my new coworker is the contractor who I fired last year

A reader writes:

I am a government employee with a few supporting contractors. About a year and a half ago, I had a contractor removed for poor performance. She was in a role that required her to do analysis and prepare written reports on the results, but she did not have the skills to do either. I gave her some examples and step-by-step guidance on analyses, but saw no improvement – in one case she even cut and pasted straight from the example without changing the name of the product! I sent the contract manager an explanation of why I needed her removed and provided examples of what she had submitted. Bizarrely, the contract manager replied with an email attacking me in response and blamed the situation on a personal problem between myself and the contractor. Fortunately, I had kept my boss in the loop the whole time, so when she cc’d him on her attack, I had plenty of top cover and the contractor was removed. The contract manager has also moved on since then.

Fast forward to this month, when the contractor in question showed up in my division as a new employee. The division is only about 100 people, all in the same physical location, and all with the same office keys except for supervisors. I informed my boss, who immediately remembered her from the earlier incident. He has no idea why the other manager didn’t ask around about her, given that she even listed her work with me on her resume, but did talk to the other supervisor so that any performance issues can be caught quickly.

I am concerned about having this former contractor working here. The performance problems are her new manager’s issue to handle, and I am currently staying out of that – my boss has discussed that with her new boss. However, I don’t know if it was her or the contractor manager who started the personal attack, and I’m nervous about this person having keys to access my office. Does that sound paranoid? Is there anything else I should be doing or not doing? Is it fair to her new coworkers to not warn them and let her have a chance at a good first impression if she has improved in the past 18 months?

The right thing to do here is what your boss has already done — talk to the person’s manager and explain the context from the last time she worked with you. That’s important to do so that that manager can keep an eye out for issues like the last time, and having an early heads-up can often help catch problems more quickly.

But your boss has done that, so that’s taken care of. From there, it’s really up to the new hire’s manager to handle. All you can really do is to behave as professionally as possible toward her.

As for being nervous about her being able to access your office, unless she’s given you some specific reason to fear that, I think that’s probably unwarranted. Most people who do bad work aren’t the sorts of people who will break into your office and try to sabotage you. That’s especially true when someone has been hired back after being fired; she presumably wants to keep a low profile where you’re concerned.

At most, you could explain to her manager why you’re concerned and more about the context from her contractor period, but since your manager has already talked to her, I think that’s probably overkill.

Of course, if you do see anything that makes you concerned about this person’s ability to behave professionally and appropriately — toward you, or in general — you should raise that immediately with her boss.

But until or unless that happens, someone hired her and you pretty much need to treat her like you would any other new hire.

(I do wonder how this person got hired in the first place, and wonder if she deliberately didn’t mention that she used to do contract work for your company. Either that, or someone was startlingly negligent in the normal due diligence you’d do on someone who used to work with your company, contractor or not.)

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. UKAnon

    Sorry to be nitpicky, but OP says she was listed on the resume, so I don’t think this person lied about her work :-)

    Good luck OP! It might feel awkward when you first meet this person, but if you can treat her just like anybody else in your office that’s usually the best way of relieving any tension in the first place.

  2. BRR

    I feel like she should be given a chance although watched very closely. I’m wondering if it was documented at your company that she was fired (not sure how contractors are put in the system).

    1. OP

      She never would have been in our systems as a contractor, so the hiring manager would have had to talk to people who worked on the same projects/products she listed on her resume. I guess the manager only checked references and not anything more detailed!

      1. KarenT

        I’m so baffled a manager would know the contractor had worked with people who work with her and not gone to speak with them!

          1. Anonsie

            Do you think it’s possible that she did, and other people had more flattering things to say?

            1. OP

              My boss talked to both of us who had worked with her – the hiring manager hadn’t checked with either of us. The other person saw similar performance problems with the contractor, but that effort ran out of funding and was cancelled before anything was done about the performance problems.

        1. Artemesia

          Oh absolutely. The first thing I did when I got a resume that looked pretty good for a difficult job I was trying to fill is talk with someone else in the organization where the person had done some temp work. I heard all I needed to know not to advance that person to the final pool. The manager who hired her must be incredibly incompetent or else this was an example of a serious slip in the usual hiring process.

