my assistant let us believe she has a key certification that she doesn’t actually have

A reader writes:

Last year, I hired an employee at the insistence of my boss. It was basically, “Good news, I was able to get the approval for you to hire an assistant. You really need to hire this person. By the way, she starts Monday.” My new assistant is a personal friend and past coworker of my boss. She wouldn’t have been my first choice, but by the time I knew, it was pretty much a done deal. Part of the reason that, in my boss’ eyes, she was so qualified for the position is because she had a certification very specific to our line of work. To earn this certification shows that you have a very clear and deep understanding of the concepts related to this work and can fully apply them to the job.

Having earned this certification myself and knowing what’s involved with getting it, I started to become suspicious when some of the things she told me didn’t line up. For instance, she doesn’t remember when she got it, there are a few different designations of certification you can earn and she can’t remember which one she got, and she doesn’t have a grasp on some of the basic concepts that would be almost second nature to someone who studied for and passed the test.

Recently, the society that administers the certifications added an online verification system that allows someone to check a person’s membership and certification status, and no surprise to me, there were no records found under her name. I confronted her about it, and she neither confirmed or denied, but instead was indignant that I didn’t trust her word and checked “behind her back.” I turned it over to the HR manager, who also spoke with her about it. She revealed to HR that some time ago in a conversation with my boss, this cert came up and somehow my boss assumed that she had it, and she never bothered to correct her assumptions. She claims that she never put this on her resume or application, and so therefore she didn’t get the job under false pretenses. The HR manager says that while her trust and credibility is destroyed, that yes, because she never claimed she had it on her application, she doesn’t feel I can take any disciplinary action against her.

The manner in which she was hired made the resume and application a formality, but I still say that by letting my boss believe she had this certification, she basically lied about her qualifications. In many companies that would be grounds for dismissal, and I think my company should do the same. Who is right here?

Without knowing exactly what was said between her and your boss, it’s hard to say for sure — but it certainly sounds like she was deceptive. “Not bothering to correct” someone’s incorrect assumptions about your qualifications, when those qualifications are central to the reason you’re being hired, is a pretty big deal. And then getting upset when confronted about it (and not even coming clean with you then) makes it worse.

HR is being silly here. Telling you that you’re stuck with an employee who they agree you can no longer trust is the mark of an HR department that has its priorities in the wrong place and that doesn’t understand that they’re there to serve the company and its managers, not to throw up road blocks.

You might point out to them that her hiring was a mistake — she was hired specifically because she had the certification and now that she doesn’t, you need to address it. In other words, if the person in the role needs to have the certification and she doesn’t, it’s reasonable to conclude that she doesn’t meet the requirements of the job after all and that you need to replace her with someone who does.

And even more to the point, if she needs to have a clear and deep understanding of particular concepts necessary to the work and does not in fact have that understanding (regardless of the certification issue), it’s reasonable to conclude that she doesn’t meet the requirements of the job after all and that you need to replace her with someone who does.

And make sure your boss knows about the situation too — she should know what she got you into. And if nothing else, don’t let her hire assistants for you in the future.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. nep*

    Just aside from the deception issue — I’d take it as quite a sign of professional disrespect to have my boss impose a personal friend as my assistant. Even were the person qualified and a good fit, seems to me there should be some communication about it at the very least.

    1. some1*

      Speaking as an admin I wouldn’t like that set-up, either. It’s not always possible to be interviewed by everyone you will support, but I’d at least want to have a real interview with the person I report to. A good fit goes both ways.

  2. Katie the Fed*

    You really need to get your own boss on board here. It sounds like she may have circumvented some hiring procedures herself by bringing in someone whose qualifications weren’t verified, right? Even then – why did you go to the HR manager and not loop in your boss about what you found?

    I wouldn’t want this person working for me either. Fine, she didn’t correct anyone’s assumptions. That’s dodgy, but whatever. But then getting indignant when questioned about it and trying to turn it around on you? That’s really questionable, unethical behavior. It also tells me she doesn’t really respect you as her boss – could this be because she knows YOUR boss has her back no matter what?

    1. AVP*

      Just the idea of “going behind [her] back” – that tells you you’re not dealing with a mature employee.

      1. some1*

        Or one with any kind of integrity. Classic manipulation: I’m not a liar; you’re a snoop set out on trying to destroy me. I’m the real victim!

        1. OriginalYup*

          Well spotted. “How dare you check up on my shady story? Don’t you trust me?!” (Erm, no.)

