my boss treats me like I’m incompetent, firing a difficult long-time employee, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss praises me but treats me like I’m incompetent

My boss will praise me on paper but seems to treat me as incompetent on a daily basis. Part of what I do involves training other employees, and she will crash meetings uninvited. Even for meetings she’s invited to, she stands right next to me and repeats everything I say. She’s not paraphrasing, she’s not making sure my speech doesn’t get overly technical; she simply repeats every word I say once I’ve finished.

If she overhears that someone has requested assistance or had a question, she’ll rush off after them once they’ve left my desk and question them about their problem and the solution.

Again: on paper, she’s all praise. During reviews, all praise. If there have been problems leading to this behavior, she doesn’t acknowledge they exist.

In the two years she’s been here, I’ve gone from loving my job to dreading it. My motivation and confidence have never been lower. Everyone else seems to get on well with her. Am I just being overly sensitive?

No, that sounds horrible. Have you ever asked her about it and asked her if she’s open to handling things differently? That’s where I’d start. Say something like this: “Jane, I’ve noticed that you’ll often attend the training meetings I do with others and go over the topics that I’m covering with people, and also that you’ll often follow up with people after I’ve answered their questions. This makes me think you might have concerns about how I’m handling these situations. If so, I’d very much want to know so that I’m able to work on whatever feedback you have for me.”

If she says that she doesn’t have any concerns about your work, then say this: “That’s good to hear. In that case, would you be open to not stepping in during these things? It can feel like you’re signaling to others — and frankly, to me — that you don’t trust me to handle it.”

2. Firing a difficult long-time employee

I work in a small office in a declining industry. Our salespeople have seen reduced commissions because they are based on sales, and the owners have taken pay cuts to avoid layoffs and cutting employee’s salaries. Our design department usually consists of two people – one has been in the job since the company’s inception (20+ years), and the other position has seen quite a bit of turnover, once due to inappropriate behavior, once due to death, and more recently we’ve been hiring people who are able to parlay their experience with us into higher paying jobs with large companies (we’re thrilled for them).

The long-term employee has become increasingly difficult to deal with. Among other reasons, they seem to feel we owe them something for sticking around so long when others haven’t, and for picking up the slack (minimal since we are a dying industry) while we hire a new person. They are now demanding that we pay them a high hourly freelance rate in addition to their salary – a salary that is the highest in the company aside from the owners. This person is an exempt employee, so we do not owe them overtime, and they make far more than the new rules coming into effect this year. They also work from home the majority of the time, and I know that they do not work 40 hours. They’ve started to resist coming into the office at all, even though everyone else does – one to two days a week.
They also seem to think that they are irreplaceable – frankly we could hire someone with updated skills for less money.

We are an at-will state, so we don’t need a reason to fire this person, but I’m not sure how to handle letting a long-term employee go. What do you say to someone who has become so unreasonable in their demands that you just want to part ways?

Would you be willing to keep the person on if they changed their behavior? If so, have a clear, direct conversation in which you lay out what you are and aren’t willing to do, and what your expectations are for their behavior, and ask them to decide if they want the job knowing that’s the reality of it. In this case: “I want to be really transparent with you about what you can expect from us, so that you can make the right decisions for yourself. We aren’t going to increase your salary because of XYZ. We also need you to come into the office regularly (assuming this is in fact something you need). We really appreciate the years you’ve put in here, but we also understand if the job no longer lines up with what you’re looking for. If you stay, though, we need you to (insert specific behavior changes you need here, like not continuing to push on salary after being told no, not being grumpy and negative, etc.). Would you like to take a few days and think about whether this still makes sense for you, knowing that we can’t be flexible on the things we’ve asked for?”

And then if they come back and say yes, you are up-front that if they don’t change the behaviors, you will need to part ways — so that they’re not blindsided if that ends up happening.

But if the relationship is already past the point where it can be repaired, then you’d have a heart-to-heart where you explain what the issues are and say, “At this point, I don’t think we can reconcile what we each want, so I’d like to talk about a transition plan” (and that plan would ideally include generous severance, in light of their 20 years there and the fact that you didn’t warn them this was coming). I’d only do that as a last resort though — otherwise it’s generally better to go the first route.

3. The job I applied for lists different salary ranges in different ads

I have a twist on the “how soon is too soon to ask about salary” question: I saw postings for a job I just interviewed for on two different sites. The position is very specific, and the wording on both postings was the same (and is the same as the post on the organization’s website). The only difference between the postings is that one lists the salary range at $150K-$170K (which I am positive is a typo and it was supposed to be $50K-$70K, as it’s a junior-level position), and the other lists it as $83K-110K.

I’m happy with anything over $45k, so I’d be fine either way, but hypothetically, if I would only be interested in the position if the accurate salary range was the higher of the two, would that be an appropriate question to ask in a first interview (or even beforehand)? If so, what would be the best way to phrase it?

Yes! By including salary in the job posting, they have signaled that they do not consider it a grave sin to talk about salary early on, which is good. Toward the end of your first interview, I’d say, “When I was looking at the job posting, I noticed that the ad on site X listed a different salary range than the ad on site Y — $50K-$70K versus $83K-110K. I wasn’t sure which was correct.” (Actually, that’s assuming it’s a phone interview. If the first interview is an in-person interview — and thus requires more investment from you — I’d ask it when you get invited to interview, since you’re talking about a situation where the answer will determine if you’re interested in the job or not.)

4. Resigning after being out on sick leave

I have just recently gotten out of the hospital and I am now at home, healing. It was a very sudden thing and I will most likely be out of work for two to four weeks, maybe more. I am going to make a full recovery! But it is a long recovery time for a neurological-related illness.

Part of the cause of my illness and why I am not allowed back to work is that I had Work Stress with capital letters. I had even had my regular doctor recommend I leave my job before this happened. I was in the process of starting my plan to transition and save so I could have a more freelance life style, but it has been hindered by my need to focus on healing.

Family and friends do not want me to return to my job and are willing to help me achieve this. I am leery of taking them up on it, but also think it might be best. Is there a graceful way to leave a job after several weeks of sick leave? I was an essential person over the years, and I know they have been going crazy without me. I feel this points out the big problem, what I have been pointing out for years, that I do the jobs of three people and need someone else to also take up some of the burden. I should add that I have a textbook bad boss, but I do have an HR department. I don’t actually want to screw over my coworkers, but I do have to take care of myself and not worsen my condition.

Leaving after several weeks of sick leave is actually a very easy way to leave! You simply explain that while you had hoped to recover enough to return, it’s now looking like that won’t be possible, and that you need to resign for health reasons. Even most bad bosses will understand this, and if for some reason yours doesn’t, your HR department should handle it well. People know you were sick, and this is a possible outcome of that.

This is a thing that happens, and you shouldn’t worry about it at all!

