update: my employees say another employee slacks off when I’m not around

Remember the manager whose employees were telling her that one of their coworkers slacked off when she wasn’t around? Here’s the update.

Thanks to everyone for all the help. The situation was immensely aggravating, and your ideas really helped.

So, I decided to try the pop in tactic, to see if she really was slacking off. I didn’t want to confront her with negative issues, if they weren’t warranted. (If I pulled a report on her, it showed awesome numbers for productivity.)

On a day that I was supposed to be in one of our other offices, I popped in mid-day to just “check in.” What do I find? The person who was the loudest whistle blower shopping online, while the accused woman is working diligently in the back. Let’s say that her guilty look was more than justification enough that I made the right choice to get to the bottom of the issue. The whistleblower and I had a heart-to-heart about defamation of coworkers, and that I wasn’t going to stand back to just observe in the background.

I decided the healthiest thing to do would to be set everyone straight with what I, as the new manager, was going to expect from them going forward. This has helped to stop most of the animosity, and gossiping between the two women up at the front.

Happy ending, I was promoted this past month for how well I’ve been handling the front office, and for my delegating skills. I am overseeing a different set of people, all of whom work together great. I don’t have to deal with any more drama, thanks to dealing well with previous drama. Yay!

{ 47 comments… read them below }

    1. The IT Manager*

      Wow, that may be the best update ever! Alison’s suggestion worked, the person behaving badly got her comeuppance, and LW was rewarded for great leadership.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          Yeah, really! I’m happy whenever someone’s problem ends well, but I do especially like the updates that aren’t just “I got a new job” or “the problem went away on its own”.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! A lot of times those are great updates for the OPs, but my selfish drama-loving heart always wants to know the end of the story. ;)

            @OP: Good job!

  1. Jamie*

    I feel like my “heart to heart about defamation of coworkers” would have consisted of me telling that woman to pack everything up and leave immediately. I’m so happy that worked out well for the manager, and it sounds like she’s doing great, but I don’t know how those front office workers sleep at night. What a terrible thing to do to someone.

    1. Arbynka*

      I agree. I would have serious trust issue with that employee. I mean to lie about fellow co-worker in such manner is a big deal to me.

          1. some1*

            Reminds me of people who always accuse their partner of cheating with no evidence — they are usually cheaters!

    2. Katie the Fed*

      But – it’s just one data point. Just because at that moment the coworker was working and the tattler was shopping doesn’t mean it’s always that way.

      1. Sans*

        That’s what I was thinking. Not everyone is always diligent or always a slacker. There’s a lot of assumption here.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I work in spurts. I’ll have, like, 2 hours of mad productively and then spend 10 minutes fiddle farting around chatting with people or reading the news. If you caught me at the wrong time I’d look like a slacker.

          1. Mike*

            I was just commenting that my productivity is like manic-depressive where I’ll be super productive for quite a while and then just hit a wall for a couple days where I’m slow. Fortunately, my low days are still good.

            And there are times throughout the day where I’m purposefully slacking off while letting the subconscious churn on a problem.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              “And there are times throughout the day where I’m purposefully slacking off while letting the subconscious churn on a problem.”

              YES. I do the same thing.

              1. KB*

                But would all of you turn around and try to claim that other people were slacking while you were the only one working, as happened in the OP? Because it’s the lying about it and trying to pin the blame on others that is the real issue, not the taking of a break.

          2. Ashley*

            I’m the same way! Hammer stuff out and then need a “breather” before jumping back in.

            Or, when I’m stuck on hold – I feel like I need to do SOMETHING but I don’t have any work tasks that are mindless enough so I’ll browse the J.Crew sale section.

          3. Melissa*

            I was just thinking the same thing. If my supervisor came in at the wrong moment, I’d look like a slacker too.

      2. April*

        But she already had metrics that indicated excellent productivity from the criticized employee (“If I pulled a report on her it showed excellent numbers for productivity”). The firsthand observation wasn’t the primary source of data, just sort of a corroborating sample.

        Also, I would think that if the single visit was vastly unrepresentative the one being reprimanded for defamation would have used that to defend herself. But apparently she did not, thus tacitly conceding that what the visit revealed was generally true and not just a one-off thing.

