my employee secretly brought her kids to work and forced a coworker to watch them

A reader writes:

I was hired at a company in January to build a department that provides support internally to other departments. This role is new and meant to provide support so that other departments can focus on higher level work. I was expected to expand to three direct reports by December, but right now I only have one direct report, Mary.

Mary was the company receptionist for two years, and I barely interacted with her before I interviewed her. There was a lot of pressure to hire her, since the company culture focuses on upward movement for employees. Her interview went well, and I spoke to her manager and he told me that Mary is smart, gets all of her work done promptly, and is eager to try new things, but has issues coming into work on time. Since that’s not a factor in my department, which has more flexibility than the front desk, I hired her. She was a great employee for all of the reasons that her previous manager mentioned, but then the scandal happened.

Mary has three kids under the age of six, which is why coming in on time is difficult. I have no problem with her coming in later than 8 a.m., but when she was a receptionist, she was often late and went on a PIP at one point (which was not disclosed to me before hiring her). To counteract that, she secretly brought her kids into work with her for over a year and forced the CFO’s executive assistant to watch them in a back room when her daily 8 a.m. check in with HR happened (which was part of her PIP), and then the EA had to cover the front desk while Mary drove her kids to preschool. I say “forced” because the EA complained and the CFO (who is Mary’s aunt) threatened to fire the EA for cause with no reference if she told anyone!

Two weeks after I hired Mary, the EA put in her notice and lodged a complaint with HR and told everyone what had happened. Mary’s reputation has suffered and no one trusts her, which makes it really difficult for her to support any other departments. People started counting the hours that she’s here and pointing out that she works less than 40 hours a week. I have spoken to a few people and pointedly told them that it isn’t their role to manage her or her time and they need to stop, immediately. This has helped a bit, but I can tell that there’s an undercurrent and people are subtly refusing to work with her (refuse to open support tickets, try to go to me instead of her, and when they are forced to open tickets they make snide remarks to her, which I’ve witnessed in person and spoken to them and their managers about).

I had a Serious Talk with my manager, who said that it’s not our place to fire Mary since this all happened before she became my employee (although he supports me if I choose to let her go, he said that’s not an action he would take). Instead he wants me to coach her in getting her reputation back. He said if she stays, she has to keep to very strict hours unlike others in a similar role. She would have to arrive by 8:30, take no more than one hour for lunch, and fill out a timesheet to prove that she’s meeting 40 hours a week.

I spoke to her and laid out those terms, saying that this is a requirement of the role and that this debacle has caused a serious lack of trust not only between Mary and others in the organization, but between Mary and me as well, since her previous conduct was unethical. I made it clear that this job is on the line and I laid out the exact expectations I have for her – ticket response times, general conduct, and the timesheet. I can see Mary chaffing under the timesheet and hours restrictions that she didn’t have for the past two months, and there’s tension between us. The quality of her work is the same, but the amount has gone down drastically since people stopped putting in tickets unless they have to, and my boss has told me that at the current level of tickets, a department of three reports wouldn’t make sense.

This was a job I really wanted to love, but instead I feel resentful that Mary’s actions seem to be negatively impacting my future job growth at this company. I’ve spoken with some department heads about ticket requests reducing so drastically and 75% said they’d talk to their teams about it, but the rest basically told me that they won’t force their teams to work with Mary. The CFO is being evaluated by the board, and I doubt she’ll be here much longer.

I feel myself second guessing my decision. Should I let Mary go?


I’m pretty shocked that Mary wasn’t fired as soon as it came out that she’d been secretly bringing her kids to work and forcing someone else’s assistant to watch them — all while she was already on a PIP, no less. (And I’m also shocked that the CFO wasn’t fired for threatening the assistant in order to maintain the cover-up.) This is egregious stuff — firing on the spot stuff.

Your boss is being weird in his stance that you shouldn’t fire her because this all happened before she worked for you. No one knew about it before she was working with you — it didn’t come out until she was in your department. And sure, it was a violation that took place in her old role, not her new one, but it was a massive violation against the company, and it’s perfectly reasonable for the company to let her go over it. Under your boss’s logic, if Mary had embezzled in her old role but no one found out about it until she was in the new one, you’d have to overlook it. That makes no sense.

I’m not sure how long it’s been since this came out, but it sounds like it can’t have been more than a couple of months. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to do one of two things:

1. Fire Mary. What she did was totally unacceptable, abusive of her position (and of another employee), raises huge concerns about her trustworthiness, integrity, and judgment, and has cost her the trust of people who need to work with her, in a way that’s having a clear and direct impact on your department. I’d frame it this way: “It’s essential in this role to have strong, trusting relationships with coworkers, because otherwise they won’t come to us for the support we’re here to provide. Unfortunately, your past actions with Lucinda (the EA she forced to watch her kids) have broken the trust you had with coworkers — and frankly, with me and others — and I haven’t seen signs of those relationships repairing.”

Someone could argue that if you were going to go this route, you should have done it when the story first came out. But you were brand new to the job and still getting the lay of the land, and now you’ve had some time to see exactly what the impact has been on her job and your department. Also, in the time since, Mary has demonstrated that she’s not exactly bending over backwards to try to repair things — she’s not even working a full slate of hours, to the point that you’re imposing rules that shouldn’t be needed to ensure that she meets the responsibilities of her job. And she’s chafing under those rules, rather than understanding why you’ve imposed them. This isn’t someone who it makes sense keep around.

2. Alternately, you could lay the problem out for Mary and let her decide how to handle it. That would mean saying something like this: “Part of what I need in your role is someone who can build trust with other staff members so that they open support tickets directly with you rather than coming to me instead. I also need someone who will meet our expectations regarding hours worked per week without strict monitoring. To be honest, I’m not sure if the role is the right fit, given the problems we’ve had in both areas. If you think that you can turn it around in both areas, I’m willing to give you some time to demonstrate that — but I’d need to see significant changes in both areas a month from now, or I’d need to let you go.”

However, if you’re convinced that there’s no way Mary could turn this around in the next month (and I’m pretty skeptical that she could, given her coworker’s understandable lack of trust in her), it would probably be kinder to go with #1 rather than watching her try something you know will fail.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 545 comments… read them below }

    1. neverjaunty*

      Right? It sounds like OP is the only sane manager in this whole saga – the CFO protects his relative, OP’s boss is pretending to be an ostrich, and nothing is done about Mary.

    2. Commander Shepard*

      Yes. I’d be reluctant to walk away from this job, because I’d look back on it and feel that I had quit because I couldn’t deal with one bad employee. But in this case the bad employee is OP’s only report, who they were pressured into hiring. And ultimately the more important factor is that it sounds like management is weak and dysfunctional throughout the organization.

      OTOH, it sounds like the OP has dealt with it as well as possible so far. I’d fire Mary, and after that, my decision to stay or go would be based on whether the CFO stays or goes.

  1. Roscoe*

    This is tough. I’m (slightly) on the side of giving her a final chance. I mean, if her work for you is fine, then maybe she has turned it around. She made some mistakes before, but now is (seemingly) in a situation that is better suited for her situation. However, the fact that the other people are refusing to work with her is problematic. I get that the other departments don’t like her, but that shouldn’t really affect what they are doing, so in that I think they are being unprofessional as well. I’d try to talk to the other managers on your level, let her know that you are giving her one more chance, but that you would like them to have their reports do the same thing. But if she slips up again, you do need to let her go.

    1. Teacher's Pet*

      But her work may be fine because the workload of the department has been reduced (is it BY or TO 75% of the norm? by 75% would be very high but I couldn’t quite tell based on her phrasing) significantly and therefore the work she does isn’t on as much of a time pressure – she darn well better do the work she has very well.

    2. LQ*

      I get why you are saying that other people refusing to work with her is problematic. But the last person who refused to bend to her will got threaten by the CFO. I’d do a lot to avoid working with someone who has the CFO threatening people for them. (The CFO who is still currently at that company.)

      1. JMegan*

        Yeah, this place sounds like a mess all around. I agree that Mary should be fired, but I also think the problems run much deeper than just her. I think OP might want to start polishing up her resume and looking for other jobs for herself as well.

        It sucks that you should have to, since you’re not the one who created the problem, and this should have been a great opportunity for you. But I just don’t see a way that this is going to get resolved, unless Mary AND the CFO are gone, AND the whole company gets extensive retraining. I get why people wouldn’t want to work with Mary, but I have a feeling that the culture of fear there runs pretty deep, and I don’t think it would magically get better once Mary is out the door.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Agree the Op should start looking while the board is reviewing the CFO, which is the only ray of hope in this scenario. Then if nothing happens to CFO, she’ll be the second good employee to leave over this. And if that doesn’t get the boards attention, I’m sonsorry for the remaining employees at Wacko Inc.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yes, given that she previously used her family relationships to threaten to get someone fired with no reference if they set an entirely reasonable boundary, I’d be treating her like she was radioactive too. It’s not just that they don’t like her, it’s that interacting with her is actually risky!

        1. abankyteller*

          Exactly what Turtle Candle said. J wouldn’t want my job threatened because of an interaction with this person and would do all I could to stay away as a matter of self-preservation.

        2. The Bimmer Guy*

          While Mary is no saint (ha!), we can’t attribute that to her. The vein of poor judgment runs so deep that it’s very possible the CFO made this threat of her own volition, without Mary asking her to.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Okay, that’s fair–it’s possible that Mary thought this was all above-board and the manipulation and threats were unknown to her. I kind of doubt it, but it’s certainly possible.

            But as another coworker, I’d still stay far away from her. From my POV as someone who just wants to get my own work done and stay on good terms with my company, there’s not a big difference between “if you inconvenience Mary, she’ll threaten you” and “if you inconvenience Mary, her aunt will threaten you.” In both cases I’m going to, quite rationally, want to just stay the hell away from Mary.

            1. Katie*

              But people clearly aren’t worried enough about the CFO’s wrath right now to avoid making snide remarks to Mary. It seems like if the CFO were still that dangerous, people would just be avoiding her, not avoiding her AND being rude to her.

        3. Anon Accountant*

          Exactly. I’d be afraid I’d make a misstep with Mary, the CFO would hear about it and I’d be fired. I’d minimize interactions with her also.

      3. A Non*

        I wonder how the CFO is going to react if the LW fires Mary. It may not be pretty. If the CFO is on her way out it may not matter much, though.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Obviously it’s not the height of professionalism but I don’t think it’s unprofessional that her coworkers don’t want to work with Mary. She has a history of abusing power and being party to blackmail. Those are very valid reasons to want to avoid working with someone. They aren’t “some mistakes”. They’re serious issues.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yes. This is not a forgivable offense. The original use of the EA to watch the kids — maybe. But the blackmail and threats? No one in their right mind would work with this person and she is destroying the department and the OP’s career at this company. She needs to go and I would argue that she HAS been given a chance but that her reputation has so damaged her effectiveness that it is not working. She needs to go now or the OP needs to start planning her own exit from the situation. Where is the CEO in all of this? Why was the CFO not fired the moment his or her behavior was uncovered? Wow!!!

        1. Marian the Librarian*

          > “I would argue that she HAS been given a chance”

          Right? The PIP was the chance, and she blew it with her unethical behavior. She’d already been given her “last chance” even before the blackmail and threats.

    4. Roscoe*

      As I said, I’m only slightly on that side. Mainly because it seems like she was in a bad situation with her kids, and made some not great decisions because of it. The aunt threatening the person was awful, but I don’t know that its fair to blame her for her aunts abuse of power. Again, if she did decide to fire the woman, I wouldn’t have a problem with it either.

      1. No Longer Just a Lurker*

        There are millions of mothers who manage to wrangle their kids in the AM and still get to work on time – many of them earlier than 8am as I do it every single day. I chose to have my child and work so sometimes that means I have to prep at night, wake up earlier, and sometimes be an evil witch in order to get munchkins moving. I also remind my husband that he contributed to making said children and therefore needs to pitch in. I know not every household has 2 parents and work hours could effect how much help the other parent can be in the morning but that doesn’t mean they can’t get lunches, bags, and clothes ready the night before so there is less rushing in the morning.
        Having children is not an acceptable reason for always being late. And keep in mind that she most likely chose to have her kids that close in age so she can’t really blame them for anything.

        1. Michelenyc*

          +1 My mom was a single mom of 2 and we were definitely on a schedule growing up in the morning so that she was not late to work and we were not late to school or daycare.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Not to mention most schools have before and after school childcare, which may or may not cost her depending on her income. We don’t know the full story, but she may just be choosing to not utilize the service because why would she get up early and spend the money when her Aunt has given her cart blanche?

        3. That Marketing Chick*

          +100. I think she’s way past the point of having compassion for a mom trying to juggle young kids. She’s taken advantage and it’s time to show her the door – there’s no repairing her reputation to the point where people will be willing to work with her again.

        4. Zillah*

          I agree that Mary having children doesn’t excuse the horrible behavior that the OP is describing, nor are Mary’s personal issues the OP’s problem.

          However, there’s something about your comment that’s rubbing me the wrong way. We have absolutely no information on how much Mary is or isn’t prepping at night, whether she has the ability to, or whether she has a partner at all, let alone one who responds to “You contributed to making the kids, so pitch in” in the way that she needs. And,

          And keep in mind that she most likely chose to have her kids that close in age so she can’t really blame them for anything.

          is unnecessarily judgmental, and frankly comes off to be as a little self-congratulatory. There’s no information at all about what went into Mary’s decisions about her family, and it’s neither productive nor fair to spin problems that people have into “Well, you made a choice, so this is your problem now.”

          Mary has behaved terribly and should, IMO, absolutely be fired. However, what she did on the job is what’s relevant here, and what we have concrete information about; turning this into “this is why Mary is a failure as a parent and generally bad at life” isn’t appropriate.

          1. LadyCop*

            ” We have absolutely no information on how much Mary is or isn’t prepping at night, whether she has the ability to, or whether she has a partner at all”

            And none of that justifies any of her behavior. Single harried parent who doesn’t/can’t plan or rely on anyone else? too bad. Don’t take a job with strict start times.

            Seriously…it’s not like she had a high bar to meet. Stop with the excuses for parents.

      2. BananaPants*

        The overwhelming majority of working parents are able to get their kids to daycare/preschool/school and make it to work on time.

        I’m a working mom and I would call out sick or use a vacation day or even an unpaid personal say rather than ask a coworker to take care of my kids! That’s just insane.

        1. Green*

          Random coworker taking care of your kids (much less requiring them to!) is best saved for life-or-death emergencies unless they offer.

          1. Steve*

            When I read the title I thought it was one time. Seriously, she was on a PIP for a year, and covered it up by using nepotism to force another employee to take care of her personal stuff. Unbelievable.

    5. Green*

      This isn’t really because they don’t “like” Mary though; this is because they don’t trust Mary’s professionalism or ethics. OP’s department sounds like a support department, and if they’re not meeting the needs of the client department, the client can internalize the work (which is what’s happening here) and reduce the need for Mary’s job (and possibly OP’s job!). Mary needs to go based on her actions alone, but it should also help OP bail out her sinking department.

      1. MashaKasha*

        This was my thought too, that, at the rate things are going, OP’s department will end up being eliminated. Right now, nobody’s using it because they’re afraid to work with Mary (and rightfully so, since apparently complaining about Mary can get you fired.) Then OP’s boss turns around and says that, because the call volume is down (due to the fact that no one wants to work with Mary and she’s the only employee in the group) that the group doesn’t need any more people, other than the one nobody wants to work with! So no one’s utilizing OP’s department, and nothing is being done to change that! It’s only a matter of time before somebody asks why they have this department at all.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          And there’s the ripple effect that’s hard to see – tickets not being filed doesn’t mean the tasks aren’t being done, it’s that the people are doing it themselves and taking time away from their own tasks.

          Our problem was technical, not personal, but it had the same result – we had a ticket reporting website that was overly complex and unintuitive (the most obvious thing you might want to do – opening a new ticket – was hidden under a menu item that, being web-based, didn’t look like a menu item in any other UI I’d ever used; it shouldn’t take a UI expert 5 minutes to find it! And that wasn’t even the worst of it!). So we’d just do things ourselves rather than wrestle with the system; what should, with a proper system, take 30 seconds or so to report would waste upwards of half an hour.

          1. fposte*

            Right, it’s a classic Missing Stair situation. People will do it themselves, or ask the people next to Mary or the people who informally know the stuff, rather than involving Mary. I think most of us are familiar with the people you ask instead of the people you’d think you ask.

            1. The Bimmer Guy*

              Exactly. Which is counterintuitive since the whole point of the department is for people to focus on higher-level tasks. That makes OP’s department redundant.

              1. Wanna-Alp*

                …which means that Mary’s job is toast either way.

                The only question is: can OP prevent the dept & her job being toast too?

                If Mary’s job is toast either way, it might make it easier to present to her the reason why she’s being let go.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I think that there is also another issue at play – the reputation of the department. An existing department would already have a reputation. The new department doesn’t have a reputation with the company, so any actions with the department will establish the reputation, either good or bad. Mary’s ethics are severely impacting the department at a time when that department is vulnerable. It is essential to fire Mary in light of the other scandals so that the department has a reputation of integrity.
        There is also the concept of inertia. If the department fails it will be very difficult to re-establish it at a later date because of that failure.

      1. Leeza*

        Yeah, and what about her having to keep her lunches to one hour? Sheesh, how long were her lunches before??

        1. Original Poster*

          We’re at the edge of town, so the nearest food place is a 20 minute drive and 30 minutes to get to the mall with lots of options. That easily turns into a 2 hour lunch (30 each way plus 45 of eating + parking, etc). Our company culture is that you come in early, stay late and take a long lunch, lots of people take a hike during lunch (we’re right by a nice hilly area with trails). So Mary’s 1 hour lunch actually is unusual here.

    6. BRR*

      I agree in part with the logic put applying it to this situation isn’t lining up for me. I would be concerned that I would have to watch her kids and my job would be on the line. It’s not an extreme conclusion to draw.

      Even though Mary is doing fine at her job, she might have just ruined her reputation at the company and the damage is too deep.

    7. Maybe sometimes the answer is just float on and survive?*

      From what I understand, this went on for a year? Pulling a stunt like that one time is scandalous but forgivable. Doing so as a daily part of your routine is crazypants to me. The only thing I can come up with is the CFO knew what was happening, told Mary to do it, and instructed their assistant to cover it up. I think this is a gross violation of the company’s trust, but technically if it was at the behest and instruction of the CFO no one broke any rules. It’s screwed up, but it is over. The other departments refusing to use the new system, however, is a bunch of people willfully breaking rules. They need to remove Mary from the equation and treat it like any resistance to new systems integration. That being said, I would fire her the second the CFO leaves.

  2. Erin*

    Oh my. I think this ship has sailed. I would let her go.

    You’ve already had the before firing talk with her – explaining what you need to see change. And you say her work has remained the same, but the amount has gone down due to fewer tickets.

    This tells me A) If it’s the same, she’s not bending over backwards to repair things (as Alison said), and B) The damage with regards to relationships with other coworkers has clearly already been done.

    And I’m sorry, but the behavior she demonstrated while *on PIP* shows me that even when she’s being told her job is on the line she *still* can’t step it up.

    Again, you’ve already had the obligatory pre-firing chat. Now it’s time to fire her.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I agree–what stood out to me is that she is chafing at the new boss’s requirements. She isn’t going to change, and what she did has affected productivity. She has had two chances already and has blown them both.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, that sealed the deal for me. Most people, who know their job is at stake, pretty much agree to find solutions. Not Contrary Mary, though. Well, why would she? Auntie will protect her from that PIP. I bet Mary thinks that auntie can prevent her from being fired- maybe she will just go to another department instead.

        Whatever the rationale is, Mary is unwilling to conform even after being told to her face. If I were Mary’s boss, I would be done here. You cannot help someone who does not want to be helped.

        OP, you fire this woman and you will find out a whole bunch more that you never knew about Mary. The employees are moving in cohesion for a reason, you almost never see employees respond to a person like this. When you have this many people refusing to work with another person, there is a big problem going on. You may not be privy to the whole story right now.

        1. Trillian*

          I think so too. Whether it’s past behaviour from Mary or the CFO or both, this has become a flashpoint for a reason.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      the behavior she demonstrated while *on PIP* shows me that even when she’s being told her job is on the line she *still* can’t step it up

      This is what does it for me. She’s already been through Option #2 above, it was just with her previous boss. Her response to that should give you a good idea of what to expect to result from you laying it out for her. Save yourself the trouble, the time, and the hit to your reputation. Let her go now.

    3. my two cents*

      it also may have been the cfo aunt pushing her to pull something like that while on a pip – “don’t worry about it, i’m the cfo!”

        1. Roscoe*

          Thats really easy to say. But how many people would really do it? I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone with integrity would not take help from someone high up in the org

          1. Observer*

            Plenty. Besides, nothing essential changed when she got the new job. Sure, the EA no longer was watching her kids, but now she started shorting her hours.

          2. Green*

            If the help involved faking your “check-in” with HR while making someone else watch your kids under threat of firing, I think anyone with integrity would not take that kind of help. If the “help” had been, “Hey, HR and I discussed and you can occasionally be up to 15 minutes late without it impacting your PIP” then people with integrity may accept that. See the difference?