    2. Ani*

      Yes, I would say in response to H.R.’s objections that she didn’t put the certification on her application that she STILL refused to come clean (neither confirming nor denying) and became indignant when directly confronted by the OP, which is direct insubordination, aside from the issue of what was on her application.

    1. Robin*

      I’m not sure we should assume “conspiracy” when “incompetence” is just as likely.

    2. Adam*

      I’m not sure there’s any grand scheme here. The boss engaged in cronyism, which can suck but is fairly common. The employee at fault was opportunistic and not forthright, so I’d say she was the primary culprit. And HR just sounds disinterested or wishy washy. It really sounds more like a trifecta of lousy independent pieces converging into one big mess.

  3. money lady*

    “And if nothing else, don’t let her hire assistants for you in the future.”
    Not always doable. Our boss forces us to hire his friends and former co-workers. We have no choice in
    the matter. Frankly, some work out, but just as many do not. Our only recourse is to work elsewhere.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sometimes that is indeed the case. But other times, you could go to the boss and point out why you prefer to hire your own people, and have your boss get that (if only retroactively) and back off in the future.

  4. Taylor*

    It seems like she lied to the OP, pretty much directly. OP, it sounds like you asked her, directly, when she got the certification, and which certification she had, and she answered with “I’m not sure” or “I don’t remember”, when in fact the answer was “I didn’t get it”. Is that correct? That’s not an omission, it’s a lie. And regardless of the application stuff, lying to you should be a disciplinary issue all on it’s own. Can you talk to HR about disciplining her solely based on that?

    1. iseeshiny*

      Yes, this. It may not have been on any of her hiring information but she didn’t just allow you to believe she had it, she actively tried to make you think she had it. Big fat lie.

    2. Mints*

      Yeah, I think the line was crossed between omission and lying, too. If someone said a couple times “I’m glad you have that teapot certification. Those are hard to pass!” and the assistant kind of vaguely smiled and nodded, maybe it wouldn’t be dishonest. But, as I’m reading it, the OP asked “When did you get the certification?” “Was it the Alpha or Beta version?” and the assistant said “I don’t remember,” and that’s lying, and HR and boss should take a harder line

      1. Biff*

        I agree. This sentence is pretty damning: “For instance, she doesn’t remember when she got it, there are a few different designations of certification you can earn and she can’t remember which one she got, “

        1. Rachel Zane*

          I have a professional certification/license and although I have these secret fears that someone would think I was a fraud because I don’t seem to know something (and I swear to God I have no idea how the heck I passed, because I struggled durign the studying and had absolutely zero work experience in it–but by some miracle I did!) I could tell you every detail about where when how, even what i had for lunch the day I studied.

          I can’t imagine anyone who has any kind of certification/license that wouldn’t remember even a simple detail like WHICH one…..which leads me to wonder–
          did she really think this cert wasn’t necessary and was just being vague? I imagine–if someone wanted to be actively deceitful, they’d come up with some kind of story to have the details ready? and at the very least have *SOME* sort of knowledge about the concepts of said license?

          (I know this from watching Suits–swear I’m not a fraud).

          1. Chinook*

            “can’t imagine anyone who has any kind of certification/license that wouldn’t remember even a simple detail like WHICH one…..which leads me to wonder–
            did she really think this cert wasn’t necessary and was just being vague?”

            Umm…I hold teaching certificatin in two provinces and my name is listed on a third province’s role as having applied but let it lapse. I couldn’t tell you much off the top of my head except that Prov. A was permanent, Prov. B was grandfathered in to reflect it came from Prov. A and permanent and Prov. C’s was temporary because they wouldn’t recognize my work experience, previous certificates or university because they were all from a different province (Prov. C was NOT Quebec. I didn’t bother with that one). If you wanted more details, including when I applied and what name they are under (I got married and moved provinces), I would have to dig up the certificates.

            But, that being said, I know it looks fishy and would have no problem verifying for employers by showing them not only the certificates but the form that shows teh hours worked in each jurisdiction. I would be more suspicious of anyone who wasn’t willing to be questioned about their credentials because that is why they exist – to weed out the wanna-bes from those who actually have the skills/training/experience.

      2. KerryOwl*

        I disagree that your first scenario wouldn’t be dishonest. These are adults we’re talking about, not six-year olds. If someone says to your face that they assume you have a thing, and you do NOT have a thing and just smile blithely . . . I mean come on.

