my new hire turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde

A reader writes:

I’m a manager at a large nonprofit. The budget is tight and I am short-staffed. I finally was approved to open up a position with the understanding that it would be a 90-day trial period and at the end of that period the organization would evaluate how well it worked and then decide whether or not to make that person permanent, non-exempt.

I hired a guy who had great experience and great references and was amazing in the interview. For 90 days, he was great – fast learner, very motivated, put in extra effort, reliable. I was happy he was working so well and my bosses were happy that they approved my staffing proposal.

Towards the end of the 90-day trial period, my hire started asking pretty frequently about being made permanent. Neither I nor my supervisors saw any reason why that shouldn’t happen. He had been great and I was so incredibly relieved to have the help. So at the end of the trial, we made him permanent, with benefits, PTO, vacation, the whole lasagna.

Since then it has been a NIGHTMARE. He has become a completely different person. He has only been permanent for a month. The very first week, he called in sick three of the five days. He comes in late and leaves early, is constantly making mistakes, he refuses to read or answer his emails, is rude to my other employees and upper management, and has hung up on patrons. I’ve gotten a lot of complaints.

I met with him twice to address these issues. At the first meeting, he said he was just confused about time off, organization policies, etc. I was confused since he did fine for three months, but gave him the benefit of the doubt and did some retraining, etc. But mistakes kept happening, he continued to miss work, and he stopped even trying to get along with the others. I met with him a second time in a much more serious tone, but I also asked him if there were any issues outside of work that might be the cause. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the day and night difference in him. He did not like that and said there weren’t any outside issues that were any of my business and then became very antagonistic and defensive. This meeting ended on a rather sour note.

Now I’ve been hearing from my other employees and also upper management that this new hire is complaining about me and the organization constantly. I heard from my direct boss that the higher-ups are getting concerned.

While writing this email, I got a meeting request. I just met with our payroll and HR manager because not only is my hire somehow in negative sick leave and PTO, but he has apparently been using his lunch hours to barge into her office and argue about his time off, trying to get the organization to pay for it for various reasons. Oh, and he tried to access bereavement leave to cover a vacation.

I am beyond mortified.

I fought so hard to get this position approved and I desperately need the help. I’m afraid that this will turn my higher-ups off to keeping this position and they’ll do away with it. And I am frankly embarrassed that I hired this guy. I feel like a failure. I’m disappointed I let my bosses down, but I’m also disappointed in myself for not being able to clamp down on this guy’s shenanigans.

Any suggestions on how to talk to my higher-ups to keep the position, or how to deal with this hire? I’m at my wit’s end.

Just be honest with your boss and whoever else you need to sign off on how you handle this: “He was on his best behavior during his probationary period, but as soon as it ended, his behavior changed dramatically. He comes in late and leaves early, produces low-quality work, refuses to read or answer his emails, is rude to other employees, and has hung up on patrons. I’ve spoken with him several times, and he’s been antagonistic and hasn’t improved. At this point, I think we need to cut our losses and let him go.”

And you almost certainly do need to let him go — this isn’t a situation where I’d use a performance improvement plan and give him time to meet your expectations. The issues you’ve described are fundamental ones that don’t show up in people who are going to end up as great employees in the near future, he’s been unresponsive (and even hostile) to initial attempts to talk about what’s going on, and his track record says that he’s likely to improve for the length of the plan and then regress back afterwards. (But if your organization insists on using a formal plan anyway — as some do — keep in mind that you can make it a condition of keeping him on that he sustains that improved performance over time, even once the formal plan is over.)

Should you be mortified? If you conducted a rigorous interview process and rigorous reference checks, no. This guy sounds like he pulled a con — he was one person at first, then changed to someone else as soon as he felt he had more job security. Sometimes people do that. And even beyond con artists, sometimes new hires just end up not working out. Sometimes that’s because the manager didn’t do due diligence, yes, but it can also be because hiring isn’t a perfect science and sometimes we get it wrong.

The biggest thing you could do to damage your higher-ups’ confidence in you would be to not deal with this situation head-on and get it resolved. That will be far more damaging than just straightforwardly saying “hey, here’s where we are, here’s what I think happened, and here’s my plan for dealing with it.”

Will they do away with the position altogether as a result? It’s possible — but this wouldn’t be a good reason to. Address it with confidence, lay out a plan for moving forward (including re-hiring and any ways to improve the process this time around if you can spot any), and assume that they’ll be smart enough to see the same things that you see.*

*And if they don’t share your perspective, try to figure out why: What are you putting weight on that they’re not, or what are they putting weight on that you’re not? Often the key to squaring two different perspective lies in those questions.

{ 336 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Prismatic Professional

    I don’t have advice for this, I just wanted to say you have my sympathies. That is really really rough. :-/

    Reply
  2. Swarley

    Definitely make sure that you and your boss are on the same page regarding how to move forward with your employee sooner rather than later. It does sound like this person pulled a bait-and-switch, so I don’t think that reflects poorly on you. However, keeping him on for any extended length of time will probably damage your reputation. I’d work to have this guy out the door as soon as possible. And I’d push hard for avoiding a PIP because I doubt very much that this will bring about a long-term change given his track record.

    Reply
    1. Jinx

      The fact that he started asking about being made permanent near the end of his probationary period coupled with the turnaround as soon as he got the position were my red flags. Signs point to this guy faking his way through the probation period. And even *if* something catastrophic was happening in his personal life to cause this, he’s not willing to communicate about it or address his performance problems. I think OP has already gone above and beyond in terms of putting up with his behavior.

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      1. Liana

        Why is asking about the permanent position an automatic red flag? Alison often advises us to be proactive in our career and to address any job-related uncertainties head-on. For a good employee, asking about the permanent position shouldn’t be an issue at all – they have every right to want to be informed on their job security.

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        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think Jinx meant that it was the combination of the asking and the turnaround — the fact that he was very focused on the status change and then become a different person right afterwards makes the timing feel deliberate.

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          1. Liana

            Oh, I totally understand. I might have misread Jinx’s comment – I just don’t like the idea of simply asking about a permanent position to be a red flag in itself and the OP to be wary in case the next hire should do the same thing (the asking part, not the personality change part). Jinx, if I misunderstood, my apologies!

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            1. Jinx

              It’s all good. :) I did mean what Alison said – the combination was more alarming than the asking by itself. I also may have been putting more emphasis on this sentence than I should have:

              “my hire started asking pretty frequently about being made permanent”

              I interpreted this as him asking about the permanent position repeatedly over a short time. I definitely didn’t mean that it’s wrong to inquire as to your future employment status at all! Sorry that I wasn’t clear. :)

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              1. Hindsight

                Hello all! I’m the OP from this question.. When he began asking about being made permanent I did initially think he was just enthusiastic about the position. Then it did get pretty aggressive but again, I assumed he was being a little overly proactive and not a crazy person as it turned out. Thank you everybody!

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      2. Green

        Sounds like he was getting to his own wit’s end trying to hold it together and be a decent employee for 90 days. :)

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        1. TootsNYC

          And i think that’s proof that the OP doesn’t need to feel too bad. This guy knew it was a problem, and he *could* rein himself in–he just doesn’t want to anymore.

          Sure, it may be hard for him, but he doesn’t seem to be even trying. He knows what objectionable behavior is, because he deliberately avoided it.

          Reply
  3. Lily in NYC

    Wow, OP, what a nightmare. I don’t think you need to worry about looking bad for hiring him because he was able to fool your supervisors as well. However, I do see why you’re worried that you might not get the headcount back if he’s fired. Which would suck. But it’s not worth keeping this dude because you’re worried that you won’t be able to hire anyone else – at this point it sounds like it’s not worth trying to “fix” him. The bereavement leave stunt he pulled is especially shady. He’s like one of those college kids who has an unlimited supply of grandparents who “die” every semester.
    I hope you will come back and update us! Good luck.

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    1. Minion

      Oh, no, you must be thinking of my step-dad’s stepmother who passed away last semester. No, this is my second step-mother’s step-father’s father. Twice removed. We’re very close.

      *stares unblinkingly at HR rep*

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      1. OfficePrincess

        His dying wish was to have his ashes spread on the beach in Bermuda. You can’t deny a man’s dying wish.

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    2. Felix

      While I think hat stereotype is likely true (college kids, unending supply of dead relatives to get out of assignments), there is always someone who is telling the truth!

      I don’t think the employee that the OP is writing about is telling the truth -totally awful to use bereavement leave for a vacay! However, I was that college kid who legitimately had all 3 grandparents die in about a 12 week span. I’m really grateful my professors and boss at the time believed me- I had to take a ton of time off work and school to travel and help out my folks.

      Anyway, just saying this because sometimes that really does happen to people as suspicious as it might sound.

      Reply
      1. manybellsdown

        Heh, yeah, I had to have surgery twice in a six-week period one semester. Fortunately my professors were very understanding, and then one surgery ended up coinciding with spring break so I only had to reschedule one exam and one paper, in the end.

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      2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

        My parents both remarried when I was quite young, so my step-grandparents I consider grandparents in every sense — and all eight of them are still alive. I’m terrified of being in a situation where I’m hauled in front of HR because I have four grandmothers die in a short space of time.

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        1. Mae North

          Same here! If you include step-, I have 5 grandmothers and my husband has 3. So far they’re all in good health for their ages, but I dread becoming That Person who everyone thinks is lying about bereavement leave.

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      3. Vulcan social worker

        Mine wasn’t within 12 weeks, but it was within a few years and all while I held the same job. After returning from bereavement leave from the first, I told my manager that it was my fear since I still had three remaining grandparents, they were all pretty old, and none were well. Fortunately I was also believed, as I was a good employee, I was traveling most weekends to visit them (I lived far enough that it was a whole weekend trip, but close enough that the drive itself wasn’t really a hardship), and I was exempt with a work phone and laptop so I could set up shop in a room in my parents’ house and return calls and emails when I needed to take bereavement leave during our busy time. It was pretty clear that I wasn’t off having fun but was helping family.

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    3. dragonzflame

      Heh, my dad taught at a university and said that it was amazing how around the time of a test or assignment being due, all the grannies were decimated…

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    4. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      Heh. It’s like M*A*S*H:

      Colonel Henry Blake: Father dying, right?
      Corporal Maxwell Klinger: Yes, sir. *dabs eyes with handkerchief*
      Colonel Henry Blake (Reviewing Klinger’s file): Father dying last year… Mother dying last year… Mother and father dying… Mother, father and older sister dying… Mother dying and older sister pregnant… Older sister dying and mother pregnant… Younger sister pregnant and older sister dying… Here’s an oldie but a goodie… half of the family dying, other half pregnant. Klinger, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?
      Corporal Maxwell Klinger: “Yes sir. I don’t deserve to be in the army.”

      Reply
    5. TootsNYC

      I hope you can make the point that until he started being nasty, it was clear that there was a huge benefit from having someone good.

      He proved your point about the extra set of hands. He’s just the wrong guy.

      Reply
  4. Temperance

    At this point, even if they do just eliminate the position, wouldn’t that be better than dealing with a rude jerk in the office? It doesn’t sound like he’s doing much except bullying his coworkers and angering your donors.

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    1. some1

      I have to agree. When good, competent, polite employees watch their co-worker get away with murder with no consequences it’s downright demoralizing. It’s hard to work hard and be helpful and polite even when you don’t feel like it and watch your co-worker behave the opposite. Good employees will leave and the ones who don’t will lose respect for management for not fixing the problem.

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    2. BethRA

      +1

      Bad enough he’s not performing his own duties, he’s making everyone else’s lives harder and damaging your relationships both inside and outside of the organization.

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    3. Shell

      And on top of his crappy attitude, OP and the other coworkers will have to spend time patching up the bad hire’s mistakes. It sounds like they’re all spread pretty thin already and they don’t have the time to deal with the bad hire’s mistakes on top of a bad attitude.

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    4. Newbie

      I think the issue is that the position was created due to a need for an additional person for workload reasons. Not having this guy around will make for a better work environment, but the work still needs to be done. Making a case to highlight how useful the position was during the 90 days the employee was on his best behavior could help convince management to fire this employee but keep the position.

