my boss is abusive and blames it on PMDD — Ask a Manager

I have an update for my boss who was blaming her abusive behavior on PMDD. It ended how I was starting to suspect it would.

After your response, my husband and I started working on moving our kids onto his health insurance. Katherine’s behavior was getting worse and I’d started having heart palpitations along with the weight loss and dangerously high blood pressure. Your response and the comments opened my eyes that HR and Corprate weren’t actually working on a solution for this problem. I started applying for new jobs almost immediately after you posted and got to a few final round interviews, but never got an offer.

By Halloween our team was down to 7 people. By Thanksgiving the HR generalist assigned to our department quit because of Katherine’s behavior had gotten much worse. They hired a new HR generalist to sit and watch Katherine but he didn’t do anything other than laugh at Katherine’s outbursts and play on his phone all day. We used to share workspace with another department, but they were moved not long after my question was posted. This movement fueled a lot of rumors that there would be company layoffs by February. The rumor was true, but Katherine’s final outburst hastened the layoffs by a month.

One morning just after the holidays, Katherine went off without warning, doing her usual throwing things and screaming.The only other senior employee left told her to leave or we’d call the police. That seemed to hold a suspicous amount of weight with her and she left without a peep. As a team we asked the new HR generalist why he didn’t anything and he said “female issues” were out of his pay grade and the “department’s days were numbered anyway.” When everyone cooled down, which was less than 20 minutes after the incident, we went to HR as a group.

Katherine beat us there and told HR a different version of what happened, saying my colleague threatened her for asking about the progress of an important project. HR tried to do a weird mediation kind of thing with us all and we were all mostly speechless as we have security cameras in our work space.

I had your response open on my phone during the mediation and used it as talking points during the conversation. Katherine kept denying that she’d ever behaved in a way that was unprofessional and even backtracked saying, “I’ve never mentioned anything about having any medical diagnosis, let alone something as private as PMDD.” It became pointless to continue after that and we all knew it, even HR.

HR thanked us for our candor and sent us back to work. An hour later, we got an email from corporate saying our department was being closed and that we were laid off. We were told we could apply to other departments if we wanted, but we’d have to do it competitively as outside candidates and our company time and grade would start over from entry-level, we’d lose all accrued sick and vacation time, and our salaries would be knocked back down to entry-level (like a $30K a year pay cut).

The rumor going around is that that allegedly corporate stopped trying to find a solution to Katherine’s behavior almost a year ago when they realized they’d have to lay people off due to company finances. They saw our department’s high turnover as an opportunity and told HR to stall so the department could be phased out once enough of us quit. Other departments had been distributing our duties amongst themselves for months. Corporate wanted Katherine to drive people out so they wouldn’t have to pay severances which is weird because they paid a lot of severances when Katherine fired people without cause. What’s even worse that Katherine wasn’t fired but moved to another department, still in a management role. If social media and LinkedIn are any indication, that caused a ripple of more people quitting. It was pretty obvious that Katherine was just a symptom of a bad company in general.

On a positve note, my husband’s employer apparently took major strides to improve their healthcare so our kiddo’s medical needs now have better coverage than before. I made a career change and am much happier with outcome.

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