4 updates from readers

Here are four more updates from letter-writers who had their questions answered here this year.

1. How to respond to an anonymous note that says a temp is stealing

Unfortunately my update is not all that exciting. The person who was accused of stealing resigned a few months after my letter, entirely voluntarily. We hired a new admin who controls all of the receipts, and at my request I was able to hand off all purchasing to that person. We never got to the bottom of who sent those emails. I have my guesses, but no concrete evidence. As far as I know, no further anonymous emails have been sent.

One product indirectly related has been HR doing a lot more to try and fix some of the toxic work environment. The anonymous emails were more likely a product of some bad chemistry in the office, and there have been efforts to clean it up. It’s not perfect yet, but it has gotten better. But being saddled with the knowledge that there might be an anonymous person falsely accusing people of things, in my opinion, was much more indicative of a bigger internal problem.

Either way, sorry there is no concrete conclusion – but know that and a few other incidents have caused HR to try and help fix some of the chemistry internally.

2. How to reward an exceptional employee (#2 at the link)

I did take much of the advice to heart. Was she going to burn out? Was there professional development that I should be encouraging? Were the rewards not appropriate thank-you’s?

Exceptional employee continues to be exceptional.

I got budget approval and hiring approval for a part-time assistant for her. That position will start in January.

I was able to find the money and approval for her to attend a national conference important in our field next summer.

I was able to offload some interesting projects from my desk onto hers. She is still exceeding expectations.

I took back a responsibility that she mentioned that she found onerous (I had no problem and when things ease up, I will have her give it another try)

There have been no more giving of power bars or swag as I haven’t been to COSTCO and there is no more swag.

She will receive a merit raise next May.

3. Applying for a job with someone you previously interviewed with (#4 at the link)

I realize this is from 2012, but it has taken a while to work out. I left my job in December 2012 after filing a group harassment grievance against my supervisor. I have since received trauma counseling (clearly I could have written you many many times!). I ended up getting a part time job at the nonprofit I mentioned, which was given to me without an interview based on our previous encounters.

The former classmate interviewed for my similar position and was unsuccessful in being hired from the candidate pool. I went back to front line child protection in fall of 2013 when my hours were cut to four per week at the non profit. The previous classmate managed to get on in my division a few months ago.

I’m happy to say that while I have a very stressful job I have generous benefits ($73k plus 6 weeks PTO and overtime if wanted).

4. My coworker is making hateful comments about a foreign country (#1 at the link)

I wrote in about the radical coworker concerned about his home country. Well, fortunately, the outlandish comments and posts have died down, especially with all the new crises and problems going on. I did my part, and printed out and shared some of his posts with my boss, and that’s as far as it went. The concerned employees no longer feel he’s a threat to the office. (In fact, there’s another employee who has been having his own meltdowns, but that’s a story for another post.)

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. Sarah*

    #2—Are you sure you don’t have a crush on your employee? You are absolutely gushing and you make some of us worry about how you are treating other coworkers or direct reports. Yes, there are shining stars but, this person seems a little too perfect. Give this girl a break but, not a trip to Europe, all expenses paid, with extra spending money, and her own personal valet!

    1. Maggie*

      “you make some of us worry about how you are treating other coworkers or direct reports”

      Speak for yourself. If I was stellar, I wouldn’t mind being courted at all.

  2. OP#2*

    So my question- is your response to the update trolling? It was a little snarky. There is nothing un- professional in this relationship. We are encouraged in this forum to take the information at face value.
    To recap- this is an employee who is performing exceptionally well. Exceeded expectations since day one. Is qualified for the position. Hit the ground running after relocating from another state in the middle of a polar vortex, walking into a toxic environment created by the departmental assistant. Assistant on PIP. New employee navigated the situation professionally without being sucked into departmental and interdepartmental gossip including having to do her own documentation of the department assistant’s unacceptable behavior. Departmental Assistant finally left. Exceptional employee had to assume most of the duties in addition to her own as new job descriptions and budget lines were approved. Two of my department had been poached (to better positions, can’t argue with that) to other departments and we were short staffed. I was not available to her as much as I would have liked due to work travel, seemingly endless confidential HR meetings and a health crisis of my own that put me on FMLA leave August, September. She was acting manager in my absence. During that time we had 3 big public facing events as well as a huge project to complete on deadline.

