four more updates from letter-writers

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

1. My boss is furious after my coworker pranked her

After the incident occured, the manager spoke to HR directly, but no actions were taken against my coworker. The manager cooled down and talked to my coworker as if it did not happen. My coworker was a little upset that the manager chose not to address the issue with her because she felt embarrassed that the manager called her the name in front of the office. My coworker felt they both should have apologized to one another.

Currently, said coworker has chosen to leave the company to pursue a new job and the manager has found a replacement.

I appreciate everyone’s comments. It really helped me to see different insights for the manager’s reaction.

2. Should I resign while I’m away on my honeymoon? (#3 at the link)

I submitted my resignation on November 10 and let them know that I’d be coming back into the office after my honeymoon, but that my last day would be November 25. Boss and board are evidently fine with this; I had an extremely positive exit interview with two board members today, and Boss and I had a long meeting this morning to go over some process questions. I suppose it speaks well of everyone that they all appear surprisingly (to me, anyway) supportive of my decision, of the timing, and of the direction that I’m taking my career by making this move.

All’s well that ends well, and I’ll start my new position on November 30.

3. Rogue admin has published her own strict rulebook for new hires

The division director and I sat down with the admin and asked why she thought what she was doing necessary and appropriate. She was accountable, with some initial defensiveness. With coaching and mentoring, I also reviewed our agency policies and procedures with her, as well as review of the organization chart. She relaxed and seemed to understand. She understood the gravity of the situation, and we gave her a written disciplinary and placed a site coordinator at the office to supervise her.

She seems to have excelled and is doing a great job over the last 90 days. It seems she felt she had complete autonomy to put into place any policy she thought was necessary to try and run an efficient office. However, she did this without communicating changes to her direct supervisor. The problem was, the other staff on site were confused as to who their supervisor(s) were. It seems they were reluctant to disclose her behavior, so they would not be perceived as “rocking the boat.” I understand this, as they have to work with her every day. She is very clear on the need for transparency and communication, which has resulted in better relationships for her with the staff on site.

By the way, the document she put into place has been removed, and frequent trips to the satellite office are made on a rotating basis with members of management to check in and let people know they are valued.

Thank you for everything, I really enjoyed the insights.

4. My manager wants to advertise for rock stars

I’m happy to say that I ended up not having to really do much about this issue. We met with the CEO, who vetoed the “rock star” in the title in favor of something else (which we ran by developers on our team, and they liked it!) And even better, the CEO complimented my work on the new, more casual job description.

{ 43 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    For #1, all’s well that ends well, I suppose, but I feel like the pranking co-worker still doesn’t quite get it in thinking she deserved an apology for being cursed at by someone who was momentarily terrified by something the prankster did. But all’s well that end’s well and hopefully everyone learned a valuable lesson.

    1. Roscoe*

      I kind of think the co-worker did deserve an apology. As we’ve seen on here many times, management is held to a higher standard. Using those kinds of words toward your subordinate isn’t right. I can understand being freaked out in the moment, but once things cooled off, I think an apology was warranted. If these were peers, I could get saying that one isn’t, but doing that in front of everyone isn’t appropriate.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yeah, I totally agree. Prankster was wrong and should (and did) apologize. But the manager, after spitting out words she (one hopes) wouldn’t have said had she had full control of herself, should have apologized as well, as a part of a follow-up conversation: “I wanted to touch base about the incident with the spider before. I know you meant the prank as a joke, and I’m sorry that I reacted as strongly as I did – especially the language I used, which was totally inappropriate. I’m particularly sensitive to spiders, but that kind of prank isn’t something I want going on in this office regardless – which I know you get now. I appreciate your apologizing to me and I’m confident this won’t happen again – on either side.”

      2. INTP*

        I agree, given that the coworker did become upset and immediately apologize. It doesn’t have to be a profuse apology, but at least a conversation and explanation of her reaction. Once she started the whole HR complaint and everything, though, I guess I can see how she would feel ridiculous to then later admit that she had overreacted.

      3. Anonsie*

        I have a “yes, but” feeling here. Yes, the manager should not have reacted the way she did and should have already apologized. But, I also feel the coworker is probably trying to center that now as a way of deflecting away from how wrong they were to try to prank their boss in the first place.

    2. anonanonanon*

      Agreed. It kind of sounded like the prankster wanted an apology for her embarrassment over terrifying a coworker. If I was in the manager’s place I’d have a very hard time not giving a “I’m sorry I cursed at you, but what you did was not cool” non-apology.

      1. Desdemona*

        +1. Any apology from the manager to the coworker sends a message that the two behaviors were basically equivalent, or even allows the coworker to convince herself that the manager’s response was more wrong than her own triggering prank.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think they both should have apologized to each other. They each made mistakes (the coworker in doing the prank at all, and the manager in continuing her hostile response way past the point of an initial reaction).

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I actually think the manager was worse here due to the name calling. The prank was absolutely not cool but the manager’s reaction was shocking. I don’t blame the employee for moving on.

        1. voyager1*

          Manager was more wrong then the employee. Let’s not forget the email to HR was Manager doing some CYA because she knew she was in the wrong with that language.

        2. Episkey*

          I agree. I posted on the original thread that I thought the prank was much more a thoughtless joke rather than something malicious. Manager’s reaction was way overboard IMO.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I definitely think the manager’s reaction was worse. But I also think the employee made an error in judgment that she should acknowledge. (Maybe she already did? I don’t recall all the details of the original letter.)