          3. Serin*

            I think it’s fair to say anyone with integrity wouldn’t say to a co-worker, “You have to look after my kids and lie about it to help me keep my job, and if you don’t, I’m related to your boss and I’ll get you fired”!

            1. my two cents*

              Unless it was the cfo-aunt doing things of her own volition, and then Mary just assuming it’s all normal because hey – her tardiness problem was the reason for the pip, and now it’s getting addressed.

              1. Green*

                Except the point of the tardiness was to have her covering her desk at the start of the day. She still took her kids to school after she faked the HR check-in while hiding her kids in a back room. Any rational person would know that’s not the goal of the PIP.

                1. my two cents*

                  i can’t wrap my head around why anyone would have thought this was going to ‘work’ at that office, unless Mary is the dimmest bulb in the box. i think this is 80% cfo and 20% Mary, but Mary isn’t that valuable as an employee so get rid of her.

                  though the company will likely throw some healthy severance at Mary just to get rid of her, since she wasn’t fired on the spot once this came to light.

              2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                But Mary had a way to prevent the aunt from threatening the EA: Take the kids to daycare/school before arriving at work at 8, instead of bringing them to the EA’s office. Tell the aunt, “I’ve worked it out so now I can drop the kids off early. I don’t have to bring them to work.” Even if it’s a hassle, don’t complain to the aunt – let her think that everything is going smoothly.

                This isn’t like “my crazy mother keeps calling my boss asking them to promote me” – Mary could have taken actions that would have prevented the entire situation.

                1. my two cents*

                  well, they probably weren’t in some law and order svu hidden secret room or crawl space under the floorboards. it’s more likely that OP was trying to explain why they weren’t ‘caught’ sooner – that the kids were tucked away out of sight in another room no one used or something.

                2. Observer*

                  Sure, it’s highly unlikely that there was anything as dramatic as a hidden floor or the like. But, the EA was intentionally keeping them out of sight. Mary could not NOT have known that.

              3. Turtle Candle*

                If Mary assumed it was normal, I would be very surprised that she managed to keep it quiet for an entire year. That means that she had to never mention the arrangement, not visibly bring the kids in or out, etc., for a whole year. One or two times, or even for a week or so, sure. But the idea that she thought it was above-board and cool for a year and yet somehow nobody else heard about it for the entire time stretches my credulity to the breaking point.

                1. Original Poster*

                  From what I understand, it wasn’t 5 days a week. It was anywhere from 2-4 days a week and she’d bring them in the back door. Our back door is near the trash and there’s no parking there, so it’s really underutilized. Mix that in with the fact that the back room is basically storage with a few old chairs and no one goes there.

                  Actually, now that I think of it, it probably wasn’t safe for the kids. There are cleaning chemicals in that room for the night janitor. Two walking / running kids and a toddler toddling around with serious cleaning chemicals seems like a recipe for disaster.

          4. themmases*

            There is a huge difference between the kind of help most people would accept from a family member– like putting in a good word or even getting them a job in a hard time– and what this person did. Mary had her aunt blackmail a subordinate. No, most people would not want to accept that kind of help.

            1. my two cents*

              Maybe Mary didn’t know about the threat to the EA and otherwise thought she was addressing it.

              Mary’s either a super duper sneaky mastermind or she’s an easily manipulated dolt – neither of which are particularly flattering.

              1. Green*

                Or she just is someone who is chronically late and unethical. I really cannot conceive of a scenario in which aunt hatched this on her own initiative without Mary’s involvement or awareness that it was not the right thing to do. She’s not being manipulated here IMO.

          1. my two cents*

            From the letter, I thought the unauthorized child care stopped once Mary switched roles.

            Depending on how embarrassed/apologetic Mary is about that ridiculousness, if the cfo-aunt is in close proximity (same small office) then yes – it is VERY possible that the cfo had pressured folks into the arrangement while Mary was still the receptionist.

            also…is anyone else wondering what happened to Mary’s former manager – the one who helped pressure OP into hiring her?

            1. 2 Cents*

              It did — because she’s allowed to come in later than everyone else (because that department has more flexible rules). I’m sorry — many people have children and can get to work on time most of the time. When you’re the receptionist(!), you’d better be sitting at your desk at the start of business, especially AFTER you’ve been warned about it!

            2. Original Poster*

              The unauthorized child care has indeed stopped, originally because her hours become more flexible so that she could get her kids to preschool, and now that everyone knows they’re watching her like a hawk. She couldn’t steal an envelope without everyone gossiping about it.

              Maybe I should have mentioned in my letter, during my talk with Mary she expressed that she was sorry about the whole situation and that she is a single parent and was scared to lose the receptionist job. She also made some comments about the job not being particularly understanding toward working mothers. Generally, our employees (male and female) work from 7/8a-6/7p or with a long lunch (often 1.5 – 2 hours). In that regard, no, our company is not very parent friendly, but that *IS* the culture and they are VERY clear about it when you’re hired.

              The original manager (Office Manager) hasn’t had any negative blow back from this. She didn’t know and wouldn’t have condoned it if she did, so no one blames her.

              1. fposte*

                Is the Original Manager Mary’s old manager? How did Mary’s old manager not know that Mary left the front desk to drive her kids to school, and why aren’t people blaming her for not knowing? And did Mary think being scared about losing her job justified making somebody else do it for her? Or did she conveniently not mention that part?

                Basically, I’m not seeing the situation any differently–her old manager blew this one, and you need to fire her.

                1. AF*

                  I wonder if Mary’s old manager was also intimidated by the CFO. Or maybe that person is no longer there? This is sad, but endlessly fascinating!

              2. Linguist curmudgeon*

                Wow, your working-hours culture sounds objectively horrible, all Mary stuff aside. 11-hour days are quite the beam in your company’s eye to be ignoring, here.

              3. my two cents*

                It’s good she’s at least apologetic, and holy cats – those are long office hours.

                Though, Mary needs to shut her mouth entirely at this point. She’s hanging onto her job by the skin of her teeth, at the moment. Whining that it isn’t parent-friendly isn’t doing her any favors, especially now. Its like if you loaned a friend your and they damaged/destroyed it, you’d want them to repair/replace it – not make comments like “well, it WAS really beat up already anyway”.

                1. Original Poster*

                  It’s long hours for *salary* workers, what may really be upsetting people is that the receptionist job was only from 8-5 with a 30 minute lunch from 12-12:30 because it was *hourly*. For people who work 7am-6pm, it probably seems like she wasn’t trying at all since she was showing up an hour after them and leaving an hour before they were.

                  I don’t mind fewer hours than the culture here, more in line with 40/week as long as all of your work gets done. But you can see with hours like this why people were counting her hours in her new position and upset that she wasn’t making 40/week.

              4. Late to the Pary*

                I know I’m late in commenting but I find the number of hours most employees are working vs. how many Mary was working really interesting.

                First of all, I definitely think it would be perfectly reasonable to fire Mary for all the reasons already listed in the comments.

                However, if you were to keep her on, my first reaction when I read that people had complained she wasn’t working 40 hours and that you were going to strictly enforce a 8-5 schedule for her in response, was that it wouldn’t help anyone. When a group of people resent the presence of an individual, it doesn’t matter what the individual does. The group will find something to critique as long as their trust is broken.

                And while I hear all the people saying that there are plenty of mom’s with many kids who manage to get to work on time, I have a hard time believing that a single mom of three children would compromise her only job in the ways described unless she felt that she absolutely had to. Single mom’s aren’t exactly known for acting entitled. That doesn’t excuse her behavior and her co-workers are totally justifying in no longer trusting her. I just see the behaviors as desperation rather than just lack of integrity or laziness.

                She started bringing in her children after it was strictly enforced that she arrive at 8am, which leads me to believe that she could not come in on time otherwise, or that it was not sustainable for her to do so. To me, requiring her to be at work at 8am when she’s clearly communicated that this is difficult for her because of her children, is just setting yourself up a new set of problems. It makes sense that she’s chafing under it, especially when you specifically said that it is not important in your department for her to be there at 8am, so she’s going through extreme hardship just for show. Similarly with the 1-hour lunch when it’s typical for people to have 2 hour lunches due to the location makes more work for her in the form of making lunch to bring to work, etc. Both limitations most likely severely increase her stress and gain almost no trust with her co-workers.

                Then when I read in your comments that most employees have 11 hour work days and Mary *doesn’t* I wondered if the complaints about her not working 40 hours weren’t just because of her inexcusable behavior but were also a result of resentment that they are working so much and not given the flexibility that Mary has been given.

                It’s also a little circular in logic. From what I read, it sounds like how much work Mary has to do is very dependent on her co-workers bringing it to her. So the co-workers refuse to work with her due to her behavior, causing Mary’s work load to go down. She uses her flexibility and gets all her work done, and spends less time at work because she has less work to do. Then co-workers become resentful that she doesn’t work as much as they do. It’s obviously not the fault of the co-workers that this problem showed up in the first place, but this is basically just another reason why the “she’s not working 40 hours” complaint is not really the problem here.

                My response, if I were keeping her on, would be to brain storm with Mary ways that she can regain trust in the community, possibly one individual at a time. Personal apologies, gestures of good faith, etc

    4. Persephone*

      I wonder if she thought she would never be terminated because her aunt is the CFO, and therefore never cared about improving.

      1. my two cents*

        but it was still the cfo dictating the child care duties as part of the EA’s job. Mary would hardly have standing to pressure the EA into that.

        Mary may be a brilliant mastermind – getting her cfo aunt to authorize the EA to watch her kids in some backroom while on a pip for being late while switching into a new role (new manager!) and also skipping out for long lunches and not hitting a full 40 hours.

        Or Mary’s a bit of a dolt who let her cfo aunt reassure her it was going to work, and then switched roles not realizing that she would have been better off cutting out and cutting her losses because now everyone hates her.

        Since she hasn’t walked herself out yet, I’m leaning towards ‘clueless easily manipulated dolt’.

      2. Analyst*

        It’s the CFO’s own assistant… I can’t help but wonder if CFO told EA way early on that the CFO herself wanted EA to watch Mary’s kids. As in, not so much covert blackmail by a fellow employee, more the boss assigning personal, non-work duties to an admin.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            The timeline in the letter is that Mary dumped the kids on the EA, the EA complained, and *then* the CFO threatened her.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              And it was a secret for the whole time, which makes it really hard for me to believe that Mary thought it was business-as-usual. Keeping that kind of thing secret for a year… is hard for me to believe is an accident. So I’m having trouble buying the idea that maybe this was all the CFO and Mary didn’t know about the sketchy parts.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                (Especially as, at least as far as I can tell, the CFO was not Mary’s boss. I have trouble seeing how, given that Mary was on a PIP for attendance issues, there was never a “how’s it going getting in on time?”/”oh, it’s so much better since my aunt’s EA started watching the kids!” conversation–unless Mary was aware it wasn’t cool and was hiding it deliberately.)

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Even if that’s the case, this conversation must have happened:

            Mary: “Aunt Judy, it’s not fair! They’re mad at me for not getting in at eight, but it’s so hard with the kids!”

            Aunt: “I know – bring the kids to work, put them in Lucinda’s office while you check in, and then pop out and take the kids to daycare.”

            For Mary to be an ethical person in my eyes, her response should have been, “Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea! I’m supposed to be there from eight onward. I’ll talk to the other parents at daycare and find someone to carpool with.”

            1. The Bimmer Guy*

              Right. At this point, both Mary and the CFO need to go, because their reasoning and general lack of consideration for other people is creating noticeable toxicity in the organization. I think that if I were in Mary’s position, I would know better than to assume that watching my children is the EA’s job.

    5. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. It isn’t a ‘Mary made a mistake’ problem, it’s a ‘Mary is a bad employee and doesn’t want to change’ problem.

  3. Bend & Snap*


    I would let her go. Keeping people like that around can damage the manager’s reputation as well as morale.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Yes, yes, yes! I work in a place where a bad employee practically has to punch a client in the face before a manager will take action. Morale is horrible. Even reasonable employees see no reason to keep up a solid level of work, let alone improve. No one gives a damn about the company or the work. It’s a terrible environment and only the people who don’t have a lot of options will stick around. People who do have options move on quickly. Put me down on the side of “Mary your work and attitude have not improved. There’s the door.”

      1. Terribla*

        I worked at a pet hospital where this was a problem. This lady worked one day a week and even then, she frequently tried to get out of it. She frequently left early, took long personal phone calls on the company line, took tests at her desk, and generally just didn’t give a crap. She was co receptionist on a weekend day and everyone hated her, but no one would do anything about her because at best they’d get an “I’ll talk to her” and at worst, nothing would be done at all. Morale lowered substantially, as the weekend is busier than the week. My understanding was that she didn’t have to work, and it made me personally resentful because I had to work for a living and I didn’t have nearly the same flexibility with my hours. I think she might have been a friend of the manager, but that is no excuse.

  4. Mike C.*

    If you can, fire her as soon as humanly possible. Now, if you can. You don’t need this person dragging you and your company down.

    1. Liane*

      Yes. If Auntie CFO wants to support Mary let her give Mary a free ride with her own money, not her company’s money .

    2. Kira*

      re: dragging you down, it seems clear that her reputation is holding your department back. If you really believe that your new department could help the company – but this employee’s poor reputation is preventing the new department from growing – then it’s the right thing to do for your department and for your company to move on.

      1. Jinx*

        That’s the big thing for me. If Mary has alienated all her coworkers while in a role that doesn’t require interacting with said coworkers, I can see giving her time to repair the relationships if she was otherwise doing a good job or putting a clear PIP in place. But it sounds like OP’s department is getting less work overall because no one wants to work with Mary, which is really bad. That’s impacting OP’s job and her plans for the department’s future.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Exactly! I wouldn’t want to send tickets to Mary because there is a possibility I could be blackmailed by the CFO if Mary isn’t able to perform. If I worked at a company that tolerated this level of conspiring unethical behavior, I would be looking for a new job.

    4. dr_silverware*

      Yesss. In addition to staying on your toes for attempts at retaliation from the CFO.

  5. JoJo*

    I’m on Team Fire Her Immediately. She’s already proved she’s unprofessional, vindictive and lacks integrity, so why is this even up for debate?

  6. AMG*

    Same here–time for Mary to go. She’s not a good employee and while people SHOULD work with her as part of their jobs, the fact is that her presence impedes productivity.

  7. KR*

    I’m also on Team Let Her Go. She made a mistake and she has to deal with it. Maybe she can focus on finding a position where she’ll be able to juggle her kid’s schedule better.

    1. Maybe Not*

      Yea there are plenty of companies that can handle a flexible schedule. It sounds like none of this even at THIS company would have been an issue if her first job wasn’t a receptionist and she HAD to be there by 8 am every day.

  8. Maybe Not*

    This makes me sad. As a woman who’s in prime child-bearing years, I know that this is why the subconscious (or conscious) biases exist that Moms With Young Kids Will Be Distracted At Work. My husband and I are beginning to think about having kids, and it’s something that I worry about once we do have them. I job hunted as a newlywed (was about 27) and I was SO WORRIED that people interviewing me were thinking I might up and have kids soon and either a) leave or b) be distracted at work. I was so worried to the point that I always found a way to work in that I didn’t want kids for at least 5 years, IF it made sense in the conversation (it wasn’t like, oh what’s your biggest weakness – I DON’T WANT KIDS ANY TIME SOON HIRE ME PLEASE)

    1. Maybe Not*

      I guess I need to clarify – it makes me sad because she is an example of the stereotype that Moms With Young Kids Will Be Distracted At Work. And we all know that once you meet one example of a stereotype you may become ‘inside the box’ towards anyone else that falls in that category…

    2. Maybe Not*

      That being said I am on team Fire Mary because it sounds like Mary is a horrible person, and she’s perpetuating stereotypes. Fire her, move on, and maybe people will forget about it and not hold it against the next Mom with Young Kids that gets hired at the company. IF you keep her, I feel like people may subconsciously hold it against the next one… I can just hear it now “Oh Sarah is late again because she has to drop her kids at preschool” even though Sarah is highly productive, everyone likes her, and maybe even works late to make up for coming in late…

      1. themmases*

        I get that this question feel personal to you, but “perpetuating stereotypes” is really not an acceptable reason to fire anyone.

        The OP found out that their employee used a family connection to blackmail someone. She didn’t do it because she has kids; she did it because she is a bad person. Her behavior doesn’t reflect on people with children any more than her blackmailing someone for money would reflect on people who need to pay rent.

    3. Erin*

      I hear you but I think it’s wildly off topic in this case. Her having young kids isn’t the issue.

      People probably would have been more sympathetic to her kid situation if she’d worked with them on it instead of literally bringing them to work and hiding them. And forcing someone else to watch them. I mean, whoa.

      She should have gone to her higher up and said, “Is it possible to adjust my hours so I can come in later, to drive my kids to daycare? If someone could cover the front desk and phones for me for that first hour I’d certainly be happy to then stay an hour later.” (We have a similar rotating cover phone schedule for our receptionist, who frequently has her granddaughter under her care.)

      There are so many ways to handle this better than what she did. Anything but what she did, really.

      1. Green*

        It’s not really wildly off-topic in the sense that stereotype-confirming incidents stand out in our minds more (and are easier for our brains to recall) than stereotype-disconfirming incidents. It’s not a reason to fire Mary (Mary has already given us plenty of those), but it’s problematic in the sense that there can be 9 other Moms with Young Kids at the company, and people who are predisposed to believe that women with children are inferior workers are going to have this highly salient example at instant recall. Mary’s actions can negatively impact the hiring, career path or accommodations provided to other women as a result of conscious or unconscious bias.

        1. Mary*

          Yeah, but then you should be addressing the unconscious (or conscious) bias of your decision-makers. Mary’s actions aren’t worse than they would have been if she were Mark. You can’t say that Group That Lives With Stereotype Threat needs to behave better or be judged more harshly than a group which isn’t.

      2. my two cents*

        She did have a higher-up assess the situation – the cfo just also happens to be her aunt, who apparently thought it was a-ok to assign her EA to watch children under threat of retaliation.

        If the cfo where i work extended privilege to me – say maybe that i could expense my dog boarding, but only because i live alone and travel often for work – I’d totally take them up on it.

        I certainly wouldn’t go bragging about it to others in the office. I also wouldn’t expect the cfo to ‘warn’ me if they had forced someone in accounting to accept my expense reports with the boarding charges. I suppose I could possibly read into the look of disdain on accounting’s face when I submitted my expenses, but it’s just as likely they’re just irritated it’s another expense report or something.

        1. Green*

          I think it’s clear from the circumstances here that she was skirting the HR “check-in” and violating the PIP; Mary was complicit in the behavior. The CFO shouldn’t have done this (and needs to be fired too!), but Mary knew it was wrong and should have just dropped her kids off and gone to work on time.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            here that she was skirting the HR “check-in” and violating the PIP;

            This is what stood out to me. When she signed the PIP, the HR check-in was put in place to make sure she was arriving on time and ready to work her shift.

      3. C*

        This isn’t about having kids and the “stereotype”that goes along with that. This is an employee with spectacularly poor judgement, and regardless of her personal circumstances she does indeed need to be fired (as nearly everyone else has said). Being a young mother is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for toxic behavior, sorry. Everyone needs to and should be held to the same measure of accountability.

      4. TootsNYC*

        heck, even if it had been for just a day or two, while she lined up other options, it might be more forgiveable.

    4. K.*

      This is beyond, though. Bringing your kids to work for a YEAR and using your relative’s position of power to manipulate another coworker into doing your bidding is way more than just being distracted at work. I’m not trying to undercut the stresses we women face where child rearing and work are concerned – I’m a woman of childbearing age, though unmarried – but this goes way beyond being distracted by childcare issues at work.

      1. Maybe Not*

        I definitely agree with you K. as well as Erin above, but I’m just saying that Susan in team X who witnessed this for a year may just be taking it as the stereotype. That’s all. I agree that she is way above and beyond just normal distractions – and if she weren’t the receptionist in her first job at the company this very well may not have been an issue because she could have come in later, but regardless this is the situation and I’m just saying that this is how stereotypes get ‘born.’

      2. Kira*

        This is what I was thinking. She had scheduling issues (related to her children) that she tried to solve in a horrible way. The timeliness plus the crazy cover up is what makes her a bad example, the issue isn’t really related to whether her timeliness connected to her role as a mother.

        1. Maybe Not*

          Yup, but just because her timeliness isn’t connected – to us – doesn’t mean that people won’t connect it.
          I’m just reflecting that I’m sad about this part of society.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            I agree with you. People that hold this bias have now doubled down because they see “proof” of their bias. It makes it that much harder to change minds in spite of all the other Moms that are handling it just fine.
            It is more of an emotional logic than an intellectual one. Unfortunately, people are way more emotional than they think that they are.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I think you’re right about it reinforcing a bias that’s already there. But if someone doesn’t have this bias and sees nine other mums who can make it in on time, they’re probably unlikely to do a complete 180 just because of Mary. They’ll just think Mary can’t handle her schedule.

    5. neverjaunty*

      No, this ISN’T why the actually-fairly-conscious biases exist about mothers with children exist. Sexism is why that bias exists. The Bad Marys of the world aren’t the cause of that bias, they’re just what people who have that bias latch onto to confirm what they already “knew” to be true.