    3. Ani*

      Yep, all that plus also still refusing to come clean when finally confronted by the OP after the database search.

  5. BR*

    If your boss’ personal relationship prevents you from letting her go (which is what should happen), if it’s critical for someone in that position can she get certified?

  6. fposte*

    I lean toward hammering the last point Alison makes–that the assistant needs to have certification that this person doesn’t have–and sidestepping the lying thing, because that’s just going to get into a spiral of “I didn’t lie, you just assumed” with somebody who’s the boss’s pal. If the boss wants to move the uncertified assistant over to work directly for the boss in some other capacity, that’s the boss’s prerogative, but the OP needs an assistant with certification, and this person isn’t it.

    1. LAI*

      Actually, I’d rely on the lying as grounds for reprimand/dismissal rather than relying on the certification requirement. The OP just says that the certification was “part of the reason” why the boss thought the assistant was so qualified, so it doesn’t sound to me like the certification is actually a requirement of the job. And even if it were, the assistant could now go out and get the certification to become qualified, which wouldn’t suddenly make all the other issues disappear. If I were the OP, the deception and lying would still be a problem even if the person was otherwise qualified in every way to do the job.

      And as Taylor pointed out above, it does sound like that assistant lied to the OP, even if she didn’t lie to the boss or on her application or resume. If the OP asked when the assistant received her certification and the assistant answered “I don’t remember”, that sounds like a lie to me or at the very least, clear intent to deceive.

      1. fposte*

        I totally think it’s a lie. I’m just betting the assistant’s friend, the boss, isn’t likely to care and is likely to accept the assistant’s view that this was some wacky misunderstanding.

      2. Trixie*

        I would too but unfortunately I’ve had managers who instead will side with this new employee and say, we’ll let’s get her certified. Never mind that she lied about, he has a big thing about protecting those he thinks are being “attacked.” Needless to say, almost no one was ever fired. And if they were, they were usually invited back because eventually all is forgiven.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      I would go to the boss about this. The key point was that the employee had problems doing the work. As a result of the low performance, the OP then went and checked the certification status. The employee then lied about the status (I don’t remember and I don’t know what level). The OP then learned that the employee didn’t have the status.
      But the key point is that the OP found out about the lack of certification as a direct result of the employee not being able to perform the job. If the employee had been performing at the level needed the OP wouldn’t have checked the certification.

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree — I would go to the boss and let him know that while you are sure she is a lovely person, she doesn’t have the knowledge you need for the job and it is getting in the way of productivity. ‘I thought she had the Spout certification and when I noticed she didn’t seem to know how to do shape, test or paint the spouts, I asked her about it and she told me she didn’t remember where and when she was certified so I checked with Teapots International and they tell me she does not have the Spout certification. We need to have someone with this certification in this role for the role to be useful. I don’t know if you could move her to another location in the company that doesn’t require this expertise or if we should just let her go, but I really need an assistant who can get the job done.’

        And what a wimpy HR department. Saying ‘I don’t remember when’ is in fact lying. And most important of all, she can’t do the job so she should be gone.

        1. John*

          I like this. And it’s doing what OP needs to be doing, which is returning the problem to its creator. She has to be part of the solution. Will she really want to use her capital to back a worker who is both incompetent in her role and a demonstrated liar? It’s possible but pretty foolish. The boss liked this person and knew they needed a job; can’t imagine she knowingly signed up for years of trying to cover for her.

  7. lamehandle*

    I was thinking along the same lines as BR. Can the assistant be given a deadline to acquire the certification, and if unable to do so by that date is terminated?

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I wouldn’t even want to do that. The OP stated that this person is not that great an assistant. If she’s given a deadline to acquire the certification, and then somehow meets it, then the OP will be stuck.

      1. madge*

        Yes, and the OP knows that her assistant isn’t trustworthy and doesn’t respect her (OP) as her boss. This won’t be the only issue with assistant’s performance.

      2. Jennifer*

        But OP is probably stuck with her anyway because she’s the boss’s friend and HR doesn’t give a shit. If the lady isn’t going to get fired for lying about this, she’s firing-proof. The least she can damn do is at least GET the certification. Eventually.

  8. Brett*

    Is it typical in this line of work for an assistant to be certified? If not, then focusing on the lack of certification will go nowhere. You have to focus on the lying.