    4. Liana*

      I think she did deserve an apology, honestly. Both the manager and the coworker were unprofessional, but the coworker DID apologize for her behavior. It doesn’t matter whether she “got it” or not, she realized that the situation called for an apology so she did. The manager never apologized.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      I think the coworker does “get it” – she apologized immediately after the incident and was obviously remorseful. Even if you believe that the manager’s reaction in the moment was justified, there is still room for the manager to address it in a way that says, “In retrospect, I wish I would have reacted without swearing at you, and I understand that using that language toward a subordinate is generally not acceptable.”

      For me personally, anyone whose reaction to an emotional situation is to swear at me would make me uncomfortable, and I would want to know that my manager knows where the line is for the future.

      1. Trillian*

        I like that, too. Just because someone is calm does not mean they aren’t still angry. They may be over the fright, but not the humiliation at losing it. This wording makes the appropriate apology without conveying that everything is forgiven. (To some people, forgiven means it’s OK to pull the same stunt again.)

    6. fposte*

      Doing something because it was a panicky moment doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for what you did.

    7. Blurgle*

      I’m not surprised. In the comments to the original letter I mentioned my absolute phobia-horror of mice and was contradicted by people who informed me of how cute they were.

      1. fposte*

        They don’t have to get it, though. They just have to apologize for sending you into a panic, which the co-worker did.

      2. voyager1*

        I think your missing the point of why the apology from the manager is important.

        If you can call a employee a F’n B, can you call her an F’n C. Where is the line? Racial comments? How about age?

        The apology from the manager isn’t about giving an apology because they have emotions or phobias. It is apologizing for the consquences of the language used. Those are two different things.

        If I had been the pranker I would have been gone too. I would tell the manager that too on my last day. You have a right to get scared and upset, but those actions you took (ex language) still have consquences and I wouldn’t feel comfortable working with you if you can’t acknowledge that.

        1. Bwmn*

          In addition to that, to have that kind of mistake labeled as harassment and brought to the attention of more senior level management/owner…..not to justify the mistake – the punishment just never came close to matching the level of the mistake.

          Had the manager had the same loud vocal reaction but not reached out to HR and the owner, and then not apologized for the outburst – I’d still disagree but not to the same extent. The combination of using profanity and involving HR/management – I don’t blame the worker for leaving.

          Someone learning not to do something again and someone feeling so badly that they feel the need to leave the company, it’s just hard to see that squaring just because phobias can cause that kind of terror in another person.

    8. Oh no not again*

      No, you don’t name call like that. The manager should have apologized for the name calling.

    9. JoJo*

      That reminds me of the guy who locked a coworker out on a balcony right before and important meeting and thought he was the injured party.

      Pranks are witless, juvenile, and border on harassment.

      I have zero sympathy for a prankster who gets a more severe reaction than anticipated.

  2. Prismatic Professional*

    Yay #2! That’s awesome and I hope you’re enjoying your new job!

    #3 – It’s so nice to see that clear communication actually fixed an issue! :-)

    Alison- Thank you for all the updates!

  3. Anonsie*

    I really felt for the #3 admin when the original was posted, and I’m pretty relieved she responded well here. I can completely understand how the admin support person, especially in dealing with coordination between two removed offices, would want to lay down some info with new hires. She probably needs to know things (like where people are, when they’ll be available) and needs everyone else to know office policies that affect her job, but doesn’t get the chance to actually train people and has no authority to require people to report anything to her. So I could totally see someone reasonably wanting to set the precedent when people start working there (“You need to let me know when you won’t be here with details so when people look for you I can keep everything straight”) to get them to cooperate because That’s How It Works Here rather than the more problematic “Jane said I had to.”

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, this one worked out well for everybody. And even better, the company saw why this happened and took steps to fix the problem that caused it in the first place.

  4. Liana*

    I’m loving all these updates! Honestly, after reading the update for #1, I’m really disappointed that the manager never apologized and tried to pretend like it never happened. I understand freaking out in the moment, and I completely understand what it’s like to have a serious phobia, but that doesn’t absolve her of her actions. I mean …. she swore at a direct employee and the employee was visibly upset. How is that ever acceptable?

      1. esra*

        Huh, that’s better, but still weird. I feel kind of bad for anyone who has a weird title like that on their resume.

      2. LD*

        That reminds me of union negotiations to classify employees in certain roles as “craft” because they didn’t like the previous term. I don’t recall the previous term. I think craft implies craftsmanship and expertise in a field. Interesting choice!

  5. Erin*

    #3 – I didn’t think of it back when I read your original letter, but I can conceive if how she thought she had more freedom than she did to implement effective systems and whatnot.

    At a previous job, I had complete rein of everything even though I was entry level; we were small and my boss trusted me. I went from that to a bigger, very highly regulated industry. It was a huge wake up call how many things were restricted for me and that I didn’t have access to.

    On the other hand, it was much less stressful not to have to worry about, say, vendors not paying us because I had very limited access to our income and expenses.

    Anyway! Glad everything worked out. :)

  6. The Bimmer Guy*

    #3 — I understand that she was described as a bully, but unless she was just doing something egregious, a written warning seems kind of harsh for behavior that, up to then, hadn’t been addressed at all…

    Alison, is there any way you can get an update from the person whose employees had the Duck Sex Club? I’d like to hear about how *that* went.

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