I caught my employee in a lie, sending an e-card after an interview, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I caught my employee in a lie

I recently caught my employee lying to me about sending a FedEx shipment that she didn’t really send. I had a feeling she was lying but didn’t want to say anything in case I was wrong, so I asked her all the questions I would need to know in order to contact FedEx and track the shipment. It turns out I was right and she flat out lied. She didn’t drop the package off and only did so about an hour after I had asked her about it. It wasn’t just a yes/no answer; there was a whole story to FedEx losing the package and just now locating it, etc. She just returned from taking a few days off, so this is the first time I’m seeing her since then. She is avoiding me like the plague. She also refused to answer any of my text messages after I called her out on lying to me about it – so we actually haven’t truly addressed 1) her failure to send the package and 2) lying about it. (To clarify, she was on vacation when we discovered the package had not been delivered, so all of my communication with her was over text messaging).

Do I write her up? It turned out that the package wasn’t all that “urgent” and the parent company had no problem with receiving it four days late. Do I just ignore it for now? She knows she got caught; I’m sure she feels really stupid. Does bringing it up again just stir the pot? Does not bringing it up send the wrong message?

Holy crap, you must address it. It doesn’t matter that the package wasn’t urgent; the issue is that she lied to avoid having a mistake caught, and if she’s willing to lie about this, how can you trust her about other things?

Lying is a big deal. A huge deal. It’s about integrity, which isn’t something you can compromise on. Plus, in my experience, if someone is doing this, it’s the tip of the iceberg and she’s probably a bad fit in myriad ways. So I’d (a) seriously consider firing her over this and (b) make sure you’ve taken a rigorous look at her entire performance lately. I’d be shocked if it turns out she’s really someone you should be keeping on staff. But if you want to give her another chance, you still need to sit her down and have a very serious conversation — along the lines of “this is an incredibly serious thing, it has jeopardized your job here, and I need to know that you’re committed to operating with full transparency and integrity from this point forward.” And watch her closely from here on out — because again, I’d really be surprised if this is the only issue.

(As a side note: Don’t use texting for talking about this stuff, even if someone is out of the office. It’s just not the right forum for this kind of thing.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Using an e-card as an interview thank-you

I have an interview coming up and wondered if it is acceptable to send an electronic card (something like Paperless Post) rather than a traditional paper card, to thank them for the interview?

Nooooo, do not do that. It’s totally fine to send a thank-you note via email (i.e., it doesn’t have to be a “card”), but using an electronic greeting card would seem odd and less than professional.

3. Manager is sending late-night texts

My wife is receiving text messages from her boss regarding work at very odd hours, like midnight or 4 in the morning. Is this okay? Also, if not, how do we tackle this issue?

No, it’s not okay, not unless your wife is in a job that requires being on-call at those hours. Your wife should tell her boss that the late-night texts are waking her up, ask her to email instead, and explain that she’ll respond once she’s back at work (or once she’s awake, if her job requires her to respond outside of regular work hours).

4. How to contact a company with no mention of jobs on its website

What’s the best way to reach out to a potential employer when the company’s website gives its address, phone number, and email, but has no Careers/Employment section and makes no mention of jobs? I have three companies I’d like to reach out to to see if there might be an opportunity for me, but I don’t want to make a nuisance of myself in so-doing.

LinkedIn is your friend here. See if you can find the person in charge of the area of the company you’d like to work in, and reach out to them directly.

Alternately, you can try sending your inquiry to the general company address.

5. Can a company wait months to pay out severance?

A friend of mine was recently let go in a round of layoffs the beginning of April from a large corporation. They have promised the employees severance pay, but are unclear on when that will be provided. They have stated that severance may not be paid out until June, leaving former employees without a paycheck for two months. Is this legal?

Yes. No law requires severance payments at all, so whether and when to provide them is up to the company. (There are some limited exceptions to this, such as if your friend had a contract that required severance payments and required them on a particular time table.)

{ 332 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Oh wow on the Fed Ex liar. If not fired right now, she needs to be on some sort of final warning. It is possible it is a one off, but unlikely. Nothing is as disastrous for a workplace as someone you can’t trust.

    Re: E-cards — many many people find E-cards to be among the most annoying devices yet created. I hate the darn things and if someone I were considering for job sent one, the major effect would be irritation. Don’t get cute with thank yous. An Email or a written note that I can glance at in a moment is perfect; something I have to download and fiddle with — NO.

    1. jennie*

      Having to click through to see a card is really annoying with ecards, but the worst part is you’re basically signing up the recipient for spam by providing their email to a 3rd party to send the card.

      Regular email thank you/follow-up notes are the best solution.

  2. Stephanie*

    #2: E-cards

    Heh, I got advice once to use Paperless Post expressly for job interview follow-up purposes (which I ignored).

    I’m neutral about e-cards, but I know a lot of people find them awful. Plus, Paperless Post makes you sit through a relatively long intro before the message even appears. I’d imagine some work internet filters might block Paperless Post as well.

    1. Chinook*

      I know that most business filters block even-cards. I know quite a few people who use them for Christmas cards (Search Jacquie Lawson to see some beautiful ones) and they just don’t show up to business offices.

      1. Jubilance*

        I was just coming in to say this. Most corporate email systems are going to flag it as spam, so the sender would be better off sending a normal thank you email instead of an e-card.

      1. Midge*

        There was a thing on Dear Prudence this week about a guy who gave his girlfriend of eight years his wisdom tooth on their anniversary. At least your ex didn’t give you that.

    2. Geegee*

      I think this is another one that should go under bad advice. Not sure if it would qualify as a gimmick but bad advice.

  3. KarenT*

    Keep an eye out on major job sites as well. Last time I was looking for a job (granted, this was a few years ago now) I found that smaller companies without careers pages tended to post jobs on Workopolis and the like. Industry specific sites may also be useful.

    1. Jackie*

      Soooo late to this party! >.<

      I wrote #4. I went the general email address route, and never heard back from any of the four companies. I recognized that as the most likely outcome on what was essentially an electronic cold-call, so I'm not in a tizzy about it.

      I've not heard of Workopolis before; I'll go take a peek! Thanks for the pointers!

  4. Jodie*

    I have a slightly different take on #1, but it’s really only applicable if this employee is VERY young and new to the workplace…and this is a story about a very, very bad habit I have since broken. In my first job, I would often be asked to drop off packages on my way home after I had already worked significant overtime. A few times I was just so tired that I would keep it in my car until the next day or – whoops – sometimes the day after before I found a convenient time to drop it in the mail. Now, I would never do this with something truly “time sensitive,” and honestly this behavior was me acting out (very immaturely) against a very toxic work environment where I found myself wanting to commit small acts of vengeance against a truly terrible boss. Still not excusable at all, obviously!

    If I had been “caught” the few times I did this, my first response probably would have been to lie to cover my butt….because I was young, it was my first job, I was scared of my boss, and most important I didn’t really yet have the professional vocabulary to say, “I know I made a mistake, I take responsibility for it, and here’s what I will do to ensure it will not happen again and to prove you can still trust me.” And then I would have felt absolutely awful about it for days afterwards. I would think she’s avoiding you because she’s embarrassed….obviously she knows she did something wrong and she might not know how to appropriately own up to it because she’s just ashamed.

    If her work is usually excellent and she’s normally a good employee outside of this incident, I would think the first step could be a kinder conversation about the importance of owning up to mistakes, because she might simply be scared that she forgot to mail something and then dug herself a worse hole trying to cover it up.

    HOWEVER if this is in any way even remotely part of a pattern, or if this is a person who has been in the professional world for a while and should simply “know better,” then disregard this advice completely – I always agree with trusting your intuition about the integrity of others and by no means am I trying to say that lying isn’t a BIG DEAL when it definitely, definitely is.

    1. Yogi Josephina*

      Agreed. I’m actually a little surprised at the severity of the response here. While I think there are times where such a strong reply would absolutely be warranted, I think there’s not enough info here to really know whether or not that’s the case. Firing her immediately over this seems VERY extreme to me – a warning yes, but to “seriously consider firing her” for this one-time offense really seems a bit over the top.

      Is this a really crappy performer who pulls stunts like this all the time? Then fine, come down, and come down hard. Final warning then termination if no improvement.

      But a good performer who’s had no issues before now? I’d say this warrants no more than a direct, firm, yet kind talk about how you need honesty and transparency, that you hope that you can count on her to not make this mistake again, and that if there’s instances in the future, there will be further, more severe consequences.

      And honestly, it might be worth asking her, again, directly yet kindly, why she felt the need to lie about this. I am not at all saying that this is without question the case, but if I were a manager and an employee pulled this, the first thing I’d be asking myself is, “am I coming across in a way that could possibly make this employee feel like she isn’t safe admitting she made an error with me? Why did she feel she needed to lie to me about something so small and minor/unimportant? Does this sy something about the environment I create?”

      I’ll be honest; my boss in my last job was absolutely INSANE and flew off the handle at EVERYTHING. And you can BET YOUR HUMP that when we made small mistakes, all of us, sometimes we told white lies to save ourselves from unjustified wrath. If an employee does a cost/benefit analysis and honestly feels that being dishonest with a toxic boss is a safer bet than fessing up and facing the firing squad, even for tiny things, I can’t really say I fault them all that much.

      Again, this might not at all be the case and I have no way of knowing (and honestly, based on the OP’s tone, she seems pretty even-keeled). But I do believe that the punishment should fit the crime here, and I don’t think serious consideration of termination fits a one-time offense. You work your way up to that.

      My .02.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My answer is heavily based on the fact that, in my experience, you don’t tend to find this kind of thing unless there are other serious issues with the person as well.

        Plus, it’s a big deal. When you’re working for me, I’m going to need to trust you on a thousand different things, big and small. I can’t check up on all of them, nor do I want to; I need to be able to trust that you’re giving it to me straight, and that you have integrity. Making up a convoluted cover story (as appears to have happened here; it sounds like she wove something of a web to cover up her error) says that you’re willing to deceive me when it’ll make your life more comfortable. No thanks!

        1. Yogi Josephina*

          That’s true; typically stuff like this happens with poor performers. The OP would have to weigh in again about what this employee’s track record has been thus far (the fact that she suspected she was lying to begin with probably says something).

          And I just re-read your response and I had misread it the first time; I thought FedEx actually DID lose the package, etc. I didn’t see the first time around that that was actually the employee’s cover story. Oh dear. That does change things. The elaborate weave does point to a much bigger issue. I hope the OP checks back in.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I did something like this a few times early in my working years. And you are right, it is indicative of more serious issues — I had a bunch of crap I had to work out. Lying is almost overlooked in teenagers (my teen years were pretty feral) and it hung around as a panic response for awhile with me.

          Because of my own history, this employee would get one with me. The response you want to hear is “omg, I am so sorry. I felt trapped. This was so stupid. This will never happen again.” Panic liars are different from habitual liars. If the employee didn’t come clean in the initial part of the sit down, she is likely a habitual liar and…I’d probably term her.

          In my case, I didn’t lie to the people I reported to. I lied to other people, it got back to my boss, and I did come clean (with tears) pretty much immediately. Which saved my ass…but I had to be confronted. I wasn’t going to come clean on my own. I actually did this a couple of times before I got my head and my panic response habits on straight.

          Wow. There’s some memories I haven’t thought of in a long time.

          1. Chinook*

            Living is actually a developmental stage of childhood that most people grow out of as we learn that most lies just exacberate the situation (white lies are the exception). The teen years are second only to the toddler years when it comes to living for the same biological reasons – we realize that others don’t see what we do and that we can lie successfully.

          2. Joey*

            Um, isn’t lying whenever you panic habitual? Or are you referring to people who don’t fess up when they’re clearly caught? I wouldn’t give so much credit to them either. Fessing up when you’re busted is a lot about trying to mitigate the consequences.

            Although I do agree with you that someone early in their career deserves a second chance if the outcome resulting from the lie wasn’t too bad. Only because lying is frequently condoned in your earlier years.

            1. wanderlust*

              I think he’s talking about people who lie when there’s no real reason to do so – just to make themselves sound better, etc. I have worked with and interacted socially with people like this and they frustrate me to no end.

              I suppose lying when panicked could be a habit, but I’d classify it more as a knee-jerk response born out of poor discipline or lack of experience. Like someone said earlier, learning to be honest even when you’ve made a mistake is a maturity thing.

            2. Del*

              I think there’s a difference between people who lie recreationally (ie not as a spontaneous kneejerk reaction) and people who lie as a panic reaction — either through inexperience or as a maladjusted survival strategy from a toxic former workplace or home life. While the people in the first group are pretty tough to rehabilitate, the people in the second group can be — as long as they are willing to recognize the major, severe problem in what they’re doing.

              1. KM*

                I too am sympathetic to knee-jerk liars, since it’s a reflex that comes from being treated badly by people in the past, and it’s hard to control.

                The fact that this convo happened over text rather than in person or on the phone makes me think it’s less likely to be a knee-jerk lie, though. Texting gives you time to think about how you want to respond.

                1. Joey*

                  Whoa. Liars weren’t necessarily treated badly in the past. Many just don’t want to be accountable for errors. I’d say its more insecurity.

                2. Mouse*

                  Yes, Joey, that is exactly what people are explaining here. The difference between the two….

                3. fposte*

                  Actually, I read KM the same way Joey did, as disagreeing with KM’s theory that knee-jerk lying is always a result of bad treatment.

              2. fposte*

                Do you want to be the employee tasked with checking that this person did everything she should on top of your regular workload, though?

            3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Um, isn’t lying whenever you panic habitual

              Mmmm, yeah, although more problematic if the person panics a lot!

              The distinction here some of us are drawing is an immature person who lied while panicked vs a person who considers the truth generally optional. That person lies for self gain or convenience — expense reports, monday morning flu, whatever.

              A panic liar has to train themselves to do one thing – *anything* else when they panic as long as it includes the full truth.

              That’s the distinction I’m making.

          3. Laura*

            I agree that an immediate firing sounds super strong to me. I don’t know what’s up with me, but I’ve gotten incredibly strong reviews all my life, currently manage an organization, and can actually completely imagine myself lying about something like that (esp. because if you immediately do it, the outcome is the same).

            Maybe I’m a terrible person for being able to imagine myself doing this, but I don’t think it says that I’m a terrible employee, as I’m pretty sure I’m not…

            Definitely worth a conversation, and an explanation of why it’s not okay even in situation in which they’re going to immediately remedy. But as a manager of seven, I’m not even sure I would find this to be a really big deal.

        3. Chinook*

          I agree with AAM – the employee deserves to be fired or given a final warning based on the lie to cover the mistake, not the mistake itself. The latter false under “stuff happens, no one was hurt, don’t let it happen again” whereas the former brings up the question of what else she lied about.

        4. Aunt Vixen*

          To give a counterexample, once upon a time I was working at a law firm and my tasks included making sure incoming correspondence (which still came in hard copy all those years ago) was distributed to all the members of the legal team. We had a different distribution list for incoming court documents, and both court docs and ordinary correspondence had to be logged in a log before being copied and shipped around the building.

          Long story short, we got behind on the logging and assumed everything in the stack was the same level of time-sensitivity, when in fact at the bottom of the stack was a letter that had a response due by Friday afternoon – and as of Friday morning, the lawyers didn’t even know it had arrived. Big shouty e-mail comes from the lead partner on the case saying my team and I had better be prepared to explain why this important document was sitting in the in-tray when it should have been distributed but that explanation would have to wait until the next business day because right now everyone was scrambling frantically to get the response out by COB when they should have had all week to prepare it … etc.

          I said “I take full responsibility for this. Here are the assumptions we made, and here is where those assumptions got us into trouble, and in future we will do the following to ensure nothing like this will ever happen again.”

          And then I made the date to get yelled at, but it turned out that my full assumption of blame took the wind right out of the boss’s sails and he didn’t need to scold me – just to review my plans for how to prevent future issues. If I had passed the buck, or god forbid lied about it – and the mail room put a date-received stamp on everything, so I’d have had to do some fancy stepping if I’d suggested I didn’t get the letter on the day the mail room said they’d given it to me – I’m sure I’d have lost that job. (And had to say so on every application since then.)