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      1. Elizabeth West

        Yes, and this sort of thing happens but it’s really not that common. Most people can’t keep up a con for 90 days (three months), hence the standard probationary period. If you want to use the dating analogy, that’s when people tend to bail if they’re going to.

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        1. Leslie Knope's Waffle

          Love the dating analogy for this particular situation. My theory is that people can “hide their crazy” for up to a year – after that, it’s pretty hard to fake being someone you’re not, especially if you’re spending any significant amount of time with them.

          It sounds like this dude is a really great manipulator to boot. And I guarantee this ain’t his first rodeo at acting this way in a professional setting…

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      2. Hindsight

        Luckily, aside from this guy, I have an amazing team who have dealt with this better than I could have hoped. Especially with his rude behavior. But it is not fair to them to have to deal with this guy or to have to retake the extra work if this position is dissolved. I like Newbie’s response because that is what I’d like to highlight; for those three months it was glorious for all of us.

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  5. Myrin

    This is completely fascinating. It’s obviously a pretty terrible situation for the OP to be in and I’m wishing her all the best in dealing with this whole clusterfuck but man, I didn’t think stuff like this existed (especially since it seems so pointless – yes, it’s harder and takes longer to fire someone permanent than when they’re still on probationary period but it’s not like once you’re permanent you can’t be fired ever. What a weird stunt to pull.).

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    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      And really, it doesn’t have to be harder and take longer to fire someone after the probationary period is up (at least in the U.S.), unless the organization has specific policies that tie them to following specific procedures first (and even if they do, most have outs for egregious situations).

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      1. Myrin

        Oh man, I forgot about the at-will thing, sorry! Yeah, in that case, I’m even more stumped as to what the purpose of this whole behaviourial weirdness was. Does he just enjoy wreaking havoc?

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        1. NotherName

          I have two guesses:
          1. He previously worked somewhere that did have policies that made firing more difficult.
          2. He’s trying to get fired for some reason. (I’ve seen this happen…)

          My experience is that while people are on their best behavior during the probationary period, that’s a range based on what their normal behavior is. Since this guy was able to be a great employee for 3 months, he clearly knows what the expectations are. Usually people who end up being terrible employees push the envelope a little bit at a time – they don’t immediately start being a bad employee with no warning.

          Oh, and I worked once for someone who had come with great references. Because her former employer was trying to get rid of her.

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          1. Economist

            “Oh, and I worked once for someone who had come with great references. Because her former employer was trying to get rid of her.”

            Yes, I’ve seen that happen too.

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              1. Lurker

                I’m convinced this is why there are so many horrible managers and executives. People give them good references just to get rid of them, even though they are incompetent, toxic, etc.

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                1. Elizabeth West

                  I hope the OP and her supervisors are on the same page re giving this guy an HONEST reference. Or just the old “I’m sorry; all we do is confirm dates of employment,” said in a meaningful tone that implies much more than anyone says.

                2. neverjaunty

                  Yes, I think I’ve mentioned that a friend once was manager for a ‘he quit just before we could fire him’ type of slacker employee, and when the guy LISTED HIM AS A REFERENCE, replied, in a hushed, nervous tone, “Oh, I’m not actually sure what I’m legally allowed to disclose about his time here.”

          2. caryatid

            i didn’t even think of that! the great references as a way to get rid of someone…
            What About Bob with Bill Murray comes to mind :)

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          3. Anonymous Educator

            I’ve heard of this, too, but for tenured professors. If the person doesn’t have tenure, why can’t the organization just fire her/him? Why does the org. have to provide a good reference (i.e., lie) to get rid of the toxic employee?

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            1. fposte

              It’s when the employee is still working for the old employer. They want to get rid of him without firing him, so they make somebody else excited to take him off their hands.

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              1. Anonymous Educator

                No, I get that, but why not just get rid of him by firing him instead of getting rid of him without firing him… unless he has tenure.

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                1. fposte

                  Because a lot of people hate direct dealing. Think similarly of the 50% of AAM letters that are “Why not say something directly to the person whose behavior is concerning you?”

                2. Creag an Tuire

                  Presumably, it’s those places where actually firing someone requires the sign-0ff of an absentee/disinterested higher-up, and/or the company has the common mistaken belief that “we can’t fire Jane, because she’s a protected class and can -sue- us”.

                3. Shelby

                  Because then they’d have to pay him unemployment and deal with other hassles, like COBRA. It’s way easier and cheaper if he leaves voluntarily.

                4. Anonymous Educator

                  When I’ve left places (voluntarily), my employers have still sent me COBRA information. You don’t get out of that by not firing someone.

                  Firing someone sucks, but lying as a reference to get them hired somewhere else sucks worse… I wouldn’t be able to do it.

                5. starsaphire

                  I once worked for a company that took ridiculous amounts of pride in “never having fired anyone, ever.”

                  Massive red flag, right there. How do you get rid of people if you “never fire anyone ever?” (I found out, the hard way.)

                6. Dan

                  I’ve never actually had to do any firing, but I’ve got to imagine that it’s way, way easier to just let someone leave if they have one foot out the door. I’m not one to exaggerate the risk of employment lawsuits, but would you rather have a little exposure, or *no* exposure? Do you want to take the time to provide HR with the appropriate documentation (and if you slacked off on that, wait a period of time to gather the right documentation)? Sure, severance should come with a general release from any liability, but that’s real money. If he files for unemployment, you have to spend time contesting it.

                  What’s easier and/or cheaper? All of that crap, or just giving someone a great reference and letting them wander away on their own?

                7. neverjaunty

                  There is no such thing as “no exposure”. Somebody who wants to invent a BS lawsuit will simply claim constructive discharge.

                8. Honeybee

                  Tangentially related but I found out (not through experience) that you can fire a tenured professor, too. It’s a huge pain in the ass and likely to raise the ire of the entire department unless the professor is truly, truly terrible. but tenure wasn’t meant to protect terrible people – most tenure clauses still allow professors to be fired for egregious misconduct and let go for financial exigency. I think it’s just that most universities and departments are both unwilling to go through the long process of documenting and validation that’s required for all but the most egregious offenses AND unwilling to attract the negative attention they get every time they even think about ending tenure of either individuals or entire faculties.

          4. INFJ

            “He’s trying to get fired for some reason.” That would explain why he waited until he was full time to start acting out. I can’t imagine why someone would want to get fired, unless the person realizes he/she doesn’t want to stay but doesn’t have anything lined up and still wants to collect unemployment.

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            1. Wendy Darling

              But you can’t even collect unemployment if you’re fired for misconduct, and his behavior sounds like it would qualify. So at the very least OP’s company would have a decent case to fight his getting unemployment.

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              1. Retail Lifer

                And don’t you have to be employed for a certain amount of time before you qualify for unemployment? If so, get rid of him NOW, OP!

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              2. LQ

                (At least in my state I don’t think this would qualify for misconduct, just as an FYI. Though Retail Lifer has a point about getting rid of him now would at least in most states make them liable for less benefits, if not no benefits.)

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              3. Dan

                @Retail Lifer

                “It depends.” In my state, if you have been on unemployment, you have to be employed for a certain period of time (I don’t think it’s much more than 90 days) to reset the clock.

                If you haven’t been on employment recently, I’m not sure you have to stick around.

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            2. Leslie Knope's Waffle

              See, that’s my theory for my fiancé’s situation (details below) – I think that his problem child wants to get fired so he can collect unemployment and hang out. I do know that in our state, you cannot collect unemployment if you were fired for stealing from the company or threaten a co-worker with violence – basically, it has to be a really extreme situation.

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          5. Anon Accountant

            Yes. This happens unfortunately. In our case the former employer wanted rid of him and he had told their company he would sue them if he was fired (his former company). They wanted rid of him and to avoid a lawsuit they gave him a glowing reference. He used grounds of having a chronic health problem as his reasoning for why he would sue. We never could quite fully comprehend that one as to why the old company didn’t consult a lawyer to cover their bases legally and see if his threats were baseless or not.

            Our company terminated him and later my boss learned of the full story behind their great reference.

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            1. Honeybee

              Maybe this is testament to my general recklessness, but my desired response would be to fire him anyway and say “Good luck!”

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          6. Hindsight

            This touches on two of my main concerns. My organization rarely will fire someone. I’ve only seen it happen once in the years I’ve been here and it was long overdue. I had to fight to open this position, I would also have to fight to get someone out of it. Hopefully while keeping the position itself. But, as many have pointed out, at this point I would rather lose the position and this employee than try to salvage either.

            The second is that he is actively trying to get fired for whatever insane reason. This keeps me up late at night. Along with this is my concern that somehow I trusted too much in his references and missed some sort of red flag.

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            1. Kyrielle

              If he’s trying to get fired, the correct response is still to fire him. It makes him even more icky, but it doesn’t change your correct action – the last thing you need is for him to up his game if he decides the current stuff isn’t bad enough to get him fired.

              After he’s gone, or as you’re getting rid of him, you can analyze what you did and see if there’s something else you would do (approaching people he previously worked for/with but didn’t offer as references, asking specific questions, listening more carefully to answers) to avoid this. If you find something you think you should have done, something that’s reasonable in a business context and might have helped, then maybe try that going forward. Whether or not you find any such thing, let go of the guilt/worry/stress about what you did or didn’t do last time, as much as you can – it won’t help any going forward, and you did your best. Now you’ve had a painfully instructive moment that may or may not let you improve your best.

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            2. Worker Bee (Germany)

              Don’t beat yourself up over this. Be glad that his form of being a loon is so obvious. Imagine him having a great relationship with you and driving his coworkers/your subordinates crazy without your knowledge… As long as you deal with this headson you don’t have any reason to worry imo

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            3. Retail Lifer

              I’ve made bad hires a few times, and they all passed a couple of interviews with other managers and came with stellar references. You always feel like you missed something you shouldn’t have, but sometimes people are great at hiding their bad sides, and sometimes people just flip out. It’s not your fault.

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            4. Sarahnova

              Please don’t beat yourself up. I guarantee you that all of us who have done any amount of hiring have at least one “welp, THAT went badly” war story. People are weird and hiring is hard.

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            5. Honeybee

              You have to trust references. That’s all we have to go on in business. We have no real way of knowing whether he hired three strangers or whether three of his friends colluded to make him sound awesome…we can’t know that with any applicants, not without doing a lot of additional footwork. It doesn’t sound like you did anything that any other good manager wouldn’t have done.

              FWIW I wouldn’t blame my own manager in a situation like this. You had what was supposed to be better than references – the guy worked for you, in the flesh, for 90 days and was a model citizen. Nobody had any reason to suspect he was going to transform this way after the 90 days are up. Sane people who haven’t been seriously burned before like this don’t really entertain that possibility, because who does that? So I don’t think anyone is going to hold you accountable (or rather, anyone reasonable).

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            6. Observer

              Why is it your problem if he is trying to get fired?

              Document your head off, about the behavior, so you have that issue covered. And just do what you have to do.

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          7. Yep, me again

            I wondered that too. Is he trying to get fired so he can collect unemployment? I know it varies by state but it seems like this would be for cause. Definitely. I can’t imagine the ESC in my state approving his benefits in light of this but I’m not in HR.

            Though this guy did flip the switch pretty abruptly from the way it sounds.

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              1. Three Thousand

                Yeah, this doesn’t read as trying to get fired to me as much as “once I’m permanent, I’m golden, and I can be as much of a douchebag as I want.”

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          8. Coffeecup's co-worker

            I don’t know what Coffeecup’s references looked like, but he sounded amazing in the interview. Later I’d describe him as having put all his skill points in Bluff.

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      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        I like to imagine the PIPs that would exist if you couldn’t make an exemption for bad behavior. “Jane will stop hacking the scheduling system and authorizing herself unlimited overtime, as a condition of continued employment…”

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      3. Felicia

        My first thought was the OP is from somewhere where it is harder to fire someone after their probationary period is up, like it is here, since they don’t specify they’re in the US.

        But even here, it’s much easier to fire someone if it’s because of misconduct, you just have to have a specific reason, while in the probationary period it can be a US style reason.

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      4. Anon_in_Chicago

        The company that I work for makes it nearly impossible to fire people after the probationary period. You have to fail TWO PIPs, and getting a manager to put someone on a PIP to begin with rarely happens. Sadly.