      1. Maybe Not*

        Definitely agree with you but my point is that there are plenty of people who have that sexist bias and if they witnessed it happen for however long they may latch on to it.
        Point is just this – I’m sad about it because it gives people with those biases the fodder to think that they can back up that bias forever.

        1. ToxicNudibranch*

          I think we all appreciate why you’re sad, it’s just that her being a mom (and potential perceptions of moms as a result of her gross misconduct) are a bit of a red herring.

          1. Green*

            I explained above why it’s not really a red herring though — the way stereotypes work is that everyone has them (even unconsciously) and stereotype-confirming incidents stand out more. The fact that she was bringing her children into the office makes this extremely salient to anyone who is predispositioned to think “harried moms of young children are easily distracted and have too many responsibilities.” That pool of people isn’t just overt sexists. It’s called unconscious bias because it’s not often a conscious choice, and the pool of potential people there includes plenty of women (including women who had children).

            1. ToxicNudibranch*

              And that has precisely nothing to do with why she should be fired. It’s just not germane to the question, which is what her manager needs to do. Like, you can be sad about the conscious and unconscious bias all you want (it impacts me directly, as a lady of childbearing age, and has certainly impacted some of my coworkers and friends with young kids), but it has precisely squat to do with OP’s issue.

              1. my two cents*

                they weren’t using it as an ‘excuse’ or reason to keep her or fire her – they were merely commenting that’s its an extra bummer because there’s definitely a stereotype being reinforced about young/recently married/single mothers being distracted or a huge p.i.t.a. to schedule around.

                1. fposte*

                  She did initially say she was for firing Mary because Mary was perpetuating horrible stereotypes, but I think that was in the first flush of frustration. However, I think that’s what people are responding to.

              2. Green*

                She argued that it was a reason for firing, which is a germane comment (although one I disagree with). I disagreed, arguing that it was not by itself (stereotype confirmation) a reason to fire someone, but did acknowledge that Mary’s actions could have a negative impact on other women in the workplace. And it’s a good enough reason to address that behavior going forward, so that other people don’t lose previously acceptable flexibility (i.e., early release days) with their own families.

                Thinking about some of the other complex work issues surrounding the exact question posed (for example, the behavior’s impact on other colleagues) is part of the comment culture here.

            2. neverjaunty*

              Nobody argued that this was always conscious bias or that only men hold this bias.

              It’s a red herring because this wasn’t “Mary brought her children to the office” or “Mary has trouble being on time because of preschool”. This is “For an entire year, Mary forced childcare on an EA who didn’t have the position to refuse, lied about it, her aunt the CFO threatened the EA when she complained, and now Mary continues to have a bad attitude.” You could replace ‘childcare’ with any number of inappropriate things that she made the EA do – signing off on plainly wrong timesheets or expense reports, letting Mary use company resources she wasn’t entitled to, whatever.

            3. Amy G. Golly*

              It’s beside the point, because confirming or not confirming stereotypes is always beside the point. The nature of a stereotype is that it’s an unreasonable bias against a group of people. Yeah, as a woman I might cringe when I see another woman behaving in a way that seems to justify some of the negative biases I myself have to fight against, but if I hold “reinforcing stereotypes” against her, I’m just as bad as the idiot who will use her behavior to justify his bias against the next woman of childbearing age he has the opportunity to hire. Because the issue is not “she had difficulty achieving work/life balance”. That could happen to anyone. The issue is that she lied and manipulated and was a genuinely awful employee. (Also characteristics that don’t only apply to young moms!)

              1. Green*

                Stereotypes and bias and prejudice are actually all different concepts. Stereotypes aren’t inherently biased (nor do they inherently result in prejudice), and we literally *have* to have stereotypes in order to operate in society. It is how our brains function. When we don’t know information, our brains fill in the most likely information (stereotypes) without us even thinking about it. When information becomes known, we then insert that into our preexisting “map.” (For example if I say “Think of a parrot”, you will think of a particular color of parrot–probably green, unless you have significant experience with other parrots–without me telling you a color. If I say “That parrot is a blue parrot” your brain changes the image.) So, anyway, there’s not anything inherently negative about stereotypes unless the stereotype is itself negative, and even then we can’t avoid them. So you have to self-monitor in order to not allow those stereotypes to result in bias (unconscious or conscious) or prejudice.

                Recognizing cases of stereotype confirmation and high salience, for example Mary’s case, would help you be alert to unfair actions in the future (i.e., not allowing anyone to bring kids even for brief periods when that was a previously accepted practice). Stereotype confirmation isn’t a reason to fire Mary, but it is a risk factor for biased behavior in the future against women.

        2. Kate M*

          It’s not up to people of the stereotyped class to dispel the stereotypes. Mothers aren’t responsible for “disproving” the stereotype that they will be distracted, because you can never really disprove a stereotype (i.e. people who hold these biases, if they even notice that a person is not fulfilling a stereotype, will discount it as “well they’re just one of the few good ones.”) People with biases don’t need extra example to feed their biases; they won’t change unless they want to.

    6. Older and sadly wiser*

      Please let me stress that this mom is not typical. Yes, she is the reason for the stereotype, but she probably was a “shirker” before motherhood too – just at another job.

      If you have a reputation for getting the job done and overall hustle, motherhood doesn’t change you or how you tackle problems in or out of the workplace. I had been in the workforce for 7 years before having 5 kids over the next ten years. I always had a regular sitter, backup sitter and so on. Having kids like that and then raising all 5 alone when their father died (he died when they ranged in age from 18 to 8) didn’t affect my job performance or advancement possibilities at all other than my decision to stay with small business positions 30 miles from home or less and with minimal travel.

      I’ve been in the workforce for 38 years now and am back working for a company who missed me after 15 mos absence enough to get me back. Do things happen from time to time? Yes. Can you control it? No, but you can be prepared for emergencies and make it easy for others to help you out by being organized. I’m a parent to 5, grandparent to 1, and daughter to one 83 yr old with some medical issues. Crap (life) continues to happen, but you deal with it like a prepared adult.

      Have your children when you can, not SOMEDAY when it fits. Be prepared, be patient and enjoy life with all its ups and downs.

      1. Kate M*

        No, she is not “the reason for the stereotype.” Reasons for stereotypes include sexism, racism, homophobia, and a lot of other -isms. If stereotypes were based on realities, then fathers would have the same stereotype when they have kids and their schedule changes. In fact, it has the opposite effect with them (they tend to be promoted/make more when they have children).

        1. Green*

          So the actual cognition research includes the “grain of truth hypothesis” — that stereotypes are often based on a “grain” of truth. (Emphasis on “grain.” Here, the “grain of truth” could be the outdated but previously frequently true concept that women are the primary caregivers or an experience with women using the term “mommy brain” or a feeling that you or someone you know was distracted at work while parenting young children, whatever. It only takes one salient unconscious idea you have about the topic.) The problem with the stereotype is the “illusory correlation” — your brain then connects Stereotype A with all people in Category B unless you learn otherwise, even though there’s not really a strong basis for doing so. The default is often set unconsciously and we often have little control over it — the sexism, racism, homophobia stuff comes in when you (a) actively choose to embrace that unconscious stereotype as your conscious view or (b) refuse to analyze your stereotypes for potential unfair negative stereotypes and then act on those stereotypes.

          1. Green*

            (OK, I’ll stop now, I promise. I just like this area of research and think there are lots of stereotypes about stereotypes.)

          2. Kate M*

            But the whole reason that women were kept out of the workforce and at home was based on sexist notions that they should be the caregiver. It’s not that women are inherently better at caregiving – they might have been socialized that way, but the whole “grain of truth” is based on a sexist construct in this case.

            Second, you’re acting like racism/sexism/homophobia can’t be unconscious. It certainly can – most people who hold these biases would claim that they aren’t sexist/racist/homophobic. If you’re raised in a sexist society, you’re going to have ingrained sexist notions. The fact that you didn’t choose them doesn’t make them any less sexist.

  9. Amber Rose*

    Her ship has sailed. She has no future at that company. Only a future in which everyone else moves up while she can’t, and in which the eventual stress of being feared and disliked and distrusted will ruin her health. And her presence will ruin morale.

    If you can, perhaps give her the option to quit rather than be fired. But one way or another, she can’t stay.

    1. my two cents*

      yeah, I have absolutely no clue why Mary hasn’t taken a hard look around the office and just walked herself out.

      1. Boop*

        …because they keep paying her! Some people will hold onto a job no matter what, ignoring any self-reflections that might lead them to try to find a better match. Unfortunately, I see it a lot – people staying with a job past the point of any enthusiasm or interest in the role, just bitterness. The people who will look around and realize they are the problem (or the problem is one they cannot live with) or rare, and it doesn’t look like Mary is one of them.

        What strikes me about this situation is that the employee would come to work for her morning HR check-in (presumably to make sure she is there on time to start the day) and then LEAVE to drive her kids to preschool. This is absolutely duplicitous, and possibly fraudulent. Was she being paid for that time? I doubt she was putting in leave for the half hour or whatever it took her to drive the kids to preschool, since that can be tracked and flagged as a performance problem (and the whole situation would have come to light much sooner). She is most likely non-exempt, so she would be paid based on hours worked, and if the organization thought she was “working” during that time and paid her, she has committed fraud.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          She is most likely non-exempt, so she would be paid based on hours worked, and if the organization thought she was “working” during that time and paid her, she has committed fraud.

          Yep. If you did this at my job, or at my old job, you’d be walked out the same day.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I’m thinking she’s exempt since she wasn’t doing any timekeeping previously but I could be wrong.

          1. Tiffin*

            I’m non-exempt and I just have to fill out a timesheet once per month. I don’t have to say what hours I worked per day, just how many. If she had the same situation, it would be easy to lie because apparently, no one knew she was ducking out.

            1. Original Poster*

              I didn’t even consider the exempt / not exempt part. In her role on my team she is exempt / salary due to the nature of the job. However, as a receptionist she was not exempt / hourly so any time she spent driving her kids while getting paid would have been fraud.

              1. MaggiePi*

                This! This is huge.
                If the CFO was covering the time card fraud as well, then it’s huge for both of them.
                If your boss didn’t want to get rid of her before, I wonder how her old manager and your boss will feel about realizing they’ve paid for likely many, many collective hours she wasn’t event at work.

        3. Jeanne*

          Yes. She is staying because they keep paying her. And I’m sure she is worried that at the next job they’d be stricter and expect her to show up on time and get work done. It’s hard to face that when you’ve been getting away with less for years.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      And sadly, the aunt has done her no favors in the long run. She won’t be able to do this crap at the next job and hasnt learned to juggle her morning appropriately so she’s in for a very rude awakening.

  10. Anonymous Poster*

    Maybe I’m too forgiving, but I’d lean to Option #2 if I thought she could turn it around. Yes, she made a lot of egregious mistakes, but has she really learned from them and not doing it anymore? If so, then I’d say give her a chance, but if it doesn’t really seem like she’s learned, then yes, it’s time to go.

    Is it really important that she work the 40 hours (I’m assuming she’s exempt), if the work’s getting done, or is there some other reason where it’s important (like billing purposes)?

    I also don’t know what happened with the CFO situation. I have relatives that would ‘help’ and quash stuff even if I didn’t want them to if I worked in the same organization as them, so do you have a hunch as to whether it was Mary asking aunt CFO for help, or if aunt CFO acted of her own volition?

    There’s a lot to factor in here, definitely, and lots of offramps to being let go. But I’d try and give the chance if possible, and if she really is a good fit for the role and could use some more coaching, or really isn’t a good fit for attitude reasons.

    1. Maybe Not*

      The point is it sounds like the work isn’t getting done because no one wants to give Mary work because they don’t want to work with her. So, yea, she can get ‘all her work done’ when they have a reduced workload, but the workload is reduced because of her. Would she get all her work done if the workload was the norm? That’s the question you kind of can’t answer because you probably won’t get to test it.

    2. snarkalupagus*

      I’m going to have to disagree here…I’m living the dream of “perception is reality” in a work situation. Once someone has destroyed their reputation for trustworthiness, it’s well-nigh impossible to fix. Since OP’s group is responsible for supporting other groups, one of the implicit requirements for people in that group is trustworthiness. If someone is going to lie to the degree that Mary did, and then balk at doing something to repair her reputation, there’s no saving it, and the hit on morale among others is NOT worth the very slim possibility of a save.

      There’s already been a measurable impact to the company of Mary’s retention: support tickets that should be coming in to OP’s group have dropped significantly. Where is the cost of that support going?

      Fire Mary now and don’t look back.

    3. Kiki*

      I tend to agree. OP, first by hiring her and then not taking immediate action when the news broke, has already sailed her ship toward option 2. If I were the OP, I would probably put my employee on PIP, especially since she is already chafing at the schedule. The PIP might include a goal for support tickets as well — because really the onus is on the employee to mend bridges and get the work back. And I might try to find out why getting the kids to daycare is such a big problem — are there home factors here that should be considered? If she is really a pretty good employee, that might be worth considering. (and honestly, long ago on this site I got piled on for not being ultra considerate to a working mom with scheduling problems, and I’m unbelievably surprised at the tone of the comments above! this is so weird…)

      1. Roscoe*

        As far as the tone of this compared to the other one, its all about who is writing in I’ve learned. If the working mom wrote in about this from her perspective, I think people would be a bit more sympathetic. But since its coming from the other side its FIRE HER NOW.

        1. IT Kat*

          I don’t know, I think my opinion of “Mary needs a different job” if she had written in, saying that she was getting pushback because she lied while on her PIP, forced someone else to watch her kids so she could do so, and is now feeling the blowback from her actions.

          But, I get what you’re saying – she wouldn’t have phrased it in those terms, so we’d probably be more sympathetic.

          1. IT Kat*

            Urgh, typo.

            I think my opinion of “Mary needs a different job” _wouldn’t have changed_ if she had written in,

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If someone wrote in and said she’d secretly brought her kids to work for a year and her aunt threatened someone into watching them, again secretly, no, I don’t think the person would find more sympathy.

        3. fposte*

          In phraseology, we’re always going to be kinder to the person we’re speaking directly to, so no, we’re never going to say “FIRE YOU NOW!” But we’ve definitely told people, including mothers, that their expectations of their employers’ tolerance weren’t reasonable. (I’m thinking, for example, of the parent with five small kids who’d all been sick sequentially and needed her to take time off from work and her complaining that her boss was holding this against her.)

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            If “Mary” were here I wouldn’t tell her “you suck and deserve to be unemployed forever”, but I would tell her “You’ve permanently fucked up your reputation at this company and you’re better off jumping before you’re pushed. Your manager seems to be more forgiving than most of your coworkers so talk to her about transitioning out and what kind of recommendation she can give based on your strengths. She will probably be relieved.

            “PS: Never take your aunt’s advice again.”

        4. Not me*

          I think it would be possible to come off as sympathetic in giving the advice that this person would ask for, but that’s not really the same thing as thinking she shouldn’t be fired.

        5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          If a working mom wrote in and said, “My childcare situation makes it challenging for me to get to work on time and now they’ve put me on a PIP,” I think she’d get more sympathy – though I think it would be mixed with lots of suggestions to find a job that lets her start later, or find different childcare arrangements. But if she wrote in and said, “Everyone’s mad at me because I lied while on a PIP and let my aunt blackmail an EA” – I don’t think that would get much sympathy at all. About as much as the writer who wanted Alison to support his giant sexist truck decal.

        6. Not So NewReader*

          One difference between OP’s situation and the hypothetical working mom’s situation is the admission of guilt. Hypothetical mom writes in and says, “I have made a mess of things” that tends to resonate for most of us and we do have a pattern of trying to help a person who has made a mess and WANTS to fix it. Key part: they want to fix it.

          OP’s employee does not see there is a problem AND balks at efforts to try to fix the situation. Our advice to OP is that this is a person that does not want to be helped and therefore should be fired. You can’t make the horse drink the water.

          I am thinking back to credit card guy. He had put a ton of personal purchases on a company card. The comments offered a lot of advice INCLUDING, “hey, it sucks but you might end up fired for this one even after you pay the money back”. Now that is pretty candid advice, not nice to read but it was fair to the man because he needed to know that, so he could keep planning how he would handle things as the story unfolded.
          I have seen other times where the OP was so unyielding in their stance, that the comments got very heated.

          Which leads me to the second difference here, OP is a second party in the story. She is asking for advice on what she should do. If Mary wrote in our comments would be crafted to fit Mary’s part of the story. The person who writes in, first party or second party, is the person that we can reach with our words. We cannot lend thoughts to other players in the story if they do not write in. (We’d like to, though.)

    4. Observer*

      That’s really the problem here – it doesn’t seem that she has learned her lesson. The fact that she was shorting her hours, and is now chafing over having to actually follow the rules does speak well to her attitude.

      In this particular case, it doesn’t make a difference WHY people are noticing her short hours. She is someone who clearly took advantage of her position, and shorting her hours just indicates that she is fine with continuing to do that. That is NOT a way to build reasonable working relationship with people.

      Lastly, it also doesn’t make a difference whether Aunty stepped in on her own or at the request of her niece. The reality is that Niece knew that the EA didn’t want to be doing this, and she still took advantage of the situation.

    5. Sadsack*

      The problem with keeping her is estimating how long it will take her to redeem herself. OP’s manager has already said he won’t expand the team due to low workload. Low workload is due to no one wanting to go to the team for assistance. It could take years for coworkers to start fully utilizing the team after Mary has proven herself. So in that time, OP can’t grow her team or her role, and the team itself is pretty much worthless except to the few who are willing to go to them. I think OP should cut Mary and start over, especially since she has her manager’s approval.

  11. Ashley the Paralegal*

    This kind of behavior really makes me angry because it empowers some employers that do not like to hire mothers of young children by making all of us look bad. When I first started my current job as an intern, I had to put my son (then 2) into daycare so that I could work the 2 days here and go to school. On top of all that, I did not have a vehicle at the time so I was doing all this relying on the bus and the occasional cab or rental car. My husband and I have no family in the area to help with childcare or rides either. Despite all those obstacles, I still managed to get to work and school on time. If I could do all that, then there isn’t a reason Mary couldn’t have planned better to get her 3 children off to school/daycare/the babysitter so she could get to work on time. Please fire her. She needs to learn the lesson that her behavior was completely unacceptable and hopefully learn how to make better decisions in the future.

    1. Maybe Not*

      YES! This is what I was saying above. People like her make the rest of working moms look bad.

      Thanks for being one of those amazing people that make people like me not too scared about having kids and continuing to work! :)

      1. Ashley the Paralegal*

        Thank you for the kind words. It’s not always easy to balance both worlds, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort if both a career and a family are important to you.

    2. Jadelyn*

      I don’t entirely disagree re the egregiousness of Mary’s behavior, but I want to voice a caution against “If I could do [thing], why can’t everyone else?”-type thinking. We don’t know the full extent of Mary’s circumstances, and frankly I’ve seen “Well *I* was able to do XYZ, why the hell can’t you?” used to shame people who are doing the best they can with what they have too many times to be okay with that line of reasoning. Having been on the receiving end of that attitude myself, I can tell you what it didn’t do, and that’s help me find ways to do the thing in question; what it did do was make me feel like s*** for having a hard time doing the thing in the first place, which made me *less* able to do the thing.

      That said, there are a multitude of other ways she could have handled this, whether by asking for an adjustment in schedule (my employer has done this for numerous employees who are parents, adjusting their start time back anywhere from 15-45 minutes to give them time to take kids to school or daycare), working on finding alternate transportation for the kids in the morning (carpooling, babysitters, etc.), or just…finding a job that has hours that work better with her schedule.

      1. insert witty name here*

        “I’ve seen “Well *I* was able to do XYZ, why the hell can’t you?” used to shame people who are doing the best they can with what they have”

        But this isn’t the case with Mary. She forced the EA to watch her kids for over a year. She drove the EA, another woman, to quit her job over her demands. That’s just not acceptable and she should be ashamed.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And, as I already said, I *don’t disagree that Mary’s behavior is egregious and awful and unacceptable*. It is egregious. It is awful. It is utterly unacceptable. And yes, she should be ashamed (though it sounds as though she isn’t, which is a whole other problem).

          But my comment wasn’t about Mary’s behavior at all. My comment was about the attitude that “I was able to do [thing] despite [my circumstances], therefore EVERYONE should be able to do [thing] regardless of [their circumstances]” when, by definition, you can never truly know 100% of someone else’s circumstances. All I was (and am) saying is that you cannot use yourself as a yardstick to measure other people with, because they are not you, they may not have your resources or your personality or your energy levels or your health/lack of disability, etc. I’m just asking that people keep in mind that not everyone is automatically capable of doing the things you are capable of doing, because I’ve seen that assumption lead to some very ugly results in the past. That’s all.

          1. Boop*

            Agreed. Mary’s behavior is absolutely unacceptable, and she should certainly be held accountable. Using the “well I did it” justification isn’t the correct way, however. It should be about objective performance expectations, not subjective experiences of different people in different circumstances. That justification does not help anyone, and not using it doesn’t weaken the case against Mary, since it is a reasonable and objective performance expectation that employees show up on time, ready to work, and not require co-workers to handle their life tasks for them. I would totally get it as a one-off, but as a regular occurrence it is outrageous.