        5. KrisL*

          The convoluted story bothered me, too. Maybe if she’s really new to the work world… but then again, someone who comes up with this type of thing may have an ingrained habit of lying. Not good.

      2. Purple Dragon*

        OP 1 – The liar
        We have someone in our company who started out with lies similar to this, blaming a third party for their errors. Then one day she blamed my boss for a huge issue. Fortunately I heard her telling another exec and went and checked with my boss. It was straightened out but nothing ever happened with the liar. No-one believes a word she says.

        OP – if serious consequences don’t happen for this instance then it could escalate where she’s blaming other people in the office. In my situation it was blaming one executive to another. I’m still gobsmacked that she still has a job after that one !

        1. Joey*

          That’s probably more about accountability than lying. I’ve seen that too- it’s always someone else’s fault. I say accountability because you can frequently be truthful and still point the finger at someone else.

      3. Too early*

        I just can’t tell from the OP’s email if her lie was intentional or if she really thought she dropped off the package, but later realized she forgot and just didn’t properly accept responsibility for the error.

        I get that she told an elaborate story to cover her tracks and that was wrong, but perhaps when she initially said she dropped it off, she really did think that she had done so.

        Sadly, not everyone is capable of saying, “I am so sorry; I truly thought I dropped it off, but I just found it and will get this corrected right away.”

        I have mixed feelings about this one… I think it comes down to intent and I definitely think it needs to be addressed, but perhaps more in the “Everyone makes mistakes. Here is what you do when you make one… Here is what you don’t do…”

        1. MaggietheCat*

          If the OP is an admin and takes packages to FedEx fairly often, I could see where she might be confused about this. Especially if the boss is *texting her on her vacation*. If she wasn’t clear on which shipment it was, I could see where her first response would be to say she took it to FedEx and have you checked with *them* to make sure it wasn’t lost?? I agree it is NOT ok to lie, and she should have let her boss know when she found it had not been sent :/, but I kind of feel bad for her!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I was thinking that if she was about to go on vacation, she probably forgot about it and then panicked when she remembered it later. If she would have called her boss and said “Oh CRAP, I completely forgot to do X and now I’m at Y Airport,” and accepted total responsibility for it, the boss might have been angry, but she wouldn’t have damaged her credibility so badly.

    2. Grace*

      There’s an old saying: The first person seems right, until you hear what the second person has to say. I’m in favor of cooler heads prevailing in the FedEx scenario and to calmly ask the employee what happened to cause the delay. (I had an attorney chew me out, in front of a client no less, for not backing up client files according to protocols. The computer supplies I needed to do that task were NEVER ordered by the admin who was supposed to do it despite emails, written requests, etc. She was a poor employee, spent her time on social calls all day long, took 2-hour lunches at the mall (and brought lunch back to eat at her desk), etc.)

    3. Anonathon*

      I think you make a great point about having the professional vocabulary to admit your error. Not that this excuses the employee, but when you’re a teenager or even a college student, your instinct may be to cover yourself (my drunk roommate probably stole my paper!) rather than just professionally cop to your mistake. For example: about three months into my current job, I missed a deadline. It was due to some convoluted info in my predecessor’s exit memo, so it wasn’t 100% my fault, but I still shouldn’t have missed it. So I went to my boss, leveled with him, and we worked it out — no big deal. He’s reasonable and he doesn’t get annoyed as long as you don’t withhold. But I don’t know if I would have done that in my first-ever job. Age and experience make your judgment way better. All that said, maybe the OP’s employee isn’t young and new … in which case, never mind!

    4. Koko*

      This was going to be my comment as well. My reaction to this lie would be different for a very junior employee new to the workforce than for a senior employee. These kids who have made nothing but As and been on the honor roll etc etc their whole lives come to the working world and they screw up for the first time, and they have no prior experience in how to gracefully and responsibly manage their screw-up, so they flounder and in a moment of panic, they lie. I think it’s important to suss out whether she lied out of a combination of inexperience and panic, or whether she lied out of a combination of laziness, apathy, and deliberate self-preservation.

      Either way, she needs a serious conversation. But if it’s the young-panicky thing, I’d focus more of the conversation on explaining to her the correct way to handle making a mistake and giving her some sort of assurance that occasional mistakes don’t jeopardize her job, but continued lying will.

    5. AAA*

      I HATE being lied to. There’s almost nothing I like less. It feels like such a betrayal of trust to me. But I think it does speak to a larger problem of inexperience and learning the language you need to maintain integrity and dignity. It’s okay to make an occasional mistake, but you need to acknowledge it.

      I teach college students, and I really try to instill this in them. I have caught SO many students in lies about not coming to class or turning in assignments or what have you–I try to emphasize that the lie is going to affect their grade a lot more than the initial mistake. All the work that I put in cultivating close working relationships with students is destroyed when they email me some elaborate lie about a car accident and being at the hospital…and then I run into them at the cafeteria 20 mins later chillin with their friends.

      Ugh. These students are not getting reference letters from me! I fear for their future employers.

    6. Lisa*

      I agree, also because of a personal story. At my second job out of college, I had only been there a week or so and was asked to print out flyers and leave them in someone’s mailbox on a Friday. I completely forgot about it and went home for the weekend, then printed them first thing Monday morning. I thought nothing of it–until I found out the flyers were needed for the weekend! I had the complete knee-jerk, panic reaction others have talked about and claimed I HAD printed the flyers Friday. The second the words were out of my mouth, I thought, “that is a blatant lie! Why did you say that?” But I was new, and terrified, and felt like if I changed my story at that point I would get fired. So I stuck to my guns, and fortunately (?) got away with it (the person hadn’t checked themselves, they had sent someone else, so it was a third party report). I went on to have a long tenure at that company complete with 2 promotions before moving on to greener pastures, and never repeated my little performance. And to this day, when I think about the incident I get embarrassed (I’m blushing right now typing this). So…sometimes maybe a one-time pass is warranted.

  5. HR “Gumption”*

    Thank you Alison for noting texting is not the right forum for confronting employee issues.

    Maybe she placed the package in the back of her car with the good intent of dropping it off on the way home from work, and simply forgot. Likely forgivable, lying however, is not. This needs to be addressed- in person.

  6. Arjay*

    #2, I never, ever, ever open any e-card due to so much related spam and viruses. Just send an email.

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      Yeah, this was my first thought about the e-card too. Unless I know the sender and am specifically expecting an e-card (like for a birthday or other event), they get deleted without opening. Another vote for just sending a regular email.

  7. CanadianWriter*

    Whenever I hear “e-card” I immediately think of dancing Santas or songs about poo.

    1. Artemesia*

      I had a boss who used to send the dang things and then be offended when people didn’t open them. I only open E-cards from a former colleague who lives in Thailand. I think it is sweet that she remembers my birthday after all these years and suppress my annoyance at the stupid E-card just for her. A job applicant — no way I am jumping the E-hoops — just as I am not filling out an on line form to prove I am not spam for someone who expects an email from me.

    2. Jen RO*

      I think about someecards… and I don’t think most hiring managers would appreciate one of those from a candidate!

  8. skipping girl*

    #1 – is she very young? She sure sounds like she is. Absolutely you must address this, and writing it up might be the way to get the message across that lying is seriously wrong and can result in being fired. Mistakes happen, they can be embarrassing. But trust once lost is rarely regained.

  9. kas*

    1. Wow, she’s crazy. I’ve had to ship packages before and I couldn’t imagine lying about it because it’s so easy to find out what the OP found out! She’s broken the trust and I’d question everything she told/tells me. I would definitely follow through with a write-up.

    4. I was waiting for the open thread to ask this question so I’m glad it was asked. I’ve been sending out cold emails to the HR/careers email addresses but barely get responses so I want to try reaching out to someone in the department I’d be working in. Anyone find it annoying if they receive emails inquiring about internships? I’d include questions about the department to show interest so it’s not just like “hi, here’s my resume, bye.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Actually, don’t include the questions just to show interest — it’s annoying when candidates do that, because it requires time to write out answers to those questions, and people doing hiring are usually busy. It’s much better to save your questions for an interview. Show your interest by what you write in your cover letter!

    2. Joey*

      One tip- please link your experience or education to the field you’re seeking. I’ve seen way too many new graduates seeking internships in a specific field that have no discernible link to their experience or education.

    3. Meg Murry*

      It is ok to include the obvious questions like “are you hiring for internships?” or “what departments do you hire interns for?” – that’s not annoying, and makes more sense than “here’s my resume, hire me!” But you don’t need to ask questions to show you are interested – that’s annoying.

      Also, its fine to put something like “if you aren’t hiring any interns this summer but know of any others that are, I would appreciate you passing my resume to them or letting me know of the opportunities so I can apply myself.” This is how I got one of my internships in college – I cold emailed my resume and a cover letter about how I wanted a summer internship in my field in the area where my parents lived (which was not near where I went to college), and one of the companies I contacted sent my info up to their parent company which did have an internship program.

  10. Matt*

    #3: I’d just switch my phone to silent or turn it off (as I do anyway even if I don’t have a night-active boss) … may he text as he wishes, but he should expect no immediate response.

    Another point would be if she wishes to be reachable on this phone for other people (family, …) during the night. I have it in this way that I have a cell phone, that number I give out quite freely including boss and selected coworkers (but this one is switched off during the night or whenever I feel like it), and a landline, that number I gave only to my closest relatives (so they still could reach me in any emergency).

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      My phone goes into silent mode at 11 pm, but I can set exceptions for important numbers that will still ring through. (My boss is not one of them.)

      1. K.*

        Yup. Mine’s on “blocking mode” from 10 pm until 7am, but critical numbers (my parents’ home and cells, my husband’s cell, his dad’s numbers, a couple of super close friends) who would really seriously NEED me at 3 a.m. if they were calling all get through. It’s made my life a lot easier, since even when I used to put mine in silent mode, it’d light up for notifications.

    2. Site Safety Manager - Heavy Industrial Construction*

      Mine has a “Do Not Disturb” function. It only allows calls to come through from my favorites and if a number calls twice within 2 minutes. It is programmable to come on/off or manually activated.

      It’s the shizzle.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        For real! I love Do Not Disturb. That’s a pretty recent feature, though. OP #3’s wife might have an older phone that doesn’t have it.

        I remember the days of my flip phone as my only phone (and my alarm clock) combined with texts and calls by my volatile ex at all hours…. *shudder*

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t have to worry about this with my job, but I will have a number where they can reach me if they have to ask me something when I’m on vacation. So far, that’s only happened once at Exjob, when my backup accidentally locked himself out of our FedEx account.

      My phone stays on at night and beside my bed in case of emergency alerts (it’s tornado season right now). I still have a landline (for DSL) but no one calls it.

    4. Find your own solution*

      I agree. The boss may have odd working hours and telling her not to send messages at those times is not helpful to the working relationship. I get emails and voicemails at all hours of the night because we have offices in many time zones and projects where people are working overnight. 9-5 jobs are just not a reality for most of us, so learning to work around the problem is often faster and more effective than asking the boss to accomodate your preferences; especially when there are easier solutions (like the phone settings or leaving your phone in another room).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree 100% with this EXCEPT that the boss should use emails, not texts. Texts are more likely to be disruptive and wake you up; emails can be dealt with when it’s convenient. (Granted, you could change your phone settings not to be alerted to a text, but I’m going based on what I think most people’s settings are.)

        1. Onymouse*

          Most people I know have texts on silent or just one quick buzz so that they don’t disturb meetings and the like. It is interesting to hear about other preferences though. The geek in me wonders if anyone compiled stats on text notification methods

  11. Telecommuter*

    I’m surprised at the harshness of response to #1. Yes, the employee lied and broke her manager’s trust, that’s not in question. But immediately deciding that this would merit firing seems so overwhelmingly harsh.

    I can easily see how the employee could have ended up in this situation through no ill will or laziness or lack of moral fiber. In my very early working days if I’d found myself in this situation and had forgotten to mail the package, I could see immediately saying “Yes I sent it” thinking I probably sent it, then felt a growing sense of dread as I realized I might not have sent it… then rushing to check, realizing I’d screwed up AND lied, and then felt I had to keep the lie going. Not professional, not responsible, but also in my book an honest mistake (…at the start, before the lie, at which point I’d know very well that I’d dug myself into a hole). Now, I’ve never been in this situation before but I’m sympathetic to the thought process that might have driven her there, and barring a pattern of dishonest behavior I’d favor the “have a serious talk and be straightforward but understanding” approach. Of course, if it turns out there’s a pattern going on then that changes things. But I don’t see this one incident as a red flag that a pattern is probably there.

    1. Jamie*

      I can see how she forgot to send the package, stuff happens and everyone makes mistakes. But someone who will lie to directly is telling you a lot about themselves.

      Like others have said up thread, I might cut more slack if the employee was very young and very new at a first job. They may still be in a lying to parents or dorm parent mode and just need to get very schooled in how work works. But anyone who’s been working more than 10 minutes should know better.

      I think for me the fact that the lie is about avoiding accountability is what sets my teeth on edge. Maybe FedEx was the scapegoat this time because it couldn’t be traced to a person, but maybe next time it’s a coworker who is thrown under a bus unfairly.

      Everyone whose ever worked with me whether they like me or not will tell you the one thing I stress is that I know people make mistakes. I make them, everyone does, so just own them and resolve the problem. When I have someone who never admits they could have done anything wrong my side eye goes into OT.

      IMO if it’s never your fault I assume it’s always your fault.

      If you admit when it’s you I’m predisposed to believe you when you say it’s not.

      And ftr I don’t draw a hard line on little white lies. I have no problem looking someone in the eye and saying I have a dentist appointment because I don’t want to tell them I’m going to my gynecologist. Or that so and so is in a meeting when they really can’t come to phone because they have been in the bathroom for ages and may have eaten some bad shrimp.

      I know some put all lying in the same bucket, but I don’t and this is an integrity thing I couldn’t overlook.

      1. Colette*

        IMO if it’s never your fault I assume it’s always your fault.

        I wholeheartedly agree with this.

        To me I think the difference between acceptable lying and unacceptable lying is whether the person you’re lying to is entitled to hear the truth. If I tell my manager I’m going to the doctor but I’m actually going to the movies, that’s an issue (because the priority level of a movie is lower than a doctor appointment). If I tell a stranger I’m going to the movies instead of the doctor, that’s not an issue because there is no reason why the stranger needs to know where I’m going.

      2. fposte*

        “Maybe FedEx was the scapegoat this time because it couldn’t be traced to a person, but maybe next time it’s a coworker who is thrown under a bus unfairly.”

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. All those posts we get about people whose coworkers and supervisors unfairly blamed them or took their credit–this is related to that.

      3. some1*

        I’m of this mind as well. If this employee hasn’t learned that lying (about something so easily discovered, no less) to your boss is a big No-no, it’s not the LW’s job to teach her that and keep her employed because she’s young (which we have no evidence of).

        And young =/= lack of work experience. Some people start baby-sitting or mowing lawns in middle school. Some people graduate from higher ed in their mid-20’s and have never held a job.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t think young necessarily equals lack of work experience – but I do think it’s possible that someone who is still young enough to have residuals of adolescent responses to situations where they don’t want to “get in trouble” could lie like this and it be a sign of maturity. Not that it gets any kind of pass at work, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a permanent part of who they are and how they work.

          I didn’t get my first real job until I was 37. But I had been an adult for a long time, so if I had been a liar on my first job the odds are that’s a pretty ingrained trait by that point.

          Ass covering lying is a really common part of adolescence for many (not all) people at least on occasion – that’s why a parent might be disappointed but we don’t panic if our kid borrows the car to go to the library, but heads to the mall instead. As long as its not a regular thing we don’t worry that the kid will grow up to be a pathological liar.