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    2. Paige Turner

      Yeah, it’s totally bizarre (not to imply that I don’t believe the OP) for someone to be smart enough to have a good resume and references and to be able to do the job well for three months, but to also be dumb and shady enough to not understand that being past the probationary period does not mean that you can’t be fired.

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      1. Kelly L.

        Made me wonder if the references were faked (such as having a friend in on it, pretending to be Joaquin Whoever at Teapots Ltd.)

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    3. OriginalYup

      I witnessed a very similar situation at an organization that hired for all non-leadership roles as temp-to-perm positions through an outside agency. We brought in an accountant who was efficient, knowledgeable, polite, and generally pleasant to work with. After 90 days of good performance, he was hired.

      Six months later, he was fired for being an all around nightmare: sloppy and incomplete work, failure to follow business policies on everything from promptly responding to emails to using paid time off, and the beginnings of sexual harassment toward several coworkers.

      I guess in his mind, once you’re hired, it’s permanent. I just stared in consternation at the whole thing.

      And OP, for what’s it worth — I never once thought badly about the judgement of anyone involved in his hiring process. Looking back, there were a couple of red flags in his resume in that he’d worked almost entirely in contract and short-term jobs, but that could just as easily have been for perfectly normal reasons. I saw for myself that this guy appeared totally professional and competent in his trial period and then ran completely amok when he was hired.

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      1. Stranger than fiction

        Something about your comment and the sudden turn in personality in your story and the Op’s made me just wonder if this is a drug thing? I mean if anything is going to bring about such a drastic change that’d certainly be one thing.

        Reply
        1. OriginalYup

          I’m pretty sure it was a just an @sshole thing.

          I’ve seen drug/alcohol issues at work and this situation didn’t have that flavor. However, I get what you’re saying — a single root cause would make sense for why the sudden flip. But I’m pretty sure he kept his Good Employee Mask on just long enough to get pass the goal post and then let it all go to hell.

          Reply
          1. Stranger than fiction

            You’re probably right but I have a couple addicts in my family and oh boy can they do a 180 when they go off the wagon. Plus the hostility when Op inquired if there was a personal issue.

            Reply
        2. Jerzy

          I had wondered if it was a mental illness of some sort. I mean, obviously the guy has problems, but I kept thinking that the sudden personality switch sounds like someone dealing with a mental health problem.

          Reply
          1. anonintheuk

            I worked with someone like this a few years ago. We did invite him to have a chat with occupational health (I think the boss feared he had a brain tumour or something, such was the change). My supervisee and I theorise that he was a twin and the competent one did the interview and the probationary period, then had to leave.

            Reply
        3. OhNo

          The fact that it sounds like the OP’s hire got really defensive when asked if anything outside of work might be an issue suggests to me that there might be some cause for this behavior, whether it’s drugs or illness or something else.

          Not that this changes the suggestion to lose this guy as fast as possible, of course. I just have such a hard time imagining anyone pulling a bait and switch like this for no reason.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            Some people do it because they think it’s fun to wreck stuff. Others because they want the perks that come with being employed but they don’t want to work (I’m thinking Con Dude is like this, judging by how perfect he was during probation).

            Reply
      2. Hindsight

        OriginalYup thank you! I’m glad it’s not just me. And I’m glad to know that as an outside observer you didn’t think any less of those involved in the hire.

        Reply
    4. Honeybee

      That was my wonder here. Did he think he couldn’t get fired once he was off the probationary period or something? More importantly, if you know you’re an annoying asshole well enough to hide it for 90 days, why go back to being an annoying asshole?

      Reply
  6. Snarkus Aurelius

    If you did the best that you could possibly do in the hiring process and couldn’t have done anything different to make a better outcome, then you can walk away with a clean conscience.  (Same goes for job interviews and rejections.)  If you could have done something different to improve, then note it and remember it when you move forward.  (The KEY is to move forward.)

    But the former is what happened not the latter.  That’s not your fault.  You, like anyone else, expected him to act like a decent person.  That was a reasonable expectation so please stop blaming yourself.

    Not only do you need to let him go because of the reasons AAM suggested but because this person -deliberately- deceived you.  That’s a big time betrayal that you can’t let stand, especially when everyone is looking at you right now.  You want to address their concerns and protect your reputation?  Fire him right now.  Don’t ask upper management or anyone else for permission either; tell them what you’re doing and then do it.

    And if upper management eliminates the position because of him?  So be it.  There are zillions of studies out there that prove that keeping on a toxic coworker is far more expensive and detrimental to the workplace than leaving a position vacant.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Great advice…sounds like very much what I usually say. :)

      It’s true, unless “foreseeing the future” is a part of their job description it sounds like the OP did everything right. To root out people like a Jekyll/Hyde employee you’d probably have to enact draconian measures that would chase away the best employees.

      Reply
  7. Bookworm

    I feel for OP – this is probably the last thing you need when you’re short-staffed…I really hope you can keep the headcount, as well.

    But I have to admit, I’m just kind of fascinated by this person. I was expecting something much milder, but this change seems so dramatic. I get why OP wanted to be patient and make sure it wasn’t any new variable in his personal life.

    I’m curious about the personality of someone who would apparently pull a ‘con’ like this. What could they possibly be thinking? Surely it’s less effort to simply kind of ‘brown out’ as an employee and be mildly underwhelming (not that I’m advocating that). Also – does he labor under the impression that once someone is taken on permanently they can no longer be fired?

    Reply
    1. some1

      I can only speculate, but maybe this guy was trying so hard to get brought on board as perm that he didn’t realize the job wasn’t right for him after all, or some aspect made him regret it (like commute, salary, etc) so it made him stop trying?

      Reply
          1. fposte

            That’s my theory. It’s just a really marked version of the honeymoon period. He understands what a good employee looks like, but he needs a big carrot to be one, and his pay isn’t enough of a carrot.

            Reply
            1. INFJ

              Interesting… going off that, maybe he thought going to permanent would mean a large salary increase and is acting out because it didn’t.

              Reply
              1. Meg Murry

                Or sometimes after benefits kick in going permanent can mean a big drop in take home pay – I’ve seen people cranky about that, but that isn’t a good enough reason to turn completely Mr. Hyde.

                Even the “called in sick for 3 days after the sick leave kicked in” I could almost excuse if the person has some kind of issue that they had been putting off getting taken care of when they didn’t have sick days or health insurance (although it would be better to tell your boss and ask permission about it) but the rest of the behavior is not ok.

                If he’s non-exempt, that means he’s hourly, yes? So if he’s coming in late and leaving early either you have documentation of that (timecard punches) or he’s lying on his handwritten timesheets, yes? That seems like a big enough and well documented enough reason for a PIP right there, if not straight up firing.

                Reply
            2. Chriama

              I agree. When he was facing the prospect of being let go after 90 days he was on his best behaviour, but now that he’s ‘permanent’ and has a measure of security (at least in his mind) he’s showing his true colours.

              Reply
    2. Ama

      Yeah, I’ve seen people who were great at seeming like stellar employees in order to cover up that they were actually committing financial fraud at work, and I’ve seen people excel at one area of their job and slack off in others because they think the one area makes them untouchable, but I’ve never seen anyone take a transition from temp to permanent as a license to completely about face like this.

      Reply
      1. Anon Accountant

        Yes! “they think one area makes them untouchable” and think the company will never be able to hire someone to replace them because they are so great at ABC and they think this will excuse them from bad behavior.

        No one is replaceable and isn’t there a quote about when someone becomes irreplaceable that you should look into training a replacement? (Just as a backup)

        Reply
    3. sam

      It’s the same type of person, I would imagine, that games short-term rentals (like AirBnB) by staying for 30 days on their bestest behavior, and then becomes a nightmare tenant who refuse to pay rent or leave, because after 30 days (at least in NYC), it becomes exponentially harder to evict someone – still possible, but significantly more difficult.

      I’m also wondering if he needed to get past the probationary period/be employed for a certain amount of time to collect unemployment benefits when he’s let go? Sure, you can’t collect if you’re fired for cause, but a lot of employers will agree to not challenge applications if the employee agrees to leave (more) quietly.

      Reply
      1. Honeybee

        There was actually a guy who did that – in San Francisco, I believe. Two brothers booked a rental through AirBnB for 44 days; they paid the first 30 days up front. Once the 30 days were up they refused to pay the balance and refused to leave the house. Under California law, a tenant who stays more than 30 days is considered a month-to-month tenant and you have to go through the courts to evict them.

        Even better, the owner of the condo threatened to turn off the electricity and one of the guys texted her and told her that turning off the electricity would threaten his livelihood since he worked from home! Then he threatened to press charges for malicious misconduct and for medical bills…for his brother getting sick…from the water in the home they were squatting in.

        It took her two months to evict them, and according to her, the only reason it even happened so quickly was the press involvement. (IIRC, AirBnB was being only marginally helpful before the press got involved as well.) Also, it turns out that the two brothers have a history of not paying rent and being evicted, as well as scamming people in other ways (who knew, right?)

        Reply
    4. Temperance

      There is a man who rides my train in the morning who is just a serious jerk. He pushes past people, curses us out, snot rockets – he’s so awful it’s almost funny. We can’t understand how someone who is such a raging douche has a job and a wife (we see them together at the stop/on the train). He is like a volcano ready to explode at the slightest provocation, and loves tormenting the conductors.

      A coworker of mine gets off the train at the same time as him, and was mystified when she realized that my train jerk is the very nice man who compliments her and is extremely polite in the afternoon. He apparently just directs all his weirdo rage at us in the AM. I’m thinking this employee is like my train jerk.

      Reply
      1. Ani

        We have a very quiet, polite IT manager where I work, he’s been here for years. So you can imagine my shock when I witnessed him unroll his SUV window, raise his arm out of it, and start yelling at a handicapped senior citizen crossing apparently too slowly for him in the crosswalk in front of our building. I was so appalled. I seriously considered reporting him to someone in our organization (but who? and what could they do? and who would even believe it without seeing it themselves?)

        Reply
        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Ah, The Catbird Seat situation, in which the employee is known to be too mild-mannered for such behavior to be believed of him.

          Reply
        2. Creag an Tuire

          I’m not that surprised that some people think they can vent spleen when they think they won’t be dealing with the person again and/or the targets are powerless to retaliate. It’s one reason “road rage” is a thing.

          Reply
        1. Temperance

          My coworker and I walked back to the train together and confirmed that it was the same man! (He sometimes dresses in a very er, distinctive manner, and I saw him that morning.)

          Reply
      2. Panda Bandit

        While it doesn’t excuse his behavior, I’m thinking he probably hates his job and you see him directing his anger about that at everyone around him. And when he’s leaving for the day he calms down.

        Reply
    5. Chalupa Batman

      Yes, the urge for speculation on this behavior change is irresistible! Who does this? My theory: like some1 suggested, he was trying to get on perm, so it was almost a game to be awesome and win the “prize.” Then, when the job was won, he took off the rose colored glasses and realized this job was not what he wanted. A decent person would talk with OP about their concerns, and maybe admit defeat and start looking for a new job. But Mr. Hyde is a jerk, so he blamed OP, the organization, and anyone else he could think of for his new found job dissatisfaction. This behavior is so outside the norm that I read it as hostility. I suspect he either wants to be fired (easier to continue the blame circle that way) so it can be OP’s fault he failed there or really does think he can’t be fired. Either way, I took this behavior as his way of saying “I’m not happy and it’s your fault!”

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        “…[S]o he blamed OP, the organization, and anyone else he could think of for his new found job dissatisfaction.”

        I’m betting that has something to do with it. It sounds to me like he thought, “Once I’m full time, I’ll be able to come in whatever time I want and use sick time and have tons of vacation days that I can use whenever, it’ll be great!” But then once he got the job, with all its attached rules on how much time off he has and all these expectations for behavior… The rose-colored glasses got knocked off and he blames everyone else around him for it.

        Reply
  8. Cucumberzucchini

    Can you start looking for a replacement proactively so you are operating from a place of assuming you’ll refill the position? Then you’re ahead of the game. Sometimes momentum matters.