  3. JBean

    Was the contractor fired, or replaced? I ask because sometimes it’s simply a misalignment in the skill set requested and what the job entails and replacing the contractor is necessary – but that person isn’t fired (at least where I work) in the normal sense of the word. Is that person now doing the same tasks that he couldn’t do while working for you? Or are the tasks different?

    1. OP

      It’s the same tasking – she just went from a contractor to an employee. The only difference would be she’s performing that analysis work on a different product.

  4. Persephone Mulberry

    While the performance concerns sound legit, I think the office access concerns skew toward paranoia. Unless you had some prior interaction that made you think the contractor had a personal issue with you, I would place the blame for the email outburst on the contract manager – my guess is that the manager had a hand in putting the contractor in that role, and reacted poorly having her judgment questioned.

    1. Ama

      This. I actually did once make the final decision, at my boss’s request, to dismiss a temp employee that (unbeknownst to me) had been referred for our position by one of my coworkers. After the temp was told her assignment with us had ended, she called my coworker upset, and the coworker flipped out on me because I didn’t consult with her first and “it made [coworker] look bad.”

    2. OP

      This is a good point. Even if the original accusations did come from the contractor herself, the contract manager handled the situation very poorly. She shouldn’t have dismissed anything out of hand, but she should have investigated the issue, requested additional documentation of poor performance, and talked to coworkers who interacted with both of us rather than jumping to the conclusion that it was a personal conflict and all my fault that the contractor couldn’t complete tasking.

      By separating that out into a different problem than the fact that this contractor got rehired, it does seem overboard to worry much about office access. I think when I had everything tied up into one issue in my head, I was just feeling on the defensive about the whole thing.

    3. MK

      Even if the contractor was responsible for the e-mail outburst, it’s a big leap from a verbal rant (perhaps in the heat of the moment of being fired) to interfering with someone’s office with nefarious intentions. I am not even sure what the OP is afraid of. Some kind of vandalism? Sabotage? Just general snooping?

      The OP mentions there was a personal problem between them; perhaps the contractor did exhibit behavior that makes the OP’s fears reasonable. But going by what is in the letter, I veer towards paranoia too.

      1. Artemesia

        And yet if I were the OP feeling as she does, I would make sure my computer was always password protected; make sure that my work was externally backed up; make sure I had a lockable drawer in my office to stow anything private, sensitive, or of value.

        I have observed a situation where someone who had a conflict, messed with the ‘opponents’ computer.

        But absolutely don’t mention this — you don’t want to float the idea that might not occur to her otherwise. I’d just keep your head down and hope the new manager managers and she doesn’t make it through probation (assuming she is genuinely incompetent as she apparently was.)

        1. Annon

          I find that a degree of paranoia about personal safety in the office is very common, and increases greatly in the wake of any sort of confrontation. I think it’s statistically unlikely that that someone with whom you’ve had a workplace conflict would attempt to harm you physically or professionally, but it’s also a natural fear to have. We just don’t know each other well enough and our livelihoods are on the line. It would do well for everyone to remember when interacting with coworkers that on some basic level everyone is concerned for their personal security.

  5. Moo

    I think that if she put it on her resume then I’m sure it was discussed during the interview. What I was actually curious about is if there’s been another situation like this and that the other supervisor thinks it was just a personality conflict so there was no reason not to hire her, since you two wouldn’t be working closely. Further, if the other supervisor hired her in spite of the personality conflict, I would be more worried that MY reputation doesn’t appear offside and would make sure that I was 110% professional when the topic of her comes up to others. Remember, people CAN learn from situations. Let’s hope she did too.

  6. Lily in NYC

    I feel like she should be given a chance and that it is very important not to badmouth her to other employees (I’m not accusing OP of doing that). Your company decided to hire her and she deserves the chance to do well without having people biased against her from the start. As to her having keys, I think it’s a complete non-issue and definitely on the paranoid side. It’s the contract manager that behaved badly, not necessarily the contractor who was let go.

    1. jmkenrick

      Agreed. OP didn’t mention what capacity she was hired in, but if it was in a different area, perhaps she’ll be a higher performing employee.