    1. some1*

      Good question. Monday morning quarterbacking here, but did you ask your boss why someone with the certification to do *your* job wanted to be your assistant”

    2. One of the Annes*

      For some reason, my mind jumped to paralegal or legal assistant. Someone who knows better can correct me, but I think that job is becoming one where most employers want to see a certification but it’s not necessarily a requirement.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    This person cannot be that much help to you if you have to stop and explain basics a lot, OP.

    I think I would put together all the talking points here and go to the boss with all of them. She doesn’t know the work, she does not have the quals, and she lied/covered up that fact. And then move on to insisting that it is in the company’s best interest for each candidate to be checked on that site to insure they have the certification they say they have.
    If you think that even if she gets the certification she still will not be a great employee, tell him why. If you can explain how it impacts HIM. Have your ducks in a row. Anticipate what he usually says on matters and have a reply ready.

    There is not much point to have an assistant that can’t do the job.

    1. Laura*

      This. Also, if there _is_ a job in the organization she would be qualified for based on her skills, keep it in the back of your mind. I would not recommend her for it generally, because she lied, and that’s never a valuable trait. But if you start getting pushback because he _is_ going to keep his friend employed, being able to say, “She wasn’t good at this, but I think she has the skills to be really excellent at *that*” might get you out of having her for an assistant, at least.

      I really don’t like that idea because it transfers a liar to someone else, but if it looks like she’s staying with the company no matter what, moving her into a position where she could do the work would be an improvement.

      1. Magda*

        I was going to suggest this as well, although I dislike it for the same reasons. It might allow OP’s boss to save face after making a bad call (deservedly or not is another question).

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I, too, like the idea of laying it all out there. The employee doesn’t have the qualifications and has been repeatedly dishonest about said qualifications. Definitely falls into the categories of “this person shouldn’t have been hired in the first place” AND “this person hasn’t proven themselves in the time they’ve been here.” Besides terminating employment, where do you go from there? Good grief, it’s a business, not a charity for the boss’s dishonest and unqualified friends.

  10. Brooke*

    I occasionally come to read these posts because of links I see on Twitter. I’m always curious what happens. Do you have a “where are they now?” section on your site? I’d love to know what happened after they send in their issue to you….

    1. Gene*

      Some provide updates, most don’t (or Alison gets the updates and keeps them to herself.) :-)

    2. Reader*

      There are updates under the categories section on the right. They are chronological as they are posted to the site.

  11. Gene*

    If you get pushback from either boss or HR on firing her now, give her specific jobs to do, don’t help her, and when she fails put her on a PIP. When she fails the PIP, fire her.

    1. anon*

      That’s really bad advice – it’ll reflect terribly on you as a manager.

      The suggestion is, however, a good illustration of how corruption/poor performance spreads: from bad hiring to bad HR response and now the suggestion of setting someone up for failure.

      1. Diane*

        I disagree. It is not setting someone up for failure to expect them to do the job they were hired to do. If she can’t do it, and if the OP can document her inability to do the job she’s assigned, then that is a legitimate use of a PIP and dismissal.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I agree. Give her the work you need the person in her role to do, don’t give her special handholding, put her on a PIP if she isn’t hitting the bar you need, and fire her if she can’t raise her performance. That’s reasonable.

      2. super anon*

        I would argue that it isn’t setting her up for failure as, if she had the proper certification and hadn’t lied about it, she would be able to do the assigned tasks without a problem. She set herself up for failure by lying to get the position in the first place.

    2. Mike B.*

      I take a dim view of using a PIP outside its intended purpose–to give someone a roadmap for improvement. If you give her a PIP but intend to let her fail, it’s a farce. (And that’s what the assistant will say, fairly, to the boss and to HR, who seem already inclined to take her side.)

      If she’s committed a firing offense, she should be fired; if she’s committed an offense she can recover from (which I don’t think she can), there needs to be a genuine effort to salvage her employment.

      1. Artemesia*

        In what world is a PIP NOT the first step in a firing. I have never seen someone handed a PIP when the intent was not getting ducks in a row for firing. Usually they happen after long experience with incompetence and are the last straw. Given the timid way HR is dealing here, what is needed is ‘procedure’ not a genuine desire to help this lying product of cronyism succeed.

        1. OhNo*

          I’ve never had firsthand experience with a PIP, but that does seem to be the way it is used. Employees seem to only be put on a PIP when they are already failing to meet the requirements of their job – the PIPs I’ve seen merely say, officially, here are the requirements. If you do not meet them by X date, then you will be fired.