        1. Jazzy Red*


          I worked in business offices for more than 40 years, and this kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve seen this over and over again, and most managers I knew wouldn’t address these issues. The few that did were liked and respected by their subordinates. April hit it right on the head with the most likely scenario.

    3. Steve G*

      I think it could still be true. I had a coworker who slacked like this, doesn’t mean that I never did something personal during the day, just that I did like 5%-10% of the time as the slacker.

  2. Anon Accountant*

    Thank you for being a great manager!! I’m so happy you stopped by to get to the heart of the matter instead of taking her word for it.

  3. ooh*

    hurray that you got to the bottom of the issue of yourself and didn’t just go on the word of the whistle blower.

  4. PooperScooper*

    It might not hurt to pop in again. Just because the “slacker” employee was working when you checked once, doesn’t mean this is always the case.

    1. fposte*

      And just because the complaining employee got caught it doesn’t mean that she isn’t still slacking, too. Vigilance is generally a good plan.

    2. Incognito Kitty Imposter?*

      ITA – it was great to pop in but no snapshot in time tells the whole story – at least it doesn’t confirm the whole story.

      OP – when you spoke with the complaining employee what was her response? Did she admit she made it up? If not I’d certainly not close the book just yet, keep your eyes open.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        If the complaining employee was not the slacker-in-disguise, the OP would have written about the huge and ugly scene she made when confronted. Instead, the OP was promoted because of the way she managed this situation.

    3. Melissa*

      Yes, but she talked to the whistleblower, who looked guilty and apparently didn’t try to defend herself or claim that it was just a one-time thing. I think the content of the subsequent conversation is important here, although we don’t really know what it is.

  5. Hermione*

    A+ Update! I’m really glad you investigated yourself instead of jumping on the whistleblower’s word. Great manager award of the day.

  6. APB*

    THANK YOU for being a great manager and handling this well!! I wish my [former] managers were as good as you at handling these types of issues!

  7. Mike*

    Question: Shouldn’t
    > (If I pulled a report on her, it showed awesome numbers for productivity.
    have been enough to nip the complaints?

  8. Camellia*

    Kudos for addressing this directly! I hope they don’t start up again with the new manager and if they do, that manager will also try to address it appropriately.

  9. EvilQueenRegina*

    Investigating was definitely the right thing to do. From experience of working for a manager who used to jump to her own conclusions and act on those without doing any investigating at all and then have the conclusions be wrong, I found it really demoralising. A similar situation came up where one coworker Marian had been given responsibility for processing all the requests for finance, which didn’t go well. Marian said that all the problems were caused by Finance making life difficult, but another coworker, Ingrid, told our manager that actually Marian’s performance issues were the problem. Thing was, a) Marian wasn’t liked in that office and b) at the time of the conversation, Ingrid was in trouble for another matter so our manager thought she was just saying it to divert her attention on to Marian and didn’t investigate at all. Frustration began to build up. Our manager didn’t take it seriously until Marian went on sick leave and suddenly things with finance improved.

    I do agree with those who think more than one check would have been better though, to give the full picture.

  10. Jessa*

    My main thing is that if I checked on the “so called slacker” and the stats backed up good performance, I really wouldn’t care what they were doing when I wasn’t there. If they can read a book, or browse online (as long as the company permitted that computer use,) and still keep up excellent work product and statistics, I don’t care. They can read a book right in front of my face, and if someone complained the answer would be “the work is getting done, on time and properly, butt out.” And I might if it happened a lot of the time look at the workload. If the workload was reasonable (person didn’t have waaaay too few tasks,) and there was not tonnes of other work not getting done somewhere else, again, who cares.

    People’s brains cannot be on one topic for 8 or 10 straight hours a day. Some people work really incredibly well if they take 5 minutes here and there and decompress, particularly if they work things like data entry or jobs where it all blurs into one thing after awhile.
    I care that the work is being done. How they do it as long as it gets done properly and on schedule, doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s legal and non harassing, or making problems for the work of other people.

    Disclaimer- this doesn’t work in places where the work is something like an assembly line, or answering phones (although I don’t care what happens when someone is not on a call or doing work to follow up on one, there can be huge dead times depending on the industry.)

    Second Disclaimer – if you work in a seriously public facing job you have to be discreet about it, I’d rather the receptionist play solitaire or read an ebook on a non customer facing computer than read a physical non work related book where someone coming in can see them.

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