          But I told my husband I was going to the grocery store and went elsewhere and stuck with the story when caught…he’d have a lot more cause for concern than our daughter coming back from the library with bags from Macy’s and Forever 21 at 17.

          1. some1*

            I’ve had jobs since I was a teenager. Certainly I was both outright dishonest or by omission with my parents when I was a teen and young adult living under my parents’ roof, but I never would have expected to get away with lying to my boss.

            1. Marcy*

              I agree some1. I was the same way. I would just add that maybe it takes getting in trouble at work or losing your job to finally figure out you shouldn’t lie to the boss. Letting them get away with a slap on the wrist is not going to teach them anything except that lying isn’t a big deal.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        IMO if it’s never your fault I assume it’s always your fault.

        Yes, absolutely. Psychopaths lie a lot and blame others for their misfortune. I used to have a casual friend who was one. Whenever he had a hard time, it was always due to something he had done or didn’t do, and when he told you about it, it was NEVER him. We got along fine because he didn’t fool me and he knew it. Plus we liked each other’s sense of humor, and he had the best dog I ever met.

        Also, I love the Easter Bunny Hello Kitty! :D

    2. Joey*

      Couple of questions for you:

      1. Would you trust someone who mistakenly gave you wrong info , didn’t come forward to correct it, and only fessed up when confronted?

      2. When you found out that she intended to cover up misinformation would you wonder if there was anything else she hasn’t told you?

      3. Would you feel you need to go behind her and verify things she’s telling you after you found out?

      4. Is it an efficient use of your time to constantly have to verify she’s not withholding important info from you?

      5. Would you rather have someone equally talented whose integrity you didn’t question?

      1. fposte*

        That’s my problem. I look at this and I think with exhaustion of the amount of policing this person’s work I would feel obliged to do from now on.

        1. Marcy*

          Me, too. I am in this situation right now and it IS exhausting and my other employees are suffering from it as well because I don’t have the time to help them and teach them because I’m checking after the problem employee who lies, covers his mistakes up, blames everyone else for his mistakes, etc. I’m working with HR to rectify the situation but while waiting on them, I am getting really tired of having to check everything when I have my own work to do.

    3. Jess*

      I wouldn’t classify unknowingly giving someone wrong information as a lie though; that’s just a mistake. It only becomes a lie when you then knowingly tell falsehoods to cover up the initial mistake. To lie implies intent. It’s fairly easy to go back and say “Oops, I was wrong! I double-checked after we spoke and in actuality…”

      1. Jamie*

        I think it becomes a lie as soon as you know the information was wrong and don’t correct it, even if you don’t say a word.

        If you give me what you believe are a curate inventory numbers then discover that there is an error – let me know and there is no problem. Just an error, happens to everyone on occasion.

        Don’t tell me and hope I don’t notice, knowing I’m going to send these to our external financial auditors to close the month? Having that information and not telling me is a lie by omission.

        Just like if I ask specific questions to trace a problem with your laptop and you answer that nothing unusual happened – fine. After you find out that your kid was messing around with the registry and keeping this info from me means I will spend a lot more time going down the wrong rabbit hole to save yourself embarrassment – not saying anything is the same as lying because you’re letting the initial erroneous statement to stand as fact.

        Growing up lies by omissions were treated the same as lies of commission in my house. And there were few things that would get you in more trouble than lying.

    4. Adam*

      I definitely understand the “lie resulting from panic” situation, but since it sounds like she’s not willing to really address it even though she knows she got caught it still raises some red flags.

      If this was the first truly negative thing to ever happen with this employee I’d probably give her an extreme warning that the next severe blunder would lead to termination, and then watch her like a hawk until such time as I felt convinced that it wasn’t necessary anymore.

    5. LizNYC*

      It’s one thing to say “I sent it,” especially when she was on vacation and may have *thought* she sent it (giving her the benefit of the doubt).

      It’s a completely different thing to come up with a convoluted story about tracking numbers missing and FedEx botching the whole operation once you’ve realized that, oops, the package didn’t go out like you said. The fact the OP asked a series of straightforward questions to double check whether the package had, indeed, been sent leads me to believe that this is not this employee’s first infraction or first time misleading someone who’s asked a direct question.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, and I would bet money that the reason her spidey sense was tingling and telling her to probe more was because this employee has been untrustworthy or otherwise problematic in the past.

  12. Puffle*

    #1 Okay, so the parent company didn’t mind getting the package late, but that doesn’t alter the fact that your employee was dishonest and didn’t do what she was supposed to do. Do you really want an employee who makes mistakes/ doesn’t do her tasks, and then lies to you about it? If I were you, I would always be worried about this.

    Also, avoiding you isn’t necessarily a sign that she’s contrite, or that she fully realises that lying is Not Good. It might be a “whoops, I don’t want to get into trouble” rather than a “that was wrong and I feel stupid” reaction.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes. In fact this is a perfect learning opportunity moment, since there wasn’t any real fall out. Tell the employee – “in this case, it all worked out ok, there wasn’t a rush. But typically things are FedEx’d because they are time sensitive, so if I ask you to FedEx something its because I need it sent right away. In the future, I need you to be honest with me, and to come to me right away if you realize you’ve made a mistake. People make mistakes, but the sooner we can get them fixed the better it is for everyone.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That is … too kind. The lying is a really big deal. It needs to be clear that this is a fireable offense and that it jeopardized her job. What you write here can be part of that conversation, but just to be clear, it can’t be the only thing being said.

        1. Meg Murry*

          True. I meant that only to be part of the conversation – and to make it clear that lying isn’t acceptable, but that if you DO screw up, you should tell the boss right away, not lie about it. People often lie in order to get out of getting in trouble and it should be made clear to the employee that in this case they are in more trouble because they lied about sending the package than because they forgot/didn’t send the package.

          1. some1*

            Don’t you think if the LW makes it clear she is giving a final warning/canning the employee because of the lie, not the mistake, that the same message will be sent?

  13. EngineerGirl*

    #5 – This is why people are supposed to have emergency savings that will last 4-6 months. But know this, the employer will withhold around 35% of the severance in taxes so you won’t see that until you file the next years income tax refund. That’s true for vacation payout too. The last weeks pay is paid out at the normal tax rate (usually)

    1. Jennifer M.*

      Yes that tax thing was a surprise for me. I received 6 weeks of severance plus 6 weeks of vacation payout in one check after a lay off back in 2007. It was run through the payroll company so the software treated the gross like it was a normal bi-weekly paycheck and taxed me as if that big huge total was my normal paycheck of 1/26 of my annual salary (I wish!). Still the net was enough for most of a downpayment on a condo so it worked out. (I was lucky enough to quickly get a new job that started immediately after my 30 days notice at old job so at no time was I unemployed and therefore able to use the severance entirely for a big ticket purchase like buying a home).

      1. Zahra*

        Some companies will dole out severance as several checks, issued at the same interval as paychecks, to avoid that tax problem.

    2. Jubilance*

      Yes that’s great advice, but considering the economy climate we’re still in, that’s not a reality for most people, even high earners. It seems a bit judgy to make the statement that people should have savings – you don’t know the situation of the person, if they have savings or what is causing them to not have savings. The question wasn’t about the merits of saving 4-6 months of expenses, it was about the legality of having a severance withheld.

      1. some1*

        +1. Yes, having savings built up would be ideal but it’s just not feasible for everyone. And if someone doesn’t have that kind of savings doesn’t always mean they are financially irresponisble.

      2. Adam*

        Yes, ideally everyone should have that socked away, but I feel in this day and age it’s pretty difficult. So I feel everyone should aim for 3 months at least.

        How feasible that is depends on your situation of course. Income, family commitments, etc. But if you have any wiggle room in your budget at all (that regular trip to Starbucks, that extra case of beer *sigh*) then it’s in your best interest to forgo for at least a little while so you can have at least somewhat of a cushion for yourself, even if it sucks.

        …Can you tell I’m doing this right now?

      3. esra*

        Yikes, yes. In fact, I’d argue it’s harder to do the less you make. Four-six months of savings is an admirable goal, but takes quite a bit of time to save up and has to compete with myriad other expenses.

      4. Stephanie*

        Yeah, that’s especially tough if you’re in a high COL area. Just saving up three months’ rent in some parts of the country can run you $3000+, let alone other expenses. Not saying you shouldn’t, just that that takes time, especially if you have not particularly high-paying job or other competing expenses.

      5. EngineerGirl*

        It’s now “judgy” to state a universal truth for financial management? Really? Whatever happened with “teachable moments” where a misfortune is used to lay down a principle? Now if I had said that to the person right after they got laid off, that would be mean. But I said it on a forum where others don’t know the person laid off.
        Here’s the thing – life happens. You never know if tomorrow you get laid off, hit by a car, or get an opportunity to move cross country. Credit cards are a bad way to manage financial surprises, so we have savings accounts.
        Yes, it is hard to save when every dollar goes out. But money is needed to save money. If you don’t have money laid aside you can’t buy an item when it suddenly goes on sale (saving money). Or you end up paying interest at 15%.
        Even if it is only a few dollars a week it adds up across time. Like Adam, I did it painfully. No magazine subscriptions. Use the bus/ride the bike. No shopping (clothes stayed classic so I could rewear them). Mac & cheese. Tax refund goes strait into the savings account.

        1. some1*

          Well, I thought it was a tad judgy, since none of us knows what kind of savings the LW’s friend has.

          Even if the friend has years of savings built up, he was told he was getting a severance — and it’s reasonable to expect to get that money soon whether he needs it right now or not.

          1. Coffeeless*

            I remember the times when I walked to work and ate mac and cheese as a matter of course. I couldn’t save 6 months of living expenses then. There was nothing to cut. Principal is all very well, but not necessarily the reality for many people.

          2. EngineerGirl*

            I’m really not sure how you can take it that way. You also used the word “financially irresponsible” in reference to what I wrote. But at no point did I use those words or anything close to it. I don’t appreciate that kind of putting words in my mouth – I really don’t.
            Look – it took me 30+ years to get to a financially reasonable place. I did it one.step.at.a.time. I remember crying because I was hungry and I couldn’t sleep. I remember re-hemming my raincoat because it was so worn that the edges had frayed. That was my only coat, BTW, even in the -20F winters. I remember throwing my budget worksheet against the wall because no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my expenses less than my income. It took really, really, really hard work to get that savings account started. But once started it leveraged into more savings.
            There’s no judgment – simply a statement that it is really important to have a savings account if you want to protect yourself.

        2. Jubilance*

          Yes it’s judgy. You don’t know what the person’s situation is – they could be caring for a family, or struggling with medical bills, or living in a very expensive area. We don’t even know if they do have savings at all. Either way, you piling on with “tsk tsk, this is why you should have money saved!” doesn’t answer the OP’s question regarding withholding a severance.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            And BTW, I noted that the severance was going to be less than expected. So the friend of the OP needs to plan for that too.

          2. Grace*

            I think EngineerGirl makes sound points about having a savings. I refer people in debt to Debtors Anonymous, one of many places that gives free financial help. (In-person meetings, Skype or telephone.) Even they suggest saving $1 a month if that’s all you can afford. Anything. Really. Just to get in the habit of saving.

  14. ZoeUK*

    Really surprised at the response to #1!

    Yes she made a mistake and tried to cover it up. This needs addressing. But really, her manager is texting her while she’s on leave about a non urgent work issue and this is ok? And they should consider firing her? Wow.

    1. HappyLurker*

      Maybe it’s me, but FedEx charges about $40-$45 for a letter overnight. If it wasn’t urgent, wouldn’t you use a 49 cent stamp, or a $5 priority envelope?

      I thought OP wrote something about turns out parent company was not concerned about receiving it 4 days late.

      1. some1*

        You get what you pay for, though. We send out non-urgent FedEx packages all the time because we and/or the other party needs a way to track them. USPS isn’t that much less, either.

        1. Meg Murry*

          And if you have a corporate account that uses FedEx a lot, its actually only $5-10 per overnight envelope, which is worth it to most companies when you need the tracking information and the signature that the package was delivered. I almost had a heart attack when I tried to send a personal FedEx overnight envelope because I assumed the pricing would be closer to the business pricing, not 5-10x more.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Businesses send far more packages on average, so they do get special pricing. I loved that Exjob let us use the FedEx account to send stuff–all we had to do was pay Accounting. It saved some people a lot of money when they had to send Christmas presents, etc.

      2. Jess*

        Some places will have contracts with a specific company that they then use for all of their shipping needs. And security is another really common reason people use FedEx (i.e., the ability to know that your package will get to its destination in one piece, on time, and without tampering). The federal agency at which I previously worked put a moratorium on use of USPS for all shipping after some serious mishaps and switched to using FedEx exclusively (yes, the irony).

  15. Jen RO*

    #1 – I agree with the people saying that history should be considered. For a first offender, a stern talking-to should be enough. For a repeat offender… well, combined with previous issues, it could be a reason to fire the person.

  16. UK Anon*

    With #1 I think that we need more information before firing could be on the table. What info were you asking her for? (Never used FedEx in my life, so I don’t know what info you’d need!) If it was when did you post it, where, what time, then I can see the cause for confusion. If she’s been on holiday, it’s entirely possible that she genuinely thought she had posted it at the end of the working day she was given it and so gave you general information – same day, office she always takes parcel to, about the time she’d have got there. If I got into that confusion and the found out afterwards I *hadn’t* posted it, posting it straight away then trying to avoid my boss and bury my head in the sand about the whole embarrassing situation would have its attractions.

    Not that it’s a professional way to go about it, but I can see a number of situations where this would be entirely human and understandable and not speak to a larger problem. As other commenters upthread have said, this may also be exacerbated if you have given her cause for thinking that you’ll be furious with her – and repeated texts on her holiday could well do that. If you don’t want people to lie to you, you have to be open to hearing about their mistakes calmly and with an attitude that you’ll help deal with it, not come down on them unjustifiably hard. Not saying that’s you at all OP, but it’s another factor in the mix.

    Or, of course, she screwed up, lied a lot and is otherwise a bad performer as well. But I do think that there would need to be a lot more info. to justify firing someone in this situation.

    (And I will just say that if she went on to post the parcel, it seems to be a genuine mistake – it doesn’t look like she’d taken it to steal the contents or anything, so as far as possible I would be inclined to assume good intent on that)

    1. some1*

      You get a Fed Ex tracking # when you create the shipment, either online, or a handwritten air bill that has a pre-printed tracking # and scannable bar code on it.

      FedEx scans the label when they pick it up, and they are supposed to scan when it arrives and leaves each location plus the destination.

      This enables you to call FedEx or go online and track the package using the number.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue isn’t that she made a mistake or thought she had posted it when she hadn’t. It’s that she made up a whole series of lies to cover it up.

      1. UK Anon*

        I’m happy to be wrong =) Maybe I’m just being overly naive. I’ve learnt a lot from reading the blog! But I am also inclined to be “nice” and look for the best in people – not necessarily the best business trait, but I hope I never have to give it up.

        That said, I wonder if it’s also a cultural difference. I only know American labor situations from here, but it seems to be much less of a big deal to fire someone in America than over here, which might be playing into it too.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Yes! That was exactly my thought. I am also in the UK and was surprised to read the number of people advocating firing this person, because I genuinely don’t believe she would be fired for that over here, but I get the impression it’s much easier to fire people over there. I’ve known people not be fired over here for worse.

          (Assuming, of course, that it really was just that one mistake. If there was a long history of issues with that employee, which isn’t really clear, it may be a different matter.)

          1. Grace*

            Yes, friends across The Pond, people here in the U.S. can get fired for just about any reason, provided that it’s not illegal (retaliation, protected class, sexual harassment, etc.). It’s called “at will” employment. The employer can fire anyone at any time, simply for not liking that person. The employee can leave at any time.
            I do, however, share your sentiments that firing the employee is a bit much for the FedEx problem without further inquiry. (And I think that business should address their own protocols. Do they have a mail room? Somebody in charge of taking mail and packages? A near by FedEx drop box.)

  17. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – Agree with the response and advice. If you’ve lost my trust, it’s going to be very, very hard to get it back.