      1. Person

        Also agreed. I’ve been in roles that were a poor fit, and it was humiliating. I didn’t have the luxury of not taking the gig and trying, and when I got back into work I’m good at the bad work still haunted my reputation.

  7. Katie the Fed

    Oh, I’ve totally seen this happen. And the other way – when we get rid of a government employee and they pop up as a contractor. This is why you ask around and follow up on references. I’ve found people completely lying about their job experience that way too.

    The good news is this person is probably on a probationary period of 1-2 years, so assuming you have a good boss, if the behavior repeats then this could be taken care of that way. Most people can’t hide their true colors for that long.

    I wouldn’t sweat it too much right now. Just treat the new person like you would anyone else.

    1. Lily in NYC

      Katie, what makes you mention that the person is probably on that long of a probationary period? Is that par for the course in federal govt? Just curious!

      1. Katie the Fed

        I think it’s pretty normal. I’ve seen 1-3 years. A lot of it is the recognition that it IS hard to fire government employees so they’re pushing us hard to make sure people are good early on, rather than let them get past the probationary period and be stuck with them forever.

        Where I am it’s a 2 year probationary period usually, and at the end of that 2 years I get a note from HR asking if I think we should retain the person or not.

        1. Joey

          2yr probation. That is just nuts from both ends. It should not take you 2 years to get up to speed unless you’re doing like an apprentice program or something. Sounds more like a system that perpetuates lazy managers.

          1. sam

            I imagine it’s less about “getting up to speed” than something more like after 2 years the government employees have what essentially amounts to tenure – it’s almost impossible to be removed from your job after that point. The 2 years gives the employer hopefully enough time to identify any potentially “latent” performance issues that might not crop up in a more traditional/shorter training period.

            1. Katie the Fed

              Yes, that’s exactly it. Within that 2 years it’s much easier to fire someone without the series of verbal and written warnings and PIPs and all of that. You can just say “you know, you’re not what we want” and be done with it, although the managers I know who have dismissed people in that time did give warnings.

              It’s not a training period. It’s recognizing that poor performance might take a little while to be clear.

              1. GovHRO

                Mostly it’s a one year probationary period in the Federal government, except for “excepted service” positions. If the former contractor applied for a competitive service position and was a veteran, the hiring manager may not have had any other options (other than selecting no one and waiting 3-6 months), as veteran preference laws are strict. If one veteran apples to an external recruitment and is minimally qualified and there are a hundred better qualified candidates, the hiring manager will only be allowed to see the veterans application. Most agencies make the waiting period for not selecting someone 3 months, but from Katie’s two year probationary comment, I’m guessing VA? VA has a six month waiting period (although most HR offices ignore the rule.)

            2. AnonyMiss

              Government labor law (not lawyer) here – exactly. I work at a county, and our employees get 6 months to 1 year probation, and after that, with some exceptions (at-will professionals like lawyers, doctors, department heads, and confidential staff), they are set for life. We need a long, documented track history of warnings, training, and progressive discipline in performance issue matters, and we have to make a showing that the employee is “broken beyond repair” before we can fire them. Of course, things like harassment, workplace violence, etc. are immediately fireable – but even then, the employees have a right to an administrative hearing (essentially, an informal trial), where they may get their job BACK.

              So yeah, it’s not about getting up to speed, but ensuring that the employee will remain useful, because there’s just no way to get them out afterwards.

          2. J.B.

            Yeah, there are lazy managers. Or managers who are good technical people promoted for that reason and not trained. The laziest of them don’t pay attention at all during the probationary period and then have a problem employee and won’t go through the paperwork thereafter. Fun.

          1. Nashira

            Man, that makes me feel better about my state’s probation. It’s usually 6 months, with an option to extend it once.

          2. De Minimis

            The probation isn’t a training period meant to get someone up to speed, I think most of the time it just means they can be fired without having to go through the various channels of due process if they just aren’t working out.

            1. Katie the Fed

              Yes, this. We expect people to be performing up to standards during that time. But it’s a LOT easier to fire them without all the warnings and paperwork. I can pretty much just say “nope, not working out” and be done with them. It makes sense from that perspective, and I’ve only seen it used in a couple cases. It’s to make sure we’re not saddling the organization with dead wood.

