managing a delusional employee with few skills and a really weird website

I’ve removed this post. Here’s what happened:

Some commenters noted that this letter was also submitted to an online forum elsewhere. I assumed the writer simply submitted it to both sites, as people occasionally do with advice columns.

But in a weird twist, I then got contacted by someone who says that he’s the person who submitted this letter to the other site, but that he’s not the person who submitted it to me; in other words, that someone else copied it from that site and sent in to me, pretending to be the author. He provided reasonable-ish proof that what he was saying was true and asked me to remove it.

The whole thing is pretty annoying — including the manner of the guy who contacted me, who was weirdly adversarial and rude about the whole thing when he didn’t need to be — but I suppose it’s a risk of accepting anonymous letters.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Purple Dragon*

    Weird – although I wonder if someone saw it on the other site and thought “I wonder what Alison would say” and didn’t see the harm in asking.
    I don’t understand the rudeness of the guy who contacted you though – if anything he received an extra and more well thought out response than he was getting on the original site.

    The joys and peculiarity of the internet ! I am glad that I couldn’t sleep so saw the original post.

    1. Windchime*

      If that was the case, the person who sent it to Alison could have just sent her a link to the other site and asked, “What do you think?” instead of copying it and posting here as if it was his/her own letter.

      I’m sorry that someone did that to AAM. Not nice.

  2. salad fingers*

    Really weird. I searched for the part of the question that still appears in Alison’s daily email and found the original post. It doesn’t seem like a highly trafficked site – how did readers here identity it?

    1. Kathleen*

      The original letter had a direct quote from the employee’s website. If you googled it, you could find his website (the draw of googling), and the other posting came up too. Upon being made aware of this, Alison edited the quote out of the letter, but it was too late by then.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I wasn’t in on it and found it by googling the quote. Both the employee’s site and the other forum thread came up.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, it’s because the letter-writer included a quote from the employee’s website, and searching for that quote easily brought up that and the earlier post.

  3. So Very Anonymous*

    Wouldn’t it be strange if “Bill” were somehow involved in this? I imagine his website got an unusual amount of traffic today.

    1. Career Counselorette*

      That’s what I thought, after dismissing the likelihood that we had all been Catfished- that Bill wrote and posted the letter himself in both places and he’s actually some kind of viral marketing genius.

  4. McDerp*

    Suuuure he didn’t. Let me guess:

    1. He was hacked!
    2. Someone stole/he lost his phone!
    3. His brother is pranking him!
    4. His cow of an ex-wife has it in for him!
    5. He was drunk!
    6. He butt-dialed copy/paste and accidentally emailed it!

    Someone probably notified “Bill” and “Bill” probably said, “Hey man, what’s up with this?” and now he’s just upset that he was a butthead in two places instead of the one where he actually meant to be a butthead.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, I really do think it wasn’t him and that he was genuinely upset to see it here. I suspect that whoever posted it here ended up giving it a bigger audience than he intended, and it put him at risk of his employee finding out about the whole thing, which would understandably rattle anyone. (Or even that the employee did find out about it, who knows. Which would be pretty awful for both of them.)

    2. Kyrielle*

      The original post was from early September. I’d argue that having it appear here more than a month later could easily be someone finding the letter and submitting it to Alison as “theirs” when it wasn’t.

  5. Random Joe-ette*

    I currently work for a site that posts stories sent in by random people.

    We get a lot of “old jokes” (which, we figure, are people hearing it for the first time and not taking the time to realize it’s older than mold), but occasionally we get stuff that’s been posted on other sites.

    And for a bonus, every once in a blue moon, we get stories that were posted ON OUR SITES. As if we’re not going to remember that we published it three years ago.

  6. NickelandDime*

    And this why I stand by my original comments about the posters complaining about “identifiers” in the letter. Could they too have been involved in this crap? I know AAM said she appreciated people pointing out where she may be wrong, but something about the way they did it, and now this…it didn’t pass the sniff test.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Whaaa? No… I wasn’t one of the posters complaining, but I definitely wouldn’t want this to happen to me. As in, I don’t want to log into this site one day to find a letter to AAM published that goes something like “my coworker is driving me insane, what do I do…” followed by a bunch of information that can be easily used to identify myself as the offending coworker. I think it was less of a conspiracy and more of a “there but for the grace of God go I”.

      1. NickelandDime*

        But really what are the chances of that happening? And one of the times it did, it involved a possibly stolen/maybe fraudulent letter. It seems odd to be so concerned about it. And I think it’s valid to question everything associated with that odd letter!

        1. Kyrielle*

          I’ve seen other times when people add comments based on Googling something. There are a lot of people here, and some are more curious than I am. (I didn’t Google it until someone pointed out it could be, and then I had to go see the train wreck, I admit.)

    2. Blue Anne*

      Wait, what? There were a lot of us saying that the identifying information wasn’t great. Are you suggesting that we were all somehow in on this? I’m confused.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m super confused by that. It seems pretty straightforward to me, and what you’re suggesting seems highly unlikely. Also, multiple regular commenters pointed out the identifiers in the letter. How could they all have been involved in it? I really just think it’s exactly what it looks like on its face: The guy posted the letter on the other site, someone saw and it and sent to me, the end.

    4. Audiophile*

      If I’m reading this correctly, you’re suggesting one of the commenters from here sent a message to the person who posted this letter originally on the other site? That seems like a lot of work to go through for very little pay off.

  7. Katie the Fed*

    I miss the most interesting days, apparently.

    It’s really annoying that someone would try to drag AAM on this.

  8. AMT*

    If it’s not against the rules, I thought the latecomers would appreciate a very brief summary of the letter (stripped of any information that could lead anyone to the employer/employee, of course).

    Basically, OP was the owner of a small retail business with a twentysomething employee who was competent at customer service, but unsuited to the rest of his job tasks because he lacked organizational or problem-solving skills despite extensive coaching and training. This employee seemed to have a highly inflated view of his capabilities and ran a buzzword-filled blog about success and entrepreneurship, though he had no experience starting or running a business. OP was wondering whether to (a) rearrange the employee’s job to suit his abilities or (b) cut his losses and fire the employee.

    The blog wasn’t that relevant other than being a manifestation of the employee’s cluelessness, but OP seemed fixated on his outrage at the employee’s inflated ego and the disconnect between the employee’s self-proclaimed “leadership” and his actual performance. I believe Alison’s response was something along the lines of “focus on the employee’s job performance, not on his silly web site.”

  9. INFJ*

    I actually came back here to see if Bill ended up finding this thread. Holy cow, I wasn’t expecting this! Alison, I hope you don’t feel bad about this in any way, you have zero responsibility for making sure letter writers are genuine and the guy who got upset has no leg to stand on. It’s his own darn fault for putting his gripes out there on the internet for anyone to copy and paste!

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