            1. Zillah*

              I agree with both of you. The point isn’t “I did it, so why can’t she?” or “it’s not that hard to just do xyz” – the point is that Mary acted inappropriately and unprofessionally in her workplace over the course of more than a year, including lying to her manager while on a PIP, taking advantage of another employee by using her family connections, and slacking off in her new role.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I agree with you; however, Mary’s continued behavior (shorting her hours; bristling at the new rules) shows that she is a problem employee who is not going to change.

            And let’s not forget–sneaking the kids in was a reaction to the PIP she was already on! She didn’t get put on the PIP because of this. It was because she was always late. They already gave her a chance and she blew it. What she’s doing now is actually her third offense and at most places, three strikes means you’re out.

            I hope the board will get rid of the CFO too. Because DAMN.

      2. dr_silverware*

        Agreed. Mary’s behavior is actually very, very egregious, but let’s do feminism the courtesy of not punishing other women for betraying a mythical sisterhood. If Mary’s behavior weren’t so nasty, I’d say this teeters on the edge of a damaging respectability politics.

        1. dr_silverware*

          Whoops agreeing with Jaclyn and disagreeing lightly with insert name here. Threading!

      3. Ashley the Paralegal*

        This is a fair point and I certainly don’t want to presume to know Mary’s personal situation, but the reality is that working parents have to be able to find a way to balance both parenthood and employment and that requires real planning and dedication on the part of the parent(s). As you mentioned, there were numerous other things Mary could have done before the tardiness (and ultimately bringing the children into work) became an issue. She didn’t and maybe that’s worthy of a little shame. Shame isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes those feelings of embarrassment make us grow and be a little better in the future.

    3. some1*

      I agree. This is incredibly egregious for the parents of young kids in the org who manage to work it out.

    4. Kelly*

      Behavior like Mary’s has a potentially adverse effect on women of child bearing age in the workplace. I’m in my early 30s and one piece of job searching advice I’ve seen for women is removing their engagement or wedding band while in the interviewing process and keeping it off at work. As a woman, I find that to be terribly sexist because that suggestion isn’t being given to their male counterparts in the same age range. The general expectation is also that it’s the female partner in the relationship that is the one who has to use her time off (both PTO and sick time) to deal with child care issues that come up on short notice. It’s still a minority of males that share that duty equally with their female partners.

      My male coworker is in his mid 40s and he recalls getting some career advice from the HR department from the university library where he went to grad school. Both of the HR reps were women in their 30s and 40s and gave women the same advice that I had been given. They openly admitted that seeing a ring on a (female) applicant’s finger would be a factor in them potentially not hiring her because of the chance that she’d have kids and use the generous benefits and time off given to her. His eldest was a toddler at the time and the second was on its way and he was offended. My response was to ask him if he took any FMLA when the one that was on its way was born to help his then wife out and it was no. He’s now divorced and has to take time off when the kids are sick, have early dismissal, or can’t find daycare arrangements during school breaks when he has them. Before the divorce, that nearly all fell on his ex-wife to handle and she was expected to take time off her job. It wasn’t an equal partnership in that regard. He’s now hoping for change in parental leave policies now that it would benefit him, whereas before it wasn’t a major concern.

      I don’t have kids, so I’m torn on changing parental and family leave time policies. I would have appreciated extra time off when my mother had cancer to help care for her. I do think that if employers do offer changed policies, they need to do something to compensate the people who have to pick up the slack for their colleagues taking the extra time off. It could be offering them the same benefit of extra time off with no questions being asked what they do with that time or additional financial compensation.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I hope this encourages you to take heart. I don’t see a story about a working mother here at all. I see a story of a woman who is a thief and who strong arms people.
      She left her kids with the EA for a year. Right away, I can figure that she is not even trying to find alternative solutions. I have seen parents shuffle things around and go through bumpy periods, then they work out a system and it’s much smoother sailing after that. I don’t mean to sound like this is nothing, NO, the parents work their tails off to find solutions. Mary did not lift a finger and that is so clear to me.

      Mary happily accepted pay for hours NOT worked. And when the EA complained the aunt threatened the EA. That’s a two-fer. This has nothing to do with parenting and everything to do with her ethics.
      Timeline: Mary was late for work and got a PIP. After that for one year she had the EA watch her kids. Now she is back to being late for work and STILL does not care. I am guessing but it seems that this story plays out over TWO years or longer. I have never, ever seen a parent late for work for two years. And I have worked with A LOT of parents.
      As people are saying, MOST of the parents out there bust their butts to get the kiddos to school and arrive at work on time.

  12. ann perkins*

    Mary needs to get fired immediately. I am OVER people not being held accountable for their actions. I see it all the time and it is beyond frustrating.

    1. The Butcher of Luverne*

      Right. It’s not just “she’s always late and no one trusts her.” It’s “she lied, cheated, destroyed relationships and seems to have little to no motivation to turn things around.”

      As Elaine said in the Soup Nazi episode, “NEXT!”

  13. babblemouth*

    I don’t have more advice than all you’ve read above, but I am a bit concerned that you were pushed into hiring her (“There was a lot of pressure to hire her”) without anyone mentioning that she’d had a PIP. Whatever decision you make, if I were in your shoes, I would also ask why critical information was withheld from you during a hiring process.

    1. Jadelyn*

      +100 – how can they expect you to make sound hiring decisions without relevant information?

    2. Scotty_Smalls*

      That’s another tally in the OP should look for a new job column. They pressured OP to hire Mary, so that PIP wouldn’t matter anymore. I wonder if that pressure also came from the CFO (indirectly maybe). OP mentions that company favors upward movement, but I think they should have considered a lateral move for Mary instead.

      1. BeautifulVoid*

        Agreed. Though it’s not 100% clear from the letter, it does sound like that pressure also came from places other than the CFO. And let’s not forget that OP’s manager doesn’t sound crazy about the idea of firing Mary. I don’t think getting rid of Mary will be easy, but even if OP can and does fire her, 1) she might have ruined some relationships with the pro-Mary people at the company (even if there’s only a few, they sound like they’re higher up), and 2) rebuilding the reputation of this brand-new department is going to be a slog.

        I hate to say it, OP, but I don’t think it’s likely that this job will turn into everything you hoped it would be.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Excellent point. Especially given the situation with the CFO, and OP’s boss making the “that was in another country and besides the wench is dead” argument.

    4. MaggiePi*

      I agree with the other posters saying that her previous manager may have deliberately tricked you to get rid of her. Be wary.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I wondered if they put Mary with OP because the knew that OP would not worry about Mary being on time.

      “Gee, we have to put Mary some where else or Aunt CFO is going to make us miserable. Where will we put her? Oh, wait! I know. OP has flexibility, let’s put her in OP’s department. She’s new, so maybe OP can get Mary turned around some what also. Harold, go tell OP she has to hire Mary.”

  14. Lilian Fields*

    I’d also let her go, and I’d echo what a few other commenters have already said: not having fired her, you become part of the problem in the eyes of all the people you support (because, arguably, you are). These are people you need to be building strong relationships with right now. Having her around is burning your bridges. But letting her go might help you build bridges and gain respect: it would allow you to present yourself as a competent manager who is committing to having a strong team, even when doing so comes at a cost or requires hard decisions.

    1. Jeanne*

      This is a good point. Other employees don’t see the behind the scenes discussions you’ve had with Mary and other managers. They see OP supporting Mary by keeping her in the job and telling people to not care about Mary’s hours. It may not be fair but it is reality. I would see it as continued nepotism and bad management.

  15. gsa*

    The thing that worries me most is if the OP fires Mary, will her her boss have her back. Will OP put her job in jeopardy when the CFO raises a stink?

    I believe she should get a chance, because she has not been managed until the OP arrived.

    My advice: Do what your boss says, and if it not does work fire her.

    Who owns this place anyway? I am trying to figure out if the CFO has enough pull to fire the OP, if she has to fire Mary.

    Good Luck,


        1. Not So NewReader*

          No worse than she would be hung out to dry if she keeps Mary.
          Tickets are down 75% because of Mary. OP, department of one is collapsing on itself.
          OP was supposed to have three people, now the company cannot justify the payroll because there is no work.

          OP, you are fine for the moment. We know this because people are telling you what the problem is. People don’t help people they do not like, so they like you. For now. Continue on hand-holding Mary when she has a proven track record of resisting constructive criticism and you will only discredit yourself.

          As it stands now, people see you are trying to do a good job and you got bamboozled into hiring this woman. They feel they have told you what this woman is, you continue to keep her employed and they are going to lose sympathy for your setting.

    1. Jadelyn*

      But she *had* been managed – someone had to have put her on the PIP, after all. She’s already been disciplined for poor work habits, which means someone was managing her work at some level. It sounds like she’s not used to having close supervision and is used to doing her own thing, which I sympathize with, but she’s also proven she can’t be responsible with self-managing.

    2. Original Poster*

      Who owns this place? Maybe you :) since it’s an openly traded company. It’s probably not one you’re too familiar with, we’re no SFDC or Microsoft, but you might have our stock bundled in one of your investments.

      But if you mean who is leading the company? That’s more straightfoward. Our CEO is having health problems (I don’t want to give too much away here, but he/she has been in and out for over 2 years dealing with it) In his/her absence, the CFO was put in charge…..

          1. Original Poster*

            That’s why her employment wasn’t terminated immediately, the board has to review it first because she’s technically the highest ranking person right now. I’ve heard that they’re going to call the CEO in sometime next week to discuss it…

  16. Katie the Fed*

    What’s up with this guy:

    “I spoke to her manager and he told me that Mary is smart, gets all of her work done promptly, and is eager to try new things, but has issues coming into work on time. ”

    Sounds like he sold you a lemon.

    1. NoProfitNoProblems*

      I was guessing that he didn’t know about her illicit use of unapproved in-office childcare services :p Everything else he stated sounded accurate based on the letter, which called Mary a great employee.

          1. babblemouth*

            Maybe I misunderstandPIPs completely (very possible), but I just don’t see how a PIP could work without the employee’s manager being aware of its existence.

            1. Roscoe*

              That response was for something else. Yes, he should have known she was on it. It was in response to something someone said about “how she could be a great employee, but on a PIP”

        1. NoProfitNoProblems*

          Oh, I was responding to something else. Yes, I agree that the previous supervisor should have disclosed the PIP, that was downright unethical.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        How could you not know if your direct report was bringing in her kids and then driving them to school? There’s hands-off, and then there’s…whatever this is.

        1. 2 Cents*

          He knew, but didn’t want to be the next person in front of the CFO’s firing squad. He either knew or figured Mary couldn’t be fired, but knew she could be transferred. One less problem for him, and why not dump her on the new manager with no institutional knowledge?

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Yep, exactly (I was responding to the post that he might not have known).
            He dumped Mary on an unsuspecting OP. We’ve perfected that trick in government, so I always vet someone thoroughly before I’ll take them. I’ve been burned before.

    2. NK*

      But even OP said all those things are true. The boss wasn’t aware of the child care scandal at the time. He should have told OP about the PIP (which sounds like it was just about the lateness), but other than that it sounds like he accurately characterized Mary, based on what he knew.

    3. Ama*

      Yeah, I really feel for the OP because it sounds like she was set up by Mary’s previous manager (probably also under pressure from the CFO) who decided it was more important to get Mary off his hands than be honest about what the OP was getting into.

      1. Steve*

        The OP needs to find a new job. This entire organization is dysfunctional. Four different people at the company have F-ed with the OP: Mary, Mary’s former manager, the CFO, and the OP’s manager (I would *not* trust his statement that OP can fire Mary).

        I’d even say that any progress OP thinks she’s making, is illusional.

      2. Original Poster*

        To clarify, “Bob” told me that Mary was a hard worker, eager to learn new things and smart, which she is! He told me about the PIP when we talked and he said that he put her on one because she was habitually late and could not be late to work in that position. So I knew about the PIP, but wasn’t worried about that aspect of the job since my direct report doesn’t need to be at work at a certain time. Plus, I was told that once she was on a PIP she came into work on time, which implied to me that it was just a mismatch of her home life and work requirements and that when she realized how negatively it affected her job, she tried hard.

        I doubt that he knew about the EA watching her kids and I doubt that he set me up. More likely he sympathized with her situation (especially since he gave her so many chances after receiving so many complaints about her being late) and thought that the role under me would be a good compromise – she has more flexibility and he could hire someone who could meet time expectations.

        I was really happy with her work ethic, amount produced, etc before the scandal happened and Bob was right – she picked everything up so fast!

  17. Shannon*

    Both options 1 & 2 boil down to “fire her.” I feel like Mary’s being set up to fail in the second option. There’s no way she can improve relationships that much in a month. Don’t get me wrong, she deserves a good firing, though.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      Yeah, the only way option 2 is a “kindness” is if it spells out that if she has not built up rapport and trust with her colleagues in one month, she’s done without further notice. Which, if she has any self-awareness at all, she’ll take as a head start on her job search.

    2. BRR*

      I feel the same. I think she’s gone no matter what. Part of your job is to get along with others. If I was the LW, I would feel ok firing her no matter what but it would sit easier to give her a chance. I feel cruel for giving her hope though when it’s a firing is a 99.9% outcome.

  18. NoProfitNoProblems*

    Fire her right away.

    I have tons of sympathy for the idea of giving her a second chance, but the truth is, you’ve already done that. You’ve laid out instructions for improving her reputation, and although she may have completed those requirements, her attitude and approach towards them is a major problem. It seems almost to me as if she truly doesn’t understand why people don’t trust her and why she has to work so hard now to repair her reputation. And your department’s reputation is also being damaged the longer you continue to keep and defend her. Not something you want to happen at the very outset of your career there.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. She has had the chance but is pushing back on the hours and has not re-established trust with other departments and the workload is plummeting because no one will work with her. (and I wouldn’t — not if it put me in the sights of the CFO if I expected good performance from her) She has had her chance. Fire her. Your own reputation hinges on this.

  19. Minion*

    I don’t think I really understand the trust issues that the coworkers are having that make them unwilling to give Mary work to do. I get that she broke trust with the company – I completely agree there should be consequences from OP or the company in general and that those can (and probably should) include being fired. I do understand that part of it.

    What I don’t get is the coworkers’ reaction to the whole thing. If Mary has been completing work correctly and has been doing a good job, which OP says she has, I really can’t understand why coworkers are refusing to bring work to her. I’m trying to see it from their perspective and in my head I’m putting one of my coworkers into Mary’s shoes and thinking about whether I’d bring work to her or not and I think I would because I’d have no reason not to if I’d had not problems with Mary in the past. Also, if part of my job is to bring work to this department and hand it over to Mary, then I can’t see NOT doing that as it would be in direct conflict with what I know I’m supposed to be doing at work. I don’t generally refuse to do anything that my manager has asked me to do or anything that falls within my job description

    I guess I just see the issues being between Mary and OP/Company and none of coworkers’ business. If my coworker does something egregious and is given a second chance by management, then it’s not my place to refuse to work with her. To refuse to work with her undermines management’s decision on how to handle it and I, personally, don’t think that should be tolerated any more than Mary’s behavior should have been. But that’s just my opinion.

    1. Observer*

      For most people, knowing that someone abused another person in the organization to put on the appearance of doing her her job, that is going to color their perceptions of her in a major way. They are going to worry about whether she is going to do what she is supposed to so, and who she will throw under the bus when something doesn’t work out the way she wants or she doesn’t do what she is supposed to. The fact that she was shorting her hours in the new position just reinforces the perception that she is going to reliably pull her weight.

      1. Minion*

        You’re right. I can see why they’d feel that way, just not why they have the autonomy to choose whom they will or will not work with. I would definitely feel the same way and I would probably talk to my manager about my doubts. However, if someone hands me work to do here, and I don’t do it, then my manager will step in and handle that. It’s her responsibility to manage me, not my coworkers’. That’s what I’m getting at. I do understand how the coworkers would feel, though and I agree with those feelings and perceptions.

        Am I way off base here? If I am, I’m definitely open to hearing that. Obviously firing Mary solves the whole problem and that’s definitely what I think OP should do, I’m just a little taken aback that these coworkers can make choices as to whom they’ll bring work to or not.

        1. Xanadu*

          That was my first thought – are these people in high school? I work with a lot of people that I annoy me, take advantage of systems, and otherwise cause problems. But I somehow still manage to be a professional and interact with them on an appropriate basis.

          Sounds like the company has figured out that if they all don’t like someone they can just refuse to interact with them until they’re fired.

          1. Artemesia*

            When you have internal clients they have a lot of power over what work you do. I found the publications office of our firm hopeless slow and difficult to work with, so when I needed brochures quickly I went to outside vendors. I had to justify it but my manager was sympathetic and so we did and so jobs that should have gone to the inefficient arrogant and slow internal group went to outside vendors.

            I can imagine that if people don’t trust the internal vendor, they have many ways of getting the job done that doesn’t involve them. I’d rather do it myself than face possible retaliation from the CFO if I tried to hold this woman to my standards. She has a reputation of abuse of power.

            1. Xanadu*

              The CFO’s reach doesn’t seem to extend to Mary’s new department because her manager has not expressed fear about firing her. Surely the CFO would also retaliate against the people refusing to work with her as well if it gets her fired?

              Your reason was that the work was not good. It was slow, and inefficient. The letter writer indicates that Mary’s work is high quality – good enough quality to go to bat for her (at least a little), apparently. Would your manager let you avoid working with a competent department that provided good quality work because they’d had poor interactions with another department?

              1. Steve*

                The OP is probably unaware that she can’t actually fire Mary. OP’s manager is aware but is pretending he’s not.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I think now is a prime time to fire Mary. Auntie is under investigation, if OP sees anything abnormal she should report it immediately.

          2. Jadelyn*

            There’s “annoying and takes advantage of systems”, and then there’s “demonstrated history of blackmailing coworkers (or at least being party to blackmail) to escape accountability”. I’ve worked with plenty of people who annoy me, but I’d still do everything in my power to avoid someone I perceived as being an active risk for me to interact with. This is apples to oranges, here.

            1. Tiffin*

              Exactly. I was once a team leader of a team that included the boss’ cousin. The cousin complained when I tried to get her to do work that the boss specifically told me to have her do, and I got in trouble. I learned quickly to steer clear as much as possible, which often meant doing the work myself while she did very little. It wasn’t a matter of her annoying me; it was a matter of her having influence with the boss and having the power to get me in trouble.

          3. Observer*

            This is not annoying – this is untrustworthy. That’s a big difference.

            Part of what is driving this, it seems to me, is that the supervisors agree with the line staff. If you notice, some of them have flat out told the OP that they won’t force their staff to work with her.

            The thing is that even if all the managers do force the issue, the damage has been done, and it’s not likely to change. People don’t trust her, and her behavior is not dong anything to change that perception. Even if supervisors continue to push their staff, staff will find ways to work around it. It is not a good set up.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “, just not why they have the autonomy to choose whom they will or will not work with.”

          I worked closely w/ a guy who had a well-deserved reputation for blowing up. He was in charge of when things got done. So if someone was going to be late, they came to me. I wasn’t in charge of when things got done, but I was deeply involved in it, and I knew enough to give all the answers he did.

          They came to me because they were afraid of him. At first I gave them the answers and then alerted him. Then I started encouraging them to go to him. (Finally I sat him down and said he needed to do something about his reputation, because it meant he wasn’t getting info he needed, and I was getting involved where I shouldn’t be.)

          Those people worked around him.
          The OP’s internal customers are coming straight to her instead of to Mary. Or, they’re turning to one another to figure it out on their own.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            In the past I have avoided people I worked with for reasons also.
            Such as:
            Speaking in such a confusing manner that Yes or No answers took 20 minutes and I still had no idea what the person said.
            The person regularly dropped the ball.
            The person routinely gave me the wrong advice.
            I felt I was inconveniencing the person by even asking.
            I knew the person was cheating the business in some way and I wanted to steer clear of that whole problem.


          At a prior job, things were so out of whack (and btw, the company imploded about 2-3 months after this reached a peak) that the only way to maneuver around massive staffing issues was to arrange careful alliances — we didn’t precisely choose who we worked with, but you’d make pacts to take on say, testing Anne’s teapots, if she would test yours, and both of you would make Catherine’s teapots, so she’d mix your clay to the specifications she was going to use to test it later. And then you’d paint Jane’s lids for her so she wouldn’t report the fact that Catherine was mixing the clay, etc, etc.

          People could outright to refuse to work with people, and a few of them often did so choose in order to not be made to do work. One guy had nothing on his plate for 6 months. We all worked around hi as management felt it was our job to do so. They really adhered to the idea that peer pressure would solve productivity issues. Also, if the client liked the product…. whatever if took to get them that product didn’t seem to matter.

          I suspect OP’s place of work has a similar issue going on. OP needs to buff resume and run.

        4. Jeanne*

          At my last workplace, people were always trying to work around my manager. He was incompetent. They would come to me and I would help as much as I could. It was the only way to get things done on time. They would wait until he left for the day to hand in work since he never worked a minute past 4pm. He didn’t care. These people at OP’s work are trying to actually get things done. It’s easier without Mary.

        5. Stranger than fiction*

          That crossed my mind too. I mean, they hate her so much that they’d rather handle all the support therefore making more work for themselves?

    2. Roscoe*

      Thats where I am. Like I can see why you’d be angry that Mary’s aunt threatened another employee, but if Mary is getting her work done, it seems that the anger is a bit misplaced. From the letter, it doesn’t seem like she has dropped the ball on any of the support tickets.