5. Showing a promotion on a resume

I have been promoted (yay!). However, my job title won’t be changing. In my company, job titles are usually (for example) junior/assistant teapot maker, teapot maker, senior teapot maker. I have been at teapot maker and was promoted to senior.

However, I have a specialty which I have been in charge of since I joined (think chief spout maker). I don’t think my title will change (although I could probably ask for something different!) but I’m wondering how to show the promotion on my resume. Or whether I should ask for a different title?

Your title does sound like it’s changing — they’re adding “senior,” right? I would show it this way:

Teapots of the Sea, Inc.
Senior Teapot Maker, August 2016 – present
Teapot Maker, May 2014 – August 2016
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

If chief spout maker wasn’t never part of your title but just a function you’re performing, then I’d make that one of the bullet points under this job:

* Acted as chief spout maker, including leading all spout design and training new spout makers

{ 143 comments… read them below }

  1. M_Lynn

    #1- If it helps, realize that this appears to be about your boss and not at all about what she thinks of you. Your are correct about the perception it gives to others, but it may help to think of it in terms of your boss having a personal need to always be the giver of information. It’s a power trip thing. I had a boss like this once- she was constantly displaying her knowledge like a peacock unfolding its feathers, explaining minute details of very simple tasks, and following up with vendors I worked with to repeat the instructions I gave them. It was absolutely demeaning and frustrating, but not a reflection of my work.

    1. Chris

      It’s also possible your boss has something like ADD, and is repeating what you said to make sure they grasped it all and didn’t miss something when their attention wandered. (it’s a common coping mechanism). Either way, mentioning it and how it’s being perceived is still probably the correct answer if handled tactfully.

      1. SystemsLady

        This is one instance where I don’t think suggesting somebody in a letter has ADD is OK, and I don’t think repeating to understand is even plausibly what’s happening here (OP is a trainer who I’d assume trains on the same things frequently, and this is OP’s boss, not a trainee).

        Repeating to understand is more for a conversational context. In this context, notes or a voice recorder would be the more common way to go.

      2. MashaKasha

        That really does sound like a good coping mechanism (I have mild ADD), however that doesn’t begin to explain why she also does this: “If she overhears that someone has requested assistance or had a question, she’ll rush off after them once they’ve left my desk and question them about their problem and the solution.”

        I think we’re looking at something other than ADD here.

    2. sstabeler

      for that matter, since it’s pretty blatantly tactless at a minimum, it’s fair to say that it may well be more of a reflection on your boss than on you.

      1. Kyrielle

        Yes, if I were receiving a training and the trainer’s boss was present and repeated what they said word for word, it wouldn’t make me doubt the trainer. It would make me question whether the boss was a loon in all ways, or just this one way.

        If the boss were *correcting* you, changing the content (not just phrasing) of what you’d presented, then I might wonder about you. But simply repeating the information you delivered?

        I stopped my habit of doodling in my notes when I stopped taking notes beyond significant points, sometime after college. Which is the only way I wouldn’t be drawing (badly, since I never really worked on this skill) a margin-cartoon of your boss as a loon.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          Yes, if I were receiving a training and the trainer’s boss was present and repeated what they said word for word, it wouldn’t make me doubt the trainer.

          Honestly, after a conversation as Alison suggests, I would be sorely tempted to say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry Jane, would you like to take over the training today? Really, are you sure? Because it’s no problem for me to step out if you wish to do today’s training. There isn’t much point in the both of us leading it and if you’d feel more comfortable taking over, I understand.” after a few rounds of her repetitions.

          I mean, I can understand what Kyrielle says about correcting or providing a different explanation/updated information or even if Boss wanted to sit in the back of the room and observe to evaluate #1’s teaching style for future comments/feedback. But to stand up there and repeat everything? I would be thinking that Boss thinks I’m a moron or that this was #1’s first day on the job or something.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            That is beautiful. I love it.
            And how in the heck is she getting any work done herself if shes this controlling and micromanagey?

    3. Important Moi

      Is it possible to ask your co-workers about how you are perceived?

      My personal experience: I worked with a woman who did the same as your boss. (In fact early on in our work relationship I was told it looked like I reported to her – I changed that.) I was able to ask a few trusted co-workers and employees of other Teapot companies we worked with about their impressions of my co-worker and me. They thought my co-worker was pushy and surprisingly rude at times. They opted to say nothing because they observed my co-worker was never reprimanded for her behavior. They knew my contribution and were greatly impressed with my professionalism in the situation.

      Did it make me like my co-worker? No, however, I was able to find out my professional reputation had not been damaged. Maybe you could find out the same?

      1. Meg Murry

        I agree with this, OP could also ask co-workers if boss used to do this to her predecessor or other people to determine if this is a quirk of her boss of if the boss is doing this only to her.

        Also, OP mentions that on paper and in reviews there is nothing but praise, but it is possible that the manager (and/or company culture) is the type that never says anything negative, but rather believes in “damning with faint praise”. It took me a while to learn that at one company, if you asked about a employee and were told something vague and bland like “Jane’s an excellent employee” or “Oh, yes, Sarah, she’s pretty good” or anything less that over the top gushing – that was basically saying “that employee is mediocre at best, possibly even terrible. Kind of like recommendation letters that mention a person being pleasant, punctual and that they play nice with others and don’t give any specifics – sometimes that’s code either for “if I can’t say anything nice I’ll say something generic” or “I don’t actually know this person at all”.

    4. LBK

      Yeah, I had a manager who used to do something similar. Any time a conclusion was reached in a meeting, he would basically go through and reiterate everything everyone else had said in a manner that made it sound like it was his own opinion (not like he was asking for confirmation of his understanding or something like that). In his case, though, it was the opposite of your manager who wanted to display all her knowledge – it was because he wasn’t that technical and was bad at grasping nuances of situations, so the only way he could make himself look smart and like he was following the discussion was to just re-state everyone else’s ideas. It was extremely obvious every time he would do it and typically got subtle eye rolls from everyone else in the room.

      I do wonder if that will mean raising the issue isn’t the best idea, because if it is indeed fueled by your manager’s desire to look smart on topics she doesn’t really know anything about, you’ll basically be taking a shot at her ego if you ask her to stop. If it’s really, really grating, then it’s probably worth it, but if you’re able to chalk it up to her own insecurities and it’s not affecting your work in other ways (being passed up for good projects/raises/promotions) I would just operate under the assumption that others can also see how transparent this behavior is and let it go.

      1. Romance Writer Belly Dancing Anon

        My old boss was very much like this as well – even though it drove me nuts I eventually was able to sympathize with her mindset. She didn’t have a college degree or formal training in her field (accounting), and she was massively insecure about it. It was like she constantly had to prove that she already knew or understood every single thing another employee said, even when it wasn’t true.

        1. Mabel

          And it makes it awfully hard for her to learn if she’s talking instead of listening and asking questions.

