again say nothing but back channel the info to him through our chief of staff and other mutual friends. What do you think I should do?

TLDR- my supervisor is a bully generally but I caught her in some lies that forced me to leave the company-- should I discuss this with her or our director, who is a former boss and friend (or others) in my exit interview?

  • That tl;dr doesn't sound like the situation described at all. What lies? What bullying? Is this just an attempt to get back at her for divesting you of your team for what you believe are unjust reasons?
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 18:02
  • Your description doesn't support the question, I don't see anything relevant there. Commented May 29, 2017 at 18:44
  • Take up puzzle solving or diplomacy. Too many games and some backstabbing going on. You say you try to do well but then your efforts are sabotaged. Get on good terms and find somewhere else. Agree with Juan that Description needs work, maybe proofread the question also. EG: Does cache mean "he is a storehouse of respect" or he has cash?
    – Rob
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 19:25
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How much should I say in an exit interview?
    – Walfrat
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


I'm going to take a little licence with your question

"Should I put [down] a bully boss during my exit interview"

because your description does not sound like bullying in the traditional sense.

Reading your description, it sounds like you blame your deteriorated work situation on a boss that you feel did not address complaints about your work in a very professional manner.

So the question I'm inferring is "Should I directly blame (and speak poorly about) my boss during my exit interview?"

No, you should not. Do not ever do this.

When you leave a job, address only your own experience and what you know to be fact.

You have many suspicions of your boss but you can't actually know why she acted as she did, and in the end it is your word against hers. Getting into a debate about it can only make you look unprofessional.

What you know to be true is this:

  1. You came into this position because it offered management experience that you desired.
  2. You were reassigned and the position no longer provides the experience you changed jobs for, or resembles the position you were promised.
  3. The reassignment was not discussed with you beforehand and you were given no opportunities to address any issues that were present.
  4. Your performance review does not raise any issues or explain why you were reassigned.

This should address any concerns your superiors have as to why you are leaving without reflecting poorly on you. They may decide to investigate why your boss acted as she did, but that's up to them and you don't need to participate; if you choose to, stick to the facts.

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