      It really sounds like she is being scapegoated for her aunt’s abuse of power, so they are shunning her because of it.

      1. Jadelyn*

        But her aunt’s abuse of power came AFTER Mary had already demonstrated attendance problems, then blatantly disrespected her PIP and dumped her kids off on an unsuspecting coworker every day for, what was it, a year? The abuse of power is the secondary problem. Mary created the issue with her initial actions.

        1. Roscoe*

          That may be true, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with her ability to handle support tickets.

          1. Artemesia*

            Her behavior has meant no one wants to use the department for support. She is destroying the department and her boss’s career through her previous abuse of power. And yes, she is not an innocent bystander to threats made to the employee whose time she was abusing.

            1. Artemesia*

              To me this is a ‘poop in the lunch box’ situation i.e. there shouldn’t have to have been any discussion about whether to fire the CFO or Mary when these issues came to light. The fact that management didn’t walk them out that day is a sign of an extremely badly managed company.

          2. insert witty name here*

            “that doesn’t really have anything to do with her ability to handle support tickets.”

            As an employee, I’d be afraid to escalate my tickets or tell Mary the work she did isn’t meeting my needs for fear she will report me to my aunt and get me fired.

          3. Meg Murry*

            If her support tickets require integrity and I have reason to doubt her integrity – that affects my willingness to trust her support tickets.

            For instance, I work in a lab. “Pencil whipping” aka making up results has been known to happen among lazy employees. If I know Mary was willing to lie to her bosses and sneak out to take her kids to daycare on the clock, how do I trust that she isn’t also just writing down “pass” on my lab results and not actually testing them, or doing a sloppy job on the weighing out of critical components. I wouldn’t trust it, and even if my own group was backlogged I would still not outsource to Mary if my group could handle the work.

            Same if these tickets have anything to do with finances/accounting, filing, proofreading, etc. I wouldn’t trust her.

            Although I wonder if the CFO knew (or even was the one to suggest it) that Mary was leaving her kids with the EA or if the CFO was just covering for her once it came out. If it turns out that the situation was actually the CFO’s suggestion, I might be willing to take the time to try to rehab Mary – but otherwise, nope.

          4. MashaKasha*

            What if she cannot or doesn’t handle the support tickets? They already know that, if they have any issues with her, they won’t be able to have them resolved, because her aunt is just going to jump in and shield her from any consequences again. Why bother trying?

          5. Observer*

            Sure it does. It means that you don’t know who she will decided to throw under the bus, or when she will decide that whatever personal issues of hers are more important than your work, or if she’ll just decide not to take care of something and pretend like she is, etc.

            Trust is the glue that makes teams workable. Either you trust someone or you micro-manage them, and these people don’t have the capacity to micro-manage her.

          6. TootsNYC*

            No, but it means they really don’t like her. It means they resent that she got to do things that THEY would have gotten fired for.

            Believe me, there are plenty of people who got their butts out of bed and moving earlier to get their own little kids to daycare or a sitter, and they’d have liked to be able to do that.

            Also, they are championing the EA, and Mary is as complicit in that as her aunt, even if she was oblivious to the “if you complain, I’ll fire you” threat.

            Since the company isn’t acting, they will act. She has violated the community’s norms.

    3. IT Kat*

      Speaking from a coworker perspective – Mary had a very obvious long period of time where she was lying, breaking rules, and blackmailing the EA into doing something (yes, it was the CFO, but Mary went along with it).

      If I bring Mary something and she doesn’t want to do it, is she going to lie and say I never brought it? Am I going to get in trouble because X isn’t getting done because Mary hasn’t done it? Or hasn’t done it correctly? What if she deliberately messes up the support ticket (gives me wrong info on the report I asked for, locked me out of the system I need, whatever makes sense for the work she’s doing)? What then?

      If there’s a chance of that (and were the events as laid out to happen at my workplace, I’d assume there was a chance of that since Mary has proven herself untrustworthy), then I’d spend my own time to try to figure out the problem first and avoid the potential issues down the road.

      Which means that there’s not much point to having her in that position, given that the department is now not doing what it was created to do – take things off other department’s plates.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes. I don’t understand the argument of ‘what if she was fine with my work’ or ‘but all she does is support tickets’. Mary has demonstrated that in a work context, she will abuse her position in the long term and sulks when expected to show improvement. That’s not a co-worker you want to put your trust (or part of your job future) in.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          It feels very Curate’s Egg to me–it doesn’t matter if parts of the work are excellent (which we don’t even know if they are) if the egg as a whole is spoiled. And I’d argue that integrity issues, like a spoiled egg, can’t really be separated out; they poison the whole relationship.

    4. Jadelyn*

      I can understand it very easily, actually. She broke trust with the company in a huge way, and in particular the specifics involved her abusing a coworker’s time – and that coworker’s job was then threatened when she complained! Who would want to be the next Mary victim? I’d minimize contact with her as much as is humanly possible, even if that means doing my own support work rather than trying to rely on someone who’s already demonstrated incredible disrespect for her colleagues’ time and duties.

      When someone has created that kind of toxic relationship – or developed a reputation for themselves as a person who does that – then everyone is going to want to stay out of the line of fire lest they end up involved in the next scandal. I think that’s entirely natural. Mary has a lot of trust to rebuild, and she doesn’t seem to get that.

      1. Minion*

        I understand how they feel, just not why they’re allowed to take the actions they’re taking.

        1. Artemesia*

          Discretion means they may have various ways of getting the job done. What I don’t understand is why Mary and the CFO were not fired the day this all came to light.

          1. Minion*

            Maybe the coworkers have more authority than what I’m assuming. I’m picturing these people as being equals with Mary. And, of course, I don’t know the work environment, so I could be jumping to conclusions that don’t make sense.
            I agree that Mary and the CFO should have been fired immediately.

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            OP mentioned that the CFO is being “reviewed” by “the board”, so it sounds like an institution where the CFO can’t be removed without Procedures, but wheels are moving.

        2. hbc*

          Because I can either go to the awful, blackmailing liar to get my tedious spreadsheet done, or I can do it myself. I used to have to do it myself, and was hoping to give it to someone else, but I have enough autonomy in my department to decide that I’d rather spend the time myself than deal with Mary and her muttered comments about how her aunt will hear about the state of my files. Or looking up to find she’s disappeared and not know if this is just a bathroom trip or her running out early. Or to watch my own direct reports who’ve been turned down for promotions get another visible reminder of what it takes to advance in this company.

        3. Jadelyn*

          If people were directly, explicitly told by their direct supervisors “take XYZ jobs to Mary”, then yes, I would agree – but it sounds like the situation is more along the lines of “Department ABC is there to be a resource so you don’t have to do XYZ”, which is not a directive, but an invitation or at most a request. Absent explicit instruction to Do This Thing In This Specific Way, most office-type jobs have a fair bit of flexibility built into them as far as the nitty-gritty details of *how* you do your work, and I think that’s what’s coming into play here.

        4. Turtle Candle*

          Well, in this case, it’s because their managers have decided not to make them do it. I mean, it’s not like they’re sneaking around–the LW says outright that various team leads are saying that they won’t make their team work with Mary. So this isn’t just shirking: it’s something they’re outright saying to their bosses, and their bosses are backing them up. They might have the autonomy to make that decision themselves, but even if they don’t, we know from the letter that they’re informing their own bosses and have essentially gotten permission.

          (For what it’s worth, I think that’s actually a good thing–I’d like to think that my manager would protect me from a potentially toxic employee, rather than hanging me out to take the risk.)

      2. Aly In Sebby*

        This x 1,000,000,000

        And part of that is the EA had to fight for her job, and HR had no power over CFO to do what was right.

        So EA essentially lost her job because of Mary.

        Nope, no way I’m inviting her to my rodeo, I’ll clean the bull carp up myself!

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      What I don’t get is the coworkers’ reaction to the whole thing. If Mary has been completing work correctly and has been doing a good job, which OP says she has, I really can’t understand why coworkers are refusing to bring work to her.

      I file a support ticket with Mary. Mary does the work late, or incorrectly, or not at all. No way in hell am I going to complain, or take this higher up, or even politely ask again, since I know what happens to people who cross Mary. I can see why people would rather not deal with her at all.

      1. Minion*

        I understand why they don’t want to deal with her. I wouldn’t either. All of those concerns are valid. And Mary should be fired exactly because of those concerns.
        But do you work in a place where you can choose whether or not you give “Mary” work? I mean that as a legitimate question, not sarcasm. Can you just say “Sorry, Boss, I’m not working with John. He’s not trustworthy.”
        Maybe I’m viewing it from an overly authoritarian viewpoint.

        1. Carly*

          OP was hired to build this department so I assume everyone was doing all their work themselves before and would prefer to continue that way if the alternative is dealing with Mary. They would just tell their Supervisor they didn’t need assistance so they didn’t file the ticket, what can the Supervisor do then?

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            Also, it sounds like in most cases Supervisor has the employee’s back, because they don’t trust Mary either.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It depends on the type of work. Yes, there *are* parts of my job that I can choose to do myself, or I can send them to someone else. According to the LW, this task was already being done internally, and the LW’s new department is supposed to take that off their hands. If I didn’t want to work with Mary, and I was able and willing to do Mary’s job in December before the new department was formed, I’m certainly able and willing to do it in March. It could be as simple as LW is running a centralized copy center, and her coworkers are choosing to make their own copies.

          1. Minion*

            Well, that makes sense. I wasn’t thinking of them doing it themselves rather than give it to Mary. In that case, I can see how they’d be able to do that.

        3. Serin*

          Sounds like maybe Mary’s a department of one, so they have a choice of bringing their support tickets to Mary or just not asking for support at all.

        4. Ife*

          I would guess people just choose not to file support tickets and either deal with the problem themselves or find someone else who can. Example: If the system locks up every third time I try to enter an order, normally I’d file a support ticket. But since I’d have to work with Mary to get it fixed, I just choose to deal with the system locking up and my productivity being lower. Or I email OP — Mary’s boss — and ask her to fix it for me. Or maybe the guy sitting next to me had the same problem and figured out that it doesn’t happen if he submits orders exactly on the quarter hour. There are a lot of ways to avoid filing support tickets!

        5. LQ*

          I’m the person who work can either be brought to or people can do things on their own in an end run way. Sometimes they are told that it is faster to do it without me (almost never true, but sometimes) and sometimes they’d really rather not have my boss’s boss know what they are doing. It’s not wrong exactly, but it is a sort of quick and dirty way to do something rather than the right way.

          A huge part of what I need in my org is trust. I need people to trust that I’ll push something back to them if I don’t have time. That I’ll be responsive and quick when I say I can do it. And (most importantly) that when I say, hey, this is a thing that needs to go up through the chain of command to make sure this is the right way, that there is a good reason behind it. Not that I’m trying to make their jobs harder, not that I’m trying to make it worse for the customer.

          I can’t imagine that they would trust this coworker with that decision.

      2. Xanadu*

        But Mary isn’t working under her aunt anymore and unless the workplace is even more dysfunctional than presented if you tell them you turned it in and she says you didn’t why would they believe her? Furthermore, if she was a habitual liar who did this all the time would there not already be problems? The OP doesn’t mention any such issues with her work. Surely by now there’d be a backlog of people getting reamed for not doing things based on Mary’s word who are stepping up to bring this forward? Or to bring forward other infractions?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think this workplace is already presented as extremely dysfunctional, and if I worked there, I would find it quite believable that Mary (and her CFO aunt, who still works there) would throw me under the bus and/or stab me in the back if it helped her position.

          And honestly, even if I weren’t personally afraid of her, I’d still be less willing to work with her, given the givens. Just because she sounds like an awful person. I know a lot of posters here are saying it doesn’t matter as long as she gets her job done, but not all of your coworkers agree with that.

          1. Xanadu*

            “Just because she sounds like an awful person.”

            She sounds to me like a person who has kids and for whatever reason couldn’t make the 8am start time but knew that having a job was paramount to providing to her kids.

            I don’t think that having kids is an automatic ‘get out of jail card by any means’ card (I don’t have them and am not intending to, fwiw) but people painting her as an employee that would backstab and terrorize any who dare oppose her also seems completely off-kilter. I’ve worked with people who ‘gamed’ the system because of their kids. They were generally very nice people (often single) who didn’t have a lot of monetary options about daycare and took the only job they could get.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Mary didn’t “game the system”. She forced another employee to handle her childcare issues and lied about it. That employee was then blackmailed by Mary’s aunt, who is (still) the CFO.

              I have kids. I have a lot of sympathy for people struggling to balance childcare and a job. But Mary is a piece of work.

              1. Xanadu*

                That is gaming the system. I’ve had cruddy bosses that made me do things for their family member/employees (including babysit kids). I’m still not seeing it as an antisocial act of extreme aggression – just incredibly inappropriate and oblivious.

                If you’re going to fire her because the act was wrong, then it should have been done immediately. Waiting until people refuse to play with her and then firing her isn’t appropriate either – HR decisions shouldn’t be a companywide group vote.

                1. fposte*

                  Then I’m not sure how you’re defining “gaming the system” beyond “doing something that isn’t illegal.” And that’s not enough to be worthy of continued employment.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  I have a feeling the EA may not see herself as a “system” that it was understandable for poor oblivious Mary to “game”.

                3. Xanadu*

                  I’m defining “gaming the system” as “abusing the framework in place to come out ahead in a way that isn’t illegal but typically immoral, unethical, and of a detriment to others”. The “system” being that she knows someone high up who can cover her ass – not the EA herself.

                  As I’ve said elsewhere, if you want to fire the lady she should have been fired when it came out. But the manager thought she was a good employee and decided to give her a chance. But now people around her are grumbling and being passive-aggressive about working with her so we’ve got a bizarre form of group participation HR.

                4. Serin*

                  I would define “gaming the system” as something like, oh, discovering that the timeclock only registers 10-minute intervals and clocks you the same whether you come in at 8:01 or 8:10, and therefore always arriving at 8:10. “I was only like thirty seconds late, but you know how the timeclock is …”

                  Forcing your assistant to babysit for your niece is, bluntly, helping your niece steal your assistant’s hours from the company for her own personal use. It may not be an uncommon violation, but that doesn’t make it a small one.

              2. TL -*

                I’m actually wondering if the CFO presented having the assistant help with childcare as an option to Mary (without telling assistant), Mary took her up on it, and then the law was laid down with the assistant when she complained.

                That seems like the most likely scenario to me, at least.

                1. Xanadu*

                  That specific scenario has happened to me before, and when I brought it up to HR the response was that my job as an assistant was to assist the manager in whichever way she deemed most appropriate (up to and including personal tasks).

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Seems unlikely to me, because:

                  A. The kids were hidden in a back room, which kind of screams “unapproved” to me.
                  B. Mary’s own manager didn’t know it was happening.
                  C. The CFO threatened/blackmailed the EA so thoroughly, which one normally doesn’t do if an employee balks at a completely above-board job task.

                  But let’s pretend that’s true. Let’s pretend it happened exactly as you described it here, and for some reason, Mary didn’t go to the EA and say “I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding” after the EA was informed that it was actually a completely legitimate duty handed down by the CFO (who threatened her as a joke). You still have Mary leaving her post every day for a YEAR, and her own manager knowing nothing about it, while she is on a PIP for attendance issues. It’s still dishonesty and bad judgement.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                This is way out beyond gaming the system.
                I said up thread, I have worked with a lot of parents and I never seen any parent be late almost every day for about two years. This a “I will do as I wish” attitude. And she continues not to do a 4o hour work week, that is what it looks like to me.

                Mary is not perceived as a nice person, we know this because OP says that tickets are down by 75%. Very seldom do we see entire work places push back like this. There is something really rotten going on here.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              She bullied another employee into serving her personal needs for a year, and the person was only able to get out of the situation by quitting. That’s a massive, egregious lack of integrity and abuse of power.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              What Mary did goes well beyond “gaming the system.” Showing up late because she couldn’t get her kids out of the house on time is the least of her issues.

            4. fposte*

              In addition to what people say, you can be a very nice person face to face with most people, take the only job you can get, and still be a horrible employee who bullies an admin.

        2. F.*

          A CFO has a great deal of influence in an organization. It doesn’t matter whether Mary is in her chain of command or not, the aunt can (and has proven that she will) make life hell for anyone who dares cross Mary.

        3. MashaKasha*

          She never did work under her aunt. The employee who watched her kids did.

          And, like others said, a CFO has a lot of pull in an organization.

        4. Observer*

          Let’s be clear: Someone was threatened with losing her job – and having the ability to collect unemployment and finding a new job taken away – for not wanting to spend the first chunk of her day watching Mary’s children and covering Mary’s job. The person who made that threat is still employed. And so is Mary. That’s quite dysfunctional enough.

          It’s quite clear that if you give Mary work, you had better watch your back and document stuff up the wazoo. Because there is a good chance that if there is an issue with Mary’s work, you are not going to get a free pass. And, even if you don’t get into trouble, it’s a hassle (especially if it turns out that you didn’t catch the problem for whatever reason.) And, it’s the kind of hassle people don’t want to deal with. I don’t blame them, either.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        That makes sense except if she did all that the customers would escalate no? There’s only so much one could hide, bury, etc. assuming they have a ticketing system that tracks support emails and maybe even recorded calls…I’m probably assuming too much.

    6. hbc*

      I think “lack of trust” is the assumption, but I’d bet good money that Mary isn’t exactly a treat to work with. I mean, what kind of person forces their kids on someone else? Hides behind a relative? Gets noticeably ticked when asked to prove working a full day when she has a history of not working a full day?

      Mary’s work product might be fine, but I guarantee she’s got some major anti-social behavior going on that keeps people from wanting to deal with her.

      1. JMegan*

        Yes, and it’s also possible that Mary and Auntie CFO have abused their power in other ways as well. The OP is new to the company, and the staff there have a demonstrated history of both unethical behaviour (Mary and the CFO), and of hiding performance issues (Mary’s old manager) in order to push problem employees onto unsuspecting new managers. So what else did they fail to disclose to the OP when they were “pushing” her to hire Mary?

        I agree that what Mary did to the EA was awful, and should be a fireable offense on its own. But I also agree with Minion above, that it seems strange that other people who were not directly affected would refuse to work with her on that basis alone. I feel like there have to be more examples of Mary abusing people’s trust like this, in order for them to behave like that.

    7. LAI*

      I see what Minion is saying, but I think I do get why the coworkers are reluctant to work with Mary. If I found out that a coworker had misbehaved this badly in the workplace and was still being kept in her position, I might be pretty resentful. And I think that could easily come out as just not wanting to interact with her at all (maybe a subconscious attempt to punish her since the company won’t?). I’ve definitely been in situations where a coworker handles one situation badly and it makes me want to avoid them altogether because I don’t know when it might happen again.

    8. themmases*

      What’s not to get? The OP’s department provides a support function, that doesn’t imply that other departments are required to work with them. They use a ticketing system, so they apparently handle self-contained jobs that are initiated by other departments. And the department is new, so this is apparently a task that all the potential requestors could just handle themselves if they wanted to. The coworkers might have been told to increase their productivity at something else, and given outside support to help them do it, but that’s not the same thing as being ordered to delegate this task to Mary. In fact, the OP explicitly said that other managers *won’t* force their employees to work with Mary, so there’s nothing insubordinate about their behavior. Presumably if they still get their work done they’re free to handle this task however they want.

      To take an example, am I insubordinate if I Google my computer problems rather than opening a ticket with IT? What if I reserve my own conference room or make my own appointments rather than delegating that to an admin? Of course not, and it really doesn’t matter what my reason is.

      Besides, Mary is not completing her work correctly. She violated basic workplace norms like showing up on time, not bringing your kids, and accurately filling out your timesheet. She blackmailed a coworker. When you provide a support function, your attitude is part of your work product and it’s clear she has a terrible attitude too.

      1. Minion*

        Right. I see that now. I wasn’t really thinking of it in that way. For some weird reason I missed that the coworkers could choose to do the work themselves. I guess I was thinking it was more like my environment. We have certain people who do certain things and employees can’t just choose not to take work to other employees if that’s part of what that particular employee does. My direct report has issues with another employee and knows that there are things the other employee isn’t getting done or they’re getting done incorrectly or late. The only thing I can do is talk to her manager about it, but I can’t really allow my employee to choose not to take work to her. My report doesn’t have the time to do those functions and it’s part of other employee’s job to do them. So, I was picturing an environment similar to that.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, whereas I am in a situation where my job can be assisted by getting information from other people (who can get that information faster, or even just have more time for it or whatever), but I can certainly do it myself if I have to. Generally I do ask, but if I have a crazy difficult coworker, I might just do it myself–my work will still get done, and if they’re difficult enough, it might not even be any slower.

          I think the fact that some of the other department leaders outright said that they wouldn’t force their teams to work with Mary probably points to it being a situation where they don’t actually have to do so–it would just be potentially more efficient if they did. (“Potentially” because I am disinclined to believe that anything involving Mary would be more efficient at this point, given the other info we know.) I could certainly see going to my boss and saying, “Hey, do I have to go through Mary for this? I can get the info myself and frankly given her lack of integrity I’d rather,” and I’m pretty sure he’d say “absolutely yes, just do it yourself and stay away from that bullshit.”

