my best employee quit on the spot because I wouldn’t let her go to her college graduation

A reader writes:

I manage a team, and part of their jobs is to provide customer support over the phone. Due to a new product launch, we are expected to provide service outside of our normal hours for a time. This includes some of my team coming in on a day our office is normally closed (based on lowest seniority because no one volunteered).

One employee asked to come in two hours after the start time due to her college graduation ceremony being that same day (she was taking night classes part-time in order to earn her degree). I was unable to grant her request because she was the employee with the lowest seniority and we need coverage for that day. I said that if she could find someone to replace her for those two hours, she could start later. She asked her coworkers, but no one was willing to come in on their day off. After she asked around, some people who were not scheduled for the overtime did switch shifts with other people (but not her) and volunteered to take on overtime from others who were scheduled, but these people are friends outside of work, and as long as there is coverage I don’t interfere if people want to give or take overtime of their own accord. (Caveat: I did intervene and switch one person’s end time because they had concert tickets that they had already paid for, but this was a special circumstance because there was cost involved.)

I told this team member that she could not start two hours late and that she would have to skip the ceremony. An hour later, she handed me her work ID and a list of all the times she had worked late/come in early/worked overtime for each and every one of her coworkers. Then she quit on the spot.

I’m a bit upset because she was my best employee by far. Her work was excellent, she never missed a day of work in the six years she worked here, and she was my go-to person for weekends and holidays.

Even though she doesn’t work here any longer, I want to reach out and tell her that quitting without notice because she didn’t get her way isn’t exactly professional. I only want to do this because she was an otherwise great employee, and I don’t want her to derail her career by doing this again and thinking it is okay. She was raised in a few dozen different foster homes and has no living family. She was homeless for a bit after she turned 18 and besides us she doesn’t have anyone in her life that has ever had professional employment. This is the only job she has had. Since she’s never had anyone to teach her professional norms, I want to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. What do you think is the best way for me to do this?

What?! No, under no circumstances should you do that.

If anything, you should consider reaching out to her, apologizing for how you handled the situation, and offering her the job back if she wants it.

I’m not usually a fan of people quitting on the spot, but I applaud her for doing it in this case. She was raised in dozens of foster homes, used to be homeless, has no living family, and apparently managed to graduate from college all on her own. That’s amazing. And while I normally think graduation ceremonies are primarily fluff, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone who deserves to be able to attend her own graduation ceremony as much as this woman does. You should have been bending over backwards to ensure she could attend.

Rigidly adhering to rules generally isn’t good management. Good management requires nuance and judgment. Sometimes it requires making exceptions for good employees so that you don’t lose them. Sometimes it requires assessing not just what the rules say but what the right and smart thing to do would be.

One of the frustrating things about your letter is that despite rigidly adhering to the rules with this person, you were willing to make an exception for someone else (the person with the concert tickets). I’m at a loss to understand how concert tickets are an obvious exception-maker but this person’s situation wasn’t.

And you note that she was your “best employee by far”! She never missed a day of work in six years, she was your go-to person, she covered for every other person there, and she was all-around excellent … and yet when she needed you to help her out with something that was important to her, you refused.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, but it’s not for her.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 2,004 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, I know that this letter-writer’s actions are stirring up strong reactions, but please remember that the site rules ask you to ensure your comments are constructive and come from a kind place. It’s becoming onerous to explain that over and over so I’m moving more toward a willingness to simply remove comments that violate those rules.

    1. John Hedtke*

      I have to say that I’m dazzled by the poor quality of the manager. The lack of concern and appreciation for someone’s personal efforts, particularly when they are cited as one’s best employee, is staggeringly narcissistic. There are plenty of other things besides working for a company as small-minded as this and I am very happy to hear that the employee in question didn’t buy into the BS that this job was more important than anything.

      And, btw, if she *had* been dumb enough to forego her graduation in favor of working that add’l two hours, what would her reward have been? I didn’t hear of a darn thing save the implicit idea that she could keep her job. Well, I think she made it very clear what her priorities were.

      For the record, if I had someone who came to me for an interview and said “You should know I did this” and described handing the manager his/her a clear “Up yours!” in this situation, I would be strongly inclined to hire her, because I view the employee’s actions as perfectly professional. The manager, OTOH, wouldn’t be worth sour owl spit.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yup. Her career will be fine. No reasonable hiring manager will hear this story and blame the employee for quitting without notice – what was done to her was really shitty.

        1. Dan E*

          Conversely, if I was in a position to hire this manager and heard this story I would seriously reconsider. This manager made a very poor decision.

          1. Haakon L*

            Well, if you asked him about a time that he messed up and learned from, then that might make a good story?

        2. James Chism*

          Yes, the cost of a college degree is far more and more important than the cost of a concert ticket! Did this manager think that because she was such a good employee he could just railroad her into working and not attending her graduation?

          1. Lyn*

            Exactly what I was thinking! The cost of those graduation tickets was far higher. What strange logic, and lack of foresight.

          2. Raf*

            Exactly. When you always always say yes the one time you say no RAILROAD. That aught a teach your best employ against saying no!

      2. Frank*

        I’m kinda hoping that the State UI people will be explaining things to him more forcefully. Kind of like the way you get a mule’s attention, only with monetary forfeits.

          1. MsTeeCee2U*

            Yes you can, once you meet the mandatory 10 week clause. But I have a feeling she’ll be employed within that time.

          2. Will Rhodes*

            There are situations where you can do so. Basically, if you have a good reason to quit, you qualify. An employee at a company I worked for quit after management threatened to withhold paychecks until paperwork was completed. He got UI benefits. Had to fight for them, tho.

            1. Terry Lambert*

              The threat was on the table, and he had already made an exception for freaking concert tickets!

              I’m sorry, but as life events go, there’s death in the family, birth of the first kid, graduating college, etc.. Concert tickets are down in the noise.

              If I were adjudicating this, I’d call it “a forced resignation in an attempt to avoid paying unemployment”.

              By the way… was the manager going to be there at the odd hours as well? Because in the limit, were I her manager, I would have been volunteering to cover that 2 hour window.

              1. Suzan H*

                I agree with Terri.
                The cost involved for the concert tickets was far less than the cost of graduation. To say there was cost involved over a graduation is to say that her years of college, cost of books, school supplies and cap and gown were all free and had no value.
                What this woman had worked for over the years has more value than 1,000 concert tickets and in 10 minutes you devalued everyone college degrees.

                1. James*

                  The audacity and the irony of it all. I love the readers blatant self-awareness as she compares CONCERT tickets to 4 years of gas, tuition, books, fees, etc. I’m sure this guys concert tickets were worth less than 3 units that this hero of an employee paid for.

                1. John28619*

                  Better yet, not only find someone to cover a couple of hours – but do so for the both of you. Then ask the young lady if you as her manager may attend the ceremony as well, and if she says yes, then take her in you vehicle to the ceremony and show the employee how much they mean to you, based on you own definition of her value.

                  I never, repeat never, allow myself to miss one of my officers graduation from either the academy or college of higher learning. Then afterwards I look for voids in our staffing where I can maximize their talent, give them a raise (if possible) and show them by my actions how much their willingness to attain their certificates, degrees or honors means to me and every member of management above me.

                  Kindness costs us so little, but failing to offer it has a definite cost as you have outlined.

              2. Jules*

                Birth of a first kid?
                But no others? Careful now.. You’re not far behind this guy’s thinking

                1. Kurt*

                  I have to say i do think all children’s birth should be attended but I think the first holds a real priority.

          3. JenniP*

            I received UI after quitting on the spot due to an abusive and vindictive supervisor. You just have to prove you have just cause for leaving. Which this employee certainly does. Her stellar track record, from her manager’s own mouth is fuel for her cause.

          4. LK*

            Incorrect, an employee can quit under duress and receive UI — it is a fact because I did this exact same thing and lived 6 months on UI then went back to school to finish my degree. All she needs is to give them the exact same proof she gave this “mgr” and she is fine.

            1. Francis J Marrano*

              I’m currently assisting in an unemployment dispute. Quitting does not preclude you from unemployment insurance. If the voluntary separation is for just cause benefits will be awarded. In this case, I don’t believe she would receive unemployment benefits. I would have recommended she call in late that day and suffer the internal consequences.

              I’m sure she’ll find a better job and be a much better manager than her former superior.

              1. JakeBe5*

                It does depend on location. In Virginia for example she wouldn’t have a case for constructive dismissal. It is (at present) a two-prong test. 1) Were the working conditions in direct conflict with clear public policy of the State, and 2) did the employer create that environment.

                There isn’t a clear public policy on attending college graduations, so it would likely fail. They could fight it in court and get it changed, but not right now.

                Virginia is not exactly employee friendly in employment law. For example, lets say you got fired on account of your gender. You can’t sue under a common law tort (which is where big money judgement come from), it is forbidden. So you can only sue for the statutory remedy. “In any case where the employee prevails, the court shall award attorney fees from the amount recovered, not to exceed 25 percent of the back pay awarded. The court shall not award other damages, compensatory or punitive, nor shall it order reinstatement of the employee.”

                (the courts have recognized this is pretty messed up but have found a way to let people sue again if the dismissal was for refusal to engage in sexual acts since there are criminal laws on fornication and that becomes the basis of the lawsuit, not gender discrimination)

                But with tiny judgments no one is going to take those cases unless you were making good money and had a slam dunk case.

                Other at-will States (where employers have fought for the right of employees to quit without notice) may have similar arrangements.

                1. Carrie*

                  The federal law of overtime hours cannot be made mandatory fits both of those criterion. It also would superceded any state law.

            2. Bill*

              Morally she was within reason without question, she would have been in a better position if she simply said she wasn’t showing up due to personal reasons, then returned to the job, if she was released for not showing up for that shift then she likely would have been able to receive benefits. By quitting she is required to establish a basis for leaving a job, being fired the employer has to establish good cause for separation.

              Each case is different and the determination is based upon the evidence presented. There isn’t sufficient evidence here to establish the behavior on the employer’s part that would rise to the level of duress, though with more evidence it might be established. As always I wish everyone well.

              1. Martin*

                Of course, not showing up stating “personal reasons” is something a “lesser employee” might have done.
                That she did not do this just underscores that she was indeed a very good colleague.

                1. Sara E*

                  I agree 100% that being dishonest by saying she had personal reasons, would have all but negated her stand for what should have been a celebration and not a termination!
                  This “manager” employs ID #’s rather than seeing them as real people!
                  -Yes, the job must be done!
                  -Yes, there are sorry employees that do quit at the drop of a hat!
                  -Yes, there are people who only work long enough to gather real or imaginary dirt in order to sue!
                  -Yes, being responsible for others and their performances requires significant sacrifices and motivation!
                  -Yes, it’s easy to get lost in “the business” and miss out on the important things in your life, your loved ones and your co-workers/employees!
                  -No, we can never forget the excitement we had when we met personal and professional goals!
                  -No we are assisting with the lives of not only clients and employees. True leaders realize sacrifices have to made daily by employees re: family, finances, etc.
                  -No, we can’t allow all requests to be honored.
                  Common sense and realizing all people aren’t going to sacrifice everything over a paycheck are definitely necessary in being a leader that others aspire to be!

            3. Bridget*

              I agree with Allison on this one. I don’t know how you were blinded by what was right and wrong in her asking for 2 hours off. Seriously, your explanation of your side of the situation sounds like all the responses people post about their nutty bosses. You really need to step back and evaluate your judgment about your respect and humanity towards your employees. I also think your professionalism should be questioned not hers.

          5. BTW*

            I’m in Canada but the same rules apply and you can’t get benefits for being fired either (unless it’s a layoff) I was able to obtain benefits however, after pleading my case. It was pretty clear what happened to me when an explanation was given.

            1. anonB*

              Actually, you can get EI if you are fired, just not if you are fired for “misconduct”. “any inappropriate action, offence, or professional fault committed willingly or deliberately by a person while working for an employer. Misconduct occurs when an employee’s behaviour is in violation of the obligations set out in his contract of employment and when, under normal circumstances, the employee should have known that the actions, omissions or faults could result in a dismissal.”

            2. Tom*

              Not true, I am in Canada (Ontario) and evena firing for cause can be challenged. If not specifically with cause you are likely get U.I.

              1. SignalLost*

                I know I’m way late, but maybe someone will see it. Cause means that the employer can prove you did the thing, that they did not misconstrue the thing deliberately, and that they took prompt and immediate action. UI might well decide that an employee fired for stealing the cash register six months ago deserves unemployment because clearly the cause of the firing was not the theft if they let the thief remain on staff for six more months.

          6. Linda McGoey*

            There are exceptions. I know first hand. It’s not always up to the Employer if UI feels they were in the wrong.

          7. Barbara Holtzman*

            Oh, no, that’s not true. If you had no choice but to quit, or you were forced to quit, or the terms of you remaining were unreasonable, then you could get benefits. In New York, anyway. Plus, no one at UI would hear that story and say no. And if they did, she could ask for a hearing and no judge, no hearing officer would deny benefits based on that story. Besides which, that story, that experience, and a degree? Wouldn’t be on UI for very long.

          8. Kathy*

            Not true, I got it when I quit 2 jobs over the last 19 years. But she probably would not get it.

          9. Bill*

            You can receive UI benefits even if you leave of your own accord. Most people can eventually receive UI benefits one specific exemption is if you are released for a gross misconduct (the release of due to a felony). There are separations for good cause, a specific example is leaving a job because it made you ill. An example of this is working in a perfume or chemical factory – the chemicals or perfume gave the employee an allergic reaction that caused asthma, and a doctor indicated that in their opinion the employee must leave the job due to health reasons. In this circumstance there is insufficient evidence to indicate the employee had no alternative but to leave, however laudatory her actions, paying an employee because an employer was insensitive, unthinking or basically ignorant would likely lead to a third to half the nation being out on benefits. I speak as a former adjudicator for UI. I wish everyone well. I wish everyone was able to be paid on moral grounds but unfortunately that isn’t the test for receiving said benefits.

            1. Owly*

              Excessive required overtime (if the implication is that if you don’t work the overtime, you will lose your job, which sounds like was the case here) is often reasonable cause to quit a job and still collect employment insurance in a lot of jurisdictions.

          10. Robin Erickson*

            Sometimes they do. I gave my 2 week notice one day after my manager cut my hour from 40 to 20!because he had hired another person full time for the next day. Fortunately, I had been keeping emails between me an some other people about what was happening for months. When EI finally got in touch with the manager, he said he planned to get rid of me. (ouch – 13 months). My documentation was sufficient and I got EI right away.

      3. Anonymous Owl Lover*

        Making a comment just to tell you that I’ll be using ‘sour owl spit’ from now on, and that your typing is absolutely pleasant to read.

        1. Teri Sears*

          “Sour owl spit” has to be THE best thing I’ve heard in years. I’m going to use this. 8-)

        2. Ruffingit*

          Totally agree on both counts – loved the post and the expression of sour owl spit. Awesome! I hope you stick around and post more often.

      4. Kimberley*

        I had a similar incident happen to me when I needed to take off work to defend my dissertation. I’d rarely missed work in 7 yeas and was the right hand “woman.” I was the one always at work last. When I truly thought about it, I had earned a degree my boss hadn’t. Maybe her boss was intimidated and thought she could take his job; esp. if she earned a degree he may not have.

        1. Laura*

          I hadn’t thought of the boss being intimidated, but I can easily see that. No degree seems to be necessary to get the employee position. If the manager had moved up from within the ranks, the manager might not have the degree. This is a threat. The manager could be in the clique as well because of the past position.
          I wonder if the employee had help paying for school through a company sponsored tuition reimbursement program. I know not to burn bridges, however, as the employee I would be tempted to email the HR contact for the program that after all the help the company has given, it was disappointing to not be allowed to attend the graduation.

          1. DrewK*

            “If the manager had moved up from within the ranks, the manager might not have the degree. This is a threat. The manager could be in the clique as well because of the past position.”

            When that’s the case, it’s proof of the Peter principle, through-and-through. Employee’s rise to the level of their incompetence. It might also be proof of the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which people who think they’re the perfect fit for a job are so inexpert in their jobs that they have the least ability to make that call.

        2. Doesn'tmatterdoesit*

          Thank you for your story. In the real world these kind of job-killers happen all the time. Watch out, folks!

          1. Lucybud*

            I agree that “in the real world these kind of job-killers happen all the time.” It doesn”t have to happen all the time. That’s why sites like this are important to get the word out there.

        3. Ruthann Kordell*

          I have a sense that the manager was somewhat younger than the woman who was graduating. His lack of life experience may account (but by no means excuse) for his reaction. His attempt to “reach out and advise her” seems like one last grab at a power trip that even he may not consciously be aware of. This situation is fraught with extremes, so much so, that it seems contrived, but sadly, I know it’s not.

          1. Channel John*

            It sounded to me like he viewed her education as not a real education. Ie, she’s taking night classes (presumably at a local community college) rather than “going to a real college.” Everything in his tone said that he didn’t take her education seriously at all, to the point that he feels the need to “reach out and instruct her.” I may be wrong, but I detected some snobbiness in his attitude that may have lead to not taking her graduation seriously. I mean, he let another employee go to a concert because “there was cost involved” (ie, the tickets), but didn’t even consider the cost of time and money the woman in question spent to go to school and graduate. That contrast in attitude regarding the two situations is VERY telling, imo.

            1. Froggzzz*

              Plus there is actual cost for commencement (gap, gown, etc) two hours, ridiculous they should have given her the day plus just for the accomplishment.

            2. Rebba*

              Please don’t assume community college just because it is at night. I got my bachelors at night and my masters on line. My hubby got both his bachelors and masters at night, colleges and universities at all levels hold classes during the day and at night.

            3. RUKiddingMe*

              Many “real” universities have night classes. This is particular common in grad/doctoral programs where the students have day jobs.

              The manager sounds like an overly entitled douchebag on a power trip. He wants to reach out and advise? Who does he think he is? If I were the worker and he was the manager and he reached out to me I would have no problem whatsoever telling him just exactly where to get off.

      5. Barbara A*

        What’s most upsetting is that this employee was the “go to person for weekends and holidays.” Sounds as if an employee who seemed vulnerable– foster homes, no family of her own– was taken advantage of. An appropriate rotation schedule for weekends and holidays would be fair… Not singling out the most jr, vulnerable employee to be the ONE go to person.

        1. Charles M.*

          Even more upsetting is the very real possibility that because she has no family support she also has no family obligations; the manager may be, knowingly or not (the former would be heinous) using her because she has nothing to stand in the way of working more hours, at least from the manager’s perspective. I’ve seen managers generate or perpetuate toxic work environments. This young lady did exactly the right thing and I’ll wager that in 5 years when her former manager has remained static she will be well on her way up the ladder. Anyone with her personal story who has done what she did on her own (and it saddens me to have to say this but even more because she is a young woman) is someone I want working for me, with me, or to be working for.

        2. Menno T.*

          Of all the things wrong with this manager’s attitude and management style, this detail is the least off me. If by “go to person” he meant someone who was compelled to work on those days, then yes – certainly. But it could mean that she was the one who was always willing to work and glad for the overtime.
          At one of my past jobs, I was my boss’s go to person whenever he needed someone to work extra hours, weekends or holidays. This was because I was the one person who was always delighted to work the extra hours; in my quest to save up money for my future dreams, I wanted all the overtime I could get. Holidays and weekends meant nothing to me, as I had no family obligations and no life to speak of outside of work.
          Regardless, this manager clearly does not know how to treat his valuable employees, and has an entitlement mentality the size of Texas. He very well may have been compelling her to work the extra hours against her preference.

      6. Chu Baka*

        The “my best employee” talk echos from my performance reviews, where I am told I’m “integral to the team”, that my contributions are “invaluable” and that the company is doing everything it can to keep me. Cept, you know, giving a decent raise and promotion that’s been dangled over my head for 5 years, despite me winning award after award.

        BTW, when one of your most esteemed employees only rates an “average” rating, you might as well just say “you’re doing okay”, because verbal honors don’t really mean much when managers don’t back up their claims with real actions.

        As a side note, it’s been explained to me that the only reason I’m not getting promoted is because my manager is holding it up. My manager’s manager is the one that keeps insisting I’m ready for a promotion, but needs my manager to recommend it to make it happen. At this point, I’ve asked them both to stop talking to me about promotions, and for me… I’m just cleaning up my resume. I can take my invaluable and esteemed skills to a place that actually values my work.

        1. Jack*

          Sounds like a job i had, they had a 5 point rating system for reviews. No matter how good you were the highest you could get was a 4, supervisors were told not to give 5s because they wanted people to continue to work harder to try to get thet 5. I learned real quick why try so hard it you will never get a 5 and the raise that comes with it.

            1. Jason Peter*

              A lot of companies use this very dishonest tactic to push associates. I was working for a company that had the system in place but had put a freeze on all raises. However still performed a performance review using the 1-5 scale. Needless to say very few went out of their way for that 5.

            2. Been There*

              I had this exact situation. Both a promotion and a lateral move in a company were squashed because the VP I reported to and supported didn’t want to lose me. During my annual review also with a 1-5 rating system I was told by him that the highest anyone could ever earn was a 4 and that I would be lucky to earn a 4 since I was out part of the year on maternity leave. Despite exceeding every goal I got a 3.5. I gave my 2 weeks notice, then during my exit interview I filed a complaint with HR about having my merit increase reduced because of my maternity leave. I actually had his comments on tape because he encouraged employees to record the review so that we could refer back to his comments to help us improve ( to get that 4!). A few days later I was offered a promotion, I would no longer report to him but I would still work in his department. I still left.

              1. Snuffy Cha-ching*

                I had a similar situation where I tried to leave only to be offered more. I rationalized that leaving was cathartic, however staying looked better on my resume. I stayed for just short of a year but looked for work having the new job title on my resume, thus getting a better job elsewhere.

          1. Matt*

            My situation is a little different. We have a 5 point system, and I am a manager. I was honest on the reviews, but he called me and said I had to change a couple of them because they were to low, and none of the other managers gave that low. So I changed everyones to around an average. If the owners don’t want to know the truth, then I don’t get the point of doing them.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, that’s the thing about this kind of BS – if you set up a system where it’s near impossible to get the highest rating, it doesn’t cause people to strive to make that rating, it causes them to give up because what’s the point? It’s way too much work for something that will likely not be achieved.

            1. Tim*

              Yes I had the same issue at the consultancy I used to work for…I worked loads of extra hours regularly – in fact my timesheets previously had been used to hire 3 extra people since I was averaging 60+ hour weeks – and also was doing loads of weekend work in the office with video editing and getting the video part of the department started.

              I got a 2 – average in the appraisal, out of 4 I think but no-one ever got a 4, let alone a 3. Of course bonuses etc were linked to all of it. I scaled all of that extra work back, realising that I wasn’t appreciated. They also gave me grief for turning up at 9:30-10am even though I was regularly staying til 7-10pm or later, and could prove it – the bosses had gone at 5pm. So again, I worked to rule – I was tired anyway from getting in early (for me) – ironically they’d have gotten more work out of me leaving me be.

              Thanks Paul! Git.

          3. Hryflex*

            I was reviewed by a former manager as being “a real workhorse” and “always ready to pitch in”, but he rated me as a 2 because I was always having dental appointments when he needed me. He would ask me to work until 7 when I had a dental appointment at 4, and wanted me back by 4:30. BY 4:30. I paid for lots of dental appointments that never happened.

            1. Han Seoul-oh*

              Our good performance raise is 0.5%, and our exceeds expectations raise is 1%
              Compared to my previous company which was 5%, and back then, someone who was failing to meet expectations got 1%.

              We do get a bonus. The bonus is less than 4% after taxes, and was diminished this year because our company -had- to build a stadium

        2. KK*

          Those rating systems drive me batshit. Who wants to be called adequate sharpen you’re trying to shine?

        3. Mike*

          My company makes it even more fun by making 3 ‘meets expectations’, then setting the expectations so high that its an achievement to get a 3.

          their criteria for 4 is ‘so good you make others better’ and 5 is ‘so impactful you permanently improve the performance of your business unit’, which is an absurdly high standard for people who make $11 an hour.

          1. Ruffingit*

            For $11/hour they want you to be so impactful you permanently improve the performance of your business unit? I really wonder sometimes what kind of drugs these people are on.

          2. KH*

            Ugh, my old company was totally exactly like this. We were trained to tell the employees “don’t worry, a 3 is a really good rating!” – but there were no bonus/profit sharing for anyone who got “just” a 3. It was more like, “congratulations, you get to keep your job.”
            2 was the next rank down, and if you didn’t improve that to a 3 or higher by the next review period, you were shown the door.
            We were allowed to give 5s if we had a real superstar, but only once for that person – if we tried to give another 5, we’d have to justify something new and really amazing for that year…

            1. KH*

              I forgot to mention – I’m now working as a contractor and don’t even get performance reviews. I almost don’t miss them, but there’s nobody to tell me in what areas I should improve…plus I don’t get a raise because I never get reviewed.

          3. Molly*

            I worked for a “forced ratings” corporation. The standard was 10% of the employees HAD to be “needs improvement” every rating cycle (6 months). One senior director decided to improve on this by requiring his management team come up with 20% who needed improvement. This meant that his budget for raises and promotions wasn’t used and GUESS who got a bigger raise for that? Yeah..the senior director and his band of merry henchmen.

            My personal theory is, get whatever salary you’re happy with upfront. Likely you’ll never see another raise or promotion, so be okay with the initial offer. Or, my personal preference….contract employee.

        4. Cowgirl Tough*

          Chu Bakka that’s exactly what happened to and what I did. They were blown away. It took three people to replace me, and my immediate manager was immediately demoted and eventually fired. The best revenge is getting a much better job.

        5. Katt*

          I wouldn’t necessarily believe your manager’s manager either (just my opinion).

          It seems inconceivable that his/her supervisor can’t override your manager’s decision.
          They are not promoting you, or giving you a raise, and you are being rated as “average”.
          That says a lot more than any words they utter. I remember a mentor once told me that the way a business shows real appreciation for an employee is through salary. Awards are great and meaningful, but bottom line, it’s money.

          Are you looking for an alternative company that would truly appreciate you? I hope so.

          1. Chu Baka*

            I am. And thank you.

            It’s really sad when we bust our butts to release code, earn the company millions in sales along with an innovative award, and each of us gets a $300 gift card for our troubles. And the year before, when we had to make changes that normally takes 3 months to do in 1 month due to auditors, which I headed up for development, and senior VP of other departments were leaving at critical moments to eat “cake”, and I held the ship together… for those troubles, I got a $200 card and a hearty thank you email. I think I averaged 80 hours a week for that entire month…

            I’m rather exhausted. And I’m not the only one. We’ve literally lost 2/3 of our senior development team, and only recently somewhat recouped the warm body count with a couple of junior developers. Yet, when it comes to raises, we’re told that we better amp up performance or else raises may not be there. I think I used up my gift cards earned through smashed headsets. Yes, it’s unprofessional to break office equipment, but what else do you do when you hear such nonsense on a call.