    5. Chinook

      I have had to sit through multiple presentations where the boss did the same thing to appointed presenter and I can tell you that it fully reflected on the boss and not the presenter (who had my full sympathy as well as awe and her ability not to roll her eyes at the constant interruptions). With a power dynamic like that, any reasonable person knows that you can’t tell your boss to shut up (politely or otherwise) and it takes a lot of experience and chutzpah to be able to pull back their reins and let you lead again in the middle of the presentation.

      Your boss is simply unaware and AAM’s advice is spot on.

      1. AMT

        The whole thing reminded me of David Brent in the British version of the office. The name of the episode is “Training” and it goes pretty much like OP’s story. It’s the most fun you can have while cringing.

  2. fposte

    On #4– just in case you’re on FMLA, be aware that the employer can require an employee who doesn’t return after FMLA leave to reimburse the business for insurance premiums paid during leave.

    1. Katie F

      There’s usually a set amount of days – 30 or 60 – that you need to come back in order for that to not be the case, so she could still give notice as soon as that time period is up. Although, if this is a bad enough situation that OP needs to leave ASAP, it may be worth being prepared to pay back those premiums.

    2. the gold digger

      What if the person is on short-term disability? If you can keep the STD money but have to repay the health insurance premiums, you still might come out ahead. (Caveat: I do not know how this works – I am speculating.)

      1. Nona

        In my experience, STD payments tend to be pretty low, compared to LTD payments. And are meant to replace income from not working. So I would think the disability insurance payments would be going to regular expenses already.

      2. KiteFlier

        I see what you are saying about at least taking in some money from STD payments – STD is usually paid from a vendor and benefits deductions are not included in these payments. Even if they are receiving disability, they still need to repay the company for their benefits. STD is usually about 60% of your pay.

    3. J.B.

      From https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/8d4.aspx

      “Under certain circumstances, the employer may recover its share of health plan premiums paid during the period of unpaid FMLA leave from an employee. The employer may recover its share of health plan premiums if the employee fails to return to work after his or her unpaid FMLA leave entitlement has been exhausted or expires, unless the reason the employee does not return is due to:

      *Circumstances beyond the employee’s control; or
      *The continuation, recurrence or onset of a serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s family member, or a serious injury or illness of a covered servicemember, that would otherwise entitle the employee to leave under FMLA.”

      OP#4 should be ok…if she checks all the boxes. Good thing to pay attention to!

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Plus, I wonder if the fact her Dr is recommending she not work there due to all the stress, that would help her case. Not that she has to tell them the exact reason, just that her Dr is not clearing her to return.

    4. TootsNYC

      And one way to handle that would be to make your decision about not returning for good, somewhat late in the leave period. And then say, “I won’t be able to come back full-time, long-term, but I can come back and get you all set up for me to resign. What about X weeks, and I’ll focus on documentation, and finding a replacement.

      Could you handle that?

      Also–I don’t know how long you have to return for, in order for the FMLA reimbursement to not kick in.

      1. Meg Murry

        I think this is good advice if OP is capable of doing it, but if situation won’t allow it (or if going back to work will cause her to regress on the healing process she’s achieved so far), as others have said, people will understand that this is a thing that happens.

        I’d suggest a slight revision to Alison’s script though. I’d suggest that OP mention that although her original intention was to take time off to heal enough to come back, it appears that her recovery process is going to take a lot longer than she originally anticipated, and as such it’s probably best for all involved that they come to a mutual agreement about the best path for OP to exit this position so the company can hire a permanent replacement rather than continue to try to make do until she comes back. I’d recommend mentioning that the healing process is taking longer than expected so that it’s not implied that OP is never going to be able to work again but rather that she may be able to work in the future but not in the short term. If people get the impression that OP is so sick she can’t work at all ever again and then in 6 months (or however long) they get a call for a reference check, the (now) employer might be so surprised they give a negative reference about how they thought OP was too sick to work and they are startled to hear she is applying for work, etc.

      2. #4 OP

        Thank you, guys!

        This is kind of what I hope to do, if I can. I still don’t know if I will be able to. Part of my issue is partial (temporary!!!) blindness that issue is slowly healing, but my doctors don’t want me under too much stress until I am fully healed because otherwise it could worsen then go from temporary to must prevent permanent damage. …this whole this has not been fun and came out of the blue. I don’t want to repeat any of it!!

        I started my FMLA with HR this week, and work gives automatic short term disability to all employees that have to be out over so many days (pretty standard when you work for a university in our area of america). It isn’t insurance based but you get paid partial salary for so many weeks based on how long you have worked there as a curtsy, then after that it is FMLA. So hopefully that means no insurance thing?? I have no idea. I have never been very sick before. Another item to research!

        Thank you very much for your comments, and thank you for your answer, Alison! This has been the longest job I’ve had after university, and I just haven’t been sure what to do.

        1. irritable vowel

          I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this! If you’re not quite ready to go to HR with questions like “do I have to pay back benefits from my leave if I quit?” you might consider asking someone at one of your state’s Department of Labor agencies – there’s a list here: https://www.dol.gov/general/location. Perhaps they could give you some state-specific answers to questions you have regarding benefits and disability claims.

        2. hmm

          The STD is a separate thing from the health insurance.

          If you get your health insurance through work, and your premium is deducted out of your paycheck, chances are that your employer pays for part of your premium. Say that your premium is $300 a month, and that the amount you pay is $100 (taken out of your paycheck) and then your employer pays the remaining $200. Your employer can basically demand that you repay them for the employer-paid portion of your premium, so you’d have to pay them back the $200.

    5. Helena

      The DOL says they can require it “unless the employee does not return because of circumstances that are beyond the employee’s control, including a FMLA-qualifying medical condition.” OP #4 says in her letter that her doctor advised her that work stress substantially contributed to her illness. If the doctor is willing to write a letter to that effect, they probably couldn’t make her reimburse them. She may also qualify for some degree of worker’s compensation or state disability insurance for work-related disability, though with neurological conditions that can be a high standard of proof to meet.

  3. Cas

    Similar to #5, what if you act in a position for a long period of time? For example, my work history at the one place looks like Analyst (6 months), acting manager (9 months), analyst (1 year), acting manager (4 months), analyst (6 months), etc… I don’t know how to present that properly…
    In this case, acting manager means actually doing the manager role 100% and getting paid at the manager salary.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I would do it this way:

      Teapots of the Sea
      Analyst, October 2013 – present
      Acting manager, June 2014-September 2014 and October 2015-June 2016

      * accomplishment
      * accomplishment
      * accomplishment

  4. BobcatBrah

    I empathize with OP#2. I have a 20 year employee who is quite difficult to get to do anything outside of her norm. When she is doing her normal job during her normal hours, she performs quite well. Is the non-flexibility an issue? Sure, but I have a part timer (for the moment) who can cover for her. If the part timer moves on, then I may not be able to find another part time employee and have to find a full timer. We’ll see how it plays out.

  5. Stellaaaaa

    OP2: What are your honest projections about the future of your company? If you think the financial situation could get even shakier in the next year or two, consider just dealing with this guy’s complaining because you’ll all be looking for new jobs soon anyway.