    But, I also think it’s important for a manager to create an environment where employees know that it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them and don’t keep making the same ones. If management comes down harshly on ever mistake, small or big, employees are going to be hesitant to come forward when they’ve done something that could hurt the company. Mistakes happen – it’s how they’re handled that really matters, in my opinion. God knows I’ve made my share of mistakes in my day.

    This is also what we teach our employees about briefing seniors – if you don’t know an answer, say so and say you’ll get back to them – don’t guess. Better to be up front than lose credibility forever.

    So regardless how the OP decides to handle this, it might be worth a look at whether or not she encourages employees to proactively let her know if they’ve messed up. That may very well be the environment and this is an exceptionally dishonest employee. But it still doesn’t hurt to wonder why this employee felt the need to lie instead of saying “Oh no! I completely forgot to drop off this package! How do we fix this?”

    1. Fee*


      I’m among those surprised at the harshness of the response without more context around the employee’s general behaviour.
      Some other commenters have stated that only poor performers lie. Nope. A stellar (but maybe immature) performer will totally lie if she feels getting caught in a mistake is going to lead to losing her job or even just the approval of someone respected AND (this is the crucial part) the mistake is something she thinks she can easily rectify without anyone ever knowing. OK there is a big red flag here with the elaborate cover-up; but sending it an hour later indicates she thought she get out of it without it making any material difference to the business. Is that a firing offence? To me, only if it’s part of a pattern or OP would have fired her for not sending the package on time. In which case it’s no wonder she lied.

      The problem with firing someone for something like this (if not part of a pattern) is that there is a huge assumption that people always act in rational ways. I think the most telling comment here is ‘I had a feeling she was lying’. That could mean:
      – OP is very paranoid/hard to work for
      – Employee lies all the time and gives off tell-tale signs
      – Employee never lies and has trouble telling a good one

      I just think it’s really interesting that what got this ball rolling is that and not ‘Someone contact me to say they hadn’t received the package.’

      1. fposte*

        “A stellar (but maybe immature) performer will totally lie if she feels getting caught in a mistake is going to lead to losing her job or even just the approval of someone respected AND (this is the crucial part) the mistake is something she thinks she can easily rectify without anyone ever knowing.”

        I just can’t classify somebody who does this as a stellar performer. This is the active creation of a false narrative that put the blame on somebody else. I’m not saying an immediate firing is requisite, but there’s no room for “stellar” with somebody who does that.

          1. Fee*

            Well actually I do mean stellar because I was really referring to the first lie: “Yes I sent the package.” I’m not saying you can lie like that all the time and still be a great performer; but as a once-off under a particular set of circumstances, absolutely.

            The second lie: “Fed-Ex lost the package” indicates this may be a less than stellar performer, because it’s like saying “The dog ate my homework”, when you have a talking dog. Who provides tracking information on all its meals :)

            1. Fee*

              Actually to be fair, re-reading the post more carefully I see it looks like there was just one lie: “It wasn’t just a yes/no answer; there was a whole story”

              For some reason I picked up that employee only pulled the homework-eating dog scenario when called on the package not arriving by boss.

              So, er, yes… “otherwise stellar”.

              1. fposte*

                To me that’s too big an “otherwise” to retain the term “stellar.”

                I can’t trust this employee to do work now. I have to work extra time to supervise her and follow up to make sure her work gets done. That’s a basic employee failure that’s incompatible with any kind of approbation to me.

                1. Fee*

                  Well some sarcasm was intended in my “otherwise stellar” there – but “I can’t trust this employee to do work now” – even if it was the first time she’d ever made a mistake (that you are aware of)?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But it wasn’t a mistake, like making an error in work. Lies are different — they have intent that a simple mistake doesn’t have. It goes to integrity.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The thing is, when I think to the times I’ve seen lying in the workplace, particularly to cover something up, it’s always someone with other performance problems. And I mean always. I buy that it could theoretically happen in an otherwise great employee, but in in practice, at least in my experience, it’s extremely unlikely.

        1. JD*

          Agreed. I also think a correlation can be made between employees who produce stellar work AND admit to making mistakes. I’m confident that I produce solid work, so when I make mistake I’m not too worried over admitting it because I know more often than not, I produce good work.

          1. Fee*

            I completely agree, but did you feel this way when you first started working? I don’t mind admitting it took me a while in the workplace to learn, or maybe to feel confident in, exactly what you’ve described. Honestly I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t realise quite how good my work was, or just needing time to shed the pupil/teacher mentality in an employee/boss relationship.

        2. Diane*

          Maybe you should write an article about how performance problems often cluster, and pink or red flags for managers to look for–and for employees to be aware of so they can correct behaviors and habits.

    2. Laura2*

      Yep. When I first started working I assumed that every mistake was potentially a fireable offense because it had been drilled into me that my employer considered me “lucky to have a job” and they could go out and find someone new right away.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Yes, this. I’ve had a former boss like this and the 1st time at a new company that I’d discussed a mistake with my boss and corrective actions I was going to take and he just said “okay”, I thought I’d pass out from the shock.

        My former boss would’ve screamed and told you how replaceable you are over the slightest error.

        But I still think at the minimum a serious discussion is in order with the employee about expectations and integrity.

  18. Rebecca*

    #3 is the one thing that makes me happy about the lack of cell phone service at my house.

    Unless you’re a heart transplant surgeon on standby, or a nuclear power plant tech who can save the area from a meltdown, it can wait. Good grief, people need to sleep! They’re not machines.

    1. Joey*

      You really have no idea. Plenty of late night phone calls/texts are legitimate. Someone’s hurt, an alarm is going off, weather is worse than expected and we need to alert people not to come in, the list is endless.

      And even when its benign you have to know your audience. For example I know execs that don’t ever stop thinking about work and it’s not unusual for them to send a text or email in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t dream of trying to get them to stop. The most I’ll do is set the expectations on my end- that is, I sleep at night so don’t expect a quick response.

      1. Jamie*

        Know your audience applies in so many situations.

        I keep my phone in a dock with the volume wicked loud because if there is an emergency call, or I get an auto text letting me know the servers are down (sign we lost power) I need to get on it. So no one would think of texting me a non urgent message in the middle of the night unless it was an emergency because they’ll know it will wake me.

        Email they can send all night long, I don’t care which I would imagine would be the same for those who can turn their sounds off at night.

        (And off topic but I’m off until Tuesday and hanging out on AAM awhile watching TV in comfy sweats and fuzzy socks is the best! I can’t wait to dig into the AMA thread – I browsed and you all have some fascinating jobs.)

  19. Juli G.*


    I would be concerned about the likelihood of severance on a “promise”. If you don’t have it in a written document with details on how much you get and when, it seems unlikely to materialize.

    1. OP#5*

      I think there was a document that said how much, but didn’t outline the red tape (weeks to get a form to fill out, weeks to process the form, then several pay periods for the $ to be direct deposited in the former employees bank).

  20. StarHopper*

    It’s interesting to see commenters spinning out the possibilities that would mitigate the lie told by OP#1’s employee. Reminds me of the post about the misused funeral money from a few weeks ago, where people were speculating all sorts of different reasons for the woman not going to the funeral, and the update revealed that she was simply dishonest. I know that everyone’s perspective is colored by their own circumstances, and that diversity of opinion is what makes the comments here so fun to read. But it would not surprise me to find out that the employee in this case was simply lying to cover their own ass. Occam’s Razor and all that. I would not want an untrustworthy person to be working for me, and I don’t think that firing would be too big a consequence. No matter how young or new to the working world you are, you should know better than to double down on a lie like that.

    1. Cat*

      I really disagree with this. People are speculating about possibilities. That’s useful to the OP so that she knows the range of things that might come out when she talks to the employee and is prepared regarding how to address them. People are not saying “well, OBVIOUSLY, the employee is totally blameless because of X.” Similarly, with the funeral, people were speculating about possibilities. It turned out those possibilities weren’t correct, but that’s not a foregone conclusion.

      The reason you’re not seeing 100 comments saying “yeah, the employee is probably just a liar” is because those don’t add any value. The employer knows that’s likely; Alison addressed what to do in that scenario; why reiterate it?

    2. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

      Well, I think that in the case of the funeral post, the reaching was getting so ridiculous that you had to wonder when the theory of alien abduction and memory modification was going to come up. In this case, commenters seem to be pointing out the same thing–that sometimes people panic and there’s a complicated thought process beyond “I’m going to lie just because I can.” Not that she wasn’t lying, just that there are degrees. But I admit bias because I remember posts where OPs have been wondering how to get interviews outside of business hours, and there’s a lot of “You need to get creative with your PTO” or “This is a good time for a ‘doctor’s appointment’ or ‘sick aunt who needs you'” and so on. I feel uncomfortable seeing that and then seeing an employee who got scared over something minor being written off as a lost cause.

      1. StarHopper*

        Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that people are overreaching in this case. There have been several valid reasons posited. I’ve been reading AAM for a long time, and I like how empathetic the community is. People are very quick to put themselves in others’ shoes.

        I can see how saying that you sent the package when you planned on doing so in the near future could be excusable. But making up the lost package story, and then not coming clean when you’ve been caught? That is much more serious to me. The initial lie was on par with the fibs about appointments you mentioned. It’s the behavior afterwards that does not reflect well on OP’s employee, and I don’t think that firing is too strong a consequence. I was once fired, early in my working life, for not adhering to a company policy. I was really taken aback and ashamed about it at the time, but I learned from it, and was a better employee at my next job.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I agree. I understand how panic lies work, and I was definitely given to them in my pre-adult years–but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. I’m not convinced that talking to her about this will keep it from happening again if she drops a ball, and that’s my real concern here.

      2. Cat*

        I think reasonable adults are capable of distinguishing between lies that allow you to carry out a personal activity that you have every right to carry out and lies that cover up problems you caused for your employer.

        1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

          Wait a sec–this employee lied about a FedEx package and we’re immediately concerned that this is only the tip of the iceberg. But an employee not only “has every right” to lie to go on an interview and take time away from their work to do it, but (assuming they were caught doing that) no one is allowed to think that maybe they lie about other things too? I must not be a reasonable adult either, because that makes no sense to me.

          1. Cat*

            Well, they should be taking PTO – they shouldn’t be pretending to go to a business meeting. But yes, if you’re working for people who don’t respect your PTO such that they grill you when you say you have to take 3 hours to go to an “appointment,” what are you supposed to do? Never look for another job? Get fired from your current job because your nosy management is also the type that can’t tolerate perceived disloyalty?

      3. Del*

        I think part of the reason that people were reaching so far with the funeral post was that we already knew there was at least one degree of “the telephone game” going on, so there was an added aspect of “what might the original message actually have been?” that you don’t find in situations such as this one where the offending employee spoke directly to the OP.

        1. some1*

          It was also an incredibly sensitive subject matter (family death) that must of us have been through and were reading the situation through the lense of our own experience.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But I admit bias because I remember posts where OPs have been wondering how to get interviews outside of business hours, and there’s a lot of “You need to get creative with your PTO” or “This is a good time for a ‘doctor’s appointment’ or ‘sick aunt who needs you’” and so on. I feel uncomfortable seeing that and then seeing an employee who got scared over something minor being written off as a lost cause.

        The difference is between lies that cover up a work-related situation that an employer has a right to know about, and lies in response to a question that ultimately isn’t your employer’s business (“why do you need the sick time that is part of your benefits package?”).

    3. Tinker*

      I think that incident is apt to lead people astray. If the update had gone otherwise, it would be easy to say “people were speculating all sorts of reasons for why the woman was spinning out a complicated scheme to defraud her coworkers, and the update revealed that the OP simply misunderstood what was told to her secondhand”.

      It would be kind of unfortunate if folks take from that event a sense that it’s generally good to reach for the “simple” uncharitable evaluation of an ambiguous scenario, particularly if assuming bad faith is only “simple” because it’s a habit.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, thank you for saying this. Stories play out different ways, and they don’t always work the way the previous one did.

  21. moneylady*

    RE #1-How about a boss that gets caught in lies? Seriously, our “new” executive director (he’s been here bout 1 year) has been caught in lies as well. As employees, we have no real recourse. Of course, we don’t trust him or respect him. Not a great work environment, sadly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure. That falls under “your manager sucks and isn’t going to change.” As an employee, you don’t have any authority there. But if you were his manager (as with the OP), of course you should act.

  22. Little T*

    Re #3: Am I the only one who thought something completely different was going on here?

    My first thought was that the wife is having an affair with her boss and they are texting each other during the night, hence her reason for being up at odd hours.

    In order to prevent herself from being caught, she came up with a story about her boss emailing or texting her in the middle of the night about “work issues” that need to be dealt with.

    1. moneylady*

      I didn’t think so. I used to have bosses who slept little or horribly and worked at all crazy hours.

    2. Ruffingit*

      That never occurred to me because people who are having affairs typically try to be a bit more careful than that. I’m not saying all are, there are people out there who want to be caught and/or don’t care if they are, but in general, if her husband did catch her texting this guy or whatever, then it would usually only need to happen once before she’d become a lot more careful about it.

      My immediate thought was to turn off the phone while you’re sleeping. Seems a pretty simple solution to the problem.

      1. LittleT*

        Good points here about if the wife was really doing something other than “working” with her boss, she would hopefully be more careful about it.

        I agree that she should just turn the phone off entirely and deal with the boss in the morning.

        I have also worked with a boss who was an insomniac and regularly sent emails to the team at 1:00 am, but he did not expect any responses at that hour. He had 5 kids under the age of 8 and was often up late anyway, so he found that a quiet time to read through & respond to emails.

        My suspicious mind brought up the other scenario because something about this situation seems off. There are some unanswered questions here:
        -Is the phone on her night-stand and beeping during the night? -How does she know she is getting messages during the night unless she is up anyway to respond to them or the phone is close at hand & she can hear the beeping/see the message indicator flashing?
        -Does she have a high level job where she is expected to respond to any emails/text no matter what time it is?

        1. Kelly L.*

          As mentioned above, if the phone is an older model and it’s also being used as her alarm, it could be waking her up when it beeps. Mine is like this.

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          1) Why wouldn’t the phone be on the nightstand? My husband and I keep our phones on our nightstands, and so do nearly all my friends (at least those friends I know well enough to be in their bedrooms.) My parent’s generation generally doesn’t, but my peer group usually does.

          2) Same answer–keeping it on the night stand is pretty common for a lot of reasons (mine used to double as my alarm clock) and not all phones have a Do Not Disturb feature or they will silence the alarms if you put the whole phone on silence (or if you have an iPhone, you don’t have a silence feature–only a vibrate–which can be loud enough to wake people up.)

          3) Some jobs expect 24/7 access even when they don’t actually need to. I had one manager who expected it even when I was a cashier at a retail store. If we didn’t pick up our phones we’d get into trouble. We’ve had plenty of letters from employees of bosses who required instant access even when the job itself shouldn’t require it.

          1. O*

            I stopped leaving my phone on my nightstand, because first, there’s no outlet near it, and I’ve started charging it at night, second there are also studies out there saying phones really shouldn’t be used as alarm clocks because of reasons like this, and having it close at hand makes you use it more (i.e. looking at it right before you sleep, or the first thing you do when you wake up). I found they were correct, and I wanted the last thing to do before I go to bed reading (or the like) instead of checking social media one last time.

    3. Eden*

      I worked in a law firm out of college, for a crazy person. This was before texting, so she would call our hotel rooms (the whole team, she had 5 paralegals to herself), at 3 am to go back to the ‘war room’ at our client’s office to make binders. We went. I can’t believe today the things we did for her.

      1. giggleloop*

        I just had law firm flashbacks… one time I did that and then got to watch them all be thrown in the dumpster later that morning. Don’t miss that job at all!

    4. Old Faithful*

      Apparently not, but it wouldn’t have been something I’d ever have thought given that info. Seems quite a reach.

    5. fposte*

      It occurred to me that that was the husband’s actual concern, anyway–not necessarily that that was what was happening.