                1. Katie the Fed

                  I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not saying I agree or not but it’s how it’s set up.

                2. Lee

                  It’s not Katie — it’s the U.S. federal government, which unlike the private sector doesn’t have “at will” employment where it can just fire an employee. It can take years to fire someone, if ever, and so it makes sense not to actually hire someone until after an extended probationary period.

                3. De Minimis

                  I agree, thankfully that isn’t the case. It’s not something where they get to work for two years and then if they aren’t working out they’re either fired or they get full status and they get to stay. It’s more that they can be fired a lot more easily during the probationary period, it’s a lot more similar to the private sector in how things work. The employee gets no advantage from the probationary period, it’s designed to help the agency.

                  I’ve seen several come and go while I’ve been here, and it seems like the people who are going to be a problem usually end up not getting anywhere close to the end of the probationary period, usually due to poor attendance.

                4. Kyrielle

                  Enh, I’ve seen two employees I can think of off-hand who were great for their first 6-12 months, but then decided they were secure enough and started slacking (what I think happened in one case) or got bored and decided they didn’t really like the work but it was a paycheck (what I think happened in the other), and their productivity landed in a handbasket bound for a very hot location. :P

                  Of course, this was at a private company, but…I can imagine it happening somewhere else. Honeymoon periods when people are on their best behavior are, I would guess, not going to last two years.

                5. De Minimis

                  I’ve mentioned this before too, but I’ve seen no evidence that it takes years to fire someone. I have seen about the same number of people fired here as I have in the private sector, usually for the same type of reasons and it didn’t take any longer than it would in the average workplace. If someone’s performance is to where things are that bad, they generally are not going to get anywhere near to the end of whatever probationary period there is.

                6. Katie the Fed

                  And yes, you don’t have to wait the entire two years! I could decide 3-4 months into it that it’s not working out.

                  2 years is extra time, but I think it’s nice to have, if I’m not totally sure about someone.

              1. Joey

                Demininus,

                That’s sort of the point I’m making. A two year probation encourages managers to be lax on managing well for two whole years if they can easily get rid of employees. Then, it’s sounding like many folks in the branch of govt Katie works in throw up their hands except for the worst of the worst.

                I’ve worked in govt also and every manager I’ve seen who griped about due process for employees was just lazy about doing the work. It’s not like you don’t know what you’re getting into.

                1. Katie the Fed

                  I don’t know where you’re getting that from. You don’t have to wait two years. You can fire someone in a month if they’re a problem. But you have that option for two years – the easy option. After that it gets a lot harder. I think you’re making more of this than is there.

                2. Joey

                  Oh I’m not suggesting that. I’m just suggesting that structuring probationary periods that way creates a lot of problems

                3. AcademiaNut

                  Looking at it in a different direction, an at will employer essentially has a permanent probation period – an employee can easily be fired at any point during their employment for nearly any reason. Bad managers will still let poorly performing or troublesome employees slide because they don’t care, or can’t be bothered with the fuss of firing them and hiring someone new, even as the good employees jump ship for a better situation. Good managers will try to deal with problems.

                  In the govt case, managers get a two year period of at-will employment to detect and deal with those problems, after which the employee switches from at will to permanent and hard to fire. Bad managers will let things slide, but good managers won’t want to be permanently saddled with a poorly performing or troublesome employee, and will be watching carefully.

                4. Joey

                  Except that’s not really what happens. In reality managers love the 2 yr at will because they don’t have to do much then complain about “how hard it is to fire someone” after that. It’s not. It’s really not. It only seems that way when you don’t have to do squat for up to 2 yrs.

      2. Ella

        I work for the feds too and in my area, it’s a minimum of 1 year probation. It’s tough, though not impossible, to fire people after. In my area, we tend to watch very, very carefully during the probation period.

        1. GovHRO

          It’s not that hard to fire people in the federal govt. just paperwork and documenting. The main obstacle is the belief that it’s impossible.

          1. OP

            But it’s much easier while they are still in the probation period, which is why they have them.