    In this forum, (which I read obsessively during the performance management nightmare and medical leave) we hear how workers are overburdened, resentful about lack of compensation and appreciation by their oblivious managers. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing an opportunity.

    And this is how fluid work-life is…my supervisor just approved a really cool high- profile cross divisional project. I am project manager, so exceptional employee just got back the responsibility that I had taken over. She took the “give back” graciously. (by that I mean no sighing, eye rolling, “you promised”)

    All the employees in my department (and a few others…we like visitors) benefitted from the “healthy snack availability” All the employees in my department have enjoyed the “team jackets” as it can be a crisp 50 degrees in one of our work areas. (and look rather sharp in them)

    Holy Hannukah Balls! I can’t imagine the flack that will rain down, when you hear that the husband has gifted my department a Keurig in the belief that since we spend the majority of the day at work, our quality of life might as well be excellent. (Everyone will be responsible for their own coffee supply)

    One of my team is leaving (for an amazing position) and I took the group out to lunch on Thursday. It was fun to sit back and hear them tease each other and me. It has been a horrible year for me professionally and personally (they are unaware of most of it) and I can honestly say the bright lights have been the arrival of the 3 new team members over the past year. I am fortunate to do the work I love, have recognized competency and to able to enjoy the people who join me in our endeavors. If this seems to be gushing, then yes, I gush.

    1. A Teacher*

      I’m glad you have a good team that works for you now. It’s awesome when there is a go to shining star for both the Bos and other employees especially if she is humble about how good she actually is. Don’t let one commenter ruin your ability to give a good update. I hope the new year brings better things your way, happy holidays.

    2. reader*

      It’s all about context. The initial posting and this one also had me wondering about what Sarah said above. You said she was exceptional without explaining how. You are also now saying some of the gifts were something everyone got not just her. So now it all makes much more sense.

      1. JB*

        I think it may have to do with your context, meaning the context of the reader. I didn’t think she was gushing or too effusive. I have had work experiences where having a superstar employee made my work life immeasurably better, and I was so worried that the employee would leave because I wasn’t doing enough to keep her happy. And I know how unappreciated I have been in some past jobs until I said I was leaving. If you are having a rough time personally or professionally, having truly superstar employees can make your life so, so much better. If I had the money to pay off my secretary’s mortgage, I’d want to, that’s how much she makes me work life better. So I totally get it.

        1. fposte*

          Agreed. It’s really exciting to have good employees, and I gush about mine all the time. Probably more than I would about somebody I have a crush on–crushees don’t make your life easier.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I spend a lot of time thinking about how to keep my valuable employees engaged and motivated. I’m in a position where the only thing I’m limited by is math. Our profit as percent of sales is only X% in a competitive market, therefore I only have so much $, so I can’t pay everybody huge salaries. I can’t just “solve everything” with money. I can do pretty much anything I want though, so I have bonus pools, I work to make sure that best people are doing work that they enjoy and that we’re working in a way that’s energized and focused and makes people feel good to come to work.

      That doesn’t just happen. A lot of thought goes into it.

      I work with amazing people. I love my team. I love the owners of our business. I love my industry and I love what I do.