      1. some1*

        Yeah, the “How do *we* handle this?” (as opposed to “How should my wife handle this?”) jumped out at me.

        To be fair, though, the guy could just be coming from an “I’m frustrated that I’m being woke up in the middle of the night” place and not any kind of controlling place.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          Yeah I figured the texts were also waking him up. Sometimes hubby gets emails late at night (he’s not expected to answer them. They’re usually automated) and they wake me up more often than they wake him up.

    6. Graciosa*

      I was leaning more towards thoughtlessness on the boss’ part.

      Technology has made it much too easy to work almost anywhere at any time, and people who are too busy with meetings during the day – or just workaholics, or up at three a.m. with nothing else to do – are easily able to start sending email or text messages and think nothing of it. I have had this experience with bosses who were insomniacs who worked insane hours as well as fairly normal ones who just happened to be in different time zones. None of them actually expected me to respond at three a.m., they were just getting the work off their plates and onto mine assuming I would respond during working hours. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it didn’t even occur to them that I might think I needed to reply immediately.

      After verifying that this was the case – and recognizing that I was not going to change their behavior – I just had to train myself to establish and accept boundaries. The phone is off when I’m sleeping, and I determine when I will check my blackberry (which is not constantly – I’m entitled to a life and don’t even carry it over the weekend). The shift for me was deciding not to let it bother me that there might be a message from my boss sent on Saturday that I haven’t even seen yet on Sunday. I will check for messages on Monday morning.

      The strange part for me is reading about people who have bosses who actually do want them to respond instantly to some pretty unimportant requests even when off duty (and illegally not being paid for some non-exempt workers!). This would drive me nuts. I didn’t know there were that many people who are so unreasonable, or who treat their team members so badly.

      Although writing this has made me think I need to make sure everyone on my team understands that I do *not* expect an immediate response when I clean out my email after hours –

    7. The IT Manager*

      With the title of the letter, I thought it might be going in that direction – maybe the texts were flirty or something, but then the full three sentence letter made it seem like workaholic crazy boss not romantically inappropriate boss.

      I had to add the qualifier “romantically” because texts at all hours of the night is inappropriate too.

    8. Joey*

      I’m assuming the wife isn’t so sure its an issue worth bringing up. Or maybe the husband is just taking on the problem solving role.

    9. Tasha*

      That didn’t occur to me, mostly because academics tend to be working at all hours. I coauthored a paper with someone who was available to review drafts between 11 pm and 4 am (her time zone). Some of my friends in the private sector keep the same hours, just because it works for them–but even then, there’s the expectation that the other party will deal with whatever it is at a more normal hour.

  23. Jamie*

    Just an FYI a lot of E cards will get filtered out before even reaching recipient.

    There was a time when an email with the subject “someone sent you an e card” was one of the most common ways to get people to open malicious email. Kind of replaced now by a million others, but its still out there.

  24. Anonymous Analyst*

    I’ve been noticing a lot of angst over TY letters lately – not just here, but on other sites and groups I belong too. It seems that some people spend a lot of time thinking about them and debating whether paper, e-mail or some other version is the right thing. I find this rather perplexing. Does anyone know why is this is such a concern? Why is there so much debate over HOW to send a follow up communication? (I’m not questioning the importance of sending, but rather, why the medium itself is so much an issue).

    1. Tina*

      I’m guessing the overarching concern is what is considered “professional” and how it might affect an employer’s perception of the candidate. Job searching can be so stressful and there’s so little that a job seeker has control over, that it’s easy to over-think things.

      These days, email is fine for most if not all, though paper notes still hold a special place in the hearts of many (which is *not the same thing as saying they object to email or that email is unprofessional). It would never dawn on me to send an e-card, and I agree with earlier comments that it may not be a good idea – never makes it to the sender, seems to casual, etc.

    2. skipping girl*

      A thank you note cost the premier of New South Wales (Australia) his job yesterday. He denied under oath that he had received a $3000 bottle of wine (Grange Hermitage 1959 vintage) from a fairly dodgy political operator but his hand-written thank you note said otherwise. So he resigned.

  25. Ruffingit*

    3. Manager is sending late-night texts

    I had a manager who used to do that. She would also leave long voice mails and then immediately afterwards, she would text “Listen to voice mail.” Her problem was that she was a workaholic. She was a woman in her 60s whose husband had died, only child grew up and moved several states away and she had nothing in her life but work. She would text people about things that were not important at all at 5 a.m. (work began at 8). It was really ridiculous and people did leave over her actions because they got tired of it. As well they should, it was nonsense.

    Anyway, that could be this manager’s problem. They lose all perspective on what is/isn’t worthy of a midnight text because, for them, work is everything and everything must be dealt with now.

    1. OriginalYup*

      There’s also a style of communication where people send each micro piece of information one at a time as it occurs to them. Email A, please email the report to Steve. Email B, Please fix the footer on pg 9. Email C, Should we add an appendix? Text 1, did you get my emails? So instead of getting one email at 8 am with all the relevant info, you get peppered with bit and pieces at all hours, which comes across as increasingly agitated and hysterical to the recipients.

      1. EAA*

        When volunteering with local soccer association had a woman who was the age group coordinator who did this. Also not only could the information have waited often it was unnecessary.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, that is true. I’ve known people who do that and it does make them look odd. I actually have a friend on Facebook who does this in a way. She will post five or six responses to the same posting and I often wonder why she doesn’t just think for a minute or two and then post everything in one post. Not a big deal certainly, but it is odd to see a string of postings (or texts or whatever). Makes the person who does it look scattered.

      3. JC*

        Ha, my boss totally does this. And she works late at night, so we all get peppered with many stream-of-consciousness emails in the morning. We all love her and are used to this, though, so we just laugh about it. She does not expect us to answer emails in the middle of the night or to otherwise be working when she is working after hours, which I am sure helps.

  26. MR*

    For #1, I’d definitely check around and see if there are other questionable behaviors going on. But be quick…don’t take several weeks, and then blindside this person with whatever you discover and need to discuss. If this is the only situation like this that you find, then still have that conversation as others have discussed. Hopefully this corrects the behavior and it is never spoken of again.

    Along these lines, I have a supervisor who lies directly to my face (as well as my colleagues) all of the time. I can’t tell if he does the same thing with his superiors (I suspect he does), I basically disregard as much as I can from him and take direction from my department manager. When I have to take information/direction from the liar, I just agree quickly and move on. I do suspect that these lies will catch up to him (plus he is a very poor performer). It just sucks that this kind of thing happens from the management level.

    1. Ruffingit*

      It really does suck, I feel you on that. I had a manager once (owned the company too so there wasn’t much to be done about it) who would lie all the time about giving me resources I needed to do my job, she lied about things I had done to other co-workers. It was just weird. Really weird. I was glad to get out of there. A lying manager/supervisor is the worst because they are the people you’re supposed to be able to go to for help/direction and when they’re liars, you have to seek out other avenues. Can make the job really hard sometimes.

      1. MR*

        It’s the worst. But I suspect that he is slowly digging is own grave over performance issues, more so than his lying issues.

        If I were his supervisor, I certainly would not tolerate any of this, but unfortunately, I’m not and I can’t do anything.

    2. MR*

      I also need to mention the letter from earlier in the year where the woman took money twice from coworkers to go see her dead grandson. I took the stance (among a few others) that there was likely other shenanigans going on with this woman. Sure enough, there indeed were.

      So keep that in mind as you (hopefully) quickly look into other things that may or may not be happening with this employee. While it is possible that the person panicked and is just digging a hole deeper, there is a high chance that there are other things going on…good luck!

      1. HappyLurker*

        this…plus I think it was Allison’s original point. Lying is an indicator that should open your eyes to other things.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      I was just thinking about this. The only employee I had that lied to me (that I know of) also had other major issues with integrity. He no longer works here.

  27. Ann Furthermore*

    #1 Employee who lied

    For the most part I do agree with Alison’s advice here, but then I got to thinking about it and wondered if there are other things in play here. Bear in mind this only applies if the employee in question is very young — like this is her first job and she’s been working for about 18 minutes. If she’s been working for any amount of time, then I agree with Alison that this is likely indicative of a bigger issue that you need to address.

    I re-read the question and the OP said that she was texting the employee, asking her questions that would help her (the OP) ascertain what really happened. Upon further consideration, that had kind of an inquisition vibe to me, and maybe it did to the employee too, and she panicked.

    I think everyone has been in situations where they know they’re just digging themselves deeper, but they just can’t bring themselves to stop. That may be what was going on here. In my case, it was not just zipping it after I could see that something I said during an interview really rubbed the interviewer the wrong way, and there was nothing I could do about it…but nonetheless I just could not stop talking, trying to un-ring that bell. Egads it was awful.

    Maybe that’s what happened here. The employee got the OP’s texts, and was smart enough to know what her boss was doing, and she panicked, and tried to cover up her mistake. Now she’s avoiding the OP because she feels very foolish for what she’s done.

    If that’s the case, then yes, you should definitely talk to her about it and let her know that lying is absolutely unacceptable and if it happens again she’ll likely get fired. But also in that conversation make sure she knows that everyone makes mistakes, and as long as everyone also owns up to those mistakes, it’s the very rare mistake that’s truly going to be the end of the world.

    1. Liz*

      I agree with the inquisition vibe, particularly as the employee was on vacation and therefore both away from her usual resources (therefore relying on memory) and away from her office mindset.

      1. System Engineer 4*

        Yeah, this is also a good point. It’s very rare for my boss to contact me if I’m taking time off, and if she does, it’s always prefaced with, “I’m sorry to call you on your day off,” or “If you happen to be checking emails, do you know what could be causing such-and-such issue?”

  28. Celeste*


    I say it has to be confronted, at the very least to clear the air. Right now OP has the staffer hiding out, and a lie is between them. You can’t go forward like that. Maybe the staffer is a problem child, maybe not. But when you have a problem child, you need to keep her in front where you can see her. For now that means a confrontation, and some attention for a while to find out if there are other issues. Be clear on how this is not because of the missed mailing, but because of the lie, and that you will not stand for it.

    Good luck! I would love an update.

    1. Celeste*

      I re-read it, and apparently the person had the package with her (in her car, probably) while she was out of the office, because when texted about it she shipped it within an hour.

      Maybe instead of delving into where this person’s head was, the OP wants to think about a change in how they do shipping. Was the person supposed to just take care of it on her way home, off the clock? I can see how it can get forgotten especially if it’s out of sight in the trunk. Maybe shipping needs to be done on the clock. In this case it ended up okay that the package was 4 days late, and that the person had it with her and could get it shipped. In the case of a vacation with flight travel, a forgotten package would have to wait even longer.

      1. fposte*

        I was thinking about the shipping process too–part of doing the shipping is making sure that people in the office have the tracking numbers, and it should be an express part of the shipping protocol that that tracking number goes back to the office immediately. No tracking number–assume no shipment.

        1. Celeste*

          Yes. It sounds like things may have been a little casual with shipping, and it’s time to formalize it. It might even be possible to arrange FedEx pickups. I definitely think that when you’ve had a problem, it’s important to look at contributing factors.

          1. some1*

            FedEx pickups have been possible everywhere I have worked. The problem was that they had to be scheduled, so if the FedEx guy came every day at 3, and you had to FedEx something later, you had to find a box or FedEx location to drop it off.

  29. Blue Anne*

    #1 sounds so much like something I would have done when I was a teenager. I would have tortured myself about it, to be sure, but still done it. I wonder if it’s a younger employee?

    Being that kind of person when I was younger definitely taught me the lesson of it not being acceptable! Alison is absolutely right to say it’s a huge trust issue. (And it works both ways – I get a lot of trust from my manager now because I have a history of letting her know the moment I realize I’ve made a mistake.) If I had done that work and been fired, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Especially if it’s a pattern… yes, it makes sense for that to be on the table.

    But if it’s someone at the start of their working life, maybe this can be a wake-up call for them.

  30. Katie*

    #1 – is it not entirely possible that the lie was started because she simply forgot to send the package and was trying to buy more time before anyone found out? (I don’t condone this, but play along) Imagine this scenario. You’re preparing to go on vacation, and everything is this hasty flurry of activity. “Did I remember to do this? Make sure I take that, etc.” You’re finally on vacation and suddenly you receive texts from your boss about some package for a client that he wanted to make sure got delivered. And then you remember – the package! You forgot to send it! Because you are on vacation and can’t do anything about it at that moment, you tell your boss that maybe FedEx lost the package (this statement doesn’t say that it was sent though, but that’s implied) – hoping he doesn’t fact check you until you get back to work and are able to send it. A normal worker may have said, “I’m sorry but in my haste to leave for vacation, I forgot to send it.” This worker deliberately lied, and many of the commenters have speculated as to why. I also disagree that only poor performers lie. Perhaps this worker has never made a mistake like this before and was trying to preserve a perfect record. I’m certainly guilty of this, though not in a professional setting.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind here that the package in question here was admittedly “not urgent,” which may not be the case next time. Yes, the manager exposed his lying employee for what she was…but two things need to be addressed here: 1) lying is wrong in any case and 2) this will never happen again. But before rashly deciding to fire an employee over a non crucial mistake, you must figure out the intent of the lie, if this is a pattern for this employee, and of you can get past this obvious lack of integrity.

    1. Lily*

      “Perhaps this worker has never made a mistake like this before and was trying to preserve a perfect record.”

      This reminds me of someone who told me that no one had accused her of a mistake in 10 years. How likely is it that she really had not made a mistake in 10 years? What do you have to do to preserve a perfect record? Lie when you are confronted with mistakes. Blame other people. Make accusations of unfairness (to change the topic). Don’t submit anything which is not perfect (and miss deadlines). Don’t do anything which you can’t do perfectly (submit incomplete work).

  31. Jubilance*

    #1 – I don’t think firing this employee is the right course of action, but it needs to be made clear that lying is unacceptable. And this wasn’t a case of giving incorrect information, this employee made up an elaborate story in the hopes of not being caught. That’s an issue. It needs to be made clear that the employee needs to share everything, no matter the situation, and also share their plan of action for rectifying it. I’ve been in my share of situations where I’ve made a costly mistake (damaged expensive equipment that requires $$$ to fix) and it sucks to go to your boss and say “I screwed up, this is what happened, here’s my idea to fix it but its gonna cost $$$” but it must be done. If your boss can’t trust you to do your job and do it correctly, it won’t be long before you’re driven out.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had a coworker that was asked if she had committed a small transgression. She said yes. She was fired immediately. I watched as the rest of my work group processed that. It wasn’t good. Morale just plummeted. Some started making plans for quitting.

      This one of the ways that lying becomes a norm in some toxic places. It could be that this worker has had that experience and figures every place is like that old place. Unfortunately, if OP fires her that will only validate the employee’s misconception.

      While I do agree that OP should be on the look out for other issues because some behaviors predict other behaviors, I am not convinced that OP has enough to say for sure this person is a problem. I see speculation and hunches but nothing that is hard facts. Again- we have intuition for a reason, we are suppose to let it guide us. But I hope OP talks to this person first and takes time to really think this through.

  32. The IT Manager*

    Do I just ignore it for now? She knows she got caught; I’m sure she feels really stupid. Does bringing it up again just stir the pot? oes not bringing it up send the wrong message?

    Noooooo! I know it is an uncomfortable conversation, but if you don’t actually speak to her about it, it sends the wrong message that her lie and avoidance was successful in defusing the situation.

    Other commenter’s have dealt with the lying, but avoiding the hard conversations can often lead to perpetuation of the negative behavior because it works. You at least called her out on the lie via text, but this needs a face-to-face.

    1. Tina*

      I recently read “Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most” and found it very helpful. I’m slooowwwllyyy trying to practice some of what I learned.

    2. Graciosa*

      Very good point.

      Also, this is the manager’s JOB.

      The employee failed to do her job by not mailing the package when she should have (yes, the lying is a whole separate issue), but the manager doesn’t need to fail to do her job by not addressing this strongly, clearly, and directly.