    There’s something to be said for being the only employee to stick around amidst constant turnover. This employee has done the job of two people every time someone else left for a better opportunity. He probably trained each of them and continued to pick up the slack until the newbies got up to speed…only to see them all move on and leave him with the extra work yet again. Do you even need the second employee? This guy seems happy to do all the work himself but is just asking for a raise. Can you give him 50% of what the second team member would make? Is the current situation sustainable work-wise beyond the complaining? You’re not going to get a talented new hire to stick around long if they sense that the bottom line is as precarious as you’ve described here. I doubt you want your company to continue to be a stepping stone for people who never intended to stay very long. What would happen if you fired the complainer? How would you go about hiring an entire department for a company whose future is in obvious trouble? In this scenario, I don’t see the value in letting your long-term employee go when every new hire in the department has been so eager to move on.

    1. Daisy

      You say ‘just’ asking for a raise, when the OP’s said the company’s not doing great and making cuts, and then suggest a huge amount. 50% of the other salary is an enormous raise! (Even given that he makes more than the other person in the role.) It really doesn’t sound like he’s doing the work of one and a half people, the company doesn’t have spare cash, and it doesn’t sound like the OP is enamoured of him in general. Why would they do that?

      1. Stellaaaaa

        I’m suggesting they don’t hire a second employee this time, since they never stick around and the current one is doing all the work anyway. Giving him a raise and keeping him around is cheaper than onboarding and paying a second full-timer. As annoying as he is, I think OP needs to recognize this dude’s value. He has 20 years of experience at a company that no one wants to work for. How exactly would things work out if he was let go? Then you’d have a department with no one in it and no one with any clue how to run it. There’s not even anyone there with the skill set to manage it temporarily. Who would train his replacement? You don’t fire the only guy in the department unless you intend to shut it down. Unless the plan is to hire someone new, get them trained, and then let the guy go. Odds are that the newbie would leave soon after that so I don’t see that as a solution. I’d feel differently if the company weren’t likely to close its doors soon. I just feel like firing the complainer would have the effect of shuttering the department because the timing is so awkward.

        1. Colette

          It’s possible that this guy is a contributing factor to the turnover.

          And there are good reasons to hire two people rather than overpaying one, particularly when the one employee has an attitude problem. With two people, you can cover vacations and spread knowledge around.

          The actual answer might be to get rid of the long term employee and hire two new people at a the long term employee’s salary (or close to it).

          1. mazzy

            +1 to the two people is sometimes better thing. One of my guys, I swear he can say the same thing as anyone else but other departments jump on everything he says as the complete and total truth. And he is good in meetings because he prepares a lot and isn’t afraid to cut off ramblers and people speaking out of their a@@@@ on topics he’s spent hours researching. So even though I could technically spread his day to day stuff around, all of the extra money making and saving things wouldn’t be happening without his being here in addition to the others without the soft skills.

        2. neverjaunty

          “Give them a raise and make them do the work of two people, it’s cheaper than hiring someone else” is exactly the kind of short-sighted management that launches a thousand AAM letters from overworked, exhausted employees.

          You are reading an awful lot into this situation based on longevity.

        3. Annonymouse

          Stellaaaaa
          You seem to be making assumptions or very big leaps to your conclusions based on the evidence here.

          Based off the letter it seems Problem Worker (PW) isn’t doing the entirety of their job, let alone picking up a second one.

          They are also on a high salary and “demanding a high freelance hourly rate” on top of that. And they aren’t doing overtime, in fact there is evidence to suggest they aren’t even doing 40 hours a week .

          In what workplace is that ok to ask? I’m not talking about a raise because you’ve taken over a second/significantly more demanding role. This person wants to be paid as both a salaried employee and an hourly one. No.

          Also OP is ok with turnover in the role. It seems to be entry level so people aren’t going to do it forever.

          It comes back to loyalty. But loyalty goes BOTH ways. Loyalty isn’t just about showing up every day and collecting a pay check. Loyalty is about doing what is best for the business and helping them grow. PW clearly isn’t doing that.

    2. MK

      I think your take on the situation is way off what the OP described. A dying industry doesn’t mean the company will close soon; it can mean that the owners foresee that they will have work for, say, 10 more years and plan accordingly to wind down their operations gradually. Also, it sounds like the OP is fine with the job becoming a stepping stone; if you can’t offer people a future with the company, having them stay for years isn’t your priority. And at that stage of the operations, when what you need is people maintaining the work of the department, maybe they don’t need huge talent, just someone reasonably competent who will run the day-to-day.

    3. Colette

      I think you’re assuming a lot here.

      There’s no evidence that they’ve been doing two jobs – based on the fact that they work less than 40 hours a week, it’s not even clear they’re doing one.

      This employee is already very well paid. If they could actually make more elsewhere, then a raise is a possibility if their attitude improves (and stays improved). But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. And paying a problem employee well above market rate means they’ll never leave.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        “And paying a problem employee well above market rate means they’ll never leave.”

        So true!

        1. OP#2

          This is awesome, so many great comments and input; it’s greatly appreciated as we’re meeting with her soon – she’s pretty much dug in her heels and refused to do any work at all; I’ve had to hire temps to fill in – things have actually been going very well without her.

          We’re happy to be a stepping stone; the position is entry level and not one you want to spend your entire career in – I’d be concerned if they did, and we don’t expect anyone to stay more than one or two years in it. I don’t know how to explain it except to say having turnover in that position has been good – there’s a huge pool of new talent to choose from, and they always bring a fresh perspective to the business, which is sorely missing because the current employee has not had a new idea in years, basically phoning it in. Her teapots, to use the common analogy, are old fashioned and not popular anymore.

          On one hand, the employee is complaining that they’re stressed about all the extra work, on the other they’d magically deal with the extra work if we just pay them more.

          We do need to have someone else in the department because we work on daily deadlines – someone always needs to be here; the employee in question would never be able to have a work-free vacation, and we want that for her, and everyone else.

          Also, although she does not see it this way, the employee makes about double the going rate for people in her field, and has a lot of flexibility in her hours – she’s able to attend her kid’s soccer games, school events, doctor’s appointments – there are a lot of those type things that she wouldn’t be able to do working places that require a regular 8-5 workday.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

            I’m not as compassionate as Alison is on this one. A j-o-b means it is w-o-r-k and the rest of us are working around here. I’ll walk 10 miles barefoot in the snow for a long term employee who is having issues and needs help, but I don’t have a ton of patience for anybody who thinks the world revolves around them when the rest of us are trying to survive here.

            In my world, she’d adjust herself to the new norm of everybody pitching in together to survive this industry downturn, or I’d let her go, with a severance commiserate with 20 years of service, (we’d give her 20 weeks).

            There’s little time for primadonnas when things are good much less when things are at survival level.

