3 more updates from letter-writers

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

1. New hire is plotting a coup

I spoke with my manager regarding the employee’s behavior and comments after your advice, and the coworker’s behavior was being closely monitored after my disclosure (hearsay, I guess).

However, her time with us was destined to be short, due to continued tardiness/periods where she was unaccounted for (several times in a short amount of time) and a sudden conflict that erupted between her and a coworker. She was terminated after just three weeks of employment. After she left, she sent an email to a senior employee complaining about our operations while flirting at the same time (using emoticons), and we felt confident that the right decision was made. Looking back at the situation a few months removed, I do not think that our other recruiters were involved in her plan at all and she wanted to establish herself as an office troublemaker early on.

2. Not attending a colleague’s funeral (#2 at the link)

First of all, I was really struck by how divisive an issue this was, but I really appreciated all of the thoughtful replies and took all sides into account.

Everything turned out really well, as my boss, who knows of my anxiety, asked if I would be willing to be the office coverage while others attended the funeral for the colleague. This, combined with sending a thoughtful card to the family after the funeral, as commenters suggested, was the perfect solution for me.

As it turned out, a few months later, someone at work I actually am close to unfortunately had her husband pass away. I felt very strongly that I should attend that wake/funeral because I very much wanted to be supportive to her. It was open casket, and I was very uncomfortable, but it was important to me to be there and I believe it meant a lot to her as well. So for me, I think the anxiety in the first case had a lot to do with the fact that I felt like an interloper into the first person’s funeral as I didn’t know her well, and didn’t know her family at all.

Thanks again to you and the wonderful AAM community! P.S. Thanks to your blog, I’m about to have a very direct conversation with an employee about expectations that I previously would have spent hours anxiously planning for. Thank you!

3. How can I reward an exceptional employee(#2 at the link; first update here)

 Here’s more detail and reflection.

I was shocked at all the negative responses – “over-rewarding,” “going overboard,” “nobody can be that great,” “she is going to burn out,” “no one can sustain that level of excellence.” Reading over of the original posting – all of the staff partakes in the power bars, but because she is “wheat-free” I buy that kind. All of the staff gets gift cards after the yearly big event. Everyone has jackets.

I realized that I was especially grateful as I inherited a spectacular bad employee who ended up on a year and half PIP (union). I was a bit shell-shocked from the experience. Then I was on medical leave for a month, and as a new employee she managed the department with a calm determination while cleaning up the previous employee’s mess.

She did get the highest rating in her yearly review (very rare, needs my supervisor’s approval, akin to “walks on water”) and there was a raise. She did get to go to the annual conference. She does have a deficit (she isn’t perfect) in one area of her position but is working on that and since I abundantly have those skills, I have happily pitched in. She continues to not only go above and beyond the call of duty, she is an excellent model for the rest of our staff.

Yes, I am a very lucky and grateful manager. The best thing I can say is that “she is the reason I can sleep at night” and I do say that to her and credit AAM.

{ 15 comments… read them below }

  1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

    #1: It would be interesting to know the thought process or details of her hiring. I’m not being critical, because I’ve certainly had my share of bad hires! Were their any red flags in interviewing?

  2. Jane*

    #3 To some this may sound egotistical or arrogant but I too am one of those superstar employees (just like you’ve been describing) I have worked very hard at all my problem areas so that I can excel at what I do. I too have gotten huge (deserved) raises and that also has made it harder for me to get raises some years because the reasoning will be something like “y0u are amazing, I wish I had 10 of you, but we gave you a huge raise last year so I can’t do much this year”.

    The point I’m trying to get to is, if she’s a superstar, she probably knows it and knows her value, which means she knows she could get hired anywhere else. So you still want to keep her happy, if you can’t offer money or vacation, try just asking her what are some things that would make her happy. Think outside the box. Maybe training that is valuable to her, maybe spare time to work on fun but useful side-projects, maybe being included in occasional business travel, maybe just getting to sit in and learn at higher level meetings.

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      That’s an excellent suggestion, Jane. I haven’t been in the professional workforce long enough to get that kind of reputation—and in fact, I start a new job Wednesday (thanks for the awesome advice, Alison)—but if I were a superstar, stuff like that would be the difference between me being satisfied with my position and me being extremely happy with my position. Money isn’t everything. It’s all about the total package.

    2. Heidi*

      Hi Jane,

      As a high performer, other than raise, do you actually get promoted to a higher position, perhaps we more leadership/managerial responsibilities? In my case, it seems like as long as your superior is around, it’s hard to move up quickly even when one over performs because there’s just so limited case in the hierarchy.

      1. Koko*

        At my company every job has a job grade which determines compensation and titling. Each job grade has a description of how much responsibility, autonomy, and accountability people in those jobs have. So for me, I was promoted to a new position that was exactly like my own, except I was being given more latitude to exercise my own judgments, and also now shouldering more of the responsibility and accountability. But I remained in my same job doing essentially the same thing, and my manager was still my manager.

      2. Jane*

        Yes and no. At my last company I got promoted to management within a few months, but at my current company it took a few years to get into management. I kept asking and asking for more responsibility but there were no possitions until one finally opened and I was at the top of the list.

  3. Amber*

    Btw the video ads that play really lag out your website, especially when trying to type (after the first 3 words, I had to sit for 12 seconds while the web page was unresponsive then occasionally spurted sound/no sound before I could type again).

      1. "Computer Science"*

        Well, I’d like to support Alison’s work, and if I can do that passively by not blocking advertisements, I’ll do that.

      1. Kelly L.*

        The other one I’ve had the same type of problems with is TVTropes. I wonder if they’re on the same network.

        A lot of other sites have a different problem. They have popups that lag behind the loading of the site, so I’ve already settled into reading something and BAM! Popup ad taking up my whole screen for a countdown of 15 seconds, and bouncing me back up to the top when it finally does go away.

  4. OP3*

    Jane, I do get what you are saying. An unusual benefit that I have accorded her is time. We have started a flex-time schedule so that if we do not have departmental commitments she can schedule a late day or an early one as she chooses. Although we do not close for a break except for the official Christmas/ Christmas Eve and New Years off, it is very, very slow. A few VIP visitors. I am covering the department. EE had this week off then will not have to come in but work from home the week after to update our website (one of her tasks but I get that it is a tedious one better done in your home from the couch…been there, done that.)

    She has very clear work/life boundaries that I expect and admire.
    Happy New Year to all. My wish for you is work that you love that pays a living wage. Physical and mental wellness. A safe and warm home surrounded by loved ones.

  5. OP 3*

    There is no movement in the department. I am tenure tracked and figure 10 to fifteen years in position. Excellent Employee has expressed that she likes her position just fine and although I have encouraged her to take advantage of professional development opportunities, she has communicated that she has zero interest in my career path ( it make sense in a way…highly specialized, few jobs, ) best case scenario, I find the funding and get approval for a higher level rating for her position. That would be the optimum long range plan.

  6. addiez*

    OP#1 – I’m curious, do you see the use of emoticons in emails to be flirting on their own, or was it a flirtatious email punctuated by emoticons?

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