            Our last town hall was epic. Four separate times, our new VP of dev was asked by different engineers when we’ll do market-level adjustments of our salaries, since we’re really below market level. The VP dodged the question, and the last time, he asked his secretary to give us a response, which was a clear “No, end of discussion”. So I hung up. There was nothing else he could say on that town hall that would matter.

            1. MKW*

              You got a $300 and $300 gift card for all your hard work?
              Geez, all my team ever got was a half-threat of “good thing you got it done by deadline”, after having the deadline push up by 3 weeks, thanks to marketing! Yep, keeping our jobs was our reward!

              1. Chu Baka*

                Oh, we got those too. Trust me.

                I think the gift card are a means of showing face, since each of those projects were extremely public-facing. For the other instances where we bust our butts to get things done under time crunches (“Why can’t you crank out [Language] code like [Other language]” questions come all the time, even though the process for getting code sent out is vastly different) there is no reward. There might be a nicely worded email, one we can cite for consideration for a raise. But no reward. Because the raises are a joke.

        6. Danni*

          This happened to me at two different companies. One, I kept getting promoted but no raise or benefits. Basically since I was their go to person’s they just gave me more responsibility and work with promises of more money.

          Well six months later they call me in and let me know once again I was one of their best employees and I was finally getting a raise! Never telling us how much the raise was. It was 25 cents. And everyone, including the people I managed got a 25 cent raise.

          To put this in perspective I was in charge of: training, FDA paperwork, safety. I managed 10 people and had “director” in my title. Yet the people on my team made mine 50 cents less than me. I had long been an advocate of paying everyone more, or at least having some sort of benefits.

          Needless to say I asked for a meeting. We sat down and I professionally lay out all of my concerns including the cut to safety procedures to save time. My boss was personally offended. He had paid for my training and certifications. He had given me a job and hadn’t fired me when I had the flu and had to stay home. He told me I was ungratefuland I should just he happy I have a job in times like these.

          I gave my two weeks, he fired me on the spot.

          The other I was just trying to move to a different department. Manager’s manager approved but my manager wouldn’t and he had to let me go and recommend me. Instead he kept playing this game with me to keep me scared for my job, like if I wasn’t his go to person I would lose it. As soon as I had enough money saved I had a meeting with HR about how he was treating me. They releaved that he has too high of a turn over rate and did not want to lose me and that explained his behavior and why he wouldn’t let me go. I left right then.

          1. Joe Average*

            I had one of those jobs where I received a basic raise during review time. I felt pretty good b/c they told me how I was their “go to guy” and I knew the business, etc. Then chatting quietly with other employees I realized everyone got that raise – even the coworker who didn’t know their left hand from their right hand.

            I quit soon after. Employer actually had the gaul to call my house and ask questions that they could not answer themselves. I quit answering the phone.

            1. FootballBat*

              “Employer actually had the gaul to call my house and ask questions that they could not answer themselves.”

              I had one of those: I told him to send me an email with his questions. In response I sent a consulting agreement that charged $600/hr with a minimum purchase of 4hrs/week. The calls stopped.

      7. Rich*

        Sir… you are vastly mistaken!…. it is not sour owl spit… it is sour owl sh!t…..

        All of your other points are spot on ;-)

          1. Becky*

            Technically they regurgitate the indigestible parts of their meal – fur, bones, beaks, etc. They definitely do also pass waste in the normal bird fashion.

      8. Ellen Mahan*

        I can not believe that the manager on the one hand valued the employee in question but made no effort to help her find a way to attend her college graduation… He/she could have worked that two hour period that she would be missing…..
        If I owned a business and found out that a manager treated and excellent employee like that, we would be having a very long conversation.
        Props to the woman in question and good luck in the future.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I’d fire the manager immediately and hire the woman back and put her in the manager’s now vacant position.

        2. Xarcady*

          Think of the message it would send to other employees if the manager worked those two hours. How respected the employee was for getting the degree, how the manager would go to any lengths to make sure she could attend her graduation. I’d respect a manager like that.

          A manager who let someone avoid overtime for concert tickets, but tried to prevent a very good employee from attending her graduation? Well, I’d look at those priorities, and lose all respect for the manager.

      9. Carlette*

        Ask your company for immediate manager training. I would hire her in a heartbeat. She will be far beyond you in a year or two.

      10. Lucybud*

        Foster care, homeless, paid for college on her own etc. should have nothing to do with anything. The employee’ worked late/ come in early/ worked overtime for each and every one of her coworkers list has nothing to do with this as well. Assuming she did it on her own accord…
        Are the rules regarding: working overtime when new products are being released in writing? If they are, was she given a copy? If there is nothing in writing, then there should be and every employee should be given a copy for them to sign, having acknowledged everything in writing, as well as a personal copy with their acknowledgement signature. If it’s in writing and you acknowledge everything with your signature then it’s in stone.
        A few important piece of missing information…how much notice do employees need to give employers for time off and how much notice do employers need to give employees when it comes to working overtime when new products are being released? If none of this is in writing, then it should be. If seniority is the basis, then it needs to be in writing and every employee should have a copy that they sign.
        I don’t think anyone’s a bad guy here…I think there needs to be clear written rules that everyone has to follow.

        1. Manabi*

          By the manager’s own admission, he made an exception for someone with concert tickets. So obviously it was within their discretion to allow this, no matter what the rules said. And she was his best employee, meaning he let someone who _wasn’t_ his best employee off to go to a concert. So yes, there’s one bad guy here and it’s the manager.

        2. Michelle*

          Are you SERIOUS? Yes, there’s a bad guy here. And putting shitty policies in writing doesn’t make them less shitty.

        3. John*

          No. No amount of rule making can replace the good sense this manager should have but didn’t.

        4. Barbara Holtzman*

          I disagree that no one’s the bad guy – the manager clearly made exceptions for everyone else and freely admitted doing so, thought this one employee to be the best of the bunch despite being the one with the least seniority (which could mean she’s been there twenty years, if everyone else was there longer), and just as clearly had no problem abusing this one employee with the justification that she couldn’t tell anyone else what to do because they had “seniority.” Forgetting the manager, I wouldn’t want to work with all the other miserable poeple who couldn’t be bothered to swap two freaking hours so this person could go – alone – to her graduation and rush right back with no celebration, especially when she swapped with THEM when they needed the time.

          There are few small shops that put absolutely everything in writing, nor do they have an employee manual to refer to. These things cost time and money. Even if they were, there’s a place for humanity in every workplace, and this one has none. I wouldn’t want to work there either.

        5. Philip*

          Just from an employee point of view. The conversation with my supervisor tends to go like this; You have me on the schedule for this day, did you see that I’d put in a time off request several weeks ago? I will not be available on that day.
          (Don’t tell me I might loose my job, been there, done that and I’m wearing my walking shoes.)

      11. Kevin*

        When I had special requests like this as a Manager I covered for my Employees. I would have never denied such a request. For anything like this so personal (their graduation, their Kids graduation, other special events) I always approved the requests and the Employees repaid the perceived time deficit 10 fold without my even asking. This Manager just doesn’t get it.

      12. Lizz*

        If this employee had put in a request to be off for her graduation and was approved then she could have just reminded her boss of that then show up 2 hours later. However, if the employee did not ask to be off prior to the request to work that day, then quitting that day like she did was very unprofessional. Since she had been employed by this company for 6 years, she should have known not to take for granted she would not be required to work on a day when the office is normally closed.

        1. Jill*

          Quuitting is highly professional. People are allowed to decide for themselves for whom they work and under what circumstances. Clearly in this job it did not pay to be a good employee and someone who takes pride in their work – no day off in six years!! – wants to be in a workplace where their hard work is acknowledged and they are treated properly.

          I think you and Lucybud need to really read why other commenters have disdained the complainant and take it on board. Work is not JUST about rules which in any case were not adhered to for others.

        2. Nicole*

          He says in his letter that they were being required to work on a day when their office is normally closed due to a new product launch. It is entirely possible that she didn’t know she would need to work until a short time before. I worked in a similar situation and suddenly, a launch would be pushed up and BAM, we were expected to work that weekend!

          What I find saddest about this whole thing is this woman’s coworkers. She’s been a stellar employee for six years, and even covered for them on multiple occasions, according to the manager. After she asks for help and is refused, some of them switch with others who are scheduled or even worked overtime for them- and not ONE of these pricks could cover for her for two lousy hours???

          Also, the manager’s comment about intervening because of someone spent money on concert tickets? Ridiculous. Her college cost a hell of a lot more than any concert tickets. If the manager was good at his job and a halfway decent human being, he would have covered for her himself. At any rate, he doesn’t need to worry about her career. With no family guidance and growing up in a series of foster homes, she has held the same job for six years, been a stellar employee, and put herself through college. She’s going to be just fine.

          1. Joe Average*

            Tell me why she couldn’t just come in two hours late and work two hours late. Okay – there is alot of work to be done. Tell me why they can’t shift it two hours?

            A goo dmanager would have either reached in his pocket or passed the hat and bought this college graduate a cake and celebrated her success on the fly. Ten minutes of the team celebrating. Now take your cake back to your cubicles and get back to work. Sorry we can’t celebrate longer, the schedule is tight. Thank you folks for your enthusiasm and congrats to our new college graduate.

        3. Missy*

          If you read this closely, in the very first paragraph, you will see that the manager stated they were working during hours they were normally closed. This means that the employee wouldn’t have needed to ask for time off until she was advised that she would need to work on a day she normally had off, which it sounds like she did. This actually makes the situation worse in my opinion because this person should have had the day off to start with and this manager was not willing to be the least bit flexible in allowing her to recognize her hard won achievement.

        4. Lujotu*

          Are you kidding? Quitting is professional. If you don’t like your job or how you’re treated, you quit. You’re a free agent.

        5. Bea W*

          Read the letter. The employee asked well in advance, was told she could take the time if she was able to find someone to cover for her, and no one would step up. She didn’t wait until the last minute then quit because her boss said no.

        6. Joshua*

          Lizz, per the manager’s letter, the employee put in a request which the manager denied (even though he granted an exception for a person with concert tickets), then the employee asked co-workers to cover her shift, but nobody would do so. Then the employee had time to compile a list of times she had covered for her co-workers. All of this suggests that the employee gave ample time to the manager to address the situation appropriately (which he did NOT do). Therefore, it was not “unprofessional” for the employee to quit as you stated in your post.

        7. Menno T.*

          There is no reason she should have to request a day off that she is already scheduled to be off, *until* that status changes. The only person in this scenario who was unprofessional was her manager, in choosing to rigidly adhere to the rules instead of accommodating her best employee’s completely reasonable request to take just *two hours* off for a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.
          Refusing to accept that kind of treatment and firing her employer on the spot, is the most professional thing she could have done. I would hire her in a heartbeat.

      13. Eugene*

        Lol “sour owl spit” i know what you really wanted to say… But this manager must be the craziest person in mgmt. The only thing i see againts the employee is that she gave “same day notice” for the graduation which is still not a good reason to be an idiot because i wouldn’t have asked for two hrs, I would have told the mgr two days in advance that i am “taking” the day off to deal with graduation and dared any back chat. But God bless that employee for doing the right thing and not cursing the mgr out. Foster homes, broken families and homelessness was the only reason that Alison Green felt she could take advantage of this woman but Christ is up above and will bless her with another job. Concert tickets… really? I won’t even respond to that garbage, why would Alison even admit to that? Lol. What puzzles me is how a person after six years of hard, consistent work can have the lowest in seniority that is very puzzling and stupid on behalf of the mgr. I think i will be a manager when i grow up… i can be better than…

        1. Eugene*

          In fact i retract my first stament about the employee being wrong for giving same day notice because Missy brought up a good point… She wasn’t even supposed to work that day… that makes thing REAL BAD on behalf of the manager

          1. Eugene*

            Lol im so sorry Alison. Relay the mesage to the mgr for me. Smh. See i should be a manager we all make mistakes ;-)

        2. Donny*

          I think you can add non-college graduate then to the list of reasons why the manager (NOT Alison Green) felt she could take advantage of the employee.

      14. Bret*

        Just like to follow-up on your comment. I would actually recommend to a job seeker in a similar situation to definitely bring it up during an interview. Do it in a factual manner. The goal would be to measure the response of the interviewer(s) as an insight on whether the employer is likely to repeat this type of behavior.

        There are lots of people like John who would value the initiative and action of the woman, there are lots of people who would consider those attributes as negatives or threatening. When a job seeker has a choice, avoid those employers.

        To managers who do this to employees, I will share my experience with you. In my market, we were one of two leaders with a couple dozen smaller players trying to catch up. We focused on improving our work conditions (in what is really a very employee non-friendly industry). Within a few years, we had the pick of the talent pool in our market. Any time we announced an opening, we were flooded with resumes from our competitors. We improved in almost all areas, from employee productivity to work ethic to customer service. Even better, our main competitor, lost a number of their top employees to us and gained none of ours. Among our smaller competitors, their employees seemed to regard us like the UFC of our market. . .we were where they wanted to play.

        My suggestion is that the manager who wrote the OP might want to look into adapting his behavior. A natural human mistake we are all liable to make it to take our stars for granted. Don’t do that. Screw the squeaky wheel sometimes and take care of the wheels that are awesome.

      15. Angel Verges*

        She wasn’t high on the seniority but she was the best employee? You basically denied your golden goose and she chose to lay her eggs elsewhere. The manager is not trying to save her and other employees from doing this, the manager is telling you what NOT TO DO to your best employee of 6 years. Bouncing around foster homes made her realize she deserved better. Letting someone off for tickets to a concert because “there was cost involved?” Did those tickets cost thousands of dollars in tuition, books, travel to and from? The time spent on these? This was the one positive thing in her life that she accomplished and you were going to try to take that away from her after working 6 years, perfect attendance, and labeled best employee? She left because the exchange wasn’t matching up. You dropped the ball on this one

      16. Weiwen*

        Actually, as a manager, if that employee is that good, why wouldn’t you get her out of the fix yourself? She quit because this small incident shows that the environment that she works in is heartless and cruel. No one will help her, not even her own manager. As a manager, sometimes you need to take one for the team. If it was me, I would have told her not to worry, I will personally take over that shift, she should go enjoy herself after her graduation ceremony, have a good meal with her fellow graduates. And she deserved the day.

      17. RUKiddingMe*

        Yep. If I were hiring I would hire the former employee. The manager, well that’s just a title isn’t it? S/he’s not really doing anything like managing. Not well anyway. If I were the employee int he story, I would have quit on the spot too.

    2. Destiny D*

      How in the world can you justify letting someone go early because they paid for a concert ticket, but ignore the tens of thousands of dollars this woman put into her education? Then you want to give her a talking to like she’s a delinquent because she was raised in foster care? Are you insane?

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Then you want to give her a talking to like she’s a delinquent because she was raised in foster care?

        That was the part of the letter that had me seeing red. As if being raised in foster care meant she doesn’t know how to act when the OP was the one acting a fool. The nerve.

        1. Ryan Basham*

          Agreed. This letter is drenched with classism and implicit bias, otherwise known as judgemental superiority. It’s not good management to bring your own prejudices and preconcieved notions into people management. Employees are resources, but they’re also humans (thus, “Human Resources”). We’re developing people, and people have whole lives. Navel gazing over my own already established norms is a great way to avoid being flexible enough to learn new things and expand my abilities to nurtue the people who report to me.

          1. Vince Medlock*

            I must admit that I long for the days when employees were considered people. Just people. Not a resource to be managed like steel or lumber. I miss our Personnel department.

            1. sstabeler*

              The ironic thing is that the term “Human Resources” was supposed to emphasise that employees are more than just the cost of their salary.

        2. LK*

          Absolutely!! Seemed a clear case of taking advantage of her goodwill as well!! I had a manager like that — (actually I’ve had several) I had more training and experience but never the title so I always worked my way up. A manager was hired in over me, that had previously been a manager for the company, 10 years prior. I had to train him!! Then he would meander in and out of the office as he pleased because his title allowed for it, meanwhile I was doing all of the work!! Eventually, it caught up to him when the regional manager would show up unannounced. I never offered up information but I dang sure didn’t cover it up either!! Often, he wouldn’t return until the end of the day and it was slightly entertaining to see him stammer to come up with details to explain his lengthy absences. One day I ended up having dental pain so bad that on my lunch break I went to the dentist and found I had to have my wisdom teeth extracted!! I had to go back to work after because there was an auditor in the office!! I found out that anything he did not know he explained as my fault!! I was under so much stress that I had not concerned myself with pain meds for my surgery, my face had swollen, and I got laryngitis — but still I showed up to clearly prove my name — continuing to answer phones, greet customers, make sales and collection calls, and run and close loans!!
          Eventually, even he left believing he could file disability and UI which he never received. I however, quit a year later and justifiably did receive UI.
          Some people have this crazy sense of superiority over others. The way I see it — it’s those “little people” that make you and in the same token they can be the ones to take (bring you with them when they rise) or break you!! Not to mention, if you don’t want to be in their position then you’d better show some appreciation so they’ll continue to do for you what you don’t want to do!!
          I’ve learned early — the people willing to do the lowliest jobs are the ones you go out of your way to show your appreciation for!! Case in point, custodians…. I do NOT ever want to clean up after other people and so I always acknowledge them and speak kindly to them. In doing so, I never have to ask for things that others do. I find people go above and beyond the minimum expectations when you go above and beyond in their recognition. We are all alike — no better or worse — we all have to put our pants on one leg at a time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This woman confided a lot in you, OP. She thought something of you to tell you her life story. I can’t even get angry, OP. I just want to cry for this woman.

        Former Employee: If you happen to see this and know that it is you the OP is talking about, please see the 1200 plus posts here and know that there are hundreds of us that would happily hire you in a heart beat. If you told me you needed to go to an event-important-to-you, then you would be there.

      3. Laura*

        YES! To be clear, I have no problem making the exception for the concert tickets. However, this is a once in a lifetime event for someone who had many reasons to never reach it. Also, I’d question the coworkers for not being willing to trade with her as well.

        1. Rose*

          I remember my first job as a clerk in a grocery store. I thought I was being a great employee and team player by covering shifts and coming in when there were absentees. However, I learned the favors I did for others were not reciprocated. Somehow all of the answers I received where, “I’m sorry.” I then realized that I no longer wanted to work at anyplace where one had to “cover my shift”, because people will prioritize others before your needs. They probably saw her as someone not worthy of their time. Did the Manager tell everyone about her past? Even though one would think they would not use that against their own co-worker, but my experience tells me otherwise.

        2. Master FOo*

          If *every* co-worker simply didn’t want to switch, I wouldn’t judge them as much as the working environment i.e. systemic factors.

          1. TechnoMistress*

            Except that the OP stated that they were willing to switch with others, just not with her even though she had covered for them in the past.

        3. Red*

          If this employee was the “nice” “accommodating” one, it’s possible the entire office has gotten used to using her and disregarding her needs.
          I’m glad this woman got the gumption to stand up for herself. Sometimes a negative situation like this can be the making of a person. She finally understood her true value in contrast to the way she was being devalued at her old job.

        4. d*

          That’s what got me.. The coworkers who wouldn’t cover her shift. What a bunch of poopholes.

      4. McKenna Duffy*

        This made me so angry, I had to put my choice words elsewhere. I’m so glad that the employee knew she was worth more than this. This is abusive and classist management.

        And let’s not forget, at most colleges, you have to pay for not only your cap/gown, but to just attend graduation. To ignore this huge financial commitment is a travesty.

      5. Radar's Mum*

        Plus college graduation ceremony participation isn’t free. Cap & gown purchase or rent, possibly invitations and a new outfit, and the day can easily equal or exceed the cost of a concert ticket. I think commenters who suggest the young woman was being exploited are onto something here.

      6. Sally M*

        Another thing had me seeing red was the part about other employees covering for each other, but hey, it’s ok, they’re friends outside of work, too. Say what?!? She’ll do well because she can stand up for herself. Clueless boss will eventually shoot himself in the foot.

    3. Jeanne*

      By the way Alison, you’re famous these days. This column is already an article on Jezebel. And the letter about interns asking for the dress code change and getting fired showed up in an article on FB.

        1. customerservice*

          I’ll bet it’s A. how good these are and B. how often Nicole from The Toast loved to put your articles as links in Link Roundup.

          1. Mamunia*

            I admit I found this site through the Toast (r.i.p.). I’m pleased to see it getting broader attention.. I’m not anything near a manager, but the advice here, as well as the comments section, has some really insightful nuggets for navigating the workplace.

            1. Honeybee*

              Aw, they closed down The Toast? I liked that site. I didn’t visit all the time but when I did it was entertaining.

          2. Kay J*

            I know I got here from both Captain Awkward and The Toast recommending the site. Good sources!

          3. Liana*

            I read both AAM and The Toast independently for awhile, and when The Toast (RIP) started linking to AAM I freaked out. It was pretty cool.

        2. Glen Bradley*

          It’s great! You are doing a good thing here. The more people see this the better. The general ignorance surrounding these topics out in the world is stunning. Every drop of light you shed is making it a better place. Thank you!

        3. animaniactoo*

          You probably want to get used to it. You’re now a “found” site that will be checked regularly by those other sites for interesting bits to cover/promote, and it will likely happen more often.

          You may want to look into grabbing an additional moderator or 2 for a few weeks to kill the more egregious posts until the new wave is more cognizant of the commenting rules and prepared to abide by them.

        4. MarcD*

          I’m a manager and think you’re batting about 1,000 in your responses here. The FB post on the interns’ attire brought me here, and you’re now in my regular reading feeds .

          Great stuff, thank you!

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        This is the one instance where Google really is my friend. If it weren’t for Google Now putting a post from AaM into one of my cards a year and change ago, I would have never discovered this site, and all the wonderful advise both Alison and the community give. Especially in this case.

        Now I come here every day, and spend far more time than I should (especially at work…don’t tell the boss :D).

      2. Thomas*

        Here from Reddit! Posted in r/rage. I’ve had some bad bosses over the years but this story takes the cake.

      3. Jill*

        I’ve been reading your blog for awhile Alison, but a post of yours – the interns with the petition -even showed up on the Tim Blair blog at the Australian Daily Telegraph. There’s glory for you! ;)

    4. Jayeff*

      The place I work, the manager herself would have come in to cover the employee’s shift.

      1. Ana*

        Hell, I would have worked the whole shift for her. This employee deserves the whole day off for her hard work.

      2. Mamunia*

        Right? The manager says the coworkers are the only family this woman has, and yet treats her appallingly. If she were as supportive as she claims, she’d be watching the graduation from the stands.

            1. Jill*

              I want to like a lot of comments!! Consider the goodies Liked!
              (This is getting addictive!)

        1. AIP*

          I would be inclined to agree. She was the lowest rung on the ladder, despite working there as a stellar employee for years, and for all the regard that the boss had for his/her dogsbody, he and his colleagues showed her just how much they thought of her loyalty. This sounds very much like it has been building for a long time and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back (a non-timesheet list of non-standard hours that was ready in no-time?): the managers really needs to reevaluate how he treats good employees, because her replacement may not be so desperate to put up with it.

      3. LibrarianHeather*

        I would have worked her shift too and asked her to make up the work when she could. It’s graduation. Hell I let my team make up work when they took off too. That is a once in a lifetime event and such an investment. I regret not going to my masters graduation all the time so I’d not let an employee miss their bachelors.

        1. Lucybud*

          I would have worked her shift as a “graduation gift” as well as a “thank you for your hard work over the years” with pay. It may not see like much, but that would me the world to me.

      4. CEO Cat*

        This would have been the only proper response. The co-workers should have covered for her too. A favor earned for this lady. Roll up your sleeves and do it yourself would be my advice. I’ve had to do it many times.

    5. Gk*

      Ok, even if he follows your advice and offers her the job back, my advice to her would be KEEP WALKING. Even she takes a job for less pay, it’s not worth going back.

      1. Kimberly*

        I understand your point and I would like to add another…he owes her a letter of recommendation. If he isn’t manager enough to offer her her job back, he owes her a glowing LOR.

        1. Sheera*

          This is the best letter of recommendation he could give her. All he needs to do is forward the link & say, I wrote this, this is her.

    6. Jayeff*

      Something isn’t making sense. I don’t believe Alison is telling the entire truth. The now ex-employee was lowest in seniority but has been there for six years?

      And I don’t believe for a minute that you “want to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again.” I believe you are angry and insulted that she did this to you. I believe you are taking this as a personal sleight. The arrogance and hubris in your letter: “(B)esides us she doesn’t have anyone in her life that has ever had professional employment”, is simply appalling. You make it sound like you feel she OWES you.

      She doesn’t.

      From the description of your management style, you are anything BUT a place of professional employment. I feel confident that she will land on her feet. And since it appears this letter and situation is Jezebel and RawStory, businesses will be fighting to have her in their employ. ANY negative mark against her for quitting on the spot will be FAR outweighed by the drive, determination, and integrity it took for her to earn that degree.

      And if YOU have any bosses, you may soon find yourself out of work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Dude, I’m not the letter-writer. I’m the person answering the letter who runs the site and gives advice here.

        (Weirdly, this happened with a post last week — where a couple of sites attributed a letter as being from me.)

        1. Michael*

          I found it perfectly clear who was saying what myself, but if this has been an issue more than once I would consider finding a way to make the distinction even more… unmistakable. Perhaps put the whole letter in a quote block?

          Anyway, great article as always! thanks!

        2. Chris*

          This is a common thing on advice site comment sections, where commenters think that the comments section is for them to give their advice as if the letter writer wrote to them. Dear Abby’s comments are always a cringeworthy dumpster fire of out of touch regulars alternately flirting with or bullying each other while offering their judgmental “advice” to everyone who writes in.

        3. AlexT*

          I think it is because of the fonts you chose. They’re easy to confuse. The letter and your response have got very similar fonts, and there isn’t a clear distinction as to where one starts and the other ends. I’d advise you to make it clearer. It took me a few seconds to process that, and I can understand how some people might not be able to make the distinction.

          1. AlexT*

            Perhaps separating the texts a little more, using bold or different colours might make it a lot easier to distinguish.

            1. Anonymousse*

              I think the fact that the letters are always in italics and Allison’s replies are not makes it perfectly clear.

              1. fluffy*

                I didn’t personally have a problem with it, but I know exactly why a lot of people would – not all browsers display italics, and they aren’t always obvious in every font, and they’re certainly not obvious to someone using a screen reader or other visual impairment assistance.

                I would recommend to Allison that she start using a blockquote for the letters to make them visually distinct in a way that is also universal across browsers. By default, blockquote will just indent the text a bit, but then the stylesheet can also add in things like italics and a “quote” marker on the left and so on.

                It’ll do a world of good for people with visual or cognitive impairments that make it difficult for them to distinguish italics from non-italics!

                1. Buddy Brannan*

                  Oh wow. Thanks for mentioning people with disabilities. We always get forgotten about for some reason (diversity training springs to mind, but certainly that isn’t the only thing…) I, for one, found it very clear that the letter writer wasn’t Allison, since the article was by Allison (says so right under the title), and she says “A reader asks”. Still, as much clarity as possible is never a bad idea.