      I’m a gusher also! :)

    4. Sarkywoman*

      I’ll also admit to being a little surprised at your passionate support for this employee, but then I am British. As you say, many of the posts in here describe under-appreciation so it is surprising to hear from the other end of the spectrum. It isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but unusual enough that it might give some of us pause. I don’t think it’s fair to accuse Sarah of trolling or even being snarky. She was just advising – as I think I recall people doing on the previous letter – not to overdo it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Gosh. I have a boss that gushes about my contribution. I never once thought she had a crush on me. Sometimes an employee walks into a setting and is just able to get a good read on what is going on. That employee then is able to act in a manner that hits the target most of the time.
          Combine that with a boss who is having difficulties and chooses to carry an “attitude of gratitude” through their difficulties and you get the boss that we see here.
          My boss had some rough things going on in her job when I came along. Instead of choosing to be an angry person, she chose to focus on what we were able to fix and get it running correctly. And she chose to be grateful/celebrate that. All that does is make me want to try harder and accomplish more. Probably OP’s employee feels the same way. It’s amazing how attitude feeds in a circular manner.

          1. JB*

            “It’s amazing how attitude feeds in a circular manner.”

            You are so right on with that comment. The secretary I adore for making my working life better feels the same toward me because her last boss was a nightmare. I’m not a great manager (though improving thanks to this blog and other sources), but I’m decent and trying to be better, and I appreciate her. That is such a difference from her last job that she thinks I’m the best, when really I’m just adequate.

        2. B*

          I think Sarkywoman and Elizabeth West are right and it was a cultural thing. I’m British too and I thought the crush question was perfectly reasonable. Makes more sense if you think of it as a cultural difference though.

          Sarkywoman your first line cracked me up :)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I agree with JB–Sarah’s crush comment did come off as snarky. As I’m sure you’re aware, Americans are on the whole more gushy than Brits. It’s not that unusual here, though it may raise a few eyebrows there.

    5. Hooptie*

      Good for you OP#2 – I love my boss but it sounds like you are someone I would really appreciate working with. Far too often we hear about how people are taken for granted. You really seem to care about your staff and more importantly, you let them know how valued they are. Let the haters hate and just keep on keeping on!

    1. OP1*

      That’s me – I have to admit things have gotten better. I would say, as I did above, that the anonymous emails were a symptom of something larger. I’d think it’s extremely unlikely that these sort of emails are isolated incidents. I have to give kudos to the company for really trying to address the larger issues head-on.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        Woot! Its such a relief when those with the power to do so actually try to correct a situation.

  3. Sarah*

    Bah Hum Bug to me!

    I’m not a troll. A bitter, underpaid, and overworked corporate worker bee but, not a troll. I read and post to this wonderful blog everyday (almost).

    Happy Holidays to all!

    1. OP2*


      My wishes for you are that you find work that you love, a mentor with your best wishes at heart, a live able wage and good health. Please forgive me for name calling .

      Truly , there have been times when that was me. And as long as I am wishing…I wish someone would give you an all expense paid trip to Europe. I don’t know what a valet is(like a butler in Downton Abbey or is it the servant who helps get you dressed?). But if it was in power to give you one, I would.

  4. OP2*

    That said…it’s not all flowers and sausages….re: long ….year and 1/2 PIP with employee who was a manipulative liar who wept profusely when any uncompleted task was brought to her attention. We are in a public facing educational environment so there are moments of high stress. All of my staff are very young( I train them and they move up and out in a two years or so. Ms.Deadwood was here for 6 years. )

    I know everyone is dying to hear a negative for Exceptional Employee….here it is…she hates to apologize. Our department’s reputation with stakeholders was/is in the toilet (Blame can be put squarely on Ms. Deadwood’s shoulders and I have the email chains to substantiate…and the previous manager who believed everything that Ms. D. said without questioning). That said copious apologizing and cleanup over the last 4 months.

    Exceptional Employee has needed to be reminded that “I am sorry you feel that way”. And ” that wasn’t my error” are not apologies and we need to stick to the script….acknowledging the bad experience and going to any lengths to rectify quickly. Some of these relationships go back 3o years and we need to mend fences as well as do great work in the future.

    And yes Anon Accountant, I have expressed my appreciation to the administration for their support. Our HR director is retiring , I will miss her terribly. I probably would have quit if she hadn’t been coaching me through this process.

    1. Boo*

      Actually that’s interesting. I think most advice I’ve read over the years is to apologise less in the workplace, particularly for things which aren’t my fault (and particularly as a woman, when we tend to preface statements or requests with “sorry, but…”) and I can also appreciate that knowing as she must that she is a top performer and none of this is her fault, it must be a little galling to apologise.