      I find it interesting how often people have to ask whether or not something was addressed directly (Did you tell him [to stop / this was wrong / this behavior is unacceptable / that if he did it again he would be fired]?) and how often the answer is – almost shockingly – “No.” This is then followed by a lot of explanations about how the person “knew” (or should have known) without being told.

      It’s not enough to “know” that the person understands without having the conversation. OP, you have to actually say the words.

      Again, this is the job. The good news is that it does get easier with practice, and that practice will make you a better manager.

      1. Lily*

        Yes! I am a good performer and I know when I’ve done something wrong and I still think it is HELPFUL to have the conversation. The conversation itself is uncomfortable, but that means that my emotions will kick in the next time I encounter a similar situation and warn me to slow down and think! I also get a better idea of my boss’ priorities.

  33. Brett*

    #5 The letter does not have enough detail, but severance pay is normally a lot more than just a simple promise. There should be a contract involved that spells out what the company receives (e.g. liability releases, waiver of unemployment, etc) and what the employee receives (the severance). Also, there is the matter of whether or not health benefits are part of the severance.

    And has your friend received reduced unemployment or been denied unemployment on the basis of that unpaid severance? This alone is a reason the employer might drag out severance payments, and might not actually be legal if the severance is not being paid.

    1. OP#5*

      It was my understanding that unemployment couldn’t start until after the amount of time passed that the severance covered. So if you were paid one month’s severance, you should apply for unemployment starting a month after your last day?

      So if the severance covers more than the time that will pass it wouldn’t necessarily change the unemployment eligibility?

      1. Stephanie*

        (By the way, I hate that I understand the ins and outs of the UI system.)

        Nooooo, apply for unemployment now. Your severance is just deducted from the max amount you can receive. There will be a lag in processing your claim anyway, especially if the examiner has to hold a hearing (if the job separation was more than a simple layoff). There’s usually a mandatory unpaid period as well. The weekly benefit will just kick in after your severance runs out.

        1. some1*

          + a million. Apply ASAP even when you have severance, vacation or tons of savings and don’t “need” it yet. You can get penalized/denied for waiting too long to apply.

      2. some1*

        When I applied after a layoff, I was able to apply the day after, but wasn’t allowed to receive any $ until my severance was exhausted. Since I got a six week severance paid out at once (any few days after the layoff), that was how long before I got any $.

      3. CEMgr*

        This is not uniformly correct. Every state has its own UI laws and whether or not UI is payable in any particular case depends strongly on the exact facts (but it is NOT intended to rely on the employer’s whim or choice).

        I was once laid off with 2 months severance in California, paid in a lump sum. I discussed it with the UI office and they said that lump sum or periodic severance in ANY amount would have no effect on UI payments (just had to be reported). From California EDD FAQ: “Severance pay is not deducted from unemployment insurance benefits and does not affect your eligibility to receive benefits. The method of payment, such as a lump sum payment or payments paid to you at regular pay period intervals does not change the nature of the payment. However, you must report severance pay at the time you file your unemployment insurance claim.”

        Your state and your facts may well be different.

        1. CEMgr*

          For example, Michigan handles things quite differently: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/uia/125_–_Severance_pay_04_29_09_277316_7.pdf

          Illinois is more like California: http://www.w-p.com/CM/Articles/Does_Severance_Pay_Block_Unemployment_Insurance_Benefits_in_IL.asp

          New York just changed their law and severance payments probably will block UI: http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/01/terminated_workers_receiving_severance_pay_can_no_longer_collect_unemployment_be.html

          Florida, amazingly allows UI even while severance is being paid in many cases.


    2. Stephanie*

      Wait, can an employer really make you waive unemployment? It’s a pittance, but still seems like it’s an employee’s right to that pittance.

      1. Brett*

        I’ve seen it before. It only makes sense in states where you can collect full unemployment even while collecting severance. You also sometimes get the opposite, a severance package where the employer waives their right to challenge an unemployment claim.

        Though all this only really matters here if the OP’s friend has had unemployment reduced or denied based on the severance the company claims to have paid, but hasn’t (and like you said, that friend better be applying anyway).

  34. Tiff*

    #1 – I think the fact that all of these accusations and lies happened over text message while your employee was off has more to do with this story than you think it does. I’m not at all excusing her lies, especially since it seems she made up a story from whole cloth about the package. But did she really? Does she send lots of packages? Was she flat out lying or was she at some point confused? You texted her while she was off – maybe she didn’t remember but felt compelled to defend herself to the boss who texts her about non-essential packages while she is off work?

    Maybe I’m just playing e-detective, but usually I see the core issue (in my mind at least) located in the little bits of information that get glossed over in the OP. Something tells me that if the employee wrote in herself for advice her title would be “I Got Caught in a Lie to My Overzealous Boss Because She Wouldn’t Stop Texting Me on My Vacation”.

      1. Tiff*

        Not at all. But the OP considers the fact that she was texting her employee on her days off about a package that wasn’t that important as a small bit of info, and I happen to think that was inappropriate on the OP’s part. I don’t see it as an excuse to lie, but unreasonable actions tend to get unreasonable reactions.

        Keep in mind I’m projecting a little from my own experience with an unreasonable boss who never acknowledged major achievements and loved to play “gotcha” on little things, but the fact that OP was texting her on her days off before finding out how important the package was not good management to me. Every bad manager I’ve had has done something like what OP describes, and every good manager I’ve had has in some way protected their employees from things like unnecessary fire alarms on days off, especially if they are good workers. So just take it with a grain of salt.

        We don’t know enough about the employee’s work history to tell if she’s a lying slacker or an overworked and under appreciated workhorse who told a lie to get her demanding boss off her back for once.

        1. Joey*

          Except the manager thought it was an urgent issue at first which sounds reasonable. It wasn’t until later she realized it wasn’t as urgent.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The manager did think it was urgent at first, and in many/most offices it would be perfectly appropriate to contact the person on vacation to resolve it in that case. (I wouldn’t do it by text, but that’s a different issue.)

        3. fposte*

          I don’t know how the OP’s office works, but in my office you would have been expected to provide me with the tracking number before you went on vacation, and if you didn’t, I would ask you about it.

          The thing is, even if you have a boss who likes to play gotcha, you don’t make stuff up about why it’s somebody else’s fault that your job didn’t get done. That’s even worse with a gotcha boss, in fact, because it gives her legitimate fodder–you are, in fact, gotten, because that was a failure.

  35. JMegan*

    #3 seems to be one of those ones that could be easily resolved just by talking to the person. “Jane, when you send me texts at three in the morning, are you expecting me to respond right away, or is it typically something that can wait until morning?”

    Most reasonable people don’t actually expect an instant response, and many would probably be surprised to find out that you thought she did. Without knowing the manager at all, I would say that by far the most likely outcome will be “Oh my goodness, no! I send things as I think of them so I don’t forget, but I certainly don’t expect you to answer immediately!”

    Of course, if the manager isn’t reasonable and does expect an instant response at any time of day, then you’ll have to have a conversation about setting boundaries and how to make sure her needs for immediacy are balanced with your need for down time. But I would start with the assumption that this is simply a case of unclear expectations, and take it from there.

    1. Joey*

      No. That’s giving them an option to say yes. The default should be that of course you’re not expected to answer in the middle of the night unless they inform you of that expectation.

      This is one of those things where I think its best to make a judgement on the types of texts you’re getting. If you think they’re emergencies then you pitch a solution for handling them going forward. If they’re benign and there isn’t an expressed expectation to respond immediately, I think its best to assume people are reasonable and expect a reasonable follow up. Generally, workoholics know everyone isn’t a workoholic.

  36. LittleBit*

    #1 – is it even remotely possible that the employee was telling the truth? A huge coincidence, no doubt. But unless you have absolute proof that the package was shipped late and NOT lost by FedEx, I think firing is a BAD idea.

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve called to report a cable outage and be told there are none reported in our area so it must be a problem only at our house, get an appointment for a tech to come out in 2 days, and POOF, 10 minutes later, cable comes back up. Like they realized an issue on their end once I reported it. Perhaps there was communication to FedEx in this same timeframe and they found the package once it was brought to their attention but are unwilling to admit their mistake?

    Plus – texting an employee on vacation seems totally out of bounds to me.

    1. some1*

      “But unless you have absolute proof that the package was shipped late and NOT lost by FedEx, I think firing is a BAD idea.”

      If the LW has the tracking #, she can look up what day it was dropped off very easily. IME, FedEx does not wait four days to scan a package when they get to ship outside the holidays.

  37. Juni*

    OP #3 – it’s possible that your carriers are causing text messages that she sends at reasonable times to arrive in the middle of the night. It’s happened with my husband and I… I’ll text him to pick up milk on his way home, he’ll come home with no milk, say he never got my text message. It arrives at 3am.

    So, if her office is generally ok with text messages, and they’re normal for normal hours, consider that possibility.

    1. Onymouse*

      I know for my Android phone, which only shows the received timestamp, there’s an app that’ll add the sent timestamp to each message. Could come in handy

  38. louise*

    #1 – Lying about a shipment
    When you warn/write up this employee or if you choose to fire her, I think it’s *very* important to make clear that the reason for the warning/firing is lying about a mistake, NOT the mistake itself. Mistakes happen. Even mistakes related to super urgent matters (which the OP and the employee who missed the shipment must be very grateful the package turned out to be urgently needed).

    Lots of people have a history of having a boss where the mistake itself would set him/her off and if it was simpler to give that boss a story to simmer down, I can see how even a well-meaning employee could develop a Very Bad habit.

    Therefore, I think the OP needs to make it clear that this workplace recognizes mistakes are part of employing humans and that the important thing is to own up to mistakes immediately and identify a plan to avoid a similar mistake in the future.

    Without this clarification, I think some employees would misunderstand this as “I was warned/fired for forgetting to send a package that wasn’t even urgent.” That’s not the takeaway you want.

  39. O*

    # 1-One thought I’ve had is maybe she honestly couldn’t remember, like others have said, she was going on vacation and if she went out of town, she either really couldn’t remember (especially if she regularly drops them off, it might blur together), when she went on vacation she didn’t take her car and had no way to check if it was still in the car, and possibly there wasn’t cell reception where she was. But the lying definitely needs to be addressed, instead of being adamant that FedEx lost it, she should have admitted she wasn’t sure/couldn’t remember/or forgot.

  40. Amanda*

    #1 I’d like to put out there that I used to work for a small business that shipped multiple packages daily, up to 25 or 30 a day. When packages were dropped off at FedEx (rather than picked up by FedEx) there were a few occasions where the package was truly lost by FedEx. I can only say this with confidence because I was in charge of shipping the packages so I knew exactly what had been dropped off that day. When a customer would try tracking the package or would call to inquire about it because it hadn’t been received, I would have to call FedEx and go through the whole process of trying to locate the package. On a few occasions, there were some that got lost and never processed at FedEx. Sometimes they were found by FedEx and shipped out late.

    So, I’m not sure of the exact timeline of events from #1 or if the employee has admitted to lying or whatever. But, it is possible for FedEx to have misplaced the package.

        1. fposte*

          That would mean both the OP and FedEx were lying, though. I think it’s likelier that it’s just the employee doing it.

        2. Marcy*

          Then why is the employee now avoiding the OP? If she is innocent, why hide out? Obviously the OP hasn’t yelled at her or anything or he/she wouldn’t be writing in to ask if they should bring it up to the employee.

  41. Stephanie*

    My friend’s white shoe law firm sends out these horrible e-card (is that phrase redundant?) around the holidays. The e-cards seem horribly tacky and unprofessional, but apparently this is a thing among those law firms.

    1. Grace*

      I don’t know where your friend works, but the law firms I’ve worked at have never sent out e-cards and still send out high quality holiday cards via snail mail. We choose them in September/October, off to the printers in mid-October, back by November and mailed to clients and contacts around Thanksgiving.

      1. Stephanie*

        Semi-meaningless to me (in terms of the prestige), but it’s apparently somewhere selective enough that all their recruits are from prestigious law schools and/or at the tippy-top of their graduating class.

        It’s even more jarring because everything else about the place seems very sterile and professional. The e-card wasn’t a GIF-filled Blue Mountain thing, but it still was an e-card with “Jingle Bells” in the background and video of employees’ children saying “Happy Holidays.”

        1. Grace*

          You have to wonder who is in charge that they let an e-card represent the firm/brand. Sounds like a cute video of the kidlets singing, but not appropriate to send out on behalf of the brand.

  42. Kaitlyn*

    Not to make excuses for the employee who lied and I wholeheartedly agree that a top performer wouldn’t likely lie about something like this and the lying should be addressed so next time it’s not a coworker that’s unfairly made the scapegoat but I’d like to ask about the employee’s prior work history.

    Since OP1 wrote in to AAM, I’m going to assume that OP1 wouldn’t scream or unfairly berate an employee for an error but some bosses will. Did the lying employee transfer from another department where their boss would scream at them or berate them for making an error? Or bring up the error repeatedly for months to come? Or come from a former job where they were berated for making errors and grew accustomed to covering them up instead of talking with their boss immediately?

    I’m asking because 1 of my former bosses was like that and staff would lie to cover up their mistakes, fix them quietly ASAP and pray the boss didn’t discover it because then work would become even more unpleasant.

    I won’t make excuses for the employee’s lying but it may also be an opportunity for OP1 to also add in an “I want you to tell me when you’ve made an error so corrective action can be made”.

  43. Karyn*

    RE: OP #1. Two scenarios from my first post-college job as the admin assistant at an accounting firm.

    First time I really screwed up, I mixed up the FedEx envelopes for two tax returns. Really, really stupid mistake, caused by a rush of returns going out the door all at once and my trying to get them done before I had to leave at 5:00 (I had evening classes that I could not miss). Somehow, Company A’s tax return ended up in Company B’s envelope and vice versa. And of course, Company A was a pain in the ass client who made a huge deal out of their tax information going to Company B, even though Company B was a reputable law firm and wasn’t going to do anything nefarious with the information. Still, I knew it was completely my mistake, and spent most of my weekend terrified because my boss told me that one of the partners (it was a small firm, 60 people or so) wanted to see me on Monday morning. Monday rolls around, I go into his office half an hour before my shift, and proceed to take 100% of the responsibility, including a plan for how the situation would never repeat itself (printing only one FedEx label at a time and only putting the label on after I put the document in the envelope). The partner was completely understanding of the fact that mistakes, even big mistakes, happen and was satisfied that I’d beat myself up more than he could have done. Kept my job, no problem.

    Scenario 2: This happened about a year after the first booboo, and also involved FedEx. We had a large shipment of audit reports going out one day. The deadlines weren’t exactly urgent, but we had told our clients to expect deliveries the next day. We had a regularly scheduled FedEx pickup every day at 5:30pm, but a lot of the time, I would just take packages to the drop on my way to class. That day, I had to leave work early for a presentation at school, so I asked the second assistant to please make sure FedEx took the packages before she left and if they hadn’t, could she please take them to the drop down the street? She said she would, and I left the office as planned. Next day, before I get to work, our department got a howler of an email asking why the hell the shipment was still sitting in the lobby of the office. When I got to work, I explained the situation as calmly as I could, saying that while it was my responsibility to make sure FedEx took packages, this time, I had arranged an alternate party to handle it in my absence, and it must have simply slipped her mind. Because I had taken full responsibility for the earlier incident, and because I didn’t point fingers at anyone else (except to say that it must have been a simple mistake on my coworker’s part, not a willful neglect of duties), nobody got in trouble – except FedEx, when I called them to complain about our driver not showing up (turns out, they had a number of issues with the driver on our route not showing up to his scheduled deliveries).

    The moral of these long-winded stories is, if you make mistakes at work, it’s likely that they will be overlooked or at the very least, understood, but it all comes down to how you HANDLE the mistakes. If I had lied to the partner or pointed fingers at the FedEx driver or outright blamed my coworker, it’s likely the outcomes of these situations wouldn’t have been nearly as positive.