    Reply
  9. INTP

    What a loon. Sounds like he took “Permanent” too literally and thinks he cannot be fired now.

    I’d actually like to be in the room and watch his face when he does, in fact, get fired.

    Reply
    1. Judy

      I’ve not worked at a place that officially called it “permanent”. Usually the HR manuals, etc, called out “regular” employees, along with other types such as “probationary” and “student”.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        Agreed – I think “permanent” is the colloquial term people use to mean “not temporary”, but when I unthinkingly used the term to refer to a temporary position converting to regular at my current employer, my (older and more senior) coworker gently corrected me, because no position is ever permanent unless there’s a special contract in place.

        We also make a point of referring to the first 90 days as an “introductory” period, not a “probationary” period, because we’ve found that employees and managers both perceive a difference between those terms; “probationary” makes employees feel like once they’re past that, they’re solidly assured of their position (and managers seem feel like if they let the employee continue past that point they can’t fire them???) and you sometimes end up with situations like the OP’s, whereas “introductory” seems to give everyone a more consistent sense of expectations between the two time periods while maintaining the sense that the introductory period is going to involve more oversight and evaluation than the time thereafter.

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, “permanent” tends to be short-hand used by employees, but (smart) employers won’t use it because they don’t want to wrongly imply any position comes with a guarantee of permanence.

        Reply
    2. Wendy Darling

      At my last job we had a Nightmare Temp who looked amazing on paper and did great in interviews but was monstrous in reality. Incompetent, inefficient (leading to MASSIVE overtime), dishonest. He bullied the competent temps and got into screaming matches with the slightly abrasive one.

      He also wanted more money. He’d negotiated a higher rate than everyone else already but he wanted more. So he called the manager and offered his two weeks’ notice with the assumption that she’d bargain with him.

      I wish I could have seen his face when the manager utterly failed to negotiate and said “Okay, that makes your last day a week from Friday then.”

      (He then behaved so badly during his notice period that he was asked not to return after one week.)

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Wow. I’d love to have seen the look on his face, too. We had a dean’s assistant once who did a rage quit on a Friday afternoon and was surprised when the associate dean said, “Resignation accepted.” I think she thought that she would get to throw a dramatic temper tantrum and that someone would expend energy talking her down. Too bad for her that everyone was ready to get rid of her.

        Reply
            1. Natalie

              In my own personal dictionary, that’s the difference between an ultimatum and enforcing boundaries/stating needs – an ultimatum is something you won’t actually go through with and are just using to get your way.

              Reply
          1. UK JAM

            If they are allowed to. I had someone pull ‘Give me x or I resign’ on me twice, then rescind it once she realized she wouldn’t get what she wanted (extra time off during school holidays, 3 months sabbatical abroad). And HR would NOT let me hold her to it!

            Reply
  10. Bwmn

    In addition to the chorus of the OP not needing to feel bad and definitely working to have this guy fired, all I can add is that if you did a thorough hiring process and reference check – then you definitely don’t need to feel bad or embarrassed.

    I also think this is a good reminder for those of us who have been candidates where the hiring process becomes open to other people. While it can feel like a referendum on our candidacy, for reasons like this – the OP is able to go to supervisors and say “this was how the hiring process was done, these are the candidates we had, this is how people responded during interviews, here are the references, and this is how we came to hire X person”. In addition to helping the OP’s organization review the process in hopes of not being in this situation again, this also means that the OP specifically has a way of explaining it.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth S.

      This is a good point. It also reminds me of when a friend who worked at a government agency advised me, as an applicant, “The hiring process is not designed to get the best possible person for the job. It’s designed to keep the agency from getting sued.”

      Reply
      1. Jerzy

        Yup, which is why, at least in New Jersey’s Civil Service, people are given multiple choice tests as a part of the hiring process (though in my case I was working there for over a year before they gave me mine). The tests often have nothing to do with the day-to-day of the job, most answers are arguably quite subjective in nature, and there’s no study guides for tests for most positions. It’s a complete crock!

        And if two people score exactly the same, but one of them is a veteran, the veteran automatically has to be offered the position, regardless of their all around fit for the position in comparison to the other person. Nothing against veterans, but this is a hiring process with a LOT of inherent problems.

        Reply
      2. Bwmn

        Yes – and while many/most/all of us AAM readers are not Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde – if we work for a place that was happy to hire us after a quick process that doesn’t have that breadth, that means that your coworkers may also be hired that way. And while as individuals we may be awesome, if our coworkers are hired based on gut instinct and that kind of thinking – think about who you may have to work with.

        Reply
  11. Miss M

    It can happen, OP. I find that in general people are on the best behavior during this period, then after while their true work personality comes out.

    Reply
    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      I find it oddly fascinating that he was able to behave so well for ninety whole days before he let himself descend into asshattery. Obviously he has it in him to be a good employee, since he was able to fake it for that long. My mind is boggled that he just didn’t continue to behave that way, since he already had it down. Is it easier to have everyone, including your boss, hating you? Figuring out people like that hurts my head; it’s like contemplating the vastness of the universe.

      Reply
      1. NotherName

        Oh, my other thought is that he is one of a set of identical twins. The good twin aced probation. Now they have the evil twin. Has he recently grown a mustache or started to wear all black?

        Reply
          1. Creag an Tuire

            And very critical ones according to my extensive research on the subject.

            If the employee has been dressing normally but simply started acting like an aggressive jerk, sexually harassing his coworkers, and shouting “Gimme the BRANDY!” at odd hours, then he’s a “transporter accident” twin, and you need only to find the “good but weak-willed” twin, sedate them both, and recombine them.

            If he’s grown a goatee and/or is wearing more lamé than usual, however, he’s a “mirror universe” twin, and must be terminated before he tries to assassinate you for your position.

            Reply
            1. starsaphire

              In the former case, he can often be identified by scratches on his face.

              In the latter case, additional red flags include scars and goatees on your team, and a sudden passion for bare midriffs…

              Reply
            2. Vulcan social worker

              As a social worker, I feel that I must point out the ethical dilemma in recombining transporter accident twins. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone from the Maquis calls and asks for a job reference?

              Reply
            3. NotherName

              If he’s a soap opera twin, you can identify the evil one with his well-groomed hair and nice suit. The good one wears a sweater and mussed-up hair. Also, the evil one has been married to Erica Kane.

              Reply
            4. Nonny E Mess for this

              I dunno… I agree with the social worker. How do you really know you’re dealing with a twin rather than the same person from an alternate timeline, created by the actions of a Romulan miner with poor impulse control? Better check by jumping through the Guardian of Forever to see where the behavior first started and ended.

              Reply
        1. blackcat

          I knew a set of identical twins in school. One was much better at standardized tests than the other. The one who was worse at test taking had to retake the SAT and miraculously improved by like 300 points. The mom *thought* she had dropped off the right twin on re-take day. The guys would never admit to wrong doing, but I am so, so sure that they used their identical-ness to pull one over on their mom and the proctor.

          Reply
          1. Jinx

            I went to school with identical twins who would switch their class schedules for the whole day. We noticed, but the teachers never did.

            Reply
            1. Windchime

              I work with a guy who is an identical twin. He and his twin were so identical in high school, they found it boring to switch classes. Nobody could tell, not the students or the teacher. So it was no fun.

              Reply
              1. Not So NewReader

                I had twin subordinates. Neither was a sterling worker. But they wore the same outfits each day so I could not tell them apart. I finally told them that they had to dress differently from each other. If I could not tell them apart they would each get the same performance eval. (a bluff on my part, there were no evals.)

                They would not speak to me when I tried to speak with them, nor would they acknowledge what I had said. They were fine with other people. Finally, one left. The other one lasted a while longer, but by then he was pulling down the whole group with his Jekyll/Hyde thing. After a few months, he left also. Not a big loss.

                However, they lived at home with mom and dad. They enjoyed drinking/video games and women. I just figured mom and dad said get a job, but the job interfered with their main interests.

                I never did figure out their issue with me, unless it was just a point of pride to be angry with an authority figure and any authority figure was fine to target.

                OP, your subordinate may just have been an angry human being. He could keep it together through the honeymoon period but once he became a regular employee, gloves came off. Angry or mean people cannot fake something else for long periods of time, they wear down and slip into their real personality.

                Reply
          2. Engineer Girl

            We had two sets of identical twins on our basketball team. The coach made sure that they had reversed numbers 32/23 45/54 etc. He loved to put both sets on the court at once.

            Reply
            1. Cath in Canada

              The Vancouver Canucks once had a string of “too many men on the ice” penalties in a short period of time, which (allegedly) turned out to be due to a new teammate not being able to tell the difference between identical twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin. He was switching for the wrong player!

              Reply
              1. NotherName

                There were identical triplets at my university. They dressed very similarly and got a lot of double takes, especially on weekends.

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                1. TootsNYC

                  My friend’s twin brothers both went to our alma mater, and they both became security guards. They had an unusual last name on the name tag they wore all the time. They had different shifts, and people kept saying, “Don’t you ever go home? Don’t you ever take classes?”

                  When people asked them if they were twins, they thought the question was SO ridiculously stupid that they’d say, sadly, “Well, we were originally triplets…”

                2. George

                  My identical twin cousins managed to convince a fair number of schoolmates that they were actually triplets.

          3. Random citizen

            I worked with a guy who is an identical twin, and he once had his twin come in to work for him (or vice versa – it was at a previous job). No one noticed.

            Reply
        2. Stranger than fiction

          Ha, I think I told the story here once before of the set of twin hostesses at a restaurant I worked at. Theyd sometimes switch shifts and pretend to be each other, but never did anything to sabotage their jobs.

          Reply
          1. Kelly L.

            I mentioned upthread that I did meet twins without realizing they were twins–I was annoyed with “this guy” for being standoffish the day after he’d been really friendly, but he wasn’t actually the same guy! I didn’t figure it out till I saw them together.

            Reply
            1. NotherName

              There is a set of identical twins where I work. They work in completely different areas/buildings, and people who know them can tell them apart, but I’ve heard some stories from new employees about making this mistake.

              They’re both excellent employees, though.

              Reply
            2. Dr. Johnny Fever

              I knew twins in HS. Let’s call them Thing 1 and Thing 2. They were mirror twins – easy to tell the difference when together, indistinguishable when apart.

              I had a crush on Thing 2, yet followed Thing 1 to his classes. I would have quick chats with Thing 1, run into Thing 2, reference a chat, and get puzzled when he didn’t remember. I got along great with Thing 1, but was totally hung up on Thing 2. I eventually got to know Thing 2, but never dated him.

              Years later, I run into Thing 1. We date for a summer. It’s good. I go back to college.

              My younger sister, Venus, who looks very much like me, ran into Thing 2 at Shmal-Mart. Thing 2 greets Venus as me, not as Venus. Venus says to Thing 2, “It’s awfully funny that you confuse me with Johnny, considering that you dated her!”

              Thing 2 stares at Venus, then she gets mad and shouts, “You don’t even remember?” and leaves.

              And the moral of the story is, don’t date a mirror twin.

              Reply
        3. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          It’s also possible he got a hold of Calvin’s duplicator. Does he not remember conversations from one day to the next? Does he have a cardboard box laid on its side under his desk? Was the “good version” incapable of having an evil thought?

          Reply
          1. Lee Ann

            Is he a magician who’s really good at the “walks in one door, instantly walks out the other side of the room” trick?

            Reply
      2. Temperance

        This is obviously just speculation, but maybe he was just trying incredibly hard to be a decent person and mask his true awful personality? I’ve seen that in action before.

        Reply
      3. The Cosmic Avenger

        I know, right? You would think that it would be easier to just stay as Dr. Jekyll, even if it’s not easy. If he was able to maintain it perfectly for 90 days, why not another 90, and then another? My best guess is that it’s a form of magical thinking, that 90 days of perfect behavior suddenly mean he’s invulnerable.

        Reply
      4. Mallory Janis Ian

        I mean, I often feel like I’m ‘pretending’ to be a person who does a good job to make it in my role as an admin. I have to be way more organized than I naturally am and ‘care’ about things that I don’t really give a rat about. I keep up the role because I care about making myself perform up to a standard even though I’d really love to be doing whatever the hell I want to do. I guess at some point if I ever stopped ‘pretending’ to be better than I really am it could get real ugly real fast.