    2. OP

      Good point! I don’t know the details of her probationary period, but I think it’s generally at least a year for us.

  8. Mena

    Just stand clear and wait and see. Hopefully this person truly wants the job and will work hard to keep it. She may be holding her breath around YOU!!

    And please, please, send us an update!!

  9. Barney Stinson

    Someone who got fired because of you and then rehired in spite of you isn’t going to try to hurt you. I think your worst case scenario would be that she’d show up all “Neener Neener” because she managed to work her way back in.

    I think AAM is right; this contractor is praying you don’t remember her and spoil her second chance. I bet she hides from you.

    1. OP

      It’s been a few weeks since I sent in this question and I haven’t run into her since, so you may be spot on with the hiding. It’s only a 100 person office, so to not run into someone in the hall, the parking lot, the break room, or at the printers is unusual.

  10. M-C

    It’s touching there’s all that concern about second chances for a bad employee. But maybe you’re all overly-focused on her incompetence, and didn’t quite get the intense badmouthing that clearly happened during the firing? I think, OP, that you’re well advised to be very careful. The combination of incompetent and able to charm her way into a position against all odds seems worrisome to me – let me recommend in passing “Snakes in suits” which I hope you won’t need so much but is the most helpful thing I’ve ever found on the topic.

    I hope you’ve kept documentation of what problems you had with her in the past? In any case, you need to be super-sharp about documenting any future incidents. And because of the key issue, you’d be well advised to take some simple precautions to ensure there’s no problem with your work materials. For instance, the screen-saver password that so many people bitch about should be standard procedure for you, even if you’re only going down the hall to the bathroom. Make sure you have as strong a password on your work accounts as possible (12+ characters, upper and lower case, numbers and punctuation), not to mention your voicemail. You might also make sure that you keep copies of -all- your work emails from now on, and back them up regularly, so you can cover yourself if some attack comes out of the blue. I have no idea what kind of work you do, but if you do any sort of paper-related work, you should make sure you have cabinets that lock, and that no-one but your boss has the spare key. And if you collect materials to document bad behavior in this person, be sure to keep copies at home, along with your email backups.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      Also, I think there’s too much emphasis on the employee being ‘incompetent.’ Sloppy copy-and-pasting speaks to a much deeper problem with caring about doing work correctly.

    2. OP

      The thing is, I don’t know if the badmouthing came from this individual or from the contract manager. People do have a good point though – even if it started with the former contractor, the contract manager should have handled the situation much more reasonably and attempted to investigate any accusations.

      I have since learned that manager who hired her simply never checked with any of the people who had previously worked with her. It turned out that I was not the first person to see performance problems with her, but the other tasking ran out of funding and stopped work before anything was done about those problems.

  11. BadPlanning

    Sometimes a little paranoia is helpful. Sounds like the OP is worried about some sort of revenge sabotage or theft? If so, I’d consider doing sort of a personal security audit of my office for my own piece of mind. Do I have any unsecured papers that need to get filed or shredded? Clean that stuff up. Am I lazy about locking my computer? Did I put my last password on a post-it on the keyboard? Clean all that stuff up. Do I have any personal items that I would be really upset about if they were stolen or defaced (more than just generally upset that something happened to them — I’m thinking about kid art projects or photos that can’t be replaced or reprinted)? If yes, take them home. After that, you can’t control what Returning Contractor may or may not do — or anyone else for that matter.

    I hope Returning Contractor figured out whatever skills there were missing and can be a good employee.

    1. AMG

      And if you pass notes during a meeting, take them home with you to throw away there, not in the trash at work.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      I don’t consider it paranoid to try to prepare for a potential issue, even if the possibility is very remote, as long as you don’t obsess over it or spend an inordinate amount of time on preparation.

      If I were the OP, I would probably set up my webcam so it was aimed at the door, and run a program that records when motion is detected. I’ve actually played around with this, mostly out of curiosity, when items were disappearing from our break room. The directory for the recording should be on the network or on the Internet, so that it can’t be removed by tampering with the computer, and the computer should be left on but locked when you leave. However, I have a webcam at work for chatting with remote staff anyway, which is why I was looking into if the webcam could be used to catch who took other peoples’ items from the communal kitchen.