          What Gene is suggesting isn’t “setting her up for failure” or creating a farce. The suggestion is just that OP should step back and say, “I’m not doing you job for you anymore, and I’m not going to help you with it.”

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          I will say, though, the thing about giving someone a PIP is that you should do it with every attitude that the person *may* follow through and turn themselves around.

          I still remember my most recent PIP recipient (two years ago). I worked with him to coach specific aspects where he was failing for about two weeks after PIPping him, specifically calling back to “this is what I was talking about in Section A, it’s better if you do…” and “excellent, you’ve almost got a handle on Section C in this one, I might have done X differently but that’s a matter of style.”

          He’s now one of the top employees in the organization. His new manager (I’ve been promoted into a different team) just promoted him and relied on the employee to help show him the ropes when joining.

          I was shocked — and pleased beyond all belief.

          1. Sal*

            I fear the employee who reported the lie may face the silent PIP.
            I can’t imagine someone who hires an incompetent friend has much integrity.

            Sometimes you should let stuff go, because you will be the one who pays.

          2. Mike B.*

            That’s indeed what I meant. I’ve also seen some problem employees marshal all their resources and become stars after being placed on PIPs. Yes, it’s a necessary step before firing, but that’s not because firing is inevitable and it’s a mere formality–if firing is inevitable, the employee should just be fired.

            But this isn’t a case where the employee is merely underperforming and could be coached. She’s underperforming and has room to improve, yes, but there’s also a matter of gross misconduct that calls her integrity into serious question. You can’t coach someone into being trustworthy.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              Fair point about the gross misconduct, although comments below make it look like the situation is working out.

  12. MK*

    Concerning whether not having the certification could be grounds for dismissal in and of itself, there is the fact that this is a new position. If I understand correctly, OP initialy didn’t have an assistant at all, then the position was created and the boss hired her buddy for it. Were the qualifications for the job even determined beforehand or did the boss tailor the requirements so that her friend would be qualified. Whatever happened, I can see this boss using the “well, you used to not have an assistant at all, so you are still better off with my not-certified pal than you were before” to brush this aside. Yes, it’s crappy logic, but if the boss helped this person at the expence of her professionalism, she isn’t going to be bothered by that. Also, the boss is now invested in this employee’s “success”; if the assistant is fired, either for being dishonest or unqualified, it reflects badly on the boss.

    1. some1*

      This. It sounds like the boss created a position because her friend needed it, not because the company or theLW needed it.

      1. AVP*

        If that’s the case I think my next steps would depend on how much babysitting the assistant required.

        If I didn’t strictly need an assistant and I could just ignore this person, or give them only very menial tasks, that might be the most painless way to go (although just knowing you work in a dysfunctional environment is grating enough). If the asst needs a lot of upkeep, though, and is giving the OP more work to do without contributing anything, that’s another tack she could take with HR or the manager.

  13. Darcie*

    If your boss won’t fire her and you’re stuck with her, at least really push for the company to pay for her to get the certification. So at least you’ll have something to work with, there.

  14. Cafe Au Lait*

    Is it possible for the company to pay for the certification this employee needs? While that seems to be rewarding bad behavior, now that the assistant is now _in_ this position, and you are in _need_ of someone with the certification(s).

    Tell her that you’re paying for the courses, and give a timeline. If Y certification in teapot design takes 6 months, tell her that she needs to have the certification in six months. When she doesn’t put in the work to get the certificate, then you are able to go back to your boss and say “We found out she didn’t have the certifications we wanted; we paid for the classes to get her to where we need her to be. She hasn’t put in the time/effort. I think it would be better to let her go and hire someone that already has the qualifications that we need.”

  15. Jon*

    I find it interesting that the post makes no mention of how well the person did their job over the last year. If the employee was unable to perform the required work I believe that would have been obvious from the beginning.

    Instead what were discussing is someone that had suspicions based on conversations not work performance. Bosses hire friends and people mislead interviewers all the time. I wonder if this person does their job perfectly well and the OP just does not get along with them.

    Either way it always sucks when you have to deal with such situations. So I have empathy for the OP I just think it’s probably to late to make a fuss and try to fire them.

    1. Onymouse*

      It said ” she doesn’t have a grasp on some of the basic concepts that would be almost second nature to someone who studied for and passed the test.” I assume those concepts would be important to doing the job well.