        Reply
  12. Jerzy

    Wow, OP. This guys sounds like a horror to have to manage. I agree that he needs to go, ASAP!

    If you’re worried about keeping the position, however, I’d suggest that while discussing this guy’s bait-and-switch routine, you emphasize what a help it was to productivity, etc. while he was still on his best behavior, and how his behavior now is hurting that. You can emphasize the need for this position to be filled, while firmly stating that this guy is obviously a bad fit for the culture of the company and the requirements of the job. It’s a bit of a tightrope to walk, depending on how much your supervisors don’t want to risk putting anyone in that position, but it’s definitely not impossible.

    Best of luck!

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      That’s what I was going to suggest! At least for three months, the company has data about what it’s like to have an additional reliable position.

      Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      Took the words right out of my mouth! Clearly the *position* isn’t the problem, and all you have to do is point to the early days of this guy’s good behavior to demonstrate that to your higher-ups.

      Reply
  13. lulu

    I’m curious about his references. Either it’s the first time he’s pulled a stunt like that, or he faked them and he’s really a con artist. Maybe do some digging there to see if you can improve your reference checking in the future. But don’t beat yourself over the head with it, bad hires will happen.

    Reply
    1. caryatid

      as someone mentioned above – maybe his former employer wanted rid of him so badly that they gave him a good reference, or some sort of legal scenario was at play where they felt like they had to give a good reference (or at least not a bad one).

      but i agree, it seems like somewhere along the line there would be at least one reference that would give helpful information.

      Reply
  14. Ad Astra

    It sounds like the new hire made a great case for the value of his position when he was behaving. Now that he’s apparently lost his mind, his work is almost definitely suffering. Is that hurting the overall functioning of the organization? Probably; and if that’s the case, it would be smart of the PTB to fill that position once this new hire gets kicked to the curb. I can totally understand the embarrassment and the fear of having a position left vacant, but OP did a good job of demonstrating the need for this position and it’s clear this hire pulled one over on everyone. If you’re really doing your due diligence in hiring — and there’s nothing in this letter to suggest otherwise — it’s very unlikely that you’ll find yourself in this position again.

    Reply
  15. Cube Farmer

    I think I dated this guy. OP, please do not beat yourself up for this. It’s hard for honest/rational people to wrap their heads around because they would NEVER think to operate like this but this is what con artist do. And they exist in every facet of life. Best of luck with your situation!

    Reply
    1. Dan

      I married that woman. Divorced her too. My shrink uses the word “con artist” to describe my ex and some of her family. Oh, the stories.

      Reply
      1. CaliCali

        My husband’s ex was similar — he said she was the nicest, most generous person he’d ever met, but then they got engaged. He chalked her behavior up to wedding stress (and his reservations to cold feet), but that’s who she really was — she just acted a certain way beforehand to get what she wanted. She’s not a terrible person or anything, but I think people pulling a bait-and-switch in life isn’t that uncommon.

        And in this case, I think it’s what Sam is saying — he held out until he could get unemployment benefits, and now he’s trying to get himself fired to collect them.

        Reply
        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          The further I get into the comments, the more I wonder about this guy. I feel like it would be easier to just keep doing what he was doing the first 90 days, but this might also fuel a righteous anger/victim narrative that might be important to him. I’ve known a few smart, and otherwise sensitive and capable people like that.

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            How true, I know some smart people that are so caught in the angry/victim role that they cannot put it aside. If you try to pull them out of it, you become labeled one of their abusers that makes them angry/ a victim.

            That anger or victim role is so core to their identity that they do not know who they are if you take that role away from them. It works into a BFD for them.

            Reply
        2. Windchime

          But you have to work a certain amount of time before you can collect benefits, and benefits are usually just a fraction of your normal pay.

          I think this guy just did the act until he got hired on “permanently”, and now he thinks he’s just going to write his own ticket. I’m guessing he has no clue that firing is on the horizon; people who act like this are usually shocked! Shocked! when the hammer comes down.

          I’m going with Elizabeth West’s comment–psychopath. He knows how to play the game as long as it suits him, and now he sees no need to play it any longer since he’s “in”.

          Reply
      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        My husband’s ex was similar, as well. She seemed really sweet, kind, and thoughtful when he first started dating. Then when they moved in together she started doing small, weird things such as dropping any pretense at manners (flossing her teeth at his parents’ dinner table, for one), and finally, it turned out that she was part of a shoplifting ring with her mother and other siblings. She went from seemingly stellar, to a little odd, to revealing herself as an absolute criminal.

        Reply
        1. Bookworm

          I just find this stuff mystifying. Maybe it’s because I completely lack guile, but I would find it so much effort to NOT be myself. The fact that people can keep this up for years (at least with certain people) is fascinating, but baffling.

          Wouldn’t being married to someone who you always had to act with be more trouble than it’s worth?

          Reply
          1. Dan

            Psychology is fascinating. Look into something called disassociate identity disorder, and you’ll begin to get a taste of how people can do that. I was convinced that at the end of our marriage, my ex could have passed a lie detector test.

            Since you asked how hard it is, I wonder how hard it is for professional actors to do their thing? I realize it’s work, but some people are “naturals.”

            And I think part of what we’re talking about here is that people pretend *until* they get married, then they stop acting.

            Reply
            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              I actually do some acting, and it’s not that hard! It’s like… the best way I can describe it is like putting a suit of clothes on your mind. But, like a suit of clothes, you can only wear it for so long at a time, and you gotta take it off occasionally. I’d bet this guy was an utter misery outside the office while he was on his 90 days.

              Reply
              1. Bookworm

                “like putting a suit of clothes on your mind”

                I love that. When you phrase it that way, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve definitely had that experience with reading and writing.

                Reply
            2. LQ

              This is odd I do some voice over/voice acting (more voice over than voice acting but it ends up crossing over). When I read something that is really mean, for instance, I feel bad, like I’ve been really mean. I try to do those at the end of the day so I can go home and call my mom and be like “ahhh! Tell me I’m still a good person!” (I’ve done this more than once.)

              But other people do it and they act like a complete and total jerk while doing the recording and then 5 minutes later they are back to full chipper and cheerful, it’s so strange to me.

              Reply
              1. Zillah

                I have the same reaction to being a bad person in video games. My friends will enjoy playing through as evil, but the one time I blew up Megaton in FO3, I felt so guilty I stopped playing that character.

                Reply
                1. Mallory Janis Ian

                  I can’t do it, either. I couldn’t watch my kids play the Sims on the PC when they were younger because they were so incompetent at keeping the little baby Sims alive and fed. I’d be over their shoulders like, “Oh, my God, you have got to feed that baby! What are you doing??”

                2. Mallory Janis Ian

                  And — true confessions — I tried to drown a Sim in the pool by removing the ladders, to fulfil another Sim’s wish to see a ghost, and I couldn’t go through with it. I felt terrible and put the ladders back on so he could climb out.

                3. Zillah

                  Well, I never had before… And I was tired of being so good that people would just come up to me and give me stuff.

                  I ended up fixing my alignment with pickpocketing and cannibalism instead. :)

                4. UK Nerd

                  I can’t play as evil in an RPG but apparently I have different standards when playing Dwarf Fortress. I realised this when I ordered all the kittens killed to make into soap.

          2. Not So NewReader

            Bookworm, the thing is that with disturbed thinking, we almost have to have disturbed thinking to understand it.

            Let’s say you want x really bad, this is a goal that you have had for years. So you pull out all the stops and you go for your goal. Now picture, you don’t know what your goal is, it keeps changing, you start to get something and then you decide “no, I want something else”. The goal keeps moving. This is kind of what we are seeing here. The guy acted like he wanted this job, but after three months he decided he wanted something else such as the ability to lash out at everyone around him.

            I have seen people with anger issues. And I have seen other people who are interested in self-defeating behaviors.
            I will say this after watching these types of things, I believe it takes strength to go to work every day and be even-keeled or keep an even personality day in and day out. I no longer take that for granted with people. Sure, it’s part of being professional but that does not mean everyone subscribes to being professional.

            Reply
      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Sadly, I’m that guy’s daughter. Super witty and charming in front of People Who Matter(tm), but to wives, children, pets, and People Who Don’t Need To Be Impressed? Ragemonster.

        My therapist, sadly, feels that referring to him as nothing but “that asshole” is not conducive to healing and overcoming.

        Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            I can understand your side-eyeing, but I think the counselor is trying to break the father’s hold on CBF. If she is angry with him, then he might have a hold on her through her own anger.
            And she is vulnerable to turning into an angry person also- it’s an easy pit to fall into these people, such as her father, are so hate-able.
            Keep in mind,CBF, that anger like what your father has can go into all kinds of health issues later in life. My mother was dead at 62. She was probably the angriest person I have ever met. Her anger ate her up.
            I realized that I could have my anger with her OR I could have a life. I could not have both. I would end up like her if I did not find some way to get a handle on things. I still have days where I can get ticked thinking of something she did, but most of the time I try to life my life in sheer defiance of the fakeness she stood for.
            That is my suggestion to you, try to live your life in direct opposition of the “two-faced” way your father lives his life. Decide the best revenge is to live life doing exactly the opposite of his bad choices.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              YMMV, very much on this. I am side-eyeing the therapist because CBF frankly didn’t ask for opinions and there’s little information here, but because there is this huge cultural thing where people are pushed to “forgive” and never be negative and understaaaaand abusers because if they don’t the monsters will eat them up– and it’s really just a fear of conflict and not-niceness stuffed inside a guilty trip.

              Reply
        1. Dan

          Sorry. I never have to deal with that at home, but at work, I hate that. You know the type — ass kiss up the food chain, treat direct reports like shit.

          I don’t need my ass kissed, but I can do without the shit treatment, thanks. I know you’re the boss — you give me work, you give me deadlines, you give me raises, you fire me. You don’t need to make my life hell to remind me of that *every* day.

          Reply
    2. AnonAcademic

      There is a woman in my social circle who has a similar MO for relationships as the guy in the OP did for his job – she would pursue relationships with men who were partnered while acting like the answer to all their prayers, convince them to leave their partner to be with her and even move in together, then as soon as they did she’d unceremoniously dump them and throw them out on the streets. This cycle happened multiple times to guys I knew. In her case our best guess was that she had a personality disorder (borderline, narcissistic, both, etc.). She was convinced that she was unloveable so she treated others the way she expected to be treated in some weird attempt to pre-empt rejection.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I read something where people can decide, “I am trash. Therefore, if you like me/love me that makes you worse than trash.” In other words, only an idiot would love them, because normal people would know better than to love them.

        After reading that, it kind of clicked with me regarding certain people in my life.

        Reply
  16. I'm Not Phyllis

    Wow. No advice beyond what’s already been said – but if you deal with this swiftly there’s no reason to believe that it will reflect badly on you. Everybody has made a bad hire once or twice – from lower-level management to Fortune-500 CEOs. It happens. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. JMegan

      Exactly. It’s the same advice that applies to pretty much any mistake – the mistake itself is not nearly as important as how you deal with it afterwards.

      Another argument for firing him asap, is that you may be able to hire your second choice from the original recruitment, without re-opening the hiring process. This obviously depends on the specific rules in your organization, but you have a better chance at doing that now than you will six months from now.

      Good luck, I’d love to hear an update when this is all sorted.

      Reply
  17. Training Manager

    No need to beat yourself up OP – it feels like this person thinks that after probation they can not be fired. I am curious about the trying to use bereavement improperly. To me that sounds like a person trying to defraud the company and might be an avenue to look at for faster termination (but HR will have to weigh in on that based on what information they received at on-boarding). As far as your higher-ups, I think they would understand that this person fooled everyone and that you did your due diligence. It would make no sense to pull the position on your staff due to one bad employee. Best of luck.

    Reply
    1. hbc

      I don’t know about the bereavement leave. I’ve certainly seen people who think if they don’t max out on sick leave, they’ve somehow “lost” and feel entitled to make up illnesses so they can get all they’re due. Take that mindset up a notch, and why should the company dig into who did or didn’t die in my family? They were willing to give me three days off, they’re still out my work whether I’m at a funeral home or a ski lodge.