      If the OP doesn’t have a webcam and doesn’t want to or can’t add one to their work computer, she could always do a video inventory of her office with her smartphone, which means walking around the room taking video of everything in it, and describing what everything is. It’s actually a smart thing to do at home if you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, in which case you should video and read off make, model, and serial number where available, but for the office just a description of what is where is probably enough.

      1. Joey

        Recording people at work is surely something you don’t want your name associated with. I can guarantee you that unless you’re one of those engagement loons shoving cameras in people’s faces at work.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Nice straw man, but I never suggested holding a camera in anyone’s face. In fact I did tell a few people who had had things stolen from the kitchen about my idea of using the webcam and none of them seemed to think it was at all odd (but I could have just set it up without saying anything and no one would have known). So I have proof that it is not something that will somehow magically destroy your reputation…if it’s done for the right reason and in the right way.

          My office actually has security cameras anyway, so it’s not like there’s an expectation of privacy. If the OP sets this up and catches the former contractor tampering with or destroying anything in her office, and the OP gets in trouble instead of the perpetrator, she’s probably better off not working there anyway because that’s just crazy.

          1. Joey

            What exactly am I twisting? You suggested setting up a web cam to record co workers without their knowledge. I said thats not good for your employment in any sane workplace. I said the only time you should be video recording employees is when its sanctioned by management like for engagement.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Agreeing with Joey here. It’s a really bad idea to do this without people’s knowledge and permission (and also overkill in this situation!).

      2. OP

        We aren’t allowed to take photos/videos because of problems with leaking sensitive information, but a quick check of basics like locking sensitive information away and storing backups is both a good idea and something I probably should do more frequently anyway!

      3. sws

        “I would probably set up my webcam so it was aimed at the door, and run a program that records when motion is detected. ”

        Wow.

      4. BananaPants

        That seems like paranoid overkill to me. OP has zero evidence that this former contractor/current employee will do anything to retaliate. If anything, she’s probably keeping a low profile to avoid drawing any attention to her previous tenure there and how it ended!

    3. LCL

      And if I wanted to get someone into trouble at work, I would use the anonymous computers at the public library to download and print something unacceptable. Then leave it in a person’s mailbox or desk. It’s why I lock my locker, even though nobody else here does and the only things in it are clothes and paperwork.

  12. Joey

    You’ve done all you should do-alert your Manager to some previous issues. This is not your battle any longer.

    And it certainly isn’t your place to go around telling her colleagues that her boss hired a bad apple. Let them form their own opinions.

  13. illini02

    Some of you are really reaching here. I have to wonder what exactly some of you are doing to people to make you think their reaction to seeing you again would warrant these CIA type extremes you want OP to go to. Its not like she said this former person started working and all of a sudden things disappeared, but you are all branding her an awful person because she got fired at one time. Being bad at a job (or just not being a good fit) doesn’t mean you are a bad person who is plotting to exact your revenge at the first opportunity you get. Unless I read wrong, the new co-worker who was fired never did anything bad to this person. It alludes to a personality conflict, but that doesn’t mean new co-worker was in the wrong. I guess I just don’t get assuming the worst about someone with no evidence that something bad will happen.

    1. OP

      Well… the CIA is a government agency, and the analysis work was deliberately vague, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you. :)

      But you’re right – I have no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of this person other than that either she or the contract manager invented accusations and tried to blame the performance problems on me, and even that had pretty minimal impact because my own manager was already aware of the performance problem.

  14. Harley Quinn

    My husband used to be an IT contractor and ended up in too many bad situations where it was apparent the contracting manager had oversold his qualifications. Most of the time he was able to clear any misconceptions up during the interview, but unfortunately that was not always possible. (Although in his case, the problem was being unfamiliar with a certain programming language rather than sloppy copying-and-pasting.)

    Contracting companies make a lot of money by placing employees, and I believe contracting specialists and managers get commissions. From what we saw, there’s also a high turnover in that field–there were new contract specialists and managers every 4-6 months. It’s possible that the contract manager misrepresented the job to the person you fired and misrepresented that person’s skills to your company, then tried to bully you into keeping her on so that she could get a commission.