  20. Meg Murry*

    Here’s my concern:

    The CFO (who is Mary’s aunt) threatened to fire the EA for cause with no reference if she told anyone!

    If the CFO threatens to fire the EA over telling, what would she do to OP for firing her dearest darling niece? Where is the CFO in relation to OP’s chain of command, and does the COO (or CTO or whatever C-level equivalent to the CFO that OP reports to) have OP’s back? And even if OP’s bosses support her, can the CFO still make OP’s life miserable?

    In any other situation, I would think the dishonesty of leaving every day after the 8 am check-in while on a PIP would be enough to fire Mary immediately, because that breaks the spirit of the PIP if not the letter (the point was not to arrive at at 8 am then leave again – the point was to arrive at 8 am and cover the front desk!). I would be on the lookout for any deviation from the current plan, with one strike being PIP worthy and one strike while on the PIP being the end.

    Personally, I think OP is in a lose-lose situation and probably can’t salvage this, or at best it’s going to take a really long time to turn the situation around. Although I wanted to point out the part about having difficulty getting people to initiate tickets – that is typical of any system involving officially submitting tickets – it’s always hard to get people on board initially. But depending on what they are asking Mary to do, I’m not sure I would trust her work myself, so I don’t blame co-workers for not wanting to submit work to her.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, this would be my fear too. To the point that I might wait until after Auntie CFO is gone.

  21. Jubilance*

    The CFO is Mary’s aunt, right? And the CFO is still there? I think even if you wanted to fire Mary, the CFO is going to be an issue – given their previous behavior with their EA and forcing the EA to cover for Mary.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I was wondering about this. Not sure if the CFO will warm to “Your niece sucks and isn’t going to change.”

    2. some1*

      You may have missed in the letter where it said the Board has the CFO under review after the day care thing came to light

      1. Artemesia*

        A board that has her ‘under review’ is a very weak stick. She should have been suspended if a review were needed and realistically she should have been fired and walked the very day the evidence became clear. Apparently the CEO is feckless or doesn’t have board support.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          To be fair, “under review” could mean that they are talking to a lawyer so they can break the contract without getting sued.

    3. BananaPants*

      Agreed. I’d worry that Aunt CFO is going to intervene and really torpedo OP’s career there.

  22. Fifi Ocrburg*

    Maybe the OP’s company needs to look into having onsite child care for employees. 3 kids under 6 and the commenters are fine with firing this woman?

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      So? If she can’t do the job or obey instructions, why does it matter how many kids she has? I’m a huge proponents of women with kids working whenever possible, but it isn’t a get out of jail free card.

    2. Observer*

      You mean that no matter what someone does, if she has children she should be unfireable? That’s on way that workplace abuse grows.

      Let me turn it around. This person lied for a full year – getting paid for work she was not doing. She abused another person, adding a significant load to her work without any compensation. And you are ok with keeping her?

      1. ToxicNudibranch*

        IKR?! I mean, man, I need to get on having kids (MIL will be so pleased!) so I can lie to my employers and screw over my coworkers with impunity. /s

        @Fifi Ocrburg: You see how crappy a mentality that is? What an awful precident it sets? It’s reasonable for me to expect human decency and compassion for things that are going on in my life. It is not reasonable to think that life circumstances are a get out of jail free card.

    3. Pretend Scientist*

      I don’t think that this analysis is fair. This has nothing to do with childcare–it has to do with not fulfilling job requirements, then lying and sneaking around the requirements of a PIP. Sneaking out to drive her kids to school? Unbelievable…and it’s not the kid issue. If she didn’t have kids and simply didn’t want to get up earlier, and showed up for the HR check-in at 8a and then snuck off to the bathroom for an hour to dry her hair and do her makeup, it’s the same thing.

      And now, she doesn’t want to show up at a designated time and work 40 hours?

      Are you saying that she should be allowed to continue to work there simply because she has children? Wow.

    4. Jadelyn*

      Having young children doesn’t entitle someone to a job, when they’ve amply demonstrated poor attitude, disrespect for both coworkers and authority, and a willingness to abuse familial connections to get their way.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      No one wants to fire Mary because she has child care issues. They want to fire her because she’s a bully and a liar.

    6. Bend & Snap*

      You don’t keep someone around because they have kids when there’s egregious behavior.

      I say this as a single mother.

    7. Jinx*

      They wouldn’t be firing her for having kids, they’d be firing her for totally out of line behavior like forcing an EA to be her babysitter.

    8. AFT123*

      It’s not the company’s responsibility to make sure their employees have access to affordable child care. While it would be a nice perk, ultimately the onus is on the parents to do what they need to do to make things work for their circumstance. In this case, the employee simply needs to work 40 hours and be on time, which IMO, is not too big of an expectation from the company.

    9. TotesMaGoats*

      Maybe it does because that’s a great way to attract good talent and keep already employees. However, Mary is not a great employee. Apparently she has no problems with time card fraud, bully behavior, and blackmail. I bet Mary couldn’t get to work on time without children.

      The overwhelming majority of people with children get themselves and kids off to school and work on time every day. This isn’t about having kids. It’s about being a very poor employee who was protected by a horrible CFO. Yes, she absolutely should be fire and really it should’ve happened a long time ago.

      1. Not me*


        That’s a good thing to offer, but I don’t see it as a solution to the Mary problem. She needs to be considered responsible for herself.

    10. Katie the Fed*

      Yep. She demonstrated a complete lack of professionalism on this in how she handled it. The issue is not her being a mom. The issue is how she handled things.

    11. MashaKasha*

      It’s either that or be fine with the fact that she almost got someone else fired for refusing to watch them. We don’t even know how many kids of her own her aunt’s EA had.

    12. Student*

      There are other women in the same situation who won’t bring their kids into work and then force a co-worker (who essentially got blackmailed and then forced out of her job!) to watch them for her.

      Mary wasn’t just desperate for childcare – she was unethical, she was underhanded, she passed her kids off to someone who was not paid to care for them nor wanted to care for them nor equipped to care for them, and she lied about it to everyone. She cost the woman who was forced against her will to care for Mary’s children a job.

      Why should Mary get this job over another woman who can handle this?

    13. NoProfitNoProblems*

      “3 kids under 6 and the commenters are fine with firing this woman?”

      …Yes? Is this a trick question?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Three kids is not an employment qualification. Nor can it be used as leverage to force an employer to keep a person employed.
        If Mary was forcing you to do her work and watch her kids and your boss tells you you’re fired if you don’t do it, is that fair to you?

    14. The Butcher of Luverne*

      Yes, I’m fine with firing this woman (who chose to have children, which is a personal decision that has nothing to do with work and does not place her above any other worker) and also chose to create a lying, cheating and toxic work situation and seems to have no qualms about continuing in the same vein.

    15. HRish Dude*

      I don’t understand your logic at all. Being a parent doesn’t entitle you to total job security regardless of your actions.

    16. Afiendishthingy*

      Yup. The integrity issues are the problem here. I had a situation recently where it came to light that an employee had falsified timesheets, also due in part to childcare issues. Only a handful of times over a matter of weeks, it seems, but still very much not ok. She ended up resigning before we could fire her. We had never previously had doubts about this employee’s integrity. She was a part time employee and a single mom, and I’m sure she was in a difficult spot. I don’t think her actions mean she’s a bad person. Nonetheless, she made a really bad choice at others’ expense, and we wouldn’t have been able to trust her as an employee again.

      Mary’s crime wasn’t having difficulty getting to work on time. She could have admitted much earlier that a job that required her to be in precisely at 8 wasn’t a good fit for her and tried to transfer then. Instead she lied and involved others to cover up noncompliance with a PIP. I don’t care if she has triplets, I don’t want that employee.

  23. Observer*

    I think you need to have another Serious Talk with your boss. Explain the results of your conversations with other departments. He’s saying that the department doesn’t need to grow because you are not getting tickets. But, the reason you are not getting tickets is because people are refusing to work with Mary. That means that work is either not getting done, or being done in a way that will come back to bite everyone, because it’s being done with band-aids, chewing gum and spit, to keep it under the radar.

    In other words, Mary is holding back the growth of the department, and indirectly causing some potentially serious issues for the company.

    I also think you should be looking for a new job. How in heavens name does anyone think it’s appropriate to push a hire on you without disclosing a prior PIP? And, what on earth is your manager thinking when he claims that you can’t fire her because you weren’t her supervisor when it happened? Lastly, what on earth is taking so long for the CFO’s “evaluation” to result in the obvious results?

  24. animaniactoo*

    I think that I would add on to what Alison has said – not just lay out the problem for her and give her a month to turn it around, but rather make that month conditional on her telling you what she thinks she can do to turn it around.

    Unless she has some good solid ideas and seems like she has the willingness and initiative to carry it through, there’s no clear path for her to follow and it seems like she’s not that invested in keeping her job. Which means it makes no sense for you to ride out that month, rather than saying “Okay, it’s this bad, it doesn’t look like it’s possible to turn it around, so we’re going to have to part ways here and now.”

    Sometimes, you do burn your bridges so hard that there is no possibility whatsoever of immediate recovery in that area. All you can do is take what you’ve learned and go somewhere else.

  25. NK*

    I would have been on team “fire Mary” initially, but once you’ve offered her the opportunity to improve, I think you need to give her that opportunity. I realize you were in a tough spot for a bunch of reasons, but still – I think if you tell someone they get the chance to improve you should be true to your word on that, unless additional information surfaces in the meantime.

    I also think regaining trust on her part is going to require more than keeping certain hours. She should be reaching out to groups who would be working with her under normal circumstances and discuss what she can do for them, how she can best support them, etc. (That’s probably a best practice even under normal circumstances for this type of role.) And then, if after a month or two it’s apparent that she’s not making an effort, resisting the terms of the agreement, or even just not getting traction on the trust-building, then absolutely let her go.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      The improvement offer was made before the scandal came out, right? So the scandal voids the offer.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      No. For the following reasons:
      1) Mary is chafing at the new rules. Most people would be horrified, keep their heads down, and comply with just about anything to get back on track. The fact that Mary is chafing means that she still doesn’t “get it”.
      2) More data has now come out. The department is losing support due to the scandal. OP is allowed to evaluate the situation based on the new data. It is clear that the trust problem is bigger than originally thought.

      1. NK*

        Both good points. I think if OP does decide to fire Mary now, she should spell out those two items. I really don’t want to appear to be defending Mary at all, because I’m not, and I think she should have been fired immediately when this came out. But I think if OP offered Mary the opportunity to improve, she should clearly explain why that door has closed. While it does seem that most people at the company have turned against Mary, people are still sensitive to how firings are handled, and I think it’s important for OP to not appear to be making a 180 here for no good reason.

      2. littlemoose*

        Excellent points, Engineer Girl. Those factors make me lean toward terminating her now rather than letting this problem continue.

    3. Macedon*

      Nah. OP brought Mary in the kitchen with a match. She’s burning the house down. Things could have played out differently, but didn’t. Circumstances changed. Mary flies.

  26. Just Another Techie*

    I’m really deeply confused about how no one seemed to notice she was leaving the building after her morning check-in every day. Does no one sit near her? Do the rest of the office workers come in at 9? How did her manager, who put her on the PIP in the first place, not see that?

    The dysfunction here goes so deep (the aunt CFO threatening to fire the EA, the previous manager not giving you the full story, people in other departments refusing to file tickets and god knows how they’re getting the support they need that your department ought to be doing, and what craziness might be going on there) that regardless of whether you fire Mary or not, I think you should be preparing for your next move. Maybe not sending out applications right now, but I’d start laying the groundwork for stellar references (find some low hanging fruit for feathering your cap with achievements) and doing some research on where you’d like to be in a year or so.

    1. Meg Murry*

      I wondered this as well. For a whole year!?! And no one noticed the random kids in the EA’s office every day from 8-9? Who did the EA support, the CFO? How the the EA’s boss not notice or care?

      The only way I might be willing to give Mary a pass is if the “bring the kids to work for the first hour” was actually the CFO’s plan/suggestion, not Mary’s. Or if Mary had originally been hired to start at 9 am or had some kind of major life circumstance/tragedy (husband died? etc) that meant she asked for a short time of bringing in the kids with her. But not a whole year – that’s just crazy and taking advantage of the situation.

      Has OP seen the original PIP? I would review that to see if there was anything in it other than just “be at your desk working at 8 am”. If there was anything in there about working steady hours or anything that leaving at 9 am every day would have broken, I would probably be getting rid of Mary on that front. Although it’s harder now that time has passed, I think it’s possible to go back to the original PIP and let her go based on that.

    2. LQ*

      Or everyone assumed that something had been worked out so that the EA was covering the front desk because it isn’t really their job and maybe in the back was a place the kids got shuttled to out of sight of everyone else. And the EA couldn’t say anything because when she did she got threatened.

      I don’t think that it is completely absurd that none of the rest of the office workers noticed this. Because the job was being done by someone who was being threatened so it isn’t like she could say, I hate this and Mary’s making me do it. She has to act like she’s fine with it or loose her job and references. It isn’t that the work wasn’t getting done.

    3. Ama*

      I am absolutely sure a bunch of people were at least somewhat aware that Mary’s kids were in the office each morning (or many mornings) — but it also sounds to me like people might have been well aware that Mary’s relationship with the aunt protected her to a certain degree and not want to inquire further to protect themselves.

      I worked at a company where the director’s assistant basically opted out of half her job and dumped it on me and my coworkers, but the director wouldn’t hear a word against her. Getting mad about what she was getting away with was changing nothing but my blood pressure, so I tried not to think about it until I could get out of there.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how she could have hidden three kids under six without anyone knowing. You’re probably right and they didn’t want to cross CFO.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The kids were at Mommy and Grandma’s office. I bet Grandma had toys in her desk and everything.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      1. Front desk–if it’s in a separate lobby, there probably was no one sitting near her.

      2. If other employees came in before 9, they might have assumed the EA was supposed to be there. At my job, all the admins take turns covering the desk in our main building during the receptionist’s lunch. Pretty much everybody knows this–and they don’t think twice about it. I don’t think they even notice any of us, including the receptionist, unless they need something! It’s very common and has been the case everywhere I’ve ever worked.

      3. Back to the lobby thing–if the manager had an office that was nowhere near the lobby, they probably wouldn’t know unless someone asked, “Hey, when did EA start covering the front desk?”

  27. Ultraviolet*

    Would you really ever trust Mary knowing what you do about her judgment and integrity? If not, there’s no point keeping her around. (And I wouldn’t trust her.) Don’t feel bad about not giving her time to improve. As Alison says, this is fire-on-the-spot stuff, and also she should have known to start job searching after the EA revealed what she did.

    That aside, I really have the feeling your prospects of succeeding here are sunk if you don’t fire her soon. What she did is so obviously a fireable offense that people will really question your judgment if you don’t let her go. You’re meant to be expanding this department but with Mary around you’re getting too few tickets for just the three of you.

    And I also want to emphasize that your manager’s judgment here has been really bizarre, and I have to think that will impact your job in other ways too.

  28. Former Retail Manager*

    I feel like there is more information that may be pertinent….

    1. Is Mary married? If so, what is her spouse/children’s father doing to help with these kids?
    2. If Mary is a single mother and the father of the children isn’t in the picture, did no one speak to Mary about the child care situation she seems to be having? Is it that the she can’t get them to day care/school and then to work by the specified time due to a commute or does Mary not make enough money to pay for child care, hence the need to be with them until they are in school/pre-K? Was there previously an offer to work with her in terms of scheduling to enable her to still be at work and care for her children and she didn’t keep her end of the bargain?
    3. How long has Mary worked at this company? Was this always an issue or did an event occur to make this an issue?

    While everything that happened was crazy, I can see her motivation and desperation resulting in the actions Mary took. You can either be here at 8:00am to check in with HR or get fired. She likely felt she had no option but to bring the kids with her. Certainly handled poorly on her part, and the time to raise the child care issues, etc was back when she was put on a PIP, but that didn’t happen then. So… anyone going to ask her now about whether the issue can be resolved in some way? If her work is good and this is simply a scheduling issue with child care, it sounds like there may be a solution of some sort.

    And I have to disagree with some of the advice. If she is let go because there aren’t enough trouble tickets coming her way, then essentially this organization is allowing other departmental employees to choose who they work with. “Well, we don’t trust Mary because she brought her kids to work and lied about it.” Well, I say that’s too bad. If her job is to assist you with a trouble ticket, let her assist you, trust that the children at work incident is being handled by her manager/higher ups, and let the other departmental employees mind their own business. We all work with people we don’t care for from time to time, but as long as they assist us and do their job, then the remainder is really none of anyone’s business. For example, an IT person may have utilized bad judgment that resulted in disciplinary action and that information has been leaked. Should I refuse to work with him because something occurred that has nothing to do with me and insist upon another IT individual helping me? I think that’s bratty. If he is assigned to me, I will work with him as a professional, until he gives me reason not to. “I brought my kids to work to keep from being fired” has nothing to do with her ability to do her assigned task. Obviously, once again, there are ethical implications and the like, but that’s to factor into management’s decision, not the other employee’s decisions whether or not they want to work with her. If OP is in a management role and people come to OP directly, it’s very simple, “Mary can assist you, let me transfer your info over to her. Have a great day.”

    And as someone who has been in Mary’s shoes (no, I didn’t take my kid to work, but I have been a single parent juggling full time work and full time school), I can assure you that she likely is doing this only because she has no other option. I don’t get the impression that she is trying to flout authority or receive special treatment. I think she just wants to remain employed and provide for her children.

    1. Roscoe*

      I think that kind of is why I’m a bit taken aback as well. If I found out someone in my support department did something shady, I don’t just have the ability to say “I won’t work with them anymore”. Thats my manager’s call. If their manager is handling it on their end in the way they deem fit, its not my place to just decide that it’s not enough and I won’t bring them work

      1. LBK*

        I think it’s a unique situation because this is a new department/role and the company has previously been operating without it, so it’s not so much picking and choosing who you work with but rather sticking to the old method of just doing stuff yourself rather than submitting tickets.

    2. Shell*

      The problem is that Mary has someone high up covering her behaviour: her aunt. I agree that if this were a regular situation where the higher ups are sane and fair then the remaining coworkers should continue to give work to Mary, since her work quality is decent and circumventing Mary causes problems down the pipeline. But Mary has the CFO covering her, to the point CFO threatens to fire another good employee without cause to cover for Mary. That doesn’t give anyone confidence that any disagreement with Mary would be treated fairly. Yes, the CFO is being investigated by other parties in the organization, but if I were in this company, I would not trust that Mary would be handled like any other coworker until I see that CFO is taken completely out of the picture. This isn’t just personal dislike about Mary, this is very reasonable distrust of Mary’s professionalism and treatment of Mary from the powers that be, all of which are rooted in very recent history.

      Besides which, I don’t care how desperate Mary was, the fact that she’s chafing at the very reasonable new restrictions put on her in light of her previous actions doesn’t speak well to her character.

    3. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I agree with you that departments/employees shouldn’t get to pick and choose who they’ll work with.

      Whatever situation she may or may not be in re: child care doesn’t justify what she did, and it REALLY doesn’t justify what her aunt did (the aunt is the larger of the evils, imo). If she wasn’t going to be able to get to work on time, the reasonable thing would have been to say to her employer that she is fully committed to working through the PIP but that she would need to meet with HR at 8:30 instead of 8:00 because she needs to get her kids to preschool. Any reasonable HR person or manager, for that matter, would make that accommodation without all of the lies and secrecy.

      I was raised by a single mother with no help whatsoever (though I’m not one myself) so I do see your point … I just think there were other ways to better resolve this.

    4. Elizabeth*

      And I have to disagree with some of the advice. If she is let go because there aren’t enough trouble tickets coming her way, then essentially this organization is allowing other departmental employees to choose who they work with. “Well, we don’t trust Mary because she brought her kids to work and lied about it.”

      But that isn’t why they don’t trust her. They don’t trust her because she bullied another employee to the point that the employee quit and misused her family connections in order to avoid the consequences of disciplinary action. They have ample proof that if they disagree with her or bring up performance issues she may have that they will face disciplinary actions themselves. I wouldn’t trust her in those circumstances, either!

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Mary is definitely in the wrong. But even more in the wrong is the handling of the entire situation by management, or lack thereof really. And I think management is fully justified in not trusting her generally, but I don’t think her actions related to her kids have anything to do with her ability to complete her tasks for her coworkers such as answering the trouble tickets. And there doesn’t seem to be any indications that her work is bad so no indication that performance issues may be on the horizon either. Management and their multitude of poor judgment is the culprit here IMO. There seem to have been plenty of opportunities to handle this far better, far earlier on.

    5. Retail HR Guy*

      It’s her job to work out her child care situation, not the company’s. The company did NOT drop the ball by neglecting to sit down with her to figure out exactly what her needs were and what her morning routine should be and then jointly come to a solution, because it is none of the company’s business.

      And if you truly believe that there was “no other option”, how do you explain how 99% of other single parents seem to be able to manage to get to work on time without resorting to such unethical tactics?

    6. Katie the Fed*

      “1. Is Mary married? If so, what is her spouse/children’s father doing to help with these kids?
      2. If Mary is a single mother and the father of the children isn’t in the picture, did no one speak to Mary about the child care situation she seems to be having?”

      I really disagree that this is pertinent. We should be able to reasonably assume that Mary has her stuff handled unless she tells us otherwise. It’s not the company’s job to delve into those details.