          2. Susi*

            This is not about Alison needing to do things differently (this is my first time to this site and it was immediately obvious what the deal was). This is a clear case of blatant user error (mingled with some hardcore inattention).

            1. AF*

              Exactly – she writes “A reader writes…” at the beginning of every single post, and the text of letters are italicized.

        4. Glen Bradley*

          I didn’t get that impression, of course, but looking back I can see how someone would. Simplicity is an excellent goal, but some visual break distinguishing your reply might help pacify a large swath of newly minted readers who don’t look so deep as your customary audience.

          Your reply of course is excellent, the reader at the top of the thread probably just caught a name from somewhere and was venting in blind rage. You have found a couple of stories recently that inspire a blind rage. Keep that up and you will go completely viral. The good news is you are about to get a 300-fold increase in submitted stories to pick from, so it will be easier to pick great examples. The bad news is you are about to get a 300-fold increase in submitted stories to pick from, and maybe some people who actually need answers can get overlooked. :-/

          I can see you already refer people to previously written stories that address their topic, which is more than one can hope if your cyber empire explodes by 500%+. On the other hand if you monetize the growth tastefully, those proceeds would allow you to hire a person or two staff to ferret out the people who really need help as well as finding the questions that will continue to expand your reach.

          Sorry, I don’t mean to go crazy. I just like what you are doing here and am glad to see your star rising.

        5. AF*

          That would be funny if people thought you personally ran into all of these situations at your own place of employment! Like “wow, this person has REALLY bad luck with jobs!”

      2. snuck*

        I don’t understand / appreciate seniority rules the same way many American’s seem to… I’ve never encouraged that sort of thinking… (And been fortunate to work in environments where it’s not too great an issue)

        That said. Surely somewhere after SIX YEARS of being your most awesome go to best staff member seniority should be thrown out the window and performance rewarded?

        And I’d say a graduation ceremony trumps a concert. A grad ceremony is the culmination of thousands of hours of work and is a one off. The rock concert will come around again… and if you really want to say they paid for the tickets think how much this employee paid for her degree!

        I don’t think you’ll get this employee back, and I suspect you’ll lose others over your treatment of her. They will now be looking at this and seeing what has happened and making assumptions about how you will treat themselves for other requests. Serious damage control needed – effective immediately I’d abolish the seniority rule – if your newest hire is six years on (and it’s a tech support line by the sounds of it) then it’s time to go to a more fair system, one that balances who is on when. If there was a culture of swapping shifts that is between friends but not doing it for anyone else and htis was causing resentment I would consider actually having this back under your direct input/control instead of throwing it out to the crowd – that doesn’t sound like it’s working well. And … I’d put graduations, medical appointments and major family events higher up the priority list than rock concerts… especially if they are organised outside of normal work hours and YOU swap up the work hours, or they are forewarned.

        1. Charles R Batchelor*

          And you pay for Graduation whether you go or not, your Cap and Gown cost you money too.

          1. Renee*

            Not to mention that her education cost her a helluva lot more than those concert tickets. Even with scholarships and grants, the small things add up quickly for anyone in higher education.

          2. Lucille*

            You do not pay for graduation if you do not go actually. I never went to any of my four and did not pay.

            1. Ubercorn*

              She would of already paid already as the ceremony was held on her day off, when the business was usually closed.
              I know mine was scheduled 6months after completion, you could attend or not but you had to state your intention to go and pay upfront.
              Being somewhat of a big achievement due to her rocky start to the world, her choosing to do all the pomp and bells n whistles of an actual ceremony would be clearly obvious.

        2. Big Yellow Taxi*

          “I suspect you’ll lose others over your treatment of her.”

          I doubt it. I get the impression that the culture there is pretty cliquish — and the departed employee wasn’t part of the “in” crowd if the co-workers blew off her attempts to attend her own college graduation.

          And the manager seems oblivious to the fact that she’s managing a middle school.

          1. snuck*

            Quite possibly. And what happens is anyone decent left who isn’t part of the club will make exit plans, and the club people have had their ‘seniority’ reinforced.

            So not only is it middle school. It’s now been rewarded as middle school behaviour.

            But seeing the OP’s letter are we really surprised that there is interpersonal and professional behaviour issues in this workplace?!

            1. AmyR*

              I agree that the seniority club will take command and eventually the manager won’t be able to keep anyone who recognizes the seniority club clique and despises it as they should. Once you let a clique start running your organization, their childishness quickly turns off other employees and they leave, so that only friends that the clique finds non-threatening (weak and unskilled) will be allowed to remain as employees. It’s a nightmare from a management standpoint.

          2. Nickolah*

            She sounds like she was in the role that I often am put in, always the person left to clean up after everyone else or do whatever they don’t feel like doing. Unfortunately, people that always bend over backwards tend to be unappreciated when they actually speak up or need something. Maybe that is just my luck that I end up in these type of companies where if you complain enough, you’re the one that gets your way.

            My fiance goes through the same thing as his job. He’s known as the reliable manager that doesn’t slack like the other managers do. Guess who got July 4th off? The manager that has almost been fired several times, never goes above and beyond, and spends her shift mostly on her phone while the business suffers. But, because the GM doesn’t want to hear her attitude, guess who is chosen to work the holidays they are open, to run tasks, or cover other stores that tend to be far away :-/

        3. fluffy*

          Some places take seniority to a ridiculous extreme. I once worked at a software engineering job where I was ‘junior’ to someone else who started about a week before me, despite having an advanced degree in the field and actual work experience while this ‘senior’ employee only had an associate’s degree and was fresh out of community college. But because he was senior to me he ended up having WAY more sway when it came to major design decisions.

        4. trisha*

          She originally said, the concert involved a price paid…..well, from my point of view college costs thousands of dollars, costs sacrifice, hardwork and determination. All on top of being the best employee you had. That is higher ranked than a concert. It is so sad that many jobs think that it is just okay for us to.miss milestone moments like graduations, tea with mom, donoughts with dad kids are young once and you or they grad once. I would have done same thing. Good for her

      3. Irene.*

        I would be so proud to have an employee like that and work it out for her. There is no need to contact her about professionalism when you don’t have much. Cost shouldn’t have been a factor with the concert employee. A college graduation is a momentous achievement and especially for her situation it was much more. Im glad she quit. She will have better opportunities. I hope your other employees can step up as much as she did but if they haven’t already they never will. There are lessons here and I hope you have learned them.

        1. Chuck*

          Has anyone heard who the employee is.. And what are we doing to help her other than venting our frustrations. Surely by now someone has to know who the employee was.. Incase unemployment office doesn’t pay her separation benefits let’s create a gofund me page.. Put some dollars in this girls pocket while she gets back on her feet. Hell, I think we could get her back on her feet and pay off some of the loans I am sure she took out while working herself thru college. Where and how do we start?

      4. Tina*

        At the top it says, “A reader writes…”

        Dude, it’s pretty clear OP is not the author.

      5. Blaine Cash*

        and thanks to this letter, she now has PROOF of why she quit, to give to perspective employers.

        1. GDouglas*

          Agree — this reads as a very glowing LOR.
          Many employees quit over far less than this. Graduation is the same thing as a Wedding and a Funeral, and most other employers (other than thos one) understands this.

      6. LK*

        I concluded the exact same thing. Especially, after having a very similar experience of bosses putting their errors off on me. I believe they felt they could get away with it — thinking I was younger and not as well educated however they were gravely mistaken. “Do not underestimate my kindness for weakness!!”

    7. Sonda*

      My question for the manager is, Did you never consider working the two jours this employee needed to attend her graduation? Part of being a manager or in a position of leadership is leading not ruling. You lost a great employee, your best employee by not being a leader which sometimes means being a doer.

    8. Mustache Cat*

      Thank you for posting this reminder! The sheer volume of unkind language was making me uncomfortable

    9. Dana*

      Wow I’m in shock. What kind of management handles things this way? I was a manager and I would have covered for this employee myself. Really concert tickets? Why would think there is no cost in a graduation? Plus the rule is if you do it for one but not someone else it can be favoritism. A big no no.

    10. 42*

      Out of respect to you Alison, I’m trying really hard to find a kind place to speak from but I just can’t. The employee in question hit my heart in in a tender way and this OP is like a punch straight to the gut and I’m aching. This is Worst Boss of the Year roundup material.

    11. ArtsNerd*

      I love this rule and your enforcement of it. I absolutely think it’s fair to remove them. For posts like this one, though, where the OP really does get a serious reality check, a reminder at the top of the comments like you have here will call attention to this policy for the hundreds of new readers I’m sure all of us are sending to you every day. They might not check out the site rules otherwise.

      (Side note: I only recommended AAM once today! Feels weird.)

    12. Cassidy Melczak*

      Is OP not aware that graduation ceremonies involve a cost (not to mention all the tuition involved.)

      Clearly there are no double standards involved here.

    13. Tony Young*

      Whoever wrote this letter to you needs to read this comments section, read your article, and look deep, deep inside themselves, and remember that a job is a job, and a life is a life. 2 hours of overtime for them (the manager) to answer for was worth far, far less than a hard working woman missing her hard earned graduation. Let this be a lesson to everyone: never become a drone like this person did, to the point that they missed the significance of what was happening for that fine young woman that day.

    14. Robin Miller*

      The main lesson I hope the former “best employee” learns is to check future bosses carefully before going to work for them.

    15. Christopher Solano*

      I think its funny how this person made changes for a person with concert tickets because of money involved… im pretty sure spending 15k+ for your degree overrides 40 dollar concert tickets

    16. XOXO*

      This article was making rounds on my twitter feed the other day, where I’ve not seen your site often discussed prior. I think that may mean that there are a lot of first time readers commenting on this post and the intern post from a few days prior.

    17. LK*

      I think the reply written to this letter is the most excellent response that could be given. Kudos to both the employee and the responder!! I have worked since I was 13 (I worked before this as my dad was his own mechanic and building contractor — I helped lay bricks, build wall frames, put down flooring and shingles on a 2 story building, dug footers, ran chalk lines, shingled and insulated our house before I went into 4th grade!!) for an unrelated business. I volunteered and worked multiple jobs through high school — with as many as 4 jobs in my senior year and still graduated with Honors. I paid for my own car and belongings since I had money. I also put a down payment on my own home and paid for the larger portion of my own wedding. I missed out on a lot because I thought it better to be professional than living life. Boy, was I wrong!! I was always the youngest and most responsible employee; asked to cover and train others for them to be given positions OVER my pay grade and then take exception that people came to me for direction instead of them…. It got me no where!! I, being lowest paid and youngest employee was often given the overtime pay because it was cheaper to pay me overtime than it was to pay my superiors regular time. I worked for several banks and financial institutions that always have me highly effective evaluations and acknowledged my responsible nature and dependability. I filled in for every position in my last bank, including the CEO, when they were out and needed things done. Yet, I was overlooked in every aspect — no bonuses, no awards, no vacation requests granted. As I inquired up the ladder as to recognition for myself and every other person in my position — I was put aside because people were intimidated by the higher-ups. Eventually, I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with the VP and laid it out — when you have a service to offer and you want that service offered with gratitude you need to make sure you’re expressing that same gratitude to those that are the “faces” and “forefront” of your business. Shareholders came in for meetings and were catered to at great expense. We didn’t even receive a box of donuts to share. When chamber meetings or holiday events were held — we were expected to be there but we’re not accommodated or recognized in any form. Then we asked about a Christmas bonus — not anything of great value — just something to recognize that we existed — the VP giggled and emptied out his pockets and had enough to drop $.03 in each stocking!! Talk about disrespect!! So, after our “chat” the very next day we had a meeting and breakfast of fruits, donuts, & juice was provided. At Christmas they began a $50 bonus which eventually evolved into a % based on performance and tenure as well as a host of various other privileges. After that, I became the VPs untitled assistant — not because I had gone through business school not because I had achieved the accolades of professionalism as he had — but because I knew the difference of right and wrong and helped him to remember the little things that don’t occur to the big-wigs… He told me that himself. Eventually, we all moved on and I found myself in a very similar situation where I went from doing a job WITH 4 – 6 other employees to being the sole employee doing the jobs OF 5-7 employees. I was very loyal and very respectful of others and did everything I could to keep their franchise afloat. Our policies allowed for 1 week vacation per year. I worked there for 4 years — the last year alone. Steps were not made to procure employees so they would rotate employees from surrounding offices — 2 at a time. They did this as a requirement for management training — which I could not receive because they could not afford to send me to another office without base employees. I had paid a year in advance for a specialty cruise (meaning 3x the normal expense) and had put in for the week off when I paid for the cruise AND we were functionally staffed. However, Spring Break for our county came 3 weeks prior and when school was out daycare also closed. I had no other means for my 6yo child and I was told they could not allow any time off!! When I brought up the legalities involved — I was then told I would have to choose. I, too, turned my resignation on the spot. I outlined my time table for the appropriate 2 weeks notice and an additional week if they’d like me to help train anyone. At my leaving they still had not hired anyone. I left, filed for unemployment, and received it. I took my child to D.C. for a week then West Palm Beach and Ft Myers. Three weeks later I cruised to Mexico with more than 10 star bands, including Train and The Script, for a week!! Then I volunteered in my daughter’s classroom until summer college began and started my Bachelor’s program. I have lived just grand regardless of the manner in which I left.
      So, to answer the question of how to get managers to sympathize — in most cases you can’t because they have never been in “our” shoes so the most you can hope for is empathy — until a few more folks do exactly as “we” have done and provided them the experience to realize if they want to retain valuable employees they must first show that they value their employees!! As the old adage states, “You get what you give.”

    18. SJL*

      I have a friend who works as a Forensic Psychologist once told me that we teach people how to treat us. Somewhere along the line, her boss and co-worker’s thought it was okay to take advantage of her willingness to be team player. It doesn’t appear that anytime in the past she ever said “no” to a request. Regardless, this boss is clueless and should not be a manager. Because of his ineptness, he lost his “best employee so far”. So sad

      1. Serafina*

        I beg to differ – that attitude is essentially victim blaming. There are sadly far too many people in this world who have a “default” way of treating people: namely, as badly as they can get away with. The more power they have over a person, the worse they will treat that person. It happens in all kinds of workplaces and all kinds of industries, from retail to call centers to highly specialized white collar to academia. In this job market, which is so very much an “employer’s market,” that kind of behavior is only exacerbated. It’s not the employees’ fault – goodwill and team player behavior should be rewarded, not taken advantage of or taken for granted. The LW in this case has no one to blame but herself, and the employee is blameless.

      2. RinCleveland*

        I was just about to reply with that same addage. It is true. It’s almost as if no good deed goes unpunished as has been said. Just because you are a professional doesn’t mean you should be a doormat. Managers and supervisors are people just like subordinates are. As professional as you are in your work ethic, be that professional in voicing your concerns and needs. If they still won’t acknowledge your value then take your value somewhere that will.

    19. Mary Stahl*

      I would have done the same thing! She was looking for a job when she came there…she will be able to find another one.

    20. RinCleveland*

      I agree with what has been said but I also feel like we are missing a teachable moment with the manager. Ms. Green is correct in her advice, but I also feel that, based on the letter the manager wrote, that he is hard pressed to see why his decision was the wrong one to make unless spelled out for him.

      Bottom line, if you have an excellent employee, even though the person is the lowest in seniority, her dedication and dependability should count for something. Even though to miss the ceremony would not have cost her monetarily (as it would have the employee who paid for the concert tickets), missing it would have cost her emotionally. It’s like telling a pro-athelete who has won the ultimate championship that they can’t attend the parade honoring that accomplishment because the GM feels that practice is more important. She wasn’t even asking for the entire day, just two hours! The message you sent was that she is not valued as a person, just as an employee who produces. Not good at all.

      Should you offer her the job back, I’d be surprised if she would take it without some type of incentive but at least apologize to her so that she knows someone really does care about her as a person.

      Good luck!

    21. Kms1025*

      For his/her own good and the good of future employees, a course in management, how to supervise, inter-personal skills for the workplace, SOMETHING, seems to be in order. To be so out of touch is really incomprehensible, but there it is. This manager might be a very nice person who has never looked outside the fishbowl of their own workplace. It’s time to take a “look-see” at how well-managed places operate.

    22. Jojo*

      I’m amazed by this manager. To make an accept ion for something like concert tickets and not for something like an educational achievement is astounding. Please remind this manager that education costs money too, and a lot more time as well and should definitely be supported. What a shame that they were so short sighted.

    23. Pam Mosgrove*

      I am unclear how the manager would arbitrarily assume the employee had no costs attributed to graduation from college. There are tuition books supplies countless hours of study traveling to and from school. Cap gown ceremony invitation for guest attending ceremony. These costs surpass the cost of a concert. Graduation from college is something one should have the upmost respect. If no one would step up as a manager would have offered an incentive to fill in so that your employee would be afforded their hard earned right of passage.

    24. John S. Harvey*

      Very simple solution, the manager’s boss should issue an ultimatum, the manager is to apologize to the ex-employee, and if possible get the employee back, then the ultimate boss should transfer the manager elsewhere (as well as enroll them in a remedial management theory course).

    25. Paula Schultz*

      I use to manage a restaurant and you know it was all teenager. They went too different schools so thier graduations were different times , but I let them off , because this is a moment in thier lives that can’t be redone. I would rather work short and do thier jobs than make them miss something this important.

    26. Stephanie*

      I am in complete disbelief that this manager helped someone out that had concert tickets due to cost, but does not recognize the cost of getting a degree. The investment of not only money, but time. I am a nurse manager and we always are short, but would have found a way to accommodate an important life event like this.

    27. Wayne Durham*

      I had a simple solution…but, for some reason, managers are not open to that solution.
      I am a Registered Nurse and have been both in management and a member of the workforce. I have had employees who, like the person in this story, was a great employee and often went over and beyond when asked.
      When those employees needed to be off , even for half of a shift for something important, I was always willing to go work that time necessary. It always gave me the chance to see “how things really work”. After 40 years, I still do that for my staff….and guess what, they appreciate the gesture and I have never found one to abuse the favor. For some reason, most managers think they are too good to do that.

    28. Jon T.*

      I can understand the outrage. I think this manager needs to see some of it, just not… cursing and complete toxicity.

    29. Jeffrey Deneau*

      supervisor should have covered the 2 hrs for her. conversely, if employee would have called in sick for the 1st time in 6 years that day, I doubt she would have been disciplined.

    30. Pam*

      If it was my day off, and she was my employee, I would have worked for my employee so she could enjoy her graduation. I can not believe the manager did not think of a way for her employee to do so. I worked for a company that had a vacation scheduling team to manage time off for a large multi-state group of employees. They refused a woman to take vacation days off for her wedding day!

      So the staff and her manager banded together to work for her so she could have her wedding day and honeymoon. That is what a good manager does…

    31. Paul Turcott*

      I’m really glad that the employee finally realized her value in light of how this manager deliberately and knowingly refused to recognize it, and according to the contents of the letter, just kept her from advancing so she can be a convenience for other employees. She wasn’t this manager’s best employee, but their best excuse. This is the corporate model of 30 years ago which doesn’t work anymore – where managers that have been peter principled into their positions, just throw people at problems as they arise. I agree with one of the posters that if this employee was that impressive, they would have covered her shift themselves. This manager will undoubtedly not last much longer.

    32. LTG*

      Correct me if I am wrong but does UK employment law allow for the following:
      The manager wanted staff to be available outside their contracted hour, i.e. at a time when the office is normally shut. Am I right in thinking that there is no obligation on the part of the staff to come in on a favour to the manager and they could all tell the manager to f-off?

      Secondly am I also right in thinking that if the manager makes unfair demands, the employee could resign on the spot and claim unfair dismissal?

      On a moral level. The manager had staff to cover the shift, the employee has gone out of their way, above and beyond the call, and has an exemplary record. It was her graduation, something she had worked hard for, where is the common sense. The problem today is that people are too “computer says no”.

      Look at this now the manager has brought the company in to disrepute and possibly damaged the reputation of the business. Now in my book that could be a more serious offence than trying to dictate draconian rules.

      1. Allison*

        In France that would be true as well, but in the US there are very few employee protections. Most states are ‘at-will’, and as long as the employer isn’t firing you for being in a protected class, they can fire you because they don’t like the color of your shirt that day.

    33. Chrissy*

      “(Caveat: I did intervene and switch one person’s end time because they had concert tickets that they had already paid for, but this was a special circumstance because there was cost involved.)” Second paragraph.

      What I love is how he thinks it’s fine to justify skipping a college graduation ceremony vs a concert because there was a cost involved. Does he think graduating DOESN’T require a COST? How about both money and time?! Good for her for graduating college and leaving to find a place that will take proper life balance into consideration.

    34. Crystal Thomas*

      Sadly this situation occurs more often than we know. The only feedback I have for this manager is come out of you office-pick up a headset- and take a couple hours of calls. This action would have spoke VOLUMES to not only this employee but you whole team. Unfortunately a lack of common sense and compassion seem to be requirements for filling leadership roles for many organizations. I hope this feedback is reviewed by the offending manager and their leadership team.

    35. Ashley Sampeck*

      Can I just say, that there is absolutely cost involved in attending a college graduation? The cap and gown are expensive, not to mention the tuition, books, hours studying, etc that go along with attending college. Shame on this woman for prioritizing other crappy employees and their concert tickets (because there’s cost involved??) over this woman’s college graduation, and shame on her employees for not stepping up to help out a fellow co-worker that had helped them in the past. She was absolutely right to quit on the spot.

    36. Valda*

      Knowing all about this woman and her strength to overcome homelessness and being without family, her job was her family and on that day the manager should have closed the office and everyone go to celebrate their coworker’s graduation.

    37. Tyanna*

      I just want to point out something that’s bugging me about this. This employee worked there for 6 years, and she had the lowest seniority? That seems highly unlikely to me. If she was hired for a junior position, she is most definitely not a junior any more. Not after 6 years! So, why wasn’t another junior level position filled? Even the most stable of jobs have some turn over in 6 years.

      If it’s a low entry, minimum wage type job, then why hasn’t there been anyone junior hired in 6 years? Or, have people been hired, but they have all quit recently? Maybe this manager is reasonable for more than one person quitting.

      I just can’t wrap my head around how your best employee who has been with the company for 6 years has the least seniority.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Seniority doesn’t always mean length of service. It often means rank in a hierarchy based on your job. (That’s normally how I use it personally.)

    38. Jesse McCormick*

      Wow. I can’t believe this manager. To think a concert was more important because costs were involved. What about the $30,000-$80,000 this woman paid for tuition and books for college? I’m sure the costs of the concert tickets pale in comparison.

      I agree that quitting on the spot is unprofessional. But in this case it was necessary. I would like to reach out to this woman and give her a high 5!

      1. Bill*

        Completely agree with the cost argument you make. But I don’t agree that quitting was “unprofessional”. The employer, in one action, destroyed the mutual trust this employee had obviously greatly contributed to and created great inequity in the employee and employer relationship. The employer forfeited their right to maintain the relationship agreement immediately upon saying no to this employee.

    39. eekamouse*

      Sounds to me like the manager is inconsistent and plays favorites. If a manager admits to making an exception for concert tickets because a cost was involved, then why not make an exception for a graduation? College classes aren’t free, easy, and non time consuming! The employee who never missed work was able to work and earn a degree. Shame on that manager! What’s two hours? The employee was willing to come in after the ceremony. The employee should have been given the day off, or at the very least, the two hours. What kind of manager is that? And to write a letter admitting how terrible the employee was treated?? I would be embarrassed if I was the manager. Kudos to the employee, and congratulations!!

    40. Amanda*

      Wow, I’m a tad blown away by the attitude and opinion of the manager; what’s good for one is good for others and helping someone be off for a concert and not their graduation shows some skewed priorities.
      I would advise this person that not only should they reach out to that employee and apologize, but also to look around at other employees still around and see if this has changed their opinions of you as their manager.
      Had I been an employee here and this was my coworker who quit under the circumstances I would start looking for another job. Showing no interest in supporting employees as they better themselves means you generally do. Not care about their over all welfare or for them as a total person vs a faceless worker and generally this leads to morale and productivity breakdown. You may have already found yourself in a pickle with your staff afternoon his event. Recommend some soul searching and to consider that people work harder, more reliably, and with better results when they feel that they matter as more than just a number to their immediate supervisor. Good luck, but this was a terrible judgment call quite frankly.

    41. Funny about Money*

      Okay, I’m going to try to be good, and so I will not say “what an insensitive wretch Manager is.” Your response is SO much more temperate, polite, and humane than anything I could manage…which is probably why you’re the management consultant.

      Seems to me Manager had two choices:

      a) Come in for a couple of hours on Saturday and do the darned job himself(!). How hard could this be?
      b) Order another employee to cover for Wonder-Employee.

      The third choice, to deny Wonder-Employee her tiny moment in the sun and rank the importance of her graduation (accomplished while holding down a full-time job, f’rhevvinsake) over some concert ticket is truly repellent. Manager got what s/he deserved. I hope Wonder-Employee will turn down any and all blandishments and find a better job with a decent human being sitting in the boss’s chair.

    42. Robert Hotel manager*

      According to his words, he has an employee who is working for him for 6 years, who has excellent attendance at work, who “is the best employee” and as a Manager he could not organize any replacement for this two hours? He basically left her on her own. If no co-employee agreed to come to replace her, then HE supposed to be doing it!
      I work for 10 years on the manager position and swear of God I would come for whole day if necessary to let her attend her graduation. I was replacing my colleges many times. I work in the hospitality and even I work as a manager I was replacing my porters at work, handling ordinary tasks like cleaning. I think that there is a second bottom of this story: he wants his orders to be executed with no resistance (I am a manager here and you have to obey my orders).
      I have to confess, I’ve quit the job some time ago in similar circumstances: I was working at two places. 2 days for one of the hotels, three in another hotel. I have manage my work schedules wisely, but for 1 year there was no problem whatsoever. Then I have some argue with my supervisor about parking spaces. He took it personally and when I was trying to swap my shift with other colleges to match other work schedule, he did not agree for it even I had a replacement. I quit the job on the spot. There was no effect on my carrier whatsoever. I was honest on the job interviews about this what happened and I got the job as a manager again.

    43. Jack DSonice*

      Maybe it is not his fault. Maybe he never had anyone teach him what it means to be a good manager and take care of your people. When I became a manager I knew that my boss was watching over me. I remember I once spoke rudely to one of my reports and my boss saw it. A few minutes when I was in her office she explained to me what I did was wrong and how I should have handled it.

      Having a good mentor is critical to being a successful manager.

      Having said all that I have to say that not allowing this lady to attend her graduation was a new low.

    44. Stephan*

      I am proud of the employee for quitting on the spot. Very sad state when people are this robotic and void of basic human sensibilities.

    45. Amanda*

      I think the person writing this letter, needs to hear these words of wisdom. I also think these thought and feelings are coming from a kind place that has been shook by this lady.. She can’t be serious???