      Now if she has an issue apologising for things which are her fault, well then that is a problem.

  5. misspiggy*

    I just want to say, OP2, that I hope your bosses are thinking about how to encourage and retain you, because you sound like someone who should also be appreciated for working so hard to hold things together under trying circumstances.

  6. OP#2*

    Miss Piggy, Those following this saga should note that I am an East Coast transplant to the mid-west. This is obvious to the natives from my effusive style (the UK poster would understand their reticence) I receive no verbal or written feedback from my supervisor with the exception of yearly performance reviews (in writing, I am deemed “meets expectations” Nothing verbally) For the most part I assume she is happy with my work as I hear nothing negative and my budget, my hiring plans, and projects have all been approved in a timely manner. (For a state institution- no foot dragging or lets see down the road. )

    I feel fortunate to be part of this community not the least that when I hear troubles shared, it reiterates how fortunate I have been to land here.

    I may share my personal issues tomorrow as I have loved hearing vacation plans as well as life issues.

    1. SystemsLady*

      I’m in the Midwest and have never been given a review in almost two years of work. My boss just says “well done” every once in a while. The raises and bonuses come in with no fanfare on our anniversary month/end of fiscal year and mid-December (we don’t even get a “you’re getting one” notice for the raise).

      But I say this to note that this has nothing to do with “Midwest culture” – my boss is just pretty bad at the managing part of his job. He is overly hands-off. Almost all of my fellow Midwestern employees are annoyed by the lack of useful feedback and having to gauge how we’re getting projects done and organized for ourselves.

      Anyway, you might want to at least try asking your supervisors for more frequent feedback, assuming you want some, and set up occasional meetings to talk about the work with your employees instead of just assuming it’s the culture. My two cents.

      (My situation is getting better – my boss has been promoted to a more customer-focused position and they’re in the process of finding somebody to take the managerial duties off his shoulders.)

  7. Looby*

    I’d be interested in hearing how Exceptional Employee gets along with their colleagues and if all these “rewards” are resented at all. Do other employees get rewards for their good work or do they just get compared to Exceptional and come up short? We have our own EE in our office; came along when help was needed and caught on to the work very quickly and became the boss’ golden child – special projects, rewards etc. The bosses love him because of his enthusiasm; his colleagues think he’s a giant twatface, so just be careful that all these rewards aren’t causing an environment of resentment.

    1. Clever Name*

      Ah yes. The Tall Poppy Syndrome. Don’t be too excellent at your job; others may resent you. BTDT

    2. HR Manager*

      I have no problems with other employees seeing a clearly exceptional employee get rewarded. At least they know why! If they want similar rewards, then be just as good at their jobs. I think it’s a good thing for other employees to be able to tie rewards to strong performance, rather than an environment where everything is hush or, even worse, not done or not said. I’d rather employees not assume everyone gets a 3%, regardless if you are great or a slacker.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      The Exceptional Employee is generally not too concerned as to how he/she is held in regard by colleagues. The EE will very often draw resentment. But, EE’s tend to flourish in spite of that. AND .. and .. and …

      It’s what the BOSSES think, what management thinks — you report to your managers, not your colleagues. That’s what counts. If you outshine them – or give the impression that you do — while playing the game cleanly and professionally, you shouldn’t worry about such resentment.

      It happens – if you are the EE, you likely will get some resentment from people, but you also gain their professional respect. IMHO do not stop rewarding EEs because you feel it will cause resentment.

  8. OP2*

    Looby… I am pretty sure that there isn’t resentment as we are a lean shop, with an open plan. As I survey the employee landscape…all are new hires this year. First I found new positions in and out if the organization for Ms.Deadwood’s cohort. I took away her reports and moved them to other supervisors when she began the PIP. I hired the original exceptional employee . It is now clear that my entire staff are exceptional . There is plenty of interesting cool work to go around.

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