      1. C*

        Strongly agree with Katie the Fed. This is her employer, not her social worker. Mary is a toxic employee and needs to be let go due to her ethical misconduct. Her personal circumstances are entirely irrelevant.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        I agree it’s not the company’s job to delve into her personal life, but if a problem continues persistently with an employee and there appears to be an obvious cause, I think it would be kind for either her manager or HR to at least ask if she is having child care issues of any sort since she seems to continually be late or need to step out midday. Ideally, at this point, a discussion of flexible start and end times would occur and it would be hashed out as to whether or not that’s an option considering her position. Maybe that already happened….maybe many times…we don’t know. Maybe the convo happened but Mary was scared to tell them the truth, for whatever reason. Who knows? My point is that hopefully she was at least given an opportunity to tell her employer the challenges she was facing to see if they could accommodate her. They very well may not have been able to given her position, which would be justified as well.

        1. Trillian*

          Argh. I hate these ad-driven reloads. Continued … I say this as someone whose family member was bullied out of their profession. Aside from the deception, Mary was complicit in workplace bullying. I would not trust her, and I would not trust anyone who covered for her.

    7. neverjaunty*

      Why aren’t more people worried about the EA, who was forced to provide childcare on top of her existing duties, blackmailed by the CFO, and now has to start over at another company?

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          I think we’re all just assuming/hoping that EA didn’t put in her notice until she found an equivalent job and is thanking the deity/pasta-based lifeform of her choice that she escaped from the clown car OP works at.

          1. I'm Not Phyllis*

            That’s what I was thinking – it’s awful that she was in this situation but I’m hoping she went to a better place (so to speak).

          2. neverjaunty*

            Sure, but we don’t know that or have any reason to assume that. Maybe she’s at her dream job. Maybe she had to take a longer commute and a pay cut to work somewhere that she wasn’t having to choose between doing her work and acting as an unpaid babysitter to the CFO’s niece.

            But what I really meant was that there are a lot of comments here about how poor Mary needs our sympathy because little children and maybe she was just oblivious, and surely she deserves a second chance, while giving not a second of attention to the EA, who presumably also was working at her job for a paycheck and not just to fill time in between mani-pedis and meetings with the nanny.

      1. Miss M*

        Seriously. I hope the EA speaks to an employment attorney or her state’s DOL about this.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not seeing anything illegal in what’s happened to her, though. It’s perfectly legal to require you to watch your co-worker’s kids and to fire you for complaining about it.

          The board might take a dim view of that, though.

      2. Master Bean Counter*

        Because the EA escaped to what has to be greener pastures. She’s the real winner in all of this. She got away from the dysfunction.

        1. MaggiePi*

          Exactly. If the EA were the one writing in, I would have a whole lot to say that direction. Since the EA is leaving and (probably) not reading these comments, I have not focused on discussing that part of things.

      3. my two cents*

        i don’t think there’s any additional open action items that could be generated with regards to the EA. EA filed with HR and hopefully got her reference within the company squared away. EA left job working for toxic auntie cfo and is either working somewhere else or job hunting. What else could be done to support the EA?

        Mary’s a much more salacious topic of discussion. heh

          1. neverjaunty*

            Well sure, but some of the answers are “No! Mary just made an error of judgment, no bigs, give her a second chance, she has kids” while ignoring that Mary’s lying, blackmailing butt ran another employee out of the company.

      4. Turtle Candle*

        Yes. That blows my mind. Mary may have been in an awful situation, and I have sympathy for her if that’s the case–because I have sympathy for any human being in an awful situation–but for all we know, so was the EA. And where Mary was being protected above and beyond what most people would consider reasonable in the situation, the EA got the opposite: endangered (by the threat of a bad reference for reasons separate from her actual work) above and beyond.

        I just think about how I would have felt when I was in a similar type of position early in my career, if I’d had that kind of thing foisted on me (and what was her liability? what would have happened if one of the kids had put a staple through their hand or worse?), told to keep it a secret, and threatened if I didn’t. It gives me cold chills. Mary’s attempt to solve her childcare issues was far, far, far from a victimless overstep.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I thought about the EA at first because I felt that the company should try to hire her back if she did not have a job.

        Then I thought about what it would be like to be that EA. If I were that EA trust would be irreparably broken for me. There would be no going back. She had a tyrant for a boss and NO one at that company did anything about the CFOs behavior. I would never mistake this place for a healthy company with a system of checks and balances. The CEO never once walked into the CFOs office in the morning and saw those kids there? What’s up with that? Every morning for a year???? No, CEO condones this or turned a blind eye to it. And EA is well aware.

    8. Observer*

      I can assure you that she likely is doing this only because she has no other option. I don’t get the impression that she is trying to flout authority or receive special treatment. I think she just wants to remain employed and provide for her children.

      I think you are overlooking a few things.

      The issue that most people have is not that she brought her kid to work. It’s that she bullied another person into covering for her (getting paid for time she wasn’t working.) Why should anyone think that she wouldn’t bully someone else when the circumstances warranted that, in her opinion? Furthermore, when she finally got into a position where there was some time flexibility, she started shorting her hours. While it’s technically no one else’s business, people see that and make some fairly reasonable negative assumptions about her work ethic and her reliability.

      Now, her boss is on to her, and has tried to fix it. And she’s reacting visibly and negatively.

      It’s no wonder people don’t want to have anything to do with her. Most people don’t want to work with people who are resentful of doing their jobs, and who have shown that they are willing to abuse other people to get what they want.

      I also don’t believe that she’s just doing what she needs to do to survive. If that had been the case, she would have been a model employee as soon as she got into a job that allowed her some flexibility. No one would be able to comment on her hours, because she would have been working them. Her boss wouldn’t need her to prove that she’s actually working 40 hours, because she would have been working them, or submitting hours that reflected the actual hours she worked. Neither of those things happened.

    9. Rusty Shackelford*

      If her work is good and this is simply a scheduling issue with child care, it sounds like there may be a solution of some sort.

      I think the letter makes it clear that it’s NOT simply a scheduling issue with child care. Even if you ignore the blackmailing issue, she was still being dishonest about her work hours.

    10. Ineloquent*

      To be frank – Mary accepted the job knowing that she had small children who need childcare, that she was expected to be working 40hrs/wk and that the start time was 8 AM. If she could not commit to the requirements of her job, she should not have taken it. I don’t give a flying flip over her ‘difficulties’ when scheduling herself. She made a commitment and she failed to honor it, to the point that she behaved dishonestly and unethically (and very likely fraudulently). As a coworker – I’d have no faith that she’d perform the tasks I need her to do in a timely manner and to the level of quality that I’d need, so I’d find an alternative solution. As her manager – I’d have not faith that she’d turn over a new leaf and start behaving honestly, ethically, and professionally. She’s shown OP who she is, and OP should believe her. The aunt issue is a whole other kettle of fish that OP thankfully doesn’t need to get deeply involved in. OP should take only Mary’s actions into consideration when looking at her employment status, but there’s plenty there to be damning.

      OP, fire this lady. Pain is a helpful tool for people to learn the error of their ways. If you give her more consideration, she’ll take advantage of you and you will lose all respect from your coworkers/staff. You’ll lose your own self respect. It sucks, and it’s hard to do, but in the long run you are doing her a favor.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s funny/odd. In retail she would have been fired by the third day she was late. No questions, no discussion, just leave.

    11. ToxicNudibranch*

      I guess, in this situation, I kind of don’t care about 1 or 2. At all.

      It’s clear that someone did try to talk to her about her needs (see PIP/checking in with HR), or at least about her repeated tardiness. How much probing/assistance would you think necessary?

      That “child care situation” she seems to be having wasn’t just getting to work late, or even having to bring the kids in for a little bit while she made other arrangements, or even trying to sneak the kids in a couple of times in a fit of desperation. It was her deciding to lie (repeatedly!) and to bully. Not once. Not twice. Not for a week. For a freakin’ YEAR. It showcases such a startling lack of ethics, and integrity–not to mention a deep inability or aversion to handling her own business like an adult–and any sympathy I might have had for her flew right out the window.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I am embarrassed to say that I only just realized that she did this for a year. No idea how I overlooked that part of the letter. I am snatching back my sympathy….a freakin’ year……*shakes head*

  29. Laura the Librarian*

    Mary needs to go ASAP. If you don’t, eventually the good employees will get tired of the dysfunction and find jobs elsewhere.
    I’m not really surprised about the OP not being told about the PIP. I once worked for a large library system where there was a lot of internal movement from department to department, branch to branch, etc. After a wrongful termination lawsuit, they were terrified to fire anyone, so managers would give great recommendations to terrible employees just to get rid of them. Eventually they put a policy in place that when an employee applied for another position, the current manager had to sign off that they weren’t on a PIP, hadn’t been written up in X amount of time, etc.

    1. AF*

      That happened at my workplace too – a previous manager (who fortunately left before I started working here, but I heard all about her) was given a glowing review by her previous department. They only said nice things to get rid of her, not thinking, of course, that they were damaging their own reputations by doing so. So so so awful.

  30. I'm Not Phyllis*

    Yes – let her go. Her behaviour was completely unethical and it will be extremely hard for her to repair the damage she has caused. The CFO needs to go to, but I understand that’s not under your control.

    She’s only holding you back at the company if you continue to let her. I think you already know what the appropriate course of action is, based on your discussions with your manager. You need to do it, and ask your manager to support you fully. This will be the first step to repairing your own reputation, as well. They’ll forgive you if you make it right.

  31. Nico M*

    Whats bizarre is if the CFO had the power to cover the kid thing up, surely they could have just got her different hours or a different role.

  32. Cautionary tail*

    An update is definately required reading.

    I take a different view, perhaps because I’ve seen and had different experiences. If the issue of dealing with childcare could be addressed by the company having either local options or onsite childcare, would that catalyst remove the other obstacle issues her, and for other employees, to include getting in on time and leaving when scheduled, the meddling CFO aunt, etc. Admittedly it does nothing for a broken trust issue which I know is core to any relationship. I just wonder if people commenting herein to fire her are trying to address the symptoms instead of the root cause. If she is a poor and toxic employee regardless of an accomodation like this, then it’s best to remove the cause of the cancer fast and I agree with the firing option. Ensure you know and discuss potential backfiring and repercussions from this via the CFO and your boss. If you get pushback on taking decisive action then it’s time for you to polish your resume and go.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      It is also possible that she was unaware that the CFO was actually threatening the other employee?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, it’s possible. However, according to the LW, Mary told the EA to watch her kids, and then the EA complained to the CFO. So Mary was still the instigator of the situation. She still told another employee to provide free SECRET childcare. While knowing that this employee reported directly to her family member.

        1. Xanadu*

          It could also have been a situation where the CFO told Mary “Yeah go ahead and bring your kids in, I’ll get Judy to watch them while you check with HR” and Mary assumed it was either a.) OK with Judy or b.) an ok thing for her aunt to ask of her EA but that her EA just didn’t like doing.

          Assistant complains to Auntie, Auntie brings down the hammer and Mary could be (relatively) oblivious.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’m going to repost what I posted above. :-)

            Seems unlikely to me, because:

            A. The kids were hidden in a back room, which kind of screams “unapproved” to me.
            B. Mary’s own manager didn’t know it was happening.
            C. The CFO threatened/blackmailed the EA so thoroughly, which one normally doesn’t do if an employee balks at a completely above-board job task.

            But let’s pretend that’s true. Let’s pretend it happened exactly as you described it here, and for some reason, Mary didn’t go to the EA and say “I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding” after the EA was informed that it was actually a completely legitimate duty handed down by the CFO (who threatened her as a joke). You still have Mary leaving her post every day for a YEAR, and her own manager knowing nothing about it, while she is on a PIP for attendance issues. It’s still dishonesty and bad judgement.

            1. Xanadu*

              That’s why I said “relatively”. There were obviously problems with the situation regardless of how to turn it.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, she didn’t threaten to fire the EA if she refused to do it. She threatened to fire the EA if she told anyone. I can’t imagine why you’d do that if it was remotely above-board. And if that degree of secrecy was necessary, then Mary must have not been mentioning it either–which, I have trouble imagining bringing your kids in for an entire year without telling anyone just by coincidence. It seems like it would come up at least once, unless you also knew that it was sufficiently not-okay to need to be kept a secret.

            3. Fifi Ocrburg*

              A back room isn’t necessarily a storage closet–it’s just not the lobby or reception space. Maybe it was an open conference room.
              The CFO seems to be the bully here.

              1. Original Poster*

                The back room is a storage closet for old furniture and janitorial supplies by the back door that no one uses…so no, not an ideal place for watching kids. Unless you don’t want to be caught.

      2. doreen*

        She may have been unaware that the CFO aunt threatened the EA explicitly- but how does a receptionist tell another employee to do anything if she doesn’t expect the backing of someone higher up? Nothing against receptionists, but they are generally not in a position to direct any other employees on their own authority

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          That’s true, but as someone who’s been a receptionist many times – they often are told to direct other employees. For example, I was told to “lay down the law” many times about people leaving their junk in the reception area – and I did it, despite the fact that nobody ever listened. :)

          1. Observer*

            Oh, come on. Keep in mind, the EA was HIDING the kids. That says that Mary HAD to know that this was not a normal, “approvable” task.

            1. I'm Not Phyllis*

              Yes, obviously. That isn’t related to what I was saying, which is that receptionists are asked to direct people frequently. I agree with “doreen” that the message usually comes from higher up, but it happens all the time.

              So I’m clear, of course Mary knew that what she was doing was wrong. She wouldn’t have been hiding it otherwise.

        2. Trillian*

          She let it go on for over a year. That says to me she was confident there would be no repercussions.

    2. NK*

      Having onsite child care really isn’t the company’s responsibility; there are so many limiting factors here, especially if it’s a small company.

      And I say that as someone who is currently pregnant, freaking out about the cost of child care, and pissed that our country doesn’t seem to have any interest in supporting working moms. But I still understand that it is cost and space prohibitive for the vast majority of companies to provide child care options.

      1. LadyCop*

        Our country doesn’t have interest??? You mean the taxpayers right? You seriously think I should fork over more of my hard earned money because you want childcare??

    3. Engineer Girl*

      No, no, no. Childcare is a perk that attracts good employees. It is not a requirement in the US. Most adults know this and make arrangements for this.
      True adults do not expect others to suffer harm so that they themselves can succeed. That is a child viewpoint (you have to help me!) Adults may ask (not demand) that others help. Asking means that the other person has the right to say no without consequences.

    4. HRish Dude*

      Most businesses lack on-site childcare and 99.9% of their employees haven’t even dreamed of hiding their kids at their office. This has nothing to do with the benefits the company offers.

  33. MaggiePi*

    Also, I want to know if she was getting paid for the time she was not at work but driving her kids to school. Maybe she was salaried, but usually a receptionist wouldn’t qualify as exempt.
    I might be be inclined to fire her either way, but for me the time-card fraud aspect of it would definitely put me solidly in the “fire her” camp.

    1. MashaKasha*

      OMG you are right. My guess? If she’d clocked out every morning between 8:30 and 9:30 for a year, people would’ve noticed. Which they didn’t. Hence, she didn’t clock out.

      1. MaggiePi*

        That is my suspicion as well, MashaKasha, but there’s not enough info here to know for sure. Hoping the OP can chime in and clarify!

          1. MaggiePi*

            (If it wasn’t the CFO directly, then maybe we have another threatened employee still working in payroll or something. The plot thickens…)
            I think the OP could possibly address it from this perspective though; even if the OP’s boss was willing to overlook all the forced babysitting, maybe (just maybe) the time card fraud would be a bigger issue to them, enough to tip the scale and fully support/suggest firing her.

            1. Original Poster*

              Another commenter brought up the timecard fraud, I’m investigating it. Given that the Office Manager (her previous boss) didn’t know about this, I doubt he was signing off on timecards that had a chunk of time taken off every morning.

              1. MaggiePi*

                Please do keep us updated! I am very curious to know what happens with her and the CFO too.

              2. AF*

                OP, kudos to you for sticking through with this! If nothing else, it is very fascinating to all of us, so thank you for keeping us posted!

    1. F.*

      BINGO!! Let CFO Auntie watch the kids and drive them to preschool. Oh, and put Mary on a strict hourly payroll setup so she is paid only for the hours she actually works. Problem solved!

    2. MaggiePi*

      I do really enjoy the idea of justice behind this, but also hope the CFO isn’t employed there for long.
      In reality, I would rather see hard-working good employees have all three jobs (Mary’s, CFO’s, and CFO’s new EA)!

  34. LBK*

    You know those letters where people write in and say “I have an absolutely horrid coworker who seems to be able to get away with murder, what do I do?” and everyone here says “Get out, your manager clearly doesn’t care about accountability and is never going to do change?” OP, you’re the manager in that letter right now. This is the turning point where you can ensure the situation doesn’t end up like most of the updates to those letters where nothing changes and the letter writer just quits.

    You need to fire Mary now because you need to send a clear message to the company’s high performers that you care about surrounding them with other good workers, that you believe in accountability and that you’re committed to addressing problems without getting bogged down by bureaucracy, office politics or overdrawn sympathy. I think if you stepped back and read this situation from the outside it would be really clear, much as it is to the majority of the commenters here.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I so completely agree. Right now OP’s workplace leaves an impression of a cliquish environment where it doesn’t matter how well you perform, it matters whom you’re related to. Have a relative in a high position in the company, and you can get away with anything and your relative will cover it up. Have no relatives or connections in the upper management, and it sucks to be you. That alone would make me start looking for another job so fast.

    2. Veronica*

      Exactly. Can you imagine being the EA who had to watch the kids, who complained and was threatened, and then: Mary gets a promotion!! Go Mary!! Ugh. Who knows? Maybe the aunt’s EA wanted the job that Mary got. I would have cried, become furious, and quit. Which is probably how that went down. And to anyone who thinks Mary should not be fired, please remember that she did not ‘make a mistake’. Every day for a year she committed fraud, basically, and apparently never bothered to fix her childcare situation. For an entire year. Not a week or two. For an entire year she took advantage (knowingly, whether it was her aunt’s idea or not) of her company and a coworker. And then got rewarded for it.

      1. Ruffingit*

        This, exactly this. Mary’s conduct got her a reward. What does that say to all other employees? This is one way to completely tank morale at that place if it wasn’t already that way.

      2. Deanna*

        Oh, I definitely think Mary deserves to be fired and I don’t feel sorry for her. But I’m one of the ones who suggested OP give Mary a chance, not out of concern for Mary but out of concern for OP. Mary’s behavior has gone on for years and none of the managers have been willing to go up against the CFO. I’m guessing this is because they are afraid of her. They pulled the classic “out” of sticking the new manager with the problem employee.

        I think it’s worth OP’s time to stick it out with Mary for a little while because it sounds like things might be changing in the organization. The CFO is under review by the board and might be gone, and Mary’s got to be aware of how much her co-workers resent her. She might leave on her own, or if her aunt is dismissed then Mary can follow her out the door.

        1. neverjaunty*

          First, that’s not giving Mary a chance. That’s giving Mary an excuse.

          Second, the OP IS giving her a chance. Mary is blowing it by being unreliable and resentful.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          She got two chances already. One was the original PIP–that was for being late. Taking her kids to care was making her late and the onus was on her at that time to either fix the situation, or, if she was unable to right away, to go to her manager and say, “Here’s my dilemma; what can we do until I can work this out?”

          Chance #2 was the OP laying down new rules, which Mary is pouting about. She doesn’t like the new rules, so she is shorting her time.

          Whether the CFO stays or goes, Mary needs to go. I’m afraid the OP is going to lose all credibility if she keeps her on.

  35. Gandalf the Nude*

    OP, your department is not home base. She cannot tag her new desk and yell “SAFE” and be exempt of consequences for her astounding, mind-blowing dishonesty. There is no home free for that kind of misconduct. You’ve learned something disturbing about your employee that has rightfully changed your evaluation of her trustworthiness, and I think you’d be wrong to not act on it just because it didn’t happen under your management.

  36. Deanna*

    I would be very wary of this situation. It sounds as if managers have been dodging doing anything about this employee because of her aunt, they gave her a promotion instead of firing her, and now they want you to be the axe person. If you fire her and her aunt makes a stink, are the other managers going to back you up?

    I personally would go with #2 of Allison’s suggestions–give Mary a second chance, not because she deserves one, but because her aunt is CFO, you’re new, and the previous manager made the mistake of not firing her immediately. (But if the Boards dumps Aunt CFO, then get rid of Mary. ) She may be chafing, but if she’s following the new directives then that’s a good thing. I would document everything, even if she’s a minute late. I felt really petty the first time I had to do this, but it’s useful in determining patterns. If she’s late at all, even by a few minutes, talk to HR about the firing process.

    I think you’ve done your due diligence in trying to get the other team members to be nice to her. They’re obviously very angry about the situation, and I can’t blame them. Now it’s up to her. She needs to be the one coming up with plans to win back the respect of her colleagues and addressing the snarky comments. Hopefully she is looking for another job.

    I’d try to appear understanding of the other employees’ feelings, too, even though they are acting unprofessional. They might begin to resent you if they perceive that they are being reprimanded for being angry with Mary, while she is untouchable. I don’t envy your situation–this is a very hard position to be in.