    46. Jo-Anne Paradis*

      Seems to me even after the woman left he still wanted control. Wants to “help her career by ensuring she doesn’t make the same kind of mistake somewhere else”. That is phooey. He thought for that whole list of reasons he gave himself. (no family etc…) He thought he could control her and use her and she would put up with it. His best employee by far.
      He should have given her the time off and paid for her cab. Possibly flowers. It was a very special occasion for her. Now he’s lost her. Now he cannot stand that she left. He still wants the last word. This kind of Manager is dangerous and possibly quite toxic to an organisation.

    1. Emmie*

      My heart does as well. She put in tremendous work over the years at this company – covering extra shifts for years, never takes a sick day, and probably put in very late nights studying to cover these extra shifts. Her coworkers refuse to cover these shifts, and even refuse to cover her graduation. She approaches her manager about this issue – who refuses to cover a monumental life event for a stellar employee – and she now has no job with no family to help her out. OP: It takes a lot for an employee like this to quit – especially with no family support to speak of. It’s time to rethink your policies, and how you handled this situation. Do not call – unless you offer her job back and potentially offer her some paid time off for her work she missed as a result of the unfair policies.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Right! Two hours would have killed these people?! I wouldn’t want this shitty job back; they could keep their apologies too.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, the coworkers need talking to too. They help each other out because they’re friends outside of work but wouldn’t help her out? Thats horrible and sounds like they have a “what’s in it for me” attitude.

        1. wncguy*

          Agreed but that also shows a lack of competence on the part of the manager. If she hasn’t fostered a team that looks out for one another and simply a “what’s in it for me culture,” then they have bigger problem then losing this employee.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            Exactly. My situation is different (exempt creative professional) but we do have to arrange our own coverage for vacations. I’m realizing I have no idea what my manager would do if I said I couldn’t find coverage, because I can’t imagine that even being a question. Of course you’d cover for co-workers, not just for big life events but even just for “I’m exhausted and want a personal day to recharge.” We all benefit from having an ecosystem where that just happens without a whole lot of agita.

        2. Chalupa Batman*

          That was a big thing that bothered me, too-in what kind of culture will NO ONE cover for someone who sounds like she’s willing to cover for them pretty regularly and is great at her job (which is a definite time and frustration saver for coworkers, too) so that she can go to her college graduation? Either they have a very small team with a highly coincidental cluster of situations that made them unavailable beyond “didn’t want to come in on their day off,” or she worked with a bunch of jerks. I’m putting massive amounts of good energy in the universe for this woman, and hoping OP is drafting a glowing recommendation of her as we speak to read verbatim to anyone who asks.

          1. Vanessa*

            Although it’s impossible to know what is going on there in reality, it sound like overtime might be frequent and everyone either feels they’ve already given up enough OR the climate there doesn’t inspire them to give more than they have to. Not that you aren’t going to always have selfless, thoughtful co-workers, but if cooperation is as endemically lacking as it sounds there, that too is a management issue.

      2. blatantlybianca*

        I feel compelled to comment. I was a foster child and graduating from college was one of my greatest achievements. No one attended my graduation and even though my friends families stepped in to be there for me, what I remember thinking in that moment is that I did it, I fought against incredible odds to graduate with a degree that could and would propel me into a successful life. For a foster child moments of accomplishment are few and far between. We fight really hard to face each day without the love and support others have, and we often have to fight stereotypes and other incredible challenges like bouncing from home to home (often b/c of further abuse) and many end up homeless. Foster children often age out at the age of 18 (some states are 21) and have no one to lend support to find their footing. 35% of foster children who age out end up homeless. 20% end up arrested/incarcerated, 54% drop out of high school and a staggering amount will never graduate from college (Source: First Place for Youth). I said all of that to say this young lady beat the odds.

        I think you should look at this as a huge lesson in how to be compassionate. You don’t have to experience foster care to understand that this was a big moment in her life and as someone involved in her life, you had an opportunity to show her that you cared about her. And you chose not to.

        1. Marisol*

          Great comment. Hopefully hearing this perspective will teach the OP something.

          Although I would add, that this isn’t *just* a lesson in compassion, but business–since she lost her most productive worker, she hurt the company’s bottom line as well. When employees are treated well, everybody wins.

        2. The Strand*

          An awesome comment. Thanks for sharing what you overcame; it makes us appreciate what the OP’s employee was dealing with.

        3. Lee Merrick*

          Preach! You have that completely right. As a child who went through numerous foster homes, I can attest to the challenges and strength it takes to make it though college–a challenge for most, to be sure, but exponentially so for those of us who’ve been through the foster-home factory. I am also so glad this woman quit on the spot, and that this site is supporting her, not the &%#&! boss!

        4. One of the Sarahs*

          That made me tear up a little – thank you for explaining it so well. Big love to you.

        5. Troutwaxer*

          What you should have done was given her the whole day off, then advised HR that a really tough, motivated person had just graduated from college and needed a raise/promotion/be management tracked… etc. In other words, you could have used this to do a bit of internal recruiting and sent her up through the ranks. The payback in loyalty alone would have been amazing! Instead, you blew it.

          1. Craig*

            As a high level manager, I’d have given her the day off paid, and taken the shift for her without a word. And that has nothing to do with her growing up in foster care. Good managers don’t lose good people, plain and simple. The details of her personal life should have been meaningless to this manager, and could easily have solely based the decision on the performance of the employee. (That is not to say the details don’t make it a bit more poignant, just that once it’s stripped down to brass tacks … it’s a poor decision on the managers part either way).

            That being said … can someone give me this employees contact info … I’ll hire her in a heartbeat.

        6. Emmie*

          Sending lots of love and encouragement your way as well. You’ve overcame really tough odds, and I wish you much success, happiness, and support.

        7. Lynne*

          If the person in charge was a leader, s/he would have let the girl go to graduation. S/he should have also attempted to attend the ceremony and/or have a small party for her at work after the ceremony. It would have been a minimal cost and would have meant a lot to the now former employee. I hope the manager has learned something from this experience. Human kindness goes a long way and usually the receiver will give back more to the organization. Huge FAIL on the manager. Huge win for the girl who had the guts to quit.

          1. snuck*

            I like the party idea.

            Everyone is pulling over time, and having to work extra… so why not throw a cake in to celebrate this graduation – and in doing so everyone gets to join in the morale boost and celebrate. How often does someone celebrate a degree graduation???!!!

        8. Effective Immediately*

          Absolutely. My father was a foster child and his whole story is incredibly painful. I was already in the employee’s corner before OP revealed her status as a foster kid, and that just put it right over the edge for me.

          And making an exception for concert tickets but not a graduation?! I’m speculating here, but it sounds like this manager comes from a place of privilege where she can identify with the struggle of paying for concert tickets, but not with the struggle of overcoming a life of foster care and earning a degree.

          This letter just made me sad/angry and reminded me so much of the disconnect you often see in this profession (management),

        9. Jill*

          Kudos to you!

          Yes, he/she was using that foster care thing to beat her down, not recognise the professionalism she achieved in spite of it. Good lord.

      3. Justin K*

        A very close family friend who was essentially a grandfather figure for much of my life growing up passed away several years ago, and I had wanted to attend his funeral. I was told by the owner of the company that since he was not a blood relative that there was no bereavement leave policy covering my taking off to go to the funeral, and that I could take a couple hours off to attend the funeral (I wasn’t even asking for the whole day off) I had to make the choice whether I felt my job was as important as attending this funeral. I should have taken that as a huge red flag and walked away from that job then and there, but I didn’t. I missed the funeral and regret it to this day.
        Also, if it is her first professional job, leaving it can be a blessing in disguise. Many companies that will train their employees in a profession from the ground up are smaller companies that have difficulty finding people who are already trained because they don’t have the payroll to attract experienced talent. So instead of paying great salaries to highly experienced employees, they pay minimal “trainee” salaries to those whom they can train to perform the job to a satisfactory level. I had a supervisor (my first supervisor at that same company, actually) tell me that “the company that trains you will never pay you what you are worth”. In the end, he was right. These types of arrangements are great symbiotic relationships for entry-level candidates and cash strapped small businesses, but employees need to know when to “cut the umbilical cord” so to speak and use their newfound profession to make some real money and advance their careers as they will eventually find themselves becoming too experienced for the small payroll and could end up training their future entry-level replacement (as I did). While I was fired from that particular company after my recently hired final supervisor threw me under the bus to cover up his failure at quoting a job properly and I thought it was the end of the world at the time (having just gotten married/buying a new house two weeks prior), it ended up being a serendipitous happenstance as I found a job doing the same work with a bigger company within two weeks, and received an instant $9,000 salary increase and better benefits to boot as a reward for my experience and niche expertise. Getting fired was the best possible career move for me at the time and I learned a valuable lesson that I should pay attention to the specifics of where my experience level fits into the company dynamic and pull the trigger on an employment shift when I have outgrown the position.

        1. E*

          “the company that trains you will never pay you what you are worth”

          I’m learning this now at my first employer (of 7 years). It hurts because I want to be here forever but I want to be paid what I’m worth. I have worked in every department except IT in those years, and know so much about the company. Why am I not worth what you’d pay an outsider (who’d have to learn all of this)?

      4. Allannah*

        This is exactly why it is not a good idea to work at a company for more than 2-3 years.. you give one single company too much power over your professional references.

    2. PaisleyAvocado*

      6 years in — with an exemplary record of performance, attendance and willingness to work overtime — and she has the lowest seniority? That sounds suspicious to me. This employee should have been moving up the ranks. And yes, this manager needs to seriously reevaluate his/her management style. Unbelievably rude and selfish to put the ‘needs’ of the company before this employee’s right to celebrate such a huge accomplishment. Being a manager means knowing when to bend the rules for the greater good, not arbitrarily enforcing them.

        1. Allisonthe5th*

          this is seriously the most shockingly unaware OP I can remember in the history of this column. Nominee for Bad Boss of 2016. And kudos to the hard working young lady who surpassed the hardships of her background and finished college!!

          1. Kristine*

            I agree; the only other OP who comes close was the one who wanted to speed up the retirement of an older employee. I know a lot of employers would like to have an employee with this young woman’s initiative.

              1. Allisonthe5th*

                Oh yes….that was pretty bad. But at least the OP wasn’t the one writing in to ask for advice to get everyone to fall in line!

          2. Chocolate lover*

            The guy with the fat girls bumper sticker was also pretty unaware, but this one is bad.

      1. LN*

        Agreed – how is someone with that track record the “lowest seniority?” Even if she declined promotions (which I’ve known people to do when they’re juggling school and work) she still should’ve been given the consideration due for six years of exemplary service.

        1. SF*

          Seniority jobs are based on time served, not any form of promotion, skill, or employee merit. So if she’s among the people who have been there the longest, and outside of that longstanding crew they have high turnover, it’s very possible for her to be “the least senior” while still having been present for six years.

          It’s exactly that mentality toward seniority that prevents me from joining strictly union jobs – I expect to be rewarded for merit.

          1. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey*

            Speaking as a union president, I can only say that the sole merit of seniority is that it is impartial: it cannot be manipulated or evaded due to an employer’s prejudices, favoritism, hidden agendas, etc. It’s like one person, one vote: better than any of the alternatives I’ve seen offered over the decades I’ve been in the workforce.

            1. Matt*

              It protects the incompetent at the expense of the competent. All in the name of fairness. Can’t wait for unions to take their last breaths.

              1. Jak Crow*

                The very nature of seniority indicates a competent employee, otherwise they wouldn’t have seniority. And the day unions disappear completely is the day your salary starts going down and your rights as a worker dry up.

                1. Michael*

                  That’s really just not true on seniority. There are plenty of places (union and non-union) that keep incompetent employees because they do just enough to avoid being fired or there is some kind of protection in place (for example, I worked as a fed contractor and one guy didn’t show up for 3 weeks and still wasn’t able to be fired due to protections as a vet… also Teacher tenure can protect incompetent teachers). I’m pro-union, but solely looking at seniority is just lunacy… reward merit.

                2. Erynn*

                  Seniority based on time employed means nothing. People stay employed long enough abd they won’t get fired no matter what they do in half the places I’ve ever seen. It is not ‘fair’.

                3. Yvette*

                  I feel like the entire setup with teachers unions right now us a prime example of why this isn’t true.

                4. catsAreCool*

                  “The very nature of seniority indicates a competent employee, otherwise they wouldn’t have seniority.” Absolutely not true. Also doesn’t tell you if the person has any follow through, puts in any effort, or treats others decently.

                5. Tyler Avi*

                  No, it indicates an employee that has been at the job for a period of time. It does help prevent “firing the old to hiring younger/newer employees for less”, but it doesn’t protect competence as the same group which dictates seniority-based policies also protects the employment status via seniority (i.e. by bumping rights, if your position is eliminated you can “bump” another person of less seniority so they lose their job instead, even if that person is more competent).

              2. Tegdirb*

                Yeah, what have unions ever done for workers?

                I mean, beyond an 8 hour/5 day workweek and things like that.

                1. theironjef*

                  That was in 1937. What have they done lately? Are we also keeping them around due to seniority?

                2. Big Yellow Taxi*

                  Fair pay — everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s a published scale
                  Regular raises (cost of living keeps going up, why should you take home less and less money to stay in your job?)
                  Vacation time
                  SICK LEAVE (keep your germs home, please!)
                  Workplace safety
                  Protections against capricious treatment and favoritism

                  It’s darkly amusing that workers have been convinced to hate the handful of people who abuse union protections, while shrugging off what upper management chisels from them routinely. It’s like the dozen cookie meme — the CEO takes 11 cookies, then tells his employee that the other guy (union, foreigner, whatever) wants the one cookie that is left.

                3. Curtis Schmalenberger*

                  After all, Henry Ford didn’t institute this at his factories without Union pressures.

                4. A. L. Wakely*

                  I worked for a company that would schedule us for 4/6 hours a day, seven days a week, and call themselves “flexible”. What they were doing was staffing for the busy times and giving zero farts for what sort of chaos that causes for a work/life balance. Of course, you could insist on having only a 5-day week…Know what that got you? Ineligible for benefits. BARRELS of fun! Sort of CRACKEd sounding, eh?

              3. Calvin Neal*

                That is not really true. I retired from AT&T. Many incompetent people were fired by the company in my time there. Once the unions die which you cannot wait for, expect another huge jump in economic equality. AT&T never had a problem getting rid of bad employees, happened damn near every week in southeast Michigan.

                1. Kenna*

                  Except that while working for AT&T, I saw the best Assembler in Pleasanton get laid off because she only had 27 years against other people there.

              4. Chaordic One*


                Unions protect the competent from being fired for frivolous reasons, and they ensure that even the incompetent get a fair hearing before they are deservedly fired for cause.

                1. Robin*

                  Neither my husband nor I are union. We both got in a pickle because we were some of the most competent (best paid) non-managers. When budgets were cut, the beancounters didn’t look at performance at all, but only decided that they could save the most by letting the best people go.

              5. tk*

                If the senior employee is incompetent, that’s indicating a deep management issue.
                Does this mean that the competent people all leave for better pay or environments?
                Does this mean the guy knows where the bodies are buried, or is related to management?
                How the hell is an employer holding on to an employee who is Incompetent, long enough for that employee to get seniority?

            2. Pat*

              I am proud to have been a union member (I just retired). However, if you are suggesting that in a case like this that “seniority” should prevail over someone’s being allowed to attend a hard-won college graduation (while excusing someone who purchased concert tickets), your’s is not a union I would be a part of…

              1. Pig Lightning*

                Not sure that this is a union shop, but it would be a messed up union, not worthy of the ideals of solidarity, where one’s sisters and brothers wouldn’t step up and fill in for a shift, given such a circumstance.

                Frankly I doubt it’s a union shop, since any contract worth a damn would have provisions for such exigencies. This just sounds like a pink collar sweatshop.

                1. UnionMade*

                  Yeah, no union shop has this problem. a shop steward would have stepped up for sure, even if it were a rtw state and the steward didnt like the coworker bc they were anti-union. this doesnt happen in union shops. there are disagreements, but union shops dont lose their best workers bc of petulance.

                  this is a case of bad management unchecked by the workers voice.

                  Matt’ll definitely take his last breaths before the proletariat give up the struggle for the fruits of their labor. Seniority is the fairest way to decide time-off. If you do your job, you keep your job, for as long as you do it. and your time is being fairly paid for just like everyone else.

          2. MaggiePi*

            Agreed. Seniority is not a good way to delegate work or perks. Merit should matter.

            1. Jak Crow*

              Most places, people have seniority based on the merit that they’re a good employee and thus has been kept on long enough to have said seniority.

              1. Jeremy Werst*

                I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily true. I’ve seen people with seniority because they just don’t rock the boat, who do the least possible when it comes to actual work or innovation. And I’ve seen them throw people with lower seniority but greater skill and speed under the bus to save their own butt.

                It’s a sad fact, but it’s true.

                They’re not the go-getters, the hardest workers, or the greatest earners. And if someone comes along that’s going to show how lazily they’re actually working, do it better and faster, they push back…

                1. Programmer Dude*

                  If doing the least possible work is the way to gain seniority, then that’s a failure of leadership. It means that innovation and hard work are not rewarded over doing just enough to not get fired. If the high performers are the ones that leave, then you as a manager should ask yourself why. At my last job (in fairness, no union involved) I received the typical kick-in-the-balls 2.5% raise for a “meets expectations” performance review. I asked what I would have gotten if I’d walked on water, and was told 3%. That’s right, the difference between moistening a chair and going above and beyond was half a percent. Considering that going above and beyond meant that you were effectively working a lot of unpaid overtime, getting that glowing performance review could actually HURT your hourly rate.

                  If you don’t give people incentive to work hard, they’re not going to, union or not. If their hard work is not rewarded, they’re not going to work hard anymore, or they’ll leave for a company that treats them better. The ironic thing is that if employers across-the-board stopped treating people like walking cost centers and instead rewarded hard work, unions would be less necessary. Which is why they still are; most employers would rather rip off their own noses than consider treating their employees well.

      2. Philipp*

        The was this letter is written she might have done her job too good. A lazy incompetent manager doesn’t want to “give away” their “go to” employee. I’ve seen this happen before.

        1. Journalist Wife*

          I was just thinking that. In my first career was I repeatedly denied promotions after several years of service because they claimed they would not find another entry level employee who could manage things as well as I could. Ugh. I’m so glad I got out of there.

          1. Adam V*

            > they claimed they would not find another entry level employee who could manage things as well as I could

            “Well, now you have to. I quit.”

            1. Susan*

              I did that very same thing in my very first job, and this was after having to threaten to quit in order to get a raise. I was being fobbed off on getting a raise, and then I found out that the boss had just HIRED someone at my salary. So I confronted her, & she said “Well, people won’t work for less.” & that’s when I told her that *I* wasn’t going to work for anything less than the raise I demanded. She then countered that no one else would pay me more. I then countered that obviously no one was going to pay me less. I did end up having to quit when she started fobbing me off on a promotion. I found a job somewhere else that offered promotions at the end of a training course. My manager tried to talk me out of it by pointing out that “it wasn’t guaranteed”, but I retorted, “And it’s guaranteed I *won’t* get one *here*!” She didn’t say anything else. But the place closed several months after I left!

              1. Chris*

                The place closed several months after you left? That is karma right there. She lost it all and you got a better job. The grass was clearly much greener on your side! Good for you!

        2. littlestripes*

          Also, after 6 years, perhaps it was time for this young woman to move on. Six years is a long time at one company these days, *especially* if it was her first job. I’m sure she’ll do just fine.

          1. ausoleil*

            Especially now that she’s armed with a shiny college degree to go along with that working experience.

          2. Milton Waddams*

            Not sure about that. Six years doesn’t count for much if your manager gives you a bad reference and you have no other jobs to fall back on.

      3. Nursey Nurse*

        I thought the same thing. Either this letter is fake or these are the happiest call center employees in the history of time.

        1. littlestripes*

          I once worked in a pretty small call center that wasn’t terrible. The pay sucked, but the people were pretty chill and we didn’t have many rules. It was for a rather unique industry, though.

          That said, I’ve also held customer service jobs in small companies wherein you only have one or two customer service “agents” who also may run the front desk for those who enter the business/shop/warehouse, whatever. I also did dispatch for one such company, as well as customer service and tech support for drivers AND customers.

      4. Mabel*

        I agree. And it doesn’t even matter what the time off was for. If a stellar employee wanted two hours off for something that was important to them, the manager should have been willing to look at the whole picture and not just enforcing the rules with blinders on.

      5. Deborrah*

        Wondering why the manager didn’t attend the graduation if her best employee, assign other staff to cover for them both, and give her flowers and a gift? I would have quit too. The OP is a very poor motivator and fails at team building. This was a golden opportunity to embrace and support a real winner. Instead the OP snubbed her. And with all those kudos, she should have been promoted long ago. Lots of mistakes made here, none by the worker. Oh and dont you dare send her anything after she no longer works there but an apology. Anything else is cobsidered harassment. You already ruined her graduation by making her quit to experience a once in a lifetime event. Thats quite enough damage to her psyche from you.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Perfectly said, Deborrah. I hope the OP reads this, and takes your words to bear.

      6. Alex*

        Working customer service myself I know that the most talented don’t always (or even usually) see the promotions they should. The harder I work and the more I accomplish the more valuable I am at the position I’m at and they “can’t afford to lose me” by promoting me. Sadly hard work isn’t always rewarded.

      7. Monica*

        Several people have said this, but it isn’t that outlandish! I’ve been in my current position over 5 years, and I have the lowest seniority by 10 years! If it is a relatively small company, it isn’t that crazy! (My company has 300+ employees, but none outside of my department could do my job/cover for me.)

      8. Annonymouse*

        It depends.
        If it is a small company or family run kind of business there tends not to be a lot upward movement.

        And if you aren’t family or in the inner circle you can forget fairness or ever being senior even if you’ve been there longer than above mentioned people.

        The letter reads to me like they’re used to employee always covering for everyone else and the one time she needs it no one wanted to step in. Maybe it’s a culture thing at work or maybe the job is one where extra work = expected with no thanks you just keep your job so if you get the day off you take it.

    3. C.L.*

      She gave notice. The notice was that she was going to attend her college graduation regardless of any schedule. I believe she made a good faith effort to do the right thing by asking her manager, as well as other employees to cover for her. This request wasn’t just any casual request, it was her college graduation that she put in time, effort and money to attain a degree. If she were truly a valuable employee to the manager, the manager would have found a way to accommodate her request. It isn’t as if she graduates everyday, this event was too important to forsake. If i were her manager, i would have required someone to cover her shift. Good for her!

        1. Chantel*

          Right?! I mean, the last concert I went to cost $45 a ticker, and my college education cost almost $30,000.

          1. Jennifer Morrison*

            Even if I don’t count the cost of the tuition and books. I had to pay $100 for my cap and gown, and there was a fee for the graduation ceremony too – I think $60 – (2011) – that’s as much a as a concert.

            1. Charity*

              I was thinking the same thing. My school requires a graduation application with a fee and the cap gown package to graduate. That’s a couple hundred bucks. More than a concert. So how does an exception get made for cost? Graduations cost too and concerts are usually on more than one date.

              1. millsapian87*

                Furthermore, most schools require their undergrads and Ph.D. candidates to attend the commencement ceremony. Think about it: if they weren’t so, there’d be no students at commencement! The ceremonies are often boring and feature a long-winded, uninteresting speaker–although once in a while one gets lucky and Jon Steward or Al Franken or somebody is the commencement speaker. There are ramifications to not attending commencement if you are required to do so.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah what kind of horrible message was that to this woman? That may have been the part that was the final “wtf cersei can go see Justin bieber but I can’t go to my graduation? boss clearly doesn’t care about me like I thought. I’m out”.

          1. Dan*

            Not true. She’s reselling her college education right now at her new job which pays better because of her degree.

      1. John*

        ” If i were her manager, i would have required someone to cover her shift.”

        Heck. If I were her manager, I’d have covered her shift. Employees bettering themselves, even if it means they will be moving on from under my employ, should be the goal of any manager.

        1. Collarbone High*

          SERIOUSLY. I’d have covered the entire day so she could not only go to the ceremony, but enjoy the day she’s worked so hard for.

          1. Fafaflunkie*

            This manager will reap what she sows. I’m glad we’re all in agreement on this one. That “worst boss of 2016” list just keeps on growing. But to have said bad boss write, trying to make her look like the victim, especially since this employee didn’t even ask for the day off, just for two stinking hours so she can attend her college graduation, one she made incredible sacrifices to achieve? Truly this one takes the cake.

        2. phedre*

          Right?! I would have bent over backwards to let a great employee (or any employee for that matter) attend a college graduation. That’s a big deal! If I had to cover the shift myself I would make it happen. Now the OP has lost a stellar employee over 2 hours of work.

          1. Effective Immediately*

            This is what’s truly mindblowing to me. This manager looked at the benefit (have someone cover 2 hours) and the cost (lose great employee) of this decision and thought, “Yep, seems fine.”


        3. Anna Helvie*

          Yes. I would not have asked her to find her own substitutes. I would have volunteered to cover her shift, if I could, plus bought her a present. What a loser of a manager. I hope they see this.

        4. Claire Swazey*

          Exactly. And I have indeed pitched in on weekends and evenings with production tasks when people were behind- regardless of the reason. For someone like this who wants to go to her college graduation- it’s a no brainer. I’d also have gotten her some flowers.

        5. Matt Cohen*

          John hit this one on the head. The manager should have covered the shift themselves if they had to. Loyalty for loyalty, for the past and for the future.

        6. Cindy W.*

          That’s the first thing I thought of too! It would never have occurred to me to not allow her to go. I’d have covered her shift and made everyone else do plenty of non-desirable chores in the meantime, just because.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            I’d have covered her shift and made everyone else do plenty of non-desirable chores in the meantime, just because.

            LOL, I like how you think. Her coworkers are assholes for not helping her out and they all should have been written up. I have never seen that kind of selfishness in the workplace in my life.

        7. Megan Evans*

          I’m with you. I would have covered the entire shift. She should go out an celebrate not have to run back to work.

      2. Peredur*

        I wouldn’t have forced it on anyone but if I couldn’t get anyone to do it then I would have covered that shift myself. It’s the least that should be done for “the best employee”

        Another note: No-one keeps a list of all the times they have worked extra hours or covered for colleagues unless they felt (rightly or wrongly) that they were always getting the bad end of the stick.

        1. Dawn*

          When working hourly, it’s always advisable to track your time separately to ensure you are paid properly. Especially if shifts are catawumpas as this place sounds with all the shift trading. So I can see her having the data handy.

        2. Liz*

          Yeah, the fact that she has a list was a red flag. I wonder what other ways she’s been getting the shaft over the last six years.

        3. Tom Thompson*

          Re: no one keeping a list of extra hours worked etc.
          Unless you have a copy of your original schedule, and a copy of the hours you actually worked so you know the difference and can get paid correctly. I’d have been able to do this at several jobs, and at one of them as the scheduling manager I did it for the entire company.

    4. coffeepowerd*

      I would have quit too, if I were in her situation, after putting in night-classes while working for 6 years in presumably a low-prestige entry level job. This manager reeks of borne entitlement the same way Trump reeks of a small loan of a million dollars.

