update about the employee who added the F-word to a client form

Remember the letter-writer last week who discovered that one of her employees had added profanity to a client form? (first update in the comments here) Here’s a new update.

After finding out about this, I immediately printed all new forms and confiscated the old ones, and went through the saved documents word by word. Lo and behold, there were several more documents with similar profane additions, so while this one bad word referenced in my first question to Alison wasn’t saved, the others led me pretty clearly to the culprit, based on time punches and staff schedules. I didn’t find hard copies of any of the others that were actually saved in the office.

The employee was let go immediately, after being confronted and confessing that she did it as a joke and she didn’t think it would actually be given out (flimsy, it was printed and mixed in with others that were not edited that she knew were being handed out). I think there is another employee who knew about it and didn’t say anything who I’m watching more closely. Afterwards, I talked with all of the employees, following Alison’s advice, and impressed upon them how horrified I was to find this. We had a good talk about professionalism, trust, and reputation, and of course everyone knows/agreed this was not okay.

And lastly, I got the increase in my IT budget that I’d been requesting for a while.

{ 63 comments… read them below }

    1. businesslady*

      yeah, impressive–& a nice object lesson in following through on a problem until you’re able to resolve it (vs. saving yourself to time by telling yourself it’s a one-time thing). I’m so happy this worked out!

  1. Celeste*

    Excellent update, and wow you got to the bottom of it fast! Kind of a silver lining with your IT budget approval, too. Well done!!!

  2. Sunflower*

    Hoping the employee who was fired has learned a lesson in this too. Never mess with a document or form that is going to leave the office. I still find the whole prank to be a little odd as even if it didn’t go awry and stayed inside the office, I’m not sure it would have warranted many laughs anyway

    1. Celeste*

      Yeah, I’m just not seeing the joke here. I think that excuse was a sham to avoid having to talk about anger/boredom…because you just don’t act like that when you’re happy on the job. This is why I felt it had to be somebody whose negative feelings would make them care enough to go out of their way to be hostile like this.

      1. Koko*

        You hit it on the head. This was no joke, it was a demoralized employee lashing out in frustration.

      2. fposte*

        “It was a joke” is to the workplace what “It was a social experiment” is to the Internet.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Definitely. I’m not seeing a joke here or this as a funny prank.

      Either way, it sends a clear message that this behavior won’t be tolerated.

  3. The Real Ash*

    Now IT workers who can’t get their budgets increased have an example to follow. ;)

  4. Interviewer*

    I love this update – it arrived so quickly! And it contained all the right notes: tracking down the actual culprit with the added bonus of a possible conspirator, a message to the staff that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated, and a happy ending for the IT budget. Congrats!

    1. fposte*

      That spelling seems to be a bit of a trope if you look around the internet–maybe she was going for that.

  5. Apollo Warbucks*

    Great update it’s good to see a positive result out of this. I wondered if the employee that wa sacked was working their for long and if the op was surprised by who changed the letter. I’m sure after such a firm message that the behaviour was unacceptable and will not be tolerated, it will not happen again.

  6. Jamie*

    And lastly, I got the increase in my IT budget that I’d been requesting for a while.

    And that’s how you allocate resources, people!

    I just want to give someone a hug right now.

    Great update and I knew there would be more!

    The one who knew about it and didn’t say anything, I’m curious to know what her response was to being confronted with this?

  7. SRMJ*

    What was she hoping for with slipping those altered forms in there? Stir up some excitement around the office? Was she like a spy from a competitor, sent to ruin this place’s reputation for professionalism? Was she so resentful of her job she thought she’d be pulling one over on her employers and demonstrating her cleverness to herself with this ‘joke’?

    Seriously, it’s the thought processes behind these people’s actions that I always find the most fascinating. Followed closely by how best to deal with them!

      1. SRMJ*

        Oh, for sure – I mean how best to deal with them in general, not only in a work setting. I can’t imagine a sufficient explanation for this, unless it’s like undiagnosed brain tumor or surprise TBI or something like that.

      2. Observer*

        Sure. The idea is not to put someone one a PIP, but how do spot this kind of thing? What can you prevent it? How do you know if the problem is just the person, or within the organization?

  8. Sarah*

    So when you fired her, did you tell her “Say goodbye to your fucken job?”

    Sorry, I can’t resist. :)

  9. AndersonDarling*

    Thank goodness the OP checked all the other forms. Wow! That employee was really determined to sabotage to office.

  10. BadPlanning*

    Thanks for following up, OP. Are you going to give the other suspicious employee a chance to confess (A “come forward now and you won’t be fired” option)? Or did you already do that? I guess you’d have to decide whether a “better late than never” confession is okay for your business or not.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I think in this situation the OP is taking the best course of action with watching this other staff member closely and seeing if there seems to be issues.