    1. JMegan*

      give Mary a second chance, not because she deserves one, but because her aunt is CFO, you’re new, and the previous manager made the mistake of not firing her immediately.

      This is a good point. Mary doesn’t deserve a second chance, but there’s reason for the OP to give her one anyway, for the sake of covering her own behind. This company seems to be as nutty as they come, but at least if OP is going to fire Mary, she will have clear documented proof of *her own* that it was necessary.

  37. Student*

    OP, why are you so personally invested in helping Mary out? I think it’s time to look very closely at your own motivations. What are you gaining by keeping her around that offsets the huge drag on your department?

    Is it the approval of your own manager?

    Is it that you don’t want to own up that you made a bad hiring choice and deal with the consequences?

    Is it that you don’t want to hire someone else to do this job? Or that you’re afraid you can’t get someone better than Mary in this role?

    Hiring is hard. People make mistakes when hiring. That’s okay – but it’s better for everyone involved to own up to that than to keep a bad decision limping along. Do you honestly think Mary is at her best in the current environment? It’d probably be better for her long term to move on to something else, too, instead of staying at a company where she’s killed any chance of going up the ladder and most of her co-workers don’t want to deal with her. It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong about someone, and that’s a very natural and normal response, but a great manager will recognize and own up to it and do what’s best for the department instead of what’s easiest, or what makes her feel good, or what reaffirms her ego. It’s also hard to defy the bad advice of your direct manager, but when you’re trying to advocate for what your department needs, you’re going to have to go to bat against your manager from time to time.

  38. JenVan*

    “She would have to arrive by 8:30, take no more than one hour for lunch, and fill out a timesheet to prove that she’s meeting 40 hours a week.”

    Wow, that must be so terrible. I understand why she’s chaffing …


    1. 7LeafClover*

      We have a similar situation in my academic research environment. Because two colleagues get nothing done for months on end, we all now have to keep track of our hours and how much time we spend on specific project because of the group administrator.

      The part that really sucks? It has made 0 different in my two colleagues’ output, and my other colleagues and I feel resentful that we have to track our time and that nothing has changed. I wish the timesheets weren’t universally applied and that something would come of them.

      1. Adam V*

        You’d think that after a week or so, you and your good colleagues would meet with your boss and be told “okay, you’re doing everything right, you can stop” and the other two colleagues would be told “your timesheets don’t match your output, you’ll have to keep doing this until I’m satisfied”.

        I guess it’s just from a “fairness” standpoint – it’s fair to tell everyone “here’s a new rule – you’ll have to do this *until I tell you otherwise*”, but you let the best people off the hook quickest, and only keep it around for the people who need it.

    2. Ineloquent*

      Also, totally likely that she’s falsifying her timesheets – since she was clearly already doing that during the Scandal.

  39. Ruffingit*

    I really can’t see any other alternative but to fire Mary here. I hate to say that, but really, I seriously doubt other departments are going to rebuild trust with her and who can blame them? By keeping her around, you’re basically telling all other employees that you can do egregious things and no one will care about the conduct or the impact it has on other departments. After all she’s done, I’d be thinking “Seriously? Do you have to defecate in a lunch box to get fired around here?” She needs to go.

  40. The Other Dawn*

    I’m on the side of firing Mary. It’s really difficult to rebuild trust, and I don’t see it happening here. When employees work around other employees, that’s a big problem. Be the manager that saves the day and shows everyone that actions have consequences.

  41. Milli Vanilli*

    Fire: 243
    Keep: 3

    I think it’s pretty clear where the people stand.
    I just made the fire number up, but I think that’s a pretty good estimate.

    Now that I think about it, something similar occurd at my workplace. A mother of a young kid on my team of 3 would come in 2 hours late and leave 2 hours early almost daily because of childcare and whatnot and she was told to quit or figure it out. She “figured it out” by moving to another team that was more flexible. It’s been 3 years and our entire division of 100+ people know she can’t be trusted or depended on. I will never forget the position she put me or my other team member in. Things will not change. People will not suddenly warm to her. Things will not get better.

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      That actually sounds a little unfair, because taking a job with flexible hours is a perfectly legitimate way to handle childcare issues, and not remotely comparable to blackmailing your coworker.

      1. fposte*

        It sounds like Milli is referring to the problems created when she was at the previous job, though, not where she went afterwards.

        1. Milli Vanilli*

          Yes, thanks.

          Working 3-4 hours a day instead of 8ish will really mess up your team. And while she didn’t blackmail us, she did expect us to cover for her on a daily basis for two years.

          And since I didn’t elaborate: She’s doing the same thing with the other team. They are more flexible and she still can’t show up on time or work an 8 hour day, so now she’s just screwing another team over.

          “Figured it out” still stands with immense sarcasm since she just took her problems elsewhere.

          Flexibility doesn’t always solve the problem.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I have a sneaking suspicion that “childcare” is the excuse here and not the actual reason for her absences.

    2. Maggie_Elisabeth*

      Wow, to echo Creag an Tuire, that is very unfair. If management was okay with her switching to a more flexible team, that actually sounds like the completely perfect way to figure it out.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, but until she made the switch, she caused problems for her team. People don’t have to forget what they’ve learned about someone just because that person finds a position that doesn’t highlight their weaknesses as thoroughly (and yes, being unable to stick to the schedule you agreed to IS a weakness). Though I agree that it’s nowhere near as egregious as the actions of Mary and her aunt.

        1. Milli Vanilli*

          I agree. No where near as egregious.

          I was mostly comparing the specific situation, in this case young children, and how it can affect your job and your coworkers.

        2. Fifi Ocrburg*

          She didn’t cause problems for her new team. The EA quit, filed a complaint with HR and then either told others or the office grape-vine spread the story. If her new team had not heard the story, would they have any complaints about Mary’s current work?

      2. Milli Vanilli*

        Nah. See above.

        There are employees and people in this world who will take advantage of whatever you give them. “Jane” moved to an even more flexible roll and still can not make it work. Jane will never be transferred to another team because everyone knows it would be like hiring a ghost.

        Jane’s supervisor asked her to work one hour a day at a time that worked for her and her family obligations and it still didn’t happen 5 days in a row.

        Not hiring someone who can work closer to the 40 hours required for this job is what is unfair.

    3. MashaKasha*

      I have two kids 2.5 years apart and that’s how I “figured it out” too, by only applying to those jobs that had flex hours. I would tell employers upfront that I couldn’t do strict hours (e.g. if you have to be at your desk at 8:00 and 8:01 is unacceptable), and if that didn’t work out for them, I’d continue looking elsewhere. There’s really no other way to pull off working FT and having kids. Can’t say anyone was resentful though; but I pulled my weight, worked nights and weekends if need be, and certainly wasn’t in the habit of working 4 hour days instead of 8! Plus, I was in a field and had the skills that were both in demand, in a field that had a lot of jobs with flex time. Would’ve been harder if I were a receptionist.

    4. QA Lady*

      I have a young child in preschool and rather than withdraw him in the middle of the school year when I returned to work after maternity leave (1 year; I’m in Canada), I negotiated with my manager to work 6 hour days on preschool days and use vacation to make up the rest of my time. The difference being it was my manager’s choice to allow it. Had my request been refused I would have withdrawn my son from preschool.

      (I drop him off on my way into work in the morning and my husband takes him from preschool to daycare on his lunch break–he clocks out to do it so if he runs late it’s not an issue as he’s salaried with a flexible schedule.)

  42. Rusty Shackelford*

    I would tell employers upfront that I couldn’t do strict hours (e.g. if you have to be at your desk at 8:00 and 8:01 is unacceptable), and if that didn’t work out for them, I’d continue looking elsewhere. There’s really no other way to pull off working FT and having kids.

    I don’t want to veer off topic or start another thread on stereotypes, but that’s not universally true. If you’ve got reliable daycare, an equal partner, and a good local support system, of course you can do it. I’m not really a fan of putting out there that working “normal” hours is impossible for parents.

    1. MashaKasha*

      If you put it this way, of course, I retract my statement. (Though I’m having a hard time accepting the “if you come in at 8:01, you get written up” hours as “normal”, but that’s probably again my stereotypes. I had two of the three things you listed, and still was afraid to put myself in a position where a kid’s shoe getting untied on the way out the door, kid spilling his breakfast cereal on himself, etc would be able to put my job in jeopardy. The places that I worked all gave us about 30-60 min leeway, provided that we put the hours in and things got done.)

      I was replying to a comment about how a coworker moved to a team that had flex hours so she could handle her childcare issues, and that was not okay, because reasons. Though, again, from reading that comment, that company’s definition of flex time is way different from mine – working 20 hr weeks, or being asked be at work during one specific hour a day and not being able to do it, is not flex time in my world. It’s some weird not-even-part-time.)

  43. TootsNYC*

    The thing that seems so very awful is that it went on for so long.

    If it had been a couple of days while Mary was searching for a more reliable daycare/babysitter situation, and then ended, it would have been so much easier to forgive her for (as a coworker).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This–or if Mary had told her manager “Hey, I need a little time to find a different way to do this; can we work something out until I do?” And manager agreed to have someone cover or whatever–with a time limit on the adjustment; then it ended when she found something. But she didn’t do that–she just appropriated the EA, probably knowing that her aunt would back her up, and then faked her time card.

  44. Elder Dog*

    OP, if it were me, I’d wait to see what comes from the CFO’s review with the board.
    If the CFO is fired, Mary goes the next day.
    If the CFO isn’t fired but is put on the CFOian equivalent of a PIP, then Mary needs to go the day that news breaks to the rest of the company.
    That gives you a clear bright line for the people who might be painting your entire department with the brush they’re using on Mary, allowing them to trust you and your department again. If they get the impression you were keeping Mary on out of fear of retaliation from the CFO, well, that will likely move them back to using your department for support that much quicker.
    Either way, Mary has to go. It’s not about when she comes in to work or if she works short hours. It’s about she showed a remarkable sense of entitlement and put another employee in a miserable position to maintain that entitlement. She said “I’m special” and she’s not.

    1. Kyrielle*

      This. I’d say you should have fired Mary when you first found out, but a) that ship has sailed and b) the CFO might have retaliated, which is a valid concern. At this point, you are honestly better waiting to see what happens with the CFO – if, of course, you will see. If it’s possible nothing will be done and/or that it will happen “silently” then either approach the folks handling that with your issue and ask that they help you time/message what happens to Mary, or just start a hunt for another job yourself and run for the hills (if you think they won’t back you).

      I feel for a parent having child-care issues, being a parent and having (rarely!) had child care issues. I don’t, however, sympathize with Mary past the end of day 1 of the threat from the CFO to her EA. Why? Because that was the absolute last point at which Mary could claim she was asking for help and didn’t know it was a problem. *Even with* all her problems, Mary should have immediately stopped trying to use the CFO’s EA to watch her children at that point – that she didn’t, and that it continued for a long time after, says really bad things about her character, IMO.

      (And honestly, Mary’s aunt should have found some way to help her that didn’t involve mis-use of another employee’s time, if she wanted to help.)

    2. starsaphire*

      + 1000 to “If the CFO is fired, Mary goes the next day.” That will send a message that is super clear to the rest of the office, and it’s a good thing.

  45. Macedon*

    Can she be fired, though? Or would you invite CFO wrath upon yourself, OP? Curious why your boss is playing dumb on this.

    1. Original Poster*

      We had a serious talk right after this came to light and we expected some backlash, but not to the level that it’s gotten.

  46. The Bimmer Guy*

    Your workplace is full of nuts. Not that it’s advise, but I’d be sorely tempted to put my own resume out there if I were you.

  47. Hiring Mgr*

    I would like to know what the employee handbook says about this situation. Does it specifically prohibit forcing a colleague to stash children in a back room? If not, we can chalk this up to a simple misunderstanding and just make sure the rules are clear from this point forward.

  48. HRish Dude*

    I think that putting her on a PIP kind of means that the train has sailed in regards to firing her.

    However, based on the evidence at hand, I’m willing to bet she won’t live up to her end of the bargain, so it’s going to probably be a moot point.

  49. RVA Cat*

    Assuming the CFO goes, would it make sense after this mess for the company to have an explicit policy on nepotism?

  50. CoffeeLover*

    Is any one else annoyed at the other employees? Yes, Mary messed up but she messed up in a way that has nothing to do with her day-to-day tasks. Like someone gettimg drunk at the office party. The way the other employees are ostracizing her, tracking her hours, and generally “taking the law into their own hands” is unprofessional.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      I’m not quite sure how secretly foisting childcare on a coworker and then leaving work to drive her kids to school counts as ‘nothing to do with her day-to-day tasks.’ Especially since (given that the whole thing was kept a secret) I have a really, really hard time believing that she wasn’t at least aware of her aunt’s bullying on her behalf, which adds an integrity issue.

      Plus, it’s not taking the law into their own hands if their managers are aware of their unwillingness to work with it and condone it–which, based on the statement that they’re not going to force their employees to work with Mary, it sounds like they are.

      To me, it sounds less like taking the law into their own hands than it does trusting their managers to protect them in the wake of a serious integrity issue fostered by a C-level executive… which is exactly what I’d want to have happen if I was in that situation.

    2. Tiffin*

      She’s shown that if you go against her, it can have serious (and incredibly shady) repercussions from the higher ups. What if someone complains about the work she does and the CFO threatens their jobs too?

    3. CoffeeLover*

      I guess what I’m saying is I’ve had to work with plenty of genuinely incompetent people. People that couldn’t do the tasks I was asking them to do in a satisfactory way. I still worked with them (while raising my concerns in an appropriate way). The managers condoning the action doesnt make it right to me. The employees are disrupting business. They should not be involved in Mary’s disciplinary actions. I mean what if this was actually a case of the rumour mill running wild? It’s just not appropriate.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        They’re not involved in disciplining Mary—they were already doing the task before the OP was hired and Mary became OP’s employee. I guess they figure it’s faster to keep doing it themselves than to give it to someone they can’t trust to get it done. Mary hasn’t exactly portrayed herself as reliable.

    4. Fifi Ocrburg*

      I agree–did they know about the EA babysitting before the story made the rounds? If not and if Mary’s work is good, then what do they care now? The time for outrage was a while back.

  51. Observer*

    As a bit of a side note. A couple of posters mentioned that this has the unfortunate effect of feeding stereotypes. And, I agree despite all the people who say “no, no, those stereotype are just about people being prejudiced, because this behavior has nothing to do with being a mother or young children.” The latter is true, but to an outsider it does look like a “mother of young kids” issue, especially since that’s the way Mary is framing it.

    I do think, though, that most reasonable people can see that that’s not really the issue, once you point it out to them. What REALLY feeds the stereotype is the people WHO ARE DEFENDING HER.

  52. Jill of All Trades*

    I feel so bad for the EA. Having a job that is explicitly NOT about taking care of children and then having three small children foisted on you most mornings at work (with nonexistent child entertainment options) and having your job threatened because you’re not interested in taking care of a constantly errant colleague’s children is a nightmare. I’m so glad she made an escape and let the cat out of the bag on her way out.

    And with three kids under six, is the youngest pottytrained? Did the poor woman have to also deal with diapers or early potty training runs to the restroom? Hopefully none of the forced babysitting was longer than a few minutes ever.

    1. Original Poster*

      Ohhhhhh, you commenters bring up things I hadn’t thought about! When the forced babysitting started Kid 1 was about 4, kid 2 would have just turned 3 and kid 3 was less than 2 but older than a year and a half.

      I don’t have children, so I don’t know when potty training happens? Is it before 2 years old? At least the 4 year old was definitely potty trained.

      1. MashaKasha*

        A 4-year-old, a three-year-old, and a toddler?! That’s like herding cats! How do you keep an eye on all three of them and keep them from running off or getting into anything? The liability is massive in this situation. Can you imagine if (heaven forbid) one of the kids got themselves injured while on the EA’s watch? What would Mary and her aunt done to the EA if something like that happened? Terrifying!

        Mine took longer than average to potty-train, they were about 3-3 and a half. a 1.5-year-old would definitely not be potty-trained. A 3yo would still have accidents. All three of them would need to get to the bathroom the second they said they have to go. (and how do you do that with two other kids in tow?!)

        My first job offer in America, that I got from my landlord on our second day here, was to babysit two 13-month-0lds in addition to my own four-year-old and 15-month-old. As new as I was to the country, my first thought still was “something bad will happen and the parent will sue me for all I’ve got” and I noped the hell out of that opportunity. The pay was going to be $3/hour cash, btw.

  53. A*

    Turbo fire this woman and tell her she’s not getting a reference from you at all. [Is that a thing]? She’s terrible and should learn some time management elsewhere on someone else’s dime, like retail where nobody is going to buy her sob stories. I’ll bet she was very holier-than-thou about having children to the EA when she made her threats on that EA’s job. I can’t stand women who make stupid excuses about not doing their job because of their children or drug addiction and expect other women to cover for them while saddlebagging them. I also can’t stand blackmailers who think they’re so great and valuable that they pull all kinds of arrogant bullshit. Nobody’s good enough to get away with it and this should end immediately since nobody wants to work with your department because of her. She is putting YOUR job in danger and good luck explaining, “My department went down because I didn’t fire this blackmailing lying woman because my manager wanted to ‘rehab’ her reputation!” in interviews. If you can swing it, do your utmost to fire her for cause without offering her a dime of severance. She can go beg her relative for money and ask her children’s father to solve her childcare issues.

    1. Fifi Ocrburg*

      There’s no references to any of your speculations in either the original letter or the OP’s follow-up comments.

      1. A*

        Really? In the letter:
        To counteract that, she secretly brought her kids into work with her for over a year and forced the CFO’s executive assistant to watch them in a back room when her daily 8 a.m. check in with HR happened (which was part of her PIP), and then the EA had to cover the front desk while Mary drove her kids to preschool. I say “forced” because the EA complained and the CFO (who is Mary’s aunt) threatened to fire the EA for cause with no reference if she told anyone

        You really think a woman who’d get her relative to blackmail a coworker into providing free and secret baby sitting services for over a year is beyond “holier-than-thou” behavior and making threats on the EA’s job herself? How interesting.

        I can’t stand women who make stupid excuses about not doing their job because of their children or drug addiction and expect other women to cover for them while saddlebagging them.
        Look, how is “being forced to watch the kids while coworker drives to school to drop off children” not not saddlebagging? She interfered with the EA’s actual duties which don’t include “babysitting.”
        As for drug use, I’ve experienced coworkers doing this and their buddy pal managers making all kinds of excuses. I’ve also experienced grown women tying up critical phone lines for medical patients who had a high likelihood of emergencies (think “might have a heart attack”) because they needed to chat with their grown children for half an hour about their personal lives and seen people make excuses for them because “chiiiiiildren.”

        I also can’t stand blackmailers who think they’re so great and valuable that they pull all kinds of arrogant bullshit.
        Blackmailing your coworker to babysit your children with the threat of losing your job and the ability to get a new one is “arrogant bullshit.” And she clearly wasn’t so wonderful otherwise why would she have been on a PIP for attendance issues if it wasn’t part of her job in the first place?

  54. KC*

    Mary and the CFO need to go just for the bringing in kids to work to game the PIP and force someone else to cover for it scheme.

  55. AF*

    I’m sorry if others have said this, but if Mary’s response to her boss telling her she needs to keep track of her time is anything less than professional and wanting to do what it takes to keep her job, she needs to go. It sounds like she’s resentful of being forced to make amends for her behavior and be more responsible. That may be because she thinks her aunt will come to her rescue, but it sounds like she has a pretty skewed view of appropriate workplace behavior. That’s not for the OP to fix. And I’m so sorry to the OP and the EA for having to work in this place.

  56. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    was there ever a follow up to this? Qhat happened to OP, “Bob,” CFO, and Mary?

  57. Menacia*

    Mary came in late and secretly brought her kids in for a YEAR, and made the EA watch them until she could then take off to drop them at preschool making the EA answer the phones, which was her primary job?! Talk about entitlement and nepotism being alive and well! I hope Mary and her aunt both get canned, because this is *not*going to get better if nothing changes.

  58. Alice*

    I know this is an old post, but I wanted to give support to the person who submitted it because it might surprise people how “just doing your job”, or “being professional” can get mistranslated into “anti-family”, which is what might have happened to the OP.

    Years ago I worked as a cashier while attending college. One of our assistant managers had 5 children. He was divorced and when he had the kids (he and his ex-wife had joint custody) he would bring the the three youngest into the store and expect “the girls” to watch them.

    When I complained to my coworkers that A) I didn’t come to work to involuntarily babysit, and B) that it was unsafe for small children to be wandering around a store while we’re preoccupied with working, I got a lot of push back from them. They accused me of “hating children” and told me I was a bad person for not being willing to watch this manager’s children. When I told the store manager what was happening, he told me I was “letting my liberal views get in the way of helping that manager spend quality time with his kids” (Um…are you serious?!). I honestly questioned myself. I thought maybe they were right. Then one of the kids got hurt. Not seriously, but enough that I took the situation to our corporate office. They put a stop to it immediately and the manager got reprimanded, but not fired. He was constantly nasty to me after that and I was glad when I graduated college and get the hell out of there.

    My point is, sometimes even if you know what’s happening at your job isn’t “right”, sometimes swimming against the current is difficult and you might ruffle some feathers and question your actions.

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