    I am curious as to whether she was hired to do the same thing for this other supervisor that she did for you.

    1. OP

      The contract manager doesn’t get commissions for us, but she does have to approve resumes for the people who work for us as contractors. She also doesn’t have experience doing the actual job, so she could easily misrepresent what the work is. I could see that combination ending up with her approving someone with a different skill set than we needed, then trying to save face by claiming that the candidate is just fine.

      1. Pipette

        She may very well have had some targets to meet, like having to find X new spout specialists per year, and therefore be tempted to approve contractors who don´t meet the quality criteria just to fill the quota.

        1. OP

          Nobody likes not having their work staffed! The target could easily have been a specific number of bodies to throw at the work, regardless of whether they had the right background and skills to be successful at the job.

  15. GH in SoCAl

    Uh-oh, I’m getting Autoplay (with sound) ads in the sidebar. Specifically “Saniflo,” yesterday and today. I’m using Chrome on a PC.

  16. Kiwi PM

    Hi Alison, sorry, not sure if this is the best way to flag it (and maybe you’re already aware) but the ad on this page autoplayed with sound for me, which I think I saw you say a while back isn’t supposed to happen. The ads were for PPG Paint and realestate.co.nz (I’m in New Zealand).

  17. Ops Analyst

    I find it really odd that she was hired after being fired. It makes me wonder if she used the contract manager as a reference for this job and never mentioned the firing. The hiring manager in this case would call the reference and feel s/he had gotten feedback about her work in that role. Of course I could be way off base but I find it hard to believe that a hiring manager would hear about a candidate being fired from their very company and then not asking around at all before hiring them. It really sounds glossed over or like she worded her way around it somehow without actually lying.

    For example, I’ve never actually been asked if I was fired from a job except on the written application, which for some jobs I didn’t fill out until I was offered the position. Then my hiring manager never looked at it. I just went through a routine background check and if everything Ive said is verified then it’s all good. If I had ever been fired and handled it that way, I definitely think I could have gotten away with it in a few instances.

    1. OP

      The contractor was removed from the government contract, not fired by her actual employer (the company who won the government contract), so she just was reassigned within her company. The contractor would not be lying to say she had never been fired, and people shift off and on contracts all the time for reasons unrelated to performance, so even that wouldn’t be a red flag. The hiring manager in question just did not talk to the people in our government office who had worked with this person, even though it was listed on the resume. This is a case study in doing good reference checks!

      1. Ops Analyst

        Ah, I see. I didn’t mean that the contract manager would be lying, but that your former coworker might have been evasive and that the contract manager might not have been asked about the “firing”, thus it never being mentioned. But I see what you’re saying.

  18. Not So NewReader

    I think you have cushioning here that is very helpful:

    She does not work for your boss.
    It does not sound like she is in your immediate vicinity.
    Your boss is aware of the problem.
    You are not certain that she had anything to do with that nasty email.
    You do not indicate any further problems after the incident.

    I would find it more worrisome if she was at the next desk over from you, the previous incident raged on for months after the nasty email, and/or your boss did not give a darn. In short, for a bad situation some things are going in your favor.

    It’s up to the company to protect itself. You don’t have to shoulder that burden alone. You have spoken your piece about her work in the moment. Now it is her boss’ turn to watch her. I’d take three steps back and let nature run its course on that one.

    I do see some concern for your own work being protected. I think you have hammered out some steps here to protect your work. Were there direct physical threats at you in that email? If no, I would try to exhale a little here. Of course, nothing replaces common sense- like not leaving your passwords laying around. But frankly, this woman does not sound like she could hack your work and ruin it. She can’t figure out how to do that. ( I wouldn’t be able to figure that out, either.)

    I think you should treat her on the same level that you treat most others at work. Assume nothing is wrong until you see proof otherwise. It’s hard, I know. Try to remember that she needs to eat and needs a roof over her head just like you. If she says something that is vague and you are not sure how to respond, just tell yourself “she needs to eat, too.”