          2. Jadelyn

            If you’re having to hire temps to get the work done, then what exactly is she still on your payroll for? It really sounds like you’re paying her to complain, at this point. And temps aren’t a sustainable solution for any longer length of time, because (speaking from my temp days) someone on a temp job is usually also looking for regular non-temp work, and if they find that they’ll be out the door – and who can blame them?

            And it also sounds like, when you say she’s been phoning it in for years and not having updated her skills or ideas to keep up with the industry, there’s been a lack of management of this employee for a longer time than the immediate issue. Maybe if someone had sat her down to make it clear that she needed to do XYZ to stay current and/or put more effort into her job, it would’ve nipped this in the bud and it wouldn’t have reached this point.

            1. Lily in NYC

              I wish I could get paid to complain! I’d be so good at it that I’d be promoted within a week.

          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            Hearing this additional detail — I don’t think this is something you can or should try to salvage. Time to let her go. Possibly with a final warning first and giving her like two weeks to make a dramatic turnaround, if you want to do that just to recognize her longevity at the company, but it’s time to let her go.

          4. Salyan

            “She’s pretty much dug in her heels and refused to do any work at all”
            This made my jaw drop. How do people think such a course of action would ever have positive results?

          5. Chaordic One

            I would just caution the OP to be sure they fully understand exactly what the problem employee does all day.

            At my old dysfunctional workplace, my replacement didn’t do the followup that I did and people ended up not getting paid because their supervisors didn’t respond to her first email and she didn’t nag them like I did.

            A problem employee in a different department was let go for having an attitude problem, but actually did quite a lot, though she repeatedly said she could not take on any additional work. I know that her supervisor had the I.T. department check her internet usage and there was no sign of her goofing off and spending time on non-business related websites. After she was gone, a lot of balls got dropped, as she was actually quite good with details and anticipated the needs of the branch offices in a timely manner and I don’t think that department ever had a functioning copier after she left. They were always out of toner or out of paper or the service person needed to be called and wasn’t.

            OTOH, if she really isn’t doing her job, then you probably need to let her go.

    4. Kira

      You have an interesting take, but I don’t think it matches details from the letter.

      1. “This employee has done the job of two people every time someone else left for a better opportunity.” However, in OP’s letter, she states “they seem to feel we owe them something for… picking up the slack (minimal since we are a dying industry)”.

      2. “Just asking for a raise”. OP writes that everyone else at the company, including the owners, are taking pay cuts. Further, there’s no evidence that the employee is being paid less than market value.

      3. “I doubt you want your company to continue to be a stepping stone for people who never intended to stay very long.” On the contrary, OP doesn’t express any problem with being a training-ground, and says “we’re thrilled for them” when the employees move up. Some companies are okay with being a stepping stone.

      4. “What would happen if you fired the complainer?” OP states that the complainer “seems to think that they are irreplaceable–frankly we could hire someone with updated skills for less money.”

      Overall, the issues you’re covering don’t seem to be concerns for the OP in this particular circumstance.

  6. Chief Spout Maker OP#5

    Hi all! In response to Alison, my job title is currently chief spout maker. Because of my specialism I have quite a senior sounding title, but in terms of hierarchy in the industry and in the company I’d want to show that I’ve moved up. But what to change my title to (super chief spout maker??) is a problem. I thought about doing it this way:
    Chief Spout Maker 2015-present
    – Achievement
    -Achievement
    – Promoted to senior teapot maker level July 2016
    (However this doesn’t solve the problem of colleagues understanding my new day rate etc)

    Or
    Chief Spout Maker (Senior Teapot Maker) 2014-2016
    — Achievement
    -Achievement

    Chief Spout Maker (Teapot Maker) 2016-present
    – Achievement
    -Achievement

    I think actually there are two separate issues – letting people in the company know (management are terrible at announcing these things) and showing it on my resume.

      1. Chief Spout Maker OP#5

        It changes the type of work I have access to, and the amount that I can be charged out at (colleagues need to budget more now to use my time on projects).

        And yes, love a good teapot analogy!

        1. Colette

          Fair enough. As far as the rate, do you have the opportunity to let them know when they ask you to get involved in something? “By the way, I’m now a senior teapot designer and my rate is $x.”

          1. (Not an IRS) Auditor

            My company’s solution has always been to add a number to the end:

            Sr Teapot Maker
            Sr Teapot Maker II
            Sr Teapot Maker III

    1. Lily Rowan

      On the resume front, I’d just want to be sure that if, years from now, someone calls HR to verify your employment, that HR will confirm the title you list on the resume.

      1. Elsie

        A lot of times we do Title, Speciality. Could do Teapot Maker, Chief Spout Maker and Senior Teapot Maker, Chief Spout Maker?

    2. Cordelia Naismith

      Or you could say

      Senior Chief Spout Maker (2016-present)
      Chief Spout Maker (2014-2016)
      –Achievement
      –Achievement

  7. PABJ

    #3 – I would ask the salary question, but leave their numbers as is without assuming a typo, on the chance that it isn’t actually one. If it is, your question may cause them to fix it, but not if you offer your correction.

  8. Rubyrose

    #3 – does this person even acknowledge that the company is in trouble? Whether she does or not, it is a kindness to her to have the conversation Alison is suggesting. It sounds like her behavior would be bad anywhere. She needs to really think about that. Because her choice might be to change her behavior with your company now or with another one in the future. I think I would time that talk in such a way that you can send her home for a couple hours early, to send the message that this is serious and she really does need to pay attention to it.
    I’ve seen a couple of people who felt entitled because of longevity. These two seemed to forget that they are not owed a job because they stuck with one for a long time. ”The talk” did not go over well, mainly because they seemed to have the blinders on about the reality of their situation and their part in it. You owe them the talk, just don’t expect that it will produce a quick or 100% turnaround in the time frame you need. Good luck in dealing with a very unpleasant situation.

    1. JessaB

      The other issue is that someone who has been there for 20 years has a slightly different view of career and work than someone you hire now. They feel entitled because usually when they were coming up the ranks they WERE entitled. 20 years ago was just about the tail end of “you could find a company and work for them for the rest of your life and retire out of them,” and the beginning of “no, we no longer do that career loyalty thing.” As an older worker, it took a bit for me to make the mental change from “I’m going to work here, have a pension and retire,” and “OMG Enron – pension what pension, and no, nobody actually does that kinda thing anymore.”

      1. neverjaunty

        20 years ago was WAY after the end of any era of “work hard and stay loyal and you’ll have a job for life”. There is no cultural zeitgeist explaining this person’s sense of entitlement.

          1. Jadelyn

            And/or certain types of nonprofit – I work at a credit union that has at least a dozen 20+ year employees across our branches, and a handful of 30+ year employees on top of that. One of my team members started here when I was 2 years old, to put that in perspective…

            1. Government Worker

              Also some government agencies. One of my colleagues was just recognized for 40 years of service, and around here 20 is barely noteworthy.