      I hope she gets a better job. She certainly has the drive to get wherever she needs to!!! *applause*

    5. Lex*

      This man is an ass and a horrible manager. He is a excellent example of why some organizations lose talented members of their team. I’m sorry sir it is you who needs to learn a lesson in this case.

      Congratulations to this young lady on her great achievement and I wish for her many wonderful opportunities in her future

    6. Markyd*

      I have read this letter twice and it stuns me that a manager can be THIS lacking in self-awareness. Unreal.

    7. Linguist Curmudgeon*

      Likewise. I am on “Team Employee” and “Team This Is The Worst Manager Of The Year” here.

      Almost to the point where I have to wonder if LW is sincere…could the letter have been written by a different employee of the company? Usually folks who write in here have more self-awareness.

  2. Karyn*

    I am flabbergasted.

    I can’t believe this is a thing that happened. I had no interest in going to either my college or my law school graduations, but my mother put herself through college AND law school with three kids and a full time job at the age of 45, and you can bet it was important to her. If her bosses hadn’t allowed her to go, she’d have quit on the spot too.

    I also have a hard time understanding how you justify the concert attendance as necessary “because there was cost involved,” but not a college graduation. There’s a substantial cost involved there, too – much more than concert tickets cost.

    I have nothing else to say other than “wow.”

    1. KW*

      That’s all I could think of when I read the post – wow. I hope OP is open minded enough to take Alison’s advice seriously.

    2. MD*

      Seriously. Same reaction here. I’m absolutely stunned. My mouth was literally hanging open reading this even before LW mentioned this employee had the challenging life she’s had. I would have quit too, and I’ve never given less than three weeks notice to an employer.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Same here. My mouth was hanging open and and my eyebrows were up in my hairline. Every statement by the OP was worse than the last: Won’t let employee attend their graduation. Wow. Allows other employees to make coverage arrangements based upon friendships when she knew this person needed the time to go to her graduation; more “Wow”. Let’s another employee have off because concerts are more important than graduations; whut the whut!? And does all of this to an extremely disadvantaged young person — her best, go-to employee [to take advantage of] — and sees absolutely nothing wrong with it!! Head exploding.

        1. Adlib*

          +1,000 to the “take advantage of”. This happens way too often with stand out employees. Short end of the stick constantly.

          1. Andy*

            Yep. I’ve noticed my years of work that part of the problem is the whole “squeaky wheel gets the grease” idea. Many, MANY hardworking, extremely valuable employees are the quiet worker types. They don’t complain, they go above and beyond with expectation of much gratitude, and unfortunately, they end up getting taken advantage of until they can’t take the unfairness anymore and something like this triggers them to leave. Meanwhile, more entitled, schmoozy types are the ones making demands for pay and vacation time. Bosses, even if they mean well, sometimes do not seem well-equipped for juggling these personalities and rewarding their actual most valuable people. This lady seems way more egregious though. What really bothers me here is the feeling I’m getting that the employee’s background led to her being treated as a second-class worker, and to her being left at the bottom of the totem pole there, despite her status as a great employee for years.

            1. littlestripes*

              Obviously this is just complete conjecture, but something tells me this young woman is not white, while her manager is. And I also wonder if the manager is male. Just an inkling. The whole “I want to teach her a lesson” thing reeks of male entitlement.

              1. Kittyface*

                I didn’t go to gender or race on this, I read it as the manager hasn’t gone to college and doesn’t understand what an achievement it is or even worse is intimidated by this underling having gotten a degree, so isn’t going to make an exception for it. And that’s why they feel the need to keep “teaching” the employee things even after she’s quit. Either way it shows an amazing lack of empathy.

                1. catsAreCool*

                  Or maybe the manager went to college and had it all paid for by his/her parents. People sometimes don’t appreciate something as much if it was free.

              2. Doc*

                I have had this happen to me before, and it has never been a man employing some kind of mythical “male entitlement.” Every time an employer has told me they’re doing this for my own good or teaching me a lesson, it has been a woman.

                As an example, I was assaulted at work by a boss. She was, I later found out, going through a tough divorce at the time. Security literally had to pull her away from me. They came to me later and told me that I should press charges as this was NOT okay. Anywho, she later set up a one-on-one meeting with me where she A) threatened to fire me if I ever spoke to anyone in HR again, and B) repeatedly insisted that she was doing this all for my own good. This was a “learning experience” for me.

                Last year, I was let go from a position because of my ailing health. They added a new task to my workload that we had agreed I would not do when I was hired due to health reasons, I got sent to the hospital, and they let me go. Again, a woman was the one doing the firing, and trying to “teach me a lesson” out of this somehow. Her idea of a lesson boiled down to “well maybe you shouldn’t be disabled; people would like you more if you weren’t sick.” As if I could help it. It’s outrageous.

                I’m disabled. People take advantage of that. Male and female. This isn’t a gender thing.

                I’m not trying to say that women are the only people who do this, but I want to shoot down the blatant sexism in your remark. In my experience, it has always been women who try to make it sound like they’re teaching someone something, but even then, I’m not going to say that it’s something only women do, and I’m not going to assume the gender of the manager in this column. I think it’s sexist and wrong to assume that it’s “male entitlement” or that this is a gender-specific problem.

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  The original letter is bad enough but your boss hit you — in front of witnesses with security involved — and then threatened you? She wasn’t let go immediately? And then another person dumped on you over something out of your control that they bait-and-switched you on? Things like this make me despair for humanity.

      2. many bells down*

        I think this resonates with people because it’s exactly the sort of injustice so many of us have experienced in real life. I mean, liver-donor boss may be objectively worse, but that’s not going to happen to 99.9% of us so we can be amused and horrified at the same time.

        It’s like why people hate Dolores Umbridge more than Voldemort. You’re not likely to actually encounter an evil zombie wizard, but I’d wager nearly all of us have had that teacher who hated us and made our lives hell.

        1. MK*

          It’s debatable that liver-donor boss is objectively worse. I mean, what he asks is worse, but he is trying to save his brother’s life, not safeguard another employee’s concert experience. And maybe he is driven to act crazy out of grief; I cannot even fathom how this OP fails to see how in the wrong they are.

    3. Cafe au Lait*

      That was my first thought too! College is a $20,000 (tuition-only) expense at a cheap in-state school, much more at higher tier schools.

      1. Sally-O*

        Yes! There was absolutely a huge “cost involved”! Her graduation was the culmination of an education that was way way way more expensive than some concert tickets. :-/

      2. Ife*

        Plus, there is probably a direct cost to attend the graduation ceremony: you have to buy/rent robes and the graduation cap, and possibly reserve seats for friends/family. I didn’t attend my own graduation ceremonies, but I recall seeing that those costs were not-negligible, probably in the same ballpark as the coworker’s concert ticket.

        1. Seuuze*

          At my university, the graduation gown, cap and tassel totaled about $80 or more. And the stuff was super flimsy and cheap. It is a racket, but one must wear the garb and it is just the one time you would wear it, unless you go on to another degree, or two. One of the many reasons I didn’t go to my graduation.

      3. Friday Brain All Week Long*

        I wonder if the manager went to college. She doesn’t seem to value it.

        1. littlestripes*

          There’s no indication that the manager is a woman, from what I can gather.

          Also, you bet the manager went to college. It’s just that the manager didn’t have to take night classes while working six years for an entitled boss, that’s all. The manager likely went to college right after high school, then got a job in their current industry.

          1. Sam*

            Just so you know, AAM tends to default to female pronouns when gender isn’t specified, and this commenter may be following that convention.

        2. Ralph S. Mouse*

          It does seem like those who didn’t go are the loudest about what a worthless accomplishment it is. Or the ones who went back when tuition was $2K a year and you were guaranteed a good job afterward think that the people who pay $10K a year are racking up those loans just to be friviolous, because the $2k 4-year schools totally still exist everywhere.

          The thing is, even if you go to a school not known for its rigorous academics, just sticking with anything for four years and doing whatever you need to do to scrape by with a degree is something of an accomplishment. People get presents and parties every year just for getting a year older whether they did anything that year or not, but let’s knock college because you didn’t come out of it with a cure for cancer.

      4. Fish Microwaer*

        That’s only taking into account the actual costs of tuition, books etc. There is an opportunity cost as well. It seems to me that the employee stayed in the job with low seniority for six years in order to gain her degree at night. There’s also the personal cost of never taking a sick day and covering for others . The OP is certainly not aware of the employee’s sacrifice, determination or achievement.

    4. CH*

      Well said Karyn.

      Very few letters on Ask A Manager get me so caught up with emotion. Wow, just wow. OP did you even read your letter to see how unprofessional you sound? Your a manager, people should be able to look up to you and follow your example. If you can make an exception for one person (that was for a social event), surely you can make an exception for another (for a major life event positive accomplishment). Did you even consider covering for her yourself? I’m all for following rules, but some rules are meant to be bent. This person proved they are a great employee – if anything you are the one that will get the short end of the stick. You need to reexamine this situation and let this be a career lesson to you. If anything you owe that employee an apology and an amazing recommendation.

      1. INTP*

        Same! The more I think about this the more I fill with rage and I can normally stay fairly detached.

        Seriously…This employee shows up on time, does quality work, and is a go-to for undesirable shifts, all while finishing her degree (which even if online is not always an easy thing to schedule around). The OP has her entire scheduling system designed around avoiding decisions and conflict for herself rather than fairness. The coworkers refuse to help cover shifts based on nothing other than not liking someone. And it is THAT EMPLOYEE whose professionalism OP is concerned about?

        1. Adlib*

          Exactly. If she was a great employee, she knows exactly how to turn in a 2 weeks notice, but this was a deal breaker that necessitated an extreme action. Good on her.

        2. OhNo*

          Me, too. I’m usually all for giving the letter writer the benefit of the doubt, but even my usually even-handed nature was getting sorely tested through this one. And then that last paragraph…

          This is the kind of thing that makes me see red. I’m so upset on the employee’s behalf, and I’m honestly really, really glad that she quit and can move on to another job. Hopefully one where they actually do value her, and not just pay lip service to the idea.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Agreed. Six years is a long time to be the best person…and 2 hours late is…
        I want to be at this graduation to cheer this amazing person on!

        1. Sally-O*

          A less-professional employee might have just called in sick on graduation day, but your employee was honest and only asked for 2 measly hours off. Please reach out to her and let her know you will give her a stellar recommendation!

        2. AnonInSC*

          Agreed. LW – You should have given her the entire day off to enjoy her accomplishment.

        3. Patricia Delzell*

          Being a manager of an outstanding employee myself in the past… Situations of this caliper have arisen. Do unto others , I myself pulled the double or extra hours to allow my associate to better themselves. Accomplishment and compliments make stronger employees. You dropped the ball. The two extra hours would not have broken or hurt you ! YOUR THE MANAGER ! Earn the respect of this title

    5. Bee Eye LL*

      What if it had been a funeral or wedding instead of a graduation? I bet it would have been treated the same way.

      1. Edith*

        If it was a small, intimate wedding she would’ve had to come in. But a big blowout wedding would have been accommodated. You know, because of the cost involved.


        If I were the employee in question the fact that a coworker was allowed to switch because of concert tickets would have been what pushed me over the edge. Such a blatant slap in the face. But, yeah OP. *She’s* the one who’s unprofessional.

        1. INTP*

          Yeah, the concert tickets thing and the coworkers refusing to cover for her but covering for each other makes this seem like the employee is being bullied by everyone. Maybe they’re being more obliviously cruel than intentionally cruel, but even if it was obliviousness rather than bullying (a big “if” imo), it’s clear the employee didn’t have anyone’s support and her schedule was going to be absolute crap until she did. Maybe giving notice would have been more professional, but quitting was 100% justified.

          1. Zillah*

            Yeah, unless I had something important to do, I really can’t imagine not covering for a coworker in this position. The OP should have stepped in, ofc, but I give a massive side eye to her coworkers as well.

            1. INTP*

              And even if it weren’t such a major event, it’s weird that they’re accepting and declining requests for coverage based on who they are buddies with in the first place. When I had a similar job, if I wanted the hours and was available for the time slot, I’d accept the first person who asked, not refuse a shift just because I wasn’t friends with the asker then seek overtime from other coworkers. They all sound cliquish and unprofessional if not downright mean.

              1. Kyrielle*

                I wonder if they didn’t want the shift, but ‘could’ do it, and thus responded to a friend saying “Please? Timmy has a game that day and I really want to watch it” but not to a non-friend asking so they could go to their own graduation. Still not nice, but – not quite the same as wanting the swap but being careful who benefits.

          2. Kyrielle*

            Also, how much warning was given for this *unexpected* work day? If it was less than 2 weeks away by the time it was crystal clear she couldn’t have the two hours off, giving two weeks notice may not have been possible. If the whole discussion took place the same week as the Saturday in question, for example, and it was Wednesday or Thursday when she got final “you’re screwed” confirmation…well, is quitting on the spot *really* any different from giving a day or two of notice? I’d have taken the extra time to vent into a journal, take a hot bath, and generally get over my distress at being treated that way.

            Yes, if this happened a month in advance of graduation, the quit-on-the-spot is a bit much. But…I’d be surprised if it did.

            1. Rater Z*

              I had the feeling that the request was finally denied the night before the graduation. The employee seems to have spent some effort trying to come with up with someone to cover for them only to have everyone turn her down. It also looks like the extra day was sprung on them without notice or very short notice making it even worse for the employee who’s desperately trying to find a way to do both things the proper way.

        2. Joseph*

          “If I were the employee in question the fact that a coworker was allowed to switch because of concert tickets would have been what pushed me over the edge.”
          This exactly.

          I can 100% guarantee you that the employee heard this as “Your graduation, a once-in-a-lifetime-event is less important than John seeing the concert”.

        3. MashaKasha*

          Hah, I guess the funeral would’ve had to involve the most expensive coffin and a giant stone. Otherwise, there’s no significant cost involved, go ahead and come in.

      2. EvanMax*

        It was years before I left, but I always remember when I was denied leaving work a couple of hours early at one job in order to attend my cousin’s funeral (we are Jewish, so funerals are scheduled short notice.) My boss had given me a tentative “maybe” on being able to attend, as soon as I had the time and date and gave it to him, and when the moment came for me to leave he informed me that we hadn’t made enough outbound calls as a store that day, and so I couldn’t leave until those were done.

        I honestly don’t even blame that boss (he’s a really nice guy otherwise, even if he had some failings as a boss) so much as I blame the culture of retail and coverage scheduling. The pressure comes down from the top, and it is far too easy to lean on your best employees to their own detriment, rather than find a way to manage all of your people up.

        1. Manders*

          That’s a good point. OP still made a really bad call, but there’s a good chance there’s a larger issue in this department with pressure to make the numbers look right while forgetting about the people behind those numbers. That pressure might be coming from somewhere well above OP’s level.

          1. EvanMax*

            Just to clarify, my boss at the time didn’t let some one else out who had paid for tickets to something while I was forced to stay behind and miss the funeral. The fact that the OP had the latitude to allow the ticket holder out of work shows that the pressure in place wasn’t enough to prevent anyone from leaving.

            That’s the real issue here. If the boss had zero latitude to allow anyone off from work, then it would be an unfortunate story that sadly ended the way it did. The fact that the boss did indeed have discretion, but used it poorly, is the real problem that I see here.

            I’m just conjecturing, but I imagine that the employee with concert tickets was more of a “squeaky wheel” type, and the manager assumed that they would deal with a larger wrath of that employee complaining about sunk costs versus the top employee being upset about missing their graduation. This is why greasing only the squeaky wheels is a terrible terrible idea.

            1. KSm*

              I think you forgot that the boss mocked her background for being an orphan. The problem here is not on how the system works but rather on people’s decreasing emphathy. The system is pre-made and fixed, but humans are not. I’ll accept your boss and the OP’s action of denying your leave if and only if there’s no one else who can cover for you and that it would be very detrimental to your employers company/business. What is a little sacrifice for something very personal and monimental in someone else’s life.

              I applaud her for not giving into the system and for celebrating her own hard work and achievement which most people take for granted just to please others. Yes, she might have ended jobless afterwards but that’s only for certain period of time. She did not achieve the title “best employee” for nothing. She has skills and it will reflect on her future job interviews, especially with a college diploma attached to her cv.

      3. Kenya Coviak*

        I actually had HR show up at my foster mom’s funeral. Out of “kindness”. Because they disputed the validity of the bereavement.

        1. Karen*

          Did they go to make sure you were there and weren’t just making something up to get time off?

          No matter what this is horrible and I hate these people

    6. Liana*

      +1 to this. She was willing to make an exception for a $100 concert ticket, but not for a college degree that presumably cost thousands of dollars more? That poor employee.

      After all we do to push kids into college and encourage them to place so much self-worth in having a college degree, to refuse to let someone attend their own graduation just seems cruel.

    7. louise*

      I got the concert ticket part and sarcastically thought, oh, yup, college graduation is a no cost event–anyone can just show up and get a flippin’ degree.

      1. Anon Moose*

        Not to mention- maybe there are people who are coming to see her graduate? If not family, perhaps former mentors etc? There’s a cost there for them.

      2. davey1983*

        The school where I got my undergraduate degree is a well known state school. Anybody can go to graduation and fill out a card and they will announce your name (I actually know a couple of people who did this as they didn’t want to admit to their parents they had failed a course and was going to retake the course over the summer or next fall).

        The diplomas were mailed about a week or so later, however. All that was received at the graduation ceremony was a nice diploma holder with a picture of some random building at the school.

        1. Abby*

          That’s just lazy. I went to a university with 30,000 students and all our names were printed on cards beforehand. No pretending to graduate allowed.

    8. BWooster*

      I work in retail managing a team. I have a colleague who I can count on for just about anything. I have overtime to fill but no one to fill it? She will do it. Two employees called in sick and I have no coverage? She will stay on. She cross trained herself on every job in the department and I can put her in any gap which is an enormous help when working out a schedule.

      Forget graduation, if she asked for a mental health day and I couldn’t fill her shift, I’d do it myself. Considering how much easier she makes my life, I will bend over backwards to accommodate her requests. I can not imagine treating her the way the letter writer treated the standout in her staff. This is so egregious, I gotta wonder if the letter writer had been promoted to a manager literally 30 seconds before the employee made her request.

      Teams live or die by colleagues like this, as the manager is about to find out.

      1. BWooster*

        And after all that, she wants to lecture her on her professionalism? Physician, heal thyself!

          1. Emmie*

            The only issue I could see as relevant would be notice of the event. For instance, did the employee give enough notice to attend? You usually know the grad date months in advance. Even so, if the employee did not give notice w/in the required timeframe, the OP would’ve stated that as a reason for denial. ( I wouldn’t deny the request for improper notice. I would address it with the employee – assuming the policy was known and consistently enforced)

            1. Jessica*

              My read of this is that since the office isn’t normally open on that day, the employee wouldn’t have known that she’d need to give notice of her graduation (until the change was announced).

            2. JHow*

              It sounds like this was a day they normally didn’t work, so if they’re normally closed on Saturdays, she wouldn’t have needed to even ask about a Saturday ceremony until this extra day of work was brought up.

            3. Emmie*

              Good points, Jessica and JHow. I am just trying to see if there is even one valid concern for the manager.

              1. Desdemona*

                Even if the graduation was a month away when the request was denied, if this were done to me, I don’t know that I could give them even another hour of honest work. Not one coworker willing to let me celebrate my accomplishment, and my manager playing favorites for a guy with concert tickets? Let them scramble to cover the next month, plus make one of those jerks cover the dang two hours.

      2. CollegeAdmin*

        I was that type of employee – covering shifts, working late, never taking time off, etc. – when I worked retail in high school and college. My usually obnoxious boss filled in for me once so I could go to the beach to celebrate my friends’ graduation, since no one was available to cover my shift. I’ve never forgotten it.

        OP, your former employee will also never forget this instance, but in a very different way.

        1. BWooster*

          I was also an employee like that before I was promoted. And I was always a bit outside looking in with other members of my group. Everyone was lovely but swapping a shift was difficult. So my manager found swaps for me when I asked even though I was supposed to find cover myself. Because of that, and many other ways she made me feel valued, I almost never said “No” when she needed something. I’d have been heartbroken if she treated me the same way the letter writer treated her employee.

          1. CW*

            I was the same way. I bartended for four years during and after college, and would pick up any shift needed, stay on late, etc. As a result, my managers were always the first ones to grant me special permissions in the instance that I needed them – and it kept me working there far longer than I probably needed to. It fostered a work environment where I felt valued for my service. Not letting someone go to a college graduation – especially their own, given their situation? That’s deplorable. Hard to even imagine how this person managed to justify it in their own mind.

        2. CJB*

          I was this employee too when I worked in retail. Always covered shifts for other people, came in with 30 minutes notice on my day off and very rarely called in sick.
          I wasn’t given the opportunity to book holidays as I wasn’t told the process in January and could never get anyone to agree to covering my shifts. I once came back from a holiday to do a scheduled shift and then return to my holiday, paying more than I earned in that shift. I almost missed going to my parents for Christmas one year as my shift finished at the same time as the last train on Christmas eve and I wasn’t able to swap it to a slightly earlier shift.
          I really hope this employee found a job that appreciates her!

        3. Chalupa Batman*

          It broke my heart to imagine how the employee’s special day that she worked so hard for was tarnished because she was thinking about how she’s going to eat next week. She’ll forget a lot of day to day crap about this job, but she’ll never forget the moments they took away from her that day.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        From the subtext of the letter, I got the impression that this employee has been doing this job with little to no support from anyone. Her coworkers sound cliquish: they wouldn’t cover for her for an important life event, but then they frivolously rearranged their time for whatever shifts were convenient to them. The manager doesn’t manage; sometimes it’s okay to let people arrange their own coverage, but I think some intervention is called for when it’s warranted, as it was in this case. And it sounds like the manager kind of took advantage of the OP (relying on her for all the worst shifts and refusing to make any accommodations in return) because she knew she had few options. The whole situation is simply appalling.

        1. Eplawyer*

          I saw that too. Oh this person always puts the company first so no problem ignoring their needs. They would never quit so who cares how they get treated. Guess op learned it does matter to treat your employees who work hard well.

        2. BWooster*

          The whole “least seniority” policy is such crock of you-know-what too. It’s fine if people with more seniority had first pick of undesirable shifts they need to work, but everyone should be working at least some of these shifts. This burden shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of least senior colleagues only.

          1. Sherry*

            Perhaps the company should look at offering some kind of premium pay for working these unusual hours. For example, some companies will pay an extra $1 or $2 per hour for working overnights or Sundays. Could be worth it if there’s often trouble filling those shifts.

              1. Liz*

                I work in food service, and it’s pretty common for managers to cover a meal for us if we cover a shift on short notice. It’s a nice perk, anyway; who doesn’t like free food?

          2. LCL*

            Seniority works great if the manager does their job. This manager isn’t-having people arrange their own coverage is crap. And will fail spectacularly.

            1. Allisonthe5th*

              I’m not sure about the seniority thing working in this scenario. If the org has a steady flow of employees that stay less than a year, it definitely makes sense to reward some for staying. However, in the scenario where someone with 6 years of perfect attendance is still stuck with the worst shifts Bc of “seniority” that’s definitely broken Bc there is no way for her to get ahead. Ever. Unless EVERYONE else quits! Ridiculous!

              1. Zweisatz*

                Seriously. And I have to wonder if the others aren’t staying partly because they don’t have to take the terrible shifts often. Ironic…

        3. Honeybee*

          Yeah, that’s what I saw, too. It seems to me like this employee didn’t just quit because of the graduation – the graduation was the last straw for her. It seems to me that she felt taken advantage of and maybe overwhelmed and unsupported, and so when she couldn’t even get the time off for her graduation – because no one would switch with her, and because her manager didn’t help her get the time – she just snapped and quit.

        4. catsAreCool*

          It bothers me that the manager said that the people at work are about the only people the young woman has in place of family. I hope the manager is wrong about that too, because these people at work, including the co-workers, don’t seem like much of a family to her.

      4. Joseph*

        “Considering how much easier she makes my life, I will bend over backwards to accommodate her requests. ”
        Exactly. It may sound unfair, but the best employees tend to get more leash than the rest, because the brutal truth is that your all-star employees are what really keeps everything else running smoothly:
        >Your best salesman sells enough teapots that you can still make a profit even if the rest are barely making quota.
        >Your best engineer saves the company money by making small-but-crucial adjustments to the design that others didn’t think of.
        >Your best retail employees make sure things still run smoothly even when someone fakes an illness or shows up hungover and slacks off.

        It’s also worth noting that it’s much easier to replace an average performer than an all-star. You can always find another mediocre customer service rep [insert Comcast joke here]. But finding or developing a great one takes a lot of time and effort.

    9. Artemesia*

      I skipped two of my own graduations and yet am just appalled at the cruelty shown to this excellent worker. A concert ticket is a home free card because there is ‘cost involved’ but celebrating an achievement so impressive for this excellent worker is nothing? Just WOW. I hope she gets a great job and has a great boss. There was unprofessional behavior here, but it wasn’t the graduating employee.

    10. pope suburban*

      A part of me died when I read about the concert tickets. I mean…stinkin’ CONCERT TICKETS? Versus a college graduation after such hardship, while working hard enough to be the company’s best employee? That is just beyond belief. I really have a hard time believing that the whole business would fall apart if this employee came in two hours late (Which, by the way, wow, she wasn’t even asking for the full day off to celebrate) and the manager maybe, maaaayyyybe had to cover some of her duties. This is so needlessly mean, especially when it seems that other employees can get out of a shift for what are pretty minor reasons.

      1. Andy*

        This, and OP saying “Oh and I now I’d like to guilt trip her, so I can get the last word in and still exert a sense of power over her, and pretend it’s under the guise of wanting to be a mentor.”

        1. Big Yellow Taxi*

          OP seems unable to comprehend and/or deal with this employee finally standing up for herself, so his/her gut reaction is to badger her back into her place.


          Keep walking, Graduate Gal. Don’t look back.

      2. Nic*

        The fact that she wasn’t even asking for a full day off is what blows my mind and says a lot about the kind of employee she was – all she asked for was 2 hrs leeway to be able to attend the actual ceremony, not even the full day to partake in other celebrations. You’re telling me the business couldn’t have survived without her for those 2 hrs? Cause if that’s the case, you’re in deep trouble, since now she’s going to be gone for the rest of forever.

    11. Newby*

      So true. Monetary cost should not be the only consideration. Graduating was a huge accomplishment for her and she will never get the opportunity to attend that ceremony again. She was right to quit since apparently she was not actually valued at that company.

    12. Jen*

      This was my thought. “well so and so paid money for concert tickets so I et them go”

      College is 2748462 times more expensive than a concert, and this employee has been thru hell to get there.

    13. LizC*

      My response to the “there was cost involved” for the concert tickets: you can resell concert tickets. There’s no StubHub for your own college graduation. The OP was definitely taking advantage of the stellar employee not having any family around, because you can bet a lot of parents would have showed up at work to help deliver their child’s resignation letter in this scenario.