  44. Alano*

    #1 – I agree that lying is a big deal and should be addressed in a one on one. But I would start the conversation with fact-finding because it sounds like the OP actually knows very little about the situation and might be jumping to certain conclusions. Ask the employee what she did at each stage and what was going on in her head. Did she make an honest mistake? Did she honestly believe that she had sent out the package and then later (after being asked about it) realize she hadn’t? I would show her the information from FedEx and give her a chance to explain it.

    As a manager, I’ve had many situations where I was 100 percent certain I knew exactly what had transpired, but when I actually sat down with the employee and talked through the situation blow by blow, I realized I had jumped to conclusions. You shouldn’t be a pushover, but you should also make sure you’re giving an employee a fair chance.

    Also, I think AAM was WAY to easy on this OP for sending text messages like this to an employee on vacation. The OP admitted this was not an emergency , so why ruin an employee’s vacation with scary accusations? How was that going to help? My first thought upon reading about the text messages was: “No wonder the employee lied to cover her tracks! I might lie too if I had a crazy unprofessional boss who shot out accusatory text messages while I was on vacation!” I’m also wondering why the OP says the employee is now back in the office but avoiding her like the plague. The OP should have called this employee into her office first thing in the morning, instead of stewing. Go ask the employee to come into your office, and start by aplogizing for the accusatory text messages that most likely ruined the employee’s vacation. And ASK her what happened and what was going through her head. Once you’ve fully heard her side of it, go from there.

    Even if she’s 100 percent blameworthy, I think firing would be pretty harsh unless there was a history of other performance issues. People tell white lies all the time at work – esp. if they know that the situation isn’t urgent and they think they can fix it (and in this situation, the OP says it wasn’t urgent that the package arrive by a particular time). I don’t care what kind of saint you think you are – you’ve probably told a white lie or two to your boss at some point in your career. Nobody wants to work at a place where you might get fired at any moment for light and tranquil causes. So at most I would write her up.

      1. Alano*

        Maybe “white lie” isn’t the right term. I’m still hung up on the fact that it turned out to be a harmless error (in the sense that the parent company didn’t need the package ASAP), because part of me wonders if the employee knew or thought she knew that it wasn’t a huge deal when the package needed to arrive. My boss tells me to take care of stuff all the time that he thinks are a priority, but I often have more information than he does about the situation on the ground, and I sometimes have to prioritize differently. And sometimes I totally lie and tell him I took care of something when in fact I literally haven’t had time to take care of it yet, and I know I will take care of it soon, and I know full well that the delay won’t hurt anything. And my experience is that most people do that sometimes.

        I think we have to be sensitive to the fact that the people under us might occasionally disobey our orders when they have more information than we do, and they might “manage up” with the occasional white lie or omission. I wouldn’t freak out just because I caught somebody in a lie – as long as they thought no harm was being done and as long as they did it for good reasons (i.e. because it was for the good of the company). For instance, I’d have a hard time being upset if the employee said, “Yes, I lied. I had eight million other things to do that day that in my judgment were more important to the company than dropping this off at the FedEx depository. I knew that the client wouldn’t care if it arrived a few days late, so that’s the trade off I made. I suspected that you’d be annoyed that I didn’t follow your exact instructions, so, yes, when you confronted me I lied and made up a silly story about how FedEx lost it, and then I ran over to the FedEx store and deposited it. I was trying to juggle a bunch of competing demands and keep the peace with you at the same time.” Of course I would tell them they shouldn’t lie to me (because as a general rule they should not), but the reality is I think I would have a hard time holding it against them.

        1. fposte*

          Huh, and to me that would be a death blow. If an employee is overcommitted, I expect to hear that from her; if I heard she unilaterally decided not to do stuff instead, I would assume that therefore she can’t be trusted to complete her tasks and really is no longer useful in the organization.

        2. Jamie*

          “Yes, I lied. I had eight million other things to do that day that in my judgment were more important to the company than dropping this off at the FedEx depository. I knew that the client wouldn’t care if it arrived a few days late, so that’s the trade off I made. I suspected that you’d be annoyed that I didn’t follow your exact instructions, so, yes, when you confronted me I lied and made up a silly story about how FedEx lost it, and then I ran over to the FedEx store and deposited it. I was trying to juggle a bunch of competing demands and keep the peace with you at the same time.”

          If that wouldn’t bother you coming from a subordinate, you are one in million. I don’t know how anyone would keep their job after saying such a thing.

          That’s not managing up. Telling them that not only do they not understand priorities and you know what’s best for the business better than than they do? And that they are so poor at managing that you couldn’t discuss that with them so had no problem disregarding their directive and lying to them about it?

          How could anyone continue a professional relationship after that?

          1. Alano*

            I think you’re thinking of the general goals of an organization versus implementation. If I tell my team “we need to cultivate a better relationship with Client X,” that’s a general goal, and I would expect them to be fully on board. But if I tell someone “Please pick up Client X at the airport at this time and take her to this restaurant for dinner and try to talk to her about a, b, and c,” that’s a very specific fact-intensive situation. I would expect my employee to use her own best judgment and override my directions if she deemed it necessary given the situation on the ground. For instance, if the client walked off the plane and accounced she had just gotten sick from eating sushi, I would expect my employee to use her own judgment and override my instructions based on the facts of the situation.

            I work in an industry where there is quick and potentially harsh feedback from outside forces if my team makes an error. The last thing I want the people under me to do is blindly follow my directions if they have more information about a given situation than I do – and they often have more information than I do because I can’t be everywhere at once. I focus on teaching my team how to make good decisions rather than telling them what to do in each specific situation.

            Yes, in an ideal world, there would be time for them to call me and we could talk it through for hours committee style – but in reality there’s often not enough time and my employees need to make decisions based on their own judgment – esp. if they see the facts on the ground are different than I supposed them to be.

            So if somebody on my teams tells me they had more information than I did in a specific situation and therefore took an action contrary to my instructions, I wouldn’t view it as them calling me a poor manager. And if they admitted to me that they lied about it to me rather than taking the time to explain to me why they made the judgment that they did, I might write them up (depending on the gravity and nature of the situation), but I wouldn’t necessarily fire them over it.

            I might reflexively say we shoud look at firing an employee if the employee failed to send the package because she spent the afternoon surfing the web or updating her personal Facebook page, and then lied to conceal her lack of productivity. In my mind, lying to hide lack of productivity would be fundamentally different than lying because you made an executive decision in the heat of the moment about what was the best use of limited resources or time.

            1. fposte*

              Sure, my team goes with the spirit of my instructions rather than the letter all the time when the situation proves different than expected. I have no problem with that.

              But it’s not okay to lie about doing that and say that you did what I said instead of what you did. That’s the death blow.

              And this isn’t a “spirit of the instructions” situation anyway–this was a package that was supposed to go out Fedex on the day, and it didn’t go out and the employee made up why.

              1. Alano*

                Sure, if somebody is going with the “spirit of the instructions” and then lies about it because they’re worried I won’t agree with their judgment call – I agree that’s not okay and I would talk to them about it. I would say something like “I understand you were afraid I wouldn’t agree with your judgment in this situation, but you need to keep me informed in situations where you override my instructions – at the very the least so that I know my original plan proved difficult to implement.” But I wouldn’t immediately think “oh, maybe i should fire this person.”

                Second, I can see scenarios where a simple FedEx package is a “spirit of the instructions” situation. Since the Great Recession began, many workplaces are grossly understaffed. My employees work as fast they can 7.5 hours a day most of the time; it’s non-stop. And the company will harp on them (and me) if they log one second of overtime. It can take 15 to 30 minutes sometimes to find the right address, fill out a FedEx form and get it to the nearest drop box. Esp. if somebody is non-exempt, they may literally not have time to do it and be forced to choose betweens sending out the FedEx package and some other equally important priority. I can see plenty of situations where someone would say to themselves “well, the client doesn’t need this package for a few days anyways, I’ll send this out tomorrow and nobody will know or care.” That could easily be a rational business decision. Then the next day the boss demands to see the tracking number, and the employee panics and tells a fib. I simply think it’s an overreaction to start talking about firing someone in that situation, unless it’s part of a long-term pattern or there are other performance issues. I wouldn’t want to work someplace where a good employee could get fired that easily.

                1. fposte*

                  I think we’re just ending up on different sides of this. “Employee panics and tells a fib” to me is “Employee will lie about what she’s completed and her work can’t be trusted.”

                  I don’t think my stance is all that draconian–I’ve had staff for a lot of years who’ve never lied to me to cover their asses, and they tell me stuff that went wrong all the time. I don’t think it’s that tough in most fields to find capable staff who don’t lie to their managers and pretend somebody else screwed up when they dropped the ball.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  @fposte. I have read enough of your posts to know that YOU inspire the quality staff you have.
                  If we could just clone you, there would be no need for these discussions.

                  Yes, if someone lied to YOU then they are foolish.

            2. Colette*

              “Using your judgement” is not the same as lying.

              In your scenario, how would you feel if an employee told you she’d gone to the airport to pick up Client X, but that she couldn’t find her – and you later found out that she went to a movie instead?

              1. Alano*

                Well, yes, obviously that would be a problem. But that was never my point. If the employee didn’t send the FedEx package because they were at the movies, that’s different. That’s precisely why I would start by asking her what happened and trying to figure out why she didn’t send the FedEx package.

                1. Colette*

                  OK, what about if the employee didn’t meet the client at the airport because she had other work she considered more important, but told you she’d gone and the client wasn’t there?

            3. Joey*

              That’s different. Not following orders is fine if you made a rational executive decision. That’s not the issue. The issue is lying about it. You don’t tell your boss you took a client to dinner when to didn’t. You say she didn’t want to go so we didn’t go.

          2. lindsay j*

            Yeah, this would make me way more likely to fire the person than anything else. If you think that my priorities are out of whack or that you have too much on your plate, come have a conversation with me about it. Maybe you are right and maybe dropping this thing off at FedEx isn’t that important – in which case I will tell you it’s okay to leave it for tomorrow. Or, maybe I have additional information that you don’t which means I know that this envelope is absolutely mission critical and has to be sent today, in which case I will tell you to send it and acknowledge that that means that something else won’t get done, or I’ll make as alternative arrangements to get it sent out today m

            But telling me you know your priorities better than I do, insinuating that I would over react if you spoke to me about it, and minimising your lie as a “silly story” is much more liable to cause me up fire you than it is to inspire any sort of sympathy. Then I would be going through your prior work with a fine tooth comb because you’ve shown me that you likely did not prioritize what I needed you to in other situations, nor did you communicate with me, and there are very likely many other things amiss.

        3. Joey*

          You might want to rethink that. You’re essentially telling your boss that you know his priorities better than him. And that you have so little respect for his ability to do his job that it’s not even worth a discussion.

          I’d fire you in a heartbeat for doing that.

          1. Alano*

            Well, Joey, it’s a good thing you’re not my boss! For the record, he’s often getting orders from people higher up in the organization (who often have zero information about the actual impact of the decisions they’re making – and feel no pain whatsoever for making dumb decisions), and he knows they’re totally absurd too. He knows full well that I’m going to ignore them or work around them, I think. I do an excellent job overall and the success my team has has had within our organzation makes him look really good – so there’s no way he’d fire me (and especially not “in a heartbeat”) for trying to do a good job.

            BTW, I wish I worked in one of these industries where you can just fire competent, hardworking, dedicated people left and right and expect to easily find replacements.

            1. Joey*

              I find it hard to believe your boss is okay with you lying to him. Does he know you frequently tell him something’s done when its not? If he does I bet lying is weirdly accepted as part of the culture. It sort of sounds like you’re trying to confuse making judgement calls with attempting to pull a fast one on your boss and they’re really apples an oranges.

              I wouldn’t classify someone who habitually lies to me as competent and dedicated. For the record I would gladly fire in this case even though finding a replacement is going to be tough.

              1. Alano*

                I’m not saying it’s okay to lie. My original point was that if you catch a subordinate in a lie, you have to decide how serious it is. Yes, you have to punish people for lying – or even omitting the truth sometimes. But, as with everything in life, the law of diminishing returns applies. There is a point beyond which punishing people for trivial lies becomes counterproductive (and it’s especially counterproductive if the trivial lies are told with good intentions).

                If somebody is telling small lies because they’re trying to move work forward and keep the organization running, I wouldn’t punish them that harshly. If they’re lying because they’re trying to work around absurd decisions by people from the top, I would go easy on them.

                In order to make all these subtle judgment calls, you, as a manager, have to talk to the employee and figure out what was really going on in their head. If you just categorically say “they thought it was okay to lie, so they’re fired!” I think that’s poor management.

                1. Joey*

                  Of course you talk to the person. But if she says I didn’t want you to find out I forgot to do something that was important at the time that’s a big problem, no?

            2. Grace*

              I loathe lying in the workplace, but I think your point is valid. We don’t know the employee’s side of the story. Was it the end of the day? Was she rushing to childcare to pick up a child so that she didn’t get charged an extra $1 a minute for being late?The possibilities of why she might have not dropped off the FedEx package are endless. OP #1 won’t know unless she has that conversation. Asking for the employee’s side of the story, addressing how errors should be handled, and disciplining for lying can all be done in the same conversation.

              1. lindsay j*

                But then the employee needed to initiate that conversation, not just hide the fact that it didn’t get sent and hope that nobody found anything amiss.

                I would be much more sympathetic to the employee who texted me and said, “I know we needed that envelope mailed today but I had to run to pick up my kiddo at daycare on time and now FedEx is closed.”

                Or even, “Hey, you know that envelope that I was supposed to mail two days ago – well I just popped open my trunk up put my bags for vacation in and realized I must have forgotten to mail it because it’s still sitting there. I will send it ASAP and I’m really sorry.”

                Or even when asked about it, “OMG it must have slipped my mind I’m terribly sorry. ”

                Than somebody who either lied about sending it or lied by omission by not telling me it wasn’t sent. The onus is on the employee here to explain what happened and any mitigating circumstances up front, not on the boss to ask. The only thing the boss should have to ask in this situation is “How can we prevent this from happening again?”

                1. Grace*

                  I work in law. We FedEx and we email a PDF of the documents so that we’re covered. I don’t know why OP 1’s workplace doesn’t do same.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t see any evidence that any of the text messages were accusatory. It could easily have been something like “sorry to disturb you, what’s the tracking number on the package to headquarters”.

      It’s also not clear that the OP knew the package wasn’t urgent when she sent the initial request. She says it turned out that the package wasn’t urgent – that’s not the same as knowing all along that it wasn’t urgent.

      1. fposte*

        This discussion is reminding me a little of the prank post, in that I think some people are empathizing very strongly with the feelings of the employee who goofed here and are working from those strong feelings.

        But how you feel doesn’t excuse how you act. It doesn’t become okay for the staffer to be unreliable if she previously had a mean boss, or if the OP texted her peremptorily. Even if it means you understand how she *felt* in that case, the *action* is still a real problem.

      2. some1*

        If the employee knew the package wasn’t urgent, I would think she’d have less of a reason to cover her butt.

        “Argh! You know what, Jane? I was in a rush to get out Friday before my vacation that I just realized that the package never made it to FedEx and it’s still in my car. No worries, though, they aren’t expecting it until Xday so I will send it when I get back.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Alano, I agree with you.

      But I think the missing link here is the management style. We don’t know OPs style.

      We are familiar with Alison’s, fposte’s, Jamie’s thinking on various matters and we see how they have responded to many things over time.
      I think the wild cards here are the industry and the management style. Some arenas just seem to have nastier behaviors than other arenas. And some managers work very hard at creating a climate of success. That success includes being able to admit mistakes without fear of blow ups.
      In the supervising work I have done, I have point blank said “you make a mistake come tell me. The worst thing that will happen is that you have to fix it. If you don’t tell me, then we have a big problem.” I say this before anything happens. I can see where some managers would lay that ground work either by directly stating it or by living it.
      But I have worked with so many people suffering from toxic boss syndrome that I feel I need to state that upfront. And we see the toxic boss stories over and over here in this forum.