      There’s a certain internal logic to it, which is probably why he can go about feeling so aggrieved at the company for, you know, having policies that don’t always benefit him directly.

      Reply
  18. Observer

    I totally agree with the others. In terms of the headcount I want point out that the guy’s performance the first three months proves the value of the position. What you need to do is get rid of him with the expectation that the position will remain. Don’t even bring up the elimination as a possibility. If the PTB bring it up, point out what he accomplished when he was working. If he had gotten hit by a bus rather than acting like a jerk, you would not have seen it as proof that the position was not necessary. This is no different.

    Reply
  19. kb_trigger

    Agree with everyone that you shouldn’t feel bad about this, and who knows, maybe he is banking on your embarrassment (thinking you would not want admit the “mistake” in hiring him) to keep his position. If he even wants it, that is, since this is bananas!

    Reply
  20. Pwyll

    I agree with the others as well. I also think there probably is something there regarding his personal life. People don’t generally respond “There’s nothing going on in my life that is any of your business” when there isn’t anything going on on their personal life. It sounds to me like something did happen, and he’s reeling about it and doesn’t want to discuss it. That’s no excuse for his behavior, and I’d likely fire him as well. But it would at least explain his behavior (for your own mental peace) in a way that is easier to wrap your head around than this being some kind of pre-planned con.

    As to the position, I think you lay it all out with the powers that be with a plan, starting with the assumption that the position won’t be eliminated. “We all saw great benefit during the probationary period and were all pleased up to that point, as you’ve seen in our recent productivity these past months. As you know, I think we’re all pretty flabbergasted by Joe’s behavior. So, I’m going to start xyz process to let him go, and do abc process to start hiring someone to fill it, and we’re going to do 123 in the interview and reference checks to ensure we don’t go through this again. Let me know if you’d like to be involved in the interviews. Thanks.”

    Reply
    1. INFJ

      I wanted to believe that his behavior was a result of something in his personal life, especially given his reaction when OP asked. However, the timing is just too coincidental! I’m so confused!

      Reply
      1. Trillian

        I would wonder about substance abuse. Employee abstains through the probation period — ie, drug testing most likely — and then starts using again when made permanent. Might explain the urgency to be made permanent, the urgency about money, the unreliability and the irritability.

        Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            It is, but honestly, another plausible explanation is just that he’s a horrible person. People really, really don’t want to believe that others could be malicious or horrible.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I don’t think it’s implausible that people are horrible; it’s just that most horrible people don’t bother quite so carefully to be somebody else and then drop off a cliff of horribleness, because most horrible people think they’re great and don’t have to be any different. Yeah, yeah, yeah, psychopaths, etc.–but psychopaths are about 1% of the population and substance abusers over 9%. So I think substance abuse is a possibility really worth considering.

              Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                I don’t know about how the pie chart of horribleness breaks down, but yes, there are a significant number of horrible people, who aren’t necessarily psychopaths, who are perfectly capable of being charming and pleasant for short periods and when it benefits them, and then dropping the act when they no longer “have to”. It’s certainly true that some horrible people can’t manage that; plenty can.

                I’m just raising an eyebrow because I see it a lot that people who *are* basically decent can’t wrap their brains around the idea that others aren’t.

                Reply
                1. Not So NewReader

                  Bad behavior in the extremes is usually eye-catching. We can’t help but stare in disbelief. The news media capitalizes on this.

    2. AnotherHRPro

      With your manager you have two topics to discuss, (1) the current incumbent who needs to be fired and (2) the plan for the position and the work that position is responsible for. Let’s assume you are able to quickly fire the incumbent. That means you need to make a case that the role is still necessary and what the position’s responsibilities are. If you can’t get approval for having the position filled, then the discussion shifts to what to do with the work that the position is responsible for. Is this optional work (in other words, can your organization do without the work getting done?) or necessary (regulatory, necessary to provide a key service or money generating)? If it is optional, how important is it? If it is necessary, how will the work get done? Temporary help, reassign work to others, etc.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    3. JMegan

      “We all saw great benefit during the probationary period and were all pleased up to that point, as you’ve seen in our recent productivity these past months. As you know, I think we’re all pretty flabbergasted by Joe’s behavior. So, I’m going to start xyz process to let him go, and do abc process to start hiring someone to fill it, and we’re going to do 123 in the interview and reference checks to ensure we don’t go through this again. Let me know if you’d like to be involved in the interviews. Thanks.”

      This is a great script. Proceed as if the people above you are reasonable human beings, who can see the problem with Joe and who want to work it out in the way that most benefits the business. Assume that they’re already on board with you replacing him, and go from there.

      Reply
    4. neverjaunty

      Normally, no, but normally, people also aren’t angels who turn into nightmare employees right up until they think they’re free of consequences.

      People who are egotistical manipulators absolutely react poorly to questions about their personal life, because how dare you suggest that anything about them isn’t perfect.

      Reply
  21. Noah

    This is so crazy to me. What magic does he think occurs once the position is permanent that he cannot be fired? Also, he obviously knows the behavior is unacceptable if he was able to do well for the first 90 days and then devolve into this afterwards.

    I would fire him immediately and not feel bad at all. Unless this is an incredible coincidence that happens to coincide with the 90 day mark, I doubt there is something in his personal life that caused this shift. Even if there was, you gave him a chance to at least broach the topic and he pushed away. Some people cannot be helped and you and the organization are not responsible to fix them.

    Reply
  22. Paloma Pigeon

    I hate to say it, but.. I wonder if insurance changes once becoming full-time allowed access to certain medications that created a behavioral change.

    Reply
    1. caryatid

      the OP said it’s been a month since he was made permanent and that the change was pretty much overnight – is that conceivably enough time to see a doctor, get a scrip, start the meds?

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        A friend went on a new med and he tanked in five days. He became a shell of a human being. Anything is possible here.

        Reply
  23. Dan

    OP,

    I work for a large non-profit too, so I’m guessing “large” means big enough that you personally can’t change corporate policy. My org doesn’t have a defined probationary period. We’re all just normal, regular employees from Day 1. TBH, I think that sends a better message to the staff for a few reasons:

    1) Firing someone after a probationary period is over is only harder if your org policies are set up that way. No law requires probation, or makes it hard to fire someone (unless its because of their membership in a protected class, but that doesn’t apply here. You certainly have documented performance problems.)

    2) You sort of set yourself for this problem with this scenario. It more or less implies to the schemers that there is a defined period of time when you must be on your best behavior. TBH, you actually want people on their best behavior all of the time (or as much as possible).

    3) The company endears itself to the staff by making them “part of the team” and giving them full benefits from Day 1. I already passed my interview, and now I have to “prove” myself? Just what can I do in 90 days anyway?

    If I were running the show, I’d consider doing away with probation. Particularly if the company never fires anybody within that period anyway.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Totally agree (although I also suspect the OP has no power over that policy). There’s really no point to probationary periods unless you’re going to make it incredibly hard to fire people afterwards, which most organizations in the U.S. don’t do anyway (nor do I believe they should).

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        It’s funny because I worked at a school whose HR department made a huge deal at hiring and new-hire orientation that employment was at will, and that not only could we walk away at no notice but that they could fire us at no notice. Yes, I know that’s the law anyway, but at other schools I’ve worked at in the state, no one ever made a big deal of making sure new hires knew that.

        Lo and behold—when a severely underperforming employee showed up in our office, it took a full six months (including PIP) to fire her. Her manager wanted to get rid of her right away and was told by HR that this was the process, and they couldn’t just fire someone right away. What the…?

        Reply
      2. Hindsight

        The probationary period was a compromise between myself and the higher ups. I wanted the position opened, and they didn’t. It is not a usual practice for us and no I did not have any control over this.

        Reply
      3. Katie the Fed

        We usually have 1-2 year probationary period in the government. It’s kind of pointless, because a weak manager who wouldn’t fire them when they’re non-probationary isn’t going to do it when they are. I know of only one person who’s been canned during probation.

        Reply
      4. aebhel

        Yeah, this. I’m in civil service, and my probationary period was a year (which ended up getting stretched out by about a month because I had to go on maternity leave about 6 months into it), but…civil service. It wouldn’t be impossible to fire me, but it would be a giant pain in the ass for everyone involved.

        (Fortunately, I am not Mr. Hyde)

        Reply
    2. Lillian McGee

      Re: your point #3… I agree with you that giving full benefits immediately is better, but my boss is flirting with the idea of making new hires wait. I’d like to argue against it when the topic comes up again.

      What would you say if the employer was a small nonprofit where the financial ramifications of turnover are that much more difficult to shoulder? Where it’s not really “We need you to prove yourself” as much as “We need you to prove that you are going to stay”?

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’d say that you’d be penalizing your good hires because of the bad hires, and that you don’t want to turn off potential good hires by tailoring your approach for the bad ones.

        Reply
      2. Anonymous Educator

        Technically, no one can prove they’re going to stay. If your probationary period is 90 days, and then they leave after 90 days, that’s not staying. All you can do is look at their past work history and, assuming they aren’t chronic job-hoppers, hope that would be indicative of their future patterns.

        In other words, if someone did 3 years here, 5 years there, 4 years somewhere else, she’s likely to stay 3-5 years at your organization (unless you present her with an extremely toxic environment, or unless she was lying on her résumé about how long she worked at those places). If she was constantly leaving places after 90 days, well…

        Reply
      3. Dan

        I’m not a benefits expert, so don’t know about the costs of adding and removing people from plans.

        What are you really worried about in this scenario?

        1) Vacation wise, I’ve only worked on an “accrual” basis. Assume a standard two-week vacation policy, and you accrue vacation at 3.07 hour every two weeks. In three months (a typical probation period), are you worried that somebody has accrued 18 hours of vacation and used it all and then quits?

        2) If you’re self insured, are you worried that someone has run up some expensive medical procedures and quits?

        3) 401k-wise, “vesting” periods are quite common — the company matches right away, but then takes it back if you quit within the first two years.

        The reality is, the more attractive you are as an employer, the less likely people are going to show up and then quit within the first few months. If you’re a company with a reputation (and practice) of treating your employees well, they’re not going to bail on you right away.

        If you’re a company where people have a habit of showing up and quitting within the first few months, I’d implore you to look within to see what you can do to change that.

        BTW, I live in the DC suburbs. Unemployment here is nothing compared to the cost of living. At the level of salaries for a typical IT professional, no sane person would “game” the system to put in their time to go back to collecting unemployment benefits.

        Reply
        1. Lillian McGee

          Thanks for the responses! Hope it wasn’t too much of a tangent from the original letter issue…

          The way we handle benefits is different than I’ve ever heard of anywhere else handling it–each full timer gets a “stipend” of a certain amount per month which can be used toward medical insurance and/or an employer contribution to a 401k. It’s a pretty generous amount which is why my boss is taking a closer look at how we spend it.

          We don’t usually have issues with turnover, but a major grant ended recently and employee confidence is flagging. All the more reason to keep benefits generous, I say.

          Reply
          1. Bookworm

            I agree. If employee confidence is an issue, dropping benefits seems like a surefire way to validate those fears.

            Especially as you can’t always avoid a few people panicking and quitting (maybe some people who were getting ready to move on anyway) but if that is accompanied by an action that seems to validate their choices, you’ll start to freak out the ones who weren’t planning to leave.

            Reply
      4. Shelby

        I would also stress that not providing benefits immediately will be a deal breaker for some people and you may turn off your most qualified applicants. Personally, I take a medication that is quite expensive without insurance (actually, it’s quite expensive with insurance but almost prohibitive without it) and waiting 90 days would be a hardship I’d really have to consider before accepting a position with a probationary period. Maybe your best applicant is not in a position where they can wait for benefits to kick in.

        Reply
    3. ASJ

      I concur. I was recently hired into a permanent position after being a temp for six months – but HR is still making me wait the standard 120 day probationary period. Which confuses me, because if I was a temp for six months and they liked me enough to fight to be able to hire me, what exactly do you think I’m going to do during those extra 120 days…?

      Reply
      1. asteramella

        If your employer is covered by the ACA, they will be penalized if they make you wait more than 90 days for insurance benefits.