      1. dbpb*

        WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN AWFUL – any parents reading: no matter how tempting, do not ever help deliver your adult child’s resignation.

        But yes, your point is an excellent one. :)

      2. Gaia*

        I know you didn’t mean it, but man I wish there was a StubHub for college degrees. I would gladly sell mine and get something different instead.

  3. KT*

    I just…whut?

    OP, your former employee will be fine. She displayed excellent work ethic, went above and beyond, got a degree on her own time and has pride in herself.

    You were way out of line. I absolutely would have quit on the spot too, and explaining WHY she quit to any future employer is going to fix any concerns they have. Any reasonable employer would have allowed her to go to her graduation ceremony. Geez, she was a foster child, homeless, yet somehow your best employee AND got a degree? You should have thrown her a party.

    And the fact that you allowed someone to switch because of concert tickets (?!?!?!?!) just blows my mind.

    Unless you are calling her to grovel and apologize and offer her her job back, leave her alone.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      “Unless you are calling her to grovel and apologize and offer her her job back, leave her alone.”

      I couldn’t have put it better myself!

      Seriously though, OP, concert tickets are not more important or more costly than an graduation. Reasonable exceptions are fine, but that one sent a terrible message. This young woman had a lot of money and time invested in her education and succeeded against overwhelming odds. I think you might want to swallow your pride on this one and invite her back.

    2. Sadsack*

      But be prepared to give her a nothing-but-positive reference in the future, no matter what happens if you offer her the job back.

      1. Jess*

        Oh yes. OP, you had better give this amazing woman the best reference of your life after this. She was an outstanding employee and you treated her so, so cruelly.

    3. louise*

      And if the OP does offer the job back (with groveling, of course)? I really hope the newly minted college grad has a better option and can enjoy the satisfaction of turning it down.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Ooh, I really hope she was planning on quitting shortly anyway (but was just waiting on an offer letter or something), and THAT’s why she quit on the spot!

    4. Artemesia*

      This concert detail ticket makes me wonder if this letter was actually written by the employee or an onlooker rather than the boss who made this heartless and short sighted decision.

      1. Anon Moose*

        Why would they then put the bit in about lecturing the employee about professionalism?

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I got the same vibe as Artemesia. Why throw in the parts about homelessness, foster system, etc.? They’re not at all relevant. And 6 years is an eternity in a call center. The bit about the lecture is so over that top that it sounds off. But it has to be phrased as a question to be submitted here.

          Honestly, it sounds like it was written by an employee seeking validation for quitting and not by a manager asking for advice.

          1. Koko*

            Because OP thinks the homelessnesss &etc are why she has no sense of professional norms.

            We have been asked to take LWs at their word here and not assume they are lying.

            It seems far more likely to me that someone would just be clueless than for someone to go through the trouble of obscuring their identity when writing in to an anonymous advice column on the internet.

            1. my two cents*

              I’m fairly sure that folks who have endured hardships like that certainly wouldn’t say the hardships were why someone lacked a sense of professional norms. Out of ALL of the possible effects of such an upbringing, why would ‘professional norms’ be the top of the list?! Also, why would the letter be phrased as wanting to dole out more “advice” to the employee who quit? C’mon guys – just assume the letters are real.

              I can’t IMAGINE being that employee – walking out on a job after such a slap in the face and then for the manager to NOT address their error, but instead turn it around that my reaction was only because I ‘wasn’t raised right’ or ‘grew up in a poor household’ or something. You’re minimizing their reaction to YOUR (yes you, OP) bad management by trying to make it about your feelings instead.

              An employee who has been in a role for 6 years understands the ‘professional norms’ of that workplace, and this one even went above-and-beyond the professional norms of that office to out-perform the apparently ‘more senior’ folks.

            2. Lucy*

              Exactly. I have never ever heard anyone from those types of situations (foster care, poverty, etc) speak in that kind of voice. However, as an Asperger’s autistic person who was treated badly by teachers at a segregated Special Ed school, I have heard many of my unfriendly teachers take this sort of tone. Particularly the remarkably Dolores Umbridge-like woman who ran the Transitions department (the department that gave the people at my school work experience, which was one 4-hour day a week and for which we earned a 50-cent “stipend” to see what pay is like – way less than even an elementary-school kid’s allowance, which we could save if we choose; I always did) who had no problem doing such things as arranging a mock-professional event for which a parent needed to sign a permission slip and send in about 14 bucks (these were high-school students, mind you), and then for someone (not me, I’m female and I believe that student was male) who probably forgot to send in the money due to executive functioning problems (after all, that is a special ed school), or else because the family forgot, took away most of that saved stipend (like 14 out of 20 bucks for the whole year) for “fulfilling financial obligations”, when. I mean, come on. How about giving that kid a warning first, before the event? Or, if there is financial trouble in the home, either allowing him to miss the event or simply euphemizing the payment as a “scholarship fund” of sorts. Besides, when a permission slip is signed, it is the parent’s responsibility to provide the funds, provided the parent is unable to afford it. I mean, I can see that if this was a situation in which students were generally expected to front such payments themselves, but doing this when a permission slip is signed for the event? That’s essentially punishing someone for something the parent did. How about just warning him to bring in the money, calling his parents, and, if he forgets, issuing a school consequence? After all, docking a large majority of a year’s stipend when the pay is only 50 cents a week is a mockery; it kind of says that because you forgot something once, your recognition of the year’s training isn’t worth much at all.
              As for me, I once won first place in a Halloween costume contest at school in which a prize was promised for the winner because of a handmade flowering bush costume which, while it was crafted with safety pins and silk flowers from a nursery on a shirt so I would be able to use the shirt again, was quite beautiful if I do say so myself; it took quite a while to make it even so. However, when it came to giving me the prize, no prize was available, not even an IOU for the choice of gift certificates they gave us. Furthermore, every time I asked when they would be getting me the prize, a Barnes and Noble gift certificate I requested out of a number of choices (no more often than once a month, as I believe those administrators would have considered me a pest if I had asked more often, and I also didn’t tell my parents because I believed at the time that that would be “whiny” and “babyish”; you must understand, I had been in schools that treated me this way for all of my school life until college, and I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be treated this way) they kept saying that they forgot to order it, and in this small school in which “everyone knows everyone else”, they didn’t arrange to order the prize right there when they had time, which they probably did; it would have taken them a few minutes to order it online, even to get it delivered to my home address just to be sure they remembered. I believe most people would agree that if you promise a prize for a well-earned victory, you should give it.
              Furthermore, I helped run a small stuffed-animal drive for the homeless once, which I started by giving away some of my old stuffed animals, yet the description they gave of me at my high school graduation ceremony said nothing about it. What is really gross in retrospect is that they waxed warmly about a bodybuilder-in-training who wanted to be Mr. Universe. I don’t know about you, but a bodybuilder, who is pursuing a goal only for himself that isn’t even related to most careers, should not get more accolades than someone who runs a small charity drive, writing posters, putting out boxes, packing stuffs, whatnot; this type of act is not only not self-aggrandizing, it actually does contain skills (planning, packing, proposing) that could be applicable to careers.
              I’ll say one thing; those people certainly gave me good training in what bad bosses look like. And one of the things I learned about what bad bosses look like is that only bad bosses talk the way the OP does in this letter; no student, poor person, or otherwise unprivileged person talks like this – it would feel like a punch in the gut to type out a letter in this manner, and a person who was treated in an underappreciated fashion, like both I and the employee was for different reasons, would be deathly afraid that people would think the boos they made up was right; if “Ask a Manager” had thought the boss was right and the employee was actually the one who wrote the letter, it would have crushed the employee after all that hard work; as someone who was often bullied by teachers not even including the ones I mentioned here, I know. I would feel the same types of emotions even though my experiences differ from those of the OP. I don’t talk like this manager, either, and I recognize that, while the way I was treated at high school graduation makes such ceremonies meaningless to me, especially since me and my parents are “poor relations” in a fairly well-to-do, 1% but not super-wealthy, family, who went to schools that would be undeniably privileged (one of things that stuck out to me was that I was one of the few students who couldn’t afford to go on a high school trip to Europe because we didn’t have the money) if the teachers had treated me like an adequate human being, and has attended some other fairly fancy ceremonies, that the same kind of ceremony would be deeply meaningful to a person from the foster care system who beat the odds and had never gone to such a fancy ceremony in her life; a ceremony would surely be recognition of that.
              And no, bullying, bad teacher behavior, and emotional abuse are not something that can be excused with privileged luxuries. Nope.

          2. Kate M*

            People keep mentioning that this is a call center, but the letter doesn’t say that. It’s possible that it is, but the letter says that PART of their job is customer support. I definitely know other workplaces than call centers that give customer support sometimes, especially when they launch a new product. So all this speculation about how six years is way too long for a call center isn’t even based in what the letter says.

            1. kyle*

              Exactly — I know someone who works in customer support for a well-known video game company and it sounds a lot like how the OP describes the job; it would be possible to hold onto a job there for 6 years (the person I know has), and it has the product release cycle, as well as a similar …non-employee-oriented… management style, somewhat crazy seniority rules, employees with a range of educational backgrounds, much more complex jobs than simple call-center work, cliques, etc. (I almost wonder if this is the same place or at least the same industry.)

          3. Anon Moose*

            Honestly, if these are the facts of the situation then I think that the advice (and the direction of the sympathy/ comfort) would likely have been the same- supportive of the employee who quit for her graduation. So even in your worst case scenario “its really the quitting employee seeking validation,” I think it doesn’t really matter.

          4. Jayn*

            I think it was a manager looking for validation, feeling vaguely guilty and wanting to justify their decisions.

            (Cost?! FFS there is a HUGE cost to missing graduation for this employee. It’s not financial, But that doesn’t make it unworthy of consideration.)

          5. littlestripes*

            “customer service” doesn’t necessarily mean “call center” though.

        2. Jessica*

          Maybe a second-in-command who is trying to convince the boss not to call up the former employee to deliver the lecture?

          1. OhNo*

            If that’s the case, one can only hope the boss listens.

            No matter who in this situation actually sent the letter, the fact that reader opinions are so unilaterally in favor of the employee really says all anyone needs to know.

      2. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

        Not to mention that a concert ticket is purchased with full knowledge of the day and time that it is scheduled, so employee had a choice, and knew s/he could get away with this. Graduating employee has no choice in scheduling. Everyone else here has covered every other comment I want to make about the unfairness and lack of professionalism by the LW and the staff, so I won’t pile on, but boy did I tear up reading this letter, and cheer at Alison’s response. I wish New Graduate a lifetime of success and empathy when she eventually becomes a manager, and the letter writer a gentle taste of humble pie. I hope this comment backlash doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Please don’t punish the New Grad further with unsolicited unprofessional advice or a poor recommendation..this was a learning experience all around.

        1. Cactus*

          Yeah, but there’s a good chance that neither the concertgoing employee nor the graduating employee knew that they’d have to work on this day far in advance–the letter says it was out of their ordinary work hours. The concertgoer probably bought the tickets (possibly far in advance) thinking they’d have the day off anyway, and the graduate didn’t alert the boss months and months ahead of time that she’d need that day off because she also assumed that it wouldn’t be a normal working day.
          I don’t think the concertgoer is behaving nefariously here; but they are receiving favoritism from the boss while the graduate is getting the short end of the stick, and that’s really not okay. The boss should know that making fairly last-minute scheduling changes like that might result in some people having previous commitments that they can’t get out of, and should work around that in a way that doesn’t involve some people having to miss graduations.

          1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

            It wasn’t clear to me that the concert and the graduation were the same day, hence the first part of my comment. Regardless, poor choice of intervening to reward one employee over another.

            1. Jessica*

              After rereading the letter, my understanding is that both the concert and graduation were on the same day (I think it’s safe to say that both concert and graduation dates were announced months in advance, since those things usually are, whereas the weekend support requirement was made known with much less notice). Both the concert-goer and graduate asked the manager to be excused because of prior obligations, and the manager LW excused the concert-goer while denying the graduate.

        2. Marzipan*

          Yeah, I would agree that someone buying tickets for an event on a day they wouldn’t normally expect to be working could reasonably have assumed they’d be OK. I’ve certainly bought theatre tickets many months in advance before (a year in advance, in the case of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch) and would have been unhappy had someone suddenly decided I was working that day.

          Actually, thinking about it, I booked tickets a few months ago for a play in October, carefully timing it so I’d be past the busy time of year at work… only for them to later casually mention that they’ve moved one of the key events of the year to that day. So I told them that was unfortunate for them but I wouldn’t be working that day. And that’s OK. So I think it was reasonable to adjust the schedule for the concert-goer, but I also (and lots, lots more) think it should have been adjusted for the graduating employee.

      3. lowercase holly*

        same vibe. i don’t think the manager in question would have the self-awareness to write in.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      Agreed! Especially when one can sell concert tickets on Stubhub or other websites. They can recoup their cost rather easily. Someone who came up against such monumental odds to achieve their degree AND was your best employee bar none? Stupid, stupid move, OP.

    6. Sketchee*

      Indeed, the letter could be summed up easily as “I still don’t appreciate my former best employee. I don’t trust her ability to have personal priorities. And I let my team make important scheduling decisions based on popularity or just because they don’t feel like it.”

      It’s actually nice in a way to read a letter from one of the managers we frequently hear about. Just to know that many managers honestly aren’t trained or experienced in seeing from the employees’ perspectives.

    7. Troutwaxer*

      And give her a raise! (Grumble, obscenity, REDACTED, grumble, another obscenity, grumble, outrageously horrible obscenity, blasphemous obscenity, Lovecraftian-ish impossibly blasphemous obscenity, anatomically impossible obscenity, REDACTED, Trump!)

      1. cedar*

        +1000 points to you Troutwaxer for creatively showing your disdain without dreary swear words…as I probably would have. ALL THE POINTS to Alison Green for her response to the OP. I hope the OP reflects on his/her mistake.

        BTW, Why does everyone assume OP is a woman, or that the employer is a call center?

    8. Fafaflunkie*

      I’m pretty sure even VIP passes with a personal meet-and-greet for a concert involving (insert flavour of the week pop star) will cost far less than a college education. Talk about this boss being short-sighted! Shame on her.

    9. stevenz*

      Agree completely with this comment especially “You should have thrown her a party.”

      OP, What you can do to (partially) make it up to her is to give her the kind of reference that you gave in this post when her next employer calls.

  4. jhhj*

    You absolutely deserved it. If she’s such a great employee, you can apologize and invite her to return, and in any case offer to give her a great reference.

    I cannot believe you switched time for someone who had concert tickets but not someone who wanted to go to her graduation ceremony. (Though actually I think you were right for switching times for the first employee, but you should have done this for her also.)

  5. ZSD*

    1) I’m amazed that someone who’s been there for six years could be the least senior team member! This must usually be a great place to work.
    2) Yes, OP, you were clearly in the wrong. College graduations are a big deal. When I got my PhD, my boss actually changed her own vacation plans so that I could fly to attend my graduation ceremony. People work hard to earn degrees – particularly people with difficult backgrounds like your former best employee! – and you should work to help them celebrate.
    You should really offer her the job back, but if for some reason you feel you can’t, please at least offer to be a stellar reference for her in her job search.

    1. ZSD*

      And incidentally, I think it’s crazy that she only asked for two hours off to go to the ceremony! Graduating deserves taking a full shift off, I should think.

      1. Nikki T*

        YES! I was thinking the same thing. She didn’t even want the entire day off, just two hours.

        I … unbelievable.

        1. Observer*

          What’s worse is she wasn’t asking for time of her regular shift, but two hours less OVERTIME!

        2. many bells down*

          That’s what killed me. Two hours and then she planned to come right back in and go to work for you, LW. As your best employee. Who NEVER misses work. And you couldn’t give her two lousy hours.

      2. Sadsack*

        Yeah, I don’t know what this company does, but 2 hours should not be such a big deal.

      3. Natalie*

        Absolutely. I had to travel to mine and I think I took 2 days. And sometimes they’re really long – my ex’s was 6 hours or something like that.

    2. Anxa*

      I was also a little confused by your first point.

      I mean, the job doesn’t sound like one where there’s a clear path to growth with the company for the majority of the workers. It seems odd.

      1. Kit*

        Lots of jobs have no path for growth. I work in a grocery store, and while I am on a management path, many coworkers at my level have been there for 10 years. This is typical for lower and working class careers.

        1. nicolefromqueens*

          But someone, a great employee, who is there six years, in an environment with little room for growth?

          Well, it seems like a fun place to work, what with so many favoritism, I mean friendships!

          1. nicolefromqueens*

            Er, I meant to add that she’s also one of the lowest-senior employees, at 6 years.

        2. Anxa*

          That’s what I mean. This doesn’t seem like a job where everyone will easily rise through the ranks, which is pretty common (it’s certainly been true for everywhere I’ve worked).

          So I assumed that there would be some sort of attrition.

          I had been thinking of seniority as length of tenure, though.

      2. Elinor*

        It could be a “gets you through college” kind of job. A close friend of mine worked at a grocery store to get through college. No growth, but it kept her afloat.

      3. Anxa*

        I think what I failed to consider was that ‘seniority’ was all about actual hierarchy and not time-served. Most orgs I’ve been involved in operated more on a tenure-length based system.

    3. davey1983*

      I use to work for a US federal agency. In my office, I was the most junior person for the entire time I was there– which was about 5-6 years.

  6. JustAnotherHRPro*


    reading this letter, I resisted the urge to skip ahead to see what Alison would say. It was awesome!!

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Same here. As I was reading the increasingly unbelievable stance that the OP was taking toward the situation, I almost couldn’t finish the letter before needing to peek at Alison’s response. I concur — it was awesome!

  7. LawCat*

    Wow, I would have quit too. Sounds like this excellent employee did everything she could to get coverage and then saw you let an employee take off early for a concert, but wouldn’t let her attend her own graduation. That’s messed up. This is not how you retain your excellent employees as you have now seen.

  8. Leatherwings*

    You showed your best employee zero flexibility when she wanted to celebrate a major milestone that many in her place wouldn’t have accomplished, and you feel like you need to school her on professionalism? She wants to work for an employer who values her, and you didn’t. I would’ve been pissed off and quit too.

    Also you need to fix how you handle coverage – she tried and failed to get people to come in and cover for her and you lost your best employee because of that rigid policy. Find a different way.

    1. Jennifer*

      Clearly the OP’s priorities were being a rules lawyer than pleasing her “best” employee.

    2. nofelix*

      Yeah, it seems like some (lazy?) managers like to have employees arrange their own coverage because it keeps them from being involved, but this is what happens. People with lots of friends at work have more flexibility even if they aren’t the most deserving.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Nevermind that it’s easier to make friends at work if you aren’t spending your lunch breaks studying, and if you have the time and money for after work drinks with colleagues, etc. The whole deck was stacked against that young woman.

        1. KT*

          That broke my heart. The whole “we let people manage finding someone to cover on their own” means this woman didn’t have a chance. Working and going to school and studying leaves little time to make friends at work, which means she was screwed from the start.

      2. INTP*

        Yeah, it sounds like the OP has an entire lazy system that keeps her from having to spend time on the schedule or make tough decisions. Some weird blanket rule about monetary cost = she never has to choose between Sally’s kid’s kindergarten graduation and Jane’s concert – concert tickets = money! If two people have both invested money in something, I assume the higher monetary investment gets the time off. No need to spend time checking whether the schedule is equally burdensome to everyone, just automatically give crappy shifts to low seniority employees. No arguments about scheduling, you can just dip out of any conflict by saying “it’s policy.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I wonder if she’d let Sally go to the kindergarten graduation, because there’s a child involved, but would still turn down College Grad’s request.

        2. Seuuze*

          Well doesn’t paying for, and graduating from college when you are working full time cost money? Doesn’t it cost a whole lot more money than concert tickets?? If I were the manager I would have asked some people to cover, but probably would have covered the shift MYSELF, so that she could go to her graduation.

          I went back to school late in life for a graduate degree. I chose NOT to go to my graduation for a whole host of reasons, which were all of my own. And I didn’t attend my undergrad graduation. My choice, and my choice to make. But I wholeheartedly would support one of my employees going. Especially this woman and her past circumstances and how hard she has worked and her stellar work ethic, pitching in and helping out others. I would take her to lunch or dinner for a thank you or give her some sort of public recognition if she didn’t mind.

          Losing great employees is definitely a reflection upon management, and it reflects poorly on the decisions made by the OP.

          This is a great lesson in how to get rid of stellar employees.

      3. BRR*

        I’m not a fan of seniority-based preference most of the time and this is an example of why. I agree that this manager might need to step in more for coverage but I do like how they are hands off to a degree as it gives employees some autonomy. But there are times when you do have to step in like when your employees have things come up and can’t find coverage. It’s perfectly reasonable for your employees to have lives outside of work and as long as it’s not not an everyday occurrence you should help them because that’s how you get/retain good employees and in general you should try to be somewhat compassionate to others. I think the LW should look at how they manage schedules and ask if two hours of coverage was worth losing this employee?

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          But there are times when you do have to step in like when your employees have things come up and can’t find coverage

          This. I used to manage a student call center and 90% of the time they would work out schedule changes on their own, and the only requirement was that I received an email that said, “this is Sally. Jimmy has agreed to cover my Wednesday, July 6 shift” that Jimmy was copied on.

          But there were definitely days when students couldn’t get coverage, or when half my staff wanted the day off. It was my responsibility to work things out in a way that was equitable.

        2. Stephanie*

          Oof, yeah. Say what you will about TPS reports and mandatory happy hours, but situations like this were why I was thrilled to get away from “find coverage” jobs.

      4. SophieSensation*

        I quit a job where I had to find my own coverage because I got a chronic illness, and if I couldn’t find a co-worker to cover me when I called in sick, it’d be put down as an “unexcused absence.” Fuck that shit.

        1. BRR*

          This reminds me of my high school job in a video store and I was scheduled on a day that I had asked off because I had a marching band competition (that if I missed I would automatically fail the class). The manager did the scheduling (and could not come up with a working system for requesting days off) and said I had to find somebody. Schedules also came out the week before. I can’t remember how it ended but I know I called every employee of the store and they were all busy. I kept my job and made the competition but seriously.

    3. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      I used to supervise college students in a “must have coverage” operation, and if my exemplary employees who came in during other people’s no shows and/or covered undesirable shifts couldn’t arrange coverage for a special event, sometimes *I* covered for them in extraordinary circumstances. A college graduation would have special symbolic meaning to someone who worked her way through the circumstances you describe. You should have made it possible for her to attend however you had to make it happen.

      It really bothers me that you think that the cost of concert tickets is more important than a milestone event in someone’s life. There are more important things than money. This blog is full of posts and comments about how basic human decency and respect at work often outweigh high salaries. You failed to value her hard human achievement over a mere cash outlay for one night’s experience, and that had to hurt your employee.

      Call her, apologize profusely, and offer her the job back as others have said.

      1. Sydney*

        Yeah I don’t get the coverage rule either. Based on seniority? That means it’s always the same people covering? It should be a rotating schedule.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Or, you give the great employees, the ones w/ good ratings (if you have them), or the ones who volunteer for holidays, their pick of shifts in a situation like this. You’re not the best employee? Sorry, bud. Start getting better at your job, and more invested.
          And if your less-good employees start getting annoyed at getting the bad shifts, then they’ll quit. Good, right? You can find someone better.

          1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

            Yeah, my boss at that job used to do 360 reviews and asked the students about their supervisors. An underperforming student said that she thought I played favorites, and my boss said “yeah, her favorites are students that are reliable, take their jobs seriously, and go the extra mile. Funny how that works.”

        2. Joseph*

          I’ve never really understood seniority as a criteria. Mediocre Employee who has been here five years is more deserving than Stellar Employee who’s only been here 4.5 years? Really?

          It’s also worth mentioning that at junior and mid-grade levels, the longest-tenured employees might be the most mediocre – the best employees don’t stay low level for years upon years, because they get promoted out before that.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            In some workplaces, there is an executive track and a non-executive track, and you can’t be demoted out of the one or promoted out of the other, regardless of your talent or lack of talent.

      2. TootsNYC*

        It really bothers me that you think that the cost of concert tickets is more important than a milestone event in someone’s life. There are more important things than money.

        Concert tickets can be resold. Sometimes for a profit.

      3. Biff Welly*

        I had the same thought….the manager could have provided coverage for two hours, especially in recognition of her achievement.

    4. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey*

      Some people have bizarre ideas of what constitutes “professionalism”. I would be muttering under my breath, “Must restrain Fist of Death!”* if this managerial twit tried to lecture ME about MY lack of professionalism when they had been so boneheaded and full of ingratitude!

      *Dilbert reference

  9. BlurBlur*

    I know this is hard to hear but Alison’s feedback is golden here. I really hope the OP can sit with her comments and I’m sure great comments the community will post and let it sink in. In my experience managing you typically try to help your best employees. It goes a long way with retention and them continuing to put out the amazing work they are known for. Please let this be a learning experience as you move forward in your own career! And please don’t try to reach out with the advice you’re thinking of offering, because she sounds like she knows how to handle professional work just fine. Even with night classes! I hate to say it but some of your tone in that part of your letter was a bit condescending. She wouldn’t be your best employee if she didn’t understand professional norms. No one wants to be put in a spot to quit immediately but it does sound like her only option because you clearly showed her what you valued and it definitely wasn’t her in that moment.

    1. thunderbird*

      The reading of this letter really makes me question if the OP has any standing to be giving advice on professionalism.

      1. BlurBlur*

        I know what you mean. It almost sounds rationilazition to get a last vindictive dig in because the OP is upset how this played out. It doesn’t truly sound like it’s coming from a place of compassion.

        1. teclatrans*

          Totally. “Don’t you walk away from me! You’ll rue the day! You hurt yourself more than me!!” Etc.

        2. Anon Moose*

          +1. It sounds like the manager is angry and stressed about losing someone at this critical time and trying to make it the employee’s (or their background’s) fault. Its not. The manager needs to step back and reflect on the management that led to this last straw quitting, question whether there were also more factors father back than this one (albeit egregious) incident and try to ensure that they do not lose more good employees in this fashion.

        3. Petronella*

          Yes, we`ve had a couple of those here – managers who just can`t let their employees go. Do they really think anyone`s going to agree with them and tell them it`s an awesome idea to phone up their former victim to harangue them some more?

      2. Oh mylanta*

        I read somewhere once that some people are taught “Respect” means “treat with kindness” and others are taught it means “defer to my authority.” The latter is most extreme in fascist societies and would not be surprised to find out this person lives in the deep south or Texas, where the “overseer” mentality in management lingers. This manager seems to believe that deferring to her authority is the same as respect to the point that after the employee has quit, she must go after the person to “teach them respect.” It sounds like this person is a Kim Davis waiting to happen and needs a lot of therapy and management classes.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My husband works in QA at a factory where this “overseer” attitude about management persists. All the managers are guys who have worked there since graduating high school and they always promote from within. So guys who have worked on the floor for twenty years and then get promoted to management are suddenly acting as if they are the final authority on *everything*, as if their promotion from the floor to the front office came with a 50-IQ-point endowment.