      In my opinion if someone knew about this “joke” and didn’t say anything or attempt to stop it from happening, there’s other issues that will come to light.

      I do think staff should have been asked if they knew about it but of course one could lie and say they had no idea about it.

      1. the invisible one*

        There are lots of reasons for not speaking up when you see something inappropriate, and a lot of them do not involve agreeing with it or thinking it’s funny.

        Fear of retribution by the “prankster” for one.

        1. KrisL*

          I agree with the invisible one. Of course the co-worker should have spoken up – this could have really made the company look bad, but people get the idea that they can’t be “tattle tales” or that the prankster will prank them next…

          1. Canadamber*

            Yeah, like maybe this person was worried that if they spoke up, she’d slash their tires next. Or maybe she was their ride home, or maybe they’re neighbours, or their kids are friends. If they were unable to speak up before, though, maybe they feel that now the situation’s resolved they don’t need to.

            1. Jessa*

              Or they’ve been in prior jobs where speaking up gets you in hot water with the upper echelon friends of the “prankster,” and they don’t feel safe reporting it.

  11. Rebecca*

    Thanks for the update! Glad you were able to find the culprit quickly and take care of the situation.

    I hope that the possible conspirator has learned a lesson and you won’t have any future problems.

  12. Gene*

    More than one person has deliberately or accidentally left the ‘l’ out of something that refers to our department, Public Works. Sadly, it’s something the spellcheck won’t catch.

    1. Case if the Mondays*

      You can edit your spell checker to suit you. I tell it to unlearn words that I need to catch. An attorney once filed a pleading where the word “count” was missing the o in several places.

    2. KellyK*

      Spell check can be taught to catch things like that, at least in Word. The exclude dictionary is your friend.

      1. Yuu*

        Yes, more specifically you could add to your dictionary to autocorrect pubic works -> public works

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Right, and honestly, how often do you need to write “pubic” in your work at the Public Works Department? Just go ahead and teach the computer to autocorrect “pubic” to “public.” You can do that with “count” in Case if the Mondays’ example too.

          I’ve seen the “public” issue come up in a lot of legal briefs when parties were trying to talk about public forums, public advocates, public places… you get the idea.

    3. Liz*

      After a series of unfortunate typos in a junior-high essay, I got myself in the habit of doing a global search for “pubic” in everything I write.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I once submitted an essay with the phrase “genital ride” rather than “gentle ride” when talking about an amusement park, it was such am epic fail.

    4. Josh S*

      The truly, TRULY devious and creative person will get their way into another person’s account, mess with the autocorrect so that, say, “Friday” gets replaced with “Fuken” and walks away. If the owner of the account doesn’t pay close attention, they end up the culprit.

      Also, this is a really good April Fools Day prank to do with common words.

    5. Laura*

      We had a product I was involved with at work at one point whose name involved a portion that was one letter off from an unfortunate slang term. One letter that appeared earlier in the word and had only to be added to the end.

      …yeah. I managed not to email anything referencing it, but it was VERY CLOSE a couple times. And thus I turned on the “delay send” feature in my email.

  13. Anonymous*

    I wonder how this individual is going to explain the firing in the next job interview!

    1. JoAnna*

      Next week on the blog: “Dear AAM, I was fired from my last job because I added expletives to official forms. How do I explain this in my next job interview?”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      “I was fired for spending my free time in the office doing creative writing and my mean boss didn’t like it”

  14. Mimmy*

    I’m impressed!! So glad to see this was resolved quickly. Also, congrats on the bump in the IT budget!

  15. Artemesia*

    Yowza. Now there is someone who actually managed. All enduring workplace problems are a failure of management; you are someone who showed how it is done. Kudos.

  16. Not So NewReader*

    I am really impressed with how you handled every part of this solution, OP. Good response!

    And I am baffled, how could anyone think that this was funny. I wondered if she laughed at being fired, too. I hope her partner in crime straightens out.

  17. Sunshine DC*

    Regarding #1 – What if the OP sent this company an invoice for her time in filling out these forms?!

  18. The Maple Teacup*

    Wow. Mixing Fuken outgoing papers and manipulating electronic copies is not a sign of mere unprofessional behaviour. I see it as a malicious attempt to sabotage the company. Screw you Chocolate Teapots Incorporated!!!

    Good job addressing the group about culture expectations. And bravo all around to the OP.

  19. anon-2*

    OK – but will there be accountability in the future?

    Can this happen again? That’s what’s important…

Comments are closed.