        Reply
  24. hardworker

    dear ask a manager
    I found your blog and I love it I just keep coming back to read more and more :)
    I would appreciate your input on my issue so much (I sent an email 1 day ago with the titled “my boss gave me bad performance review because ….”

    thanks so much

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Unfortunately, the volume of mail I receive means that I’m not able to respond to everything — but if you received my auto-reply, that means it was received and I should see it!

      Reply
          1. Sunshine Brite

            But don’t submit the same question to the open thread until a few weeks after Allison’s gotten a chance to review it

            Reply
          2. Katie the Fed

            Yes! Performance review discussion sounds fun! I just wish the open threads weren’t on Fridays – it’s my busiest time of the week at work

            Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          Hardworker, you could try searching the archives while you are waiting to see if there are any questions similar to yours.

          Reply
  25. Biff

    Wow.

    Two things I would look into: did the workload suddenly change either in size, nature, or process? Also, did the environment suddenly change (he was working in a small office with his mentor, but now he’s out in a bullpen?)

    If both of those are a no, and I think that they are, then I don’t think you have anything to beat yourself up about. People like this exist, they are cons, and there is very little you can do to detect some of them.

    Reply
  26. HRish Dude

    I can offer no help other than fascination over this person. I’ve met people who are actively and willingly terrible at their job, but that usually starts from day 1 and no one is really willing to manage them.

    Exceeding expectations until they pass a probationary period and then immediately becoming sucktastic…there’s a motivation behind that. Are they trying to get fired to collect unemployment? That’s literally the only thing I can think of.

    Reply
    1. CADMonkey007

      Maybe he decided awhile ago that he didn’t really like the job, but would rather collect unemployment than keep working while looking for a new one?

      Reply
    2. caryatid

      i can’t imagine that unemployment benefits would be enough to make me behave this way. but, that’s just me.

      Reply
  27. Anna

    Don’t beat yourself up about this. He misrepresented himself and that’s not your fault. The beautiful thing about at-will employment, assuming you’re in one of the many states it applies to, is that it works both ways.

    You’ve already talked with him and he’s not getting better, in fact, it seems like he’s getting worse. Rip off the band-aid and get him out of there!

    Reply
  28. AnotherHRPro

    My only additional advice is to think about how you can avoid this type of situation in the future. If you worked for me, that is what I would want to know. It is possible that there were no warning signs, that the selection process is already very thorough, and that you are addressing the performance issue as soon as you possibly could have. My guess though is that there are opportunities to learn from this painful lesson.

    The reality is bad candidates/employees can pull a con for a little while, but not forever. You need to really look back and make sure you spent enough time interacting with this person during the selection process and during the probationary period to properly assess them.

    Reply
  29. Mimmy

    Wow, that’s just crazy. I’m amazed that he was able to turn on a dime like that. I hope that you are able to resolve this issue AND keep that much-needed position (but with a better-behaved employee!) Please keep us posted, OP!

    Reply
  30. Guinness

    I can relate to feeling like you did something wrong. I was SO excited about a recent new hire, and everything checked out — references, etc. She worked two shifts and never showed up again. Ugh.

    Reply
  31. TCO

    OP, can you summarize what your new hire accomplished within his first 90 days and share that with your management? That might help make the case for why you need a replacement to keep moving that work forward. As a side benefit, it might also emphasize that your guy really was a good employee at first and that you couldn’t have seen these problems coming.

    Reply
  32. TotesMaGoats

    Assuming that your hiring process was thorough, then the only area of improvement I can see is dealing with what’s going on in the moment. Sounds like you gave him a lot more of the benefit of the doubt than was warranted. I think there is a time and place for the “maybe I didn’t explain/train something well enough” approach and gentle correction but there should probably be a lot more of “this is completely unacceptable” conversations going on. I think most people shy away from that because it is hard.

    Reply
  33. hbc

    Put together everything he’s done now, with as much detail as you can gather, including who witnessed what. You don’t need to file it anywhere, you don’t have to use it to create a PIP, just get it all down. Then fire him. If you can’t fire him immediately due to roadblocks by HR or your managers, start sending him emails documenting every meeting or issue you have with him so there’s a record that he’s been informed.

    Because I’d say there’s a 95% chance that you’ll get hit with an unemployment claim and/or a charge of some sort. When he comes back saying that you fired him without a single warning, or for being a single dad with a sick kid, or because the big boss pulled an Indecent Proposal on him or any other nonsense, you want to be prepared with the laundry list of things he’s done wrong and your efforts to help him get back on track.

    Reply
    1. Stranger than fiction

      Yep and also because the unemployment office is going to probably question the employer as to why/ how he had such a stellar 90’day review and went permanent and then just turned on a dime into this dismally performing employee inside of a month. Although I’m sure it happens and they see all sorts of crazy scenarios.

      Reply
  34. MechE31

    We had a blue collar worker do something similar recently. He performed great while he was working for us through a temp service. As soon as he got to full time, which was at his 90 day mark, he started slacking. His work was still really good when he worked, but he was averaging 1 day sick a week and only worked about 50% of the time he did show up.

    For us, it took a few months as well, because we needed someone to do his position, and we loved his work, when he worked. After lots of talks and realizing it wasn’t going to change, he got fired.

    Reply
  35. Meg

    I’ll play Devil’s Advocate for a minute.

    At first, I thought this was about me. I contracted to work with a national non-profit for a 90-day probation before my contract was extended for another 90 days and then 3 separate 30-day extensions. After the third one, I didn’t want to be there anymore.

    Did my work take a nosedive? I don’t think so. I had a feature that I struggled with, but I had some home issues too. My boyfriend and I were living together, he fucked up, and he moved out. Later, when reassigned that feature, I finished it no problem.

    That winter, I got snowed in and lost power for two days. I lived about 20 miles away from my job. My grandfather died that year too. Then I got subpoenaed to testify in a trial in another state as a witness… for a week. The worst part about it was that they kept saying you could remote work, but complained about it still. They kept forgetting to call into the conference calls and then wonder were I was. I’m on the conference call! Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

    And 6 months later, all of the other developers at that nonprofit jumped ship. All of them. I ran into two of them at a conference and three others added me on linkedin (and endorsed me! I don’t do endorsements myself, but if anyone wants to endorse me, I let it happen).

    So yeah. It may not just be a bait and switch. Maybe he’s got something going on? Maybe conflicts with other coworkers aren’t just one-sided?

    I had a product manager (different client) that used to report to our boss and wouldn’t tell me there was any problems – in fact, I thought everything was fine – and then my boss during our 1-on-1s would share with me everything my PM didn’t, like how my PM didn’t think I was performing very well, my work was slow, not contributing ideas.

    In reality, I was, but my PM was taking credit for it. Every time my boss mentioned something my PM brought to him that I came up with, I’d say something like “Oh! I’m glad PM thought that was a great idea. She brushed it off when I presented it during our retrospective group meetings. She didn’t tell me we were planning on moving forward with it.” And then find out that not only was the PM stealing my ideas for the credit, but that she kept me out of meetings that I should have been in by not sending me an invite, and then complain later that I wasn’t in the meeting.

    Or complain that I wasn’t in the release process meetings when I wasn’t involved in releases at all because I’m contracted at 40 hours and releases are not part of that, and then when I do go sit in release meetings with nothing to contribute for 3+ hours, I get a complaint that my work isn’t being done fast enough. I told my boss I could either go to release meetings that didn’t involve me at all and sit and twiddle my thumbs, or I could actually do work.

    When my contract was up at that place, I didn’t go for an extension or full-time.

    tl;dr Sometimes the bad stuff is just side effects… either from stress, or from the team.

    Reply
    1. Jerzy

      That sounds like a crappy place to work, and a crappy time in your life. I know from experience that home life and work life stresses often leak into each other, causing problems in both areas. But I think OP did try to address this with her problem worker. She asked if there was something going on with him personally, and it sounds like he blew up at her. If there was personally stuff piling up in his life, he had an opportunity to try and work through that with his manager, and he decided against it.

      Reply
    2. neverjaunty

      I don’t understand the need to play devil’s advocate at all, but particularly here. The OP is not talking about an employee who was struggling or who simply didn’t get along with co-workers: “The very first week, he called in sick three of the five days. He comes in late and leaves early, is constantly making mistakes, he refuses to read or answer his emails, is rude to my other employees and upper management, and has hung up on patrons.” That doesn’t sound like you, right?

      Reply
  36. Liana

    OP, please don’t beat yourself up for this! It sounds like you did everything right. When you’re hiring someone, you only have a few snapshots of what they might be like, and sometimes people are really good at hiding their true personalities for a long time. Even if the issues arose because of an outside issue (and they might be – his defensiveness suggests that it might be a factor), his behavior is unacceptable and harmful. If I was in your position, I might meet with him one more time just to say, basically, “Look. Your behavior is unacceptable and we cannot keep you in this position if you continue to act like this. I need you to do A, B, C, and D going forward.” It might be a wake-up call to get his life together. But even firing him outright is a perfectly reasonable decision. You have all my sympathies!

    Reply
  37. Dasha

    OP, I think you are blaming yourself way too much here. You said he had a good background, good references, and did really well during the first 3 months. The first thing I thought is maybe this isn’t his normal behavior and something isn’t right with him if he had good references (but the reason doesn’t really matter, he just isn’t doing well). You’ve approached him about this stuff and his behavior is just really bad. Are you hesitant to let him go because you’re afraid the position won’t get filled again?

    Reply
  38. Deep undercover

    Another voice advocating getting rid of him ASAP.

    A couple of years ago we had the opportunity to hire a superstar in the field. Her interview was stellar and her references were amazing. Our boss had to call in a number of chits in order to put together a package that Superstar would accept. Within 3 months of her start date, Superstar was picking fights, burning bridges, and insisting everyone around her be fired. People were miserable. It took our boss over a year to do anything because she was so unwilling to admit to *her* boss that after she’d had strings pulled and made such a fuss about Superstar’s potential that she was wrong. Here we are, almost 2 years later, and people still haven’t recovered.

    Reply
    1. Anon Accountant

      That sounds like my firm! They made a fuss to hire Fergus and he was gonna be so great! He’s a nightmare, clients have threated to leave if they have to work with him again, he insists everything others do it “such a mess” and things have gotten miserable.

      Reply
  39. Elizabeth West

    Didn’t read all the comments yet, but I TOTALLY agree with Alison’s statement, And you almost certainly do need to let him go — this isn’t a situation where I’d use a performance improvement plan and give him time to meet your expectations. No you, don’t have to because he already had 90 days to do that!

    This guy pulled a fast one on you. You’re probably not the first organization he’s done this to. Clearly he’s capable of controlling his behaviour, but he doesn’t want to.

    Fire his ass.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yeah, usually the times you give someone another chance are times when there is some kind of plausible explanation for their behavior, and you want to prompt them for it. And even then, they really should proactively tell you what it is, but sometimes people are overwhelmed, or just fallible or human in some other way.

      It’s pretty clear that this isn’t one of those times, though.

      Reply
  40. Jimbo

    I also have a buddy of mine that is bipolar and this sounds like his M.O. at work. He hates the side effects of his medication so he goes off it often. He’s a model employee/son/friend/boyfriend when he’s medicated but his behavior can be pretty outrageous when he goes off of it. He’s not out of control in general but he makes a lot of inappropriate comments like talking back to his manager or criticizing the company or other employees. It sort of turns off the filter we all have to not say exactly what we’re thinking. He doesn’t typically keep jobs very long and he knows enough to get back on his medication before interviewing.

    Reply
    1. Jerzy

      I made a comment above about mental illness, and was thinking specifically about bi-polar, but not being a professional or having a lot of personal experience with it, didn’t want to diagnose. If this is the case for Mr. Hyde here, this is definitely a situation in which no one really wins.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        This COULD be the case, especially with his asking about permanent status (which typically includes insurance–many employers don’t put someone on that until the probationary period is up). But somehow, I’m doubting it.

        Reply
    2. The Other Alice

      I’m not commenting personally in response to you here, but more because I’ve seen several similar comments and I’m finding them very upsetting.