    2. TootsNYC*

      you clearly showed her what you valued and it definitely wasn’t her in that moment.

      It definitely wasn’t her work either.

  10. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I bet putting herself through college cost a lot more than that concert. While the degree wouldn’t have been rescinded if she didn’t attend (the parallel being that the concert tickets are worthless if you can’t go), a portion of your tuition and fees goes towards the college’s overhead, which they use to pay for events like graduation that aren’t covered directly by tuition. So however you look at it, there was definitely “a cost involved” for the employee in question.

    1. nofelix*

      Grad ceremonies often do have costs. Gown rental, tickets for family members, photos. Some of these are charged in advance.

    2. Barefoot Librarian*

      Agreed, not to mention that the graduation ceremony probably did have actual costs to the employee involved. You need to purchase or rent robes, cap, and assorted regalia MONTHS out and it’s not refundable.

    3. Serena*

      BTW College costs WAY more than concert tickets. Shame on you OP! Degrees take blood, sweat and tears! And a whole lot of gumption, especially if you are doing it on your own. The employee did the right thing! She will do just fine without your “help.”

    4. TootsNYC*

      (the parallel being that the concert tickets are worthless if you can’t go)

      But they can also be resold. Sometimes for a profit.

    5. Sketchee*

      I also think employees don’t have to justify to employers what is personally important to them. “I need time off for a personal obligation.” It’s important to me. For me, that’s enough and the fairest system is built for that.

      It’s not really my boss’s business what the details are. Even if it is often nice of us to explain why it’s a last minute obligation. Or that we wish our graduation didn’t come in at an inconvenient time.

      The employee did the right thing. This probably isn’t the first time in those six years and it’s built up to this

  11. Lucy (London)*

    That employee is smart, determined, hardworking, reliable and independent. She’ll be fine. She certainly doesn’t need a lesson from you, OP. She’s the one making good choices here.

  12. 12345678910112 do do do*

    OP, don’t you DARE give this person a bad recommendation when potential new employers call. Tell them all about how she was your best employee and you’re sad to lose her.

    1. Dot Warner*

      +1. OP, you’re very lucky to have had someone like this woman on your team. She’s been dealt enough bad hands in her life; you have no right to add to that.

  13. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    Are you kidding me?

    I would have worked the two hours for her myself.

    I can’t even…………..

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Come to think of it, I literally just did. Friday, a few of my key customer facing folks all needed vacation for various reasons (one of them, Trip to Hawaii), so I covered the customer service in box myself.

        They are valued employees AND my fingers aren’t broken.

        I still can’t even.

        1. The Optimizer*

          Same here – just in the last week alone, I’ve covered customer service because a single mom wanted to take her son out for a birthday dinner and for another with a very sick pet, the latter coming during our busiest period of the month.

          It’s what I would want someone to do for me in the same situation.

      2. Lauren*

        That was my first thought too. I would have done that. Maybe the OP thinks doing staff work is beneath her.

      3. Morning Glory*

        I’m actually wondering this myself since it wasn’t mentioned in the letter. If it turns out the manager did not work that day at all, I think my head might explode.

        1. AshleyH*

          Exactly. My husband is in senior management for a retailer that keeps small staffs. He had a store in his zone that had three of the seven shift employees get the flu, one get appendicitis, all while the store manager was on vacation. Do you know what he did? He went and worked a 13 hour shift on the floor event thought that many positions “under” him because that’s what you do as a good manager to support your employees.

      4. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        +1 I was was thinking that myself–why didn’t the OP cover for the employee. And it was just going to be for about 2 hours. OP, if you do call her, offer her the job back (but don’t be surprised if she turns you down)

    1. Hello Felicia*

      I would have worked for her too, wherever she works.

      I have absolutely done this for our team when no one else is able to provide coverage and I’m not the immediate supervisor. If it’s important to them, it’s important to me and I’ll find a way to make it happen even if it’s during our busiest time.

    2. Sarahnova*


      I am as close to speechless as I’ve ever been on reading this site. Pot-plant sh*tters, petitioning interns, Hanukkah balls, fine, but this?

    3. MashaKasha*

      That crossed my mind too. When my last ex and I were together, I saw him do this once. He owned a set of stores that he had just opened less than a year before, and we only got to see each other on his one day off a week. One time he came to my place late in the evening, and left the next morning, because his employee’s kid was in the ER and they could not get anyone else to cover – he drove straight to that store and filled in for that employee himself. I thought of that incident right away when I read OP’s letter. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it has been done by others in the past. That’s what you do if you want to be known as a quality leader. That’s how you get people to be loyal to you, instead of quitting on the spot.

    4. HRish Dude*

      Hell, I would have worked the two hours for one of my WORST employees if it was for this.

    5. BananaPants*

      I would have done the same, and probably bought a cake for her when she came into the office just in case she didn’t have anyone to celebrate the achievement. Good for her for telling the boss and the company to go screw themselves.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        That would have been sweet. And thoughtful. I’m just shaking my head at the thought process that was displayed here.

  14. March*

    OP, you say that you allowed an exception for someone one who had concert tickets because there was cost involved. Consider: getting a college degree also has cost involved, usually a fair bit more than concert tickets.*

    This employee was totally within her right to quit. I have friends who are waiting to hear back on whether they have their vacation approved so they can go get married, and have said that if it isn’t approved then they’ll just quit. Big events – graduation, weddings, the like – should be the exceptions above anything else.

    *Obviously there are places and countries where a higher education is free to citizens, but I’m going off the assumption that OP is in America, where it usually is not.

    1. Naomi*

      Yes–this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for this employee! Of course she’s going to prioritize it over work.

    2. INTP*

      Plus there are situations where even if a cost isn’t involved yet, the request for time off is just much more important than a concert. It’s just a lazy, conflict-avoidant rule. Would a doctor’s appointment not be granted because someone still had time to reschedule without a fee? Would a concert take priority over someone’s family emergency, burst pipe, spouse in labor?

    3. Lissa*

      The mention of the concert tickets was just…weird, why even mention that? Like, every detail in this letter seems to point to putting everybody on the employee’s side! Even the unnecessary “added” details that are usually things OP puts in there to justify themself!

      1. learningToCode*

        I assume the extra details were to justify it… kind of like “See, I’m not the bad guy, I help out people! I just couldn’t this time.” Not in those exact words, but in that same way.

  15. Apollo Warbucks*

    Yeah Op not to pile on but you really messed up with the way you treated your employee.

  16. Jared*

    I’d also like to point out that this employee made a more than generous concession. Rather than asking for an entire day off (perfectly reasonable, most people would want to celebrate with friends and family) she only asked for 2 hours in the morning so she could be part of her own ceremony and then come straight to work.

    Failing to recognize this makes me feel like you have no real understanding of what reasonable expectations are for your employee. While I personally wouldn’t have quit in this scenario. If would have made it clear in no uncertain terms that coming in to work during the ceremony was not an option, and if I was told I would be fired I would then have resigned on the spot. This is my own choice though, in this case I do think she was justified in quitting as she quite accurately realized that a job that rewards 6 years of exemplary work by not letting her take 2 hours off for her college graduation ceremony is not a place that is worth working at. Or giving the professional courtesy of a notice, given that you gave no courtesy whatsoever.

    1. nofelix*

      Indeed, asking for two hours means that most likely she was going to miss most of the event. She may have even had to pull some strings to be at the front of the line to receive certificates. Grad ceremonies take way more than two hours. I think my last one was more like six once all was said and done.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        Often departments will have a mini, two-hour graduation ceremony that is held in the morning with the college-wide graduation being held in the afternoon. Departmental graduations are when honors are conferred, and awards given.

        It sounds like this employee WAS skipping the college-wide graduation, and only planning on attending her smaller departmental graduation ceremony.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          That’s how things went at my university, and for bonus points, the department ceremony was also when the diploma was awarded. It was a lot more meaningful than sitting under the sun for however long listing to a mediocre commencement speech for the entire graduating class.

        2. Amber*

          Depending on what her work day is, maybe the graduation would indeed have been finished by then? For instance if your grad is at say 11 AM and will be done by 5 PM, and your normal workday is 4 PM to midnight, her asking to come in at say 6 PM would indeed mean she wouldn’t miss any of it.

          Still though, I wouldn’t want to go to my grad and then go straight to work.

    2. Aubergine Dreams*

      This! You provided her with no courtesy at all, she does not owe you the courtesy of giving you notice.

    3. many bells down*

      “a job that rewards 6 years of exemplary work by not letting her take 2 hours off for her college graduation ceremony is not a place that is worth working at.”

      Quoted for truth. Right there.

  17. Catalyst*

    There is a substantial cost involved in a college graduation!!! It was put in over many years, and was not just monetary. To consider this to be less important than someone attending a concert just blows my mind. I would have quit as well.

    This is absolutely a mistake on the OP’s part, not the employee’s part. I think the employee is owed an apology and a glowing recommendation for her search for future employment.

  18. Phouka*

    Wow. Yes, OP, you were absolutely wrong, and your idea that you behaved well and professionally and this employee did not is even worse. If this is how you treat your “best employee/go-to person”, I am appalled. A college graduation is not a minor thing, certainly more important than a concert that you happily worked around.

    Call and sincerely apologize that you were totally, utterly, unbelievably insensitive and wrong, and please, rethink your idea of managing good employees.

  19. Engineer Girl*

    You made an exception for a lower performing employer but not for her. You placed priority on a single event that cost money vs a MAJOR LIFE EVENT. You forced her to accept the scheduling burden when it was your job to schedule. And oh, BTW, you allowed others to switch based on friendships and alliances as opposed to needs of coworkers. Oh, and you insist on treating employees the same (even though you didn’t in practice) though they don’t perform the same. You insist that your employee act professionally even when you don’t.
    I anyone deserved to lose a high performer it would be you. I would have done the same thing. And now that she’s graduated I’m sure she’ll get a better job.

    1. HRJeanne*

      This is what they mean when they say “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. Please change these practices and make it your goal to keep quality employees. I would hire your “go-to” employee in a minute.

    2. Jayn*

      The concert ticket completely broke the letter for me. Up until that point the LW just sounded too hands off/rules lawyer-y. (Still handling things badly but in somewhat understandable ways) At that point they turned into a straight up jerk.

      1. Elsajeni*

        I thought the same thing. Up to that point — garden-variety lousy manager. This sort of overly-strict interpretation of rules and “if I make an exception for you I have to make one for everybody” thinking is crappy, but unfortunately it’s pretty common in customer service jobs, and it’s at least semi-understandable in that it’s all about making life less complicated for the manager. But “I made an exception for someone who had concert tickets” — NOPE.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, this was what changed things for me, too. But even after that point, I still had hope that the OP’s question would be something along the lines of “was this the right thing to do?” or “could I have done anything differently to keep her?” thus redeeming OP a bit once she saw how things had played out with her top-performing employee.

        But nope! The OP instead went to a weird place of wanting to educate Stellar Employee about professional norms since she had quit with no notice. I actually applaud Stellar Employee’s restraint in the way she handled the resignation, because if my manager actually told me that my coworker’s concert tickets took priority over my college graduation, I probably would have resigned in a much less professional manner…

        …By the way, to provide perspective for the OP, I actually skipped both my undergrad and grad school graduation ceremonies because I thought they were a complete waste of time, but I’m totally outraged by this letter, so yes, it is that bad.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          I actually applaud Stellar Employee’s restraint in the way she handled the resignation, because if my manager actually told me that my coworker’s concert tickets took priority over my college graduation, I probably would have resigned in a much less professional manner…

          I would have flipped a desk. Something. Rage quitting Jet Blue-style would have been completely understandable in this situation.

  20. K.*

    … There was “cost involved” with the concert tickets. Okay. But … college isn’t free. Neither is all the stuff that goes with a graduation – I had to rent my cap and gown, for example.

    But even that is beside the point! Of COURSE she quit on the spot, and good for her. You treated her badly. When you treat people badly, they tend to leave. It wouldn’t surprise me if you lose other employees over this, and you’ll deserve it. I know I’d start looking if I were one of the other employees. You are now on the record as the kind of manager who thinks it’s good practice not to make a very, very reasonable accommodation for someone who, by your own admission, was your best employee. You’re the one who looks bad here, not the employee. My God.

    (It’s also interesting to me that someone who had been there for six years had low seniority, but in fairness I don’t know about that workplace.)

    1. Leatherwings*

      Good point on how this will look to other employees. Word WILL travel about this.

    2. INTP*

      Wow, I somehow missed the concert tickets thing on my first skimming.

      Quite frankly, between the other people trading shifts with each other and refusing to trade with the employee, and the OP granting exceptions for a freaking concert and not a college graduation, it almost seems like the OP was being bullied. Maybe no one meant it that way and they were all just oblivious, idk. But this work environment seems bad enough for the OP that quitting on the spot was justified.

      1. vivace*

        Yes, it honestly makes me wonder what else this young woman put up with in the 6 years she was employed there. How fitting she quit on her graduation day since she now (hopefully) has the credentials to find a better job.

        1. Laura*

          There’s no way this was a totally isolated incident. I suspect that this was a toxic workplace, or at least a toxic manager.

      2. Qestia*

        I agree – on top of the manager’s inflexibility it was the cruelty of her coworkers that stunned me – not one person who’d worked with her for six years would cover for her? That would have been what made me quit – knowing not one person there would inconvenience themselves slightly to help me.

        1. Seuuze*

          I loved that the woman handed in a list of each date she worked overtime and covered for someone else. She was smart to do that. The workplace sounds like she might have been shunned for asking her co-workers for help with just TWO hours off. I am so glad she quit. She might have been the best worker there, but there was no appreciation of her efforts.

          I am cheering her on from afar, and fully support her decision to quit on the spot. How is it that a manager does not and would not understand what we humans call “Life Cycle” events?? Events that so clearly and obviously trump work. We do not live to work, but rather work to live. I wouldn’t want to work for anyone who doesn’t value my life outside of the workplace where I actually “Live”.

          The manager’s attitude is what is wrong with the typical American workplace.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s what I thought, too. It seems like the employee potentially was either being actively bullied/isolated, or at the very least treated with extreme disregard. I can’t help but think that she was treated that way precisely because of her disadvantaged position. I think the manager knew that she had few choices or alternatives in her life, and so what was she going to do about poor treatment. I could be wrong about this, but that’s the sense I got when reading the letter.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          That’s exactly where my mind went: OP treats this employee like garbage *because* she knows she’s in a tough situation. And then expects her to be grateful for being employed at all.

          I once worked for a very dysfunctional small business thay made a habit of hiring recent college grads with few other prospects, the formerly homeless, or in one case a homeless recent college grad – and then paying them below minimum wage and feeding them a lot of sanctimonious bullshit about how generous and ethical they were. They also would tell anyone who was quitting that “we’re doing you a favor – you’re not good enough to get a job anywhere else” and that all the other companies out there were evil and greedy. I think OP is deliberately taking advantage of this person, because I’ve seen that kind of behavior myself.

          1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

            My work place is like this too, only using people who speak no English instead. Same attitude – about doing them a favor and how generous they are because of it.

    3. FCJ*

      The seniority thing could be because she didn’t want promotions. Maybe more senior positions wouldn’t be flexible with her schooling in the same way, or maybe she just didn’t want the responsibility of management at that point in her life. Even if her lack of technical seniority was totally voluntary, though, her tenure deserved recognition, when it sounds like all it got her was, “Oh, ask Jane to stay late. She’s always good for a couple of extra hours.”

      1. Ann Onymous*

        The seniority thing could have also been meant company wide, as opposed to just that department. I have worked in my department for the longest but all three of my co-workers have been with the company for way longer than I have.

    4. jhhj*

      Eh, the other employees sound kinda like jerks who will take but not give with this person, they might not care.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        They’ll care a great deal the next time they need someone to cover for them and the one person who would have done so is no longer there.

    5. aebhel*

      This. This is exactly how you lose high performers. I would have quit on the spot too, regardless of whether I had other options.

  21. Lucky Star*

    What was communicated to this young woman was how little she matters to the OP and her coworkers. No one can reciprocate this one time and cover for her as she celebrates a significant milestone that she achieved with little if any outside support?

    This is a young woman with a lot of drive that should be nurtured. She sounds like a star in the making.

  22. FCJ*

    She was there for six years, was your best employee, and she was junior? I’d quit just over that. Even if she chose not to go for promotions (which wouldn’t be surprising, if she was focusing on school), after that amount of time she deserves some kind of consideration from her superiors.

    1. Pwyll*

      Sounds to me like the usual call center environment where seniority is measured only in years, not in performance. Terrible.

      1. Jasper*

        Except that it almost can’t be measured in years — there’s no way I’ll believe that in six years, the whole department, let alone the whole company, hasn’t hired a single new person. Not with the sort of company that has at least two layers of management (because there’s no way this manager is also an owner…) and that suddenly needs extra weekend openings.

        1. Cara*

          It sounds like seniority was calculated in part by education and possibly initial hired position…you know, “Customer Service Rep I” rather than “Customer Service Rep III”.

  23. Hermione*

    I’m so baffled by this. Spot on advice, Alison. I hope OP reads well, and listens.

  24. Gandalf the Nude*

    I read the title and thought, “Surely, there is some twist in her that makes this less awful than it seems at first blush.” But my jaw literally fell open the further into this letter I read.

    OP, I’m floored that you didn’t make an exception for this amazing woman, who you otherwise seem to hold in high regard. A degree is a huge investment, monetarily, time commitment-wise, and emotionally, especially for someone who’s apparently had the cards stacked against her for so long. That’s the person you should have accommodated. And PS, did the person who bought those concert tickets check with you before making that purchase? Seems silly to help out someone who didn’t consider the impact on your schedule rather than someone who’s shown herself to be so reliable and competent.

    I’m proud of your ex-employee, and I hope she finds a job where good judgment wins out and employees are treated well when they’re highly-valued.

    1. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey*

      I find myself wondering if the OP is concealing from themself the fact that they are prejudiced against the employe (racial, ethnic, class, whatever) and feel that the Stellar Employee should be grovelingly grateful to be allowed to work with “normal” people? The stench of condescension that reeks from the letter makes me suspicious.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Do you think she could just link to this letter in the “Reason for leaving” section?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I wish she would see the letter and all the people who are on her side and who think her accomplishment is something worth cheering for and rewarding.

        1. The Strand*

          Have been thinking the same thing. perhaps, OP, you could, when apologizing to her, send her a link to this. So she knows that hundreds of people have her back on this.

  25. Myrin*

    Oh my. Alison gave a great answer I agree with 100%. I really do not see any reason for why you weren’t willing to sacrifice these two hours (!) once in the six years (!!) she’s been working with you as your top performer (!!!). And I say that as someone who thinks graduation ceremonies don’t mean anything and who is also pretty rules-following most of the time, so, well.

  26. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Here’s where you really screwed up, OP:

    “After she asked around, some people who were not scheduled for the overtime did switch shifts with other people (but not her) and volunteered to take on overtime from others who were scheduled, but these people are friends outside of work, and as long as there is coverage I don’t interfere if people want to give or take overtime of their own accord.”

    The system isn’t based on fairness but rather who has friends there, and you openly say that you wash your hands of it…unless the person has the potential for a monetary loss?  

    Not only have you set up a system where one or more people could be taken advantage of by another domineering employee(s), but it’s contingent upon being friends and currying favor rather than redistributing the burden evenly so no one person/group continually suffers/benefits.  In this case, it was this employee who suffered because she received no benefit from going above and beyond.

    Does it really not bother you that this employee did her more than her part for six years and for what?  Only to be denied going to her college graduation because you didn’t want to step up?  Were you really unaware of all the times that she did step up?

    More importantly, is the type of office culture you want to foster?

    1. JMegan*

      “After she asked around, some people who were not scheduled for the overtime did switch shifts with other people (but not her) and volunteered to take on overtime from others who were scheduled, but these people are friends outside of work…

      This caught my eye as well, and it infuriates me that not only did the OP refuse her the time off, but it sounds like all her coworkers did as well? @#$@#% that @#%@!!%$, and I’d have walked out too in her position. She deserves much better than that, both from her boss and from her peers.

      OP, I think the ship has sailed for your former best employee, even if you do call her and offer her the job back. But this is now a good opportunity to take a look at your remaining employees, and the way your shifts are scheduled (and rescheduled), as well as an office culture that allows an entire group of people to deny someone time to go to her graduation.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Agree completely. In the employee’s shoes, the refusal for time to attend my graduation would have been only one of the things that would have driven me to quit. This whole situation is a shining example of why people become so jaded in the workplace.

      2. Riki S*

        Unfortunately, this kind of crap run rampant in the service industry. I worked these types of job during college and for a few years after. It was a nightmare with some managers, who would schedule you, even though you requested time off far in advance. I remember having to spend hours finding someone to cover a shift during my finals, and also my sister’s wedding (which I got fired for, because no one would take my shift.) Honestly, I see those managers now as being lazy and rigid.

    2. AnonyMeow*

      I completely agree.

      Nobody (including the OP) was willing to cover for her for two hours even though she’s covered for them on many occasions. The OP mentions that this employee was her go-to for weekend and holiday coverage. Combining these two points, I’m sensing an unhealthy buddy culture that has been taking advantage of this employee for a long time. This feels like a culture that only cares about those in the clique, at the expense of those who are left out, and the manager sanctions, and benefits from, the uncaring behavior of the clique.

      The denial of 2 hours off for attending her graduation was probably just the last straw for the employee. I’ve seen this system a lot in retail and hospitality, so it may feel like a normal thing to do, but if I was in the OP’s position, I’d reflect on what kind of culture the “find your own coverage” rule is creating, and my part in sustaining that.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I feel like there’s also a long-standing culture of “screw over the newbie,” which leads to some pretty entitled attitudes on the part of the crew that’s been there a while.

        That’s also why this woman, the screwed-over newbie, is the best performing.
        • She’s been trying to curry the approval and support of her manager–and that didn’t work.
        • The old-timers are slacking off, because there’s no incentive to do a good job; they don’t get assigned to work weekends and holidays, because the newbie gets it all the time.

      2. DoDah*

        I would agree that there’s much more likely to encounter a culture of bullying in retail, hospitality and call centers. I have a ton of empathy for the OP’s employee. 100 years ago, in my retail days–the “find your own coverage” rule wasn’t based around seniority–but whether or not you had children. I did not–so for 5 years I worked 7AM-10PM (they called them Iron Days) on every single Saturday–so that those who met the requirements could have the day off. I finally worked up the courage to say something to my District VP. When he asked the Ops Manager why she did this her response was, “Oh–she volunteered.”—Reader–I didn’t…

      3. Carpe Librarium*

        My heart is breaking for all the times this employee had to sacrifice off-hours study time to cover for unappreciative colleagues.

    3. Anon Accountant*

      Exactly. I hesitate to phrase it this way but it sounds like a cliquish environment in the making. I’m sorry but sometimes coworkers need to suck it up and help out by covering for others even if they aren’t friends.

    4. Jeanne*

      The manager has set up a terrible system and needs to re-evaluate the whole thing. Scheduling should never rely on who is friends with anyone. And the lowest seniority ALWAYS getting the crappy shift no one wants is also ridiculous. Why would anyone want to be that person? And now that your high performer is gone, you’re going to take the next lowest seniority, who hasn’t had to do the crap work, and tell her to do it. You’re about to have your whole dept fall apart.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Given the current set up, one of two things is going to happen:

        1) If this star employee was constantly the go-to person for emergencies and all the shifts no one else wanted, which is implied in the letter, then the scheduling is going to turn into the Hunger Games where no one wants to take the bad shifts and employees are pressuring others (prioritizing the ones who aren’t in the “In” crowd) to do so.

        2) The unpopular shifts and schedule changes will fall to the next lowest ranked person in the social scene of this office.

        Either way, OP, this is what happens when you rely on one or a small group of people to do the crap work that no one else wants. 

        Ironically, it’s the people with cush schedules who are the ones who always got their way, not your employee who just quit.

      2. Linda*

        I agree. What kind of system makes the person with the lowest seniority take all of the holidays and bad shifts? The “pain” should be spread around. I have a lot of long term employees and every year when the requests for holidays go up they tell me (they say they are kidding) that as a long term employee they should get all holidays off this year. I tell them that I will take it under advisement and that when I stop working holidays, as the manager, I will consider their request. End of discussion. However, when I do the schedules if I have to chose between two people; hard work always wins over seniority. The way this system was set up allowed the graduates co-workers the “right” to tell her no and then trade with each other. It also put her in a “have to” position whenever asked to work by others. They took advantage of her. I also allow trading of shifts but if everyone had refused to work and then started trading, I would have told a person who had just volunteered to work for another that since they are now “available” to work, they would be working for the graduate and their friend would still have to work her shift. Besides, the minute the graduate told me she was graduating I would have given the day off to her and worked it for her. Let’s be human here.

    5. Lora*


      OP, here is what you should have done in the situation: Put your Annoyed Manager face on. March into the break room or wherever the clique + various and sundry other employees who might be willing to cover, are congregated. Announce, “I need someone to cover (two hours on Day X). You can volunteer or I can choose someone. Hands up who wants the shift.” If nobody volunteers, you pick the leader of the Mean Girls and say, “you, Regina, will be working on Day X from (time) to (time). See you then.” March out, making it clear this is the final decision.

      Next, you go to the local supermarket and order a sheet cake that says “Congratulations Best Employee Ever!”, half vanilla half chocolate and has, you know, a picture of a graduation cap or whatever on it. This is to be delivered on Day X. Buy a card that says “congratulations New Graduate” on it, and carry it around to various colleagues and tell them to sign it. Before the shift starts on Day X, go out and buy some balloons and ice cream and put them in the break room. When the Best Employee Ever shows up two hours late, tell everyone to meet in the break room for an important announcement. When Best Employee Ever walks in, present her with the card and tell her congratulations for her amazing achievement and say how she is the best employee ever and how you are so SO proud of her and the example she sets for everyone else. Shake her hand and then applaud for her and glare around the room at the clique until EVERYONE applauds.

      Then, you let her cut the first piece of cake and scoop out some ice cream, serve everyone cake and ice cream. Then you all go back to work.

      That’s it. That is how you handle these things. Now you know.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Yup. I’d also be tempted to be one of THOSE managers and demand everyone chip in for a visa gift card.

      2. Troutwaxer*

        Thank you. Perfect.

        And for the O.P., call your employee, apologize, offer her job back and GIVE HER A RAISE!

  27. INTP*


    While quitting on the spot because you don’t get your way is generally not professional, neither is managing in such a way that schedule flexibility is a popularity contest. It wasn’t just about getting her way one time. It was made clear that between her lack of seniority and apparent lack of having a large number of buddies to trade with, under the OP’s system, this job was ALWAYS going to have rigid, undesirable schedules with zero flexibility for her. Obviously she was going to quit at some point, no one is going to deal with that for years until they develop seniority. You are only going to retain employees with the political skills to get what they want without seniority. Why should she wait until she has missed her graduation ceremony, a moment she will remember for the rest of her life, just to give a little more notice at this job?