              1. Christopher Tracy

                Or insurance. All the companies around me have employees who have been with them 20-40 years. It’s crazy.

          2. doreen

            And although you would think that people who work at small companies and government agencies where people basically never quit ( they only retire) would realize that it’s not the norm, people often have very small worlds. About 25 years ago , I was in a conversation with my fellow government employees and realized that the reason they thought everybody (including the McDonald’s assistant manager) had a pension, insurance benefits and a whole process that had to be followed before they could be disciplined or fired was because they literally didn’t know anybody who didn’t either work for the government or belong to a union with a contract that provided those benefits. ( Which is why my mother thinks my husband is a job hopper- after all, he’s had 4 jobs in 25 years)

    2. sstabeler

      while I think it’s basically the same as your pint, there’s also the fact that depending on how quickly the industry is dying, and the relative ages involved, the senior person may need a wakeup call that even if this company puts up with their crap, in x number of years, the company will probably fold- if they can’t retire then, they will need another job- if they are an arrogant bastard then, they could be in serious trouble.

      That, and to be blunt? the senior employee might want to double-check if their pension is fully funded. It’s depressingly common for pension funds to have shortfalls, and if the industry is dying, they can’t count on a new generation of contributors to make up any shortfall.

  9. Mephisto

    #1- Are you a soft talker, a mumbler, do you have a speech impediment, a hearing impairment or perhaps a heavy accent? Maybe others have difficulty understanding you and have asked your boss for help. Sounds like your boss is trying to be your interpreter without letting on that that’s what she’s doing.

    1. Myrin

      I have so many thoughts on this.

      Firstly, people with speech impediments or who talk very fast or very softly are usually aware of this (not least of all because they’ve almost surely had people in their lives who’ve remarked on it) and I feel like the OP would have mentioned that and worded her letter accordingly if that were the case.

      Secondly, even if that is the case, the boss is handling it very poorly. She should be talking openly with OP about others’ problems with understanding her, not follow her around and be an impromptu interpreter. So Alison’s wording would still work here as it would allow the boss to (finally!) tell OP that others have a hard time understanding what she says.

      Thirdly, if the boss’s goal really is to make OP’s words clearer “without letting on that that’s what she’s doing”, she’s doing an awfully poor job at it, seeing how the situations OP described seem almost embarrassingly obvious and not like some kind of covert stealth operation at all.

      And lastly, I feel like it’s just much more likely the OP’s boss is either a jerk who tried to undermine OP or someone who has some deep insecurities about herself and needs to make everything about her and to hear everything from her own mouth or someone who’s just weird in general. Mostly because, to tie this back to my first point, OP doesn’t mention anything at all in the direction of her own manner of speech being the problem.

      1. Meg Murry

        I also wondered something along the same lines as Mephisto, but agree everyone else that if the issue is that someone can’t understand OP the boss needs to be trying to fix that, not repeating everything OP says.

        Although I’m goign to disagree with Myrin slightly on the idea that if it’s a problem with the way OP speaks OP would already know that. It is possible that the person has an accent or manner of speaking (soft voice, etc) that has gone unremarked because it is understandable to a person of average/normal/typical hearing, but that could be problematic for a person with a hearing or speech processing disorder. For instance, my son is hard of hearing, and one of his coping mechanisms is that he understands much better if he can simultaneously read a speaker’s lips while they speak. When a presenter turns to write on a whiteboard to while speaking; or one who doesn’t enunciate clearly; assumes they don’t need to use the microphone because they have a fairly loud voice (not knowing that his hearing aid is designed to pick up the transmission from the microphone); or that has a beard or otherwise has their mouth obscured, etc would drop my son’s understanding of the training substantially. All it takes is missing hearing a key word like “NOT” to completely change an important message.

        That said, if it is the case that the boss is trying to give another employee an accommodation without disclosing that to OP, this is a terrible way to do it. Instead, the boss should explain to OP that some employees (without naming names) have trouble understanding OP’s trainings and require accomodations like all information presented clearly, slowly, while using the microphone and facing the audience, and coaching OP on how to fix the issue him/herself.

        I agree that it seems kind of silly that the boss is repeating verbatim what OP is saying, but if it is due to a hard of hearing employee, that is actually the recommendation. Often, if someone is asked to repeat themselves, they rephrase or try to explain more, thinking that the listener didn’t understand what they were saying or that they weren’t explaining clearly the first time- but for a person who is hard of hearing, what is best for them is for the speaker to repeat back the exact same thing, as the person may be struggling with only one or two words in the original sentence and changing your words means they have to decode the entire sentence again.

        1. P

          Sure, in those circumstances. But it’s pretty clear that the boss does this with nearly everyone, not the relatively small number of people they would encounter who are hard of hearing, so it really doesn’t seem to be related to hearing at all.

        2. Jadelyn

          Yes, but what are the odds that there are that many other EEs needing accommodation for being Deaf/HoH/having an auditory processing disorder, that would require the boss to do this *all the time*, which is what it sounds like is happening? This doesn’t seem localized to any coworkers in particular, which I would expect if it were an accommodation of some kind.

        3. Kira

          But wouldn’t the boss tell OP about the people with the hearing difficulties attending the training? Or you could get a second trainer to attend, instead of a manager tailing one of their employees around.

      2. Tau

        +1. I have a speech disorder, and if someone treated me the way OP’s boss is treating them I would hit the roof.

    2. MashaKasha

      I came here to say this, albeit from a different angle.

      I have a minor accent. Minor in the sense that it doesn’t prevent people from understanding me (I worked tier 2 support for six years and my users all across North America loved me). But it is there and it is noticeable. Where I live (Midwest) it tends to freak some people out, because they’re not used to someone who was not born in the same area they live now. They don’t know what to make of me.

      I was coming here to ask if this is OP1’s situation too, and if Boss may have this bias too. Given that none of OP1’s trainees complain, and OP1 keeps getting good reviews (which she wouldn’t if her trainees kept complaining), I’d say they don’t have difficulty understanding her, but the boss might have a difficulty accepting her – IF this is really the case, which it might not be. It could be anything really. It’s hard to read into irrational behavior of an irrational person.

  10. OP# 3

    OP#3 here!

    I ended up asking about the salary in my 2nd round interview and my interviewer’s answer was, “hm I should probably be able to answer that, shouldn’t I” and reassured me that the salary was in line with our conference guidelines (minimum salary in my field is based off an algorithm of how many people are members of the organization, how many years of experience the candidate has, and what the median rent/mortgage is in the town/city)…So I still don’t know, but I have a 3rd round interview coming up where I’ll get to meet with the search committee again, and hopefully they’ll have a more specific answer, since they were the ones who wrote the ads.

    1. Callielee

      They didn’t know if base was $70K vs 83K or if it $170K? I’d be a bit concerned if it was the latter. My company has about 60 different pay grades (and even more job titles) and even then I’d be able to tell if one was listed at a $100,000 difference!