        1. Jon*

          Onymouse August 6, 2014 at 6:14 pm

          It said ” she doesn’t have a grasp on some of the basic concepts that would be almost second nature to someone who studied for and passed the test.” I assume those concepts would be important to doing the job well.

          You make my point. You assume it would be important.

          That is not actually stated in the OP. After working with someone for a year you learn a lot more about them then what they do in their day to day job. There is not clear indication that this person does not do their job well.

          1. OP*

            Jon, one can do this job well without the certification, but having the cert raises your level of understanding and knowledge so that you go beyond doing it just OK. The test material is based on curriculum from the organization combined with practical experience, which is assumed to be substantial. The closest analogy I can come up with would be an auto mechanic. There’s the guy who can change oil and belts and do minor repairs. Then there’s the ASE certified mechanic, who can not only rebuild your transmission, but also understands how it works and how all of the parts inter-connect with each other.

            My assistants work has been adequate, but not stellar as advertised. There have also been some comments here regarding my boss creating the position specifically for her friend and knowingly hiring someone who is not qualified. The topic of me having an assistant had been talked about before my boss started, but she was the one who closed the deal. Did she push it through a little harder with the thought of hiring her friend? I believe so. I also think that she honestly believed that her friend had the skills/experience that were claimed. I posted a bit of an update below, and part of the update is now that reality has set in for her (my boss) she’s withdrawing a lot of the support and blind cheerleading she once had.

            1. Jon*

              thanks for the update! I am also always trying to look at both sides of the picture. I’ll read your update when I get a break.

    2. Evergreen*

      This was my thought too: does the assistant *need* to have the same quals as the OP (in my industry this would be unheard of, but I may have misunderstood).

      I also wondered if the relationship between the two has soured because of the way the assistant was hired: the assistant’s response of ‘I’m upset you didn’t trust me’ could be immaturity, evasion, or indicative of upset at the relationship itself.

      Regardless, OP, I think you need to get out of here: your boss hiring your assistant without your input is a problem. Your boss hiring their friend without due process is a problem. If getting out isn’t an option, I think you need to separate your anger at your boss from your assistant’s ability to do the job you need her to do – if she can’t, treat that as you would with any other person.

  16. Apollo Warbucks*

    Her conduct is outrageous letting people believe that you have qualifications you don’t is dishonest and shows such a lack on integrity she deserves to be shown the door for that alone, but add in to that she is not even competent to do the job and keep g her on is a no brainier to me. I don’t know what your firm is thinking but seriously this should not be left alone, HR or management need to take some action.

    Depending on the industry or profession this is a massive deal. My field is heavily regulated to the extent that claiming to be qualified or undertaking work you’re not qualified or competent to do is a criminal matter and would lead to the firm I work for losing all sorts of accreditations that keep us in business, not to mention the lack of confidence our clients would have as a result. Such actions could bankrupt the firm!

  17. OP*

    Thanks for all of the great comments. A little background on this tale, when my boss started at the company 2 plus years ago, hiring my assistant was one of the first things she did. I suspect that she pushed for this addition in order to accommodate her friend. At the time, I didn’t know my boss well enough to know what her reaction would be if I pushed back, and my initial thought is that it wouldn’t be good. The important life lesson I’ve learned here is that if your gut is screaming that something like this is the wrong move, push back and don’t let it go without a fight. Her work has been mediocre, in that she is able to do what you would expect with someone having 2-3 years experience but not to the level I was expecting when she was hired. Many people here have said it sounds like she feels she can do what she wants because of her relationship with my boss, and they would be correct in that assumption. I don’t think that her getting the certification is the answer because of the lying about it, and frankly I don’t think she has what it takes to pass the test. I would love to get rid of her, but one of the things that my company does horribly wrong is that they simply don’t fire people! The HR manager is so afraid of potential lawsuits that she would rather transfer problems than get rid of them. Yes, this is stupid and wrong, and it is at the root of a lot of issues at my company, but it’s that way it is.