    Maybe sometimes letting employees work schedules out amongst themselves works out. I think more often it’s an excuse for lazy scheduling. In this case, before the graduation issue even the OP should have figured out that it was becoming a popularity contest and worked out a more equitable way.

    1. INFJ*

      The fact that OP characterized this as her quitting because she “didn’t get her way” is baffling. She didn’t quit because she “didn’t get her way,” she quit because she was undervalued by her unreasonable manager.

      1. Jeanne*

        Yes. She quit because her manager rewarded all her hard work by treating her as a servant. I am impressed she was able to quit without ranting at the manager. I don’t know if I could have kept my cool.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Well, she did sort of rant:

          An hour later, she handed me her work ID and a list of all the times she had worked late/come in early/worked overtime for each and every one of her coworkers.

          But that’s a pretty professional rant! Huge applause for her.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Over 6 years, that has to be quite a list! Sounds like she didn’t just quit over the graduation thing, but also because it sounds like she was generally taken advantage of and this was just the last straw.

          2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

            The mental image of her taking an hour to write up every single instance of overtime she’s worked over a six-year period is genuinely beautiful. I don’t know this woman but, my God, I want to hug her. What a hero.

              1. MJ in IL*

                I suspect that such an organized person as GraduateGal would have to be–in order to have successfully juggled a job, college studies, and general life stuff–might well have been keeping a spreadsheet of scheduled hours/worked hours/who she’d taken a shift for, etc. Thus, the documentation was easy to lay hands on and present to JerkManager.

            1. Peter Brülls*

              I don’t the the problem. While I’m a salaried worker and quite satisfied with the hours I keep, I also have to clock in and out, so the company can keep track of overtime and the likes, especially since the general rules is to be there at 9:00 at the latest and to leave not before 15:00, though the latter isn’t strictly adhered to.

              But I do keep a separate log of the times I keep in and save the log I get from the company and balance both at the end of the month.

              With Excel or a simple Database it’s simple to create such a list, especially if she made a habit to mark extra shifts.

            2. jlg4880*

              I wonder if receiving the LW’s cold refusal, she returned to her desk and the disappointment rapidly transitioned into anger. Maybe looking at that readily compiled list was enough to cause to decide: “Who needs this?”

              As a number of other commenters have observed, this refusal on the part of the manager could’ve been the proverbial final straw.

      2. INTP*

        Exactly. I mean I guess technically, she quit because she didn’t like the decision that was made or how decisions were being made – but so is everyone who quits because they can find a higher salary or better schedule flexibility elsewhere. I doubt this is the only time that the highly inflexible scheduling system has inconvenienced her, it’s just the only time she has fought it. Who wants to work somewhere that they will never, ever have the flexibility to attend an important life event (unless said life event involves prepaid tickets, apparently)?

    2. Naomi*

      This touches on a point that I don’t think anyone else has mentioned, because we all agree that the employee was justified in quitting on the spot. But if the graduation ceremony was less than two weeks away, giving the usual amount of notice would mean she would still have to work that day. Quitting without notice was the only way she could guarantee she’d be able to go.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think that she also wanted to send a big message.

        That was a huge betrayal from her manager. Even if 2 weeks would have been enough time for my last day to be the day right before, I might have done this, simply to make sure there were “punitive damages.”

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Plus, once she was treated the way that her manager and coworkers treated her, what was the point in spending even one more minute in those terrible circumstances? They took everything she had to give and she was, rightfully to my mind, done.

          1. JMegan*

            Yes, I’m betting she was halfway out the door anyway, and this situation just encouraged her to leave a bit earlier than she had planned. OTOH, how many of us actually do get to have a “take this job and shove it” moment with our terrible managers? I mean, obviously it’s not the preferred way to go out, but given the circumstances, I bet it was very cathartic for her.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Think of the story she gets to tell in the future! It’s one piece of the silver lining here.

  28. 2 Cents*

    Sounds like this employee realized just how much value being the “best worker by far” got her at this place of employment. Hope she finds somewhere that truly appreciates her!

  29. Rusty Shackelford*

    Somebody in this scenario definitely needs to be more professional, but it’s not who you think it is, OP. You’ve set up a system where only people who make friends with their coworkers outside of work are likely to get out of problematic shifts. You’ve set up a system where you judge whether someone should get out of a shift based on your personal interpretation of how important their other obligation is, and your personal interpretation is based on factors such as whether they’ve already spent money on tickets (but not, as others have pointed out, spent money on obtaining a degree). You’ve set up a system where you not only feel completely justified after losing your best employee for no good reason, but you feel it would be appropriate to harangue her further. She did so much for you, and this is how you rewarded her performance. You’ve really, really bungled this whole managing situation IMHO, and I hope your former employee is reading.

    1. TuxedoCat*

      You took the words out of my mouth. It’s bad enough what happened but that the letter writer thinks it’s a good idea to send a letter scolding the former employee, especially given the employee’s outstanding work record and the hurdles the employee overcame in their personal life.

      LW, I hope you learn from this.

      1. Bandit1970*

        If I were the OP’s manager and found out that s/he let one of our best employees quit on the spot because of their poor decision making skills, there would be some strict consequences handed down.

  30. Kelly L.*

    Sometimes, an employee weighs the job against something else that she values, and consciously chooses the something else. This was one of those times.

    (I say this as someone who once quit a job because I couldn’t get off for my mom’s wedding. I’m still glad I did it.)

    1. Erika*

      I did the same when a crummy job rescinded my vacation time approval two days before I was supposed to leave. Still glad I went on that trip.

    2. ItsOnltMe*

      I once quit a long standing job when I was told I couldn’t take time off when my husband’s Grandmother passed away as she wasn’t my immediate family.

      I have the greatest respect for anyone who puts themselves through post secondary education, especially with such challenges. Bravo to anyone who has the courage to stand up and better themselves. I can barely take this letter in.

      Alison your reply is perfect. Thank you.

    3. starsaphire*

      I quit a job ages ago because my pre-approved vacation time for *my own wedding* was rescinded.

      Best possible decision. Never looked back. Wedding was great. :)

        1. Seuuze*

          Yes. Yes. Yes. This is what I would have done. But also adding that the shift-covering culture needs a drastic overhaul as previously mentioned and that the manager needs to be in control of shift covering, not the clique-ish employees.

          1. Amadeo*

            Yes. I think if I worked a retail job at this point in my life and a manager demanded I find someone to cover my shift if I had someplace I needed or would like to be something like “That’s your job” would tumble out of my mouth before I could stop it. I don’t meekly accept things as well as I used to.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I massively regret not walking out of my crappy temp job when my crappy manager told me I couldn’t have two days off to 1. go sit in the hospital with my dad while my mom had brain surgery, and 2. go sit at home with both my parents the first day my mom was released from the hospital after brain surgery. He told me I was a temp and I could have the afternoon off if I finished all my work but if I took more time off he’d fire me and get a new temp.

      I should have quit on the spot. I didn’t because I’d been unemployed a long time before I got that job and felt like I needed the almost criminally small paycheck. It still pisses me off.

      The temp agency called me like three times wanting me to go back to that company and I told them no all three times.

    5. Laura*

      Well said! I quit a job when I realized how little I was valued, as did the grad in this letter. No regrets. I hope she doesn’t have any.

    6. A Non E. Mouse*

      I say this as someone who once quit a job because I couldn’t get off for my mom’s wedding. I’m still glad I did it.)

      SAT test, crappy retail job in HS. I’d requested the day off months in advance, it was literally up on the board when the manager made the schedule and put me on that day, and when the schedule came out and I pointed out that I was supposed to be off THAT MORNING (not even the whole day! Just til noon!), I was told I either had to find someone to cover it, or I’d be written up for not coming in.

      I quit. Just….quit. And seriously screwed them over, because like the gal in the original letter, I always volunteered for crappy shifts, to work late if someone needed to leave early, etc. Hell I only saw the schedule the day it came out *because I was covering someone’s shift when it was posted*.

      Just, no. Who the hell in their right minds would choose a crappy, minimum wage retail job over taking the SAT?! I still cannot fathom what that manager was thinking. And I’ve still angry about it.

      1. Brooke*

        I got laid off because I refused to lie to a client. I wish I’d had the guts to quit pre-emptively though I did get unemployment… but only after the old employer tried to fight it.

      2. Otter box*

        Ooh I did this too! I had a new job lined up three weeks after a crappy manager at a crappy job told me I needed to start lying to customers. I’m actually thankful – that was the kick in the pants I needed to finally get out of there!

      3. JessaB*

        I walked out of a job two weeks in, when after putting us on the phones they basically told us to ignore all the contractual safeties put in to not badger or scam elderly donators to charity. The company they were calling for had rules and we were basically told to ignore them to drive numbers. I walked into the boss’ office and basically told them I had ethics and wasn’t going to do that, and took the job because I was told they were so honest and did all the things the contract said to do. It didn’t end up on my resume at all.

    7. Koko*

      I quit a waitressing job because I couldn’t get time off to take my final exams. It was a diner only open for breakfast and lunch M-F. There were three waitresses, one who worked all five days, one who worked Tues/Thurs, and me who worked Mon/Wed/Fri. The other waitress may have had chronic health issues – but every time I asked her to cover a shift for me she would say she couldn’t because she had “an appointment with a specialist.” So either she was quite ill and using most of her off days to get medical care, or that was her go-to excuse for saying no.

      Come end of semester, I’ve been working there since early summer, about six months, and one of my final exams is scheduled for Tuesday morning. There is no way around this as a student – you take the exam or you fail the class. I asked my counterpart to cover for me, she had an appointment with a specialist, so I told the owner that I would be unable to come in to work that Tuesday, and that I had checked with the other waitress and she couldn’t cover me.

      She fired me on the spot. Not that it matters, because I wouldn’t have continued to work for someone who thought that I would be willing to fail a college class just so her diner where I worked part-time wasn’t short-staffed for one lousy afternoon. (And clearly she could manage being short-staffed because presumably it took her a couple of days to hire my replacement.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I had a job where I was supposed to cover the front once a week but it ended up being more than that. The front person would always plead her back issues though I suspect she just wanted to get away from the Coworker from Hell. I can’t blame her for that, but I wasn’t hired to do her job–and covering for her meant I couldn’t do my work either. I ended up leaving mostly because of that (though my manager and I mutually agreed it wasn’t working. It really was overall a terrible job).

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I quit a retail job for this reason when I was in college. I had just started the job and was supposed to be working there for the summer, but at management’s request I bumped up my start date a few weeks and was picking up shifts during my last week of classes because they were short-staffed and needed people immediately. But, I had told both managers during the interview process and then again during training and my first week of work that I would absolutely not be able to come in for a specific four day period because that was when my final exams were.

        I was a little surprised when I went in one day the week before that period and found I was on the schedule all four days. I reiterated to both managers that I was not going to be able to work those days because I had final exams and that there was nothing I could do to shift things around to be able to come in.

        Assuming the issue had been resolved, I went to take my final on the first day and didn’t think any more about it. Until I got a call later that day from one of the managers scolding me for missing my shift; she actually snarkily asked me why I hadn’t felt the need to show up to work, to which I replied, “well, I was taking a final exam so I didn’t fail one of my classes.”

        At that point, I tersely stated that I had told her and the other manager about my finals schedule during the interview process, when I was offered the job, during training, and during the previous week, so I was confused as to why they were still expecting me to be at work that day. I then explained that in light of the continuing communication challenges, I didn’t think the job was going to be a good fit for me after all and that I wasn’t going to be coming in again, ever.

        15 years later, I still do not regret it. At all.

        1. Jennifer*

          From what I’ve heard from others in retail, if you tell someone “I can’t do X day” you are GUARANTEED to get a shift on X day. It makes me wonder if you’d get better results if you specifically asked them TO schedule you on X day just to make sure that you don’t have to work that day.

          One of my exes got ticked off when I got invited to a wedding and wasn’t invited with a guest. The bride and family had no idea I was with someone, since I usually couldn’t get a boyfriend if I sold my soul to the devil, and I felt super rude asking and refused to harass them to let me bring him. Also he worked retail and I pointed out that his boss had told him that NOBODY BUT NOBODY could ever get the day off on a weekend to boot, for any reason, ever. So not only was he kind of being a brat about it, he literally could not go! But ex kept driving me up a wall until I declined to go to the wedding.
          Naturally, the day before the wedding ex was granted the day off spontaneously.

          I am so glad I’ve never worked retail. I think I’d stab someone, honestly.

          1. Anon But Not a Mouse*

            I have a friend who, about 25 years ago, somehow got tickets to a big, huge deal, once-in-a-lifetime college football game (I live near a university that was, way back when, number one in college football). She asked for the day off and her boss at the well-known but now failing retail chain where she’d worked for years refused to let her have the day off. Wouldn’t let her trade with anyone, just wouldn’t let her have that Saturday off. He did buy the tickets from her so she wouldn’t lose her money. Then the day of the big game, he called her and told her she didn’t need to come in.

      3. boop*

        Feel for you all! I just left a job after 9 (!) years – voluntarily cross trained, covered shifts, never late, rarely sick. Management even shrugged off their inventory duties onto me, and so I had a big responsibility to keep the place running. I’d felt like garbage the entire time, but then I found out that my coworkers, who haven’t been there nearly as long nor had as much responsibility, were making an entire $2/hour more than I was. I gave notice, though, because I didn’t have an event.

        I never allowed myself events, always booked my life around my work schedule (which was only 1-3 days notice), don’t even take vacation anymore. But I watched my coworkers ask for time off for serious dance competitions, exams, what-have-you… So many were given back their T.O. request form with a huge “NO” scrawled across it. How rude!

    8. Betty (the other Betty)*

      Decades later I still regret missing my cousin’s wedding because I couldn’t the weekend off from my high school job.

  31. SlickWilly*

    Holy crap, LW.

    I respectfully disagree with Alison and suggest you do not try to make amends. Your star employee will harbor this one and have learned not to be your star employee anymore if she does happen to come back and work for you. You lost this battle and learned a lesson. You definitely should apologize to the rest of your employees though and admit your mistake. Otherwise, once they fully understand what happened… your reputation as a fair manager is toast.

    1. Edith*

      Don’t worry– there is a 100% chance the employee’s new job is far better than the one she left. OP can do all the groveling she wants. That employee isn’t coming back.

    2. Jadelyn*

      That’s assuming OP *had* a reputation as a fair manager. Someone who just lets employees run wild, more or less, with their scheduling does not make for a “fair manager”.

    3. ArchErin*

      The actions of this manager reminds me of a quote from Eliza Hamilton – gee where have we heard that name before. I hope that if the manager does reach out that the employee says as much as Eliza did.
      Elizabeth Hamilton survived her husband by fifty full years, finally dying at the age of 97. Years after the duel, Mr. Monroe came to call. By now he was a former president, but Betsy remembered his role in slandering Alexander during the Reynolds affair. Initially, she refused to see him but was prevailed upon by younger family members. Mr. Monroe entered but was not offered a chair. He gave a brief speech about forgiving and forgetting and Betsy answered with these words.
      “Mr. Monroe, if you have come to tell me that you repent, that you are sorry, very sorry, for the misrepresentations and the slanders, and the stories you have circulated against my dear husband, if you have come to say this, I understand it. But, otherwise, no lapse of time, no nearness to the grave, makes any difference.”

  32. Tyler*

    I imagine the owner of this business that this person helps manage would love to know about how poorly this whole situation was (mis)handled. The manager is so far out of line that it is almost beyond my ability to comprehend how this seemed like an acceptable way to handle his/her best employee. I’m comforted by knowing from experience that people like the employee always come out ahead in the end. Good for her.

  33. Bee Eye LL*

    I know someone who was once asked to come in and do inventory on the morning of his father’s funeral. The reason? The funeral didn’t start until 11am and inventory only took a couple of hours. I’m not kidding. I won’t tell you the name of the employer but it’s a national chain.

    1. Karyn*

      Yep, my mom’s former boss made her work the day her mother died. A really great person.

    2. Edith*

      I know ssomeone who was refused the day off to attend her stepfather’s funeral because he wasn’t a blood relative. I can only imagine that if someone asked for time off because their child had died the first words out of the manager’s mouth would be “That depends. Was your child biological or adopted?”

      1. Jessica*

        Ok. This is horrifying. These kinds of stories make me wonder whether there are ever situations where a good manager wants to be kind/reasonable (so, in this case, wants to give the employee the day off for her stepfather’s funeral), but is so hamstrung by an overly precise (and cruel) policy that they legitimately can’t find a way to make it work. I just can’t imagine responding to this situation without compassion. Are these managers just jerks, or what?

        1. Edith*

          I think in this case it was the manager refusing to think through the real-life, human implications of a bereavement policy that was in my opinion improperly worded. I think it used the term blood relation when it was intended to cover immediate family members.

          The policy was similarly cited to bar an employee from attending to her husband’s family when her father-in-law died. The manager said something shockingly flippant, like “How are you bereaved? It’s not like it was your dad who died.” To which the employee replied, “He was my husband’s father and my children’s grandfather, and if you think I’m not going to be there to support them you have another thing coming.” She took the day off anyway, and an official strike was added to her file. I don’t believe she has any regrets about it.

          The lady with the stepfather I believe was able to talk the manager into letting it count as bereavement leave because he had become her stepdad when she was little and the manager decided to let it slide. How fricking magnanimous of her, I know.

          1. JudeM*

            This is horrifying. I don’t know if it’s more of a US thing (I’m in the UK), but when my mother passed away in October my boss / company couldn’t have been more understanding. Company policy stated that up to 6 days compassionate leave was allowed, but more could be agreed at managers discretion. I ended up taking almost 3 weeks off (in total, she was in hospital for several days prior) and my boss STILL allowed me an additional day of compassionate leave to scatter her ashes – no questions asked.

            I work at a large, international company which has had several scandals and hasn’t always covered itself in glory. But I will never forget the support they provided or the fact that it was offered, I didn’t have to beg. It’s probably the main reason I haven’t even considered looking elsewhere even though my current role is not the most stimulating at times!

            1. catsAreCool*

              I live in the US, and even when I worked in fast food, when I got sick a couple of times, they let me call in sick, didn’t give me any trouble about it, I didn’t have to find anyone to cover my shift (fortunately, I was miserably sick). And that was just for being sick, not having a bereavement.

            2. GingerHR*

              Everywhere I’ve worked (UK) has had similar rules. It’s usually ‘close family’, but in practice, the manager should interpret that. I’ve always said when managers ask they use their discretion: it could be an elderly neighbour who is family in all but genes, or the third cousin once removed who basically raised the employee – you support your employee when they need it. When my mum died, my otherwise awful job was incredibly supportive – to the point that the CEO checked that I really should be in in the week before the funeral, and I knew that at any point I could just go. It’s not even about good management, no matter where you’re based, it’s about basic humanity and decency.
              Having said all that, I’ve also been supportive of managers starting to question when an employee who shows reluctance to show up anyway is on their third great-aunt’s funeral in 4 months.

            3. LSM*

              I work in the US and have been working as a consultant/contractor for over six years.

              Three years ago, I was working on the world’s CRAZIEST project. The work was deadly dull, the mandate was unclear, the workflow disorganized and fragmented. The only good thing about it was the occasional free lunch, which was really quite tasty.

              I will always think fondly of those people, because when my grandmother was dying, I called them, at the craziest, busiest time ever, said, “My grandmother is dying. I have to go see her,” and they were all like, “Of COURSE, you do! Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Are you okay to drive yourself to the airport?” And when I got back, they were all lovely and sympathetic, and invited me to share grandmother stories.

      1. ZuKeeper*

        Nah, their inventories take many hours. The one my husband worked (before he just couldn’t take it anymore) for did theirs overnight (10pm-7am) and they were barely finished by the end of the shift.

  34. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    My heart hurts for the employee who’s gotten dealt so many bad hands of cards and still soldiered on. And for her to work so hard at a job, to never have missed a day and covered for everyone else, and then to be punched in the gut like this by both her coworkers and her boss. Not a single person could spare her two hours to go to her COLLEGE graduation.

    For fuck’s sake, OP, you lost a treasure and you don’t even realize it.

    But I’m glad the employee found her courage and quit. She’s worth SO MUCH MORE than this kind of boss and job.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      “you lost a treasure and you don’t even realize it.”

      Indeed. And did you hear the righteousness oozing from the OP’s letter? Geez. The OP is the last person who should be giving advice on professionalism.

  35. Myrin*

    Oh, and also, I really, really don’t see why you would even think this employee would think it’s generally okay to quit on the spot. I mean… Firstly, the circumstances around this quitting were egregious on your part. Egregious circumstances make people do things they wouldn’t in a million years do otherwise and/or again. And secondly, you were her first job she worked at for six years. She doesn’t exactly have a track record of quitting on the spot.

  36. TJ*

    It’s interesting to see the rationalizations behind decisions like the one OP made — the way people justify in their own heads things that seem so extreme to an outsider. I’ll be paying more attention to my own thought processes from now on.

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      Makes me wonder if the OP has no degree of their own and therefore is either jealous or simply doesn’t understand how big a deal it is to walk across that stage.

      1. Petronella*

        I thought this as well. The OP seems not to understand the significance of earning a degree, or what a graduation ceremony entails.

        1. Newby*

          Probably it just didn’t mean that much to the OP. I didn’t attend my graduation because it just didn’t seem worth it. I don’t regret that choice. But it did mean something to the employee and that is what should matter.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Or going through college was easier for OP since maybe they went straight through out of high school, without having to work. I can see that affecting the perception.

      2. Jeanne*

        IME things like this are usually self-preservation. “If I give her time off I will have to get Jane to work instead. And Jane is going to whine and not do a good job. So I’ll just tell employee no time off. She’ll come in. She always does.” That kind of thing.

        1. TuxedoCat*

          I’ve experienced the same thing, except I think of it more like being conflict-adverse. It’s far easier and preferable for managers to go the path of least resistance than to do the right thing.

          And what I’ve seen is that the people who are considered least resisted get fed up and leave the job when they can.

  37. Former Border's Refugee*

    She had no one to teach her professional norms? She worked there without issue for six years AS YOUR BEST EMPLOYEE, so I think she must have picked up some professional norms somewhere along the line.

    You, however, don’t appear to have had anyone teach you that good management requires flexibility and empathy.

    CONCERT TICKETS. Seriously. Look at your life, look at your choices.

    1. Allison*

      What norms was OP planning to teach, exactly? That momentous milestone celebrations come second to work? If this woman was asked to work on the day of a family member’s wedding, should she feel obligated to skip that too? What about her own wedding, will she need a crystal ball to plan it so she knows she won’t be scheduled to work that day? Will she one day need to induce labor on a day she’s not working, so she doesn’t have to call out and risk getting fired when she goes into labor? What about when her own kids graduate, will she possibly need to skip that if her boss wants her in the office that day? Or do people need to earn that kind of work-life balance through decades of hard work and loyalty to one single employer?

      OP, what about you? What do you do when there’s a conflict between an important celebration or milestone and work? Do you skip these things in favor of work all the time, or do you say “sorry, my sister’s getting married that day, someone else will need to take care of that.” Because if you would want to attend those life moments, you’d better believe ALL of your employees feel the same way, and if you’re the type to miss out on them because of work and thus expect everyone else to do so as well, you live a sad existence.

    2. The Rat-Catcher*

      +1000 for “look at your life, look at your choices.” I now need to go watch SGF!

      Everything I wanted to say about the letter has been said. I’m in shock.

  38. Clinical Social Worker*

    I’m wondering if OP will venture to comment or update at all. I think likely not since everyone is overwhelmingly (and understandably) upset with OPs behavior, but it would be nice to know that she took this feedback and apologized to the graduate in the letter. OP I really hope you can take this to heart and offer the graduate an apology, as well as review your coverage policies with your employer.

    1. Big10Professor*

      Something is very weird about the letter in the first place. I feel like the actual question in the letter is a tacked-on afterthought. I think this person wrote in wanting backup more than anything.

      1. K.*

        Yep, I bet she’s shocked by these comments. The tone of the letter suggests that she thinks she’s totally in the right. She didn’t ask “Should I do this,” she asked what the best way was for her to do it – like it was a forgone conclusion that she should inform this employee of her unprofessionalism.

          1. teclatrans*

            :-( Yeah, given the likelihood of a delay between the letter being written vs. when it was published, I worry that the OP may have gone ahead and made the call, heaping further injustice on the ex-employee. I hope not, or that OP reflects and repents and calls back to apologize.

        1. Mustache Cat*

          Agreed, I’m very reminded of the “taking initiative” letter that was reposted for Independence Day. I’m getting the strong sense that this letter writer was expecting everyone to overwhelmingly agree with her.

      2. Artemesia*

        I don’t think the manager wrote the letter. I think the employee or another person did. It sounds like the kind of letter daughters in law write to advice columns pretending to be their unreasonable MILs. Not that this couldn’t happen but it is hard to imagine anyone being this dense.

        1. Lissa*

          That would make so much sense! I noted above how it seemed like even the little details still were in there to make the employee look good, not the manager, whereas usually in letters there’s a bunch of stuff there largely to make the LW look more in the right. I mean…why add that you gave another employee time off for a concert or that she tried to find coverage but couldn’t because all the coworkers would only cover for their out-of-work friends…? Can anybody seriously not realize how that makes them look?

          1. Clinical Social Worker*

            If you have ever worked in a toxic work environment with crummy management…yes. People go all out with unconscious defense mechanisms to make sure they are rarely, if ever, aware of this. There are unfortunately a LOT of people who don’t have the skills to understand how they affect other people much less make it better.

        2. CMartin*

          This was my thought as well, though MUCH more convincingly written than a lot of the “fake” (ie: from the opposite viewpoint) advice letters that are out there.

          My instinct after reading it was that the letter writer was the employee in question and that she actually got an e-mail from her former boss lecturing her about professionalism, and was wondering if her former boss was actually the crazy one or if she was so she wrote in as the manager to see what other managers would have to say about the situation.

          This was mostly my instinct because I can’t imagine any manager, no matter how delusional, would describe someone as their best employee with a gold-star record who they then treated that horribly. They’d find at least one flaw to mention.

          1. Clinical Social Worker*

            Wouldn’t it make more sense to just write in as the wronged party though? Why go through the trouble of trying to hide it by posing as the other person?

            1. Three Thousand*

              I’m skeptical that these “fake” opposite-viewpoint letters are actually a thing. Like you said, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to do this that has any benefit over just writing in as yourself.

              I think people sometimes want to believe a letter is “fake” because they can’t believe anyone could have so little self-awareness as to make themselves sound so unsympathetic. But some people just are that clueless and oblivious to how they sound. They really have convinced themselves they’re in the right and don’t think about how their behavior would look to a third party.

        3. NYC Redhead*

          I suspected the employee wrote in as well, but it still interesting reading!

        4. Chris*

          Right; I don’t disbelieve the situation at all (I’ve seen outrageous stuff like this), but the facts included in the letter are so blindingly on the employee’s side that either it’s fake, or this boss should be crowned Lord of the Bad Bosses, and we should place them upon a throne made from HR complaint forms.