      1. OP #3

        Yeah it’s standard practice in my field/denomination (ministry/UCC); each conference takes into account cost of living in their area, etc., and comes up with “compensation guidelines” based on church size, years of experience, and housing prices, so that churches can ensure that their minister’s salaries are fair and allow them to live in the community in which they work. One of the things I love about the UCC is that in order for a job to be considered an ordainable call, it has to offer a living wage, and while some churches offer above the conference’s guidelines, you at least know going in what the minimum you’ll be offered is. (plus it’s great for negotiating when they offer below the guidelines)

        1. Lucie in the Sky

          Just curious, does your denomination do the thing where the church / congregation can provide a house in lieu of some of the financial guidelines / monetary compensation? Does it take that into account at all? I’m just curious because I have a few ministers in the family and it seems a very common practice in their denomination (which is not UCC)

          1. OP #3

            They can- the way it’s set up is that if they don’t provide a parsonage (or if the candidate doesn’t want/can’t use the parsonage) they designate a portion of the salary to be a tax-exempt housing stipend, and the amount is based off of the median rent for that community, or the mortgage payment for a 30-yr fixed with 5% down payment on the median price of a house in that community.

            So there are actually two sets of guidelines, one for when a parsonage is provided, and one for when it isn’t.

        2. Amy

          Some job-seeker websites automatically try to estimate the salary and list it with the ad, even though the company doesn’t have a set salary range. I’d watch out for that.

          1. Jadelyn

            What? Do you know which ones do that? Because that seems like a HUGE potential problem – for example, I work at a nonprofit that has nonprofit-level salaries even for executive positions. If we posted for a VP, what happens when a site estimates it to be paid at 150k+ (which would be perfectly reasonable for this region) but our salary cap is 110k? I’d just like to know which sites do it so I know where not to post positions, if that’s a thing that’s happening.

      2. Judy

        In my experience, many of the large companies that hire “classes” of graduates, like hiring 50 engineers after the May graduation, have a formula for starting salaries.

        Salary = $X (based on degree, ME vs EE, etc) + $Y (based on GPA) + $Z (based on internships) + …

        As you progress in your career, it seems in those large companies, there are ranges allowed based on salary bands that at least during initial progression correspond to experience.

  11. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

    #1 – does your boss not have her own work to do? Maybe she thinks this IS management? She sounds bored to me.

    #2 – strongly recommend giving him a warning first in the language Alison laid out. He’s an older worker and if you fire him out of the blue with no warning, he may very well perceive it as age discrimination. I’m not saying it is, but I think you want to handle it really by-the-book and giving him a chance to improve and some very specific feedback to protect yourselves.

    1. Lily in NYC

      I feel like I missed a funny story about your new name. (I’ve been sick for two weeks and haven’t been here as often as usual).

    2. Lanon

      In an at will state, by-the-book entails nothing more then “You are being let go as of . Your last pay check will be mailed to you by . ” and thats it. Practice usually includes more accomodation, but thats what “by-the-book” requires. He can’t prove age discrimination because no reason is needed or given for letting him go.

  12. Jessie

    #1: There could be any number of explanations why your boss would be acting this way, but the first thing that comes to mind is that your boss feels out of her depth in her role. It could be “impostor syndrome” or it could be she’s legitimately not confident in her role (you would probably be a better judge of that.) People in those situations often seem to feel a need to be involved in everything their subordinates are doing because they’re afraid it could run away from them and they won’t have any idea what’s going on. When she’s repeating your every word, that might be an attempt at being involved without actually having anything helpful to contribute.

    I saw this a lot in the military, where junior officers are thrown into leadership roles straight out of college where they’re expected to supervise enlisted Soldiers with 10-20 years of experience. Some of them acted the way you described (at least at first): following the senior enlisted around and parroting every direction they gave because they didn’t know what else to do.

    1. cataloger

      Didn’t something like this happen on The Office? I think there was an episode where they had an outside trainer come in, and the boss stood up there by him and repeated everything he said.

      1. shep

        Yes! My first thought was Michael Scott barging into meetings and pretending to be the authority.

        As others have said, OP #1, I think this stems from your supervisor’s insecurities and not any negative performance on your part, but I totally get why it bothers you!

        I had a boss who was somewhat like this. She never made me feel incompetent, but she might’ve if I hadn’t realized how incompetent SHE was, and I began to understand she was salvaging kernels of insight from my own work and trying to claim them for herself. Due to the nature of our office and our work, it wasn’t damaging to my position (and to be fair, she liked me quite a bit and went out of her way to give me various perk-like kudos), but it was DEEPLY irritating.

        I’m glad I don’t work there anymore. Yeesh.

  13. Washington

    #1 – I recommend slight difference from Alison in her recommended wording. Replace “feel” with “appear” (or a related equivalent). Using feel makes it about your feelings, instead of about impact to the workplace. (You don’t want your feelings to change, you want her actions to change.)

  14. she was a fast machine

    #1, it sounds like your boss is probably just a control freak and/or cares way too much what people think of her (if they think she’s a “good” boss and is properly “taking care” of new staff). Otherwise I definitely agree with what Allison said.

  15. Jake

    I’m going through the same thing as #1 for the first time in my career. My bosses have always trusted me to handle my business and ask if I don’t know how to handle it.

    Now my boss is constantly butting into conversations and saying things that are blatantly obvious, blatantly wrong or completely unrelated. It is his first time as a manager, so I think he’s taking the (bad) advice of “never say you don’t know” to an extreme by constantly trying to prove that he knows everything that’s going on. Unlike #1 though, he does this to everybody, not just me.

    That’s just my long way of saying I understand your frustration OP. It is incredibly tough to work for a manager whose actions imply they don’t trust you, even if they are giving consistently good feedback. We both need to take Alison’s advice and have a direct conversation with our managers.

    1. Kira

      Yes! I had a manager who asked me for a synopsis, which I provided. She then responded, “great job! but you missed [false thing that totally isn’t real].” I responded that there was no evidence supporting [false thing].

      Next thing you know, we’re at a meeting with some partners and she tries to be helpful by telling one of them about [false thing] and how they can use that to their advantage. I had to interrupt and say very bluntly that it wasn’t possible, because she just wouldn’t listen.

  16. Boater

    #1 Reminds me of my past micromanaging supervisor. She would literally take papers out of my hands and tell me how to handle it, even though I was in the process of doing exactly what she was telling me to do. My coworkers had the impression that I had some kind of disability because she was constantly taking over and checking up on me – yet she always said I was exceeding expectations.

    You need to be cautious with bringing this up. I brought it up and she took it in a way that made it seem like I was being secretive and sneaky, that her hovering was preventing me from slacking off and I wanted her to stop so I could steal company time!

    I would really pose it in a way of asking if you are first doing anything wrong (there may be things she isn’t telling you) and then simply explain that it makes you feel untrusted/incapable when she acts like this. I personally would be cautious of wording it in any way that you are asking her to stop – she is your boss after all and once aware of how you feel about her actions it is up to her if she wants to change anything – but then again, that probably stems from the horrific reaction I got when I asked for breathing room.