    However, in the few weeks since I’ve written this to Allison, the have been a few turn of events. I did tell my boss the entire story, and at first there was heavy denial (I think she was embarrassed because she got played) but once reality set it, there was a shift in “favor” towards my assistant, and I am starting to feel that I can finally manage this person the way I should. Another thing is that a few days after this came out, she was heard to rave on about another department calling them stupid and lazy. With my new-found power, I was able to give her a written warning and a 1-day suspension. All disciplinary actions of this level are reviewed by the CEO, and in the course of this review, her lack of certs and lying about it were brought up. She was furious, but not enough to let me fire her (again, we simply don’t fire people). However, she is big on making sure people get paid and are in the correct classification based on what they are capable of. She asked for an assessment of her capabilities, and upon finding that she couldn’t perform the duties at her pay level, she bumped her down 2 levels and reduced her pay considerably. She also reprimanded my boss for letting it get to this point in the first place. She (CEO) also had me develop a PIP for her and told me to “keep her on a very short leash”. Top this all off with my boss’ announcement that she will be retiring at the end of the year, and I see the door closing for this person within a few months.

    1. Onymouse*

      Thanks for the update! It’s certainly an interesting turn of events.

      (Also, I’m not surprised, but am I correct in reading that this was sent to AAM a few weeks ago? AAM has a multi-week backlog now. Wow! This site is really taking off)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually have a multi-month backlog and have for a while! Not everything gets answered, and some things get answered in days while others take longer — but I definitely have letters from as much as a few months back sitting in my in-box that I want to answer at some point. (I don’t answer in order of arrival; I pick based on some combination of mood and what I think will interest people.)

        1. FatBigot*

          Is there any way that we can know whether a letter we’ve written is in the queue, or will never be answered and needs to be raised in the Friday open thread for any chance of discussion ?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You can always ask! I’m usually able to tell you if it’s one I have in the “plan to answer this” pile or if it’s probably not going to be published.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Wow. While it’s nice that things are going your way, it’s annoying that it’s working out in a really round about manner. Instead of being able to fire this woman for lying, you had to catch her messing something else up for which you could reprimand her. On top of that, the CEO won’t fire her so now you have to wait until she leaves due to lower pay and no longer having a strongman in management. I’m happy and also extremely frustrated for you at the same time.

    3. Mike B.*

      I’ve read this update like five or six times now. So satisfying.

      I’d have preferred to see her summarily fired for the deception, as I’m sure you would as well, but a demotion plus a PIP plus the loss of her high-level protector gets the job done more than adequately.

      1. OP*

        Yes, I wish this whole thing could have been handled the way a normal company would handle it, but in a warped kind of way, it will be fun to watch her twist in the wind until she’s gone. I predict that she will quit before a) my boss retires and b) I finally have enough ammo against her that HR has no choice but to let her go. The fact that today I relieved her of some of her tasks and assigned them to another person she feels is clearly below her may hasten that departure. When I told my boss the plan, her response was, “Well, you have to do what you have to do.” A month ago it would have been “Absolutely not!”

  18. Sarah*

    This whole “my boss forced an assistant on me” scenario reminds me of my dad. His boss was sleeping with his assistant and when his wife found out he moved his assistant to my dad’s department. My dad was very happy with his current assistant and tried to talk his boss out of the change. However boss went forward anyways, I believe his exact words were ” I’m not asking you, I’m telling you”. So my dad ended up with boss’s former assistant and a few day’s later boss’s wife storms into my dad’s department and gets in a huge fight with boss’s former assistant. Apparently there was a stapler thrown.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      25 years ago, when I was an admin assistant to an SVP, I had been trying to hire an assistant myself for a month and my boss was nixing them all.

      I came back from a week’s vacation to discover that my boss had hired me an assistant … a waitress he met while eating at Denny’s. Then, he cut her all kinds of slack and basically wouldn’t let me direct her or expect her to do any of my work at all. I suspect he was sleeping with her (although I don’t know for sure, I did find out he was sleeping with *my* predecessor and he had kind of come on to me early on, but it was subtle and I had shut him down immediately).

      This went on for about eight weeks with her being useless and insubordinate until I told my boss that I was leaving, and that my lack of an assistant, coupled with the additional work I was now doing due to the new “assistant” was the reason why. He attempted to bargain but at that point I had had enough.

      Now I remember that as a cautionary tale when people try recommending friends, and I always ask specifically whether they had previously worked together and never give a “just the formalities” interview.

  19. Jill*

    OP, I’m glad you pushed back!
    I was going to point out that keeping the employee on without certification could mean legal problems for the company. For example, I’m an accountant….when it comes to signing off on an audit, only a CPA can do so. Because so many people (investors, owners, lenders etc) may rely on the audit, if someone lied about their CPA credentials, the company could be liable if people relied on an audit that wasn’t properly certified. I don’t know if lack of credentials = legal liability for OP’s company but in general, this is something to keep in mind.

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