      Please don’t assume that this person is mental ill (or indeed an addict, as I’ve seen elsewhere). While your intentions are probably along the lines of excusing/explaining his behaviour, using mental illness as a go to explanation for bad behaviour runs the substantial risk of mental illness becoming synonymous with ‘bad employee/person’. As I said, I’m sure nobody means to imply this, but it’s an implication that does sizable damage to those of us with mental health problems when we have to disclose them at work.

      Reply
      1. Hindsight

        Personally I do not believe mental health or substance abuse is an issue. Our organization is very supportive of any employee dealing with any similar issues.

        Reply
      2. fposte

        I fear, though, that what you’re proposing would have the opposite effect of what you desire. Substance problems and illness, whether mental or otherwise, quite frequently affect people’s job performance; I think that’s important to be aware of when you’re managing. Do you really want to remove them as possible causes and then have the default assumption be that poor performers are jackasses instead? I also don’t think anyone has assumed anything–the possibilities have been raised, that’s all, and I don’t think it’s a “go-to” to include them regularly in consideration when there’s somebody whose performance has changed.

        And while I understand it can be hard to hear–I’m uncomfortable hearing about possibilities with my various diagnoses too– I think silence on these possibilities is worse than discussion, even if discussion doesn’t always go as I’d like. I think a void is more damaging than the possibility of useful and even sympathetic connections.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Rethinking this a little–I definitely would hate for this to be like the “Maybe he has Asperger’s!” thing. But I think there are some differences: you’re talking about things that many managers actually have tools to assist with, you’re talking about things that can improve pretty swiftly, and you’re not suggesting that other people just have to get used to it, which is what the “spectrum alert” tends to be about.

          But overall I think you and are may just be on different sides–I think more light is a good thing, and I think Alison is pretty good about making sure we’re not casting any kind of person or diagnosis as an immutable problem. And it genuinely didn’t occur to me, as I said, that substance abuse could be a factor in an employee situation like this, despite my own personal experiences, but now it’s on my radar. I think that’s useful.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            But you ARE making the “maybe he has Aspergers!” argument. It’s the same thing – somebody turns into a complete asshole, therefore let’s heavily suggest that he has a pathology of some sort that’s the real driver here – even though the only evidence of that pathology is that he’s a complete asshole.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              I think there are some differences here. For one, the “Maybe he has aspergers” suggestion is often wildly inappropriate. SO much so that even when it does fit, it often feels like that was accidental rather than a response to the particular situation. Secondly, it’s often used as an excuse rather than an explanation. And because of the s excuse the person experiencing bad behavior is often subjected to an expectation that they be “understanding” rather than deal with bad behavior, or even over look legitimate red flags.

              None of the that is happening here. The truth is that I don’t know that this is a very useful suggestion – except in that it offers a possible explanation of what happens that lifts some guilt off of the OPs’ shoulders. I would just add that I hope that the OP, and anyone else who reads this, understands that although this is possible, it doesn’t mean that another person with similar issues would behave this way. (Lots of people DO absolutely stay on their medications.)

              Reply
        2. fposte

          Rethinking this a little–I definitely would hate for this to be like the “Maybe he has Asperger’s!” thing. But I think there are some differences: you’re talking about things that many managers actually have tools to assist with, you’re talking about things that can improve pretty swiftly, and you’re not suggesting that other people just have to get used to it, which is what the “spectrum alert” tends to be about.

          But overall I think you and I may just be on different sides–I think more light is a good thing, and I think Alison is pretty good about making sure we’re not casting any kind of person or diagnosis as an immutable problem. And it genuinely didn’t occur to me, as I said, that substance abuse could be a factor in an employee situation like this, despite my own personal experiences, but now it’s on my radar. I think that’s useful.

          Reply
  41. Leslie Knope's Waffle

    My fiancé is a similar situation at his job. He is a manager of a retail store, and his assistant manager has been a nightmare for weeks now and pulled similar stunts. Just this week, the AM was upset about getting reprimanded for an ongoing issue that he has been warned repeatedly for. The AM then proceeds to yell about it in front of customers. He comes back to the store after his shift to vent about it to his co-workers and again, starts yelling about it in front of customers and ASKING the customers what they think of the situation. :(

    Reply
  42. Not Karen

    Please don’t feel like a failure, OP. You did everything right and this guy took advantage of the situation and manipulated you. That is not your fault. You know what they say: “Fool me once, shame on you.”

    Reply
  43. IT_Guy

    This may upset some people, but could his age / maturity level be a factor? If he was fresh out of college, he may equate ‘permanent position’ with ‘tenured professor’.

    Reply
    1. Hindsight

      OP again. I have a team that’s very diverse, the youngest is fresh out of college, the oldest is soon to retire and the rest are anywhere in between. He falls in between. Age hasn’t made a difference for anyone else, they are all great.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Not that it’s our business, but does this mean he’d managed to sustain long-term positions elsewhere before he came to you? That does make me wonder if there’s substance abuse or illness stuff that he’s lost control of if so.

        Reply
        1. AnonForThis

          That was my thought as well – substance abuse of some sort. My ex was a stellar employee when he was sober. He was constantly being offered more and more money, and top companies were poaching him. But when he’d fall off again, he was constantly missing work, cranky, miserable to be around and always on the verge of being fired. Often times outright fired. Though sadly some companies tried to keep him on despite it all because he was so good at what he did. This could have been written about him from an employer’s perspective.

          Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          Eh. Or that he worked at dysfunctional places that didn’t fire people, or that he had one of those bosses who never wants to fire people because Conflict Is Bad.

          Reply
  44. Naomi

    Think of it this way, OP: going on the information you had at the time of making the hire permanent, you predicted that his behavior afterwards would resemble the behavior you had previously seen from him. That’s not just a reasonable expectation, it’s a realistic one. It’s not your fault that he went completely off the rails.

    This guy has already proven that he knows how to be competent and professional. If he won’t provide an alternative explanation for his behavior (personal troubles, going off his meds, switched places with his evil twin, whatever), you can only conclude that he is now deliberately choosing to act incompetent and unprofessional. That’s on him, not you.

    Reply
  45. INTJ

    I am pretty sure I hired/fired this guy. First mistake, I actually trusted the HR dept. of our very large organization to vet applications so that any falsehoods would have been identified (this candidate claimed to have a degree that, um, didn’t exist at the university he said it was from, but I found that out later.) I had a hiring committee made up of myself and two other very smart people. This guy blew us away in the interview and on paper. References were great. A few months in, he started making huge mistakes. Then one day a colleague freaked out to my manager because my new hire had “road raged” her on the way to work. Another colleague came forward with the same complaint. I asked him about it and he asked why we were having this conversation about a non-work issue. He complained to HR that I mistreated him and never said one encouraging thing. I had to go before HR and my own manager to defend myself. I was able to let him go at the end of the probationary period, thankfully. I recently saw his LinkedIn profile and it listed his time working for me as a temporary, contract position – which it most certainly was not. He seems to keep getting hired by pretty high-profile organizations for maybe a year at a time.
    OP, it happens, don’t feel bad and move on.

    Reply
    1. RVA Cat

      Not a psychologist, but this person and the OP’s hire sound like sociopaths — I’d guess most who are middle-class exist like this. (Those in different circumstances may either be pushing drugs on the corner or managing a hedge fund/Ponzi scheme.)

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Mr. Road Rage also has a long list of exes. Some may have had to put out restraining orders.

      Reply
  46. Hindsight

    WOW! Thank you everyone, this has been great! I feel so much better, but also not thrilled about what I obviously have to do. I will definitely update AAM when this dramedy concludes. My deepest gratitude to Alison and all the readers!

    Reply
  47. De Minimis

    I was scared at first that this was my boss posting, but then I realized that I hadn’t done any of those things mentioned and I work at a small non-profit.

    Reply
  48. Rebecca Too

    As a former retail store manager, I dealt with a lot of “great hires” that turned out to be the stuff of my nightmares. It’s very difficult to get an honest reference sometimes because most companies refer you to their HR Dept, who will only verify salary, title and time in position. One of the reasons I left my job is because of the revolving door of crazies, who ace interviews, behave themselves for the probationary period, and then turn into lunatics. It was extremely frustrating, and our company really, REALLY made it difficult to fire anyone. So, I feel for you, OP. Please keep us posted!!

    Reply
    1. Leslie Knope's Waffle

      In a strange way, your story makes me feel better about my fiancé’s situation. He’s really hard on himself when he has bad hires and it seems like it’s just part of the territory when you work in retail. He’s trying to find a position outside of retail for lots of reasons. There are a lot of good people in retail, but there’s a whole bucket of crazies, too!

      Reply
  49. TootsNYC

    HR is going to be your big ally; you’ll be able to flat-out fire his butt.

    HR says, “You have no more time off,” and when he doesn’t show up, HR fires him for job abandonment.

    Easy-peasy. Maybe you have to be sure he knows about the concept, but probably not. I’d offer him the bare legal minimum of warning, so he makes it easy for you.
    (i.e., if you warn him: “If you take another day off, you’ll be fired,” he may not take any more days off. You can still fire him just because he’s a jerk, but it won’t be as slick on your side.)

    Reply
  50. Tara R.

    This is 100% my dad’s method of operation at jobs, so allow me to explain.

    At first, he is so excited! He has a job and he is the Awesome Guy, he fixes problems, he’s going to make himself indispensable! Everything is great! His boss is nice, his coworkers actually like him, he has turned up the charm, he is telling everyone he knows how amazing this new job is.

    After a few weeks, things are starting to annoy him. The boss is unfair! One of his coworkers dared to correct him about something! But he knows, knows that he needs money, and he manages to keep the “this is a good thing” narrative intact in his head.

    By the time probation has ended, the glow has worn off and the sense of entitlement/victim hood has won over. Everyone is trying to f*** him over and it’s perfectly valid for him to work around the system and his evil boss whenever possible. They don’t appreciate him, he *can’t* possibly do a b and c, they’re unreasonable not to give him the day off so he’s just going to sneak off…. ad nauseum. There is a conspiracy against him!! He’s just looking out for himself!

    He 100% believes he is in the right, all the time. He got fired from his last job for telling his boss to go f*** herself and has since told me it doesn’t matter since reference checks are illegal anyway.

    He’s a using addict *now*, but this behaviour was happening consistently throughout his 15 years clean. Some people are just like this. *shrug* He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression and maybe one other thing?

    Aaaaaand now I have the fun task of trying to recalibrate my sense of appropriate employer-employee relationships given that I was raised listening to his ranting.

    Reply
    1. L

      Tara, sounds like you just explained this character completely. My S.O. can be like that in a somewhat milder way. Hoping you can recalibrate and use the negative you’ve experienced to create positive in your life!

      Reply
  51. Cheryl Becker

    This kind of TOTAL turn-around is rare, I think, but it does happen. It does make me think “something” else must be going on somewhere in this person’s life (but maybe not!), but I also see that the OP tried to get at this in one of the conversations about the problems, and he got angry. I see others have suggested various situations/disabilities the employee could be experiencing. Anything is possible. And while we want/need to be accommodating of personal problems, sometimes we can’t, if the employee doesn’t disclose.

    I agree with everything everyone has said, the OP did nothing wrong in the hiring process, or the 90 day trial. But problems/issues can occur at any time, which is why ongoing evaluation is so important.

    Good luck!!

    Reply
  52. Mr. Burr

    I think you got our last fire, and I’m so sorry. Perfect during probation, horrible for the 6 months it took management to get their collective rear into gear and fire him.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this was deliberate. If you’re putting in effort for 1/4th of the year and you slack or collect unemployment the rest of the time, that’s a pretty sweet deal . . . provided you’re the kind of person who’s willing to run a con over and over.

    Reply
  53. MaggiePi

    *Comment related to website itself, not this post*
    Alison, today while reading in Chrome incognito, the comments displayed just fine, but the scrolling kept jumping around. I realized that each time the video ad at the top restarted, it’s jumping my page up to show me the video. I’ve lost my place reading comments about 4 times now when it jumps, and even when I was typing this comment.
    I have my adblocker deactivated on your blog specifically, because I know it’s a revenue generator and I want to keep it that way, so I hope it’s something that’s resolvable.
    Keep up the great work!

    Reply

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