  17. ThatGirl

    LW #4, I just want to echo that this is a normal thing and nobody should be upset. I had a co-worker a few years ago who was having serious back problems exacerbated by her long commute, and she took a week or two off to do some more serious rest and rehab – and then decided she couldn’t come back after all. It happens.

    1. Newby

      Not only is it normal, it can actually be better for your coworkers if your resign. I was in a situation before where I should have resigned because my health problems made it impossible to perform my job well and I held off resigning until I was actually hospitalized because I felt like I would be leaving them in a lurch. If I had resigned sooner, they could have replaced me and not had to cover for me so much. If you feel you have to resign for health reasons, you should not feel guilty.

    2. Jadelyn

      Honestly, I’ve only been in HR for 3 years and I already can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who went on some form of medical leave – often maternity, but sometimes others – and ended up not coming back. It’s VERY normal. Happens all the time, and people tend to be understanding of that.

  18. Random Reader

    #1- this is my current boss. I’ve been dealing with her passive aggressive need to be the source of information to all for years now. She’ll tell me I’m doing a great job, and then feel the need to jump into an email or a conversation to make herself the point person on something I’m handling just fine (according to her). The only way I can deal with her is to let whatever she’s doing roll off my back the best I can, put my head down, and look for a new job.

    A lot of it is insecurity, pressure from above to know where everything is at on a microscopic level, and working her way up in the department for 10 years. She can’t let things go.

    1. Jadelyn

      Our org’s president is like this, only his takes the form of having to make edits to every single document, communication, marketing material, everything ever both external and internal. I took it personally the first couple times I was asked to draft something, had my VP approve it as-is or with minor tweaks, and then had the president return it with all kinds of notes all over it, but I realized pretty quickly that it’s just how he is. His personal stamp has to be on everything. Some people are just like that.

      1. Kira

        I dealt with the same thing you’re both describing. Upper management wanted to know absolutely everything. They couldn’t let go and apparently wouldn’t accept, “I’ll get back to you on that” from my supervisor. It was very stressful for my supervisors, who had other work to do and didn’t want to micromanage my work and learn every detail about every project, but then were expected to have answers ready on the spot about those details. Upper management also edited every single thing, which really undermined our effectiveness since their personal stamp was quite self-centered and off-topic from our communications messaging.

  19. OhNo

    For OP #1: Is it possible that your boss feels insecure or threatened by you? That’s the only reason I can think of off the top of my head why she might be following you around and parroting everything you say, if she’s worried that you look more competent/helpful/knowledgeable than she does. If it’s possible that that’s the root cause, you may want to approach the situation even more delicately.

    Even if that’s not the cause, perhaps you could add something about checking in with her after important training sessions for feedback, instead of having her participate in the training itself? That would give her an opportunity to express any observations, but keep it out of the public eye so others’ opinions aren’t influenced by whatever she’s got going on.

  20. BeezLouise

    Similar to #2 but the opposite — how do you explain going from “Director” to “Officer” on a resume? It feels like a demotion — my classification as far as HR goes remains the same, but we are undergoing a re-org and some titles have changed. Do I just not list Director at all now?

      1. LBK

        Agreed – I usually think of an “officer” of a company as being one of the head honchos given that the “O” in the various C-suite titles does stand for “officer,” eg “chief executive officer”.

      2. Kira

        I wouldn’t either. If you went to “assistant” or something that raise questions, but most titles are interchangeable to external audiences.

      3. BeezLouise

        It IS a demotion here, but I appreciate knowing that elsewhere it wouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as such.

  21. Sarashina

    OP #4, I’ve been there. I hope things get lots better really soon. Best of luck on a speedy recovery!

  22. Beancounter in Texas

    OP #4 – Don’t feel too terribly about departing on such terms. I’m gambling that your coworkers probably saw how much work you did and how much stress you had and while they may not be happy that you’ve departed, hopefully they’ll be happy that you’re doing what’s right for you.

    And I’ve learned a long time ago that companies always seem to carry on pretty easily, no matter how indispensable one employee seemed to be. Hopefully this will rip off the scales off your soon-to-be-former boss’ eyes to see that the job needs more than one person!

    As a former professor told me and emphasized when I felt ill, if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. Take care of yourself and I hope you find fulfilling freelance work in the near future!

  23. Cheesehead

    #1: For the times when she’s repeating what you say a meeting, are you able to preemptively take the wind out of her sails….that is, turn to her and politely ask “And Jane, do you have anything to add that I haven’t already covered?” when you’re done speaking? It might call attention to it in the moment, and if the spotlight is put on her by you, rather than her just taking it herself, *maybe* she would back down a bit?

    And the standing right next to you while you present a topic….can you ask her to have a seat in a roundabout sort of way? “Oh, did you want to present this? I can sit down. No? Okay….well, I’ve got this, so if you want to sit over there while I go over this, that would be great so you can see everything better and I don’t accidentally hit you while I’m gesticulating!”

    I agree, though, that it seems like she’s either threatened by you or wants to be perceived as a resource or ‘important’ without really having a clue of how to do that correctly.

  24. Liane

    Just noticed that we have had people suggesting that OP 1 or her boss may have ADD, partial deafness or other problems. We shouldn’t be armchair diagnosing.

    1. Mephisto

      Hmm I think we are speculating rather than armchair diagnosing. I made the comment about the speech impediment, accent or hearing problems as a possible cause of #1 because I’ve been in the same situation as the OP. In my case I am a soft talker and my boss didn’t want to ask me to speak up so she just repeated me in meetings. I didn’t realize that that’s what was going on at first, a coworker clued me in. I wish my boss had just told me directly.

    2. Chevron

      Why do people who do not run this blog feel the need to adopt the role of Blog Rules Police? Do you get some sort of thrill out of it?
      Repeat after me: Not your circus. Not your monkeys.

      1. Hrovitnir

        Because armchair diagnosing is incredibly common and actively harmful, and while being a massive jerk about it would be unhelpful, pointing out it’s not allowed here efficiently is a good metthod to try and keep it from welling up.

        I understand why it’s so common but it feeds into some really unhelpful social norms so I appreciate that it’s against the rules here.

  25. Volunteer Enforcer

    #4, it’s perfectly normal. My second apprenticeship caused me mental health problems, so I resigned after five months. I can appreciate leaving immediately is slightly different to resigning after sick leave, but I wouldn’t worry about it.

  26. Lanon

    For #2, the cold hearted but legal method would be to call them to the office one day, sit down with them and explain they’re being let go. From then on the only thing you need to care about is to not challenge their unemployment claim when it comes in and to post them their last paycheck and any property they still have at the company.

  27. Kate

    I’m extremely interested in the outcome of #2. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to let go of a 20+ year employee.

    Any chance that we can get an update when the situation is resolved, OP?

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