    If you see something that is concrete and you are absolutely certain that it is over the line- go directly to your boss- don’t mess around with it any longer. This sounds like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t think it will. I think she will dial back whatever issues she had from before. Remember she does not know how many people know what happened- she could be realizing that she walked into the lion’s den herself.

    1. OP

      Thanks for the reminder of the positives – I can’t imagine how crazy this would have been if my boss had been like some of the ones people write in to AAM about!

  19. Lemons

    I find this part of the post particularly upsetting: “Bizarrely, the contract manager replied with an email attacking me in response and blamed the situation on a personal problem between myself and the contractor. ”
    I seriously doubt that the contract manager was making this up out of whole cloth – something triggered this response – a prior conflict with the contract manager, something the worker said to the contract manager about the situation at work, some sort of misunderstanding? Did the worker acknowledge the OP, what was her demeanor like upon her return to the office? I wouldn’t worry too much about my office but I would be very concerned about my reputation and a potentially poisonous atmosphere in the office. Good luck – hope things improve.

    1. OP

      I have no idea what triggered the email from the contract manager – that is part of what bothers me so much about this situation. While I’m sure it had to come from somewhere, I just can’t figure out where! I barely knew the contract manager, so had no history with her, and my interactions with her were all really mundane things like monthly budget emails, which even a Lifetime TV movie can’t make dramatic. With the contractor herself, I had ongoing performance issues, but no prior history, no arguments, and no public criticism of her work – that was done in 1:1 meetings and then later 3 person meetings that also included her supervisor.

      I haven’t run into the contractor in the office other than the big everyone-meet-the-new-hire meeting, which had over 100 of us present and didn’t allow for much interaction. We sit in the same building, so that I haven’t run into her in the parking lot, the bathroom, the break room, or the printer/copier room in a month is a little weird.

  20. snuck

    Just a thought…

    In the eighteen months between firing and re-hiring is it possible the person has updated their skills, improved their knowledge base etc?

    And… as an analyst in the past… I know there’s vastly different standards of skillset in the role, or technical specialties that aren’t easily transferrable. And there’s people I thought woefully underqualified and inexperienced to be in the role – who learnt quickly and caught up, or who didn’t and were shifted to related duties because the skills they did have were still hard to find in the general population etc. There’s times I have had staff who aren’t impressed with other’s skill levels or work attitude as with any job, and those staff haven’t always had all the cards to know what’s what… I’ve deliberately employed people with the right attitude but the wrong skill set and trained them up (with some annoyance from certain team members who think I should have employed for skillset not attitude etc). I’m trying to find a way to say “maybe the person actually is good for the job but it isn’t obvious to others” except I do get stuck on the thing where she copied and pasted an example piece of work – that’s weird.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      snuck – agreed. People acquire new skills. Not just work-skills, but life skills. Professional relationship skills.

      In other words, they tend to grow up. And in doing so, change for the better.

  21. sally

    I’ve worked with both government workers and contractors that support them… All I can say is we’re only getting one side of the story.

  22. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    Things like this happen all the time in the computer industry – and I’m sure they happen elsewhere.

    If you’re all uptight over this – usually – you have two options. One, try to get over it and move forward, with the attitude that “what was in the past, stays in the past. Let’s move forward.”

    Two – YOU quit, go find another job, hit the bricks, etc., because if you cannot get beyond this, and it affects how you do your job. “Does this sound paranoid?” — uh, YES, it does. OK, you had problems with this employee over performance standards, and you’re worried that she may burglarize your workstation now? Unless there were any threats around that – it’s doubtful it would happen.

    But know this – if she was hired after being let go as a contractor, someone saw something good in her, and you are just gonna have to co-exist.

    You know, it’s funny. I work in a rather small world. Some people I worked with at some places – I didn’t get along with them — and years later — after moving on to new horizons, we met again.

    And after self-assessment on my side (and I’m sure the other parties did the same) – and assuming we both matured, and were both professionals, we wound up being great friends and colleagues.

    Part of being an adult in the workplace is being able to get over things in, as we say “past lives”.

  23. SantaQun

    Hi Alison,

    I can’t even read this post. Two adds started, with sound, at the same time.

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