      In short, we don’t know a lot of background here. I think that makes me the most uncomfortable with this question. I just can’t jump to “okay, fire this person.” Although, I do agree in the course of collecting up facts dismissal could be deemed necessary.

  45. Mike*

    The FedEx lie just baffles me. I’ve made some pretty major mistakes and I’ve found the best thing to do is to fix it and admit it openly and to take responsibility for it. Doing this has yet to cause me any grief. Most of the time I don’t even hear back about it and when I do it is usually to clarify the details.

    For anyone curious the sequence usually goes something like this:
    * Find a mistake
    * Figure out scope and impact of it
    * Fix it if possible
    * Send out an email detailing the mistake, impact, and resolution with dates (if applicable) to the team and anyone who might be affected by it. If it was my mistake I take responsibility but if it was another person’s mistake I usually use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’
    * With the team discuss how to prevent it from happening again (if applicable).

    If the fix isn’t something that I can just do (either because of access or because the scope is beyond what I can justify doing on my own accord) then an email goes out to those affected letting them know about the problem while the team and manager is engaged to figure out the course of action.

  46. GiBurns*

    Hello, I am the writer of the “e-card” question. I am grateful for both Alison’s advice, and also for the feedback provided in the comments. As my interview is tomorrow, it sounds like I dodged a bullet. It has also been an eye-opener: I hadn’t realized how annoying people found these! Good to know….

    1. Mouse*

      Yeah…e cards kind of peaked in their popularity some time ago, and now many of them are fake cards that contain viruses. Many people won’t open them at all, if their spam filter even lets them through. Good luck on your interview tomorrow! And just send an email thank you afterwards!

  47. Gene*

    #3 is easy if wife isn’t exempt. Every time a text in the middle of the night wakes her, she needs to claim the overtime on her next timecard. Check to see if the workplace has a call-out policy; in my case, if I get called out for any amount of time, it’s a minimum 3 hours pay. I’m closest to the office (double-wide) and if the janitor forgest to set the alarm, I get a 3 hour OT bonus.

    1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

      It’s easy in theory, but good luck in practice…I’ve never worked for a place with a policy like that. It would end up being 5-minute increments for me and it wouldn’t be worth the headache of calling payroll and fighting to add two 5-minute blocks to my pay.

    2. doreen*

      My employer does have a recall policy- non-exempt employees get paid a minimum of four hours but only if they are physically return. They can put off-hours phone calls on their time sheet and get paid – but they generally don’t for short calls since nobody is watching to make sure they left at 4 and not at 3:55.

  48. Overkill*

    #1. We send clients’ checks overnight via UPS that must be invested within 24 hours. It’s a massive problem if we’re even a day late as it exposes us to lawsuits and compliance fines. There’s no way we would not address it here head on, and with documentation.

  49. Maggie*

    On #1: I’m new to the workforce and have a somewhat crazy boss who is prone to hysteria over very small things. My first couple months at the job, I was baffled at how to deal with it. I couldn’t reach the level of perfection that would be necessary to avoid the reprimands, and would get yelled at any time the tiniest mistake was admitted; or, for that matter, when I just didn’t do something he’s never told me to do. It was extremely demoralizing and I almost quit over it; I just couldn’t take the pressure. During those first couple months, I certainly did tell a number of lies (saying I’d made phone calls but no one answered when in fact I’d never made them at all, and saying that I’d already sent out letters which I in fact did send out the next day, just like this) when bracing for another browbeating, usually at like 9 o’clock at night before a project was due when I’d asked for feedback two weeks earlier. It “worked”, because I avoided getting yelled at, and at that point, that was honestly my primary goal. I can certainly see myself doing exactly what this employee did if I’d made an actual MISTAKE, rather than just failing to read his mind. I’d have been terrified!

    I’m not saying I, or she, did the right thing. Should I instead have taken the brow beating every time? Maybe. Should I have talked to him about the communication issues? Definitely, but it was my first job and I’d only been there a little while and had no idea how to raise this with him. Now that I have raised it with him, he hasn’t apologized, but he’s definitely dialed back the hysteria, which in turn means I haven’t really had those panicky moments that led up to me telling lies before. I’m now much more upfront with him. But talking to him took coaching from a mentor to figure out how to deal with the communication problem productively. It wasn’t something I knew how to do all by myself.

    I’d also note that I am a high performer, as evidenced by very good performance reviews by my supervisor (turns out he was mostly bluster, and was actually very happy with my work) and by reports about my performance from higher ups, as well as my objective outcomes. So I’m here as evidence that high performers can tell these kinds of lies.

    So before firing this person, I would DEFINITELY want the OP to examine if there’s anything in her relationship with this employee that might have prompted this. The lying is also a mistake, though obviously a bigger one than not sending a package, and may have been a very misplaced way of coping with a hard situation. That doesn’t mean that the employee shouldn’t have to rebuild trust, or shouldn’t be reprimanded. I’m totally horrified by my own behavior early in my job, and I’m very lucky nothing bad ever came of it in terms of outcomes. But I sacrificed my integrity in those brief moments because I had poor job communication skills, not because I am a fundamentally low performing, untrustworthy individual incapable of redemption. This employee might be the same.

          1. Colette*

            Trying to scam someone, for example.
            Also, trying to avoid consequences, not because you fear the person or the way they’d react, but because you’d rather get away with it.

            Excusing lying by assuming it’s fear based doesn’t do anyone any favors.

            1. fposte*

              I wonder if people are thinking of it kind of in bad guy/good guy (or them/us) terms, and thinking that if she lied because she was afraid, she’s not a bad guy/could be me.

              But, as people have noted in their own experience, good people like us screw up too, and the screwups still count. If I fired her–and I don’t know if I would or not, but I’m not ruling it out–it wouldn’t be as a punishment but because I need reliability, and therefore I’d move her out to bring somebody in who could be reliable where she couldn’t. This isn’t a lack of knowledge mistake that will be corrected simply by saying “Next time, use Times instead of Comic Sans”; this is personal behavioral tendency that I am not sure will change merely because I tell somebody lying to me is bad–because they already know that and they did it anyway.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a situation where firing should ever be a punishment. You fire someone when you’re convinced that they’re not the right person for the job, not to punish them.

                This is an issue I have with some of the response to yesterday’s post about pranks, calling for the prankster to be fired as punishment. You don’t fire as punishment. You fire because of your business needs. In this case, you’d be firing because you need someone trustworthy. (I suppose someone might argue that with the prankster, they’d be firing because they need someone with better judgment. I disagree with that though.)

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Can you expand on that?
                  I tend to think of pranks as a potential safety issue.

                  And the idea that firing is not punishment, has me curious. I have never heard anyone say that before.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  What I mean is that you don’t fire as a punitive measure (like grounding your kid). It’s not to give them a consequence for bad behavior. You fire because you’ve concluded that the person is not the right person for the job.

                3. Joey*

                  Its a business decision, not a personal one. The focus is on what’s best for the business. Making it a personal decision is making decisions on emotion which frequently doesn’t make a lot of business sense.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Exactly what Joey said. It’s not “I’m angry/upset/frustrated with this person” or “they need to be punished for this.”

                  It’s “I’ve concluded that this person doesn’t have the skills/judgment/integrity/soft skills/ability to take feedback/whatever to do the job at the level I need it done at.”

        1. Maggie*

          oh, yes, just to be clear, this employee might also be a horrible, low performing liar acting out of laziness and apathy, not inexperience, and the OP might be a totally amazing manager. Just pointing out from my personal experience that it’s not the only possible explanation, which is what AAM seemed to be suggesting.

          1. Grace*

            Why isn’t OP 1 having documents FedEx’d and a PDF emailed? I work in law and that’s what we do so that we’re covered.

  50. Simonthegrey*

    True story: I once worked in a warehouse for a company that manufactured a ride-on toy car for children. We did not manufacture on site. One Christmas season, we had recently switched our manufacturing plant from one Eastern state company to another. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we were told they were ramping production. We were sent models to show how the color and plastics were working out. Black Friday happened, and nowhere were these ride on toy cars to be found. People ordered them, but Target, Walmart, etc all had them on backstock. Our CEO contacted the plant; they insisted that items were being drop-shipped. We started getting angry contacts from people who had never received their toy. The manufacturers claimed that large snow storms were delaying their product for OTR transport. Our warehouse guys waited every day for the truck that was to deliver OUR share of these cars for distribution. The CEO and one of the production guys actually flew out East, where they were finally told that there WERE no ride on toy cars because there had been production problems. For literally a month, they had lied to the CEO about where these cars were. Fiasco.

    Once the cars started shipping out, pieces were missing from the boxes. As the warehouse generalist, it was my job to go through the complaints, and mail out missing parts. I had hundreds of these to do a day – pedals, end cap things, locking washers, steering wheels, etc. – and I was doing them alone. I got through everything that came to my inbox, but at some point, people stopped printing the complaint forms because there were just so many and I think they got overwhelmed, and everyone assumed someone else was taking care of it. The CEO thought I was then lying when I told him I was on top of complaints, but those complaints were not being delivered to me. I did not have access to the forms myself since I was only warehouse, not customer service. It ended up looking like I was lying when in fact the original situation was what caused the problem. I left the company not long after – on good terms – but they continued to do business with that manufacturer and the manufacturer continued to be deceptive.

    So…that’s my off-subject discussion of how that commitment of sticking to the lie can end up messing up a whole lot of toddler’s christmases.

  51. Mephyle*

    #1 I don’t think the employee has to be scolded or given a stern talking-to. I think OP has to deal with it by explaining to her explicitly something she doesn’t seem to have picked up on: that she’s not in school or at home any more, and OP is not her vice–principal or her parent. If she makes a mistake, the consequence is that whoever is best suited by their role in the company to fix the mistake or mitigate the damage is going to do it. For the good of the company.

    This is different from school or family, where the consequence of a mistake is that she is likely to get yelled at and punished. OP needs to make it clear to her that she doesn’t have reasons to lie. And follow through by dealing with her future mistakes as described, not by berating her – showing her that OP really means it when they tell her that the consequences of being untrustworthy will be worse than the consequences of any mistake she could make.

    1. fposte*

      I can’t tell if you’re saying fire her or not–I can’t figure out what other consequences you’d be referring to other than firing. Can you clarify?

      1. Mephyle*

        Disciplinary consequences – if not being fired, then getting onto a track toward firing, according to some process – x warnings (for x small), PIP, etc.

    2. Maggie*

      That seems appropriate to me. In my situation, it was becoming abundandly clear to me that the consequences of a mistake absolutely WERE being berated or yelled at, not for a mistake to be calmly fixed and then prevented in the future. I think that’s what led to me reacting much the way I would have as a teenager, honestly (as well as my bad judgment). Not every company functions in the healthy manner you describe.

      But yeah, obviously lying is a mistake you should be allowed to make only once, once this fact is calmly and rationally explained. I just think that the employee at least deserves some notice, a conversation, an investigation of her motives and reasons for doing what she did, and a chance to prove herself better before being summarily fired. I was frankly shocked to see AAM suggest that she should be fired without paying any attention to what led up to her decision to lie, when she’s usually so interested in looking at patterns of behavior.

  52. Brett*

    #1 Something I am very confused about here….

    The employee took the FedEx package with her on vacation?!

    Otherwise I don’t see how she could have dropped it off at a FedEx location an hour after being contacted about it by text while away on vacation. Makes far more sense that she contacted FedEx after receiving the text and FedEx found the package and put it into their system.

    1. The IT Manager*

      She was probably on vacation from work but still in town. Lots of people take PTO or even unpaid time off and have a staycation instead or redecorate their house or bond with their kids during their spring break.

    2. Brett*

      I wasn’t even thinking that she was out of town or in town. I was more thinking that if she didn’t take the package with her on vacation (in or out of town), she would have to sneak into office unnoticed and grab the package. If she was out of town, that makes the whole scenario even more strange.

      1. Grace*

        I work in law and we FedEx and we email a PDF of docs. The safeguard (PDF) has saved us many a time:weather delays/airport closures, clients who forgot to tell us that they moved and their new address and we sent it to their old address, locked gates, and misdelivery.

        1. bo bessi*

          Grace, that’s not always a viable option. We are an architecture firm that sends out proposals to win projects. A lot of the requests for proposals specifically say that email responses will not be accepted (and in some cases could disqualify you completely). Not to mention that our pdf file sizes are enormous. That leaves us with hand delivery or UPS.

          1. Grace*

            Bo, Thanks I am aware that it’s not a viable option for every industry to send a PDF. Alas, we don’t know OP 1’s business. I also wonder if this entire problem could have been avoided at OP 1’s workplace if they had a designated mail room person who handled all mail/packages/overnights.

  53. Emma*

    Also, without information about this employee’s previous background, and what exactly FedEx said, it makes me wonder…

    Are you sure FedEx isn’t the one lying? I’ve caught them in numerous lies/lies of omission before when using them. I can somewhat understand this – as if they do not deliver on time they typically have to refund your money (and that reflects on the driver/employee/etc).

    The details are fuzzy, and from what was written above, this still seems like a possibility. If I had honestly delivery the package, it was FedEx who was lying, and my boss blamed me I would avoid him/her like the plague too because I’d be angry and need time to calm down. And as mentioned before, the texting on vacation wouldn’t have helped my mood.

  54. Rev. (Church Pastor)*

    “…. I need to know that you’re committed to operating with full transparency and integrity from this point forward.”

    Question: How long is “this point forward?”
    In my line of work, I deal/work with a lot of people with character flaws, and lying is not the worst.

    Just asking, just saying.

    1. Joey*

      That’s pretty clear isn’t it? From now until you no longer work here.

      Nobody’s saying nothing’s worse than lying.

      1. Rev.*

        Most of the people I hire are former _______ (you fill in the blank), for various types of manual labor. “Full transparency and integrity” is mostly something I have to develop in a worker, not expect as a given.

        I get what you’re saying, though, Joey. It’s funny in a way, when you think about it, people with integrity issues represents job security for me.

  55. Cassie*

    Slightly off-topic re: #1 – I recently sent out a package through Fedex using our usual daily pick-up. We assumed the box was picked up (we checked the outgoing box about 30 minutes after the usual pick up time and it wasn’t there) but Fedex says they don’t have any record of it. I don’t think my student has any reason to think I’m lying about this (I send out boxes a couple of times a week and haven’t had any problems before) – but I can imagine someone wondering if I’m lying about this.
    I should mention that my knee-jerk reaction, when I realize I made a mistake, is to think of ways to cover it up – frequently involving some sort of elaborate lie. And then I remember that WHEN (not if) I get caught, I will end up being in 1000 times more trouble not just for making a mistake but for then lying about it.

  56. lindsay j*

    I’m a hard liner on liars. Maybe it’s from working in a cash handling facility for years, where if you lied to cover up your mistake it meant that somebody else was getting fired for an over/short (or at the very least you were damaging my department’s credibility when the fact that you lied came up in the internal auditing process or the union grievance case). I’ve fired people for various lies, covering up things that were nowhere near fireable offences on their own.

    My logic – you are an adult. You are in control of your actions. You know right from wrong. Lying was a choice you made of your own volition. Nobody held a gun to your head a Nbm d made you do anything other than coming clean about your mistake when I asked. And by making the choice to lie you’ve shown yourself to not have the judgment and integrity that I need you to have as an employee in my department.

    Sure, maybe they were scared, or didn’t think it was that big of a deal, or wherever. They can explain that to their friends, or their spouse, or their therapist, or the interviewer for their next job. Their reason for lying doesn’t matter to me, the fact that they lied does.

    (Note that I’m talking about provable, job related lies here – telling me that they didn’t hit something with the company vehicle when I have them on camera hitting it, getting out to check damage, and driving off without filing an incident report. Or telling me they didn’t leave the cart of money unattended when I witnessed it with my own eyes. I’m not talking about telling somebody they look nice today when they don’t, or telling me that you need off to go to your friend’s wedding when you’re really just going to sit at home and watch a football game. )

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